Friday, May 27, 2022

The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero learn from mistakes in a painful way?

It would be nice if we all had enough perspective to spot our mistakes from far away and deal with them coolly, but in reality, we almost never admit our big mistakes until bad consequences have resulted. 

This is frequently where mentors and love interests get killed, where illusions get stripped away, and where lies are exposed.
  • Mentors are killed off in Star Wars and The Untouchables. 
  • Partners get killed off in Speed and thousands of other cop movies. 
  • In most comedies, the hero’s lies are exposed at this point, at the worst possible moment.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES. His conversation with Marla, for example


YES, she almost gets killed by Ash.

An Education

YES. After the reveal, very much so.

The Babadook

YES. she realizes that the only way to save her son is to face her grief.

Blazing Saddles

YES. Right after the midpoint, when the Waco Kid sets him straight about “the common clay of the new west…You know, morons.”

Blue Velvet

YES. He gets caught and beaten up, and realizes that Dorothy is too lost to save.

The Bourne Identity

YES. he almost gets her family killed (and does get their dog killed), and realizes that he can’t run any further.


YES. Very much so.


YES. he sees Lazlo’s heroism for himself and realizes he can’t compete.


YES. The truth about Catherine is devastating. 

Donnie Brasco

YES.  Outside the mob, he suffers through marriage counseling.  In the mob, he has to cut up bodies.

Do the Right Thing

YES. The killing of his friend and the riot teaches him that his attempts to ease tensions were foolish. 

The Farewell

YES. Her uncle convinces her she would have to stay in China to take care of Nai Nai, and she decides to do so… 

The Fighter

YES. Watching the documentary is painful for all.  Breaking with Alice is painful.  


YES. her sister almost kills her, her fiance betrays her, etc. 

The Fugitive

YES. Very much so: Emotionally and physically.

Get Out

YES. Very much so.

Groundhog Day

YES. Very much so.

How to Train Your Dragon


In a Lonely Place

YES. but not until it’s too late.

Iron Man

YES. He literally has his heart ripped out by Stane, has to put in the heart that Pepper gave him.

Lady Bird

YES. Very much so.

Raising Arizona

YES. They realize it was wrong to take the baby.




Sort of?  It’s hard to tell.  Is the decision to reverse the second march evidence that he’s learned from the mistakes of the first march, or a blunder that almost wrecks the movement?  DuVernay leaves that open. 

The Shining

YES. Jack doesn’t.  Danny and Wendy do.


YES. Maya realizes that Jack is getting married, and dumps Miles.

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. See above. 

Star Wars

YES. Sees Obi Wan die

Sunset Boulevard

YES. when he realizes that he can’t lead Betty on.  

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