A little while back, we covered some of the dumbest movie premises and whether or not they worked. But while Hollywood can sometimes make even the most ridiculous ideas work, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of great ideas, too.
Whatever your own personal criteria for exactly what constitutes a good premise might be, it’s likely that you can name at least a few without having to delve into the recesses of your memory, because a truly great story comes with a hook – something that grabs us and refuses to let go, even long after the credits have rolled.
Just because a story has a lot of promise, however, this doesn’t always make for a brilliant film. Even the best of stories can get lost in the telling, and sometimes, the execution falls far short of the original premise’s potential.
We’ve compiled 8 great movie premises and taken a quick look at what it is that makes them so good, as well as delivering a verdict on whether or not the end result was able to meet our collective expectations.
8. The Prestige (2006)
Premise: Two stage magicians in Victorian London develop a bitter rivalry, finding themselves locked in a fatal game of one-upmanship as each strives to develop the greatest illusion.
Based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest, this mystery-thriller stars Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Michael Caine. With director Christopher Nolan at the helm, it proved to be a resounding success with critics and at the box office.
Priest should obviously be credited with the premise, although Nolan took a fair few creative liberties with the source material. Really though, the hook lies in The Prestige‘s historical setting and the use of magicians as protagonists. There’s an inherent promise of deception that comes with the use of illusions as plot devices, and it’s no great stretch to imagine that the movie will be filled with misdirection, clever editing, and even cleverer storytelling.
Verdict: The Prestige delivers on its promise in resounding fashion, with Bale and Jackman selling their characters’ bitter rivalry with remarkable performances throughout. The vein of mystery running through the film is more than enough to keep you perched precariously at the edge of your seat.