@Standback wrote in an answer to "How difficult is it to break into screenwriting?":

It's extremely, extremely difficult.

Not too many people making movies. Lots of people writing screenplays. Gargantuan investment to get a movie made. Not an easy sell.

You would think then that only the very best of the very best screenplays become movies. However, I don't think it's particularly controversial to say that the average movie plot has obvious flaws, such as:

  • Scientifically implausible "sci"-fi
  • Historically inaccurate "historical" movies
  • Boring movies (nothing happens until the end)
  • The character keeps getting saved by a series of miracles, it starts to insult your intelligence
  • Bad guys shoot worse than kindergarteners
  • etc. etc. etc.

What would explain this paradox: If the selection process for movie scripts is extremely competitive, why do most movie plots have obvious flaws?

  • 2
    To me this feels like a rant in disguise. Esp. because a lot of your examples are very unfair. Documentaries should be scientifically correct, but you can whatever you want in a fictional movie. The point is telling a story and not to be correct. Boring movies are entirely subjective, example: The Man from Earth (2007). Some say it's boring, some love the script. And I don't see a problem with a miracle-saving, because movies always tend to show the exceptional. Without miracles it'd be too mundane and therefore boring - what you don't want. "Bad guys" are rarely trained weapon-specialists.
    – Matt
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 20:07
  • Bear in mind that the script may bear minimal resemblance to the final movie.
    – Mary
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 22:18

3 Answers 3


Because humans:

To elaborate: It IS really hard to get into making movies. That's why artists are always looking to make a movie at all costs - because once you're in, you have a reputation. Because of the money involved, most folks don't want to take a chance on an unknown - even if they love the stuff. So many movies are based on stuff that's all ready successful (like TV shows, comics, or books) precisely for this reason.

Some of it can be translation. I loved the book The Postman, but the movie was REALLY terrible. Different formats can fall flat describing things originally in a different media. Editing can be a problem since a longer movie might have tied those elements together like they wanted to, yet there wasn't time to put it all into 90 minutes less credits.

But people are also lazy, and want success to be easy. So once you're in, you are assumed to be good until you make a mistake. So the inside talent pool is small once a movie is picked. If your works make money despite a few flaws, no one cares.

My favorite "skit" from Family Guy was Stephen King sitting anguished at a typewriter. His editor asks him what his next work is about, and in desperation, Stephen grabs a lamp and says, "It's about a lamp monster!" The editor replies, "Are you even trying any more? (sigh) When can you get it to me?"

Sadly, I might watch the Lamp Monster movie.

Then there's the fact that a lot of viewers don't care about a few obvious flaws if the movie is fun. Anyone who's watched any Smokin' Aces films, John Wick films, or any number of others can see there are glaring deficiencies, yet it's fun to watch. Sometimes people just want to suspend disbelief in the process, not just the story. Give folks a great gun fight or space battle, and they're happy. After all, movies are a visual media and great visuals are as important as a good story.

Also sadly, I've watched both Smokin' Aces movies and all the John Wick movies. If they come out with another Star Wars movie, I'll probably watch it as soon as I'm done watching Solo (sigh).

  • You got it completely backwards. The Postman is brilliant. John Wick is unwatchable. But I'll accept this answer, as in a way, you've made your point that people can have weird tastes.
    – MWB
    Commented Aug 28, 2021 at 22:57
  • @bobcat Did you read the book? It isn't even close. Conversely, Blade Runner was an amazing movie despite having the exact opposite point as the story. I may also not be a fan of Kevin Costner.
    – DWKraus
    Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 4:51
  • I did not read the book (which is why my opinion is unbiased by ideas on what the movie "should have been")
    – MWB
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 2:30

Making movies is far more complicated than just pounding out a good screenplay. You may have written the next Schindler's List, but in the end, if no one watches it, it's not worth any money. Works of art are only worth as much as they can sell for, and movies are very, very expensive to make. So what types of screenplays sell well?

Original screenplays have a place somewhere, but it's large franchises that are making the most money right now, by far. And sadly, these franchises have armies of film-makers at their disposal, plus lot's of copyright protections, so that not anyone can take their source material, and make their own movie out of it. Think of Marvel, who can basically pick and choose who will direct/write/act their movies, because they have the capital to pay them large sums of money.

Additionally, you need to think of marketing. Christopher Nolan for example, made a name for himself, to the point where moviegoers, once they hear his name, they will want to see the film, even if the screenplay isn't good or has glaring plot holes.

Another one is time: Many screenwriters are held to a schedule (in order for the film to be released at a time when it's likely to make more money), so they don't have time to edit it to perfection.

In essence, it's all tied up with money, in one way or another, sadly. In general however, if you write good screenplays of a particular genre, you can make a name for yourself (e.g. Tarantino, Sorkin, Spielberg, Waititi, and plenty of others)

  • 1
    "Making movies is far more complicated ..." -- That's the premise of the question.
    – MWB
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 16:49

Movies, like wars, are made by people.

What you are calling a paradox is a conflation of your tastes in storytelling and the decisions made by other storytellers who are putting their money on the table and making a movie they think will satisfy their aesthetic sense of art and make a return on the investment.

Are they always right? No. They’re people and most people get it wrong some of the time.

Why are there common elements to movies that seem goofy? Because people are more alike than we are different and because being different and taking a risk is scary so its safer to color inside the lines rather than go for the whole Jackson Pollack thing where other people’s money is involved. And, its even scarier when its your money on the line too.

  • This makes me think of von Moltke the Elder, a military strategist in the 19th century. A paraphrasing of one of his axioms goes: No plan survives the first contact with the enemy.
    – Erk
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 18:05
  • @Erk, I was more borrowing from Honor Harrington, who was riffing on Von Moltke. The connection is intentional.
    – EDL
    Commented Aug 28, 2021 at 0:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.