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.)
Nothing at the beginning of Grease could be described as ordinary. Danny and Sandy at the beach is a callback to classic beach fantasies, like Beach Blanket Bingo with Annette Funicello, who's name dropped, and Frankie Avalon, who sings "Beauty School Drop Out."
It's all fantasy. The ordinary world is Rydell High, and we all know how much high school stinks.
Call To Adventure
When Danny and Sandy meet, sparks fly, which ignites a powder keg of adventure. That would be the tagline if Grease were a trashy pulp novel. Unfortunately, the spark is a destructive one, which brings us to step three.
Refusal Of The Call
Both Danny and Sandy refuse to fall in love with each other, although Danny is the one who pushes first. So obsessed with his loner bad boy image, Danny shuns poor Sandy. As a result, she runs from him into the strong, tanned, muscular, buff, handsome… er, where were we?
Oh right, Sandy is in the arms of Tom the football player.
Meeting The Mentor
Would you ever guess that Marty could be a mentor? Us neither. But she is, albeit an accidental one. When she gives Sandy unintentional dating advice, saying she's "hopelessly devoted" to all her ninety-seven boyfriends, Sandy takes it literally and decides to devote herself (hopelessly) to Danny.
Crossing The Threshold
Crossing the threshold is more like "banging on the jukebox" in Grease. When Sandy goes to the jukebox, Danny joins her. During their brief conversation, Sandy tells Danny she would like him if he were more like Tom the football player. After this moment, Danny is singing a different tune.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Danny is the one going through the tests here. He tries out for basketball, wrestling, and track. His enemy is himself, and his anger management issues. His ally is his legs, because man, he looks good in those basketball shorts.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
This stage we will rename Approach to the Drive-In. It's at the drive-in where Sandy believes that Danny has changed to be the one that she wants. (See what we did there?) But when he attempts to cop a feel, Sandy runs for the hills.
Both Danny and Sandy go through an emotional ordeal, although it's Sandy who's more in crisis at this stage. Danny gets the song about feeling left out while he sits on the swing in front of the screen. Hey, down in front! But it's Sandy who has to decide whether or not to change who she is to better fit Danny.
Reward (Seizing The Sword)
Oddly, the big reward in this movie is a car race at Thunder Road that hardly matters in the grand scheme of the plot. The reward is seized by accident, too. After Kenickie is knocked out, Danny takes over Greased Lightnin' and steers it to victory.
Who knew this would impress Sandy so much? Well, she comes from the land of Mad Max, so it shouldn't be all that surprising.
The Road Back
The story is really Sandy's here, and we don't get to see her road back. Off-screen, Sandy accompanies Frenchy for an Extreme Makeover.
Great googly moogly, is Sandy on fire with this makeover. Like a phoenix, she burns her old wholesome image to the ground and is resurrected as a fiery goddess with mile long legs, skin tight pants, and sky high heels. It might be the sexiest makeover in movie history.
Return With The Elixir
The elixir is love. Danny and Sandy find love. Rizzo and Kenickie. Putzy and Jan. Sonny and Marty, of all people.
Everyone finds a happily ever… well, a happily-until-college ending.