The film, The Graduate, exemplifies the standard three act structure that has become emblematic to the cinematic narrative. The film follows the protagonist, Ben, a recent college graduate who has acheived success academically but struggles to find direction after receiving his diploma.
The setup of the film portrays this struggle as Ben insincerely accepts congratulations and lazes around the house. Ben's pre existing life is disrupted by Mrs. Robinson who proposes that they have sex. Ben resists initially, but after returning to his normal, monotonous daily routine he decides to pursue an affair with Mrs. Robinson.
The two of them continue to meet secretly at night, while Ben remains content to lounge around at home during the day. His parents grow suspicious of Ben's habits and try to persuade him to move on with his life, but Ben refuses to make any changes. Ben and Mrs. Robinson's arrangement is nearly ruined when she forces Ben to promise not to date her daughter. Although he is offended, Ben agrees. However, Ben has no choice but to go on the date with the daughter, Elaine, when Mr. Robinson and his parents coerce him to do so.
The midpoint of the film follows when Ben's plan encounters the complication of Elaine. Ben intends on keeping his promise to Mrs. Robinson by sabotaging his date, but finds out he has feelings for Elaine. They continue to date and grow closer until Mrs. Robinson finds out and threatens to reveal everything. Ben has no choice but to tell Elaine on his own, resulting in the second major reversal.
Ben follows Elaine back to school and nearly convinces her to marry him. However, Ben reaches his lowest point when Mr. Robinson finds out about the affair and threatens to take action if Ben comes near their family, and Elaine intends to marry another man.
The third act has Ben racing to the wedding. He arrives in time to rescue Elaine and the two of them escape on a bus.