Film: Pay It Forward

Pay It Forward is a 2000 movie based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde, starring Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and, in a minor role, Jon Bon Jovi.

A boy named Trevor is given an assignment to "think of something to change the world, and put it into action". He thinks of "paying it forward", in which you help three people, and tell each of them to "pay it forward", and help three other people. We see the implementation and results of this plan for kindness through the eyes of the people he pays it forward to.

Though well-regarded, the film's ending is generally disliked.


This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Trevor's father beats his mother, Mr. Simonet's father beat his mother and him (not to mention burning him alive), and Trevor's grandmother is implied to have been this.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: This is the plot as described by the mother:
    "You don't know my son, you tell him he can do something and he's going to believe you."
  • An Aesop: The Central Theme of the movie is that by performing random acts of kindness for complete strangers we are able to change the world for a better.
    • Becomes a Broken Aesop when it turns out that every good deed Trevor does just barely escapes failure. The homeless man relapses into his drug habit; his mother's and Eugene's relationship turns sour not long after Trevor brings them together, and then fails again as her ex-husband comes back.
      • Note: The fact that Trevor's efforts eventually get himself brutally killed are not proof of a Broken Aesop. The underlying idea is not to receive goodness back (which would be paying it back), but to make the world a better place for all. And the publicity around his death actually helped to get the idea spread. And possibly make the bullies change their ways. For more discussion on the topic, visit the WMG page.
  • The Alcoholic: Both of Trevor's parents. As well as his grandmother.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Trevor is senselessly murdered, yet the ceremony implies that he's still left an impact, including that of the audience (see Fridge Brilliance).
  • Can Not Spit It Out: Eugene has huge problems in opening himself up to Arlene. Twice does he start to explain his situation to her but cannot finish the sentence.
  • Casual Car Giveaway: At the start, Chris (the reporter) witnesses a hostage situation at a house. The guy doing the hostage escapes from the house, crashing into Chris' car as he leaves. A guy then gives Chris his car as part of the 'pay it forward' cycle.
  • Chekhov's Knife: The knife smuggled into school by the bullies at the beginning is the one Trevor is being stabbed with at the end.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Eugene's backstory.
  • Death Is Dramatic: Trevor gets stabbed at the end. Cue Slow Motion Fall and then cut to the ER doc telling the the mother he's dead upon which she collapses.