Skip to main content

5 Plot Point Breakdown: Being John Malkovich (1999)

By Tony LaScala · January 12, 2012

Screenplay Genre: Comedy / Drama / Fantasy

Movie Time: 112 minutes


After being convinced by his wife Lotte Schwartz (Cameron Diaz) to get a day job, puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) gets a job as a filing clerk from Dr. Lester (Orson Bean) at Lester Corp. During orientation at the strange company, Craig meets a beautiful woman Maxine (Catherine Keener), whom he’s instantly infatuated. (00:13:44)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Craig finds a strange secret doorway in the filing office, which is a portal into the mind of John Malkovich. After Craig’s life-altering experience inside Malkovich, Maxine calls Craig with the idea to charge people $200 for 15 minutes inside John Malkovich. (00:34:15)


Craig jealously forces Lotte at gunpoint to call Maxine and set up a rendezvous after discovering Lotte and Maxine had sex while Lotte was inside Malkovich. Unbeknownst to Maxine, Craig is inside Malkovich when they have sex. Craig discovers that he can manipulate Malkovich like a puppet. (1:02:31)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Maxine convinces Craig to stay inside Malkovich forever, and Craig realizes that he can use Malkovich’s notoriety to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a world-renowned puppeteer. (1:27:56)


After coming home to find that Lester and Lotte have kidnapped Maxine and will kill her unless Craig leaves Malkovich so that they can live inside Malkovich forever, Craig decides that he must leave Malkovich’s body in order to save Maxine. (1:41:46)

For all the latest from The Script Lab, be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

And become a member of TSL 360 to enjoy the LARGEST screenwriting education content library, featuring masterclasses, deep-dive interviews, and lectures from Academy Award-winning screenwriters, TV show-runners, producers, literary managers, agents, studio executives, and leading educators – all in one place.