Analysis of Fear and loathing in Las Vegas

Summary Drug-addled journalist Raoul Duke and his unpredictable attorney Dr. Gonzo embark on a wild trip to Las Vegas, loaded up with a copious amount of drugs. Along the way, they encounter strange visions and bat-like creatures, all the while struggling to keep their grip on reality. They pick up a hitchhiker and scare him with their hyper-normal behavior, then receive a call from headquarters sending them to Las Vegas to make contact with a Portuguese photographer. They prepare for their trip, indulging in drugs and scaring another hitchhiker with their erratic behavior. In Las Vegas, they check into the Mint Hotel and receive an envelope informing them of a meeting with the photographer. As their drug-induced paranoia worsens, Duke sees hallucinations of reptiles in a bar and struggles to keep his grip on reality. They attend the Mint 400 race, encountering strange characters and events while getting caught up in the madness. They visit the Bazooko Circus, where they experience surreal and chaotic encounters and struggle to leave. Back in their hotel suite, their paranoia escalates, leading to accusations of theft and threats of violence. Duke tries to leave the hotel but is stopped by a clerk who hands him a telegram. He escapes a highway patrol car, swaps cars, and arrives at the Flamingo Hotel to represent the Drug Culture at a conference. In their hotel room, they encounter a naked and high Gonzo with a teenage girl named Lucy. They discuss plans for the girl and eventually make a reservation for her at another hotel, hoping her memory will be wiped clean due to her drug use. They attend a National DA's Convention on drugs and narcotics, surrounded by policemen. They create wild stories about Satan worshippers and confront the consequences of their actions. They take more drugs and indulge in disturbing hallucinations. Duke wakes up in a trashed hotel room, uncertain of how much time has passed and confronts a maid who may have evidence against them. They cause chaos in a supermarket parking lot, terrorize others, and consume a dangerous new drug. Duke reflects on their excessiveness and the downfall of the 60s acid culture. Their rampage continues with a destructive outburst at a hardware store before Duke drops off Gonzo at the airport and barricades himself in a hotel room, reflecting on their wild behavior. Their drug-induced rampage reaches its peak with chaos and terrorization before Duke briefly experiences shame and continues his wild behavior, racing off on the highway.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot/story of the screenplay is engaging and keeps the audience's attention with its surreal and drug-fueled journey. The theme of paranoia and the characters' addiction are effectively portrayed throughout the story. The introduction scenes set a darkly humorous tone that carries on throughout the rest of the screenplay. However, some elements of the story can feel disjointed and lacking in cohesion, particularly in the middle section. Additionally, the character arcs could be further developed to provide deeper emotional engagement for the audience.
Suggestions: To improve the plot/story of the screenplay, it is recommended to focus on strengthening the middle section to ensure a smooth progression of events. This can be achieved by further developing the character interactions and their personal struggles. Additionally, exploring the inner motivations and desires of the main characters can provide a more emotional and relatable experience for the audience. It may also be beneficial to streamline and clarify some of the plot points to avoid confusion. Finally, considering a more satisfying resolution for the character arcs can enhance the overall impact of the story.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:

Raoul Duke

Raoul Duke is a drug-addled journalist who is quick-witted, resourceful, and constantly in search of truth and excitement. He is cynical and prone to paranoia and hallucinations, and has a chaotic, dependent relationship with his attorney, Dr. Gonzo. Duke balances a sense of humor with a deep paranoia about society and the establishment, and struggles to keep a grip on reality while on a wild trip to Las Vegas. He is eccentric, unpredictable, and often struggles to keep his drug-induced hallucinations under control.

Dr. Gonzo

Dr. Gonzo is Raoul Duke's erratic attorney and drug-fueled partner on their journey to Las Vegas. He has a love for deviant behavior, violence, and destruction, making him unpredictable and impulsive. Despite this, he is fiercely loyal to Duke and serves as his confidant and enabler. Gonzo challenges Duke's moral compass and often instigates their drug use. He is wild and often causes chaos and trouble, making him a complicated and intriguing character. Additionally, he is portrayed as a nervous and anxious drug expert who struggles with societal norms and stereotypes.


