Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Fight Club (1999)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Fight Club (1999)

In David Fincher's enigmatic, film noirish psychological thriller - based upon Chuck Palahniuk's novel and scripted by Jim Uhls - it was a daring, feverish and dark non-linear satire on manhood in crisis that found a large (and sometimes controversy-invoking) audience with its compelling, grim and twisting story about the destructive effects of consumerism, male insecurities and the glorification of self-destructive violence by a men's fight club. The film's tagline was:

"Mischief, Mayhem, Soap."

The Title Credits Sequence: A Reverse Pull-Back From the Brain's 'Fear Center'

The audacious opening 90-seconds titles or credits sequence included a reversed pull-back shot (from the "Fear Center" of the protagonist's brain backward alongside various motor neurons and finally exiting a skin pore), finding the fearful, wide-eyed main character with a gun barrel shoved down his mouth.

Tyler Durden's (Brad Pitt) Gun Pointed Into the Mouth of Insomniac "The Narrator" (Edward Norton)

The opening voice-over conversation occurred during a confounding scene as the film's two main characters were confronting each other. The "Narrator"/"Jack" (Edward Norton) was being held at gunpoint (the gun was in his mouth!) by Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), during a count-down to "Ground zero" -- before the demolition of twelve corporate buildings (with credit card company records) by an anti-corporate, anti-consumer, and anti-capitalistic movement known as "Project Mayhem" (and its Demolition Committee) - to theoretically elminate debt and start fresh. Tyler Durden threatened the destruction unless the "Narrator" shot himself.

Narrator: (voice-over) People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden.
Tyler: Three minutes. This is it. Ground zero. Would you like to say a few words to mark the occasion?
Narrator: (voice-over) With a gun barrel between your teeth, you speak only in vowels. (speaking) I can't think of anything... (voice-over) For a second, I totally forget about Tyler's whole controlled demolition thing and l wonder how clean that gun is.
Tyler: It's getting exciting now.
Narrator: (voice-over) That old saying, how you always hurt the one you love. Well, it works both ways. We have front-row seats for this theater of mass destruction. The Demolitions Committee of Project Mayhem wrapped the foundation columns of a dozen buildings with blasting gelatin. ln two minutes, primary charges will blow base charges and a few square blocks will be reduced to smouldering rubble. l know this because Tyler knows this.
Tyler: Two and a half. Think of everything we've accomplished.
Narrator (voice-over): And suddenly, I realize that all of this - the gun, the bombs, the revolution, has got something to do with a girl named Marla Singer...

After the gun was removed from his mouth, the twisting drama was then told in flashback, as the Narrator spoke about his background and how he had first met Tyler Durden. Through subsequent scenes, a review was presented of the Narrator's own unsatisfying and alienated life as a 29 year-old yuppie corporate worker who was increasingly bored, disillusioned, discontented and dissatisfied with his emasculated life and white-collar job. He often traveled in his job, working for an automobile manufacturer as a product recall specialist.

During sleepless nights, on the toilet, or when jet lagging late at night, he often surfed TV channels, or to satisfy his consumer-urges due to his "IKEA nesting instinct," he perused IKEA-like FURNI catalogues for small home decor items for his 15th floor apartment-condo, asking himself: "What kind of dining set defines me as a person?" In one of the most innovative scenes, he walked through his apartment where on-screen visual effects labels identified his furnishings (coffee table, office unit, exercise bike, sofa, lamp, etc.).

The Narrator attempted to acquire sleep aids for his insomnia, and told his doctor one of his most prominent symptoms: "I nod off, I wake up in strange places. I have no idea how I got there" - a foreshadowing of his coming mental illness. Although he wasn't sick and wasn't prescribed any medicine, the doctor recommended "healthy, natural sleep." It was also suggested that he attend a support group for in-pain, testicular cancer patients.

Some of the Early Subliminal and Subconscious Single-Frame Images of Tyler

Corporate Office

Doctor's Office

Self-Help Group

[Note: Watch for many early one-frame subliminal blips - all cameos of Tyler Durden in the film (i.e., in the hallway of a doctor's office, in the testicular cancer support group meeting, in the Narrator's office near photo-copier, for example). They were symptomatic of the Narrator's growing insomnia and split personality.]

