Articles, Blog

10 Best Structured Movies of All Time


>>CineFix Host: Good film making isn’t
all clever dialog and flashy scene work. The success or failure of an entire
movie often relies on its overall shape, on the unsexy utilitarianism
of its underlying scaffolding. So, let’s take a look at some of
our favorites with the ten best structured films of all time.>>[MUSIC]>>CineFix Host: [SOUND] Kicking us off
at number ten, let’s start nice and straightforward with the three
act structure, beginning, middle, end, set up,
confrontation, resolution. The first act locks
the hero into a conflict. The second act forces
them to struggle with it. And the third act sees them mount
a final effort to overcome. Key here is causality, each moment and
act forces the story forward. Think classics like Jaws, Raiders of the
Lost Ark, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Witness, and The Fugitive,
all with rock solid three acts. But for our favorite three-acter,
we’ve gotta go with Die Hard.>>Hans Gruber: I’m
going to count to three. There will not be a four.>>CineFix Host: Act one, the set up. Act two, the confrontation. Act three, the resolution. Each act sets up the next. Each scene demands the one
that comes after it. With no excess or waste, each moment is
a prerequisite for every other to follow. One after another, after another,
with singular focus in bullseye precision, toppling into the next like a set of
dominos, until the spectacular climax. [SOUND] Instead of chopping the timeline
of the film down to it’s most interesting parts, some films present themselves
as a single, uninterrupted stream, and present their causality in real time. The structure doesn’t select
the most important moments here, because every moment is one of
the most important moments. There’s no need to shape the action
because it’s already shaped. These are films like 12 Angry Men,
Fail Safe, Tape, Rope, Before Sunset, United 93,
and our number nine pick, High Noon.>>Amy Kane: Well I don’t
understand any of this.>>Marshal Kane: Well I
haven’t got time to tell you.>>CineFix Host: In a film about
the relentless march of time towards a showdown, this structural
choice is as brilliant as it is obvious. It builds its ticking time
bomb into its own runtime. But, there’s something deceptively
difficult about telling a story this way. In order for it to be compelling and
engaging for a viewer, Kane’s every moment must ebb and flow and build and move in
the shape of an interesting narrative. So the writers had to structure this
film not in how they framed and chose their scenes, but
in Will Kane’s life. His every footstep drives the structure, which makes the tension of the film
that much more impressive.>>[MUSIC]
>>CineFix Host: Next up, let’s get a little more complicated. Take a couple different linear story
lines, plop them on top of each other, and interweave them, and you’ll have our number eight,
the multiple timeline structure. These are films like Intolerance,
The Fountain, Cloud Atlas, and Dias de Gracias. Many times, the different stories are
woven together emotionally, thematically, but maybe not causally. And the effect can be beautiful, as if to suggest a continuity between
humanity across oceans and ages. But it can be challenging, too, as in our
number eight pick, The Godfather Part II.>>Michael Corleone: If anything
in this life is certain,>>Michael Corleone: If history has taught us anything,
>>Michael Corleone: It’s that you can kill anyone.>>CineFix Host: On their own,
both of these narratives make for excellent stories,
classics in their own right. But put them together, and
they give you just a little bit more. Compares between the assents to
power of a father and a son. Contrast, between Vito’s principles and
Michael’s lack there of. Landscape, of the world in
which Michael was raised, and the way it both informed him and
boxed him in. And, on top of all that,
just the smallest hint of cause, the slightest causal push from the end
of Vito’s narrative to the beginning of Michael’s in a view of the grand chasm
embedded in its final juxtaposition. Our number seven takes a look at some of
these films that look more laterally. It’s been dubbed hyperlink cinema. Linear story lines are like
a line of dominos. One event knocks over the next, knocks
over the next, until the final stroke. But hyperlink cinema, it’s like ten
different domino sets all running at once, weaving and intersecting and
changing each other’s courses. It’s not tracing a single causal chain,
but a network of them. This structure speaks to our
interconnectedness, our interdependency, how our narratives
are irreconcilably intertwined. These types of stories were pioneered
in films like Amarcord, Kanchenjunga, Nashville, and Shortcuts. And it brought to bear modern
masterpieces like Babel, Amores Perros, 21 Grams,
and Paris, je t’aime. We won’t say anything about Crash, other than that our number seven, Ajami, is everything it could have been.>>Nisri: [FOREIGN]
>>CineFix Host: Ajami plays with cause and effect, and
how we interpret it, brilliantly. One moment showing us a chain of
events that appears to be one way, later complicating it,
revealing it to be another way entirely. It presents violence as something
that could have been easily avoided, until it shows us the other
links in the causal chain, in the wide causal web, where we realize
the collision course had been set much too far back to assign
any kind of easy blame. It shows violence begetting violence,
directly and indirectly. And in presenting it this way, with all
