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Forrest Gump is a 1994 film starring Tom Hanks and directed by Robert Zemeckis. It is based on the 1986 novel of the same name by Winston Groom.It's the tale of a good-natured but simple-minded man from Greenbow, Alabama, telling his life story to other people while waiting at a bus stop. As the story continues, you find Forrest touching important events and people from the 1950s to the 1980s (ranging from Elvis Presley to several Presidents), rising to his own measure of fame and fortune in the process, mostly by just being himself. Because he is so simple-minded, he doesn't fully understand the significance of everything that he has done and just sees himself as an average person just living his life. But he's forever pining for his childhood sweetheart Jenny (played by Hanna Hall and Robin Wright).Forrest's journey takes him from his native Alabama to the jungles of Vietnam, from walking in corrective leg-braces to running across North America, from misunderstood country boy to college football star to champion ping-pong player to shrimp tycoon, without ever quite losing the undying optimism of the era. On the other hand, Jenny's life takes her from a Catholic Schoolgirl to being in one of the early issues of Playboy, from a flower child of the '60s to a hippie protestor of the '70s. Between her and Forrest, they cover all the significant cultural emblems of that time period, all the while their lives intersect with each other repeatedly.
My momma always said, "Life is like a page of tropes. You never know what you're gonna get."
Accidental Athlete: Forrest ends up as a running back on Paul "Bear" Bryant's University of Alabama team when a couple of bullies chase him and he ends up running through the school field when the team was practicing. It helps when you consider exactly who he was seen by. For those of you unaware, Bryant is universally considered to be one of the greatest American football coaches of all time.
Accidental Hero: It's a case of Playing with a Trope. Forrest ran back into the combat zone to find Bubba, only to be called upon by other soldiers to rescue them, which he did by carrying them to the river. What he did was technically heroic, but he didn't intend to save four others and be awarded the Medal of Honor. On the other hand, he did intend to save Bubba, and he was aware of the danger of the situation.
Achievements in Ignorance: Forrest is so dense that he routinely attempts things other people wouldn't even consider, and so single-minded that he puts his maximum effort into everything he does. As a result, he meets spectacular success while the skeptics are left scratching their heads.
Almighty Janitor: After his myriad accomplishments that leave him a war hero, shaper of history, and gazillionaire, Forrest accepts the prestigious job of groundskeeper at the University of Alabama, which he ends up doing for free because he likes it so much. Hey, at least he's keeping busy.
Both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson play themselves posthumously and interact with Forrest through the use of archival footage.
The same technology was also used with Richard Nixonnote who died less than three months before the movie was released to theaters, Alabama Governor George Wallace, and John Lennon. A more straight version of this occurs in the Lennon scene, where Dick Cavett plays himself, made to look younger through make-up.
This was before easy computer manipulation, so these scenes where Forrest was integrated were a huge special effects triumph at the time.
Be Careful What You Wish For: As noted in the Foreshadowing entry, Jenny tells Forrest that her dream is to "be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice…" She gets that dream, all right, but she neglected to mention whether she'd be wearing anything, and when the time comes she isn't.
Forrest ends up with one on his cross-country jogging spree.
Lieutenant Dan also has one when he first meets Forrest again after the war.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: If you go with the hypothesis that Jenny has AIDS, you'll be left wondering why you don't see her with sores and lesions from Kaposi's Sarcoma, hair graying and loss, and other nasty symptoms associated with that disease.
Berserk Button: Call post-Vietnam Lieutenant Dan a cripple all you want, but he will hurt you if you dare call Forrest any variety of "stupid."
Try to even lay a hand on Jenny whenever Forrest is around.
Beware the Nice Ones: Forrest is the most even-tempered individual you could ever hope to meet, but he has a Berserk Button when it comes to anyone hurting Jenny. He is also incredibly strong due to being a football star and war hero.
Bittersweet Ending: Lieutenant Dan finds the strength to live and love again, Jenny has a son with Forrest, and Forrest's dream of being with Jenny finally comes true as they get married. But shortly after, Jenny dies, and leaves her son in Forrest's care, with Forrest passing on his torch to Junior and raising him.