In the self-help group posing as Cornelius, the Narrator met ex-body building champ Robert 'Bob' Paulson (Meat Loaf) (nicknamed "Moosie"), who now suffered from imbalanced hormones and large breasts ("bitch tits") after testicular removal. The Narrator was temporarily cured of his insomnia during the emotional experience, but became addicted to self-help groups, and continued to attend many other group treatment sessions, while feigning illness. He pronounced himself cured: "Every evening I died. And every evening I was born again. Resurrected."

During his attendance in many groups over a period of the next year, he encountered another 'big tourist' imposter named Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter). After realizing that she was deceitfully doing exactly what he was doing, his insomnia returned ("Her lie reflected my lie. And suddenly, I felt nothing. I couldn't cry. So once again, I couldn't sleep"). He confronted her: ("You're a faker, you're not dying"), and they argued briefly about how to split up and attend different group sessions during a typical week: ("You take lymphoma and tuberculosis"), but exchanged phone numbers (Marla: 555-0134).

During one of his monotonous business trip flights ("This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time"), to insert excitement into his life, the Narrator experienced a suicidal fantasy, imagining a plane wreck to end his life. He expressed his fears in voice-over: "Every time the plane banked too sharply on takeoff or landing, I prayed for a crash or a midair collision. Anything. Life insurance pays off triple if you die on a business trip."

On one of his flights, he found himself talking to his seat-mate, a soap salesman and part-time waiter and projectionist named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), with a devil-may-care attitude, who gave him his business card - he was a salesman for the Paper Street Soap Co. He stated: "I make and I sell soap. The yardstick of civilization." Tyler also bragged about being able to manufacture explosives out of simple household items before he exited the plane. (Shortly later, the Narrator observed him stealing a man's red sports car convertible at the curb.)

Upon his return to his Pearson Towers 15th floor condo-apartment (without his confiscated - or stolen - suspiciously-vibrating suitcase at the airport), the Narrator discovered his building's unit had been destroyed. It was explained through visuals that a gas line ignited and exploded due to an electrical spark from his refrigerator's compressor. [Later, it was revealed that Tyler, via the Narrator, had blown up his own apartment with homemade dynamite.] Without a place to stay, the Narrator contacted Tyler Durden by pay phone and they agreed to meet in Lou's Tavern-bar.

Over drinks, the Narrator was distraught that all of his carefully-selected and brand-name possessions were now non-existent: ("I had it all....I was close to being complete"). Tyler criticized the Narrator's lifestyle, calling him someone who was addicted to consumer items: "The things you own end up owning you," and tried to assure him that his losses weren't very important: "It's just stuff. Not a tragedy."

[Note: Spoiler -- "Tyler" was the Narrator's formation of an alternate identity - and a mental projection of the unnamed Narrator. The entirety of their conversations was within the Narrator's mind, and everyone the Narrator encountered in the film knew him as "Tyler." Until the very end, the Narrator was unaware that Tyler was his split personality, who was sabotaging his conventional life.]

In a night scene outside Lou's Tavern soon marked by violence, Tyler agreed when the Narrator asked to stay at his place. Then, the nihilistic, macho Tyler Durden urged the yuppie Narrator to fight him in an aggressive bare-knuckle fight in the back parking lot: ("I want you to hit me as hard as you can").

The scene was interrupted, to allow the Narrator (speaking to the 4th wall audience) to provide more background on Tyler in a film theatre's projection booth. He explained why Tyler worked part-time as a film projectionist - so he could covertly put subliminal content into films - just as director Fincher had done:

Narrator: "Because it affords him other interesting opportunities."
Tyler: "Like splicing a single frame of pornography into family films."
Narrator: "So when the snooty cat and the courageous dog with the celebrity voices meet for the first time in reel 3, that's when you'll catch a flash of Tyler's contribution to the film. Nobody knows that they saw it but they did."
Tyler: "Nice, big c--k." [Note: This reference paid homage to Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966, Swe.) in which a random image of an erect penis was spliced into a projected film.]

The Narrator also added how Tyler, as a banquet waiter at the luxury Pressman Hotel, would sabotage the food (i.e., by urinating in the soup), and lauded him as a "guerrilla terrorist of the food service industry."

