The first rule of Fight Club: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club: you do not talk about Fight Club. Both of these rules were specifically designed to make you want to break them, and we're doing that here.Fight Club, a 1999 movie directed by David Fincher and originally based ona 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk, ended up becoming more famous than its literary inspiration (and even the author liked it better). It spawned two notable memes: one involves the first two rules of Fight Club, while the second involves the oft-repeated claim of a mix of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate making anything but the world's third-worst screwdriver.The film's story follows the life of an unnamed man (Edward Norton)—known variously as the Narrator or "Jack" thanks to the "I am Jack's ____" monologue—who has grown discontented with his life, which seems only to revolve around his dreary corporate job, support groups for diseases he doesn't have, and endless bouts of meaningless consumerism. During a business flight, the man meets a charismatic free spirit named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and they eventually start a "support group" — the titular "Fight Club" — where other unhappy, unfulfilled men get together and fight each other in bare-knuckle brawls as a form of "therapy." Fight Club eventually escalates as Tyler turns from the man's best friend into a Sensei for Scoundrels — and, eventually, into an Evilutionary Biologist.
And Some Other Stuff: As noted above, frozen orange juice concentrate and gasoline doesn't really make homemade napalm. Several of the recipes were changed so that people wouldn't actually blow things up.
Ambiguous Situation: Subverted then played straight towards the end. (When you start to rethink the scenes)
Arc Words: Too many to count, this trope being a core part of Palahniuk's writing style (Palahniuk referred to them as "choruses".) "On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero," and "I know this because Tyler knows this" are two of the most well-known examples. There's also mentions of "space monkeys," and the "I am Jack's *insert characteristic here*," a reference to a pamphlet that described internal organs in the first person and "We have just lost cabin pressure."
Bittersweet Ending: Project Mayhem goes off without hitch, meaning Tyler succeeds in destroying the world's credit data. However, the Narrator manages to "kill" Tyler and free himself from his influence, and now has a meaningful relationship with Marla and will presumably start living a better-balanced life.
Broken Ace: Tyler, being the narrator's subconscious conception of his ideal self, which he manifests as an alternate personality.
Broken Record: "His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson."
Bullet Time: The narrator's dream of sleeping with Marla. Director Fincher was apparently embarrassed at the idea of directing a traditional sex scene, so he devised a more abstract way of presenting the material.
Call Back: An easy one to miss on your first viewing is the opening scene, when Tyler asks the narrator if he wants to say anything to "mark the occasion". The narrator replies that he "Can't think of anything." The film then goes back and works towards How We Got Here; when the scene plays out again, the line becomes "I still can't think of anything," which Tyler lampshades with "Ah, flashback humor."
Cavalry Betrayal: Once he realises the full extent of Project Mayhem's plans the narrator goes to the police and tells them the whole story, only to discover that the detectives he's talking are part of a Fight Club themselves, and they almost castrate him.
Chekhov's Gag: The cock that Tyler puts onto family friendly films reappears in the end of the film.
Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The film is supposed to mock both the shallow corporate suburban lifestyle that the Narrator represents and the nihilistic, self-destructive behavior that Tyler Durden represents. Some fans missed the memo on the latter.
Tyler's presence is foreshadowed by his image getting splice into several frames of footage at a few points before his actual introduction.
Many lines point to the twist that might not become apparent until a second viewing. Especially obvious with lines such as, "I know this because Tyler knows this", "If you could wake up in a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?" When the Narrator fights himself in his boss' office, he muses, "For some reason, I was reminded of my first fight with Tyler." At one point Bob tells the narrator of a rumor that Tyler never sleeps, forming a possible connection to the Narrator's insomnia. Another is after mouthing off to his boss, he muses "Tyler's words coming out of my mouth".
At one point, Tyler looks at a chiseled underwear model and sneers, "Is that what a real man looks like?" Tyler has the physique of an underwear model and is not a real man, being a split personality of the main character with an idealized appearance.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: Tyler pops up in the film several times before his introduction proper, sometimes just for one or two frames. In-universe, Tyler amuses himself by splicing single frames of porn into children's films (this happens to the film itself immediately prior to the end credit sequence).
If you look carefully at the pay phone the Narrator uses to talk to Tyler, you'll notice that it's physically incapable of receiving incoming calls, meaning that it would be impossible for Tyler to call that pay phone to talk to him in the first place. The only plausible explanation is that Tyler never existed to begin with.
When the narrator first attends the support groups, there is a flyer for a 1997 film festival. Then, he mentions to Marla he's been going to the groups for over a year, and finally the film ends in 1999, when the film was released, after it's implied Fight Club has been going on for another year.
Various business cards and postal codes place the story in the fictional Bradford, Delaware.
In the first scene with the narrator in his office, he is wearing a nametag, and his first name is actually Neal.
The narrator sighs as he sees his new acquaintance Tyler shimmy up to an expensive convertible and drive away. As the narrator turns towards the camera in a fug of jealousy and self-loathing, the car owner is seen frantically pursuing Tyler down the street.
