The world of films and plays are always in heavy competition because have the great stories not already been told?
It seems that they have but we all think differently and therefore our story telling is different and some writers go the extra mile to find inventive new ways of telling old stories which continue to advance the form. The original films mentioned below created whole franchises to feed on the original story. The plays continue to be performed and studied today because they still have resonance.
Antigone by Sophocles (A tragedy)
The surprise – The heroine is a strong woman who vows to die to fight for the funeral rights of her brother in defiance of her family, the King and her prospective husband. Context: Women had no rights in ancient Greece.
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen (A tragedy)
The surprise: The heroine is an object, a trophy wife who appears frivolous but hides the sacrifices she makes for a husband until she realises she is the hero not her husband and she must leave to truly become a free and independent woman. Context: The ending of Ibsen’s play caused a furore. The role and rights of women in the public and private sphere were subjugated but change was in the public consciousness
Othello by William Shakespeare (A tragedy)
The surprise: A heroic man whose self doubts as a Moor kills the beautiful and faithful wife he loves through listening to machinations of a faithless and jealous servant.
Alien by Dan O’ Bannon – Story by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett (A horror)
The surprises: A horror set in space where a woman heroine is forced to defend herself against and kill an intelligent alien who is born inside a male crew member. The alien comes out at the dinner table.
The Matrix by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski (Sci-fi)
The surprise: The hero’s double life results in him being targeted by the police and authoritarian forces. Coincidence and symbols save him and the hero discovers that the reality he knows does not actually exist. The surprise is what he believes to be true is not true and vice versa.
Star Wars by George Lucas (Sci-fi)
The surprise: The hero Luke discovers the evil Darth Vader is his father and his sister is the beautiful Princess he felt compelled to save and he can overcome his ego to use the force without resorting to the evil path.
This list of great films and plays is not exhaustive but seeks to illustrate a point.