Returning to the parking lot, Tyler continued to goad the Narrator into hitting him: "Come on. Do me this one favor....Why? I don't know why. I don't know. Never been in a fight. You?...How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight! I don't wanna die without any scars. Just come on. Hit me, before I lose my nerve....So go crazy! Let 'er rip....who gives a s--t? No-one's watching. What do you care?"). When the Narrator/ "Jack" struck Tyler in the ear, he responded: ("That was perfect. It really hurts. Hit me again"). [Note: In fact, the Narrator was only beating himself up.] After their antagonistic fight, the two walked to Tyler's dilapidated, condemned "s--thole" building, where he had been living for a year. [Note: The onset of the Narrator's schizoid illness was also approx. a year earlier.]

Over time, others joined the two behind Lou's Tavern to fight each other, especially on Saturday nights. The Narrator found that every other problem paled in comparison to the nocturnal male-on-male violence ("After fighting, everything else in life got the volume turned down....You could deal with anything").

A macho, militant, subcultural group known as "Fight Club" developed when other disenfranchised and disaffected "tough guy" males came to fight on a regular basis inside Lou's Tavern's basement - as a way to vent their male rage and displacement in modern society. The Narrator found excitement (and a cure for his insomnia) and enjoyed pretending to be a victim in the twilight, underground world of the macho "Fight Club" that featured bare-knuckle boxing ("You weren't alive anywhere like you were there...Afterwards, we all felt saved").

The charismatic, anarchic punk and cult leader Tyler was the group's leader, who in the film's most publicized sequence, stated the club's rules and the concept of 'Fight Club':

"Gentlemen, welcome to Fight Club. The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club! Third rule of Fight Club: if someone yells 'stop!', goes limp, or taps out, the fight is over. Fourth rule: only two guys to a fight. Fifth rule: one fight at a time, fellas. Sixth rule: no shirts, no shoes. Seventh rule: fights will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight..."

Meanwhile after eight weeks passed, the Narrator received a phone call from Marla, who asked about his non-attendance at support groups, and then confessed that she was overdosing on a bottle of Xanax. The phone switched hands, and Tyler traced the call to Marla's home and saved her from dying (off-screen, and later flashbacked) and from cops called to the scene.

Afterwards, he brought her back to the house, and the two began an intense sexual relationship behind his closed bedroom door, bringing some tension to the triangular relationship between the Narrator and Tyler ("She invaded my support groups, now she's invaded my home"). When the Narrator first saw Marla in the kitchen, he asked: "What are you doing here?" - upsetting her. Marla remained oblivious to the Narrator's alternate personality, and only thought that the Narrator was either confused, sociopathic or a nutcase: "You are such a nutcase. I can't even begin to keep up."

One night, Tyler and the Narrator visited a liposuction clinic's dumpster to steal its sucked-out human fat (deposited in large plastic bags) to manufacture soap. Without the Narrator's knowledge, Tyler was using soap and other ingredients to also produce explosives. Tyler sprinkled pure powdered lye on the "Narrator's" hand - to teach him a lesson and provide a rite of passage: [The Narrator was actually burning his own hand.] "This is a chemical burn. It'll hurt more than you've ever been burned before, and you'll have a scar....Stay with the pain, don't shut this out...The first soap was made from the ashes of heroes, like the first monkey shot into space. Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing....This is your pain, this is your burning hand. It's right here!"; Tyler delivered his final conclusion after neutralizing the burn with vinegar: "It's only after we've lost everything that we are free to do anything - Congratulations. You're one step closer to hitting the bottom." At a department store with a cosmetics buyer, the Narrator gloated over sales of the soap: "We were selling rich women their own fat asses back to them."

While at work and confronted by his regional manager/boss Richard Chesler (Zach Grenier), the Narrator actually indirectly admitted (in voice-over) that his alternate personality was Tyler Durden when he threatened his boss for snooping in his trash: "Tyler's words coming out of my mouth. And I used to be such a nice guy." More and more males were attracted to the Fight Club, including Bob from the cancer support group. The Narrator became irritated when Bob stated that Tyler, a "great man," had invented the group. To settle the grievance, the two fought against each other at the Fight Club, and Bob defeated the Narrator.

In the next get-together of the Fight Club members, Tyler addressed them:

"Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who've ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables - slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy s--t we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war, our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."

Lou (Peter Iacangelo), the owner of the tavern where Fight Club meetings were held in the basement, interrupted the meeting to question what was going on. The Narrator/Tyler allowed himself to be mercilessly beaten up, but then retaliated by sprinkling blood from his wounds onto Lou's face, forcing him to agree to let the group remain.