the violence each violent act begets, all the hate each act of hate begets,
honor or family or revenge be damned,
maybe there is no just cause. Round number six, let’s whip out some
fancy Russian formalist terms so we’ve got a common language. If we’re telling a story,
let’s assume it’s a true story, the events themselves exist
apart from our telling. This underlying narrative, the one that exists independently of
its narration, is called the fabula. But then, there is the narration,
and this can digress. This can chop out the unimportant parts,
or gloss over the slow bits. It can jump backwards and forwards, rearrange the underlying
fabula in different ways. In this representation of the fabula, that’s what the Russians
called the syuzhet. So, when we’re talking about
how stories are structured, we’re talking about how the fabula
is represented in the syuzhet. And one of the most common ways to play
around with the syuzhet is what we call the flashback narrative. You show the ending, something exciting
and mysterious, and maybe even completely bonkers, and then say, wait, wait,
wait, let’s go back to the beginning. The audience’s question is no
longer how is this going to end, it’s how did we get here. Fight Club is probably the most
famous example of this, but it’s certainly not the first. And while All About Eve, American Beauty,
Casino, Forrest Gump, Goodfellas, and Melancholia all pull this off beautifully,
and I know you’ll groan that we’re picking it again, but come on, this is pretty much
the main reason that it’s a masterpiece, we gotta give this spot to the OG,
Citizen Kane.>>Charles Kane: Rosebud.>>CineFix Host: Kane is a textbook
example of this structure. We start with a mystery,
in this case, Rosebud, and the film outright asks
us about this mystery. And then we follow our reporter
as he dives into the past to unpack how Kane got to Rosebud. And along the way, whatever the hell
Rosebud means stops being important.>>Jerry Thompson: I don’t think
any word can explain a man’s life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a piece
in a jigsaw puzzle, a missing piece.>>CineFix Host: It’s about the shape
of the journey from point a to point b, not about point b itself, which is
exactly why Wells chose this structure. By starting with the end and
building towards the middle, it removes the mystery of the what and
focuses the audience on the mystery of the how, painting an
incredible portrait of a man in between. Throwing a cool curve ball at
the flashback trope is the backwards film. It too starts at the ending, and
it too asks how did we get here. But instead,
it steps itself backwards, concealing the beginning from the viewer as its main
source of tension, or curiosity, or irony. Momento is perhaps the best
known example of this. Harold Pinter’s Betrayal is the filmic
originate, with Peppermint Candy, 5×2, and portions of Eternal Sunshine
filling out our honorable mention. However, for our number six pick, we think
that Irreversible uses this structure to a most devastating effect.>>Speaker 9: [FOREIGN]>>[MUSIC]>>Speaker 9: [FOREIGN]
>>CineFix Host: Beware, Irreversible is, at best,
difficult to watch. It begins with the ultra violent revenge
that many films might make their climax. And then proceeds backwards towards its
brutal cause, in an after slash before it, it’s peaceful absence. In part, it renders revenge,
even potentially justified revenge, indefensible. It doesn’t allow us to crave
the violence only to be repulsed by it. In another way, it enslaves the narrative
to a feeling of horrible fate. The course is set, the ending has been
seen, there is no escaping the future for this story. There’s no dread that this perfection
might be marred, only grim foresight. Because, as the film tells us,
time destroys everything. What about repetition? Our number four is dedicated to films that
tell the same story over and over and over again. Of course, you can’t tell the exact
same story, something has to change. Perhaps the film uses the same to
syuzhet to examine different fabula, as in Run Lola Run and Mr. Nobody, marvelling at how this slightest
of changes can have the biggest of effect. Or maybe the same fabula to examine a
different syuzhet, as in Hero, Go, Basic, Last Year at Marienbad, Inland Empire,
and JFK, interrogating the entire idea of story telling and
how the story is changed by the telling. Which is exactly what
happens in our number four, the mac daddy original, Rashomon.>>Speaker 10: [FOREIGN]
>>Speaker 11: [LAUGH] [FOREIGN] [SOUND] [FOREIGN]
>>CineFix Host: A samurai is found dead, murdered, in the forest, and
four tell the tale of how it happened. The bandit, whose story involves seduction
and an honorable duel, the wife, whose story involves rape and murder, the
dead samurai himself, whose story involves betrayal and suicide, and a witness,
whose story involves frailty and chance. Each paints themself as the villain,
but no two stories add up. There is no objective solution,
we wait for the truth to emerge, only to find none, or none comprehensible. The telling here only obscures. Instead of delivering an objective
story to it’s audience, Rashomon, for the first time ever in cinema,
says, no, you don’t get the neatness of objectivity,
only the messiness of human truth. At number three,
we’re looking at the circular narrative. The story that ends where it starts,
starts where it ends. The Mobius Strip syuzhet constructed
around an ouroboros fabula. It asks serious questions about causality, and pokes a hole in its most basic of
