Hollywood Screenwriting Directory

Platoon (1986)

Screenplay Genre: Action / Drama / War

Movie Time: 120 minutes

1. INCITING INCIDENT

The new recruits, including Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen), go out on their first combat mission and that night, a squad of North Vietnamese soldiers comes upon Taylor's unit. Taylor is wounded in the neck, Tex is shot, and Gardner, a fellow new recruit, is killed. Despite having passed the night watch to Junior, a more experienced solder who fell asleep, Taylor is blamed for the casualties. (00:18:34)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

After returning from the field hospital due to his neck wound, Taylor gains acceptance from the "heads", a tight-knit group that socializes and takes drugs in an underground cave-like clubhouse. Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) is the leader of the "heads" and offers for Taylor to "smoke on this" – sucking in dope from the barrel of a shotgun. Taylor accepts and is welcomed into the club. (00:29:56)

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) shoots the wife of the village chief in the head because he believes the village is aiding the Viet Cong solders. Elias arrives on the scene and starts a fistfight with Barnes to stop the madness. Back at base camp, Elias reports Barnes' actions to Captain Harris, who can't afford to remove Barnes due to lack of personnel; however, Harris threatens to court martial Barnes if there is evidence that he committed a murder. This creates a "civil war in the platoon." (00:58:47)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

After an ambush, the platoon is ripped apart and being airlifted to safety, but when Barnes goes back into the jungle to find Elias, he fires three rounds into Elias' chest. Returning to the helicopter, Barnes tells the others Elias is dead, but after they take off, the men see a severely wounded Elias emerge from the jungle, running from a large group of NVA soldiers. The men can only watch in horror as Elias is shot several more times and killed by the NVA. (1:19:03)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

After the final battle, a wounded Taylor regains consciousness and finds Barnes, also wounded. Taylor aims an AK-47 at Barnes, who at first dismissively orders Taylor to call a medic, but when Taylor does not comply, Barnes dares him to pull the trigger. Taylor does, shooting Barnes three times in the chest. (1:48:08)