Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Expanded Ultimate Story Checklist: Does the hero try the hard way from this point on?

As with cleaning your house, things have to get worse before they can get better. Trying the hard way should not be instantly rewarding and shouldn’t yet lead to any better results than the easy way. The advantage of trying the hard way is that it forces us to lose our illusions and leads us to a spiritual crisis, and that crisis becomes the secret of our success. 

It can be tempting to regard the entire third quarter as a string of betrayals, reversals, and assaults, but it’s important to remember that this is all happening now for a good reason: The hero is finally tackling the problem head on.
  • After pretending to be poor in the first half of Sullivan’s Travels, our hero really loses everything. 
  • Max in Rushmore learns to struggle through public school. 
  • The prince in The King’s Speech finally agrees to talk about the troubled childhood that caused his stutter. 
  • The heroes of Fatal Attraction and Silence of the Lambs both admit they lied their way through the first half of the story and try to reestablish trust. 
  • The heroes of Some Like It Hot, Tootsie, and The Talented Mr. Ripley, on the other hand, continue to lie throughout the third quarter but have to deal with the steadily increasing consequences of those lies.

The 40 Year Old Virgin

YES, he pursues a relationship with Trish.


YES, they try to kill it.

An Education

NO. She ignores evidence of further criminality and becomes more delusional throughout the 3rd quarter.

The Babadook

YES. She brings her husband’s violin back upstairs. 

Blazing Saddles

YES. he decides that he must really save the town to win them over.

Blue Velvet

YES. he admits his secret investigation to Sandy’s father, admits his voyeurism to Sandy.

The Bourne Identity

YES. It’s somewhat reversed in this movie, as he spends the second quarter solving the mystery and the third quarter on the run from his investigation, but he’s definitely more grim and resolved in the second half.


Barely. She mostly quits and cocoons, except a half-hearted attempt to bake for the cop.


YES. he takes control of the situation.


YES. He looks past the surface of things, demands the truth out of Evelyn and others. 

Donnie Brasco

YES.  goes full mobster, freezes out wife. 

Do the Right Thing

YES. Somewhat.  He actually visits his son and Tina, he confronts Pino more directly, etc.

The Farewell

YES. She confronts Grandma’s doctor and tries to convince the family to tell her, but the doctor and her family talk her out of it.  

The Fighter

YES. He finally tries to make it without Dicky.


NO. No, Anna becomes passive, than she tries another easy way (kissing Hans)

The Fugitive

YES. he determines to find the one-armed man himself.

Get Out

YES. Well, he can try, but he’s pretty powerless. 

Groundhog Day

YES.  First suicide, then honesty with Rita. 

How to Train Your Dragon

NO. Not really. He was really trying the hard way (doing it all himself) before, and now he’s trying the easier (and better) way, working with his classmates.

In a Lonely Place

NO. He remains in denial until almost the end.

Iron Man

YES. Goes and disarms the guys himself, then comes to deal with Stane, but it’s too late.

Lady Bird

YES. but this is the sort of movie where “the hard way” is also “the bad way” She drops theater and her best friend Julie, pursues a bad friend and bad boy, through subterfuge.   

Raising Arizona

YES. They take off to get their baby back.


Yes and no.  He’s still pretty delusional, but he starts working harder. 


YES. He puts out the call for activists from around the country, though he knows he’s putting them in deadly danger.

The Shining

YES. everybody takes everything more seriously from this point on.


YES. Eventually. He finally goes to the restaurant to ask about her, but misses her, but she reaches out to him the next day.

The Silence of the Lambs

YES. She tells Lecter everything about her past

Star Wars

YES. Infiltrates the Death Star

Sunset Boulevard

Not at first, he becomes an aimless gigolo, but then he reconnects with Betty and begins to sneak out to see her at night. 

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