What is a Subplot? Meaning, Definition & Examples From Film & TV.

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Definition: A subplot is a secondary storyline that runs parallel to the main plot and helps to enhance the overall narrative. It provides additional depth, complexity, and sometimes contrast to the central story. Subplots often involve supporting characters and their conflicts, which may or may not directly impact the main storyline.

Different kinds of subplots in film include:

Romantic Subplot

This subplot focuses on a romantic relationship between two characters. It can add emotional depth, provide comic relief, or contrast the main plot.

An example of a movie with a dominant romantic subplot is “The Notebook” (2004), where the love story between Noah and Allie is a parallel narrative to the main story of their elderly selves.

Sidekick Subplot

This subplot revolves around a supporting character who assists or accompanies the protagonist. It often explores their journey and growth.

An example is “The Dark Knight” (2008), where the relationship between Batman and his sidekick, Harvey Dent, plays a significant role in the overall story.

Revenge Subplot

This subplot involves a character seeking vengeance against another character or group. It adds tension and conflict and can drive the main plot forward.

An example can be seen in the movie “Kill Bill: Volume 1” (2003), where Beatrix Kiddo’s quest for revenge against her former assassin colleagues is a dominant subplot.

Coming-of-Age Subplot

This subplot focuses on a character’s growth and transition from adolescence to adulthood. It often explores themes of self-discovery and identity.

An example is the movie “Boyhood” (2014), where the coming-of-age journey of Mason, the central character, is a dominant subplot throughout the film’s twelve-year narrative.

Political Subplot

This subplot involves political intrigue, power struggles, or societal issues. It adds complexity to the main plot and explores larger themes.

An example is the movie “The Ides of March” (2011), where the protagonist’s political ambitions and moral dilemmas are central to the film’s narrative.

Conclusion

Subplots play a crucial role in enhancing the storytelling experience in movies. They provide depth, character development, and thematic exploration beyond the central plot.

Different types of subplots serve various purposes, such as adding emotional depth (romantic subplot), showcasing companionship (sidekick subplot), or exploring societal issues (political subplot).

When used effectively, subplots can enrich the overall narrative, create tension, and offer different perspectives to the audience.

Up Next: The Roles of Subplots in Film

Author

  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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