The story is neatly divided into two parts. The first part will be lighthearted and straightforward compared to the second, which will wrap things up in a realistic mixed-bag sort of way. This structure is most common in musicals. It comes in two flavors: the rise-and-fall variety, which has everything on the up-and-up in the first act and, in the second act, shoots it all to hell; and the parallel variety, where the darker, more intricate and realistic second act makes some sort of point about the first act.

Often, the dark turn will be heralded by the last moments of the first act. A [[TimeSkip sizable period of time between the two acts]] is also commonplace.

There must be a change in tone for this trope to apply. Andrew Lloyd Webber's ''Phantom of the Opera'', for instance, divides its two acts at a good stopping place in a continuous progression, nothing more, and so this trope doesn't apply to it.



!!Rise and Fall:

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/{{Titanic 1997}}'' (VHS edition): the first cassette ends with the crash and Mr. Andrews' pronouncement of doom.
* ''Film/{{Scarface 1983}}:'' Act One is about Tony Montana's rise to the top of the Miami underworld, while Act Two is how everything goes straight to hell.
* ''Film/ManOnFire'' begins with ShellShockedVeteran John Creasy learning to live again thanks to his relationship with the girl he's bodyguarding, little Pita Ramos. Initially a GrumpyBear towards her, he reacts well to her peppy attitude, eventually becomes a second father figure for her, and helps her train to win a swim meet. At the middle of the movie, Pita gets kidnapped, her ransom exchange is botched by a group of {{dirty cop}}s, and she's [[spoiler:supposedly]] killed in retaliation. The rest of the movie is Creasy's RoaringRampageOfRevenge against the kidnappers and corrupt cops.

* This is in ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' with the secretive guerrilla war, and then the final story arc.
* This accurately describes the entire ''Literature/HarryPotter'' series, with the turning point being ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire Goblet of Fire]]'' where Voldemort is reborn and suddenly AnyOneCanDie. Fittingly, ''AVeryPotterMusical'' has the act break right in that very spot, and while it remains a light-hearted parody, the characters still feel like they're going through hell.
* This very much describes ''Literature/GulliversTravels'' wherein the first act ends after leaving the land of the giants and the second act starts with a land that has nothing to do with giants or dwarves.
* ''Literature/{{Room}}:'' The first half deals with a woman and her young son, both of whom have been prisoners for years. Then, halfway through the novel, they escape, and the story becomes about the two of them trying to adjust to normal lives.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* The television show ''Series/{{Skins}}'' keeps the same cast for two seasons before starting over with a completely new cast and story; each "generation," as they are called, tends to roughly follow the Rise and Fall pattern, with a somewhat simpler, sunnier first season followed by a DarkerAndEdgier second season where things start falling apart.
* ''Franchise/{{Stargate|Verse}}'' shows split their seasons into two parts, often having some kind of cliffhanger or game-changer before the intermission.
* Many a U.S. SitCom up until the 1990s used a two act structure, with a plot twist at the commercial break and a second act where the ZanyScheme fell apart, restoring the [[StatusQuoIsGod status quo]].
* The Series 9 finale of ''Series/DoctorWho'' plays out this way: Act One is "Face the Raven": A quiet, small-scale mystery leavened with humor as the Doctor and Clara try to clear the name of a friend in a mysterious alien refugee "trap street"; the events unfold over the course of a day or so -- almost in real time once they reach the street. But then Clara makes a well-meant but foolish mistake that leads her to [[spoiler: be Killed Off For Real]] and the Doctor, about to be delivered into the hands of his enemies, has a FreakOut of anguish, guilt, and rage. "To Be Continued..." Act Two unfolds in "Heaven Sent" and "Hell Bent" as the Doctor -- now alone -- is DrivenToMadness in a torture chamber ordeal that ends up lasting [[spoiler: four-and-a-half billion years]], and emerges from it TheUnfettered WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds obsessed with a TragicDream that defies [[spoiler: his people, the Time Lords]], and risks the existence of the universe: [[spoiler: saving Clara from the grave]]. He is brought back to his best self in the end, but he suffers greatly in the process, and the ending is extremely bittersweet. While this is truly a three-part story, "Face the Raven" (rise) is often listed as a standalone episode and "Heaven Sent" and "Hell Bent" (fall) a two-parter, which makes this structure more apparent.
* The documentary ''Film/DeNurembergANuremberg'' is divided in two parts. The first part called "Celebration and Triumph" is about the rise of UsefulNotes/NaziGermany from 1933 (Hitler's nomination as chancellor) to mid-1942 (UsefulNotes/ErwinRommel's victories in North Africa). The second part called "Defeat and Judgement" is about Germany's defeats from Stalingrad (late 1942 / early 1943) to the fall of Berlin in May 1945, with the Trials of Nuremberg in 1945-1946 taking more or less the last hour.

