Before Sunrise (1995) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.

  • American tourist Jesse and French student Celine meet by chance on the train from Budapest to Vienna. Sensing that they are developing a connection, Jesse asks Celine to spend the day with him in Vienna, and she agrees. So they pass the time before his scheduled flight the next morning together. How do two perfect strangers connect so intimately over the course of a single day? What is that special thing that bonds two people so strongly? As their bond turns to love, what will happen to them the next morning when Jesse flies away?

  • Jesse, an American, has been traveling around Europe on his own aimlessly for the past few weeks on his Eurail pass. His last stop, where he is currently heading, is Vienna, from where he will catch a flight home tomorrow morning. Celine, a Parisienne, had been in Budapest visiting her grandmother. She is currently heading back to Paris to resume her studies at the Sorbonne. Jesse and Celine meet by chance on the same westbound train out of Budapest. The connection they feel from their short conversation on the train is enough for Jesse to suggest at the last minute that she get off the train with him in Vienna and that they spend time together in Vienna - just wandering around the city as was his original plan as he doesn't have the money for a hotel - before he needs to go to the airport, and at which time she will board the next train to Paris. If it ends up she feels uncomfortable with him as time progresses, she could ditch him at any point. Celine agrees. As they wander from place to place in Vienna, they talk about their philosophies of life and love. They also talk about logistical issues regarding their time, such as why Jesse was in Europe to begin with, what they are feeling for each other, if there is a future for them together and if so what that future may look like taking into consideration both their current lots in life.

  • Two young people, a French graduate student and an American tourist, meet briefly on a train traveling through Europe. Each enjoy talking to each other so much that they decide to get off the train together in Vienna. As they wander the city together and their night progresses, their connection makes the idea of separating the next morning a difficult choice.

  • A French grad student named Celine meets an American boy named Jesse on the Budapest-Vienna train. They get off the train in Vienna and hang out for a while.

  • Before Sunrise is a romance between a young American (Jesse) and a French student (Celine). A chance encounter on the train incites intrigue, and Jesse provocatively suggests that Celine postpones her return to France and embarks instead on a spontaneous expedition to Vienna. In the course of their 14-hour relationship, the two share in their love for the unrehearsed and their appreciation for the unexpected as they explore in a powerful meeting of hearts and minds.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film starts with Jesse meeting Céline on a train from Budapest and striking up a conversation with her. Jesse is going to Vienna to catch a flight back to the United States, whereas Céline is returning to university in Paris after visiting her grandmother.

    When they reach Vienna, Jesse convinces Céline to disembark with him, saying that 10 or 20 years down the road, she might not be happy with her marriage and might wonder how her life would have been different if she had picked another guy, and this is a chance to realize that he himself is not that different from the rest; in his words, he is "the same boring, unmotivated guy." Jesse has to catch a flight early in the morning and does not have enough money to rent a room for the night, so they decide to roam around in Vienna.

    After visiting a few landmarks in Vienna, they share a kiss at the top of the Riesenrad ferris wheel at sunset and start to feel a romantic connection. As they continue to roam around the city, they begin to talk more openly with each other, with conversations ranging from topics about love, life, religion, and their observations of the city.

    Céline tells Jesse that her last boyfriend broke up with her six months ago, claiming that she "loved him too much". When questioned, Jesse reveals he had initially come to Europe to spend time with his girlfriend who was studying in Madrid, but they had broken up when she was avoiding him while he was there. He decided to take a cheap flight out of Europe, out of Vienna, but it didn't leave for two weeks so he bought a Eurail pass and traveled around Europe.

    When they are walking alongside a canal they are approached by a man who, instead of begging, offers to write them a poem with a word of their choice in it. Jesse and Céline decide on the word "milkshake", and are soon presented with the poem Delusion Angel (written for the film by the poet David Jewell).

    In a cafe, Jesse and Céline stage fake phone conversations with each other, playing each others' friends they pretend to call. Céline reveals that she was ready to get off the train with Jesse before he convinced her. Jesse reveals that after he broke up with his girlfriend, he bought a flight that really wasn't much cheaper, and all he really wanted was an escape from his life.

    They admit their attraction to each other and how the night has made them feel, though they understand that they probably won't see each other again when they leave. They simply decide to make the best of what time they have left, ending the night with the implication of a sexual encounter between them. At that point, Jesse explains that if given the choice, he'd marry her instead of never seeing her again. The film ends the next day at the train station, where the two hastily agree to meet together at the same place in six months as the train is about to leave.

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