Before trilogy

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The Before Trilogy
Criterion Collection cover art
Directed byRichard Linklater
Screenplay by
Produced by
  • Ethan Hawke
  • Julie Delpy
Edited bySandra Adair
Music by
Distributed by
Release date
Running time
290 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.5 million[1]
Box office$61.5 million

The Before trilogy consists of three American romance films directed by Richard Linklater, and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Beginning with Before Sunrise (1995), and continuing with two sequels, Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). The films were all written by Linklater, along with Kim Krizan on the first film, and with Hawke and Delpy on the last two.[a]

Set and filmed in nine year intervals, the films chronicle the romantic relationship between Jesse (Hawke) and Céline (Delpy) at three periods of their lives. The characters also make cameo appearances in Linklater's animated anthology film Waking Life (2001). The making of Before Midnight is chronicled in a 31-minute documentary titled After Before, which was filmed on set.

The films are considered minimal, consisting mostly of monologues and casual conversation with extended dialogue between the characters. Contrasting ideas and perspectives on life and love are detailed, with the series referencing time, self-discovery, age, loss, and parentage; it is considered an exploration of postmodern romance.

The Before trilogy received widespread critical acclaim, nominated for two Academy Awards, two Writers Guild of America Awards, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for Delpy for Before Midnight. The series is also a commercial success, grossing $61.5 million worldwide against a combined budget of $7.5 million. Although discussed by the filmmakers and widely rumored, a fourth film is not in development.

The films were distributed by Sony Pictures (under their Columbia and Classics labels for the first and third films) and Warner Bros. Pictures (under its Independent label for the second only), while all three were produced by Castle Rock Entertainment; Before Midnight was also produced by Venture Forth and Linklater's production company, Detour Filmproduction.


Before Sunrise[edit]

Before Sunrise is set in a single night in Vienna as Jesse, an American student traveling Europe, and Céline, a French student visiting relatives, meet on a Eurail train to Paris. They wander the streets of Vienna and fall in love, but they go their separate ways and agree to meet again in the future.

Before Sunset[edit]

Before Sunset takes place nine years after the first film, and is set in a single afternoon in Paris. Jesse, now a married father and a best-selling author, meets Céline while on tour promoting his latest book, which retells their meeting in Vienna. They wander Paris and lament on not following through with their plans to reunite. At the end of the film, Jesse goes to Céline's apartment, deciding to miss his flight home to stay with her.

Before Midnight[edit]

Before Midnight takes place nine years later after the second film, and is set in a single day on the Peloponnese coast in Greece. Jesse and Céline, now a couple with twin daughters, argue over Jesse's desire to relocate to Chicago to be closer to his son, Hank, while Céline wishes to stay in Paris to take a job with the French government. Despite their relationship being tested, they eventually reconcile.


Before Sunrise was inspired by a woman whom Richard Linklater met in a toy shop in Philadelphia in 1989.[3] Due to the prevalence of dialogue, Linklater opted to collaborate on the screenplay with Kim Krizan, who previously appeared in his films Slacker (1990) and Dazed and Confused (1993).[3] According to Linklater, "her mind [is] a constant stream of confident and intelligent ideas",[4] as they talked about the film's concept and characters; only discussing an outline, the screenplay was written in 11 days.[4] Linklater wished to explore the "relationships of life and discover two people [of] complete anonymity and try to find out who they really were".[5] As a result, he decided on a foreign setting, deciding a person is "more open to experiences outside your realm".[5]

Casting for the first film took nine months;[6] originally against casting Ethan Hawke, considering him too young for the part,[7] Linklater hired him after seeing him at a play in New York City. After hiring Julie Delpy, Linklater asked them to read together in Austin, Texas, then deciding they were right for the roles.[7][4] In 2016, Delpy told Creative Screenwriting she and Hawke performed uncredited rewrites, stating "the original screenplay [lacked] romance. It was a lot of talking [and] Richard hired us to bring the romance to the film". Despite not being credited, Delpy claimed that a credit from a relatively unknown actress may have prevented the film from gaining finance.[8] Delpy and Hawke subsequently received writing credit for the sequels.