* ''Theatre/TheRiseAndFallOfTheCityOfMahagonny''
* ''Theatre/{{Camelot}}''; for that matter, the Arthurian mythos and all works based on its whole.
* ''Theatre/FiddlerOnTheRoof'', with the Cossacks' invasion of the wedding as the turning point.
* ''Theatre/{{Hamilton}}''. Act 1 chronicles Alexander Hamilton's rise in political power, ending just after he's appointed Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. Act 2 shows the gradual downfall of his career and personal life, ending with his death in a duel.
* ''Theatre/{{Wicked}}''. Act One details the college years of Elphaba and Galinda at Shiz University and shows the growth of the girls' friendship. The second act, opening several months after the close of the first is comparatively darker, as the [[MaliciousSlander darker side of Ozian politics]] becomes apparent, as [[spoiler: several characters experience the sometimes [[AndIMustScream horrific]] consequences of permanent magic]], and as each of the two leads deals with the repercussions of the [[ToBeLawfulOrGood decisions]] that she made during "Defying Gravity": [[HeroWithBadPublicity Elphaba]] is defamed throughout Oz as a wicked witch and [[spoiler: watches all of her good intentions backfire until her HeroicBSOD in "NoGoodDeedGoesUnpunished"]], and Glinda, [[SlaveToPR obliged]] to go along with the Wizard and Madam Morrible's propaganda against her best friend, finds, deconstructing her celebrated position, that her happy ending is [[StepfordSmiler not at all]] [[WasItReallyWorthIt what she expected]] [[LonelyAtTheTop it to be]].
* ''Theatre/AvenueQ'': Both halves are funny, but by the end of Act 1 most of the characters have fundamentally screwed up somehow; Act 2 focuses on them realising what they've done wrong and making amends.
* ''Theatre/PaintYourWagon''
* Shakespeare's tragedies tend to go this route, particularly ''RomeoAndJuliet''. The first part, taking up Acts 1 and 2 and the first half of Act 3, is your basic tragicomic affair, but the second part, after Tybalt kills Mercutio and Romeo kills Tybalt in vengeance, is where it all really goes to hell.
** Also applies to West Side Story, with the Rumble occurring right before intermission.
* ''Literature/{{Ragtime}}'': Where Act 1 is an endearing tribute to the pratfalls and triumphs of the oughts (with an against-all-odds love story to boot), Act 2 ''begins'' with the prescient child-narrator dreaming about (soon to occur) explosions and with Coalhouse [[spoiler: firing a rifle indiscriminately from a clocktower]].
* Music/JeffWayne's ''[[Music/JeffWaynesMusicalVersionOfTheWarOfTheWorlds The War of the Worlds]]''; Act I describes the conquest of Earth by the Martians, and Act II its aftermath.
* ''Music/JesusChristSuperstar'': The break comes between Judas' betrayal of Jesus and the Last Supper. It's all dark, but the second act is darker than the first.
* In ''Theatre/LittleShopOfHorrors'', the first act ends after Orin's death-the first point at which Seymour really kills.
* ''Theatre/MerrilyWeRollAlong'' purposely inverts this trope; since the plot runs backwards, Act I is where Frank's life has already gone to hell, whilst Act II is sees him becoming younger and thus more promising and optimistic.
* ''Theatre/IntoTheWoods'' wraps up its massive FairyTale {{Crossover}} as neat and tidy as a military-school bunkroom in the first act, and then goes into the repercussions of everyone's means of getting their {{happy ending}}s with a far-less-defined sense of what to do, brought home by [[spoiler: killing the Narrator]].