Duke is a drug-addled journalist with a reckless and impulsive nature. He struggles with paranoia and hallucinations throughout the film, often finding himself in dangerous and chaotic situations. Despite his flaws, Duke has a charismatic and witty personality that draws people to him. He also has a close bond with his attorney and partner in depravity, Gonzo.


Gonzo is Duke's lawyer and friend, who indulges in drugs with him and is losing touch with reality. He is confrontational and quick to anger but is also fiercely loyal to Duke. He is unpredictable and chaotic, prone to violent outbursts and overwhelming experiences. His drug use has pushed him to the brink of insanity, and he is a danger to himself and others.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Raoul Duke Raoul Duke's character arc begins with his initial quest for truth and excitement on his drug-fueled trip to Las Vegas. As the trip progresses, Duke's paranoia and erratic behavior escalate, and he begins contemplating murder as a solution to their problems. However, as the trip comes to its chaotic and destructive conclusion, Duke realizes the futility of his search for truth and excitement through drugs and excessive behavior. He ultimately faces the consequences of his actions and is forced to confront his dependency on drugs and his destructive behavior. In the end, Duke's arc is one of self-discovery and growth as he learns to let go of his dependency on drugs and embrace a more grounded and responsible approach to life. The character arc for Raoul Duke is well-developed and provides a clear progression for his character throughout the movie. However, it could benefit from more specific and concrete examples of how he is forced to confront his destructive behavior and change his ways. Additionally, while his quest for truth and excitement is a strong motivator for his character, it could be more clearly tied to his personal motivations and history to make it feel more rooted and authentic.
To improve the character arc for Raoul Duke, more specific examples of his destructive behavior and how he is forced to confront it could be included. Additionally, more development of his personal motivations and history could make his quest for truth and excitement feel more authentic and grounded. Finally, including more moments of introspection and self-reflection for Duke could help to underscore his growth and change throughout the movie.
Dr. Gonzo Throughout the movie, Dr. Gonzo goes on a downward spiral of drug addiction and violence. He starts as Duke's loyal companion, willing to do anything for him, but as their drug use continues, his behavior becomes more erratic and dangerous. At one point, he even threatens to kill a hitchhiker and turns on Duke. Eventually, Gonzo realizes the error of his ways and tries to make amends by helping Duke escape. He sacrifices himself by staying behind in Las Vegas, potentially facing jail time and ruining his legal career. This redemption arc shows that Gonzo is not just a one-dimensional character, but someone who is willing to change and grow. The character arc of Dr. Gonzo is compelling, but it could use more nuance and development. While he starts as Duke's loyal companion, it would be interesting to see more of his motivations and backstory. Additionally, his descent into violence and addiction could be explored more deeply to create a clearer and more impactful character arc.
To improve Dr. Gonzo's character arc, the screenplay could add more flashbacks or dialogue that provide insight into his past and motivations. This would help the audience understand why he behaves the way he does. Additionally, the screenplay could show more of the consequences of his actions and the toll they take on him. This would make his eventual redemption more impactful and satisfying.
Duke Throughout the film, Duke's behavior becomes increasingly erratic and self-destructive as he spirals deeper into his drug addiction. He struggles with guilt and trauma from his actions, and begins to question the morality of his lifestyle. In the end, he realizes the consequences of his choices and the harm he has caused, leading him to reevaluate his priorities and consider a different path forward. The character arc lacks nuance and depth, relying heavily on cliches associated with drug culture. Duke's redemption feels forced and rushed, without fully exploring his motivations or emotions. Additionally, the portrayal of drug use and addiction perpetuates harmful stereotypes and fails to acknowledge the complexities of substance abuse.
To improve the character arc, the story should delve deeper into Duke's internal struggles and the reasons for his addiction, painting a more complex and realistic picture of drug culture. The redemption arc could be more gradual, with Duke facing setbacks and relapses before ultimately finding a glimmer of hope. Additionally, the depiction of drug use should be more nuanced and avoid harmful stereotypes, highlighting the dangers and consequences without glamorizing or glorifying substance abuse.
