657: Movie Narrative Charts

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Movie Narrative Charts
In the LotR map, up and down correspond LOOSELY to northwest and southeast respectively.
Title text: In the LotR map, up and down correspond LOOSELY to northwest and southeast respectively.
  • A larger version of this image can be found by clicking the image at xkcd.com - the comic's page can also be accessed by clicking on the comic number above.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Needs more?
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

These charts show movie character interactions. The horizontal axis is time. The vertical grouping of the lines indicates which characters are together at a given time.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy

A mass of colored lines weaves back and forth across the chart, representing various characters. Sauron is represented by a red bar at the bottom contained within a huge black bar with branches, that in turn represents his army of nazgul, orcs, etc. Major locations (Moria) and plot points (the breaking of the fellowship) are marked. Gandalf, especially at the beginning, jumps all over the map in a short time. Eagles appear and then disappear a couple of times. Treebeard's line is flat except for the march to Isengard. At the end, the ship to the West drifts off into a corner. The hobbits start off in the top left with Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin with Bilbo with them for a short time because of the party at the beginning. They go off on their adventure and briefly encounter Gandalf. They are then split up for a short time but meet back up at Weathertop when the Nazgul attack and they meet Aragorn (Strider at that point). They meet up with the rest of what becomes the fellowship of the ring at the council of Elrond at Rivendell. The newly formed fellowship Then must venture into the mines of Moria which is referenced in comic #760 and comic #1218. After the Balrog and the death of Boromir the fellowship splits up. Frodo and Sam take the ring and go off on their own to destroy it and sneak into Mordor with the help of Gollum. Merry and Pippin end up getting captured by the Uruk-hai however are rescued by Eomer and his army. Eomer and his army then reunite with Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn briefly while Merry and Pippin find Treebeard and flood Isengard. While Merry, Pippin and Treebeard are floodin Isengard Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas fight at Helm's Deep with Gandalf and Eomer and Theoden. Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas go to wake the army of the dead while Pippin goes with Gandalf and Merry goes with the Rohirrim. All of these people rejoin for the battle of the Pelennor fields where Eowyn kills the withc king after Theoden dies along with Denethor. The orcs and men and oliphants are all destroyed and Aragorn releases the army of the dead. All the surviving members of that battle go to the Black Gate except Eowyn and Faramir. Sam and Frodo destroy the Ring, Gollum dies and everyone that is still alive is there for Aragorn's coronation. Everyone gos bak to their respective homes except for Frodo, Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, and Bilbo who get on a ship to the west.

Star Wars (original Trilogy)

Luke, mostly accompanied by R2-D2, joins and parts from other sets of characters. There's a dotted alternative path on Jabba's line for the special edition. Yoda appears about halfway through (where Luke's Jedi training is marked). All the surviving lines group up at Endor except for Vader, the Emperor, Luke, and Lando; after the climactic duel, the latter two join the rest.

Jurassic Park

The human characters are in black; dinosaurs are in red. Dilophosaurus appears briefly to eat Nedry and then fades out again. The three raptors are together at the beginning, but split up about halfway through. One has a dotted portion of line between "locked up" and "escapes." In the meantime, they cut off the lines of Arnold and Muldoon. The raptor lines all end when t-rex's swoops down to meet them at the end, and all the surviving humans leave together.

12 Angry Men

This is a very famous trial film that tells the story of a jury made up of 12 men as they deliberate the guilt or acquittal of a defendant on the basis of reasonable doubt. Only one of these angry men believe the defendant may be innocent and he argues this against the other 11, eventually convincing them that there is reasonable doubt in the case.

The lines are labeled Juror 1 through Juror 12. They are all perfectly horizontal and parallel.

The joke in the 12 Angry Men graphic is that in the movie all 12 jurors (the angry men) are in the same room for the entire duration of the movie. They never move and they all always interact with each other, hence their lines stay straight and close to each other.

This is actually not entirely true as the movie begins in the court room and a couple of times during the proceedings a few jurors goes into the washroom and have a brief discussion there, and finally in the very last scene two jurors have a brief exchange in front of the courthouse. But basically there is no need for such a narrative chart, and that is the joke.


