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The structure of Films.

I have never managed to understand the 3-Act structure in Films or Drama.

Sure, some films do follow ‘Setup-Conflict-Resolution’, but my own opinion is the following as the more standard pattern.

I see Films as Beginning, Middle, End (no surprises there, I accept).


Well begun is half done, they say and it’s so true. In a Hollywood length 1.5 hour Film, the premise is revealed in the first 2-3 minutes.

I am deliberately not revealing the names of the Films, to avoid spoiling the surprise:


  • There’s an action scene with 2-3 (various degrees of) smashed up cars. A cop sleeping with his back to one of the cars wakes up. And he has lost his memory. (Have you seen a premise of this level in any film here?). With such a grand premise, whichever way the film goes, it will be a good film.

  • There is a series of murders of small-time petty criminals. It is discovered that the killer is gay. So the police chief sets up a team of two cops. One of them is gay. Imagine the dhamaal that is possible with a premise like this.

  • A District Attorney frames a gangster because of which he is sentenced to 20 years in prison. The gangster swears revenge.

  • In the dead of night, at an isolated stretch of road, a bag full of currency notes is thrown into a car in which a couple is travelling. It is a bag of currency notes which was meant to be thrown in someone else’s car.

  • An asthmatic boy dreams of becoming an action star.

  • An old lady arrives at a drugstore. One of the two salespersons, a guy. spots her coming and whispers in the other salesperson, a girl's ears, "Watch out, hear she comes." He then moves inside from where he can observe the lady. The old lady enters the store, engages a fellow shopper in small talk and surreptitiously slides an object in her bag. After she leaves, the salesgirl asks the salesguy, "What did she pinch this time?"

  • A tracker is called upon to find a missing girl. It so happens that her own 2 kids are missing, which someone else is in the process of finding.

  • A person who does not know his own identity. This is a 1:10 min film and the premise comes well within 3 minutes, in the very first scene, after the credits finish rolling in.

  • In a hotel room, a woman staying alone wakes up with a bad dream. Out of the two people who've come hearing her screams one is a person she has never met before, yet saw in the same dream. This is a 1 hour Film. The premise comes within 3 minutes.

Sure, not all films begin with a great premise. Some films simply evolve.

Now, what about the endings.


  • Two guys visit a restaurant. One of the guys recognizes one of the bearers as the person who had raped his mother and therefore he is his father. The 2 guys find his home. They rag him for several hours. Where will this film go from here? Can there be a solution/resolution? So there’s a shootout and everyone dies including the first guy.

  • A cop-killer has been arrested by another cop. In the court, the Jury is about to set him free because of the lack of evidence. The cop pulls out his gun in the court and forces the judge to examine more evidence. Where can the film go from here ? What will happen to the convict ? What will happen to the cop because after all he has committed a crime by pulling out his gun and threatening the judge. So the convict picks up the cop’s gun and shoots himself. The cop is arrested.

  • One young boy becomes HIV positive through blood transfusion. He has a neighbor of the same age. Both the boys have single mothers. The boys hear about a doctor who has found a cure for HIV and set out to meet him. They reach the Doctor’s hospital and the HIV positive boy gets admitted. Both the mothers join them soon. But after all, we cannot get wishful about things and the boy dies. How will this film end? After the boy dies, the other three reach home. The mother whose son is still alive shouts at her son about something. The lady who has lost her son shouts at her for shouting at her son. And that is where the film end.

  • A Doctor's sweetheart gets killed. The Doctor swears revenge and kills the girl who killed his love interest. What will happen now?How will the film end? Will he be arrested? Too tame? Will be go back to his normal life? No. He goes and jumps into the sea and commits suicide. But it is still not as simple as that. Once he has killed the girl, he puts her body in the back seat of his car and is going to dispose it off. On the way, he meets a Doctor who asks for a lift. This second Doctor has been called to treat a little girl who has met with an accident. Several tense moments later, including presence of a cop who has come to investigate this girl's happenstance, our Doctor manages to miraculously save the girl. It is then that he goes to the sea and jumps off a cliff.

How about the middle ?


Sometimes the middle of the Film is a rollercoaster.

Sometimes it’s a smooth ride like Worli Sea-link.

Sometimes it’s a tough trek.

Sometimes it’s a shaky roap-bridge.

I'd very much like to know what you think about this.


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