11 Clever Moments of Movie Foreshadowing You Might Have Missed

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While unexpected twists and surprising reveals can keep moviegoers engaged, sometimes a filmmaker can’t help him or herself from adding in a subtle moment of foreshadowing that warns of or suggests a particular plot line before it happens. Here are 11 movies that did just that.

1. PSYCHO (1960)

After Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) checks into the Bates Motel, she overhears the motel’s owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), get into an argument with his mother, who is emotionally abusive toward him. Nevertheless, Norman defends her when Marion suggests that their relationship might be toxic. Norman explains that his mother is “as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.” The line foreshadows the film’s twist when it is revealed that Norman killed and taxidermied his mother.

2. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

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In the middle of the second installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) goes to the planet Dagobah to meet Master Yoda to begin his Jedi training. During his journey, he duels with a vision of Darth Vader in the Dark Side Cave. Luke strikes Vader down with his lightsaber and finds his own face behind Vader’s helmet and mask. This hints at the revelation that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, which he learns at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

3. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

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The opening credits sequence of Back to the Future features dozens of ticking clocks in Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) laboratory. One of the clocks features actor Harold Lloyd from the silent film Safety Last! hanging from the minute hand. The clock foreshadows Doc Brown hanging from the Hill Valley clock tower, trying to harness a bolt of lightning to send Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his DeLorean back to the 1980s. 

4. TOTAL RECALL (1990)

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Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 science fiction film Total Recall is full of clever clues that keep audiences guessing as to whether Doug Quaid’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) adventure as a secret agent on Mars was real or merely a memory implanted into his brain. One of the biggest hints comes at the beginning of the film, when Quaid visits Rekall and one of the engineers tells him that he will experience “blue skies on Mars.” At the end of Total Recall, the Red Planet is terraformed and there is now a blue sky on Mars. 

5. RESERVOIR DOGS (1992)

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Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs follows a small group of criminals brought together to pull off a diamond heist. But when the police show up in the midst of the job, it’s clear that one of the men is an informant. The criminals are unknown to each other and are only referred to by colorful aliases (i.e. Mr. White). However, if you pay close attention to the opening scene, you can figure out that Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is the police informant who set up the rest of the gang.

During the breakfast scene, when Joe (Lawrence Tierney) leaves the table to pay the bill, everyone contributes a dollar for the waitress’ tip—everyone except for Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), who refuses to tip based on principle. When Joe comes back to the table, he notices that the tip is short and asks who didn’t contribute. Without hesitation, Mr. Orange rats out Mr. Pink.

Additionally, when Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) rushes to the hideout after the heist-gone-wrong, there’s an orange balloon following his car, which is a nod to the fact that Mr. Orange is after him.

6. JURASSIC PARK (1993)

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When Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), and lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) arrive to Isla Nubar for the first time, their helicopter slowly descends through a valley onto a launch pad on a lagoon. The descent is a turbulent one, so everyone buckles their seat belts. Dr. Grant finds that he has two female end buckles, but ties the straps together and manages to make it work. While the scene is meant as a comedic moment, it actually foreshadows that all the dinosaurs on the island are female, but manage to make it work and reproduce, thus “life finds a way.” 

7. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

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When Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) arrives at Shawshank at the beginning of the movie, Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) gives all of the incoming inmates a copy of the Bible and tells them that “Salvation lies within.” Eventually, Andy escapes from prison by digging through a concrete wall for 20 years with a small rock hammer that he has kept hidden inside the Book of Exodus in the Bible. When the warden discovers the hollowed-out Bible in his personal safe, he also finds an inscription from Andy: “Dear Warden, You were right. Salvation lay within. —Andy Dufresne.”

8. THAT THING YOU DO! (1996)

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At the beginning of That Thing You Do!, Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) and Lenny (Steve Zahn) go to Patterson’s Appliances to recruit Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) to be their new band’s drummer after their regular drummer, Chad (Giovanni Ribisi), breaks his arm. The guys are watching the TV show Fireball XL5 when Lenny remarks, “My grandma and I watched this. Three weeks, we've been watching it and last week, she realizes there’s strings. They’re puppets.” Jimmy responds with, “Yeah. They’re marionettes. That’s what they are.”

While the exchange seems like a throwaway moment, it actually hints at how Playtone Records will treat The Wonders when their song “That Thing You Do!” becomes a hit single. The band goes to California and essentially becomes puppets for the record label—appearing in a teen movie, performing on a variety show, announcing a fake marriage engagement between Jimmy and Faye (Liv Tyler), and recording a Spanish version of “That Thing You Do!” instead of Jimmy’s new original song.

Additionally, when local band manager Phil Horace (Chris Ellis) goes to Patterson’s to find the drummer of the band he saw the night before, a bus with an ad for Wonder Bread passes by the store, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to the band's name change.

9. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

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David Fincher’s Fight Club is one of the director's most popular movies because of its over-the-top style, memorable characters, and iconic twist ending. About two-thirds into the film, it is revealed that Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is the alter ego of the Narrator (Edward Norton) and that they are, in fact, the same character. While there are a number of visual cues that foreshadow this revelation, including single frames of Tyler Durden spliced into the film before he’s properly introduced, there’s one very clever moment where the Narrator beats himself in an attempt to blackmail his boss. The Narrator says, “For some reason I thought of my first fight … with Tyler.”

10. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)

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After Liz (Kate Ashfield) breaks up with Shaun (Simon Pegg), he drinks his sorrows away with his friend Ed (Nick Frost) at the Winchester Tavern. To cheer him up, Ed plans a fun-filled day of drinking the next day, which includes, “Bloody Mary first thing, bite at The Kings Head, couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here, back at the bar for shots.” Co-writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright actually reveal Shaun of the Dead’s entire plot with Ed’s plan: The first zombie Shaun and Ed encounter is wearing a nametag that says “Mary,” then a zombie bites the neck of Shaun’s stepfather, the king of his family. Shaun later saves a couple, Dave (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis), and his princess, Liz. The group then stumbles their way through a zombie herd to get back to the Winchester, where they shoot at the living dead.

There’s another moment of clever foreshadowing at the beginning when Shaun’s roommate screams at Ed, “You wanna live like an animal?! Go live in the shed.” At the the end of the movie, we see a zombified Ed chained up like an animal living in the shed in Shaun’s backyard.

11. THE AVENGERS (2012)

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When the superheroes assemble on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarrier for the first time, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) makes an offhanded remark about one of the ship’s engineers playing the classic arcade game Galaga. The objective of the video game is to defend Earth from invading aliens as they descend on the planet, which is exactly what The Avengers have to do during the Battle of New York with the Chitauri aliens in the film’s climax.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

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Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
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- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

25 Facts About Back to the Future On Its 35th Anniversary

Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985).
Michael J. Fox stars as Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985).
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On July 3, 1985, Michael J. Fox created a time travel movie for a whole new generation when he hopped inside a tricked-out DeLorean and zoomed back in the time—with a little help from some stolen plutonium—to ensure his future existence. In celebration of the film’s 35th anniversary, here are a few things you might not have known about Marty, Doc, and Doc's pet chimpanzee.

1. The Back to the Future script was rejected more than 40 times.

Back to the Future may be considered a contemporary classic today, but the initial response to the script hardly predicted how big of a hit it would become. As screenwriter Bob Gale told CNN in 2010:

“The script was rejected over 40 times by every major studio and by some more than once. We'd go back when they changed management. It was always one of two things. It was ‘Well, this is time travel, and those movies don't make any money.’ We got that a lot. We also got, ‘There's a lot of sweetness to this. It's too nice, we want something raunchier like Porky's. Why don't you take it to Disney?"

2. Disney’s studio executives thought Back to the Future was too raunchy.

Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson in Back to the Future (1985)
Lea Thompson and Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future (1985).
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Ironically, whereas other major studios saw Back to the Future as a sweet, family-friendly picture that would make a perfect fit for Disney, the Mouse House’s executives thought otherwise. After hearing “take it to Disney” enough times, Gale and director Robert Zemeckis decided to do just that. “This was before Michael Eisner went in and reinvented [Disney],” Gale told CNN. “This was the last vestiges of the old Disney family regime. We went in to meet with an executive and he says, ‘Are you guys nuts? Are you insane? We can't make a movie like this. You've got the kid and the mother in his car! It's incest—this is Disney. It's too dirty for us!"

3. One studio thought Back to the Future would work better if it was retitled Space Man From Pluto.

Worried that people would shun a film with the word future in its title, one of the executives Gale and Zemeckis met with suggested that they retitle the film Space Man From Pluto.

4. Steven Spielberg sent his own memo in response to the note about changing the future of Back to the Future.


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In a 2014 interview with ShortList, Bob Gale admitted that he and Robert Zemeckis were at a bit of a loss over what to do with the title change suggestion. “We took the memo to Steven [Spielberg], who told us ‘Don’t worry, I know how to handle him,’ before writing a letter back which said, ‘Hi Sid, thanks for your most humorous memo, we all got a big laugh out of it, keep ‘em coming.’ Steven knew he would too embarrassed to say that he wanted us to take the letter seriously. Luckily nobody questioned the title after that. Without Steven, it could have all been very different."

5. At no point in any of the Back to the Future movies did anyone predict the Florida Marlins would win the 1997 World Series.

