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.)
Alvy's right at home, telling jokes and dishing out his thoughts on love and the ladies when the movie starts. From his monologue, we jump right into a flashback about his childhood on Coney Island, which establishes that New York isn't just Alvy's safe place, it's part of his DNA.
Call to Adventure
Alvy's journey is told out of order, which makes charting it a little tricky, but his call to adventure—that is, the spark that ignites his quest to understand love—happens when he and Annie chase lobsters all over the kitchen.
That's the first glimpse we get of what makes Annie, and Alvy's relationship with her, different and worthy of the chase. Chronologically, it happens later in their romance, but in the narrative's jump-around timeline, it establishes that Alvy's relationship with Annie, and its demise, is totally worth figuring out.
Refusal of the Call
Alvy's refusal of the call to adventure, a.k.a., L-O-V-E, is shown in flashbacks. We see him with each of his ex-wives, Allison and Robin. Neither of those relationships went the distance, proving that Alvy wasn't yet up to the challenge of a committed, happily-ever-after relationship… nor was he particularly interested in solving the mystery of why those relationships failed.
Having seen a different Alvy get called to adventure in the lobster-filled kitchen, these peeks at Alvy's backstory suggest that Alvy's not yet ready or willing to go all-in with Annie in the present.
Meeting the Mentor
Technically, Alvy's already met his mentor, Rob. But it's at the tennis club where Rob gives Alvy something he needs: Annie. Way to mentor up, Rob. This hero's quest is on.
Crossing the Threshold
Alvy tells Annie he loves her by the river. Well, actually he tells her he "luffs" her. Either way, he's in deep, and their relationship heads to the next level.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Alvy faces several tests that are common to relationships. When Annie moves in, they argue about whether or not she should keep her old place so they have an "out." Alvy gets ticked by Annie's need to smoke pot before they're intimate. Annie accuses him of thinking she's not smart enough for him because he encourages her to take some college courses. Alvy meets Annie's family and they make him all sorts of nervous.
Approach to the Inmost Cave
Alvy and Annie have a big fight in the street. He completely reverses his opinion on Annie's continuing education, and insinuates that she's sleeping with one of her professors. Chill out, Alvy.
Alvy's relationship with Annie officially cools and he struggles to understand why, even going so far as to ask strangers on the street. Rob sets him up on a date with Pam. Alvy goes out with her, even though he doesn't want to, and spends the first part of their date openly mocking her. Classy, Alvy. Real classy.
Reward (Seizing the Sword)
After Annie calls Alvy in the middle of the night—and his date with Pam—to kill a giant spider in her apartment, Alvy and Annie get back together.
The Road Back
But there's trouble in paradise, and these two are soon splitsville once again. Alvy and Annie separate their stuff as she moves out. They congratulate themselves on how smooth their break-up is.
After hearing that Annie's living in Los Angeles with Tony, Alvy flies there to bring her back to New York. She says nope. He asks her to marry him, and she tells him she's not in love with him anymore. Ouch.
Return With the Elixir
After bumping into each other back in New York, Alvy and Annie have lunch. He reflects on their relationship and is grateful just to have known her. Alvy tells the audience that he's decided love and relationships may be absurd, but, ultimately, we need them.