The last box is a movie called Primer from 2004, which became a cult classic. It is about a group of engineers who discover a way to time travel, but only in one direction (backwards) and only at the speed of regular time (i.e. you have to stay in the time machine for one hour to move an hour back in time). Because of this, the story ends up having multiple versions of the same person existing at the same time; the plot and time-travel mechanics are notoriously hard to follow, so that it is almost impossible to figure out where each character is at one time, as the comic illustrates. Three lines start on the left labeled Abe, Aaron, and Granger. They enter a mass of scribbling. Somewhere vaguely towards the end, three lines emerge and fade out, all labeled with question marks. The chart for Primer is referenced in the title text of the fourth image in the what if? Plastic Dinosaurs.

These charts are a reference to the map by infographic pioneer Charles Joseph Minard that details the movements and losses of Napoleon's troops on his failed conquest of Russia.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

[colors given approximately in HEX at first appearance]

These charts show movie character interactions. The horizontal axis is time. The vertical grouping of the lines indicate which characters are together at a given time.

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings


[yellow line (fff500)] ring

[thin line, here dark green (467120)] ringbearer

[grey colored area (e9e9e9)] battle/event

[line ending with a dot, here black] death

[bar, here light brown (daccae)] army

[line, here brown (9d7929), in a bar, here light brown] character leading army

[grey line (b7bfb6)] wizards

[brown line (9d7929)] men

[blue line (4a89a8)] elves

[dark brown line (6c411b)] dwarves

[dark turquoise line, 143035] ents

[green line (4e7629)] hobbits

[signs and colors not explained by the legend]

  • [line starting / ending with a little sun means appearance / disappearance]
  • [dark grey line (Eagles)]

[Entering and leaving of characters]

[Characters entering the chart on the left, from top to bottom]

  • Merry [green line]
  • Pippin [green line]
  • Sam [green line]
  • Frodo [green line]
  • Bilbo [green line]
  • Gandalf [grey line, disappearance and reappearance marked by the sun-symbol]
  • Arwen [blue line]
  • Elrond [blue line]
  • Galadriel [blue line]
  • Saruman [grey line]
  • Wormtongue [brown line]
  • Éomer [brown line]
  • Théoden [brown on light brown bar]
  • Éowyn [brown line]
  • Boromir [brown line on light brown bar]
  • Denethor [brown line on light brown bar]
  • Faramir [brown line]
  • Sauron [red line (a23939) on black bar]

[Characters leaving the chart on the right side, from top to bottom]

[The five characters leaving off the top border of the chart]

  • Frodo
  • Gandalf
  • Bilbo
  • Elrond
  • Galadriel

[text next to the group of five] Ship to the West

[other characters leaving on the right side]

  • Merry
  • Pippin
  • Sam
  • Treebeard [dark turquoise line]
  • Legolas [blue]
  • Gimli [dark brown line]
  • Éomer
  • Arwen
  • Aragorn [brown line]
  • Éowyn
  • Faramir

[characters starting or leaving in the middle the chart]

  • Nazgûl [black line, emerging from the black bar of Sauron's army, disappearance and reappearance marked by the sun-symbol. Second appearance splits splitting in two branches. Both end with death.]
  • Aragorn [brown line, emerging via a dotted line]
  • Legolas [blue line, emerging via a dotted line]
  • Gimli [dark brown line, emerging via a dotted line]
  • Eagles [dark grey line (808080), emerging and vanishing twice via a dotted line (second time after splitting into two branches)]
  • Uruk-Hai [black bar, two groups emerging out of Saruman's line]
  • Gandalf [grey line, disappearance and reappearance marked by the sun-symbol]
  • Dead [light green bar, emerging out of nothing, lead by Aragorn, disappearance marked by the sun-symbol]
  • Ents [grey bar, emerging out of nothing, lead by Treebeard]
  • Men&Oliphaunts [black bar, emerging out of nothing]
  • Elves [light blue bar (b3cdda), emerging near the line of Galadriel]
  • Gollum [dark green line, emerging via a dotted line]
  • Treebeard [dark turquoise line, emerging via a dotted line]

