You might not expect that a slacker comedy cult classic like Dude, Where’s My Car? would follow any kind of writing beat sheet or story framework – rules, what? – but, dude, you’d be wrong.
In this article, we’ll show you how the movie fits within the context of Dan Harmon’s Story Circle plot structure – no secret hand signs required. And then? Well, that’s up to you.
Table of Contents
Act 1: Setup
Beat 1 – You:
We meet protagonists Jesse and Chester (you), two twenty-something best friends living in the suburbs, who wake up one morning with severe hangovers and no memory of what happened the night before. As they stumble through their home and try to piece things together, they discover a fridge full of chocolate pudding, pizza everywhere, and a stranger sleeping in their closet.
Beat 2 – Need:
On their voicemail, they find an upset message from their girlfriends, the Twins: their house is trashed AND it’s their anniversary. If Jesse and Chester want a “special treat” – which they think will be sex for the first time – they need to give them their gifts, which are in the car. But when Jesse and Chester go outside, they realize their car is missing (“dude, where’s my car?”) and frantically start retracing their steps.
Act 2: Confrontation
Beat 3 – Go:
After meeting with their friend Nelson for guidance, Jesse and Chester go to town for answers and run into Christie, who did see them with a briefcase full of money. After her jock boyfriend Tommy scares them off, they head to a strip club where a stripper demands they return a suitcase with $200k – or else!
Next, they go to their girlfriends house, which is a mess, and proceed to make matters worse. As they’re leaving, a group of space nerds briefly abducts them, seeking to recover a mysterious and powerful alien device called the Continuum Transfunctioner, which they appeared to have last night. They are dropped off by a tailor shop and warned that they are now in great danger and should trust no one.
Beat 4 – Search:
Dumbfounded, Jesse starts to freak out but their search continues. The tailor gives them suits they don’t recall ordering (containing a Rubik’s cube), and they meet the Hot Chicks, a group of women dressed in black who promise “pleasure” in exchange for the Transfunctioner. Just then the police show up and put Jesse and Chester in jail, saying their car was found fleeing the scene of a crime.
They are quickly released (a case of mistaken identity), and it seems the car is finally in reach – except the police sent it to the impound. In the meantime, the Hot Chicks make allies of Tommy and his jock friends and persuade them to look for J&C and the Transfunctioner.
As they’re leaving the station, Jesse & Chester learn Nelson has been taken hostage by Tommy (who is looking for them), and then encounter two Nordic dudes who are seeking the Transfunctioner to prevent the destruction of the universe. Exasperated, they go home to watch TV.
Soon after, their girlfriends show up and dump them for being “sucky boyfriends,” and the guys realize they love them and recommit themselves to the search and repairing their relationships.
Beat 5 – Find:
First step: they go to the police impound for their car, only to find it’s been sold. As they’re heading over to the buyer’s address, the space nerds abduct them to a house in the country (where their leader Zoltan lives with his parents). They reveal the Twins are their hostages, and Zoltan threatens to hurt them if Jesse and Chester don’t bring him the Transfunctioner, sending them off.
They then sneak into the buyer’s gated address, only to be attacked by ostriches and trapped in a cage by ostrich farmer Pierre. After answering an ostrich trivia question, he frees them and agrees to let them get their stuff from the car. But when they go to the garage, they find the car is missing.
However, Pierre gives them a key he found in the car to a locker at the Space-o-Rama arcade, where they head next. In the locker, they find the stripper’s briefcase of money (which they promptly give back) and arcade tickets, but no Transfunctioner.
At this point, Jesse and Chester realize nobody has ever said what the Transfunctioner looks like, and come up with a solution. They’ll use their tickets to get alien-looking devices from the arcade and then tell everyone they found the device. What could go wrong?
Beat 6 – Take:
The idea seems to be working perfectly. Zoltan and his crew show up to the arcade, take the device, and trade back their girlfriends. When Tommy and his jocks arrive, he attacks Zoltan, takes the device, and releases their friend Nelson. But as Jesse & Chester try to leave, the Nordic Dudes announce it’s a fake and Tommy becomes enraged as he figures out what’s happened.
Before he can do anything, Chester completes the Rubik’s cube, which transforms itself into the Transfunctioner and activates a bomb which can destroy the universe. With time running out, Dave and Chester must decide between giving it to the Nordice Dudes or the Hot Chicks; they give it to the Dudes, who deactivate it. Their girlfriends are impressed.
In retaliation, the Hot Chicks morph into a single giant alien woman and start terrorizing the arcade. They knock out the Nordic dudes, and Jesse and Chester take the device in order to stop them. With the alien approaching, they laser beam her to pieces and save the universe.
Act 3: Resolution
Beat 7 – Return:
In the aftermath, Christie dumps Tommy for Nelson and the Nordic dudes invite the space nerds to an outer space party – just before they take back the Transfunctioner and wipe Jesse and Chester’s memory of the saga. They wake up the next morning in their home, dazed, mirroring how the story began.
Beat 8 – Change:
When they go outside, their car is sitting by the curb. They eagerly head to their girlfriends’ home as initially intended, give them their gifts (engraved necklaces), and their girlfriends call them “great boyfriends.” Jesse and Chester also finally receive their special treat: engraved French berets! They all drive out into the distance for chinese food.
Table of Contents
Start Your Free Trial of Plottr
Join thousands of writers who outline and organize their books and stories with Plottr.
14 Day Free Trial
Start Outlining Your Book with Plottr
Join thousands of aspiring, debut, and bestselling authors who love planning their books with Plottr.
Ready To Start Writing Your Books With Ease & Organization?
Join thousands of writers plotting their own path to success.