assumptions, that it even exists at all. The prime example is
the time travel story, sending it’s heroes back to before they
started, to kill their own grandparents, or spur on their own journey. But that’s not the only
kind of circular story. Inside Llewyn Davis suggests
an inescapable fate of failure, an ennui without invoking flux capacitors. Dead of Night and Lost Highway trap
us in a horror of universal return. And our number three pick uses it’s
circularity to suggest the potential inescapability of human
nature in Before the Rain.>>Speaker 12: [FOREIGN]
>>CineFix Host: Violence here, as love, is a cycle. It is it’s own cause, it’s own effect. Much like as in Ajami, it begets itself,
but here, quite literally so. Before the Rain’s ending returns
us right to before we started. The story could begin or
end with any of it’s three parts. The causal chain is actually a loop,
but not in an entirely expected way. The rules are bent, slightly broken. Does this mean that
violence is inescapable? Perhaps not, perhaps this narrative fudging offers
us a point of escape or three. At each juncture, the story had to
twist the rules of the universe in order to propel itself
around in the cycle. A little bit of momentum
in another direction, and it just might be able to
reach escape velocity. Each of these different structures is
interrogating the effectiveness of our causal approach to understanding
the world, and that’s important. We shape our world,
our identities, out of stories. So how we structure them,
how we construct our syuzhet, matters. So for one of our last picks, we wanna
look at the non-linear tale, bending time forwards and backwards and sideways and
whatever direction best suits the truth. And we love this structure because it
asks us to look around, dive further, delve deeper, to find our answers. It suggests that human stories aren’t
always explained by the events that immediately precede them. This is Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. It’s Slaughterhouse-Five and
I’m Not There. It’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters,
and Annie Hall, and (500) Days of Summer. It’s films that turn over a life or
a relationship, or an event to look through it from a number
of different angles like a prism. And our number two pick, it’s a brilliant little Canadian film from
the late 90s called The Sweet Hereafter.>>Nicole Burnell: I wonder
if you realize something.>>Nicole Burnell: I wonder if
you understand that all of us, Dolores, me, the children who survived, the children who didn’t, that we’re
all citizens of a different town now.>>[MUSIC]>>Nicole Burnell: A place with its own
special rules, and its own special laws.>>[MUSIC]>>Nicole Burnell: A town of people
living in the sweet hereafter.>>CineFix Host: The Sweet Hereafter
isn’t much of a mystery, nor does it have much of an answer. It’s engine is not it’s plot. The fatal incident that incites
it’s pain does not come part and parcel with a shocking
revelation of injustice. That would give us too much closure. Instead, Egoyan uses his structure
to trace the complexity of loss, and guilt, and pain. It moves through time examining the kind
of pain that cannot be cured by some kind of narrative closure. The pain of memory knows no
particular structure or boundary, instead it tells us that sometimes,
causes are embedded deep in the past, effects sometimes lie far
down the road in the future. Dominoes are slow and
sometimes lie in wait for a long time before they leap out to topple
us in the strangest of directions, but perhaps not quite the way
we were would have hoped. And finally,
finishing us off at number one, is what we’re going to call
the oneiric structure, the structure of dreams,
of memories, of human consciousness. This is Tree of Life, The Phantom of
Liberty, Enter the Void, 8 and a half. It is every movie that
meanders through time and space not necessarily connected by causal
logic, but by emotional association. And for our number one pick here,
it’s gonna have to go to a movie whose frequency on our lists
might make you suspect it’s one of our writer’s favorites,
in which case you just might be onto him. It’s The Mirror.>>Speaker 14: [FOREIGN]>>Speaker 14: [FOREIGN]>>Speaker 14: [FOREIGN]>>Speaker 14: [FOREIGN]>>Speaker 14: [FOREIGN]>>CineFix Host: What’s structurally most fascinating about The Mirror is that it’s
free associative look at time and space, backwards and forwards, and in different
ways, is that there is no fabula. That’s right, there is no underlying
story that exist apart from its telling. There’s only the telling,
there are only the memories, the dream, the associated emotions. Perhaps at one point, there was a cohesive
and objective truth that existed beneath this dream like memoir,
but it’s not there anymore. And to try to recapture it would be a lie. It says to us,
all stories are just syuzhet, offering us distorted glimpses of a fabula
you can never really get back to. Stories are irreparably affected by
the fallibility of the human mind, by its limited perspective, distorted
perception, decaying remembrance. And so Tarkovsky’s The Mirror zenfully
offers glimpses of moments from a life, and lets you connect it, causally or
otherwise, as you see fit. Which is why we think it’s the best
structured film of all time. So what do you think? Do you disagree with any of our picks? Did we leave out any of your
favorite structural innovations? Let us know in the comments below,
and be sure to subscribe for more CineFix movie lists.>>[MUSIC]

