In real life, a fortune cookie contains a strip of paper that provides the reader with a piece of advice. In fictional works, a character can receive a fortune cookie which doesn't include a fortune but the opposite of it, such as a demotivational phrase, a foreshadowing
of things to come, or something similarly grim. Often the plot of an episode is set in motion by these cursed messages, though they can also be used in the middle of the episode as a gag.
- An episode of The Twilight Zone aptly titled "The Misfortune Cookie" has an arrogant food critic receiving a fortune telling him "A grand reward awaits you just around the corner", then while walking home accidentally causes a bank robber to drop $100k in diamonds and is given $1000 as a reward. He goes back to the restaurant and gets a fortune saying "April arrives today bringing romance", referring to him meeting a woman named April. The two go to the restaurant, April getting a fortune telling her she will soon recognize her error in judgment and the critic's fortune saying he's going to die. He yells at the owner, she leaves him, he develops a neverending hunger and the last fortune he gets tell him it's because he's dead.
- Home Improvement: Al mass produces a 'Tool Time Game' he invented for the show but misses an error that causes the board to catch on fire. As he's wallowing in misery another guy offers him a fortune cookie. It says "Your best days are behind you." At Tim's insistence he tries another and it says, "You've gone as far as you can in life." At that point Tim accusses the guy of handing out misfortune cookies.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark? takes this trope literally in the aptly named "Tale of the Misfortune Cookie": The protagonist, a young Chinese-American who is disatisfied with his family's lifestyle and longs for fame and fortune as a comic book author, opens a special fortune cookie from his father's restaraunt. The fortune cookie promises him "perfect living within imperfect living" and transports him to an Alternate Universe where his everything he's ever wanted is his. But Be Careful What You Wish For is in full effect here: Though he has the fame and fortune he desired, he's now estranged from his family and has no friends.
- The "Weather the Cuckoo Likes" supplement to the Over the Edge RPG revealed that the fortune cookie maker on Al Amarja provides a much wider assortment of fortunes than most, including "you will be eaten by demons." They don't have a higher rate of accuracy than normal fortune cookies...unless you're deliberately using them as a form of divination.
- The Upright Citizens Brigade has a sketch where one patron gets discouraging messages that only make sense by adding the cliche "in bed".
- Mark Harvey Levine has a short play called "Misfortune" about a man who keeps getting fortune cookies that say he's going to die by the end of the night.
- In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you can buy fortune cookies from Timmy and Tommy's shop, then give the fortune to them for a prize. Usually, it's a piece of Nintendo memorabilia, but there's a 1 in 10 chance you'll get a pessimistic-sounding fortune that will yield you a random piece of furniture, flooring, or wallpaper.
- An episode of íMucha Lucha! has Buena Girl receiving a fortune donut that gives her a derogatory message completely destroying her self-esteem. The rest of the episode is Rikochet and Flea trying to get her out of her fugue.
- The Penguins of Madagascar episode "Misfortune Cookie" has Rico receiving a message telling him that he'll "meet a foul end". By "foul end" it meant "fowl end", as in "duck butt".
- Regular Show episode "Fortune Cookie" has Rigby swapping the fortune in his fortune cookie which read "Bad luck is coming your way" with Benson's, the former becoming lucky and the latter having his streak of good luck go south, culminating in him losing his home due to unpaid bills and almost losing The Park to a warlock. In the end it turns out the bad fortune was Muscle Man's until he swapped it with Rigby's and went on to play in the video game competition that Rigby was first picked for.
- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi episode "Cursed" has Yumi receiving a fortune telling her that she'll have a horrible life, while Ami's tells her that her life will be even worse. Ironically Yumi's fortune has a happy face on it and Ami's has a heart.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs there's a scene where after Flint's food machine goes rogue it drops a giant fortune cookie on the Great Wall of China, which cracks open revealing a fortune reading "You are about to be crushed by a giant corn". Immediately after a tourist reads it, a giant ear of corn falls down and begins rolling downward.
- The Rocko's Modern Life short "Fortune Cookie" had Filbert (nicknaming himself "Mr. Lucky") receive a bad fortune from his cookie. This triggers a chain of bad luck he suffers throughout the rest of the short, until he gets one little spot of good luck in the wake of causing disaster for everyone else around him.
Filbert: Bad luck and extreme misfortune will infest your pathetic soul for all eternity.
- Played as another example of confounding interest in The Simpsons episode "The Last Temptation of Homer", where Homer's fortune cookie reads "You will find happiness with a new love." To make it worse for him, he almost had gotten a cookie that would've said "Stick to your wife", because the "new love" cookies all came from the same barrel.
- An episode of Almost Naked Animals has Howie and Octo receiving fortunes that say they need to make new best friends. When they receive them again at the end of the episode, it turns out all of the ones from the restaurant had that printed to save money.
- In a Cutaway Gag on Family Guy Peter gets a fortune saying "Your wife is is thinking of leaving you."
Lois: What does it say Peter?
Peter: Just something about perserverance. What does yours say?
Lois: It says I'm very creative.
closeup on Lois' fortune: "He knows. You should do it now."
- In the second episode of Jackie Chan Adventures when the Chans are eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant and Jade reads her fortune.
Jade: "Danger looms in your future."
Uncle: We must be very cautious.
Jackie Chan: Pfft. You listen to a cookie?
Finn: Evening Chan.
Uncle: (slowly) Never mock the cookie.