The Compelling Ending

There’s a new movie out called “Warrior.” What’s particularly intriguing about this movie is it’s ending where a man has to fight for a championship against his brother. Whether you like fight/action movies or not, this type of ending practically compels everyone to wonder how it will end.

Think of an ending of a bad movie like “Terminator 3” or “Captain America.” The good guy battles the bad guy and the good guy wins. Boring. Flat. Dull. Utterly forgettable. Now think of “Warrior” where the hero has to struggle to achieve the championship, openly to wind up facing his brother. Now there’s no clear cut good guy or bad guy. We still want the hero to win, but when he has to win by defeating his brother, the victory isn’t as clear cut as defeating an obviously evil guy who tortures puppies and pours acid on little children.

It’s easy to hate a simplistic bad guy. It’s much harder to hate a more complex situation where the hero’s path to victory involves something more than defeating a cardboard, stock villain.

There’s nothing wrong with having you hero defeat a clear cut villain such “Star Wars,” “Inglorious Basterds,” or “Die Hard.” Most movies have distinct villains and that’s normal. However, consider making your hero’s victory more complicated such as the hero needing to defeat his brother in a fight as in “Warrior.” Your story is about making your hero’s goal as touch as possible, and making the final conclusion the toughest obstacle of all simply makes that story more interesting and compelling.

“Return of the Jedi” is another example where Luke must battle Darth Vader. Even though Darth Vader is evil, he’s Luke’s father, which complicates matters. How will Luke win now? It’s easy to just ram a light saber through a bad guy. It’s tougher to do that when the bad guy is your dad.

In “Thelma and Louise,” the bad guy was actually a good cop trying to save Thelma and Louise. It would have been easy to have a complete male chauvinist hunting down Thelma and Louise because that would have made their capture easier. Having the one decent guy in the movie trying to capture and help them makes the story richer and more memorable.

In your own screenplay, think of ways to make your hero’s victory over the villain tougher. The simple way is to make the villain completely evil. A better way is to make the villain likable but powerful. An even better way is to make the hero’s conflict with the villain difficult because if the hero wins, the villain loses, and having the villain lose might seem as unappealing as having the villain win. Create a situation like that and you’ll certainly make your story more interesting as audiences want to see how it all turns out.

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