Classic Hollywood

The Classic Hollywood structure supports a simple but compelling narrative first articulated by the screenwriter and film professor Bill Idelson (Iuppa & Borst, 2006). The three most significant components are a hero, a goal, and an obstacle separating them. Most of the action involves how the hero overcomes the obstacle to reach the goal. The hero is usually helped by supporting characters who take on the hero’s goal as their own. For the story to be engaging, the obstacle must be compelling. The obstacle could be nature, other people, or characteristics of the hero.


The simplicity of this narrative structure means if the storyline does not include these four stages, then it is not Hollywood Structure. This structure never varies.
1. Hero
Introduce and establish a protagonist—the main character who is usually the hero. Identify...

In Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Professor Indiana Jones, archeologist and adventurer, races to find the Ark of the Covenant thought to be buried beneath the lost city of Tannis during biblical times. The Nazis are the central obstacle. They are also trying to locate the Ark for the...

Learning Applications

When to apply this structure:
A good clue to using this narrative structure is when a storyline has a strong, active hero with a clear goal and a significant obstacle. Complications generally arise when working to eliminate the obstacle, but the obstacle and goal are obvious and...