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A sequence is a self-contained portion of the entire story, usually about 10 to 15 minutes (pages) in length. With a clear beginning, middle, and end, each sequence has its own short-term tension (not the main tension, but related in some way) along with a central conflict that gives shape to the entire 10 -15 minutes.
But the number 8 is only part of the equation. If the sequences are what shape a screenplay’s three-act structure, then the five major plot points are the building blocks behind sequence construction: Inciting Incident, Lock-In, Midpoint, Main Culmination, and Third Act Twist.
Each analysis of selected features will break the film down to the essential parts of each of the 8 separate sequences (9 in specific genres) and 5 major plot points.
Screenplay Genre: Comedy
Movie Time: 125 Minutes
Synopsis: Annie (Kristin Wiig) is the Maid of Honor in her best friend Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding. She’s having a hard enough time getting her own life together, but when Lillian’s presumed new best friend Helen (Rose Byrne) usurps her Maid of Honor duties, Annie’s barely held together life is sent into a downward spiral.
Movie Genre: Comedy / Drama
Screenplay Time: 110 Minutes
Synopsis: The Tenenbaums are a family split apart by the actions of the family head, Royal Tenenbaum. When Royal’s estranged wife is engaged to a new man twenty two years after their separation, Royal Tenenbaum sets forth a devious plot to win Etheline and his family back: By pretending to be dying.
Sequence Note: As this story is told as if it is a novel, the Royal Tenenbaums in fact has 10 sequences: The traditional 8, plus a prologue and epilogue.
Sub-Plot Note: Because the film is a true ensemble film, a great deal of screenplay time is set-aside for the Sub-Plot.
Genre: Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Movie Time: 107 Minutes
Synopsis: After having a life altering confrontation with a former patient, child psychiatrist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) has a new patient, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) with an acute anxiety disorder: He see’s dead people.
Screenplay Genre: Adventure / Comedy / Fantasy / Family
Movie Time: 98 Minutes
Synopsis: Narrated by a Grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick Grandson (Fred Savage), The Princess Bride is the story of true love between poor stable boy Westley (Cary Elwes) and farmer’s daughter Buttercup (Robin Wright). Thinking Westley murdered by pirates, thebeautiful Buttercup is chosen by the detestable Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) to be his bride. After she is kidnapped to start a war, it’s up to Westley (returning as the Dread Pirate Roberts) to save her. His quest to save his beloved Buttercup before she is married against her will to Humperdink is aided by a revengeful swordsman Inigo Montoya (Many Patinkin), towering giant Fezzik (Andre The Giant), and a disgruntled former miracle working employee of Humperdinck, Miracle Max (Billy Crystal).
Screenplay Genre: Indie Comedy / Drama / Romance
Movie Time: 126 minutes
Synopsis: Depressed writer Miles (Paul Giamatti) and aging actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church) take a trip through the California Wine Country the week before Jack’s wedding with two very different agendas. Jack wants to have one last fling before marriage and Miles wants to have a fun week with his best friend. Along the way they are detoured by waitress Maya (Virginia Madsen) and winery employee Stephanie (Sandra Oh). Through a series of comic incidents the two ultimately learn a lot about the nature of human relationships and the faults of each other.
Screenplay Genre: Crime / Drama / Thriller
Movie Time: 139 minutes
Synopsis: Jack (Edward Norton) is going through a quarter-life crisis in his over-materialized, cookie-cutter apartment and working his dead-end job. He meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) and his world comes crashing down. Simultaneously, he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a plane during a business trip, and they end up starting a “Fight Club” together. As Fight Club evolves into a terrorist cell trying to bring down the world beyond Jack’s control, Jack also looses Marla’s affections to Tyler.
Screenplay Genre: Adventure / Family / Fantasy
Movie Time: 103
Synopsis: Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) is a young woman from Kansas who feels unappreciated. She runs away from home, but quickly decides that life on the road isn’t for her if she’s hurting her family. She heads back, but a whopper of a storm blows in and she’s knocked out in the resulting twister. Her dream takes her to a land “over the rainbow” called Oz, where she meets the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), Tin-Man (Jack Haley) and Cowardly Lion (Bret Lahr) on her journey to see the Wizard (Frank Morgan) who she believes will send her home. However, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margret Hamilton) is out to avenge her evil sister and kill Dorothy and her friends during their quest.
Screenplay Genre: Action / Adventure / Fantasy
Movie Time: 143 minutes
Synopsis:Elizabeth Swann (Keria Knightly) is in love with an orphan named Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) since she rescued him on her father’s ship as a child. She is captured by pirates looking for a magic coin to break an ancient curse. Will sets off with the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to save her from the evil Captain Barabossa. Will and Jack chase her across the sea, and when they finally rescue her, the evil Pirates have set new sights on Will. Once they return him to the original island of the curse, it’s up to Jack to rescue Will and save his own skin.
Screenplay Genre: Crime / Thriller / Drama
Movie Time: 96 minutes
Synopsis: Tom Stall, mild-mannered small town diner owner, becomes a local hero when he kills two visious criminals in self-defense, but this attracts national media attention, making Tom an overnight celebrity, and sets off a series of high-stakes consequences that force Tom and his family to face his own history of violence.
Screenplay Genre: Indie Comedy
Movie Time: 101 minutes
Synopsis: A dysfunctional family struggles to overcome numerous setbacks on an 800-mile road trip from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, CA in their yellow VW Microbus to get their seven-year-old daughter to the finals of the "Little Miss Sunshine" beauty pageant.
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