Thoughts on Film Critic Hulk’s “Myth Of The Three Act Structure”

People occasionally cite Film Critic Hulk’s indictment of the three act structure to me. I’ve always hated it.

Film Critic Hulk’s original post.

My version with more standard and readable grammar.

I translated it into plain English because I’ve always suspected that Film Critic Hulk uses his style to obfuscate poorly thought-out ideas and an extremely tenuous grasp of film criticism and theory. His ideas, while intermittently cogent, generally strike me as vastly inferior to the reviews you’d find on the wonderful Onion AV Club. Now it’s easier to read it for yourself.

I’d love to annotate the entirety of FCH’s post, like I’m doing with Save the Cat. I will if I detect even a flicker of interest.


The Film Critic Hulk doesn’t really like three act structure, so he’s not inclined to understand it. His examples of third act structure are obvious straw men. For a much smarter take on three act structure, consider the Bitter Script reader.

FCH says that many Hollywood movies are poorly outlined, conceptually anemic and broadly stupid. He blames three act structure, but this article is light on logical rigor, my takeaway was “If I like it, it was smartly constructed, if I didn’t, three act is to blame.” He also points out that Hollywood doesn’t even adhere to what he believes three act structure to be, which seems to undercut the main point he’s arguing.

He says that there is no such thing as three act structure. I actually agree with this. But he doesn’t seem to realize that any rationale that makes three act structure a myth would also make five act structure a myth (other than “Shakespeare used it.”). It’s all the same junk. Very occasionally, I’ll work with a writer uses five act structure as their primary tool for understanding screenwriting. Thus far, I’ve been able to help them within that paradigm, even though it’s not my “native tongue.”

I’m a proponent of the three act structure , so I clearly have a philosophical ax to grind. I like three act structure not because it’s real, or true, or the best, but because it communicates the best because most people know about it. I lean on it for the same reasons that Film Critic Hulk holds up Romeo and Juliet as the platonic ideal of three act structure when it’s clear he prefers Hamlet – more people know Romeo and Juliet better, it communicates better, and communication is important for writers.

That’s probably why most of them don’t write in all-caps Hulk speak.

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

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