In a bad movie, the climax simply shows the hero fighting and defeating the villain, which can be as exciting as watching two unknown boxers punching each other out until one of them falls. While physical action can be interesting, it’s never enough. What your climax needs is the emotional element to make the ending feel far more satisfying. So not only does the hero win in the end, but the hero must change for the better. By changing for the better, the hero actually achieves a greater victory than physical triumph.
Watch this climactic scene in “Mary Poppins” and you can see this climactic scene structure in action. First, the hero (the stuffy banker) has decided to change by seeing life as something that can be fun. To physically demonstrate his change, he offers to take his kids out flying a kite. By doing this, he eventually achieves his ultimate goal, which was to succeed as a banker.
So the basic structure of your climax needs to be this:
- Your hero has a goal that all previous efforts to achieve have failed
- Your hero decides to change
- The hero physically demonstrates this change
- By changing, your hero actually achieves his goal
So not only does your hero achieve a physical victory over the villain, but also an emotional change that the audience experiences as well. Audiences can’t experience a physical victory because they’re not physically in the movie battling the villain. However, they can experience an emotional victory through watching the hero change emotionally and demonstrate that emotional change physically.
Watch the climax to any good movie like “Rocky.” Rocky physically loses the fight to Apollo Creed, but that physical loss is greatly overshadowed by the emotional victory he achieves by simply staying on his feet in a championship fight that nobody expected to be even close. The emotional victory is always far more important than then physical victory. Omit the emotional victory and you have a boring climax and a boring movie. Make sure your climax includes a strong emotional victory and you’ll likely create a far more interesting movie as a result.