Opposite of a Flash Back
and different from a Distant Finale
and not quite Time Travel
or a Dream Sequence
. The Flash Forward is a look ahead at what may be a possibility in the characters' futures. When it occurs once at the very start of a work, it's In Medias Res
Also the title of a short-lived kids series
that aired on Disney Channel
and a short-lived 2009 ABC series
taking this trope to its extreme.
Not to be confused with Seers
- characters who can view the future (or a possible future) inside the context of the story.
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Anime and Manga
- Powers, episode "Future Box".
- In the Legion of Super-Heroes comics, the infamous Adult Legion story from Adventure Comics #354-355, which even depicted the deaths of members who hadn't joined yet. Stories were written for almost two decades that seemed to work towards the future shown here (and other earlier Adult Legion stories) until it was finally revealed as an alternate reality.
- Rai #0, written by Jim Shooter, who also wrote the Adult Legion story.
- Witchblade #500 (which was a Wizard mail-in offer that depicted a future #500 issue of the comic).
- Archie Marries Veronica is stated to be a flashforward story arc, set after Archie and the gang have graduated from college.
- The Ballad Of Halo Jones featured a flash forward several centuries ahead of the main story's timeline. Here, in what appears to be a utopia, a history professor lectures his students on Halo's adventures back in the 51st century. It ends with him expressing his feelings and longing for the centuries-dead woman.
- Days of Future Past, one of the most famous story arcs in Marvel Comics, is a series of stories in which various X-men and others get glimpses of a possible future where the USA has been conquered by the Sentinel mutant-hunting AIs, mutants are rounded up in concentration camps, and America has basically been reduced to a totalitarian nightmare. The storyline pivots around the activities of present day (fictional) U.S. Senator Robert Kelly, and it's left unclear whether or not that future has been prevented.
- The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Days Of Future Smurfed" starts in the distant future of the Smurfs (circa 2005) where the only Smurfs alive are Great-Grandfather Smurf (a.k.a. Empath) and his grandson Polaris Smurf, who eventually becomes Traveler. The story alternates between that time period and the present time period of the story series, where the younger Empath experiences "flash forwards" into the future at various points leading up to the starting point of the story. In those "flash forwards", he sees himself and Smurfette getting married and having a child, Papa Smurf dying, Smurfette dying, and eventually the village itself being destroyed.
- Movie example: in Lola Rennt, a.k.a. Run, Lola, Run in the US, an encounter with another pedestrian sometimes triggered a Blipvert showing what would happen to that person.
- Next revolved around the ability of Nicolas Cage's character to see two minutes into the future (unless certain conditions were met), and play it over and over again in his mind until he found the optimal path to take (typically one that didn't end up with him being shot or beaten).
- Similar to the powers of the Clock King in The Batman, though he actually traveled back in time to undo whatever mistake he did.
- In Parenthood, after putting Kevin on second base at a baseball game, Gil has two of these to Kevin's college graduation: in the first Kevin is confident and successful, but in the second (after Kevin failed to make a catch), he is at the top of a tower shooting at everyone in sight with an assault rifle.
- Older Than Radio: Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, could be considered this or Time Travel.
- Elie Wiesel's Night has this at one point, to show him meeting a woman he met in the concentration camps again, in Paris.
- In Brave New World, one of the doctors creating test-tube babies is interrupted, and can't recall if she added one of the components to a specimen. She decides that she has, and moves on. The scene then flashes forward twenty-two years to show the aformentioned person suddenly dropping dead.
- In The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher, this happens. In 1996, neighbors Josh and Emma install AOL on their computers and are immediately logged on to Facebook. Obviously, Facebook hasn't been invented yet, so they are viewing their futures. In fact, every time they log on, their page changes.
- Flashforward by Robert J Sawyer centers around people all over the world having a glimpse of their lives twenty years in the future, and the subsequent consequences of this.
Live Action TV
- Season 7 of The West Wing opens with a Flash Forward of most of the cast in the future, waiting for Bartlet's successor (who we don't see the face of). Leo isn't present at this scene- a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment in retrospect, as John Spencer died three months later.
- On That '70s Show, there is a Flash Forward showing where the kids will be at their 10-year high school reunion — in the 1980s, including big hair and New Wave Music.
- Also an episode when Eric imagines his future with Donna as 1950s style with her at home and him at work and she's rather upset and then comes back at him with her working and him at home with the kids. Both times it was shown to the audience.
- Babylon 5:
- The finale of the fourth season, "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", consists of a series of flash-forwards, the last of which takes place one million years(!) after the series.
- In the season 3 two-parter, War Without End, Sheridan himself flashes forward in time 18 years to see a devastated Centauri Prime, followed by the events of the dream/premonition Londo spoke to Sinclair about in the very first episode. We don't get to find out what was really going on there until the arrival of a spin-off trilogy of novels.
