Vulnerability Scenes

Everyone who has heard me speak or teach knows how fundamental vulnerability is to making a movie or television show memorable. The way an audience BONDS with a character is through scenes where the character is vulnerable. Here are some of my favorites– what are yours?

something-about-mary-etbscreenwritingHumiliation Scenes

SOMETHING ABOUT MARY: The scene starts with Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) gazing out a bathroom window, it appears he is window peeping, he panics and then his zipper gets embarrassingly (and painfully) stuck.

MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING: The scene starts with Julianne Potter (Julia Roberts) stirring up trouble by taking Michael O’Neal (Dermot Mulroney) and fiancee Kimberly Wallace (Cameron Diaz) for a drink at a Karaoke Bar. Kimmy is pressed into singing possibly the worst Karaoke debut in history. She completely “owns” it and turns everyone’s groans into cheers. This is also a great example of a comedic turnaround.

BRIDGET JONES: The scene starts with Bridget (Renee Zellwegger) showing up at a party in an embarrassingly tight Bunny costume scene. No one else is wearing a costume. She was never told the party plan was changed.

8068-19818Rejection Scenes

TOOTSIE: The scene starts with a montage of Michael Dorsey’s (Dustin Hoffman) audition scenes. He is told he is too short, too tall, too young, too old etc.

JERRY MACGUIRE: The scene starts as Jerry (Tom Cruise) is frantically watching the lights blinking out on his phone as all his old clients hang up and avoid him.

WITNESS: The scene starts as Det. Capt. John Brook (Harrison Ford) stumbles on Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis) bathing in her room. She drops her towel and he turns away. The next scene finds him in agony in his room.

et5Unfairness Scenes

ET: The scene starts with Elliot (Henry Thomas) spotting the strange creature E.T. No one believes him and his brother makes fun of him.

TITANIC: Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is framed for stealing a jewel. He protests his innocence. No one believes him except Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) He is taken away in handcuffs.

HOME ALONE: The scene starts with Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) fighting with his brother. He is blamed for creating a mess, despite his protests, he is sent to his room.

WIZARD OF OZ: The scene starts with Mrs. Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) reporting Toto attacked her cat. Despite Dorothy’s (Judy Garland) protests Toto is taken away.

casablanca-train-rain-etbscreenwritingAbandonment Scenes

CASABLANCA: The scene starts as Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is waiting for Ilsa. He gets a goodbye note from her and is left at the station to board the train without her.

ET: The scene starts as the Mother Ship leaves and ET is left behind.


  1. Reply Matilda Mitchell 9th July 2010

    I love the movie of Ben Stiller which is There is something about mary, nice love story and comedy.:..

    • Reply Laurie Hutzler 10th July 2010

      I agree it’s a very funny movie filled with lots of hilarious vulnerable moments!

  2. Reply Anthony 13th September 2011

    I’m reading this post and yes it seems terrific! Nice writing style and you’ve explained some fantastic things for this issue.

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