The situation for the Narrator at work deteriorated when he provoked his boss Richard Chesler, by threatening to blackmail him by reporting the illegal use of failed test parts. He demanded to be given an increased salary as an outside consultant working from home, to keep quiet: ("I have a better solution. You keep me on the payroll as an outside consultant. In exchange for my salary, my job will be never to tell people these things that I know. I don't even have to come into the office. I can do this job from home"); the Narrator was prompty fired, and then when security guards were being called, the Narrator beat himself up in front of his astonished and disbelieving boss - it was a self-punishing fight, similar to the first fight he had with Tyler: ("I am Jack's smirking revenge!...Under and behind and inside everything this man took for granted, something horrible had been growing... and right then, at our most excellent moment together..."), the Narrator appeared to have been assaulted by his boss, and Chesler was framed for hitting him when security arrived at the perfect moment as "Jack" was begging: "Please don't hit me again." He was compensated with a telephone, computer, fax machine, 52 weekly paychecks, and 48 airline flight coupons. Fight Club was able to be funded by its "corporate sponsorship."

Jack Beating Himself Up After Being Fired By His Boss

With the increased popularity of the underground Fight Club holding meetings every night of the week, it began to morph into an organization known as Project Mayhem, that was committing increasingly-destructive acts of terrorism, arson and vandalism. The "homework assignments" to commit criminal acts were handed out by Tyler to each member in sealed envelope (i.e., demagnetizing videotapes in a rental store, urging people to destroy their lawns, reversing spike strips in entrance-driveways, feeding birds laxative seeds, etc.). Tyler preached about his new, more violent philosophy:

"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your f--king khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world."

Tyler was recruiting young "boxing club" Fight Club members to form an "army" of trainees - those who were ready to sacrifice themselves "for the greater good," to carry out his dirty deeds. One such act was Tyler's violent personal assault in a hotel restroom during a banquet against Police Commissioner Jacobs (Pat McNamara), to pressure him to halt his "War Against Crime" campaign against the Fight Club. Feeling distanced from Tyler's dictatorial leadership, the Narrator became jealous of the domineering Tyler, and also objected to the new path the club was taking under Tyler's direction - marked by an increase in self-destructive violence: ("I am sick of all your s--t!"). However, he wasn't allowed to ask questions about Project Mayhem. Suddenly, Tyler packed up and was gone.

During one botched terrorist Project Mayhem mission to destroy corporate art and trash a corporate coffee bar, Bob was shot in the head by a cop. The Narrator attempted to disband the multiplying, dangerous proliferation of Fight Club franchises throughout the country. He went on a long search to find the less visible Tyler, but felt he was experiencing a perpetual state of deja vu: ("Everywhere I went, I felt I’d already been there”), and was astonished that people were addressing him as Mr. Durden. [Note: He was in his own head where Tyler also lived.] During his travels, when he phoned Marla from his hotel room and asked her if they had ever had sex: ("Have we ever done it?...Have we ever had sex?"), she blew up at him - for being so confused - and she directly identified him as Tyler: "You f--k me, then snub me. You love me, you hate me. You show me your sensitive side, then you turn into a total asshole. Is that a pretty acccurate description of our relationship, Tyler?" It was now clearly revealed that Tyler Durden was actually one side of the split personality-psyche of the Narrator's own imagination.

In his hotel room, the 'twist' ending was made even clearer when Tyler suddenly appeared and engaged in a confrontational conversation with the Narrator ("Jack") - himself. "Jack" asked: ("Answer me. Why do people think that I'm you?"); Tyler responded with another question: "Why would anyone possibly confuse you with me?" And then answered: "Because we're the same person. We are the all-singing, all-dancing crap." The Narrator realized that he was one and the same with Durden - a split personality.

