Holy Hollywood, Batman! . . . or breaking down the general screenplay plot formula

Adron J. Smitley
3 min readFeb 14, 2024


Since some of you are aspiring screenwriters, and because I like to change the pace of these writing blogs every now and again, let’s talk screenplays for a moment, shall we?

A typical modern Hollywood screenplay ranges from 90 pages to 120 pages.

1 page of screenplay = 1 minute of screen time.

There are 24 plot points, or major events, in a movie.

Thus each plot point averages 5 pages.

ACT 1: Six Plot Points = 30 pages/minutes long

ACT 2: Twelve Plot Points = 60 pages/minutes long

ACT 3: Six Plot Points = 30 pages/minutes long

In movies there is something that’s colloquially known as the “10 minute rule”. The idea is that after 10 minutes the viewer will generally have a good idea of whether they’ll enjoy the rest of the movie or not and wish to continue watching or abandon it for another one.

The reason it’s called the 10 minute rule is because that’s when the protagonist usually receives their first inkling of the events (a.k.a. the Inciting Incident) that are about to unfold: 10 minutes in.

Usually the 10-minute mark falls conveniently on a point where something exciting or dangerous or intriguing happens and will convince the audience to keep watching in order to find out what happens next.

This important moment of interest, which is meant to evoke immediate viewer curiosity, is also why a plethora of movies open with a prologue-esque action scene (almost always without the protagonist but about the protagonist; for example in Horror movies the ‘monster’ attacking an innocent victim so we can get a taste of what the ignorant protagonist will later be up against) while relaying a bit of backstory interwoven with a hint of the story’s impending central conflict, and usually consisting of somewhere around 3 to 7 minutes of runtime.

Most commonly the Inciting Incident takes place in movies as either plot point 2 or plot point 3 to ensure it either ends or begins the 10 minute rule of audience interest, though understand the Inciting Incident can take place in any position of plot points 1 thru 3 and this all depends upon your particular story and how you wish to tell it as well if you include a prologue scene.

So how does this all break down?

Each half of an Act is 3 plot points, with the “third” plot point of that half of an Act being its culmination. Think of these ‘series of three’ plot points as mini-movies that are all interconnected yet each possessing a climax of its own and you get the point.

Typically . . .

The first half of Act 1 culminates with the Inciting Incident.

The second half of Act 1 culminates with the Key Event.

The first half of Act 2A culminates with the Pinch Point.

The second half of Act 2A culminates with the Midpoint.

The first half of Act 2B culminates with the Punch Point.

The second half of Act 2B culminates with the Anchor Point & Rubicon.

The first half of Act 3 culminates with the Highest Stakes Achieved.

The second half of Act 3 culminates with the Climax & Resolution.

*Please note that variables exist, such as the placement of the Rubicon (which typically happens immediately after Act 2B’s Anchor Point but not always); my Stomping Kittens companion piece, ‘The Great Fiction Cheat Sheet’, goes into detail on this specific point with examples, as well explains the important differences between the Inciting Incident and the Key Event in greater depth), or the Act 3 Climax happening sooner so that the aftermath of the Resolution can have more focus applied (all depending upon your particular story), but in general these are the average placements of the general screenplay plot point culminations.


The Great Fiction Cheat Sheet: a Stomping Kittens companion
Stomping Kittens: a Punching Babies sequel
On Writing Well



Adron J. Smitley

Blog for writers on everything plot, character, and story structure architecture at: adronjsmitley.blogspot.com