Precise patterns of cell division and migration are crucial to transform the neuroepithelium of the embryonic forebrain into the adult cerebral cortex. Using time-lapse imaging of clonal cells in rat cortex over several generations, we show here that neurons are generated in two proliferative zones by distinct patterns of division. Neurons arise directly from radial glial cells in the ventricular zone (VZ) and indirectly from intermediate progenitor cells in the subventricular zone (SVZ). Furthermore, newborn neurons do not migrate directly to the cortex; instead, most exhibit four distinct phases of migration, including a phase of retrograde movement toward the ventricle before migration to the cortical plate. These findings provide a comprehensive and new view of the dynamics of cortical neurogenesis and migration.