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The denouement is the final scene (or scenes) in your screenplay. It comes after the climax is over and everything has been resolved. It’s the ‘come-down’ scene. It’s where you let your audience take a breath and think about what they just saw.

The denouement is where everyone lives happily ever after (or not).

Sometimes the denouement is called the coda or the epilogue (or the ending). They all mean roughly the same thing in the world of film. It’s what happens after your story is told. When all the plot-threads are wrapped up and your protagonist has finally won (or lost).

If you just cut to credits the second after the climax, your audience is going to be disoriented. They’re

When it all comes down to it, the first act is about the original status quo. The first turning point is the protagonist’s choice to try and change that status quo. He actually accomplishes that, and changes the status quo forever at the climax. And, the denouement is where everyone gets to take a breath and the protagonist gets to contemplate the new status quo, the new-world-order.

going to be left wanting more. You need to give them a minute to digest what they just saw. To think about it for a few minutes.

The audience also wants to know what happens to the characters after the story is over. That is why so many movies end with freeze-frames and superimposed titles describing what happens to each character in the future. Showing individual scenes would take way too long. You only have maybe 3 or 4 minutes, if you’re lucky. And, you can’t put that stuff anywhere but in the denouement. So, with such little time, you’ll want to prioritize your main-character (and typically the love-interest) in the denouement. You don’t have much time for anyone else.

In The Terminator (1984), the denouement has a boy taking a photograph of Sarah Connor. She purchases the photograph - which is the same photograph that John Connor will give to his friend (who is really his father) in the future.

The denouement ties everything all together.

In the sequel, Terminator 2 (T2), the denouement has Sarah looking to the future, with hope this time.

‘If a machine... Can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too!’

Shawshank Redemption (1994) has, what appears to be, just about the longest denouement one could ever imagine. Although, that movie is a special case. The denouement isn’t really the denouement. It’s actually the third act. The structure seems all screwy - because the protagonist isn’t actually who the audience thinks the protagonist is!

It’s called Shawshank Redemption. Tim Robbins character wasn’t redeemed - Morgan Freeman’s was! What you think is the denouement of the Tim Robbins story - is actually the third act of the Morgan Freeman story. Morgan Freeman is the narrator, the story is his. The movie is actually about him.

The real denouement is on the beach at the very end. Not the half-hour before that.

Raiders of the Lost Ark has one of the more-famous denouements in film history. It ends with the crate carrying the Ark of the Covenant being filed away in a gigantic warehouse, to be forgotten forever.

In Saw, the big twist-ending comes in the denouement. The dead-body in the middle of the room gets up and walks out! It was him the whole time! Game over.

The denouement can be, pretty much, any length you want. Although, you’ll want to err on the shorter-side. You don’t want to waste any time in the denouement. It is, after all, just the stuff that’s left-over. None of it has any importance to your story (usually).

So, anything up to 5 pages or so would work. Too much longer than that, and you’ll be boring your audience. They just want a quick scene or two that wraps everything up neatly and shows them a bit of what the new status quo is like. If you have a big ensemble cast, sure, you might want to go quite a bit over five pages. But, as a rule of thumb, it should be good.

After you’ve written your denouement, your script should be finished. So, you’ll be tempted to do stupid things like put artwork on the back page or have your script bound, etc…


Hollywood hates all that bullshit. They want a plain old script. No bells and whistles (other than a couple brads and maybe a sheet of hard-stock as a front and back cover). That’s it. I don’t care if you’re a crafter, bejewelling your script is a great way to get it tossed in the trash immediately.

I once worked with a guy who was writing his own movie - and he spent 2% of his film’s budget having the rough-draft of the screenplay bound professionally! The rough draft. Just crazy.

Examples of Denouements  in Famous Movies: Writing Your Screenplay’s Denouement: FORWARD The Third Act - The Denouement

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The First Act of your Three-Act Structure. This is where you introduce your main characters to the audience and get the plot rolling. The end of your 1st Act comes with the First Turning Point, the point at which your protagonist chooses his quest The 2nd Act - Where the bulk of your plot goes. Confrontation - this is where your protagonist confronts the status quo and attempts to change it for the better Your 2nd Act can't end without your Second Turning Point! Things may seem bleak for your protagonist, but all is not lost yet! There is still hope!... Backstory - what happened in the past. Exposition, expository dialogue, etc... It all comes down to this - your climax! The end of your story. The conclusion. The one thing everyone in the audience wants to know: does the protagonist win? The 3rd Act - the final act in your three-act structure, where everything is decided, the climax, the conclusion, the end. Your Film's Theme - what your movie is really about. The undercurrent. The second act of your screenplay should be filled with ups and downs, dramatically speaking of course. Like a roller-coaster. It's all about creating conflict and drama. BACK Welcome to SCREENPLAY.today - your free online screen-writing program - learn how to write a screenplay for free! Free Online Screenplay Writing Course from SCREENPLAY.today - screenwriting advice, help, information, hints, tips & tricks