• Search

7 Basic Plots In Cinema.

7 basic plots movie examples
  • Save

Tell me, has this ever happened to you: you watch a movie and realize that the plot is painfully familiar? The characters are different, and the scenery has changed, but even at the beginning, you can predict the ending.

British writer and journalist Christopher Booker wrote a book describing the reasons for this phenomenon. He analyzed many works and concluded that the entire world of literature and cinema rests on seven storylines.

I will describe these 7 basic plots with movie examples accompanied by my recommendations for those who enjoy cinema therapy.

7 types of stories in cinema.

7 basic plots movie examples
  • Save

Defeating the Monster.

A threat is looming, and the main character embarks on the thorny path of fighting evil, Neo with the Matrix, Harry Potter with Lord Voldemort, etc. This formula has been utilized in countless narratives to showcase the triumph of good over evil in the face of great danger.

It will often seem that everything is against the heroes, but their courage and resourcefulness will help them overcome this threat. In the end, the hero or heroine receives the treasure or love.

Avatar, David and Goliath (2010), War of the Worlds (2005), Dracula Untold (2014), all James Bond films.

This plot is fine for: 

  • a conversation about the need to achieve a goal, even when all the odds are against you;
  • discussing the life lessons that competition teaches you;
  • demonstrations of how you have become stronger through overcoming adversity.

7 basic plots movie examples
  • Save

Rags to Riches.

It is the story of an ordinary man who discovers something extraordinary in himself. A hero of humble origins gets what he wants: money, power, love – then loses it and struggles to get it again. In this story, the hero needs to grow morally.

Cinderella, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Fifty Shades of Grey, Aladdin.

Good for:

  • brainstorm about the importance of admitting your mistakes;
  • write the benefits of taking risks and accepting your vulnerability.
  • demonstrations of how your hero earned his current success.

7 basic plots movie examples
  • Save

Voyage and Return.

The main character finds himself in a world that is not similar to the reality he is accustomed to. He goes in search of something and ends up finding something completely different—himself. The plot is about how events affect a person. New acquaintances and newfound wisdom allow him to find his way back. This story is often found in children’s literature, where the main character discovers a magical land he explores.

Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Robinson Crusoe, Lost tv series, The Time Machine (2002).

Good for:

  • talking about the importance of new experiences;
  • noticing what your hero has learned on his travels;
  • demonstrations of the power of friendship.

  • Save

The Quest.

The hero makes a difficult and dangerous journey to achieve his goal. The main difference from the previous plot is that the hero does not just travel and try to return to his homeland. He is of little interest to the starting point and needs to travel far away to get some goodies. An example is the story of Jason, who went on a campaign for the Golden Fleece.

The goal may not always be related to travel and wealth; detective stories also fall into this category. Perhaps I would include stories about revenge here (the hero perceives the offender’s suffering as a reward).

All Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), King Solomon’s Mines.

Good for:

  • talk about how important it is to stick to your beliefs;
  • write how your hero grows morally to achieve success;
  • think about the power of teamwork.

  • Save


Any of the above plots could be presented in the comedy genre. However, Christopher Booker brings comedy into its category of 7 basic plots. Such a story is built according to certain laws: the main characters become victims of random coincidences, bad luck, and gossip. There is some confusion at the core, which is happily resolved by the end, and everyone lives happily ever after. Moreover, sparkling jokes and laughter from the audience are not a prerequisite.

Sometimes, a comedy will focus on a hero and heroine destined to be together – but outside forces keep them apart. Eventually, the confusion will clear up, and everything will fall into place.

Pride & Prejudice, Freaky Friday (2003), all Jane Austen novels, Some Like It Hot (1959), Bridget Jones’s Diary, When Harry Met Sally (1989).

Good for:

  • self-reflection about the first difficulties of partnership – romantic, social or business;
  • chat about what your character has learned through challenging situations;
  • demonstrations of how both sides adapt and support each other.

7 basic plots movie examples
  • Save


The main character is a good person but disappointed in life. He is tempted and forced to break the rules of his society, setting in motion a series of events that lead to collapse or death. Sometimes, a character will have to regret his choice by the end of the story, but often, this happens too late, and he dies due to a character flaw, usually the passion of love or the lust for power.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, Anna Karenina, Scarface (1983), Lolita (1977), The Great Gatsby (2013), Hamlet.

Good for:

  • use principled character to present and explain problems in society;
  • express your values and principles;
  • understanding what not to do and how we can learn from our mistakes.

rebirth plot
  • Save


The event forces the hero to change his lifestyle and become a better person. Or the protagonist is under the power of an evil spell, and a miracle is needed for everyone to live happily ever after. A typical example is the story of Sleeping Beauty. However, the plot is not always connected to some magical background. For example, the film with Jim Carrey “Always Say Yes” can be classified in the same category: the hero is literally “reborn.”