Bubba's momma serving dinner, then being served to.
At the beginning of the movie, Forrest tries to get to know the bus driver, Dorothy Harris, because his mother has told him not to take rides from strangers and - Forrest being as dense as he is - to him, introducing themselves will make them not strangers anymore. At the end, Forrest Jr. immediately says upon being greeted onto the bus: "You're Dorothy Harris, and I'm Forrest Gump."
Broken Bird: Jenny. Engaged in a lot of self-destructive behavior and was very cynical due to her unhappy childhood.
Cargo Cult: Forrest mistakenly forms one merely by jogging across the U.S.A. and growing a giant Charles Manson beard. Only in the seventies.
Gump Groupie: I mean, it was like an alarm went off in my head, you know?! I said, here's a guy that's got his act together! Here's somebody who's got it all figured out! Here's somebody who has the answer! I'll follow you anywhere, Mr. Gump!
Cassandra Truth: Forrest's revelation that he's the owner of the wildly successful Bubba Gump Shrimp Company sends one listener off in unbelieving hysterics. The old woman was unbelieving at first, until he shows her a picture of him and Lieutenant Dan on the cover of Fortune.
Deadpan Snarker: Lt. Dan has a dry and bitter wit that is all the more apparent next to the plain and literal Forrest.
Dead Presidents/Not So Dead Presidents: "I went [to the White House], a-gain, [and met] the President, a-gain." The Running Gag is that he meets almost all of the ones he reasonably could. He even moons LBJ (sort of on request). He did ask if he could see the spot...
Tom Hanks also invoked the "a-gain" when he won the Best Actor Oscar for Forrest Gump, having already received one the year before for his role in Philadelphia.
Hanks: *inflecting Forrest's voice* So I went to the Academy Award, a-gain. And I won an Oscar, a-gain.
Death by Adaptation: Forrest's mother and Jenny die during the events of the film, but not in the novel. Forrest's mother dies between the ending of the novel and its sequel Gump and Co., and Jenny dies in the beginning of Gump and Co.
The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: It's debatable whether or not it's a fictional disease, but Jenny mentions that the virus she's suffering from is a terminal disease, in which it's left up to the audience on whether or not it is AIDS.
Dogged Nice Guy: Forrest. Jenny abandons him multiple times throughout the film and generally treats him like crap yet he thinks about her a lot and always welcomes her back.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: A downplaying is that he frequently praises Forrest for his dedication and obedience in the exact same tone of voice he'd use to berate anyone else. Of course, he does offer some backhanded compliments along the way:
Drill Sergeant: WHAT IS YOUR SOLE PURPOSE IN THIS ARMY? Gump: To do whatever you tell me, Drill Sergeant? Drill Sergeant: GODDAMNIT, GUMP! YOU'RE A GODDAMN GENIUS! THAT'S THE MOST OUTSTANDING ANSWER I'VE EVER HEARD! YOU MUST HAVE A GODDAMN I.Q. OF 160! YOU ARE GODDAMNED GIFTED, PRIVATE GUMP!
Here's another one:
Forrest Gump[having just completed assembling his weapon]: DONE, DRILL SERGEANT! Drill Sergeant:GUUUUUUMP! WHY DID YOU PUT THAT WEAPON TOGETHER SO QUICKLY, GUMP? Forrest Gump: ...You told me to, Drill Sergeant? Drill Sergeant: JESUS H. CHRIST! This is a new company record! If it wouldn't be a waste of such a damn fine enlisted man, I'd recommend you for OCS, Private Gump! YOU ARE GONNA BE A GENERAL SOMEDAY, GUMP, NOW DISASSEMBLE YOUR WEAPON AND CONTINUE!
This is how a Drill Sergeant is supposed to act - having a favorite may inspire people to turn on them, destabilising the team. The Drill Sergeant is just letting them know that Forrest is getting it right, but at the same time lets the team know nobody's getting any slack.
