Forrest Gump is a 1994 film starring Tom Hanks and directed by Robert Zemeckis, and based on a 1986 novel 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 Fifties to The Eighties (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 60's to a hippie protestor of the 70's. 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.
Accidental Athlete: Forrest ends up as a running back on 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, Paul "Bear" Bryant is universally considered to be one of the greatest American football coaches of all time.
Accidental Hero: Of a sort. Forrest ran back into the combat zone to try and 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 4 others and be awarded the Medal of Honor.
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.
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 trope occurs in the Lennon scene, where Dick Cavett plays himself, made to look younger through make-up.
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.
Lt. 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."
Also, I dare you to even lay a hand on Jenny whenever Forrest is around. Go ahead, try.
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 after being a football star and war hero.
Bittersweet Ending: Jenny dies, but left her son in Forrest's care, and Lieutenant Dan found the strength to live and love again.
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 won't make them strangers anymore. At the end, Forrest Jr. immediately says upon being greeted onto the bus: "You're Dorothy Harris, and I'm Forrest 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.
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.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: A subversion 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 BEST 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!
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.
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. Of course, that didn't stop Abby Hoffman (who apparently heard the whole thing) from expressing sympathy about what happened in his experiences.
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.
Jenny gets caught by this trope 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.
Foreshadowing: "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.
I Was Just Joking: Not actually said, but it was strongly implied that LBJ's "desire" to see the wound on Gump's behind was actually intended to be a joke. Forrest, being Forrest, interprets this literally, and proceeds to oblige his "request" on live TV, causing Johnson to chuckle to himself and say "Goddamn, son!"
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.
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."
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 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.
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 he gives Forrest and Bubba advice on how to survive 'Nam 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 subvert 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.
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."
No Infantile Amnesia: Averted: Forrest Gump explicitly states that he has absolutely no recollection of his birth.
Obvious Blue Screen: 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.
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 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.
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.
Sleeper Hit: Paramount didn't see the film being a big hit and only opened in 1,500 theatres mid-week after Independence Day. Strong word-of-mouth from sneak previews made it a long runner in theatres.
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.
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, founder of the KKK. Awkward, seeing how he would describe Bubba as "My best good friend." Forrest specifically says his mother named him after Nathan Bedford Forrest so he would remember what the KKK did. 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, opposed to the code name for the Vietcong; and that Apple(Computers) was a fruit company.
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.
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.