- Saved by the Bell featured an episode set in 2003 (then 10 years in the future), where an aged Mr Belding watched a video from the gang in 1993. However, it was an excuse for a Clip Show.
- Breaking Bad initiates almost every episode in this way. This was taken even further at the beginning of Season 5, in which a flash-forward glimpsed at events that wouldn't happen until the next half of the season (which occurred nearly a year later).
- The entire final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, "These Are The Voyages" is both a Flash Back and a Flash Forward. The main story is set some six years after the rest of the series, and is told as a holodeck reenactment. The framing story takes place two centuries later during the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Pegasus", which aired over a decade earlier. As the entire episode is recreated on the Holodeck of the Enterprise D circa 2370 and the only real people we see are Riker and Troi the rest being holographic recreations, it's really only a Flashback episode as we are viewing an historical event.
- The final episode of Mad About You is a Flash Forward to the two main characters' baby daughter, now a grown woman (played by Janeane Garofalo) following in her father's footsteps as a filmmaker, talking about their lives and hers since the penultimate episode, with specific scenes and clips which span the years in between shown to the audience.
- Nip/Tuck has done this at least twice.
- Used in the finale of The O.C..
- On LOST, the typical Flash Back story in the Season 3 finale is revealed to be a Flash Forward at the very end, when Jack meets Kate outside an airport
- Season 4 has more of these, although no longer that eleborately set up (i.e. it usually becomes clear pretty soon into the episode whether it's a flashback or a flash-forward, unlike in the season 3 finale, where it wasn't revealed until the very end.
- An exception is Ji Yeon. It appears to show a flashforward with Sun and Jin-Sun is giving birth while Jin is trying to get there in time...until, at the end, Jin's story is revealed as a flashback when Hurley and Sun visit Jin's grave.
- A weird one is in the season 5 premiere, which opens with a flashforward to Daniel in DHARMA. Strange, since this is a flashforward to a event that occurred 30 years prior to the present, but that wouldn't happen until towards the end of the season.
- For Daniel it was a flash-forward. He hadn't experienced it yet, even if everyone who wasn't one of the Lostaways had.
- There have been a couple of flashforwards in How I Met Your Mother, ranging from short (about a week, to Lily and Marshall's wedding) to long (21 years, when Marshall open Lily's death letter). The real question is, considering that every episode is technically a flashback with the story told during 2030, are these flashforwards or just flashbacks set later then the other flashbacks? Aahh, brain hurt! Brain hurt!
- They're all flashbacks, but since we don't live in 2030 we can call them Flash Forwards.
- NCIS routinely uses flash-forwards of the final image of an upcoming scene. These shots generally show insufficient information to the viewer to understand the scene until it occurs in the normal flow of the story.
- Family Ties had An Aesop episode when Alex "sees" his future as a bald, potbellied rich man visiting his family. They are pathetically grateful to see him, but he acts like a total Rich Bitch and afterwords is totally disgusted with his future greedy self and vows to change. Naturally, the joke is that he is at first mostly upset that he is bald.
- I'm pretty sure it was the episode that adapts "A Christmas Carol", as a bitter Alex is enlightened by the meaning of the Christmas season.
- The framing story for the Christmas episode of Power Rangers Zeo shows an elderly Tommy and his wife, Kat, telling a story to their grandchildren. Arguments as to whether or not this marriage is Tommy's canonical destiny (since his continued bachelorhood in later seasons suggests otherwise) persist to this day.
- Most of the arguments against this still being his destiny are based on the massive amount of history-changing time travel that's happened since then and as a result the butterfly effect throws it all out the window , whereas the arguments for it argue that none of the time travel directly interfered with it, so we should assume it still happens.
- What some of these fail to overlook is an element in it that has been overruled by canon: In the Flash Forward, Zordon is alive. Power Rangers in Space nixes that possibility.
- The ABC series FlashForward, as can logically be expected, has this as its premise. Everyone in the world blacks out at the same time and sees a glimpse of their future.
- Well, not everyone. One character did not see anything during his blackout and seems to think that means he won't be alive on the date in question (all flashforwards seem to be to the same date and time). Apparently, the more likely possibility that he'll simply be asleep and not in REM at the crucial time point hasn't occurred to him.
- Or maybe not, since he meets another character who didn't see anything. She consequently gets killed in the same episode. He is also contacted by someone who saw information relating to his death during her own blackout.
- In Dollhouse, the unaired thirteenth episode, Epitaph One, shows several of these that will seemingly happen in the next five years of the Dollhouse future. After a tease that this could have been a computer simiulation, the series ended with Epitaph Two, which continued from that episode.
