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Important tip for your action movie’s climax Jul 24
Captain America Poster

"I'm coming to save you, faceless multitude!"

Note: There’s a very minor Captain America SPOILER directly below, but it’s worth braving because this tip is a really good one.

Ready?

Let’s get the minor Captain America spoiler out of the way first. In the climax of the the movie, Captain America saves the world. Duh.

Okay now let’s get on to the tip. And this one’s a doozy. I’m tempted to call it “Save the Cat… Again!”

In an action movie’s third act, make sure your hero is saving someone specific.

Captain America was actually quite an enjoyable movie. The first half, especially, was very strong, and even emotionally moving at times. But the last act left me wanting for some reason. Sure, ol’ Cap was doing his action hero thing, and the stakes were high (the aforementioned saving of the world), but there was something missing.

And that’s when it hit me. There was no one specific to save.

“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
– Joseph Stalin

It sounds paradoxical, but if your hero is fighting to save a faceless multitude (even if it’s millions of people), it’s less compelling than if he’s fighting to save even one character you know.

The best action movies

Think of all your favorite action movies. There’s always someone specific that needs to be rescued. It’s either the hero him/herself, or at least one character you know, or both.

If it’s only the hero him/herself that needs saving, then that means the hero needs to escape from a situation that they didn’t willfully put themselves into in the third act.

  • The Matrix – Neo had to save Morpheus and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar (as well as defeat Agent Smith)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark – Indy had to save Marion (as well as defeat the Nazis)
  • Die Hard – McClane had to save his wife (as well as defeat Hans Gruber)
  • Aliens – Ripley had to save Newt (and defeat the alien queen)
  • Alien – Ripley had to save herself and her cat (and defeat the alien)

Think how much weaker those movies would have been if they were only about defeating the bad guy(s). Keep that in mind when you’re writing the ending of your next action movie.

Can you think of any brilliant action movies that break my rule?


Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

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5 Responses
  1. Scott says:

    Bond. James Bond.

  2. Belair says:

    Trevor,
    There are lots of actions script which are written like the dry sea.
    They do not swim or jump from page.
    I wish we have more writers that write exciting car chases.
    Lot of writers cannot write action because they are trained in writing novels or refuse to learn from the established PRODUCERS AND SCRIPT writers.
    I havn’t read a good action script lately in 2010 and 2011.
    Any you can recommend?

    When will I find a script like COLATERAL? Did you read the action in this script. It’s the best. But still when I judge festivals, lots of these action scenes read like the dry sea.

    You know what I am saying Trevor.

    Did you read Ang Lee’s western script- RIDE WITH THE DEVIL? That’s how you write a script. Amateur writers are not coming close that style. Do you agree?
    RIDE WITH THE DEVIL is the most pro written script with excellent written action scenes. Do you agree Trevor?
    Also the spec CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and FARENHEIT 451 has excellent non-amateur style of wrting action. Do you agree?

    I think all amateur screenwriters should read FARENHEIT 451 and learn how to write action.
    Do see my point of view!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Belair

  3. Trevor Mayes says:

    Scott – Doesn’t James Bond usually have some fair maiden to save at the end?

    Belair – I love your passion for writing! The more great scripts writers can get their hands on, read and absorb, the better.

  4. Scott says:

    Naw, she’s just there so he has someone to cuddle with at the end in some boat or raft while M is tries to contact him and harsh his hard-won mellow.

  5. Mark F says:

    That’s how I felt about The Avengers movie. All that big city destruction just kind of got boring after a few minutes.

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