Linklater considered a larger budget sequel, to be filmed in four locations. His proposal did not secure funding, so he scaled back the concept of the film,[9] with Hawke, Linklater, and Delpy working independently on their own screenplays over the years. They also adapted elements of the earlier scripts for Before Sunrise for the sequel.[10]

Linklater described the process of completing the final version of the film as:

We sat in a room and worked together in about a two- or three-day period, worked out a very detailed outline of the whole film in this sort of real-time environment. And then, over the next year or so, we just started e-mailing each other and faxing. I was sort of a conduit – they would send me monologues and dialogues and scenes and ideas, and I was editing, compiling and writing. And that's how we came up with a script.[9]

Hawke said, "It's not like anybody was begging us to make a second film. We obviously did it because we wanted to."[11]

It filmed entirely on location in Paris. It opens inside the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the Left Bank. Other locations include their walking through the Marais district of the 4th arrondissement, Le Pure Café in the 11th arrondissement, the Promenade Plantée park in the 12th arrondissement, on board a bateau mouche from Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Henri IV, the interior of a taxi, and finally "Céline's apartment." Described in the film as located at 10 rue des Petites-Écuries, it was filmed in Cour de l'Étoile d'Or off rue du Faubourg St-Antoine.

Filming took 15 days, on a budget of about US$2 million.[9][12] The film is noted for its use of the Steadicam for tracking shots and its use of long takes; the longest of the Steadicam takes lasts about 11 minutes.[12] As the summer was one of the hottest on record, the cast and crew suffered along with the city residents, as temperatures exceeded 100 degrees F (38 °C) for most of the production.

The film is notable for essentially taking place in real time, i.e. the time elapsed in the story is the run time of the film. In the fast-changing temperate Paris climate, this created challenges for the cinematographer Lee Daniel to match the color and intensity of the skies and ambient light from scene to scene. The scenes were mostly shot in sequence, as they were still developing the screenplay. Producer Anne Walker-McBay worked with less time and less money than she had on Before Sunrise, but still brought the film in on time and on budget. The sequel was released nine years after Before Sunrise, the same amount of time that has lapsed in the plot since the events of the first film.

The film was released in the wake of Hawke's divorce from Uma Thurman. Some commentators drew parallels between Hawke's personal life and the character of Jesse in the film.[13] Additional comment has noted that both Hawke and Delpy incorporated elements of their own lives into the screenplay.[12][14] Delpy wrote two of the songs featured in the film, and a third by her was included in the closing credits and film soundtrack.

In the subsequent years, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy had all discussed doing a sequel to Before Sunset (or the third in a trilogy). In November 2011, Hawke said that he, Delpy and Linklater "have been talking a lot in the last six months. All three of us have been having similar feelings, that we're kind of ready to revisit those characters. There's nine years between the first two films and, if we made the film next summer, it would be nine years again, so we started thinking that would be a good thing to do. So we're going to try and write it this year."[15][16]

In June 2012, Hawke confirmed that the sequel to Before Sunset would be filmed that summer.[17] Soon after, Delpy denied filming would take place that year.[18] But by August 2012, numerous reports emerged from Messenia, Greece, that the film was being shot there.[19] The completion of filming the sequel, titled Before Midnight, was announced on September 5, 2012.[20] Linklater said that, after ten weeks of writing and rehearsing, the film was made in fifteen days for less than $3 million.[21] It premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January 2013.[22]


Critical response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
Before Sunrise 100% (48 reviews)[23] 77 (18 reviews)[24]
Before Sunset 94% (178 reviews)[25] 90 (39 reviews)[26]
Before Midnight 98% (207 reviews)[27] 94 (41 reviews)[28]

Before Sunrise received high critical praise at the time of its release. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 46 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Thought-provoking and beautifully filmed, Before Sunrise is an intelligent, unabashedly romantic look at modern love, led by marvelously natural performances from Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100 based on 18 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[24]

