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Flash Back
You don't have to ask for permission.

"I think I'll try extra hard to remember today's events and conversations, in case I someday want to recall them verbatim."
Gordon Frohman, Concerned

A narrative technique in which we're shown events that took place before the episode's main action. Said events may have taken place on-screen earlier, but may also be new scenes depicting things hitherto only referenced.

Specific types of flashbacks include:

Dreaming of Times Gone By and Bad Dreams are two ways to show them. See also Flashback Effects for ways of distinguishing a Flash Back from normal action, and Viewers Are Goldfish for flashbacks to events that are still fresh in the audience's mind. It's also a brilliant way to indulge in some Exposition of Immortality.

When a character is having a flashback, it can be because of psychic/magical powers, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or simply resurfacing memories. In either case, it's a common justification for a movie to show the audience a Flashback.

If you want the page about the game Flashback: Quest for Identity, go here.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Comics  
  • Flashbacks were abused in early issues of the Marvel Transformers Generation 1 comic, with a page or more of some issues used to recreate scenes from previous issues an an apparent attempt to fill space.
  • The Tale Of One Bad Rat: Flashbacks are used several times in the story, especially the first half, to show significant events in Helen's life before she ran away. One example is how she adopted her pet rat.

     Fan Works 

     Literature  

  • In The Dark Tower, Book One: The Gunslinger, the first quarter of the novel is devoted to flashbacks to events just prior to the beginning of the novel, and flashbacks to Roland's childhood within those. In Book Four: Wizard and Glass, the bulk of the story is a flashback to a formative event in Roland's early adulthood.
  • Like the index down there says, this is Older Than Feudalism: Odysseus has a long flashback in The Odyssey.
  • Harry Potter has the Pensieve and Tom Riddle's diary, allowing for magical plot important flashbacks.
  • K.J Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy. In places there's more flashback than straight narrative.
  • In the final book of the Sten series, the Emperor flashes back to his childhood and his steps on his rise to power.
  • In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel On the Razor's Edge, Donovan has many flashback of recovering memories.
  • War Crimes has in-universe flashbacks. For Garrosh Hellscream's trial, the court uses the Vision of Time to view past events, in order to avoid errors in the witness testimony.
  • Tough Magic has a few flashbacks, most notably two at the very beginning of the second book.

     Newspaper Comics  

  • Sally Forth: In an arc for Feb. 12, 2010, Sally remembered the first time she met her boss, Ralph. She eventually snaps out of it.
    Ted: You seemed zoned out for days! I almost called the hospital.

     Theatre  

  • The first act of Nine ends with a series of flashbacks to Guido's youth.
  • Miss Saigon goes back to "The Fall of Saigon" midway through the second act
  • During the song "Poor Thing" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the story of Lucy Barker's rape is shown onstage as Mrs. Lovett sings about it.
  • The Tom Stoppard play Arcadia alternates scenes between flashbacks and the modern day.
  • In David Auburn's Proof, there are several scenes that flashback to when Robert was alive.
  • The original version of Merrily We Roll Along had the story told in flashback, framed by Frank speaking at a graduation ceremony.
  • In something not unlike a Pensieve Flashback, Prior recounts his encounter with The Angel to Belize in the middle of a later scene, and both his telling and the encounter are played simultaneously onstage.
  • The Phantom of the Opera is told in one giant flashback, as the show's opening scene is of the aged Raoul attending an auction selling off items from the opera house.

     Video Games  

  • In a game that revolves around memories, Another Code covers a variety of these.
  • Flashback: The Quest for Identity. In-game flashbacks.
  • In Minori's route in Brass Restoration, flashbacks are used much more frequently than needed, often to recap something that happened half a scene ago. Thankfully not as prevalent in other routes.
  • In Valkyrie Profile, flashbacks are often used to show the events leading up to the Einherjar's deaths.
  • Halo 3: ODST makes extensive use of this, though technically, it's actually Rookie going through camera recordings, not flashbacks per se, but it still counts.
  • All of the interludes in The Reconstruction. Subverted in that all but one of them are flashbacks to the prologue's cast.
  • In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, when Price finds out Zakhaev is behind the game's plot, he decides to roll a flashback to explain the guy's background. Players know this as the "All ghillied up" mission.

