5 Plot Point Breakdown: A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

By Xiaofeng Chen · March 17, 2015

Screenplay Genre: Crime / Romantic / Comedy

Movie Time: 107 minutes


A group of criminals rob a bank in London and take diamonds worth 13,000 pounds. (8:23) They’re George (Tom Georgeson), the head, his lover Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), an uninhibited American girl, Otto (Kevin Kline), a hormone-controlled Italian guy who has an affair with Wanda too and Ken (Michael Palin ), a stammerer and animal lover. While they’re running away from the bank, their car almost hits an old lady who is crossing the road with three dogs and George is made.

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Wanda and Otto want to pocket the diamonds. They rat out George to the police. But George has transferred the diamonds before he is arrested. He refuses to tell Wanda and Otto where the diamonds are unless he is taken out of the jail. So Wanda has to act as witness to prove he wasn’t at the scene. Then Wanda sees George’s defense layer Archie (John Cleese), a conservative middle age English man. She accosts him to get information about the diamonds. Archie is attracted by this beautiful and vivid American girl. (18:50) 

The old lady they almost hit identifies George. George gives Ken a mission to kill the old lady and tell him where the key of the hidden diamonds rests. He warns Ken not to tell Wanda and Otto.

Wanda sees Ken hiding the key in the treasure chest in his fish tank. She takes it and keeps it in her pendant. Wanda visits Archie to inquire where the diamonds are. While she is flirting with Archie in his home, jealous Otto jumps out and interrupts them. And then Archie’s wife comes back! Wanda has to crawl out of Archie’s house, her necklace staying behind…

Ken tries to kill the old lady with a bulldog. But the bulldog has no hostility towards the old woman, but her little dogs. It bites one of them and kills it! Ken is so disappointed and sad about the poor little dog!

Wanda and Archie keep dating. Though Otto is making trouble around them, the American girl and English man find the things they desire from each other and fall in love. Wanda insists she wants her necklace back. But Archie’s wife finds the necklace and believes it is a surprise present from her husband. However Archie asks, she wouldn’t give it out. At last, Archie has to steal the necklace from his own home.

Ken continues his mission. This time he tries to kill the old lady by making setting up a car accident. But his car doesn’t hit the old woman; it runs over another little dog of hers!


Archie dates Wanda in his friend’s house and gives the necklace back to her. Wanda is excited and finds Archie “lovely” and “sexy,” especially when he talks Russian! They then go to have sex. While Archie is taking off all his closes, some tenants come and this makes him flounder. (74:13) Archie realizes he can’t continue this crazy love affair with Wanda and decides to stop it.

Ken is making his third attempt to kill the old lady: He drops heavy weights from a hoist while she is going out of her house with her last little dog. Of course, it goes wrong one more time: The weights miss the old woman and crush the dog! Ken’s heart is broken by his mistake. But soon he finds the old lady is killed by a heart attack of sorrow over the dogs! He turns in joy, running and shouting in the street: “I did it! I killed her!” like a mad man.

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

The only witness is dead. George is being found not guilty by the jury. But in the court Wanda suddenly changes her evidence that she wasn’t with George when the rob was happening. George goes crazy and assaults her in the court. At last he is subdued by the bailiffs. (88:57)

Archie presses George to give out the diamond information to reduce his penalty. George tells him Ken knows where they are. Archie decides to go to Brazil with Wanda once he gets the diamonds. But halfway Otto kidnaps Wanda and takes her away.

Archie finds Ken but it is too late: Otto had forced him to tell where the diamonds are: In a hotel nearby Heathrow Airport. Archie and Ken ride a motorcycle to Heathrow…


In Heathrow, Archie intercepts Otto and has a fight with him. Otto beats Archie and forces him to get into a filled with waste oil bin on a repairing runway. Ken drives a roller and rushes towards Otto. Otto sees it and tries to get away, but his feet are trapped in the solidifying concrete and can’t make a move. (102:05) At last he is pressed into the concrete by the roller!

Archie catches the flight which Wanda is on. Wanda has been waiting for him with the diamonds. They fly to Rio de Janeiro and start their happy new lives there!

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.