[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Much like ''Theatre/{{Into the Woods}}'', the anime ''Anime/PrincessTutu'', the first season has dark moments, but is overall a happy MagicalGirl romp through fairy tale tropes with a ballet twist. The season even ends in a way that makes it seem like the ending of a typical fairytale, with [[spoiler:Mytho and Princess Tutu dancing happily together after their victory against [[DarkMagicalGirl Princess Kraehe]]]]. The second season, however, seems more like a ''deconstruction'' of a fairytale, with [[spoiler:Mytho being poisoned by Raven's blood and becoming a villain]], character's motivations being questioned and dark backstories revealed. Edel's CatchPhrase--"May those who follow their fate find happiness, may those who defy it be granted glory"--takes on a whole new meaning when looking at the two seasons of the show.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* The first half of ''Disney/{{Bambi}}'' involves Bambi growing up and meeting the inhabitants of the forest, until his mother is killed by hunters and he is taken off to be raised by his father. The second half involves an adult Bambi protecting the animals from a wildfire set off by the hunters, ultimately becoming Prince of the Forest. The 2006 midquel takes place between the two acts.
* ''Disney/TheLionKing'' has been called "Bambi in Africa" due to it's similar structure (the first half being the protagonist's childhood and how he loses a parent, the second being about his adulthood).

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* ''Film/ThePrincessBride'', with the turning point being Westley's capture.
* ''Film/LifeIsBeautiful''. First half, light-hearted romantic-comedy. Second half, heartbreaking [[{{Dramedy}} tragi-comedy]] set in a concentration camp.
* Creator/AkiraKurosawa was quite fond of this trope:
** ''Film/{{Ikiru}}''. The first half focuses on the protagonist, Watanabe, grappling with his terminal cancer diagnosis. The second half takes place at [[spoiler:Watanabe's wake, where we learn of the good he did during his final months.]]
** ''Film/HighAndLow''. The first act is about ransoming with a kidnapper. The second act is about finding the kidnapper and bringing him to justice.
* ''Film/{{Melancholia}}'' is divided into two chapters, of which the second one is more gloomy.
* The narrative of ''Film/MulhollandDrive'' breaks down into two distinct parts.
* ''Film/HeLovesMeHeLovesMeNot'' starts off light-hearted, but turns scary after the PlotTwist.
* ''Film/FullMetalJacket''. The first half takes place at boot camp, which ends with a murder and suicide after graduation. The second half takes place on the actual battlefield.
* ''Film/Predators'' is referred as a two-act film by the film's director Nimród Antal. The first act consists of the protagonists exploring the strange planet that they find themselves on while surviving the alien world's unknown elements and weathering ambushes from the Predators,which ultimately ends up in them losing two of their own. The second act begins with the group meeting Noland, which results in a chain of events leading to the Predators chasing the humans acrsos the hunting grounds. During the chase, the predators are picked off one by one (usually at the cost of one of the human's lives) until only one is left to face the protagonist in fa final battle.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* Series 9 of ''Series/DoctorWho'' featured several two-part stories that followed this structure, while its three-part finale went with Rise and Fall instead (see above).
** "The Magician's Apprentice"/"The Witch's Familiar": Part One chronicles various parties searching for the Doctor across time and space; he turns out to be throwing a lighthearted TheLastDance celebration for himself related to a mistake he made in the cold opening. The episode ends with him a captive of the Daleks and his allies [[spoiler: seemingly murdered]]. Part Two, which unfolds over a few hours at most and is limited to the interiors of a Dalek city and its surrounding wasteland, revolves around the Doctor coming to a new understanding of a familiar villain even as he struggles to outwit them, revealing the better aspects of his own nature in the process and ultimately atoning for his mistake.
** "The Girl Who Died"/"The Woman Who Lived": Part One is a comic story of the Doctor figuring out how he can lead helpless Viking villagers to victory against an alien threat that's already wiped out the local warriors. But in the denouement a heartbroken Doctor rashly chooses to live up to his chosen name and revives the titular girl, who died helping to save the day, in a way that makes her an ageless, functional immortal -- realizing too late (as a functional immortal himself) that he [[WhoWantsToLiveForever may have made a grave mistake]]. Part Two, set centuries later in 1651 England, is a mostly-quiet drama of he and this "girl" crossing paths again. She is now a noblewoman with no memories of her original life except what she's written down in journals, embittered by her lonely existence, resentful of the man she once saw as her hero, and willing to make a DealWithTheDevil to escape the planet. But his empathy for her plight helps her realize her own long-buried empathy once again.
** "The Zygon Invasion"/"The Zygon Inversion": Part One is a globetrotting, action-heavy story of the Doctor and UNIT trying to stop an uprising of AliensAmongUs, culminating in a {{Cliffhanger}} that teases [[OurHeroIsDead the deaths of him and his three main allies]]. Part Two is quieter: Imperiled characters manage to get the upper hand in various ways, and the Doctor forces the leaders of ''both'' sides to examine their motivations, goals, methods, and ultimately the consequences of war in a 10-minute sequence dominated by a heartbreaking monologue.