Driving a Desk: Mostly averted, as Forrest is almost seamlessly integrated into the historical footage, but they did a much better job digitally erasing Gary Sinise's legs. In fact, there's only one scene in the entire movie where the digital erasure of Sinise's legs fails: when he's picking himself up after the party girls leave on New Year's Eve. Watch carefully and you can see Sinise is clearly propping himself up on supposedly nonexistent legs.
Dude, Where's My Respect?: Lt. Dan wanted to die in combat, so naturally, he doesn't take living with amputated legs too well. And watching Forrest receive a Medal of Honor from the President himself sure didn't help.
Lt. Dan: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor. Forrest: That's Lt. Dan … [turns around and sees Lt. Dan] Lt. Dan! Lt. Dan: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor! Forrest: Yes sir, they sure did. Lt. Dan: They gave you, an imbecile, a moron who goes on television and makes a fool out himself in front of the whole damn country, the Congressional Medal of Honor?! Forrest: Yes, sir. Lt. Dan: Well, then, that's just perfect! Yeah, well I just got one thing to say to that. Goddamn bless America.
Dumb Is Good: Forrest is "stupid is as stupid does" which in practice means that he is polite to everyone he meets, and never considers sinister undertones in what he hears or sees.
End of an Age: Many have interpreted Jenny's death from a disease that might be AIDS as being symbolic of the death of the 1960s/1970s counterculture in the early 1980s.
Engineered Public Confession: Inverted: During Forrest's stump speech during an anti-Vietnam rally that he somehow got convinced to go to, a large percentage of the speech involving things he was going to admit to the people about his experiences in Vietnam during the speech actually ended up missed because a Pro-Vietnam police officer pulled the plug on the mike, and the mike's sound output was only restored right when Forrest finishes up the statements.
According to Tom Hanks, the actual censored portion of the speech was "Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don’t go home at all. That’s a bad thing." Arguably, seeing Abby Hoffman (who apparently heard the whole thing) moved to tears by Gump's speech was effective enough.
When he receives the Medal of Honor from Lyndon B. Johnson, Johnson jokingly expresses interest in seeing the wound on Gump's butt. Gump interprets this as literal, and… obliges his request. (LBJ, never the most reserved or well-mannered individual, absolutely loves it.)
Jenny gets caught by this too, after she tells Forrest "I wanna be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice..." She later gets that dream. But she never specified whether she'd be wearing clothes at the time, and ends up with just her guitar and her voice.
Jenny also tells Forrest that when he's in Vietnam, if he finds himself in danger, she wants him to run. As it happens, he ends up doing just that... running back and forth carrying wounded soldiers to a river bank during an ambush, earning himself the Medal of Honor.
Forrest thinks his Vietnam wound was literally worth a million dollars.
Forrest: They called it a "million dollar wound" but the army must keep that money 'cos I still haven't seen a nickel of that million dollars.
"I wanna be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice..."
At the very beginning of the movie, Forrest opens his suitcase and we see not only the Curious George book (which Mama reads to him and Forrest Jr. takes to show-and-tell) but also his Bubba Gump hat and his ping-pong paddle. We also see he's wearing muddy Nikes, which he wore when he ran for two and a half years. Even the box of chocolates shows up in his story when he gives Jenny a box at college.
A subtle example. Lt. Dan pokes fun at Forrest over his aspirations of captaining a shrimping boat, saying, "If you're ever a shrimping boat captain, I'll be an astronaut." Later, Lt. Dan shows up at Forrest and Jenny's wedding, sporting titanium legs which Lt. Dan explains "is what they made the space shuttle out of."
Framing Device: Most of the movie is Forrest telling his life's story to people at a bus stop.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: When we first see Forrest's platoon in action, they are walking through a rice paddy. You can see plumes of smoke behind, indicating they torched a village on the way over.
Genius Ditz: Forrest in the book has savant syndrome. In the film, his natural talent is running but he's also really good at putting guns together.