100
Comments
  • How is it that you didn't include Groundhog Day in number 4!!
    Anyway it's a good list despite of that

  • Eternal Sunshine not being on this list is ridiculous. I'd make more of effort to shame you, but history will do that for me.

  • 7:50 the following 10 seconds of that scene in which he proceeds to bash his face in was one of the most graphic things i've ever seen on film.

  • I know Rashomon deserves its place, but surely Groundhog Day deserves an honourable mention. For the best comedies structure is essential, but comedies almost never appear on your lists unless they’re about humour which is terribly reductive.

  • Citizen Kane was the most boring piece of crap ever !!! If I could get back the time spent uselessly watching that waste of conscienceless I could be a contender.

  • I'm surprised Pan's Labyrinth was not on your list; there are many reviews espousing the depth of the human experience juxtaposed in this story but none touch the way this film touched me. I take this movie as a metaphor of what could have been, what is lost in the violence of life. Instead you include a film that has shriveled in the pantheon of great narrative that movies became. Once again, Citizen Kane is Crap.

  • Movies that tell the same story over and over only in a slightly different way and we couldn’t even MENTION Groundhog Day?

  • Almost all these picks are pretentious AF. The ONLY ones that deserve to be on the list are, Die Hard: #10, and The Godfather II: # 8.

    And they also split several types of movies into 2 or sometimes 3 categories. Complete narcissist BS.

  • The trouble with discussions like this – is that if you aren't a film student or don't have aspirations to be some kind of student of films – you are probably not going to be trained to appreciate what the people making the movie are doing and a lot of what goes on is unappreciable to you. You get the feeling that the people making the movie are trying to say something – but you've no idea what it is. Then, sometimes, when someone with the background to understand it – explains it to you you're like "… oh bull shit …" and that's the end of that.

    Now, this doesn't mean that just because you don't understand what some esoteric aspect of some film means – that you are a stupid person. You may well be very good at whatever it is you do to earn a living – something the guys who made the movie couldn't do. It just means that they've got their own little world they live in – with other people who are like they are – that people who are NOT like they are … just don't get.
    .

  • " Die Hard" is a classic. And, I'm not a fan of Willis. ——MacTiernan was at his best, in this film, & The magnificent Alan Rickman, was a memorable villain.———–And " GF2 " is sheer brilliance in time study & character development . It's brave, & utterly compelling, showing us the descent of Michael Corleone .————————————-WolfSky9, 72 y/o

  • " Citizen Kane " is ——like " Gone With The Wind", overrated. ——-I care not what " critics" say !! ————–WolfSky9

  • Ahhhh, Japanese cinema——-just like The Scandinavians ——-refuses to have a + ending, where things are + resolved. ——-They are BOTH too dark, almost all of the time, for me. ——————————WolfSky9

  • When they got to the things-keeping-recurring structure I was surprised there was no honourable mention for Groundhog Day. I mean, when it comes to eternal recurrence, Groundhog Day is really doing it (and is a dashed good movie).

  • 12 Monkeys by Terry Gillam..is my favorite time travel movie. Hated when i first saw it, but the more i viewed it the more i love it and understand it..

  • I can't believe you went with a film that is the most post-modern in "structure" for your number one pick. Stop that. "Clever" only gets you so far.

  • Rose Bud was something that everyone overlooked it's there in the beginning when he was young!