Or the 2003 World Series—no matter what any social media posts you’ve seen to the contrary. Though the rumor has been around since 1997, but as Snopes reports:

“As intriguing as it might be to believe so, the film Back to the Future Part 2, the 1989 sequel to the 1985’s hit Back to the Future, made no prediction, correct or otherwise, about the results of the 1997 World Series. At the beginning of the film, time-travelling scientist Doc Brown takes Marty McFly forward in time to 21 October 2015 in an effort to alter the future and prevent Marty’s (as yet unborn) children from ending up in prison. While in the future year 2015, Marty watches a holographic sports news broadcast announcing that the Chicago Cubs have swept an unnamed Miami team (represented by a gator, not a marlin) to win the World Series. This broadcast inspires Marty to buy a sports almanac and take it back to the past with him so that he can make accurate bets on future sporting events, but the contents of the almanac are not revealed in the film.”

6. Marty McFly and Doc became friends when Marty snuck into his lab as a teen and ended up with a part-time job.

Have you ever wondered how Marty and Doc became friends in the first place? Well, we did—often enough that, in 2011, we posed that very question to Bob Gale, who shared the origin of Marty and Doc's friendship with Mental Floss:

"He snuck into Doc’s lab, and was fascinated by all the cool stuff that was there. When Doc found him there, he was delighted to find that Marty thought he was cool and accepted him for what he was. Both of them were the black sheep in their respective environments. Doc gave Marty a part-time job to help with experiments, tend to the lab, tend to the dog, etc."

7. Slate wasn’t totally convinced that it was Bob Gale who had, in fact, told us about Marty and Doc’s Back to the Future backstory.

When Slate wrote a story questioning whether Bob Gale was actually behind the explanation, the screenwriter very kindly helped prove the story did indeed come from him by sending us this:

8. In the early drafts of Back to the Future, the time machine was made out of an old refrigerator.

Well, sort of an old refrigerator. “Way back in that second draft, it was going to be a ‘time chamber,’ not unlike a refrigerator, and Doc Brown had to carry it on the back of his truck," Gale explained.

9. Doc Brown originally had a pet chimpanzee in Back to the Future.

Sid Sheinberg, the head of Universal, was anti-chimpanzee: "I looked it up," he told Gale, "no movie with a chimpanzee ever made any money."

“We said, what about those Clint Eastwood movies, Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can,?” Gale and Zemeckis countered. “He said, ‘No, that was an orangutan.’ So, we have a dog.”

10. Pizza Hut sold Back to the Future Part II promotional sunglasses, a.k.a. “solar shades,” for $1.99.

They were totally ‘80s and pretty sweet. Fortunately, if you missed out on the original 1989 promotion, you can still find a pair on eBay on occasion. Get yours today—just prepare to spend $40 or more.

11. Princess Diana attended the London premiere of Back to the Future Part II in 1985.

No word on what Di thought of the film.

12. Ronald Reagan quoted Back to the Future in his 1986 State of the Union.

It has long been stated that Ronald Reagan was offered the role of Hill Valley's mayor in Back to the Future III, but turned it down. What is known is that the Reagans hosted a screening of the movie at the White House, and both the POTUS and the First Lady were fans of the film. So much so that Reagan even quoted it in his 1986 State of the Union address, stating: "Where we're going, we don't need roads."

13. Tom Wilson, who played Biff, carried around a card that answered every Back to the Future fan’s most frequently asked questions.

After 35 years of being asked the same questions about Back to the Future again and again, it makes sense that Tom Wilson—who played bully Biff—might want to streamline the process. So who carried around a card that answered all of the questions he was asked most often.

14. Elijah Wood made his film debut in Back to the Future II.

Elijah Wood’s first big-screen appearance came in 1989, where he played the kid playing the arcade game Wild Gunman in the Cafe 80s.

15. John DeLorean wrote Bob Gale a letter thanking him for Back to the Future.

John DeLorean, the visionary behind the sports car-turned-time travel machine, sent Bob Gale a note of gratitude about featuring his vehicle in the film. It read: “Thank you for keeping my dream alive.”

22. The real Hill Valley High School counts one former president among its alumni.

Whittier High School, a public high school in Whittier, California, played the role of Hill Valley High School in Back to the Future. In real life, it was Richard Nixon's alma mater.

23. Richard Nixon makes an appearance in Back to the Future II.


Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Look closely at the headlines on the front page of the Hill Valley Telegraph, which reports that Doc Brown has been declared legally insane and committed to a psychiatric institution. Just to the right of that story, you’ll see another story—purportedly from 1985—that reads: “Nixon to Seek Fifth Term; Vows End to Vietnam War by 1985.”

24. The whole Hill Valley Telegraph is worth another look.

As Jonathan Chiat noted in an excellent round-up of the paper's front pages for New York Magazine, "It is unclear why the Telegraph’s editors would devote such extensive space to Biff Tannen gambling coverage."

25. Homer Simpson took a stab at portraying Back to the Future’s Doc Brown.

In the early 1990s, there was a Back to the Future cartoon which featured Dan Castellaneta as the voice of Doc Brown. Castellaneta is best known as the voice of Homer Simpson on The Simpsons.