The Ghost: Jenny's sisters are spoken of but never seen.
God Is Good: After coming back from Vietnam, Lt. Dan is told stuff like this. One example is, "If I let Jesus into my heart, then I will walk beside Him in the kingdom of Heaven". He thinks it's bullcrap for a while, but after Hurricane Carmen, the two of them come to an understanding. Forrest notes that he "made his peace with God".
Good Ol' Boy: Forrest and many other folks from Greenbow, Alabama are honest and hardworking, but many others are not.
Handicapped Badass: Lt. Dan has no legs and he can still work on a shrimp boat and survive a hurricane from a ship's mast.
Forrest meets Jenny on the bus, where nobody wants him to sit next to them. Later when he joins the army by bus the same situation happens again, but this time its Bubba who allows him to sit next to him. Later when Forrest's son goes to school by bus he also introduces himself to the bus driver first.
Forrest being chased by bullies with Jenny defending him occurs both when he is a child, as well as when he is a teenager. The only difference is that they chase him by bike as child and by car as an adult.
Forrest's mother dies in bed in his house, mirrored later by Jenny dying in the same bed.
Forrest meets a President of the USA: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
Forrest beats up men who mistreat Jenny.
Honor Before Reason: Lt. Dan started off as this as his main goal was to die with honor, and was appalled at surviving as a cripple. Eventually he came to terms with this and became grateful that Forrest saved him.
Hourglass Plot: Bubba's mother and female ancestors had served as cooks for wealthy white people. When Forrest gives her and her family riches from Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, she becomes wealthy enough to hire a white woman to cook for her.
How We Got Here: Twice. The framing narrative is Forrest talking with people at a bus stop.
I Gave My Word: Lieutenant Dan was being sarcastic when he said that if Forrest ever became a shrimp boat captain, he'd be his first mate. But when Forrest does become a shrimp boat captain, Dan becomes his first mate.
Identical Grandson: Lieutenant Dan's ancestors are all played by Gary Sinise; all of Mrs. Blue's ancestors are played by the same woman who plays Mrs. Blue, Forrest's namesake General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, is also played by Tom Hanks.
Idiot Hero: Forrest Gump becomes, among other things, a war hero and a successful shrimp boat captain based on single minded determination and a lack of sense to know that what he's doing is stupid/crazy/dangerous etc.
Imagine Spot: When Forrest talks about Lieutenant Dan and Bubba's ancestors, and then happily inverted when Bubba's mom uses Bubba's share of Forrest's shrimping venture.
Innocent Inaccurate: Among other things, Forrest doesn't quite understand what the big deal is with desegregation, the war protesters, or the Black Panther Party. Also, he calls Jenny's father a "very loving man" because he was "always touching her".
Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Forrest (spine problems and autism) and later Lt. Dan (crippled). Both of them come to terms with their conditions and reach success.
Bubba's mother being served lunch by a white lady, using the exact same shot as the Imagine Spot of Bubba's mother's ancestors doing the same thing for their white employers. "…and so they shot him" is sort of one as well, considering the famous people Forrest has met (does the man have a death god following him?).
A less straightforward example is when Forrest's mother had to sleep with the principal just to allow Forrest to have a regular school environment instead of a special needs environment. During the mom and the principal's … "pleasure time", The Principal is faintly heard panting from outside. When the Principal afterwards asks Forrest whether he says anything at all, Forrest's response is to mime said panting (without realizing what it meant).
It Began with a Twist of Fate: In the original book version most of Forrest's adventures start with some variation of the following: "So I was just sitting there minding my own business and a guy comes up to me and says 'Do you want to [join the army/be in a play/play college football/get shot into space/star in a movie/etc.]?' Well, I had nothing else to do that day so I said OK."
It Will Never Catch On: Forrest doesn't seem too impressed by the "fruit company" Lt. Dan suggested he invest in, which we see is really Apple Computers, now Apple Inc.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lieutenant Dan in the movie is a rude hardass but also a patriot who wants to be the only casualty in his group. Perhaps surprisingly to some, Forrest in the original novel was more violent than the one in the film.