Which would explain the scene later on when the narrator mentions Tyler's car, and Tyler responds "What car?" You know, aside from the fact that Tyler doesn't actually exist.
While the narrator is on the phone with Marla, Tyler is in the other room messing with a pair of nunchuks and yelling at the top of his voice.
When the narrator first approaches Marla at the support group, there's another man who apparently had the same plan, but was a little slower off the mark. The resignation on his face as he turns away is hilarious.
Homoerotic Subtext: All over the place, and in fact is an important part of the plot, since much of the conflict may stem from the Narrator's sexual confusion. The phallic imagery gets so out of control that at many points it's not even imagery. It should be noted that the subtext was taken down a notch in the movie. invoked
How We Got Here: Thrice, actually. first scene-last scene, the 'help yourself group' and the travelling scenes
Human Resources: Tyler Durden collected human fat from the disposal bins behind a liposuction clinic, then used it to make expensive soap for rich ladies. Bonus points for fulfilling this trope, as the narrator lampshades the idea that the same women who paid to get rid of the fat would now pay him to return it.
Narrator: Tyler sold his soap to department stores at $20 a bar. Lord knows what they charged. It was beautiful. We were selling rich women their own fat asses back to them.
Hypocritical Humour: In one scene, sneers at an advertisement featuring a ripped underwear model and asks, "Is that what a real man looks like?" Tyler himself is quite chiseled, but this only becomes hypocritical when you consider the fact that Tyler's appearance is "Jack's" ideal self, so yes, "Jack" does want to look like an underwear model purely for aesthetic reasons.
I Ate What?: The movie has several references to people urinating or worse into food, based on stories told to the author by waiters who spoiled the food of bad customers.
Narrator: And clean food, alright?
Waiter in the Tyler-staffed restaurant: In that case, may I advise against the lady eating the clam chowder?
I Just Want to Have Friends: Lacking any real friends, the Narrator joins self-help groups for diseases he doesn't have in order to make 'friends' from, which he doesn't even stick to, and then enters into a mutual relationship with Tyler.
Jekyll & Hyde: Marla seems to feel this way about the Narrator: "You're Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jackass."
Journey to the Center of the Mind: Inverted in the opening credits. Fincher said he wanted to show the reaction of fear as it, all the way from one neuron in the brain firing off to sweat rolling down the Narrator's forehead.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Done enough times to make the camera a supporting character. In at least one montage the narrator directly addresses the camera to tell us about Tyler.
At one point, the narrator and Tyler address the camera to explain some of the finer details of how theater projectors work, such as the "cigarette burns" bit. Complete with Tyler pausing what he's doing to point at one such marker showing up in the film itself.
Masquerade: If you're not allowed to talk about Fight Club, you might never know who is in on it and who isn't. This is especially true for the book, in which the narrator mentions that nobody knows whether a prank pulled in public was pulled by Project Mayhem or not because the first rule is you do not ask questions. This is lampshaded in both the book and movie when police officers the narrator is counting on to save him from castration appear to be part of Project Mayhem.
Memetic Mutation: Played darkly with in the In-Universe example, "His name is Robert Paulsen", when the Narrator first realizes that no matter how much he tries, any members of Project Mayhem not present at the birth of a rule will just become the Misaimed Fandom of the mutated meaning.
Mental Story: In large part, but a lot of interesting stuff happens in reality, too.
Once More with Clarity: Towards the end of the film, the Narrator figures out Tyler Durden exists as a hallucination of his id. Once this happens, the film shows previous scenes involving both the narrator and Tyler — without Tyler in them.
One Dialogue, Two Conversations: A variation of this occurs in the scene in which Marla comes into the kitchen of the narrator and Tyler's house and he asks her what she gets out of her relationship with Tyler. She thinks he is asking about her relationship with him because she thinks he is Tyler. She then asks him what he gets out of his relationship with her and he thinks that she is asking about his relationship with Tyler.
Only a Flesh Wound: Near the end of the movie, a major character gets shot through the cheek, but seems to come out of it fine, except for the (plot-important) mental shock.
Only Known by Their Nickname: Jared Leto's character is credited as "Angel Face". And of course the nameless Narrator has become known as "Jack" to fans, after one of the movie's most memorable running gags.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Helena Bonham Carter's English accent comes through at times, most obviously in the scene in which the narrator explains that he actually quite likes her.
Painting the Medium: Many scenes, especially the "Let me tell you about Tyler Durden" scene. Also: "Ah, flashback humor."
Pay Phone: The Narrator calls Tyler on a payphone after his apartment is blown up. Tyler doesn't answer, but calls the payphone back to talk to him. A few years later, this scene would probably never have happened.
Fight Club subverts this by showing numerous name-brand products and companies — while holding them up as examples of the failure of modern society. One notable scene involves Ed Norton's apartment morphing into the not-IKEA "Fürni" catalog page he ordered his furniture from. In the DVD commentary, the filmmakers wondered what 7-UP thought about their glowing logo providing a silhouette for Tyler's gun. Hell, the Narrator himself says it outright: "When deep space exploration ramps up, it'll be the corporations that name everything. The IBM stellar sphere, the Microsoft galaxy. Planet Starbucks."