'Tyler' explained the "insane" schizoid phenomenon: ("You were looking for a way to change your life. You could not do this on your own. All the ways you wish you could be, that's me. I look like you wanna look, I f--k like you wanna f--k. I am smart, capable and, most importantly, I'm free in all the ways that you are not...People do it every day. They talk to themselves. They see themselves as they'd like to be. They don't have the courage you have to just run with it. Naturally, you're still wrestling with it, so sometimes you're still you...Other times, you imagine yourself watching me...Little by little, you're just letting yourself become Tyler Durden." [Note: "Jack" realized that during his sleeping hours, Tyler had begun to operate more independently of him.] "Jack" was able to locate Marla and apologize to her for his two-sided personality (she called him "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Jackass"), and affirm that he really loved her. She was skeptical of their relationship ever working: "You have very serious emotional problems," and denied his help and protection: "I don't ever wanna see you again!...You're the worst thing that ever happened to me!"

In the explosive conclusion, "Jack" attempted to turn himself into police where he confessed that he was the leader of a terrorist organization, and announced that the suspected Project Mayhem plan was to blow up the headquarters of a number of major credit card companies and the TRW building in the city: ("If you erase the debt record, then we all go back to zero. You'll create total chaos"). He had remembered that "Tyler" had told him about his soap explosive mixtures: ("With enough soap, one could blow up just about anything").

The "Narrator" was frantic that he couldn't subdue "Tyler," and abort the mission. He raced away from the police station (where some of the officers were Project Mayhem members who attempted to silence him) and was unable to disarm the bombs in the building. He also engaged in a fist-fight against "Tyler." He realized that the only way he could destroy, stop or kill "Durden" (and prevent the mayhem) was by destroying him and his voice in his head - by suicidally shooting himself.

The film returned to the opening sequence with only three minutes remaining before the bombs detonated - Tyler was holding a gun in the mouth of the "Narrator." The "collapse of financial history" was imminent ("One step closer to economic equilibrium").

[Note: There was a clever switcheroo in how the Narrator was able to trick Tyler's perceptions about the gun shot. Tyler thought he was rendered dead by a shot through the brain. In reality, the Narrator had shot himself through his cheek. The head shot completely vanquished the "Tyler Durden" side of the personality.]

Realizing that the gun was in his hand and that he was holding the trigger, the "Narrator" fired the gun through his own left cheek - although Tyler believed the bullet was shot into his brain. The gunshot effectively ended the mental projections of Tyler Durden; the Narrator barely survived his own 'enlightenment,' but was unable to stop Project Mayhem - and afterwards, he witnessed the destruction of various skyscrapers with girlfriend Marla Singer at his side as he assured her and told her: "Everything's gonna be fine. You met me at a very strange time in my life."

The Narrator/"Jack" (Edward Norton) - Dissatisfied, Insomniac and Corporate Worker

The Narrator's Apartment Walk-Through With Visual Effects Labels For Furnishings

The Narrator Hugging Testicular Cancer Patient Bob (Meat Loaf)

Another Support Group "Tourist" Imposter Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter)

The Narrator's Fantasy Plane-Crash

First Full-Blown View of The Narrator's Split Personality - Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) - on an Airplane

Tyler Durden's Business Card

In Bar, Tyler's Criticism of the Narrator's Consumeristic Life-Style

Tyler to the Narrator: "I want you to hit me as hard as you can"

Addressing the Camera, The Narrator Described Tyler's Part-Time Jobs as a Projectionist and Banquet Waiter

Tyler: "Gentlemen. Welcome to Fight Club"

Tyler Explaining The Rules of Fight Club

Tyler After Winning a Fight

The Narrator After a Bloody Fight

Marla Overdosing on a Bottle of Xanax

Marla in the Narrator's Home - Confused When Asked: "What are you doing here?"

Tyler After Having Sex with Marla

Tyler: "This is lye, the crucial ingredient"

Tyler After Sprinkling Lye on the Narrator's hand: "This is a chemical burn"

The Narrator's Suspicious Boss at Work: Richard Chesler

Tyler's Main Address to Fight Club Members

Tyler Beaten Up by Tavern Owner Lou (Peter Iacangelo)

Lou Forced to Agree to Let Fight Club Meetings Continue

Threats Against the Police Commissioner to Halt "War Against Crime" Campaign (Two Views)

The Film's Major Plot Twist - Hotel Room Confrontational Revelation: "Jack"/The Narrator = "Tyler Durden"
("All the ways that you wish you could be, that's me!")

Marla to "Jack": "You're the worst thing that ever happened to me!"

"Narrator" Shooting Himself (and Killing Tyler) in the Conclusion

"Narrator" With Marla Watching Destruction of Corporate Buildings


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z