The Before trilogy consists of three films directed by Richard Linklater and starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as lovers Jesse and Céline at three different parts of their lives. The trilogy consists of the films Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and Before Midnight (2013). Filmed and set at nine-year intervals, each film takes place over the course of a few hours. A short sequence in the animated anthology film Waking Life also features the characters.
Before Sunrise, the first film in the trilogy, is set in a single night in Vienna, Austria. Jesse, an American student traveling Europe, and Céline, a French student returning to university after visiting relatives, meet on a train traveling to Vienna from Budapest, Hungary. The two wander the streets of Vienna and become romantically interested in each other. At the end of the film, they part, but agree to meet again in the future.
Before Sunset takes place nine years after the first film, and is set in a single afternoon in Paris, France. Jesse, now a best-selling author, has a chance encounter with Céline while on tour in Europe promoting his latest book, an account of their prior meeting in Vienna. They lament that they had not followed through with their prior plans to meet again, and wander Paris having conversations similar to the first film. At the end of the film, Jesse returns to Céline's apartment and intentionally misses his plane to return to the U.S. to spend more time with her.
Before Midnight takes place nine years later, and is set in a single afternoon in at a seaside village in Greece. Jesse and Céline are now a couple, Jesse having divorced the mother of his son Hank. The two have twin daughters together, and initially appear happy, but the relationship is at a crossroads as Jesse wishes to move to Chicago to be closer to his son, while Céline wishes to stay in Paris to take a job with the French government. The two have a heated argument over the matter, but reconcile by the end of the film.