Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
We like to think we live in a world where the President of the United States isn't engaging in corruption across every department of the government in order to assure his re-election. That world is shattered as soon as the Watergate hotel is broken into in the film's opening minutes.
Call To Adventure
Harry Rosenfeld assigns rookie reporter Bob Woodward to go to the courthouse and cover the break-in. They have no idea that this is going to be a national scandal.
Refusal Of The Call
Woodward won't consider quitting until much later, when it seems impossible to find any concrete sources for this complicated, shady story. At this point in the film, when the story appears to be much bigger than originally anticipated, it's Howard Simons, managing editor, who wants more experienced reporters on the story.
Meeting The Mentor
Ben Bradlee believes in the young reporters Woodward and Bernstein. He encourages them to continue to gather information.
Crossing The Threshold
The key tipping point in Woodward's investigation is when Deep Throat, in a shadowy parking garage, tells Woodward to "follow the money." That is when he is sure he is on a trail…if only he could figure out where it leads.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Gathering information is a constant trial for Woodward and Bernstein. The people who want to help are being pressured by the government not to. Lots of doors are slammed in their faces, but they have to keep going.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
The inmost cave in this case is the vault of money kept by the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which contained their mysterious slush fund. Woodward and Bernstein know it's important (and that the money isn't used for Slush Puppies), but the deeper they get, the fewer people they can find to talk to them.
Woodward and Bernstein argue, because Bernstein believes his gut feelings, but Woodward wants more concrete information. He almost considers dropping from the story.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
Finally, Deep Throat confirms that the Watergate break-in was run by White House Chief of Staff Haldeman. Bingo.
The Road Back
There's one problem: Deep Throat also warns Woodward that lives are in danger. The White House means business, and doesn't mind getting a little red. (As in blood, not communism.) Woodward is back where he started from, with no named sources for his story, but with the added danger of probably being under government surveillance.
Bradlee still believes Woodward and Bernstein, though. He encourages them to keep investigating and keep writing.
Return With The Elixir
In the movie's rapid-fire epilogue, we learn over the wire that the men were right all along. Everyone they suspected is found guilty of cover-up, and Nixon himself eventually resigns.