There’s more to writing a good story than characters and plot. The events and people who comprise stories are only half the process; the other half comes from how these events and the people they effect are structured and arranged, how they are laid out before the viewer, hopefully in a way that pulls said viewer through the narrative effortlessly. Traditionally, this is personified by the three-act structure, that tried-and-true system in which stories have been arranged practically since time began. But while the system might be uniform, there are opportunities for variance within this structure, subtle tweaks that make some stories more effective than others, and some films take advantage of these opportunities more or, frankly, better than others. Films like HIGH NOON, THE GODFATHER PART II, CITIZEN KANE, IRREVERSIBLE, THE SWEET HEREAFTER, and five others that made the CineFix list of the 10 Best Structured Movies of All-Time.
In customary CineFix fashion, this isn’t just a list of 10 movies, it’s a survey of ten styles of manipulating and sometimes even subverting the three-act structure with a handful of filmic examples for each, including the one that acts of the pinnacle of the style. Their choices make for an awesome viewing queue that should be mandatory for any screenwriter, novelist, short story writer, playwright, puppeteer, Donald Trump, or anyone else aiming to sell fiction for a living.
Writing is hard. Good writing is harder. And great writing is pretty much impossible unless you have a hyper-awareness of the rules and how to break them. This video shows you where the bends are; the rest is up to you.