If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content


What are the consequences of any choice? Why do we care?

Want to join the conversation?

  • duskpin seedling style avatar for user Bennett Swanson
    I found it very interesting that my school never taught us about the importance of stakes in our stories. Am I the only one who was not taught about stakes in school?
    (13 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user faith rose anderson
    what role does a protagonist have in a story?
    (7 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • male robot donald style avatar for user Tybalt
      The protagonist is the leading character in a story. They are essentially the main character that the story follows.

      Note that protagonists do not necessarily have to be the "good guy". You can have a bad guy be the main character and still have a story on your hands. For instance, Megamind's protagonist is a villain. The animated series Villainous features a team of villains trying to destroy heroes. Infinity War's protagonist can arguably be Thanos.

      Does this help?
      (3 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user JasonArron913
    I feel like in a lot of movies, what happens is that the side that is going to "win" so you know what's going to happen, maybe not exactly how, but most of it, how would you get around this problem?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leafers sapling style avatar for user Natalie Johnston
      Avoid predictable scenarios like "Avengers must protect NY", or "Mankind invades Pandora to satisfy want of a metal, driving out the native population." In stories like that, most of what makes it interesting is either the CGI, or, relationships between characters. Instead, don't necessarily choose a story where there is a "good side". Not in the way that there is no defined good and evil, but, in the way that there are no "rebels vs empire" conflicts.

      The film The Village is a good example. It is only until the very end of the story when you finally know enough about everyone and their backstories to make a factual prediction. And, by then, most of the story has already happened. You are only shown so much in the beginning; if that's all there was, it would still be a very good story, but it is only a partial picture. Any predictions made before the story's ending cannot turn out to be true, as, they were based on an incomplete set of facts. Context and background are everything.

      [Sorry I was vague; this is a film that cannot be truly discussed without spoiling it all.]
      (8 votes)
  • mr pants teal style avatar for user Miika
    I found it very interesting that my school never taught us about the importance of stakes in our stories. Am I the only one who was not taught about stakes in school?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • blobby green style avatar for user ashk6314
    Can there be a story with all 3 types of stakes?
    and is there movie with all 3 stakes in it?
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user Bidhi Pant
    Like in The Little Mermaid, Ariel decides to give away her voice to become a human. And then she had to face the concequences of not being able to talk to Eric.
    (3 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • boggle green style avatar for user Kopal Kulshreshtha
    Does every movie have to have external, internal, AND philosophical stakes?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • boggle purple style avatar for user Crystal
      Not every movie does, but many of the best do.

      For example, Akeelah and the Bee is about a girl who is given a chance to participate in the national spelling bee, even though she is not in a community which would usually consider such an opportunity important. There are no external stakes, nothing will physically happen to her if she looses, but there are internal and philosophical stakes, since her emotions, goals, and reputation have all been invested.

      Hope this answers your question! :)
      (3 votes)
  • starky sapling style avatar for user Liv
    I think that a film without stakes isn't a film.
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • winston default style avatar for user Jack Wohl
      That is true. If there were no obstacles or antagonists, the film's plot would not be interesting. If a woman lost her child in Market Basket, only to find the child a few seconds later, that would be a pointless (and also brief) movie. This would make a much more interesting flick: A heartbroken mother lost her beloved child named Stanthony in a monumentally large Market Basket facility. She searches every continent, meeting hundreds of people along the way, only to find Stanthony in Rio De Janeiro.

      I hope that explained it.
      (2 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Sanatillo439
    Would a film without steaks be a enjoyable film?
    (1 vote)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin seedling style avatar for user Sukriti
      Stakes are just a helping hand to make the movie more interesting. It depends on who's seeing the movie. Honestly if you ask me, a movie without stakes would be boring.
      From ~ A student 📒
      (P.S - Vote up if you agree~ Stakes are the backbone of a character as well as a movie.)
      (3 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Vizor.
    hi this was really helpfull with a moive im making
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

- In the last few videos we thought about obstacles a character can face leading to choices they have to make and the arc they follow. Each choice a character makes has potential risks, impacts, and rewards involved with it. Those can be called the stakes. - The stakes of a story are summed up on one question, why do we care? Why do I care if Nemo and his dad aren't reunited? - You have what's at risk if the characters fail. If the stakes are low, usually it's not a very entertaining film. But the higher the stakes are, the more tension you get, the more enjoyable it is. My favorite film of all time is Jurassic Park and the stakes are pretty high. If you fail the dinosaurs will eat you, that's pretty clear. - You have to be as the audience, gripped by those stakes. "I don't know what's going to happen." - Early on in the arc, I'd say that the stakes wouldn't seem as extreme, maybe. As the story progresses the stakes raise. - We have a lot of conversations about how big our stakes need to be. Does it need to be life and death? Or is it better if it's just, you know, for a comedy sometimes you want it just to be about the character's reputation or something smaller so that you're not bringing too much gravity to a situation. The important thing is, to the character, it should feel like the world to them. Even if it's just a talent show, you want to show to the audience that that talent show is everything to this character. I think by the end of Napoleon Dynamite, we all want Napoleon Dynamite to win that show and to be accepted by everybody. - Anything that is happening with your character I think it's really important to feel the emotional connection of that. If I don't feel it, they're not there. - Stakes add drama and weight to any choice and can be divided into three categories, internal stakes, external stakes, and philosophical stakes. Let's hear more about this from our story artists. - The external stakes are, literally, what's going on in the world. Are they lost? Are they being chased by burglars? Physically, what will happen to them or to the world if they fail? - A great example of external stakes is from Brave. By giving her mom the cake that the witch made, Merida turns her mother into a bear. That is an immediate, physical consequence of her choice that impacts both them as well as the story itself. Then, if Merida doesn't decipher and solve the witch's riddle, her mom will become a full bear and be lost forever. - Internal stakes usually are psychological. What's going on for the character emotionally or mentally? What are they potentially going to lose? What will they potentially gain? Why is it important that they gain that thing? Why is it sad or difficult if they lose that thing? Asking those questions will help you figure out what those stakes really are. - A good example of internal stakes is from the original Toy Story. Throughout the film, Woody is forced to confront his own insecurity and pride, embrace Buzz as a friend, and learn to share Andy's attention. What's at stake for him, internally, is all of his relationships with the other toys and his very sense of self. - Philosophical stakes are what is impacting the world. What is making the values or the belief system of this world change? Or not change. And what does it mean if it does or doesn't change? For philosophical stakes, I think Lord of the Rings is a great example. If Frodo doesn't throw the ring into the fire, then Middle Earth is gonna be ruled under evil forever. - When you watch movies that have this pitch battle between ideas, concepts, good versus evil, those kinds of things are philosophical. - Okay, let's summarize. External stakes, the possible physical impacts of a choice or action. Internal stakes, the mental or emotional consequences of a choice, and philosophical stakes. What are the underlying ideas or values in your story? The distinction between internal, external, and philosophical stakes is tricky. So, in this last exercise let's get some practice thinking about this using the films you love.