Hollywood Screenwriting Directory

The Sixth Sense (1999)

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.


ACT I

SEQUENCE ONE

World of the Story: Mind bending thriller set in mysterious modern day Philadelphia filled with spooky ghosts.

Introduce Supporting Character (Lover): ANNA CROWE (Olivia Williams), Malcolm’s wife grabs a bottle of celebratory wine.

Introduce Protagonist (Professional/Nurturer): Child psychologist DR. MALCOLM CROWE has just won a commendation from the city of Philadelphia for outstanding work in the field of Child Psychology.

Predicament: A window in their bedroom has been broken and the phone is off of the hook. A psycho has broken into their house.

Introduce Rival #1(Psychotic): VINCENT GRAY (Donnie Wahlberg) disturbed former patient of Malcolm.

Inciting Incident/Predicament Ramifications (Plot Point #1): Vincent shoots Malcolm in the stomach, and then shoots himself.

(00:10:30)


SEQUENCE TWO

Dramatic Premise: Malcolm needs to come to terms with his fate, through helping a child with a similar condition to Vincent.

Protagonist Objective: Help Cole overcome his acute anxiety disorder.

Introduce Protagonist (Recluse): COLE SEAR, a quirky, intelligent, bookish child with an acute anxiety disorder.

Introduce Antagonist: Unlike most Thrillers, there is no traditional external Antagonist. In “The Sixth Sense” the Antagonist is Cole’s inexplicable condition. 

Introduce Sub-Plot: Anna and Malcolm’s marriage is on the rocks. Anna is depressed and they’re like strangers now, barely ever talking to each other.

Plant: Malcolm can’t open a locked door in his house.

Introduce Supporting Character (Nurturer): LYNN SEAR (Toni Collette), divorced single mother to Cole. Lynn comes into the kitchen and Cole has opened every drawer and cabinet in the kitchen. (00:19:22)

Introduce Rival (Bully): TOMMY TAMMISIMO (Trevor Morgan), a school bully Cole pays to be a pretend friend.

Lock In (Plot Point #2): Malcolm and Lynn are sitting across from each other in the Sear’s living room when Cole comes home. It appears they have been talking about Cole. Cole agrees to play a mind reading game with Malcolm. Through the game Dr. Malcolm Crowe is able to discover that Cole has a secret.

(00:26:12)


ACT II

SEQUENCE THREE

Act II Tension: Malcolm needs to gain Cole’s trust and repair his failing marriage.

Act II Obstacle: Cole doesn’t want to tell Malcolm the secret because he doesn’t think Malcolm can help him.

Sub-Plot Revival: Malcolm’s late for his anniversary date with Anna. She gives him the silent treatment.

Montage of Plant’s: It’s always cold when Malcolm’s in the room. Lynn notices that every picture of Cole has little flashes of light in them. Cole has scribbled a bunch of violent thoughts onto paper.

Introduce Sub-Plot Rival (Seducer) One of Anna’s co-workers SEAN (Glenn Fitzgerald) stops by and asks her on a date, Dr. Malcolm Crowe overhears the conversation from his study in the basement.

Rising Action: Cole freaks out in class and calls his teacher MR. CUNNINGHAM (Bruce Norris) a name he hasn’t heard since his youth, “Stuttering Stanley”

(00:38:30)


SEQUENCE FOUR

Sub-Plot Revival: Malcolm tries to open the locked door again after seeing Anna watching their wedding video and finding out she is on Zoloft.

Predicament: Cole is at a kid’s birthday party. He hears a voice in the attic asking to be let out and he’s scared.

Ramifications: Tommy and the birthday kid lock Cole in the attic and Cole completely flips out. He passes out.

First Culmination/Midpoint (Plot Point #3): Cole tells Dr. Malcolm Floyd a secret, he see’s dead people. Also he explains that the dead do not know they are dead, they can’t see other dead people; they only see what they want to see.

(00:50:28)


SEQUENCE FIVE

New Act II Obstacle: Cole needs to get rid of the ghosts because they are causing him physical and mental harm.

Reveal: Lynn finds a bunch of cuts and bruises all over Cole and she doesn’t understand why.

Raise the Stakes: Late at night Cole really needs to go to the bathroom but he’s scared. He encounters a dead woman. Cole was telling the truth.

Payoff: After Malcolm attends Cole’s school play; Cole reveals that the hairs standing up on your arms, or when a room suddenly gets cold it means that the ghosts are mad.

Predicament: A bumblebee pendant of Cole’s mom keeps getting moved. Cole tries to tell his mom the ‘secret’ but he knows she won’t believe him. She gets angry and sends him from the table. Cole see’s a dead kid who accidentally shot himself. Cole and Mom share a moment, she knows something’s wrong but Cole won’t tell her his secret.

(1:04:26)


SEQUENCE SIX

Sub-Plot Revival: Malcolm gets angry when he sees Anna’s getting closer to Sean and smashes a shop window.

Predicament: Malcolm says he can’t be Cole’s doctor anymore because he needs to focus on his marriage. Cole begs him to help him because he’s the only one who can help him. Malcolm doesn’t believe Cole really sees dead people.

Revelation: Malcolm listens to an old tape of Vincent’s. When he turns up the volume he can hear another voice of a ghost in the room speaking Spanish.

Predicament/Obstacle Solution: Malcolm tells Cole that if he just listens to the ghosts that they will probably go away, because they just want help.

Sub-Plot Rising Action: Dr. Malcolm Crowe comes home to discover that Sean is just leaving their house, he tries to get his attention but Sean just drives away.

Highest Act II Obstacle: Cole encounters KYRA (Mischa Barton) a little girl ghost that’s upset and throwing up. He takes Malcolm’s advice and listens to her.

Main Culmination/End of Act Two (Plot Point #4): Cole is able to face his fears and help Kyra. Cole and Malcolm go to Kyra’s house for her funeral. Kyra gives Cole a secret box with a tape inside to give to her father. Kyra’s dad watches the tape and finds out that Kyra’s mom was poisoning Kyra to keep her sick.

(1:27:04)


ACT III

SEQUENCE SEVEN

New Status Quo (Reversal): Cole is no longer afraid of the ghosts and he’s fitting in better at school. He’s the lead in the school play. Tommy has a tiny part.

Resolution: Malcolm tells Cole that his work is done and that Cole needs to talk to his mother about his issues now. Cole is sad but he understands.

Predicament Resolution: While locked up in traffic waiting for police to clear up a terrible car accident, Cole tells his mom the secret. He explains that Cole’s grandma (Lynn’s mom) visits him and has been moving the bumblebee pendant. Cole tells Lynn a story about when Lynn was young that only the grandma would know. Lynn believes the secret.

(01:37:20)


SEQUENCE EIGHT

Third Act Twist (Plot Point #5): Malcolm takes Cole’s advice and talks to Anna while she’s asleep.  Anna drops his wedding ring (the same ring that he thinks is on his hand) Anna talks about how Malcolm is gone. He understands that he has been “seeing what he wants to see.” The locked door, his wife doesn’t talk to him, etc. He’s dead.

(01:40:00)

Obligatory Scene: Dr. Malcolm Crowe says goodbye to his wife.

New Sub-Plot Status Quo: Malcolm is at piece and can move on.

(01:42:30)