Screenplay Genre: Crime / Drama / Thriller
Movie Time: 139 minutes
Synopsis: Jack (Edward Norton) is going through a quarter-life crisis in his over-materialized, cookie-cutter apartment and working his dead-end job. He meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) and his world comes crashing down. Simultaneously, he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a plane during a business trip, and they end up starting a “Fight Club” together. As Fight Club evolves into a terrorist cell trying to bring down the world beyond Jack’s control, Jack also looses Marla’s affections to Tyler.
Subplot Note: This film’s subplot and main plot may differ depending on the viewer’s interpretation of the purpose of the story. The two possible plots are the Fight Club plot between Tyler and Jack, or the love story between Jack and Marla. For the Marla/Jack plot, follow plot/subplot A; for Tyler/Jack follow plot/subplot B.
Character note: Edward Norton’s “Narrator” remains unnamed throughout the film. This guide will reference him as “Jack.”
World of the Story: Guns, dynamite and support groups coexist in a world with violence and love.
Introduce Protagonist: Jack, the narrator, struggles with the angst of a quarter-life crisis.
Introduce Supporting Character (Best Friend)/Antagonist #1(The Bully): Tyler Durden, a wild card.
Introduce Supporting Character (Fool): Bob, a testicular cancer survivor with a heart of gold.
Status Quo: Jack is trapped in a world of materialistic waste. His job is boring, and he has no prospects in his immediate future.
Status Quo Obstacle: Jack begins to lose sleep over his situation and can’t find any help from his doctor. His world begins to seem unreal.
Introduce Antagonist #2 (Femme Fatal)/Supporting Character (Lover): Marla Singer, a chain smoking woman visiting support groups because it’s cheaper than a movie and there’s free coffee.
* Inciting Incident A (Plot Point #1)/Subplot B Obstacle: Jack confronts Marla for faking at the support groups. He explains that she’s keeping him from crying, and that they have to split up the support groups. After they’ve made their decisions, she gives him her number.
Introduce Protagonist's Objective: Jack wants to escape his hum-drum life and fatalistic existence.
* Inciting Incident B (Plot Point #1)/Subplot A Obstacle: Jack meets Tyler Durden on a plane ride.
Predicament Obstacle: Jack loses all of his luggage, and his apartment explodes.
Predicament Solution: Jack pulls out Marla’s number to call for help, but he can’t ask. He calls his new friend Tyler for help instead.
Establish Main Tension: Jack has alienated most everyone in favor of selfish and childish things.
* The Lock-In A (Plot Point #2)/Subplot B Obstacle: Jack has become obsessed with fighting instead of worrying about his apartment, or his love for Marla, who he has only seen in passing.
* The Lock-In B (Plot Point #2)/Subplot A Obstacle: Jack asks Tyler for a place to stay. Tyler asks Jack to hit him, because neither of them has ever been in a fight. Jack and Tyler fight, and Jack moves into to Tyler’s house.
Raise the Stakes: Tyler and Jack become closer friends, and they start fighting on a regular basis. Their fights draw a crowd and a club begins to form.
Action Block #1: The fight club forms, and Tyler lays down the rules.
First Second Act Obstacles: Marla calls Jack for help after she overdoses. Jack does not go to help.
Failure/Ramifications: Instead, Tyler goes to her rescue, and Marla and Tyler end up having sex.
New Second Act Obstacles: Jack must deal with the constant sex noises from Tyler and Marla’s romps. Tyler makes him promise not to talk to Marla about him.
Obstacle Solution: Jack because a “zen master” and doesn’t let anything get to him.
Failure/Ramifications: Marla and Tyler’s relationship grows, and Jack can no longer ignore it.
Action Block #2: Tyler and Jack make soap, by stealing fat from a liposuction clinic. Tyler saves Fight Club from being disbanded by the owner of the bar. He gives all of the members an assignment to start a random fight during the week.
* First Culmination A (Plot Point #3)/Subplot B Obstacle: Marla calls Jack at work to come check out a lump on her breasts. Jack believes it’s because he’s a “neutral party.”
* First Culmination B (Plot Point #3)/Subplot A Obstacle: Jack starts a fight with himself in the office of his boss to extort him.
Subplot Revival: As Fight Club grows, Jack and Tyler begin a campaign of mayhem.
Higher Second Act Obstacle: Tyler holds up a convenience store clerk.
Obstacle Solution: Tyler sets the clerk on the path to following his dream.
Rising Action: Fight Club begins to evolve into a terrorist organization.
Higher Second Act Obstacle: Marla and Jack have a conversation in the kitchen and begin to bond.
Failure/Ramifications: Tyler causes the conversation to implode.
Highest Second Act Obstacle: Tyler and Jack’s house becomes a training ground for Tyler’s larger project.
Failure/Ramifications: The men in the house begin to talk about “Project Mayhem,” and Jack is left out of the loop.
Action Block #3: Project Mayhem captures a civic leader, and threatens to castrate him if he doesn’t back down. Jack fights with one of the “Space Monkeys” and destroys his face. Tyler tries to “wake Jack up” by driving head-on into traffic.
* Main Culmination A (Plot Point #4)/Subplot B Obstacle: After waking up from the traffic accident, Jack is confronted by a vastly different household. Marla shows up and asks to come in. Jack tells her that Tyler is gone.
* Main Culmination B (Plot Point #4)/Subplot A Obstacle: After the death of Bob, an argument breaks out at the house over Tyler’s leadership. Jack can no longer deal with it.
Third Act Tension: Jack goes searching for Tyler by following his paper trail.
Third Act Obstacles: Everyone claims that they have not seen Tyler, and everywhere Jack goes, he’s one step behind.
Obstacle Solution: Jack stumbles across one person who tells him that Jack is Tyler Durden.
* Third Act Twist A & B (Plot Point #5): Jack calls Marla and asks her if they have ever had sex. She says yes, and calls him Tyler. His world crumbles as he realizes that he has been Tyler all along.
The Last Obstacle: Tyler wants to get rid of Marla because she “knows too much.”
Failures/Ramifications: Tyler takes over and sets Project Mayhem on a path to destroy several buildings.
Failures/Ramifications: Jack tries to convince Marla to leave to town, but she ends up being kidnapped anyway.
Action Block #4: Jack is captured as he tries to stop the plot, but he escapes and rushes to one of the buildings to be destroyed. He tries everything to stop it, and he manages to disarm the bomb. However, there are still other buildings being destroyed. They bring Marla up to him, and he battles Tyler until he realizes that if Tyler is holding a gun, then Jack is holding a gun.
Resolution: Jack shoots himself in the head (but not fatally as the bullet mostly goes through his jaw). The act of shooting himself, however, ultimately kills his alter ego Tyler.
New Status Quo: Marla and Jack can be together. They watch as the financial buildings around them blow up and crumble.