     Visual Novels  

  • Maji De Watashi Ni Koi Shinasai has flashbacks interspersed between routes as necessary; no single path gives a complete background on the family, with each person's pertinent set of flashbacks happening in their own storyline.

     Web Comics  

     Web Original  

  • In The Gamers Alliance, various characters have flashbacks which often explain their past and their relationship with other characters.
  • Unusually for the series, lonelygirl15 episode "Comfort Food" included flashbacks to Daniel's grandmother's funeral. Flashbacks were again used in the series 3 episode "I Miss Her".
  • LG15: the resistance makes frequent use of these to show Maggie's past.
  • Frequently used in The Gungan Council in order to explain why a character has or does something. "It's Not That I Keep Hanging On, I'm Never Letting Go" uses it in spades.
  • Parodied in episode X of Transolar Galactica, when Captain Trigger gets a flashback without the series actually cutting to it.
    Reggie: Oh great, he's having one of his little flashback things.
    ...
    Samson (after half a minute of Trigger staring vacantly into space): ... how long does it take?
  • Funny Business has a flashback right in the middle of the story that manages to double its overall length, and making what would otherwise be an ordinary Plot Twist into a Shocking Swerve.

     Western Animation  

  • Invader Zim also lampshades a common problem with this trope: In "The Fry Cook What Came From All That Space", Zim recalls a flashback of being demoted to fry cook under fry lord Sizz-Lorr, and then escaping. After Zim escapes, it shows Sizz-Lorr alone, shouting at the top of his lungs:
    Sizz-Lorr: I will find you Zim, so help me, I will search the entire universe, and I! WILL! FIND YOOOOOOOOU!
    (Cut back to present time with Zim and Sizz-Lorr)
    Sizz-Lorr: How did you remember what I said if you weren't there?
    Zim: * shrugs*
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, there have been a few flashbacks about Lucius' life under his father, including the one that made him a Self-Made Orphan.
  • Used a lot in Phineas and Ferb by the character Dr. Doofenshmirtz, since almost all of his inventions have a backstory and he uses flashbacks to let Perry and the audience know the purpose for it. However, there have been some occasions where he'll skip over a flashback since Perry already knows the story, and on one occasion he had a horrible headache and said it hurt too much to do a flashback.
    • In "The Belly of the Beast", Perry was going into a flashback of how he escaped, which Doofensmirtz took advantage of by attacking him.
    • Parodied in "Doof Dynasty", an Elseworlds episode set in ancient China, where this discussion occurs about "Master Perry".
    Phineas: What's he doing?
    Ferb: That's a ripple dissolve. He must be having a flashback.
    Phineas:...does he know we can't see it? Should we give him some privacy? I don't know the protocol for flash-backs.
  • Used frequently in Avatar: The Last Airbender, usually in the form of someone in the present narrating something that happened in the past (like the flashbacks in "The Storm," "The Avatar and the Firelord," and "The Southern Raiders"). "Zuko Alone" and "Appa's Lost Days" have characters who don't or can't talk about their pasts quietly remembering them in the form of flashbacks.
  • The Care Bears Movie is told as this.
  • Danger Mouse: "The Return Of Count Duckula" uses footage of DM's first encounter with Duckula from "The Four Tasks Of Danger Mouse" as a flashback as he recounts the meeting to Colonel K.

Fast Forward To ReunionFlashbacks and ChronologyFlashback... Back... Back...
Flashback EffectScene TransitionFlashback... Back... Back...
Converse with the UnconsciousExternalizing Internal MonologueFloating Advice Reminder
Failed Future ForecastFate and Prophecy TropesFlash Sideways
Expository Gameplay LimitationExpositionFlavor Text
Fairy TaleLit. Class TropesFlash Fiction
Anachronic OrderIndex of Gothic Horror TropesHow We Got Here
Flaming SwordOlder Than FeudalismFlipping the Table
Hayate BladeImageSource/Anime & MangaHayate the Combat Butler

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