[List of battles/events as displayed in the chart]

  • Bilbo’s party [joined by] Merry, Pippin, Sam, Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf [ring goes from Bilbo to Frodo]
  • Gandalf imprisioned [joined by] Gandalf, Saruman, Eagles
  • Weathertop [joined by] Nazgûl, Merry, Pippin, Sam, Frodo with the ring, Aragorn |
  • Council of Elrond [including] Merry, Pippin, Sam, Frodo with the ring, Aragorn, Bilbo, Elrond, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Boromir
  • Moria [including] Merry, Pippin, Sam, Frodo with the ring, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf [disappearance], Boromir
  • Breaking of the Fellowship [including] Merry, Pippin, Sam, Frodo with the ring, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Boromir [death], Uruk-Hai [black]
  • Hobbits escape [including] Éomer, Merry, Pippin, Uruk-Hai [death]
  • Helm’s Deep [including] Éomer, Gandalf, Elves [death], Uruk-Hai [death], Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Théoden
  • Isengard flooded [including] Treebeard [with bar of ents-army in grey], Merry, Pippin, Saruman [death], Wormtongue [death]
  • Pelennor fields [including] Aragon [with bar of Dead-army in light green (bbcbad)], Legolas, Gimli, Merry, Éomer, Éowyn, Pippin, Gandalf [with bar in light brown], Faramir, Men&Oliphaunts [death], Orcs [death], Nazgûl [death and disappearing], Théoden [death], Denethor [death]
  • Black gate [including] Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry, Éomer, Pippin, Gandalf [with bar in light brown], Orcs [death], Eagles, Nazgûl [death] [this battle/event-area is joined with ring destroyed-area]
  • Ring destroyed [including] Sam, Frodo, Gollum [death], Sauron [death], Nazgûl [death] [this battle/event-area is joined with Black Gate-area]
  • Aragorn crowned king [including] Arwen, Elrond, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Merry, Éomer [without army], Pippin, Gandalf [without army], Éomyn, Faramir, Sam, Frodo

Star Wars (original triology)

Star Wars (original triology)

[Entering and leaving of characters]

[Characters entering the chart on the left, from top to bottom]

  • Vader [black line]
  • Leia [grey line]
  • R2-D2 [blue line]
  • C-3P0 [yellow line]
  • Obi-Wan [grey line]
  • Luke [grey line]
  • Han [grey line]
  • Chewie [brown line]
  • Jabba [green line]

[Characters leaving the chart on the right side, from top to bottom]

  • Luke
  • Lando [grey line]
  • Chewie
  • Leia
  • R2-D2
  • C-3PO
  • Han

[Characters starting or leaving not in battle/avent-areas and not on the left/right side of the chart]

  • Greedo [green line]
  • Jabba Special edition [green dotted line, marking an alternative way for Jabba that unites after a little loop with Jabba main line.]
  • Yoda [green line, death also marked on the chart but not marked in an battle/event-area]
  • Boa Fett [green line]
  • Empperor [black]

[List of battles/events as displayed in the chart]

  • Leia rescued [including] Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Obi-Wan, R2-D2, C-3PO
  • Duel [first] [including] Vader, Obi-Wan [death]
  • Death Star [including] Vader, Luke, R2-D2, Han, Chewie
  • Hoth [including] Vader, Luke, Han, R2-D2, Chewie, Leia, C-3PO
  • Luke's entire Jedi training [including] Yoda, Luke, R2-D2
  • Han frozen [including] Boba Fett, Vader, Han, Chewie, Leia, C-3PO, Lando
  • Duel [second] [including] Luke, Vader
  • Sail barge [including] Luke, Chewie, Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO, Lando, Han, Boba Fett [death], Jabba [death]
  • Endor [including] Chewie, Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO, Han
  • Duel [third] [including] Emperor [death], Vader [death], Luke, Lando

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park

[Entering and leaving of characters]

[all dinosaurs are represented by red, all men by black lines] [for dinosaurs locked up, there is a donut-sign.]

