Do you ever feel that you are watching the same film over, and over just with a different cast in a different location?
Well, you’re probably not imagining at all. All the stories told since the dawn of mankind can be whittled down to seven basic plots, of course with some simple variations.
A proposed theory is that mankind is innately drawn to certain archetypical characters that represent humans. There is often the ‘hero’, someone people identify with, that is pitted against the ‘villain,’ that people recognize as a bad person/thing. This is also why there are characteristics of similar folk tales that bare huge resemblance even though the ancient cultures never met each other. Also this is the reason dragons exist, a combination of fear of lizards and birds.
Here are the seven basic plots and a couple films that follow the plots:
Overcoming the Monster
The hero learns of an evil threatening the land, and sets out to destroy it.
Rags to Riches
Surrounded by foes that ridicule the hero. He blossoms into a mature figure who ultimately gets riches, a kingdom, and the perfect mate.
The hero learns of a great object that he desires and desperately wants to find. He decides to set out to find it, often with companions.
- The quest is a plot type that often calls for multiple characters so a great example is The Wizard of OZ. A complete classic.
Voyage and Return
The hero heads off into a magic land with crazy rules, and ultimately triumphs over the madness to return home far more mature than when he set out.
- I know this example is not the greatest but I want to make an argument that Sam in The Lord of the Rings follows this plot type. The only problem is that his maturity is also his downfall because he finally sees how The Shire is monotonous.
Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and finally allows any relationship presented to blossom.
The opposite of Overcoming the Monster plot. Our protagonist character is the villain (of whom we identify with), but we get to watch him slowly spiral down into darkness before he’s finally defeated, freeing the land from his evil influence.
- Shakespeare is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time, and no doubt one of his most famous pieces, Macbeth, had to show up on this list.
As with the Tragedy plot, but our protagonist manages to realize his error before it’s too late, and decides to reverse his nature and free the land of his villainous ways.
- If your parents read you Dr. Seuss growing up you’ve probably heard the classic tale of, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Though you have to remember he did give it back and thus is a great example of the Rebirth. Check out the film from universal, it’s bad but in a cheesy way.