"Run Forrest, Run", "[Because] you told me to, Drill Sergeant?", "The secret of ping pong is never taking your eye off the ball", "I got it — The Medal of Honor — just by doing what you told me to do."
Defied in that Gump ignores Lt. Dan's order not to rescue him and chooses Good over Lawful, which leads to him winning that Medal Of Honor.
Kids Are Cruel: None of the kids, except Jenny, would let Forrest sit next to them on the school bus. A few in particular made a hobby of chasing Forrest around after school and throwing rocks at him.
Kissgusting: One of the hookers kisses Forrest on the lips and he pushed her away and spits, prompting her to ask if he's stupid (pissing off Lieutenant Dan). After they left, Forrest apologizes for ruining his good time, saying that she tasted like cigarettes.
The Klan: Forrest says he was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
Let The Past Burn: Forrest eventually does Jenny a favor by having her abusive home demolished.
Literal-Minded: Forrest has no concept of metaphor. For example, he thinks that "Recon plan Charlie" means looking for a guy named Charlie.
Meaningful Echo: When Forrest tells Jenny he loves her, she annoyingly tells him he doesn't know what love is. Years later, he proposes to her, but she declines, telling him he doesn't really want to marry her. His response: "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is."
Mentor Occupational Hazard: Lt. Dan tries to be this to a T, as he gives Forrest and Bubba advice on how to survive Vietnam (concluding the mentor part) and then tries to die fighting in the war, believing that it was his destiny. However, he didn't count on Forrest to defy that.
Narration Echo: On multiple occasions, due to Forrest's thoughts being so straightforward.
Forrest: *narrating* When I got home, I had no idea, but Mama'd had all sorts of visitors. Mrs. Gump: We've had all sorts of visitors.
Nice Guy: Forrest, it's this character trait that makes him the ideal hero for this film because there are few other nice guys. The summary calls him "an innocent in a nation losing its innocence".
Noodle Incident: Forrest's speech during the Vietnam protests, lost to everyone except those standing near him because the microphones have been sabotaged, but it moves those people to tears. According to Tom Hanks, it goes something like this:
"Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don't go home at all. That's a bad thing. That's all I have to say about that."
Bubba's montage talking about how shrimp can be cooked ends with him and Forrest scrubbing the floor with toothbrushes, which is a punishment. Why is never is explained.
No Infantile Amnesia: Averted: Forrest explicitly states that he has absolutely no recollection of his birth.
Only a Flesh Wound: Forrest gets shot in the buttocks in Vietnam and suffers no long-lasting ill effects. In fact, he gets all the ice cream he can eat. Notably, this is about the only part of the body where this can realistically happen (thus, why it's called a "million-dollar wound"). It also happens to infantrymen a lot, as one's natural inclination when crawling is to stick your butt in the air. Army training tries to curtail this but not everyone remembers.
Pinball Protagonist: Forrest just does whatever he feels like doing at the time. At one point, he becomes sort of a running guru and unintentionally leads a group of literal cross-country runners for months. At one point, he stops running ("Listen, he's about to say something!") and he just says "I'm kinda tired. I'm going to go home now," and just walks home (from the Nevada desert).
Runner: What are we going to do now?
Playing Gertrude: Sally Field, who plays Mrs. Gump, is just ten years older than Tom Hanks. And on top of that, they previously played love interests in the film Punch Line.
Pragmatic Adaptation: While the screenplay stays fairly close to the novel's structure (mostly as it relates to Forrest getting involved in life events), the character of Forrest is, in the novel, fairly smart; he just has extreme difficulty articulating his thoughts. The book is also rather dark and mean-spirited in several instances.
Hancock: "Your mama sure does care about your schooling, son!"
Scenery Porn: Many shots in Alabama are beautiful to look at. When Forrest decides to go running you see marvelous natural landscapes in various places in the USA.
Seemingly Profound Fool: A lot of people take Forrest's words at greater value than he does. The cross-country running, for instance. There's nothing political, social, or philosophical about it; he just "felt like running".