[Characters entering the chart on the left, from top to bottom]

  • T-Rex
  • Raptors [splitting into Raptor 1, Raptor 2 and Raptor 3 later in the chart]
  • Malcolm
  • Grant
  • Sattler
  • Gennaro
  • Hammond
  • Muldoon
  • Arnold
  • Nedry

[Characters leaving the chart on the right side]

  • T-Rex
  • Kids [start short after the left border of the chart]
  • Grant
  • Sattler
  • Malcolm
  • Hammond
[Characters starting or leaving not in events/battles and not on the left/right side of the chart]
  • Dilophosaurus [emerging by a dotted line, vanishing by a dotted line]

[List of events as displayed in the chart]

  • Attack on cars [including] T-Rex, Malcolm [serious injury marked by a sign looking like a hole], Gennaro [death], Grant, Kids
  • Must go faster [including] T-Rex, Malcolm, Sattler, Muldoon
  • Nedry eaten [including] Dilophosaurus, Nedry [death]
  • Gallimimus [including] Grant, Kids, T-Rex
  • Shed [including] Raptor 3, Arnold [death]
  • Clever girl [including] Raptor 1, Muldoon [death], Raptor 2
  • Locked up escapes [including] Raptor 3, Sattler [This area is only grey in the point of "locked up", but a little further on the dotted line, the word "escapes" shows that the raptor 3 is free again. All over the entire comic, this is the only time that a description of "what happens" is given. All other labels are only titles, characters and locations and the note "Special edition" at Jabba / Star Wars, which is also a kind of meta-information.]
  • Kitchen locked up [including] Raptor 1, Kids, Raptor 2 [marked as locked up with the donut-sign]
  • Visitor Center [including] T-Rex, Raptor 1 [death], Kids, Grant, Sattler, Raptor 3 [death]

12 angry men

12 angry men

[Entering and leaving of characters]

[All lines go parallel, start and end at the borders of the chart. There are no areas of battle/event.]

Juror 1 --------- Juror 1 ----------- Juror 1 ------------ Juror 1

Juror 2 --------- Juror 2 ----------- Juror 2 ------------ Juror 2

Juror 3 --------- Juror 3 ----------- Juror 3 ------------ Juror 3

Juror 4 --------- Juror 4 ----------- Juror 4 ------------ Juror 4

Juror 5 --------- Juror 5 ----------- Juror 5 ------------ Juror 5

Juror 6 --------- Juror 6 ----------- Juror 6 ------------ Juror 6

Juror 7 --------- Juror 7 ----------- Juror 7 ------------ Juror 7

Juror 8 --------- Juror 8 ----------- Juror 8 ------------ Juror 8

Juror 9 --------- Juror 9 ----------- Juror 9 ------------ Juror 9

Juror 10 --------- Juror 10 ----------- Juror 10 ------------ Juror 10

Juror 11 --------- Juror 11 ----------- Juror 11 ------------ Juror 11

Juror 12 --------- Juror 12 ----------- Juror 12 ------------ Juror 12


[Three characters enter the chart on the left side, all represented by black lines]

  • Abe
  • Aaron
  • Granger

[The lines come to a giant scribble and end up with dotted lines and question marks in the right area. One cannot see which line leads to which end.]

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


...but in 12 Angry Men, at two points, some of the jurors leave to -- and have conversations in -- the bathroom! ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Luke went to Endor, right?