Film critic Roger Ebert gave Before Sunrise three out of four stars and described Julie Delpy as "ravishingly beautiful and, more important, warm and matter-of-fact, speaking English so well the screenplay has to explain it (she spent some time in the States)".[29] In her review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote, "Before Sunrise is as uneven as any marathon conversation might be, combining colorful, disarming insights with periodic lulls. The film maker clearly wants things this way, with both these young characters trying on ideas and attitudes as if they were new clothes".[30] Hal Hinson, in his review for The Washington Post wrote, "Before Sunrise is not a big movie, or one with big ideas, but it is a cut above the banal twentysomething love stories you usually see at the movies. This one, at least, treats young people as real people".[31]

Before Sunset received widespread acclaim from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it hold an approval rating of 95% based on 174 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Filled with engaging dialogue, Before Sunset is a witty, poignant romance, with natural chemistry between Hawke and Delpy."[25] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 90 out of 100 based on 39 reviews from mainstream publications, indicating "universal acclaim".[26] The film appeared on 28 critics' top 10 lists of the best films of 2004,[32] and took the 27th spot on Metacritic's list of The Best-Reviewed Movies of the Decade (2000–09).[33]

In comparing this film to the first, American film critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Before Sunrise was a remarkable celebration of the fascination of good dialogue. But Before Sunset is better, perhaps because the characters are older and wiser, perhaps because they have more to lose (or win), and perhaps because Hawke and Delpy wrote the dialogue themselves."[34] In her review for the Los Angeles Times, Manohla Dargis lauded the film as a "deeper, truer work of art than the first," and praised director Linklater for making a film that "keeps faith with American cinema at its finest."[35]

Before Midnight also received widespread critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 98% based on reviews from 207 critics, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The site's consensus is: "Building on the first two installments in Richard Linklater's well-crafted Before trilogy, Before Midnight offers intelligent, powerfully acted perspectives on love, marriage, and long-term commitment."[27] Metacritic gives the film a score of 94 out of 100, based on reviews from 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[28] It was listed as the third-best film of the year after 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.[36] According to Rotten Tomatoes, it was the second-best reviewed film of 2013 after Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity.[37]

According to Total Film's Philip Kemp, "As with its two predecessors — and with the films of French New Wave director Éric Rohmer, presiding deity of this kind of cinema—Midnight's essentially a film about people talking. But when the talk's this good, this absorbing and revealing and witty and true, who's going to complain?... [It's a] more-than-worthy, expectation-exceeding chapter in one of modern cinema's finest love stories. As honest, convincing, funny, intimate and natural as its predecessors."[38]

Perry Seibert of AllMovie also praised the film, writing: "The screenwriting trio fill the movie with long, discursive conversations (there are only two scenes in the first 20 minutes) that feel utterly improvised when they are performed, but are far too deftly structured to be anything other than the work of consummate artists."[39] Eric Kohn, from Indiewire, gave the film a rave review, adding it to his list of Top 10 Films of 2013. He wrote that "With Before Midnight, Richard Linklater has completed one of the finest movie trilogies of all time."[40] In 2021, The Independent ranked the Before Trilogy third on its list of "10 greatest movie trilogies of all time".[41]

Box office[edit]

Film Release date Budget Box office gross
Before Sunrise January 19, 1995 $2.5 million[1] $22.5 million[42]
Before Sunset February 10, 2004 $2 million[1] $15.8 million[43]
Before Midnight January 20, 2013 $3 million[1] $23.2 million[44]

Potential fourth film[edit]

Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have discussed continuing the series further, with changing levels of interest.[45]

In March 2020, Hawke stated a sequel may likely not follow the precedent of a nine-year gap between films. "If the first three were all nine years apart, the fourth would not follow that trajectory," he said. "Linklater would want a different path [but] we enjoy working together and being together. We have to make sure we have something to say."[46]

In June 2021, Delpy said that she had turned down going ahead with a sequel,[47] later clarifying, “we — [the] three of us — agreed we couldn’t come up with something good for a fourth one. It was an idea none of us liked [and] that was the end of it.”[48]


  1. ^ Linklater and Krizan received story credit for their work on the sequel (Before Sunset).[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Before Sunrise Franchise Box Office History - The Numbers". The Numbers.
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  30. ^ Maslin, Janet (27 January 1995). "Strangers on a Train and Soul Mates for a Night". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
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