Writing a screenplay is tough enough, but now your agent/manager/whatever is asking for a detailed synopsis? Ugh! If you want an example of a professional synopsis, here is the synopsis for Ransom (1996) that Chuck Sambuchino published on Writers Digest. Note that in the screenplay there were multiple villains, but in a synopsis, it is encouraged to simplify elements in order to tell the basics of the story.
RANSOM synopsis by Chuck Sambuchino
TOM MULLEN is a rich businessman who made his fortune creating a successful airline company from scratch. While he and his family are in Central Park, his son, SEAN, is kidnapped. Tom and his wife KATE’s worst nightmares are confirmed when a kidnapper contacts them and demands a $2 million ransom. The Mullens call the FBI for help.
After being kidnapped, Sean is held in a basement. There are not one but five kidnappers, all working together—led by violent police detective JIMMY SHAKER, who resents rich men like Tom who can buy their way out of trouble and are oblivious to the hardships of those around them. Shaker tells his conspirators that Sean will be killed once the ransom is given. Shaker anonymously calls Tom and arranges a dropoff. Tom follows all directions and hands the $2 million to one of Shaker’s henchmen. When Tom demands his son in return, the henchman is confused. The henchman flees, but police swarm the area. Gunshots are traded, and the henchman is killed.
News of the shooting/ransom appears all over the NYC media, adding to Tom’s problems. Shaker sets up another drop, but Tom surprises everyone by appearing on live TV and saying he will pay no ransom. Instead, he offers the $2 million as a bounty on the kidnapper’s head. He says if Sean is released, he will press no charges. The bold move is met by disapproval by the media, the FBI, and most especially Kate, who screams at her husband to take back the bounty and pay the ransom. Tom explains that he would pay any amount of money if he really thought Sean would truly be returned, but he believes the kidnappers have no intention of giving Sean back; therefore, a bounty is his best option. Kate is unconvinced.
More Shaker phone calls come, and threats are exchanged. Despite the pleading of Kate and the FBI, Tom publicly ups the bounty to $4 million. Shaker calls and fires a gunshot, making the Mullens believe Sean is dead. Tom collapses from despair. Meanwhile, Shaker’s cohorts all want to abandon the plan, kill the boy, and leave town. Realizing his plan has unraveled, Shaker kills his remaining co-conspirators, under the guise that he came upon an apartment where the tenants opened fire. Sean is found and rescued, and Shaker is hailed as a hero cop by the media.
Soon after, Shaker arrives at Tom’s apartment to collect his $4 million reward. As Tom is writing the check, he notices his son in the next room urinate in fear (as the boy recognizes Shaker’s voice). Shaker knows the jig is up and threatens to kill everyone in the house, but Tom convinces him to go to the bank so the money can be wired. En route, Tom tips off police to the situation. Cops converge on Tom and Shaker outside the bank. Shaker panics and opens fire. A running shootout ensues, and Shaker is killed when both Tom and the police return fire on Shaker at the same time.