Why is this not part of the explaination? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Minard.png

It is public domain so it should be allowed right? 03:43, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

I added it to the explaination as it certainly adds to the understadning of the comic. It was already uploaded by someone else. 03:50, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

Only flaw is that Saruman died at the wrong time. LordSamanon (talk) 02:03, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

Second flaw is that Sam is going to west, too (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Third flaw is that in 12 Angry Men, Juror 8 interacts with Juror 9 at the very end. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I figured it would be of interest of the people here that I have gone through the afford of making one of these as well. It took me a few hours, but I am quite proud of the final image. It's definitely not perfect, though, and I am sure it could be done much better (especially if Randall himself would do it ;)). Either way, here is a movie narrative chart for the first Pokémon film, Mewtwo Strikes Back, something I grew up with and felt worked pretty well in this form: http://maplestrip.tumblr.com/image/123162717416 Maplestrip (talk) 18:58, 4 July 2015 (UTC)

I doubt that it's really worth including in the explanation or anything, but it would seem that Grant's and Sattler's lines get swapped by the first time their names are reiterated. -- 13:18, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

You're right! Perhaps this could be also mentioned in a "mistakes" / trivia section, as the flaws above. --LaVe (talk) 13:59, 24 February 2017 (UTC)

For me it is SO weird that this is today's Incomplete Explanation. Yesterday on Facebook, I had a Memory that I shared this 1 year ago today (so, 1 year ago yesterday). :) - NiceGuy1 04:31, 4 January 2017 (UTC) I finally signed up! This comment is mine. NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:35, 9 June 2017 (UTC)

I added some transcript. I didn't manage to use different colors in the transcript, so I added the HEX-Codes directly in the text. I'm not mother-tongued so please correct if you find mistakes. --LaVe (talk) 12:30, 20 February 2017 (UTC)

Cool with the transcript. --Kynde (talk) 18:20, 24 February 2017 (UTC)
Hey Kynde, we've talked about transcripts. Someone reading the text should understand the picture; not each pixel. I've also talked to LaVe and I promised that I will work on this soon. Stay tuned...--Dgbrt (talk) 19:47, 24 February 2017 (UTC)

I added to the star wars section. Not to familiar with Jurassic Park so an someone add to that and complete the transcript so this comic is complete?Dontknow (talk) 23:31, 2 March 2017 (UTC)

i clicked on the incomplete explanation in the spotlight link to see if i could fix it ... some comics will not and should not ever be fully explained 04:10, 23 March 2017 (UTC)

HOW is this still not complete, it looks pretty good to me. Just want more opinions.Dontknow (talk) 19:42, 12 April 2017 (UTC)

It certainly wants a much better discussion of Napoleon's March which is hard to do without the image. I asked on the noticeboard for someone to upload it (Admin_requests#Minard.27s_map_for_657)...Or I guess i could artificially up my post-count and then wait a week... JohnHawkinson (talk) 22:46, 12 April 2017 (UTC)
The explanation of the Minard map on the linked page seems adequate. Not every piece of information needs to be in this wiki. 03:19, 18 April 2017 (UTC)
I would disagree. Most people don't follow links. I would say that the Minard map is absolutely essential to understanding this comic. All of the images in the comic are based on the Minard map, and if you haven't seen the Minard map, you haven't understood the comic. Reasonably people can disagree on that, of course, but I think it unquestionably passes the "relevance" test that you mention ("Not every piece of information needs to be in this wiki"). An appropriate contextual explanation needs to be written. That's on my todo list after the image is working, which it is not right now. JohnHawkinson (talk) 03:40, 18 April 2017 (UTC)
Nice work on the pic, I moved it so that the text is above the picture. It makes more sense for readers to read the text for background knowledge and then see the pic.Dontknow (talk) 20:11, 19 April 2017 (UTC)
At the risk of excessive navel-gazing, I wonder if we're better off putting it on the right with the text accompanying it on the left. Also maybe shrinking it a bit more. I dunno... JohnHawkinson (talk) 03:07, 20 April 2017 (UTC)
There are many comics where there is a pic in the middle,see 1282: Monty Hall just need a little more opinion. Dontknow (talk) 23:10, 20 April 2017 (UTC)

I am not sure if this should be included, but it is a nice piece of trivia anyway: Randall seems to have inspired a whole field of research in digital humanities with this strip. There are now multiple papers on "storyline visualizations" that reference this comic, using the concept for visualizations of storylines, politic events and other stuff. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-50106-2_30 -- (talk) 11:06, 20 October 2017 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)