Memento Beat Sheet

Memento Beat Sheet


Screenplay by Christopher Nolan
Based on the short story, Memento Mori, by Jonathan Nolan
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Running Time: 110 minutes
Year: 2001

For a thorough analysis of Memento, including two detailed story maps (both narrative and chronological) please support this site by purchasing my book, co-authored with Dan Calvisi of Act Four Screenplays, Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. Click here to download a FREE SAMPLE (PDF).


Memento Beat Sheet Story Map

PROTAGONIST: LEONARD SHELBY, 30s, insurance claims investigator
EXTERNAL GOAL: To find and kill “John G,” the man who murdered his wife.
INTERNAL GOAL: To atone for Sammy Jankis’ downfall


Memento Beat Sheet Opening Image


1-2 OPENING IMAGE: We see a Polaroid photo of a dead body at a crime scene, held by a hand. As the hand fans the photograph, the image fades, rather than developing and getting sharper as one might expect.

Memento Beat Sheet Opening

OPENING: The scene plays out backward, revealing LEONARD shooting TEDDY  and then taking a photo of his dead body.


2 – Leonard wakes up in a hotel room, distraught, with no memory of how he got there.


3 – Leonard shows the hotel clerk a Polaroid of Teddy. Teddy then walks into the lobby and greets
Leonard as if they were best friends.


Memento Beat Sheet Inciting Incident

5-6 – INCITING INCIDENT (EXTERNAL): Leonard pulls his gun on Teddy, who tries to convince Leonard that he’s got the wrong guy.

Teddy turns and heads for the door. Leonard LEAPS on him, pistol-whipping him furiously as he shouts:



Teddy is down. Leonard drags him back, deeper into the dark house. Leonard is in a frenzy. He dumps Teddy at the end of the hall and stands over him. Teddy SPITS BLOOD.


You don’t have a clue, you freak.

Leonard crouches down and grabs Teddy by the lapels.


Beg my forgiveness! Beg my wife’s forgiveness before I blow your brains out!


Leonard, you don’t have a clue what’s going on. You don’t even know my name.


(triumphant smile)



You read it of your fucking photo. You don’t know me, you don’t even know who you are.


I’m Leonard Shelby, I’m from San Francisco and I’m --


(bloody grin)

That’s who you were, you don’t don’t know who you are.


Shut your mouth!


Lemme take you down in the basement and show you what you’ve become.

Teddy gestures toward the basement door, in pain, but enjoying Leonard’s growing anxiety.



C’mon, Lenny -- we’ll take a look down there together. Then you’ll know. You’ll know what you really are.

Leonard glances fearfully at the door, then looks at Teddy. He THRUSTS the barrel of the gun into Teddy’s mouth and WE ARE THE SHOT FROM THE END OF THE OPENING SEQUENCE. Teddy panics, shaking his head, trying to talk around the metal, but GAGS just as Leonard pulls the trigger.


6 – Leonard explains his condition and his system for remembering by leaving notes for himself and writing on Polaroids. Leonard mentions how Sammy Jankis had no system.


8 – Leonard writes “He is the one. Kill him.” on the back of Teddy’s Polaroid.

8-10 – Leonard explains his short-term memory problem to the HOTEL CLERK. He can’t make new memories, so his mind “resets,” wiping his memory at random intervals.


10 – INCITING INCIDENT (INTERNAL): The phone rings – Leonard answers, “Who is this?”


Memento Beat Sheet Remember Sammy Jankis

12- Leonard washes up in the bathroom of a restaurant. We see tattoos on Leonard’s arm and one on his hand: Remember Sammy Jankis.

12 – Leonard walks into his room at the Discount Inn, tacks his photos up on his case map on the wall.

Memento Beat Sheet John G Chest Tattoo

15 – Leonard looks over documents and fingers Teddy as his wife’s killer.

Leonard looks coldly at Teddy’s smiling image.


I found you, you fuck.

Leonard turns the photo face down, takes a pen and writes:


Leonard drops the pen. Thinks. He looks at his chest through the mirror and a backwards tattoo suddenly BECOMES CLEAR:


Leonard buttons his blue shirt, then writes on the back of Teddy’s picture:



16 – Leonard talks on the phone to an unknown party, telling the story of SAMMY JANKIS, a man who suffered from the same memory condition, but didn’t have the discipline and drive to deal with it like Leonard.


17 – Leonard meets NATALIE at a diner.

Memento Beat Sheet Natalie

18 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD (EXTERNAL): Natalie gives Leonard a package with info from the DMV on John Edward Gammel/Teddy. Natalie can’t talk Leonard out of his revenge plan.

Natalie slides the envelope towards him, but stops short.


This is a copy of his registration, license, photo and all. Are you sure you want this?


Have I told you what this man did?




THen you shouldn’t have to ask.


But even if you get your revenge, you won’t remember. You won’t even know it’s happened.



So I’ll take a picture, get a tattoo.


The world doesn’t disappear when you close your eyes, does it? My actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. My wife deserves vengeance, and it doesn’t make any difference whether I know about it.

20 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD (INTERNAL): Leonard remembers his wife.


22 – Leonard was an insurance claims investigator. On the job, he developed his skill for reading people, to get to the truth. He would watch their eyes and look for other physical cues. Now, he uses the skill to navigate his life without the benefit of memory.


23 – Lunch with Teddy. Teddy claims Leonard told him he might be getting set up. Leonard says his notes are the facts, much more reliable than memories, which are just an interpretation, not the actual record.


25 – The hotel clerk admits he’s taken advantage of Leonard’s condition and rented him two rooms.

27 – Leonard meets Natalie at the diner.


Memento Beat Sheet End of Act One Internal

27 – END OF ACT ONE TURN (INTERNAL): Sammy’s memory problems result from a car accident. As an insurance investigator assigned to Sammy’s accident, Leonard doubted Sammy’s ailment and ordered more tests.


Mrs. Jankis opens the front door to Leonard. Leonard shakes hands with Sammy, who smiles at him in apparent recognition.


The doctors assure me that there’s a real condition called Korsokoff’s syndrome; short-term memory loss, rare by legit. But every time I see him I catch a look of recognition. Just a slight look, but he says he can’t remember me at all. I can read people and I’m thinking bad actor. Now I’m suspicious and I order more tests.


Memento Beat Sheet End of Act One Turn

28 – END OF ACT ONE TURN (EXTERNAL): Leonard wakes up next to Natalie in her house.

30 – Natalie says she’s helping Leonard because he helped her.


Memento Beat Sheet Act II-A

31 – Sammy’s tested with electrified objects, to discover if he could learn by instinct rather than memory. He failed, got angry.


33 – Leonard shows up at Natalie’s home, angry, holding a Polaroid of Dodd, bloody and beaten. Natalie is thankful, as she claims that Dodd beat her up and Leonard said he was going to take care of him.


Memento Beat Sheet Leonard and Natalie

35 – Natalie sympathizes with Leonard when she hears about his wife. She lost Jimmy, her boyfriend, to a guy named Teddy. She offers to help Leonard find John G.


40 – Sammy Jankis was dropped from his insurance and Leonard got a promotion.
Habit and routine make Leonard’s life possible. Sammy couldn’t adapt to conditioning.


Memento Beat Sheet First Trial First Casualty

40 – FIRST TRIAL/FIRST CASUALTY (INTERNAL): FLASHBACKS to his wife’s murder. We see glimpses of her being attacked in a bathroom. Leonard tries to stop it, but the attacker slams Leonard’s head into the mirror. Apparently, this is how he got the head injury that ruined his memory.

40 – FIRST TRIAL/FIRST CASUALTY (EXTERNAL): Leonard wakes up, confused, gun in drawer. Later, he finds DODD tied up and gagged in closet.


42 – Teddy doesn’t know Dodd, either. Dodd says Leonard beat him up.

43-44 – Leonard and Teddy release Dodd without hurting him.

45 – Leonard shows up at Natalie’s home, angry, demanding to know who Dodd is.


45 – COMBAT (INTERNAL): Sammy’s wife was devastated. With Leonard unable to help her convince anyone that Sammy’s condition was real, she turned Sammy in to the doctors, which led to his insurance being canceled.


Memento Beat Sheet Dodd Combat

46-47 – COMBAT (EXTERNAL): Leonard in a hotel bathroom, disoriented. He takes a shower, and Dodd comes in to piss, unaware that he’s not alone. Leonard knocks Dodd out, gags him, puts him in the closet, takes a photo of him. Calls Teddy and leaves a message.


49 – Leonard preparing to draw a tattoo with a hot pin and ink. He talks to the caller about Mrs. Jankis.


49-52 – In a trailer park, Leonard “wakes up” while running from Dodd , who fires a gun at him. Leonard gets away. He discovers a motel room number for Dodd, given to him by Natalie. He sneaks into Dodd’s room, waits in bathroom for him, but then loses the memory of why he’s there.


Memento Beat Sheet Access to Drugs

52 – Leonard holds up index card with the following text: “Tattoo: Fact 5 / Access to drugs.”


53 – Leonard starts out at an abandoned construction site. After he leaves the site, Dodd finds Leonard in the Jaguar. Leonard is forced to abandon the car when Dodd pulls a gun, but Dodd chases him on foot through a trailer park. Is the Jag Dodd’s car?


53 – As Leonard begins his tattoo, the phone rings. He answers, “Who is this?”


Memento Beat Sheet Midpoint

54-56 – MIDPOINT: Leonard burns the last of his wife’s personal items.


He places the BOOK on the fire. He reaches into the bag, produces a BRA and a HAIRBRUSH. He puts the bra on the fire, then pulls some BLACK HAIR out of the hairbrush. He holds a few strands out above the fire until they shrivel up in the heat. He does this with a larger clump and it produces a SMALL FLAME so he DROPS it into the fire.


Probably tried this before. Probably burned truckloads of your stuff. Can’t remember to forget you.

He DROPS the brush onto the fire, pulls a GREEN ALARM CLOCK out of the bag and adds it to the fire. Once the bag is EMPTY, Leonard place sit on the fire. He sits looking at the flames.


Memento Beat Sheet Act II-B

57 – On phone again with someone, looking through police records with several of the lines crossed-out. Leonard: “They weren’t even looking for John G.”


59 – Leonard wakes up, finds a HOOKER in bathroom of his hotel room.

Holding a paper sack, Leonard gets in his car (we know the sack contains his wife’s items that he will burn).


60 – On phone with unknown caller. Fact 5: John G. is a drug dealer.


61 – Going off the address written on a coaster, Leonard arrives at the Discount Inn and sets up his case map on the wall. Later, an escort arrives and Leonard asks her to stage the room with his wife’s items. Once he’s asleep, he asks her to slam the door (re-enacting his wife’s murder in an attempt to jar his memory, remember the killer).


62-64 – At the insurance company offices, Sammy’s wife pushes Leonard to give his opinion on whether Sammy is faking or not. Pushed for an answer, Leonard tells Sammy’s wife, “I believe that Sammy should be physically capable of making new memories.” She thanks him.


Memento Beat Sheet Trust Teddy or Natalie?

65-69 – Teddy pops up in Leonard’s car after Leonard leaves Natalie’s house. Teddy tells him Natalie and her boyfriend are drug dealers and can’t be trusted. Teddy makes Leonard write “Do not trust her” on the back of Natalie’s photo.

WHO DO WE TRUST – Teddy or Natalie?


69 – Leonard is on the phone when he spots a tattoo: Never answer the phone! He demands to know who he’s talking to. Click. The line goes dead.


70 – Natalie walks into her home, beaten up, bleeding. She claims Teddy stole drugs from Dodd and Dodd beat her up. She writes a note with Dodd’s address at the hotel.


73 – The phone keeps ringing. Leonard calls the front desk and asks them to hold his calls.


Memento Beat Sheet Assumption of Power

75 – ASSUMPTION OF POWER (EXTERNAL): At her place, Natalie asks Leonard to kill Dodd, who was told by Teddy that Leonard has Jimmy’s car and money. She incites Leonard, calling his wife a whore, and he punches her. She leaves and then sits in driveway in her car. Leonard scrambles to find a pen to no avail. His memory resets and she barges in, claiming that Dodd beat her up.


77 – The hotel clerk tells Leonard a cop called for him.


79 – Leonard tells Natalie about the night his wife was killed.


81 – An envelope is slid under Leonard’s hotel door. “Take my call” is written on the envelope. Inside, Leonard finds a Polaroid of himself, smiling, covered with blood and pointing to a tattoo-less spot on his chest.


82 – At the bar, Leonard meets Natalie, the bartender. He drinks a beer, patron laughs, she says “you really do have a problem, like the cop said.”


83 – Leonard picks up the phone, paranoid and scared. What does the cop want?


84 –Natalie tells Leonard her boyfriend is Jimmy Grants. She claims Jimmy knows Leonard, and that a cop came by looking for him.

Memento Beat Sheet End of Act Two

86 – END OF ACT TWO (EXTERNAL): Natalie tests Leonard’s memory problem by serving him beer that was spit in. She now knows she can use him to get what she wants.


Memento Beat Sheet End of Act Two Internal

87-90 – END OF ACT TWO (INTERNAL): Mrs. Jankis tests Sammy by having him repeatedly inject her with insulin. As a result, she fell in a diabetic coma and died. In the aftermath, Sammy was put in a home. That’s when Leonard knew that Sammy was not faking and that his memory problem was real.


Memento Beat Sheet Act III

90 – Leonard slams on the brakes in front of a tattoo parlor. Inside, he gets a tattoo of a license plate number: SG137IU.

91 – Teddy tells Leonard to change his clothes and leave town, as a dirty cop is looking for him, the same cop who checked him into the Discount Inn. Teddy explains that the cop is the one who keeps calling Leonard and lying to him. Leonard finds a coaster from Natalie’s bar in his pocket that says, “Come by after.” Leonard ditches Teddy and drives away.


94 – In his room at the Discount Inn, Leonard’s in casual clothes for first time. He’s on the phone with the cop. Before he hangs up, he tells the cop “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” In the lobby, Teddy is waiting for him.

Memento Beat Sheet Point of No Return

97 – POINT OF NO RETURN (EXTERNAL): Leonard arrives in a pickup truck at the remote industrial location (CATCH UP TO THE OPENING). JIMMY GRANTS arrives, wearing the slick grey suit we’ve previously seen on Leonard, looking for Teddy. Believing Jimmy to be the man who killed his wife, Leonard strangles Jimmy, takes his photo and changes into his suit.


100 – POINT OF NO RETURN (INTERNAL): Jimmy, near death, says “Sammy?”


101 – Teddy tries to convince him Jimmy is the guy, but Leonard won’t buy it. Teddy lays out what he claims is the truth about Leonard…

Memento Beat Sheet Climax Internal

102-106 – CLIMAX (INTERNAL): TEDDY’S EXPLANATION: Sammy Jankis is a figment of Leonard’s imagination.

Further, Teddy claims that Leonard already killed the man who raped his wife. Teddy was the cop on the case, the only one who believed Leonard, so he helped him locate John G. a year ago and Leonard killed him. The photo of Leonard smiling was taken by Teddy right after he killed John G. But Leonard didn’t remember killing John G. and was still hungry for revenge, so Teddy helped perpetuate his search.

Leonard looks at the Polaroid of himself.


That’s the picture, right? I took that, right when you did it. Look how happy you are. Before you forgot. I wanted to see that face again.



Thank you.


Fuck you; I gave you a reason to live and you were more than happy to help. You lie to yourself! You don’t want the truth. You make up your own truth, like your police file.

Memento Beat Sheet Climax

107 – CLIMAX (EXTERNAL): Leonard rejects Teddy’s explanation and writes “Don’t believe his lies” on the back of Teddy’s photo and burns the photo of himself and Jimmy, making Teddy his own John G. He writes a reminder to get a tattoo of Teddy’s license plate number, takes the Jag, the gun and the money, and drives off.

Leonard writes on the file card:



Do I lie to myself to be happy?

Leonard looks up at Teddy’s sedan and copies down the license number. The LINCENSE NUMBER of Teddy’s car is: SG13 7IU.


In your case, Teddy... yes, I will.


Memento Beat Sheet Epilogue

109 – As he drives the Jag, Leonard’s final words:


I have to believe in a world outside of mine. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world is still there. Is it still out there? Yeah, we all need mirrors to remind ourselves of who we are. I’m no different.

110 – Leonard slams on the brakes in front of the tattoo parlor, looks at his note that tells him to get a tattoo of Teddy’s license plate number: SG137IU.

110 – THE END.

Learn More About Memento

William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

Articles: 120


  1. As a deep fan of Chris Nolan, i like this article but as a aspiring filmmaker,i love this work guys and i have already started to check your other works which i hope to getting help from it to write my script as much quality as professionals. Thank you and keep up.

  2. Mesmerizing storytelling.

    It’s the constant nagging of a persons mind, in every day situations.
    It’s full of dread, anxiety, stress, doubt, paranoia , hope, disappointment, anger, frustration.
    Insecurity. Profound self conflict.
    It’s a little piece of everyone’s life in one form or another.
    I recently viewed the film ‘Memento’ in chronological order just to try dissect it even more.

  3. I have never took the time to comment on anything but I have to say Christopher Nolan is the best movie director screen writer in the biz I loved memento inception the uh one about the magicians all superior movies best I’ve seen in the new century keep up the good work

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