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Five Plot Point Breakdown: Romancing the Stone (1984)

By Anthony Faust · December 12, 2017

Screenplay Genre: Action/Romance

Movie Time: 106 minutes


Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) is a romance novelist living in New York City. She is single, relegated to living out her wildest romantic desires in her books. One day, Joan receives a package from her sister Elaine in Columbia. She ignores it, until she receives a frantic call from Elaine a few days later. Elaine has been kidnapped. The package Joan received was from Elaine’s murdered husband.

As it turns out, that package contains a map to “El Corazon”, Spanish for “The Heart”. It’s a priceless jewel hidden somewhere in the untamed jungles of Columbia. Joan has received her call to adventure. She answers the call by jumping on the next flight to Columbia. (00:17:37)

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

Zolo (Manuel Ojeda) is a powerful military man with his own private army in Columbia. He is on Joan’s tail, as are Ira (Zack Norman) and Ralph (Danny DeVito), the two men who forced Elaine to make the call to Joan. Zolo meets Joan at the airport and purposely guides her to the wrong bus, taking them out to the wilderness instead of Joan’s intended destination, Cartagena.

When Joan becomes suspicious that her bus is going in a different direction, she confronts the driver, who becomes distracted long enough to crash the bus into Jack T. Colton’s (Michael Douglas) jeep. After the driver and all the irate passengers gather their belongings and abandon the area, Zolo pulls a gun on Joan. He demands the map in her bag.

Jack shows up in a scene reminiscent of the opening scene of the film, which itself was a scene from Joan’s latest book featuring her fictional hero, Jessie (William H. Burton Jr.). Zolo and Jack exchange gunfire before Zolo slips away. After throwing a small tantrum, Jack greets Joan and they make a deal. Joan will pay him $375 dollars if he gets her to a pay phone. (00:27:06)


Jack has gotten Joan to a pay phone, but not after running into Zolo and his private army, surviving a rope swing across a treacherous river, and spending the night in a crashed drug smuggling plane. Jack asks Joan to dinner and she accepts. They share a passionate salsa dance, ending in a long, sensual kiss.

While in bed, they make love, and plans. They decide to pursue “El Corazon” themselves, instead of meeting Ira and Ralph to give them the map. Just as they seal their pact with a kiss, Jack secretly pulls the map he has stolen from Joan out from underneath the bed and slips it back into her bag. (01:14:34)

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Jack and Joan have found “El Corazon”, a priceless emerald tucked deep underneath a gigantic waterfall in the Columbian wilderness. However, Ralph, who has been secretly following them, confronts them with a pistol. He snatches the jewel from them. But Zolo and his men show up unexpectedly, allowing Jack to yank the stone from Ralph. Jack and Joan escape in their car, but in the ensuing chase from Zolo’s men, Joan drives the car in the river. They go over the waterfall, but survive.

They emerge unscathed from the mighty river, each on opposite sides. Jack has the stone and Joan has the map. Jack tells Joan to meet him at Hotel Cartagena. (01:24:31)


Jack has kept his promise, but he was late, meeting Zolo and his men instead of Joan. They take him to meet Joan in a dungeon where she has met Ralph and Ira to deliver them the map in exchange for Elaine. Zolo, knowing that Jack and Joan have already retrieved the stone, burns the map. He demands the stone from Jack, cutting Joan’s hand to spur him to action. He dangles her bloody hand over a small creek to attract a hungry crocodile. Jack tosses the stone to Zolo, who catches it in his hand.

The crocodile pops up and bites Zolo’s hand, tearing it off. In the ensuing confusion, Jack grabs a machine gun from one of Zolo’s men and escapes. He follows the crocodile, which has just enjoyed one of the most expensive meals in history. (01:32:55)

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