The seven basic plots, according to the Wikipedia page, are:
- Overcoming the Monster, where the protagonist must defeat an enemy that threatens the main character, his loved ones, or his country.
- Rags to Riches, where the main character, who is poor, gains wealth, temporarily loses it, and regains it.
- The Quest, where the protagonist searches for an important object or tries to reach a far off land while facing many obstacles.
- Voyage and Return, where the protagonist travels to a strange land, deals with any danger he encounters, and then returns a better man thanks to the experience.
- Comedy, where the main character is funny and likable and there is a happy or successful ending.
- Tragedy, where a bad guy loses his status or power and dies at the end, in what is considered a happy ending.
- Rebirth, where the villain redeems himself by the end of the story.
Are these the only seven plots? I remember when my friend attended some sort of motion picture class while in law school and was told there were eight basic plots. Now I’m curious to know what that extra plot was.
The trouble with making a list of possible plots is that I immediately try to fit every book and movie into those predetermined plots rather than coming up with a new type of plot. “Well, it’s kind of like the Quest plot,” I’ll say, even if it’s not. And what about the Comedy plot? It says the conclusion needs to be a happy one. Does that mean it’s not a comedy if the ending is sad, even if I laugh for ninety straight minutes before that?
More to the point, are there movies that don’t fit into one of these seven basic plots? After sifting through my memory of all the movies I’ve seen, I think I’ve finally found one. That movie is called Rubber.
Rubber tells the story of a tire in the desert that comes to life and discovers it has psychic powers that allow it to kill people, mainly by making their heads explode. The tire is clearly a bad guy, which means only the Tragedy and Rebirth plots apply. Not to completely give away the ending, but the tire does not die at the end, nor does it redeem itself. Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what the point of the movie was when I watched it. It’s billed as a comedy, but the ending isn’t particularly happy or satisfying, so that plot doesn’t fit either.
While the majority of movies do follow the seven basic plots, I am sure there are plenty of other movies, like Rubber, that don’t fit so squarely into the list. Which ones can you think of?