Foreshadowing is an incredible plot device that has existed nearly as long as books have. While some of these little hints of what’s to come are blatant (like “The Dark Knight” using it in their trailers), others are so subtle you may have not even noticed it the first time around. Here are some of the best uses of foreshadowing in film. Spoiler alerts below:
This foreshadowing works so well because it’s a subtle line mixed into the chaos that is Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) interrogating Brett (Frank Whaley) – plus is blends perfectly into this scene. Jules simply states “Marcellus Wallace don’t like to be fucked by anybody other than Mrs. Wallace,” which is something we learn first hand when Marcellus stumbles into a pawn shop the next day.
While the Narrator (Edward Norton) beats himself up, he says in narration, “For some reason I thought of my first fight with Tyler.” Of course, as we learn later, that some reason is because he is Tyler Durden and that first fight was just him beating himself up in a parking lot.
X-Men: First Class
Sebastian Shaw’s iconic death scene was actually planned for some time by Erik Leshnerr, evidenced by him using that same coin on a drawing of Sebastian, similar to one throwing at a dartboard.
X marks the spot, or more specifically, the corpse. Anyone who was going to die in this Scorcese classic was telegraphed by appearing in a scene with an X in the background, whether it be tape, architecture or even a rug design.
While speaking with Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) about his mother, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) drops the line, “She’s as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.” Later, we find out he meant that literally as she is found dead and taxidermied.
Quentin Tarantino actually drops two hints that Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is the undercover cop mixed in with the rest of the thieves before the jewel heist. During the breakfast scene, Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) gives his speech on not tipping out of principle. When Joe (Lawrence Tierney) returns, he notices the tip is short and asks who didn’t pay up, where Mr. Orange immediately rats out Mr. Pink.
The more subtle foreshadow, however, is when Nice Guy Eddie is shown driving down the street with an orange balloon following him.
While flying on the helicopter to Jurassic Park, everyone puts on a seat belt, but Grant (Sam Neill) can’t put his on because he has two female buckles. This is the perfect metaphor for the dinosaurs, who are all female, but still find a way to reproduce with amphibian DNA.
During the bird trick scene, Sarah’s (Rebecca Hall) nephew freaks out during the trick and when Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) shows him the bird after to show that the bird is OK, the traumatized child asks, “But where is his brother?” This line is great because not only does it hint to us that Alfred has a twin brother, but it’s one that we don’t notice because we simply chalk it up to the kid being traumatized.
The Empire Strikes Back
As Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) trains in the Dagobah under the tutelage of Jedi master Yoda (Frank Oz). While inside a cave, a vision of Darth Vader (David Prowse) appears and in the battle, is decapitated by Luke, only for his severed head to reveal Luke’s face. This slight hint leads to one of the most famous film lines of all time as Vader ultimately reveals that he is Luke’s father at the end of the movie.
The Shawshank Redemption
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) talk to each other as Andy reveals where he would want to live in Zihuantanejo, Mexico, if he ever got out of prison. Red, who sees himself as an institutional man, tells Andy, “You shouldn’t be doing this to yourself. That’s just shitty pipe dreams.” Little did Red know, he was spot on.