The principles underlying the variations in patterns of mammalian embryonic movements have not been established. In an attempt to clarify the mechanism that is responsible for the variations in motor patterns, we carried out a precise quantitative spatiotemporal analysis of movements in mouse embryos, using a transplacental perfusion method for the in vitro maintenance of live mammalian embryos. Episodes of spontaneous movements at the inception of motility, at embryonic day 12.5, occurred once every few minutes, lasted for several seconds and consisted of successive movements of body regions, the spatiotemporal patterns of which varied from episode to episode. By analysing and categorizing the patterns of these movements, we found that embryonic movements follow relatively few restricted patterns with respect to the order of the movements of body regions. A further analysis of episodes at high spatiotemporal resolution revealed that most of the episodes in a major category could be classified into two distinct subtypes. Each of these subtypes had its own highly reproducible spatiotemporal patterns of movement. Overall, these results show that early embryonic movements follow relatively few rather stereotyped patterns, and random local fluctuations have little effect on such movement patterns. The appearance of one pattern out of several rather stereotyped patterns may be the main cause of apparent variations in patterns of early embryonic movements. The stereotyped patterns may represent important orderly characteristics of spontaneous embryonic activities that may be involved in the development of orderly structures and functions in higher animals.