* ''The Fantasticks'' has its two acts explore the difference between forbidden love and real love.
* ''Theatre/{{RENT}}'', complete with a shift in storytelling pace (the first act takes place in a single night, and the second act takes an entire year).
* ''A Madhouse in Goa'' by Martin Sherman.
* ''{{Theatre/Dreamgirls}}''. The first act is about the girls' rise to stardom and subsequent challenges, and ends with Effie being kicked out of the group as her replacement is brought in. The second act opens 8 years later. [[spoiler: Deena and Curtis are married, and Effie is a single mom on welfare with Curtis' child, and decides to give a shot at a solo career.]]
* ''Theatre/WaitingForGodot'' subverts this by having the second act be more or less the same as the first, without much difference in tone. Hence the reviewer who said that it is "a play in which nothing happens, twice."
* ''Theatre/SpringAwakening'' is a curious case since although most of the tragedy happens in Act II, the real shift in storytelling is actually in the middle of Act I, right around where Moritz flunks and Melchior and Wendla's romance takes a serious turn. However the two acts do complement each other nicely as Act I is about sex (i.e. life) and Act II is about death.
* ''Theatre/SundayInTheParkWithGeorge''. Act I ends with the completion of Georges Seurat's most famous painting; Act II picks up after a TimeSkip of ''nearly a century'' and explores the 20th century artistic struggles of Georges's IdenticalGrandson.
* ''Heathen Valley'' has a very optimistic ending to act one, where everything seems to be going right. Then act two starts up with tenser undercurrents, leading to [[DownerEnding the end]].
* ''Theatre/CharlieAndTheChocolateFactory'' strikes this structure and reverses it in one aspect: Act Two is darker than the first, but it's also ''far'' more fanciful. The first act is set in the ordinary world and follows the Golden Ticket search and the five children who find said tickets to the titular factory. Charlie -- the only nice kid of the bunch, poor though he is -- seems to have the least chance of winning the mysterious secret super-prize come tour's end, as the other four are {{Spoiled Brat}}s who each have it made. That's when they and the audience are introduced to the reclusive owner/creator of the factory, who is dazzling, hammy, eccentric, and...well, [[AntiHero a touch]] [[AmbiguouslyEvil sinister]] the Act One finale. The BlackComedy bubbling its way through Act One explodes in Act Two as the tour group travels through [[TheWonderland a wonderland]] that dishes out the LaserGuidedKarma the "real" world didn't -- the brats meet dreadful fates for their misbehavior and Charlie winds up getting a joyous HappilyEverAfter. (Also has a shift in storytelling pace in that Act One unfolds over a few months and Act Two takes place over a single day.)
* ''Theatre/TheLionKing'': The first half of the movie is about Simba's childhood and Scar's plot to become King. Act 1 with Hakuna Matata and the reveal of Adult Simba. The second half is adult Simba coming to terms with his guilt and grief and deciding to reclaim his throne from Scar.