  • I love how you didn't try to make a top 10 of the best, because there are so many it owuld be impossible, but made it more a top of great exemples of different structures.

  • 2:38 – Whoa, whoa, whoa! "The Fountain" is a certified train wreck in terms of structure, with the protagonist's central decision mere minutes from the end credits. That one belongs in the middle of the second act, and many well-structured movies (or plays, for that matter) put them exactly at the half time mark of the overall run time. Even "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes" got that one right!

  • According to Robert McKee, screenwriting guru and writer of the book STORY, Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark has 7 acts.

    Book STORY p.220:
    "A film could have a Shakespearean rhythm of five acts: FOUR
    WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. Or more. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is in seven acts; THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER in eight. These films turn a major reversal every fifteen or twenty minutes, decisively solving the long second act problem. But the five- to eight-act design is the exception, for the cure of one problem is the cause of others."

  • Michael has a principal: getting out of the mob, but he uses the most grotesque methods of Mob violence and crime to do it. His flaw is he looks down on mob life, so he has no joy. Joy & salvation can ONLY come from getting out. For Vito, salvation IS mob life. Vito has joy, love & family. Michael plays Mob Boss with a hazmat suit on so he won't get tainted. His only goal is getting out, rising above this curse. Just sayn

  • How to make a list, CineFix way: Start with the most recognizable, most loved movies and proceed to get more and more obscure until you're referring to movies almost no one has ever heard of and even fewer have seen as your top picks.

  • What is the name of the last song played? The classical piece over the end of The Mirror? Thank you, been searching for it's name and movie for a long time now.

  • Citizen Kane is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I have no idea why people insist on pretending this is a good movie.

  • I've seen a few of your videos and I must say they are all thought provoking. My wife and I love film and have seen a fair bit of these you've mentioned, but now I have more to put on our watch list. "Yojimbo" was my favorite Kurosawa film. Now there is another one to seek out. Thank you.

  • hey speaker have you ever heard of wiktionary?? it's a useful tool if you don't want people laughing at you .. here : https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/fabula

  • i cant watch their videos anymore because every time i do i get the urge of watching all the movies they rank

  • Every time I watch a CineFix video, I have to have Wikipedia open to check all the films I've not had the time to watch.
    I want more life, f**ker!

  • I'm actually surprised that Cinefix, who really understand the subject matter of films, do not understand the narrative of The Fountain. It is NOT multiple timelines.

  • Incorrect. Rope was shot in long takes, but still used with cuts. the cuts were very cleverly hidden, and done to switch to a new reel.

  • I'm 32 and this video seems geared towards even older people than me. Just wanted to put that out there because the younger crowd will probably not enjoy the vast majority of these movies based on the fact that they were written for a different age of ideology for the most part.

  • So where on such a list might a film like Momento stand? A film with what appears to have zero structure and yet it has great power in its message.

  • The presentation is abysmal…we are not computers to be force fed data. No time to think, therefore don't bother watching.

  • Some really interesting picks like The Mirror and Before The Rain. Although I'm a bit surprised at the total exclusion of Kubrick. And the inclusion of Rope as the only one of master-structurialist Hitchcock's movies is a bit of a letdown. Also, talking about structure without mentioning Godard?

  • This video reeks of elitism. I have nothing against foreign language films, but 5 of your 10 picks are foreign films that no one not majoring in Film Studies has ever seen, and 4 that even I haven't heard of.

  • The Godfather 1 and 2 was reedited into chronological order with added scenes for a TV mini-series called The Godfather: The Complete Novel for Television. Coppola did this project to raise money for Apocalypse Now.

  • I forget which number, but for "How did we get here?" the pre-American-edit version of Once Upon A Time In America should have been mentioned.

  • "Pink Floyd – The Wall" perhaps? No? No honorable mention? …………….Oh wait, CineFix hates music movies, and musicals. Does not allow them in ANY of their 100 or so "top ten" lists (unless the list is specifically music related).

  • Sadly the machine gun fire pace of the breakdowns make them all seem like cookies coming off a conveyor belt. Like 10 bad commercials for auto insurance browbeating you into a pulp….and not Pulp Fiction. A more nuanced voice over, calmer, and less rapid-fire would have give the viewer just a few more seconds to digest the concepts. I found myself wishing it was over after the first example.

  • I never heard of "Ajami" Maybe I will try to get a hold of it and watch it. Its seems about the Israeli Vs Palestenian Conflict- Is that Correct?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *