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Antoine Fuqua’s Southpaw (2016) is a good example of a movie which could have been greatly improved with just a little bit of structural work before the final draft was handed in. Nothing in the script is as fully fleshed-out as it needs to be, and the act breaks are rather weak. Although, in the end, top-notch acting and directing save the day. Even with a rather weak story-structure, the screenplay still garnered a $30 million budget (and decent reviews).

It would have been up for Oscars if the screenplay was any better than just average.

Analyzing the Story-Structures of Famous Screenplays: Southpaw

Billy gets his daughter back.

They live happily ever after.

Denouement: BACK FORWARD

Southpaw stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, a champion boxer - whose wife dies and whose daughter is abruptly taken away from him when he has trouble coping with his wife’s death.

Billy spirals downward until his life is a complete mess in every way possible. His career’s over. He’s lost his daughter. He wants to die.

It’s not until he cleans himself up and goes on with his life that he’s able to pull himself back together and avenge his wife’s murder in the literal final battle with the antagonist, an opposing boxing champ.

Inciting Incident: 1st Turning-Point: 2nd Turning Point: False-Victory or False-Defeat:

First turning point (of the movie): Billy’s wife is shot (25min) and dies.

Notice how the setting changes: Setting changes emotionally more than physically. Life with his wife vs. life without his wife.

First act - life is going great. Second act - life is forever changed (for the worse).

Notice how the stakes rise tremendously: He’s now a single-father. Destroyed emotionally.

Pit of Despair: Pretty much the entire first half of the second act (plus).

Billy gets punched in the face (we enter the first fight as the credits finish, Escobar at ringside).

Inciting incident (of the boxing sub-plot): Escobar crashes the press conference and challenges Billy Hope. We won’t see much of him again until the first turning-point and then the final battle. You know he’s the antagonist, because he’s named after an infamous drug-dealer.

His daughter slaps him repeatedly:

‘You should have been the one that was killed! Not Mom, you! You! I hate you!’

Billy gets his shot: a title-fight in 6 weeks! (88min)

Notice how the setting changes: we now move onto serious training! And then the fight itself.

Notice how the stakes rise tremendously: If he doesn’t win, he’ll be destitute and lose his daughter forever (well, pretty much anyway).

He’s fighting amateurs where the stakes are low - and then, all of a sudden at the second turning-point, he’s now fighting for the championship!

Lowest stakes possible - to the highest.

False-defeat at the mid-point.

Billy’s lost his wife. The authorities have taken his daughter away from him. His career’s effectively over. He’s lost his home. He’s a broken man. He’s defeated in every possible way.

If your main-character is defeated at the half-way point, he’s probably going to win at the climax.

Original movie posters from the film

Screen-Writing Contests:

Plot Recap:

Home is where the heart is.

Grow up and be a man.


Billy learns to stop torturing himself and put his daughter’s needs and desires first for once. Billy learns that defense is as important as offense.

Character Arc: WARNING: May Contain Spoilers!