Check This Out: xkcd's Brilliant/Confusing Movie Narrative Charts

November 2, 2009
Source: xkcd

Movie Narrative Charts - xkcd

I love xkcd. It's one of my favorite webcomics and is daily reading for me. It's very geeky, mainly for tech and math geeks, but it's brilliant. Simple style with big ideas. The latest comic created by Randall Munroe on features a series of Movie Narrative Charts that map out characters throughout an entire trilogy (specifically Lord of the Rings and Star Wars). It maps their relation (are they near or far from each other) over the horizontal axis of time. Take a look, it's pretty damn cool, you'll understand once you see it. And to top it all off, he threw in charts for 12 Angry Men and Primer as well, for a laugh. You've just got to see this!

Movie Narrative Charts - xkcd

At first I tried to follow this and make some sense of it, but eventually I realized it gets very confusing very quickly. I guess I'm trying to process every moment in every movie and remember everything. Oh yea, I guess Treebeard didn't really do anything after The Two Towers, he just hung out and still exists. Hell, I'd pay good money to see an entire book of these kinds of charts for every major movie. They're fascinating to look at. I wonder if screenwriters chart out their movie like this while they're writing it - seems like it'd be helpful in keeping the story together (look at Jurassic Park, every last raptor is accounted for). Brilliant!

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whomever on Nov 2, 2009


xkcd is the best. following the comic for awhile.

Nic on Nov 2, 2009


I was expecting some pretty epic mouse-over text for this, but he kinda let me down. Especially since this comic included his oft documented major fear: Raptors with door opening abilities. Usually the mouse-over text is the best part of his comics. That said, Randall is the man. I love when he does crazy awesome stuff like this.

Stevo on Nov 2, 2009


thats the most whacked up sh*t ive ever seen,but still very kool

Spider94 on Nov 2, 2009



David Banner on Nov 2, 2009


wow! thats crazy! but for primer, is it a joke? or was he like "**** it"

LuckyLoser on Nov 2, 2009


The timeline for Primer is just brilliant.

thetylerw on Nov 2, 2009


They still could have just flew the ring to the volcano :/

Brad on Nov 2, 2009


I think Tufte would approve.

wayward_edward on Nov 3, 2009


I'd like to see one for LOST

travis on Nov 3, 2009


Randall Munroe is indeed brilliant, although it is probably wise to partake in his subversive comic strip at home rather than at work. I check out XKCD first thing in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The strip on Monday 3 November 2009, must have taken a lot of time to draw. Most certainly Edward Tufte, the author of "Visual Display of Quantitative Information" , would approve. Travis, a similar plot for "Lost" would be interesting, but it would have to be drawn on multiple pages. For a real challenge, consider what a plot for "Groundhog Day" would look like.

Dan Dassow on Nov 3, 2009


He must have watched those movies a bunch of times in order to make these - and all for a joke about how primer didn't make any sense. Neat charts, tho. He should do one for The Matrix... you'd have to branch the lines in order to show both the interactions in the Matrix and the interactions in the 'real world'.

Squiggly_P on Nov 3, 2009


Ironically he probably spent the least amount of time deciphering Primer -- for the chart, anyway. Someone actually did plot out all the beta timelines from the flick... even in graphical form, it's quite intimidating and STILL not completely certain:

Devon Shaw on Nov 8, 2009

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