Usually, in the film, there is a savior who can help the hero show what the hero’s twisted view of the world is and teach him to love.

Beauty and the Beast, Despicable Me (2010), A Christmas Carol (2009), Groundhog Day (1993). 

Good for:

  • reflection about a learning experience;
  • understanding the importance of having support from loved ones;
  • demonstrate that every person has the opportunity to change for the better

7 basic plots movie examples
  • Save

More plot classifications.

If you are interested in delving into this topic, I also want to mention a few other classifications of scenarios in world literature and cinema.

Luis Borges saw four basic plots. These stories are as follows: the first is about the fortified city, the second is about the return, the third is about the search and the fourth is about the sacrifice.

Georges Polti made a notable contribution by identifying thirty-six different situations. However, his list has faced frequent criticism due to its lack of coherence. Several situations that were categorized separately could have been grouped together as a larger unit. For instance, Polti’s list encompasses self-sacrifice for an ideal, self-sacrifice for loved ones, and sacrifice for passion.

Hollywood uses four basic plots to produce films:

  • the chase
  • love triangle
  • robbing a bank (or something else)
  • the story of Cinderella. By the way, a new plot is gaining momentum – the story of Cinderella with a lousy ending.

  • Save

In the book “Save the Cat,” famous producer and screenwriter Blake Snyder provides his classification of genres, which does not include traditional categories such as “romantic comedy” or “action film.” Some of his storylines sound interesting.

As a fan of thrillers and horror films, I liked the plot “Monster in the House,” which involved a fight with a monster in a limited space. Other examples include Alien, Jaws, and The Exorcist.

And “Two More Comrades” is a classic genre about two friends; here, we are not just talking about men. Blake Snyder jokes that this genre was invented by a screenwriter who suddenly realized that his hero had no one to discuss his problems with. Perfect examples are Thelma and Louise (1991), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), and Pat and Mike (1952). 


Why romantic movies are good?

Art house movies. Simple explanation.

7 basic plots movie examples
  • Save

Final words.

Being a blogger and a movie enthusiast, I found this classification intriguing. Keep in mind that many stories have multiple plots and fall into various categories. 

What are your thoughts on this classification? Do you have a favorite plot?

Share this blog post if you enjoyed it. I would appreciate it!

Written by

I`m in love with movies and psychology. Here I write how we can use movies for healing and self-growth. Also, be sure to check out my movie lists. You will find cool suggestions for movie night.

View all articles
Leave a reply

  • It’s always nice to find a movie with an interesting/unusual plot. But these common plots are likely common for a reason: They resonate with a large percentage of the population, or they are easy to write a story around, or both.

  • I didn’t realize there was 7 storylines in movies. I have observed that some of my family movies have the same ending which is happy. My husband is great at predicting what will happen in movies. Good article. I learned something new.

  • Oh, wow! You know I’ve never thought of it before, but you’re right. You can essentially place any movie in one of these plot slots. Great breakdown.

  • I really like movies that has a lot unique theme and plot twist. This is a sharing about basic plots in cinemas

  • Really interesting article, I can think of some movies that fit under those categories, But whether the plot is basic or unusual, what matters is that the writing is good. Maybe you can make a post about the biggest reasons a movie plot flops if you haven’t made one already. Just a suggestion.

  • Wow, you’ve really delved into the world of storytelling and cinema here! It’s fascinating how Christopher Booker distilled the essence of narratives into seven basic plots, each with its unique arc and character development. Your movie examples provide a fantastic illustration of how these plots manifest across different genres and storytelling styles.

    I particularly enjoyed how you not only outlined the plots but also provided insights into their thematic relevance and potential for discussion. From the classic hero’s journey to the complexities of tragedy and rebirth, each plot offers a rich tapestry of emotions and moral dilemmas for both characters and audiences alike.

    Exploring additional plot classifications, such as those by Luis Borges and Georges Polti, adds another layer of depth to the understanding of storytelling conventions. It’s intriguing how different scholars and practitioners approach the structure of narratives, each offering their unique perspectives and insights.

    And Blake Snyder’s classification of genres, with its unconventional categories like “Monster in the House” and “Two More Comrades,” adds a fresh twist to the discussion. It’s a reminder of the endless creativity and innovation that filmmakers bring to the craft, constantly pushing the boundaries of storytelling.

    Overall, your exploration of the seven basic plots and beyond provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the underlying dynamics of cinema. It’s evident that you have a keen eye for storytelling nuances and a genuine passion for the art of filmmaking. Keep up the great work!

Good Movie Finder


I`m in love with movies and psychology. Here I write how we can use movies for healing and self-growth. Also, be sure to check out my movie lists. You will find cool suggestions for movie night.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap