This article addresses a persistent feature of Soviet cinema: plotlessness, or unstructured storytelling. I examine the phenomenon of plotlessness, its history, and its causes during the Stalin period to show, contrary to conventional wisdom, that many Stalin-era films were not classically constructed. Plotlessness resulted from an aborted transition to conventional storytelling in the mid-1930s when theme replaced story as the driving force behind narratives. This development required that Stalin-era filmmakers continue to experiment with plotting. The approach to storytelling they created was not only distinct from the historical-materialist mode practiced under Soviet montage but also an independent alternative to classicism.