Seen It All: After a while, Forrest finds it hard to work up enthusiasm for meeting Presidents after meeting virtually each one during his life.
Sexy Discretion Shot: Invoked in the film, where Jenny climbs into Forrest's bed and the scene fades to black.
Jenny's date of birth ( which can be seen on her tombstone) is July 16, 1945, the date of the Trinity test in New Mexico, the world's first successful test of the atomic bomb. Her date of death, March 22, 1982, is also the date that the Space Shuttle Columbia launched on its 3rd mission (STS-3) … which landed at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.
The latter would at first glance seem not so significant within the film's context as the Columbia disaster happened long after the film's release. However, the backup commander for mission STS-3 was Ken Mattingly, who was portrayed by Gary Sinise (Lt.Dan) in Apollo 13, which also starred Tom Hanks.
Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Lieutenant Dan rides out Hurricane Carmen clinging to the mast of a small boat, challenging the lightning and waves to kill him while giving God the middle finger. Which, according to Forrest after, results in Dan's religious epiphany.
Forrest: (narrating) It's funny Lt. Dan said that, 'cause right then, God showed up.
This Is My Story: "Hello, my name is Forrest, Forrest Gump. Would you like a chocolate?"
Try Not to Die: One of Lieutenant Dan's two standing orders for his platoon (the other one is to always, always change your socks for clean ones regularly).
Unflinching Walk: While carrying the somewhat heavyset Bubba to the shore in Vietnam, an airstrike is raining bombs down just behind Forrest's heels. The only acknowledgement he gives of the explosions is a slight increase in walking speed near the end of the shot. It's made especially impressive considering he has a fresh bullet wound in his buttocks. Which may sound vaguely humorous, especially remembering Hanks' pronunciation of the word, but just take a moment to think about what it actually means. He either has a bullet or a jagged piece of debris lodged in a part of his body that is moving and flexing around with every step he takes, even moreso for the fact that he's running over difficult terrain and he still never even considers stopping. Unflinching indeed.
Unfortunate Names: Forrest is named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the KKK. This is awkward, seeing as how he would describe Bubba as "my best good friend." Forrest being Forrest, he didn't really understand what the KKK was.
Unreliable Narrator: Played straight for laughs, and for drama. The naive Forrest incorrectly describes events he witnesses through his life. Notable examples:
He believes that Charlie was someone the Army was looking for, as opposed to the codename for the Vietcong; and that Apple (Computers) was a fruit company.
A few darker examples occur, as well - like describing Jenny's father as "a very loving man," unaware that what he witnessed were signs of sexual abuse.
The novel ends with the iconic image of Forrest sitting on a park bench in Savannah, GA, not long after an encounter much like the one with the incredulous man in the movie ("Boy, I've heard some whoppers in my time..."), leaving open the possibility that Forrest is nothing more than a halfwit telling tall tales to strangers on a park bench. Consider the story from that perspective for a moment...
Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During the live broadcast of the first moon landing, everyone at the Army hospital is watching Forrest play Ping-Pong with himself and no one is watching the TV.
This happens a lot to Forrest. When Reagan is shot he the footage is playing on TV but he is not even watching the screen.
When we first see Forrest play football, he's just zoned out unaware of the game he's participating in.
Unwanted Rescue: Lt. Dan was furious that Forrest saved his life, rather than leave him to die. He eventually gets over his rage. Later in the film, when Lt. Dan fiercely defends Forrest after their female companions call him "stupid", the implication becomes that while Lt. Dan loses his legs, gets lost in his own misery, and spends decades watching the world fly apart, Forrest is his polar opposite — innocent, kind, confused and, above all, happy. Lt. Dan doesn't want anything to spoil that.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Forrest doesn't see it but Lt. Dan has a lot of anger towards him and generally treats him with contempt. But underneath it is an appreciation that Forrest holds no grudges and will do anything to help a person in need. By the end, there is no doubt they are best friends.