Gonzo Throughout the story, Gonzo becomes increasingly paranoid and erratic, descending into madness as his drug use and experiences take a toll on his mind. However, he remains fiercely loyal to Duke and serves as a catalyst for their misadventures. He struggles to keep Duke in check, oscillating between being the voice of reason and descending into violence and chaos himself. In the end, Gonzo leaves to catch his flight, symbolically leaving the wild and unpredictable world of drug culture behind. The character arc is well-written and shows a clear progression of Gonzo's descent into madness. However, it could be strengthened by providing more insight into his motivations and backstory. Additionally, some of his outbursts and actions may come across as gratuitous or shocking without sufficient context or reasoning.
To improve the character arc, it could be helpful to delve deeper into Gonzo's past and explore what led him to drug culture and his current state. This could also help ground some of his more extreme actions in a plausible context, making his character more nuanced and relatable. Additionally, it may be beneficial to provide more subtlety and nuance to some of Gonzo's outbursts, avoiding over-the-top shock value in favor of more nuanced character development.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
Drug use and addictionThe screenplay prominently features drug use and addiction as a central theme. The main characters are drug-addled and engaged in constant drug-fueled escapades throughout the story.The screenplay explores the consequences and effects of drug use and addiction, highlighting the characters' constant need for drugs and the destructive behavior that arises as a result.
Paranoia and surrealismThe screenplay delves into themes of paranoia and surrealism, with the characters constantly experiencing hallucinations and paranoia.The story creates a heightened sense of unease and disorientation through the characters' drug-induced state, blurring the lines between reality and hallucination. This theme reflects the chaotic and unpredictable nature of the characters' actions and perceptions.
Destruction of social normsThe screenplay challenges and disregards social norms, with the characters engaging in reckless behavior, defying societal order, and showing a lack of regard for conventional rules.The story explores the characters' rejection of societal norms and their embrace of a counterculture lifestyle. This theme highlights the characters' rebellious nature and their desire to live outside the boundaries of mainstream society.
Escapism and disillusionmentThe screenplay explores themes of escapism and disillusionment, with the characters seeking to escape their realities through drug use and engaging in reckless behavior.The story delves into the characters' desire to escape from their mundane lives and the disillusionment they feel towards societal structures. This theme reflects their inability to find fulfillment or meaning within the constraints of a conventional life.
Counterculture and anti-establishment sentimentsThe screenplay portrays counterculture and anti-establishment sentiments, with the characters embracing a lifestyle that challenges mainstream values and institutions.The story explores the characters' rejection of societal norms and their disdain for authority figures and established institutions. This theme reflects their desire to create their own rules and reject the values imposed by the society they inhabit.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goal is to escape the reality of his life and immerse himself in a world of drugs to avoid confronting his fears and anxieties.
External Goals The protagonist's external goal is to drive to Las Vegas and take as many drugs as possible without getting caught.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict is the tension between living life for pleasure or confronting reality and responsibility. The protagonist is constantly weighing the benefits of escaping his mundane life through drugs vs. facing his personal issues head-on.

Character Development Contribution: The protagonist's internal and external goals reflect his desire for escape and adventure, as well as his fear of a mundane life and the unknown consequences of his actions. They contribute to the development of his character by challenging his beliefs and values. The conflicts he faces push him to confront his fears and anxieties, ultimately leading to growth and self-discovery.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The protagonist's internal and external goals drive the narrative structure of the screenplay, as he navigates a series of chaotic and drug-induced situations in his search for escape and adventure. The conflicts he faces heighten the tension and create obstacles for the protagonist to overcome, contributing to the overall narrative structure and plot development.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The protagonist's goals and conflicts contribute to the thematic depth of the screenplay by exploring themes of escapism, freedom, personal responsibility, and the consequences of one's actions. The contrast between the protagonist's desire for pleasure and his need to confront reality reflects a deeper exploration of the human condition and the search for meaning and purpose in life.

Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict


Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?