Lindsay Doran isn’t a writer, but an executive and producer (Spinal Tap, Dead Again, Stranger than Fiction, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Naked Gun, Ghost). She gave a good TED talk on what movies are really about:
Summary: People don’t care about achievements, they care about relationships. The success at the “end” of a movie isn’t an end until we see its impact on relationships.
She’s right that a good story is about “a thing and another thing”, a plot and its personal significance. The “other thing” isn’t always a relationship. In “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” the “other thing” is personal growth.
(Her take on Rocky is odd. IMHO the Rocky-Adrian relationship isn’t powerful enough to bear the weight she attributes to it, and the achievement in the end is beating the world champion in a fight. Rocky doesn’t “win” the fight, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t accomplish what he wanted to. He proved himself, and he realized the actual achievement was more important than whether or not the boxing authorities acknowledged it. But though she might have chosen a dubious main example, her point is still good.)
She was mentioned in the Black List blog a little while ago for a completely different theory she calls the Three Rules of Drama, on what a movie should be:
It must address the question, “How should we live?”
It must address the question, “How does the universe work?”
It must be arresting and amusing to the drunk.