- In Stargate SG-1, Daniel got a flashforward to one possible path after Shar'e died in Forever in a Day. That future never really happened, though. He did this again in Absolute Power, when Shar'e's son showed him what would happen if they accessed the genetic memory of the Goa'uld. That didn't happen either.
- The Flash, a short-lived 1990 series about the titular DC superhero, had a Flash Forward episode, which had the name Flashforward.
- In the Merlin episode "Queen of Hearts" we get a glimpse (though Morgana's dreams) of the future of Camelot, in which Arthur has become king and is crowning Guinevere his queen. She ain't happy about this...
- In the Boy Meets World episode "Seven the Hard Way", the gang has gotten into a fight that has tested all of their friendships. There is a flash forward to a potential future where the gang has broken up, and takes place when they reunite for the first time at Mr. Feeny's retirement party seven years later. In this future, Cory and Topanga have had a baby, Shawn and Angela are both traveling journalists, Jack is a "captain of industry" (in his late twenties), Rachel moved back to Texas, and Eric became an insane hermit who calls himself "Playswithsquirrels". However, when the episode returns to the present everybody reconciles and this future is averted.
- In the old Dark Shadows supernatural soap opera, at one point the vampire-hero Barnabas Collins and his sidekick Dr. Julia Hoffman, while crossing over between parallel time lines, are thrown forward from 1970 into the then-distant year of 1995, where they discover the family mansion wrecked, overrun by zombies, some relative dead, others insane, and a demonic ghost haunting the property.
- The first episode of season 4 of Being Human starts with a jump to a few decades in the future - a future in which the vampires have apparently taken over the world, with only a small resistance movement fighting them.
- Charmed: The nature of Phoebe's power of premonition is that she sees visions of what might happen, and sometimes what had already happened. Then there are spells that have been cast by others to see scenes from both the past and the future.
- Prototype uses this from time to time. The story is set over the span of roughly 18-19 days, and while the player begins to play from day 1 where nothing has happened yet, cutscenes between some missions visit day 18 where the main character is explaining to a military commander what the hell happened in New York over the course of said 18 days.
- Eternal Darkness uses Anachronic Order and Flashback Cuts, so that, for example, Anthony (chapter 3, 818 AD) has Flash Forwards of Ellia (chapter 2, 1150 AD). Try not to think about it too hard...
- Splinter Cell Conviction does this, showing what will happen some time later in the White House. Grim will supposedly betray, capture, and hand over Sam to the enemy for execution.
- Used on The Simpsons several times, including the episode "Lisa's Wedding", which is almost entirely Flash Forward (in spite of her advanced age, Maggie never gets the chance to speak, or sing as the case may be: see The Voiceless). "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie" ends with Homer taking Bart to see the movie he banned him from seeing forty years before.
- Lisa as the first straight female president of the United States.
- Generally the Flash Forward episodes have Negative Continuity with each other but the most recent one "Holidays of Future Passed" contains several Continuity Nods to the others - Bart married (and then divorced) Jenda (his future girlfriend according to "Future-Drama"), Lisa ended up with Milhouse and Maggie became a famous singer as "Lisa's Wedding" predicted.
- One Arthur episode ends with the kids as teenagers, another with one of the kids grown-up as a mom. A third shows one of the characters, forty years later, having a TV channel dedicated to his scientific exploits.
- The Rugrats 10th anniversary episode "All Growed Up", showing life for the main characters ten years on, was a Poorly Disguised Pilot for a Spin-Off show, All Grown Up!!, featuring these older versions.
- Rocko's Modern Life also used Flash Forward in its finale.
- The end of the series As Told by Ginger features this. The episode in question, "The Wedding Frame", is on DVD.
- Cleverly facilitated in Muppet Babies by the use of footage from The Great Muppet Caper.
- Used in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy, which showed the three now-elderly Eds still together and still bickering in a delapidated house. Some have taken to mean the entire series was the three old!Ed's flashbacks. Word of God states this was originally how the series was supposed to end, before another season and a movie were put onto production.
- The last episode of X-Men: Evolution ends with Charles Xavier's speech as he recalls a glimpse of the future (courtesy of Apocalypse's mind control). We learn that the anti-mutant sentiment will continue; Magneto reforms and teaches a new generation of mutants; The Brotherhood will become S.H.I.E.L.D operatives; and Jean Grey becomes the Phoenix. This is pretty much a Downer Ending to anyone whose read that story arc in the comics.
- Possibly (or just a dream) in the Adventure Time episode "Lemonhope" at the very end, flashing forward 1000 years to see Lemonhope reach the end of his journeys and return home, just as he was, even after the Candy Kingdom has withered away...
- Archer Vice ends the first episode of the season with a montage of snippets from every crazy plot point that's going to happen through the season. Apparently it's all being imagined by Archer and it is awesome.