Obsession is one of the strongest motivators in human interaction, especially on the big screen. It compels a character to forge ahead regardless of the consequences usually in a blind reckless manner that often results in the characters demise.

There are parallels to the following two films regarding the same obsession. In Moby Dick, Captain Ahab has lost his ship and part of his leg in a previous encounter with Moby Dick, the great white whale of the sea. Now his maniacal quest is to seek revenge by searching for and ultimately killing the beast that left him a cripple. In the film’s riveting climax where Ahab encounters the giant whale again, he is drowned while stabbing a harpoon into its
back over and over again.

A comparable film with a similar storyline and motivation is the original Jaws. Shark hunter Quint is at sea with the Sheriff and a marine biologist on a hunt for a great white shark that’s terrorizing their resort town. After their boat is damaged by the shark, the Sheriff radios the shore for help. In his mad zeal to capture or kill this shark, Quint takes a baseball bat to the radio, destroying it and all possibilities for any outside help. The great white ultimately destroys the fishing boat, and swallows Quint whole.

Another movie where the obsession of the protagonist drives virtually every one of his actions is The French Connection.
Detective Popeye Doyle is consumed with finding a heroin dealer whom he calls “Frog 1.” After chasing him around New York City culminating in a frenzied car chase under miles of subway platforms, Popeye corners “Frog 1” in a condemned building. Exchanging gunfire, Popeye shoots and kills a fellow detective, abandoning him to continue his frantic hunt for the suspect who has eluded him.

Do you have a character with an obsession? What other films have protagonists that are so strongly motivated?

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Read Steve on Screenwriting by Steve Kaire the first Thursday of the month on Write On! Online. Kaire is a screenwriter/pitchman who’s sold eight projects to the major studios on spec without representation. For more from Steve Kaire, check out his CD: “High Concept-How to Create, Pitch & Sell to Hollywood and website: High Concept Screenwriting.

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