by D.W. Lundberg

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Something occurred to me the other day as I sat watching The Princess And The Frog with the kids for the twentieth time. (Good movie, that one. It's always nice when kids latch onto something that doesn't make me want to jab a chopstick in both ears.) Original thought doesn't occur to me all that often, to be perfectly honest, so I thought I'd better get it out there.

You're familiar with "The Rule Of Threes," yes? It's a general rule of thumb based on the assumption that people always remember things better in threes (click here for a more in-depth definition). In screenwriting, the most important use of this rule is the three-act structure, which goes something like this:

   Act One: Main character gets into trouble;

   Act Two: Main character tries to get out of
     trouble, but the more he tries, the deeper he

   Act Three: Main character gets out of trouble.

Apply this structure to any movie, past, present or future - if done correctly, it will follow this same basic outline.

The Rule Of Threes also applies to scripted dialogue, to hammer home certain points within a given film. Think of it this way: A character recites a line of dialogue early in the movie. (You hear it, but it doesn't really register.) Later, he repeats that same dialogue. (You think, Oh, yeah. I remember. He said that once already.) Finally, toward the end of the movie, he says it a third and final time. (Now you think, Say, he said that two times before. Interesting how it ties in with the rest of the movie.) Bam. Point made.

So, in the spirit of things, I thought I'd give you three recent examples where this occurs:

Movie: Batman Begins (screenplay by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer)

Line: "Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up."

First Use: During the film's second flashback, Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache) says this to son Bruce (Gus Lewis) after he fishes the boy out of the abandoned well.

Second Use: After Batman (Christian Bale) has been doused with fear toxin, he passes out and hears his father whisper, "Bruce... why do we fall?"

Third Use: As Wayne Manor burns, Bruce worries that he's tarnished his family's good name... until Alfred (Michael Caine) counters with the line, reaffirming that Bruce's most valuable lessons are that of his father (and father figures).

Movie: Transformers (screenplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman)

Line: "No sacrifice, no victory."

First Use: Captain Archibald Amundsen Witwicky (William Morgan Sheppard) shouts this to his shipmates as they try to dig themselves out of the frozen Arctic.

Second Use: Ron Witwicky (Kevin Dunn) says the line to son Sam (Shia LaBeouf) before they happen upon Bumblebee. (Sam refers to this line as the "Witwicky motto.")

Third Use: During the climactic battle in downtown L.A. Sam says "No sacrifice, no victory" to Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) after risking his life to protect the All Spark, giving the movie some added depth where there isn't any otherwise.

Movie: The Princess And The Frog (screenplay by Ron Clements & John Musker and Rob Edwards)

Line: "That is not slime... it's mucus!"

First Use: After Tiana (Anika Noni Rose) has been turned into a frog, Prince Naveen (Bruno Campos), also a frog, corrects her with this line when she complains she's "slimy."

Second Use: As Tiana and Naveen hide in a hollow tree trunk to avoid getting eaten by alligators.

Third Use: In a nifty reversal, Tiana uses the line to dispatch Facilier (David Keith) toward the end of the movie, after he threatens she'll spend the rest of her days as "a slimy little frog."


So there. How about you? Can you think of any other movies where this happens? Care to enlighten the rest of us? Please share below!


  1. I read this the day you posted and for the life of me I CAN'T THINK OF ANY OTHER MOVIES THAT APPLY!!!!! =/ I know they are out there!

  2. The most obvious one for me is "The Princess Bride" (by S. Morganstern. Chapter One--Sorry, force of habit). Screenplay by William Goldman.

    Line: "As you wish."

    First use: Wesley says it to Buttercup in the opening sequence.

    Second use: Wesley shouts it to Buttercup when he's rolling down the hill, revealing his identity.

    Third use: Grandfather says it to Grandson after he's asked to come back tomorrow and read the book again.


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  4. Wow Jonny your soooooo smart. Give yourself a pat on the back.

    Okay lets see if I can find one. Wait actually I've found 6!

    #1 Moulin Rouge

    The Line: The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

    First use is in the opening song, when christen first arrives in paris or the first spoken use is when Christen is reading the new part of the play to Satine in his bedroom,

    Second use is when Taloose screams it from the rafters during the play when Christen is about to walk out on Satine.

    Third use is at the very end of the movie as he types out the end of the story on his type writer, wrapping up the whole movie with a pretty neat little bow.

    #2 Star Wars: A New Hope Or episode IV(This one stretches over all of the three movies)

    The Line: May the force be with you, or use the force.

    first use is right before Luke goes out to battle in his xwing to try and blow up the death star, Han solo says "May the forse be with you." to Luke.

    Second use is when Luke is trying to aim his weapons to shoot a blast down the tiny whole that will cause a chain reaction that will blow the whole indestructable death star up! He hears Obi Wan kinobi's ghost whisper "Use the force Luke."

    Third Use is at the end after they've won and the death star is in bits and peices, we hear dead obi wan kinobi say to luke "may the force be with you always."

    I guess I don't have to go indepth with the other ones so I'll just list them for you, my other ones were:

    #3 V for Vendetta obviously the "Remember, remember the fourth of November..." Line.

    #4 James Bond and his constent need to remind us of who he is and what he's doing with his all too famous "I'm bond, James bond." line.

    #5 Spiderman with Uncle bens words of wisdom "with great power comes great responsibility." Line

    #6 Zoolander the Line: "Theres got to be more to life than being really, really, rediculously good looking!" (that one is my personal favorite)

    Anyways thats my contribution.