To shoot a scene where Project Mayhem destroy a Starbucks shop with a dislodged street sculpture, the producers needed permission to use the Starbucks logo. According to the DVD Commentary, they tried to use it anywhere they could manage when they received permission - but were then forbidden to use the logo for the destroyed coffee shop.
Rated M for Manly: Fight Club's story imparts the idea of society neutering male nature and discouraging traditionally male impulses and activities by labeling them shameful. The Fight Clubs (before Project Mayhem) exist as a way for the characters to subvert society's expectations by allowing them to release their impulses in secret (the dialogue makes sure to emphasize the Club's male-exclusive status). On the other hand, by the end the audience has seen how damaging all this is and how Fight Club is just another form of conformity.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Tyler is impulsive and rash, whereas the Narrator is a calm and cool corporate executive. Their different personalities are, of course, all mixed-up in the heat of the fight, and then we find out that they're actually Not So Different.
Reverse Psychology: Tyler actually wants you to tell as many people as you can about Fight Club - and he knows that the best way to get you to do this is by emphasizing how secret it is. See Schmuck Bait.
Revised Ending: In the book, the protagonist tries to destroy one building, but fails when Tyler botches the explosive mixture (which the book foreshadows in the opening chapter). The Narrator ends up in a mental institution — though he considers it Heaven — and some of its wardens are members of Project Mayhem, who patiently wait for Tyler to return from the depths of the Narrator's mind. The book also explicitly says the mental split happened the moment the Narrator fell in love with Marla — the Tyler psyche loved her, while his regular psyche hated her — while the movie only hinted at this. In the movie, the Narrator manages to regain his sanity, but eleven buildings end up annihilated by Tyler's explosives, with the Narrator and Marla hold hands while watching in awe. Nice big cock, roll credits.Chuck Palahniuk liked the movie's ending more than his.
Rummage Sale Reject: Tyler's outfits are retro as well as rummage sale chic, emphasizing his cool detachment from the culture of modern society. His clothes range from 70s-style leather jackets to kitschy bathrobes.
Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: The Narrator and Tyler at first appear to be this to a certain extent, then we realize fairly soon that they are Not So Different in terms of their attitude toward society and life in general, and this is before we find out that Tyler is actually the narrator's split personality.
Shirtless Scene: The sixth rule of Fight Club says "no shirts, no shoes". Bob averts this rule without comment. Guess why?◊ (It also saved money on makeup effects.)
Shoo Out the Clowns: Bob, the testicular cancer survivor, is rather dark comic relief. He gets fatally shot before the third act, when things get even darker.
Tyler inserts single frames of pornography into children's films — and later threatens to reveal this to the public unless the boss of the projectionists' union pays him off.
Tyler shows up this way in a few scenes before his first proper scene, generally as a way to trip out the audience.
Sure, Let's Go with That: One of the potential recruits for Project Mayhem has bright yellow hair. When the Drill Sergeant Nasty-equivalent starts cutting the recruits down, he rips into the blond's hair color, as he can't find anything else to riff on.
Recruiter: You are too fucking old, fatty. And you! You're too fucking... blond!
None of the characters appear to use or own mobile phones. The Narrator calls Tyler on a payphone and Tyler *69s him to see who called (except not really).
One of Project Mayhem's pranks involves pouring petrol into the tube of a CRT monitor so that it explodes when turned on. Another prank involves using electromagnets to wipe the VHS tapes in a video rental shop. (Amusingly related to the second prank: David Fincher gave interviews around the time of the film's release in which he specifically mentioned DVDs.)
The film averted one instance: in the novel, the narrator writes haikus and faxes them to everyone in his office, but the film changed the delivery method to e-mail.
The Reveal: Twice. The first is when Tyler blurts out about his role in the destruction of the Narrator's apartment. The second is the Tomato in the Mirror surpise below.
Übermensch: Tyler. Charismatic? Check. Atheistic? Check. Has agenda intended to tear down the existing establishment (mindless consumerism coupled with a society where masculinity cannot be expressed openly) with a new paradigm after rejecting all previous moral codes and overcoming the inherent nihilism? Check. Has a Last Man equivalent (and in the protagonist, no less)? Check.
"I look like you want to look, I fuck like you want to fuck, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not."
Unreliable Narrator: The narrator has a split personality, and we see through his perspective, seeing Tyler Durden as a separate person. We're occasionally given glimpses of what was really going on in past scenes, such as the narrator burning his own unrestrained hand and dropping a beer bottle in an attempt to pass it to Durden.
We All Die Someday: "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."
We Are Everywhere: Tyler Durden delivers one to the man who planned to investigate Fight Club:
Tyler Durden: Hi. You're going to call off your rigorous investigation. You're going to publicly state that there is no underground group, or we are going to take your balls. […] The people you are after are the people you depend on; we cook your meals, we connect your calls, we guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us.''