Well, this is where you came in...
A type of In Medias Res
/Whole Episode Flashback
, where the story opens at a point at the middle or near the end of the story, and the bulk of the story is spent showing how the character got to this point.
See also Back to Front
, Death by Flashback
, Foregone Conclusion
, Starts with Their Funeral
, Framing Device
and This Is My Story
. Goes very well with Private Eye Monologue
. Can often be used as a highly effective Driving Question
. Can often overlap with Once More with Clarity
if and when the introductory scene in question reappears.
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- Pizza Pops commercials begin by showing everything and everyone in it splattered with the filling. Then the commercial cuts back to just before someone is about to smash the pop.
- There's one amazingly funny NASCAR themed commercial for Diet Mountain Dew out there. It starts with the #88 racecar being driven through a street. The driver does an amazing skid and comes to a stop in his driveway. The driver gets out:
Kid: Whoa, dad! Where'd you get that?
Father: Oh you won't believe what just happened!
[Cuts to him pulling a Diet Mountain Dew bottle off an empty shelf. He turns and finds Dale Earnhardt, Jr., in full fire suit, looking at him in disbelief]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Don't tell me you got the last Diet Dew.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: I love the taste of Diet Dew. Whaddaya want for it?
Father: Uhhh... [glances at Earnhardt's car outside in the parking lot]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: Deal.
Anime & Manga
- The first episode of YuYu Hakusho starts shortly after Yusuke's death, and has him retracing his steps to see how he got himself into this.
- Suzumiya Haruhi: the first episode is a movie that the characters chronologically would have made around episode 11. There are also several mini examples of this trope throughout the series due to the anachronistic airing order; characters often reference events that the viewers haven't yet seen.
- The Berserk series starts off with Volumes 1 and 2, with Guts firmly in Black Swordsman mode. Volumes 3 through 14 of the manga, the Golden Age arc covered by the anime after the first episode, explain how Guts got to where he was in the first two.
- The Big O, episode 7, opens with Angel and Roger trapped in an old office building on the bottom of the ocean. In flashbacks, Roger shows how this came to pass.
- The Rurouni Kenshin manga has a variation. The Big Bad of the arc Enishi, has destroyed two buildings from people who have met Kenshin (one only once). He then meets Kenshin and challenges him to a duel, after Kenshin is forced to accept the challenge does Kenshin return and tell his friends why his brother-in-law wants revenge.
- Code Geass almost did this, according to Word of God; the show's creators briefly considered beginning the series by showing Lelouch and Suzaku pointing guns at each other, as per Episode 25 as the first scene, then going back several months to show how two friends could have gotten into such a situation.
- The anime version of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni does this with several of its' arcs, particularly Onikakushi-hen and Watanagashi-hen, which kick things off with the murder of one or more major characters and then hit the 'rewind' button back to the chronological start of the arc.
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann opens on the bridge of a vast space battleship as we see its mature and scarred commander, who holds in his hand a small conical key, launch an attack to open the final battle of an intergalactic war. Cut to teenage Simon, digging underground, discovering the key for the first time... Subverted in that the war never happens, although we do get some idea of how it might have.
- Outlaw Star starts even before the OP with Gene taking off in the Outlaw Star and locks grapplers with another ship. After said OP, the show begins that will lead up to this.
- The ENTIRE SERIES of Tenchi Universe does this. The first episode opens with Tenchi delivering an internal monologue as he walks to school alone, lamenting the good old days when he used to hang out with those crazy girls from space... the show then spends nearly its entire run flashing back to how Tenchi met and went on adventures with said girls, until the last five minutes of the very last episode, when we return to Tenchi walking to school alone.
- This is slightly screwed up in the dub. Tenchi's speech at the start of the series is the same one he gives at the very end, so we know we've come back to where we started. Two different translators handled those episodes, though, and each one translated the speech differently, so Tenchi ends up saying different things in each episode, even they're each supposed to portray the same moment in time.
- Many modern episodes of Pokťmon do this (especially in the original Japanese version) with the pre-credits teaser abruptly opening on a battle or other dramatic scene with no explanation as to how the characters got there. After the credits, we flash back to the start of the story.
- This also lets the producers sneak in plenty of recycled footage, since the teaser sequence gets replayed once they arrive at that point in the story.
- The second act of the Naruto anime surprisingly starts with this. With Naruto and Sakura catching up to Sasuke for the first time since he defected from Konoha before starting the series proper and working it ways to that point. Likely as a tease to the fans.
- Shigurui: Death Frenzy starts at the very end and then goes to the beginning to show how it got there, but unfortunately it never makes it back to the end again.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! has an in-universe version: The current Big Bad sends the heroes a week forward in time, to when she's already won. Then various side characters explain to the heroes exactly how she won. So they go back in time to take advantage of the new information.
- The current arc of the manga counts, as it goes into the Back Story and explains the events that directly led up to the beginning of the manga. Such as why Negi is being raised by his cousin in Wales, or how Asuna ended up at Mahora.
- Natsumi says the trope almost word-by-word in her debut chapter, which opens with Kotarou holding her hostage.
- The first episode of Shin Mazinger is titled "Finale" and depicts the seemingly climactic final battle between Dr. Hell and the protagonists. Episode 2 goes back to the beginning, and explains the build up from there.
- The second episode of the manga Strawberry Marshmallow starts with Chika sitting in a wastebasket. Then we go back half an hour and find out what led up to this situation.
- "September 21st, 1945. That was the day I died."
- The Fist of the North Star prequel movie Legend of Kenshiro begins with Kenshiro and Yuria going on their journey together after the defeat of Raoh. After having their wedding ceremony, Yuria asks Kenshiro to tell her of his quest to become the savior. The actual movie is set during the "lost year" after Kenshiro was first defeated by Shin, but before he met Bat and Lin.
- Chaos;Head opens with a destroyed city and the protagonist laying in a puddle. He wakes but - but was it all really just a dream?
- The first episode of Baccano! starts at the end of its primary story (the 1931/Grand Punk Station arc) while the two Meta Guys look over the records of the massacre and start arguing over when the story is supposed to start.
- The sixth episode of Wandaba Style starts off this way, with the girls staring in disbelief at future versions of themselves, then complaining to Ichirin about it, then blaming each other for them ending up in the predicament they're in. Ichirin takes advantage of this to flashback to shortly before the episode began, showing how the girls took advantage of a man-powered warp engine to get some exercise and ended up in the future by accident. The rest of the episode continues normally from there on.
- Ga-Rei Zero- spends its first episode killing off the supposed protagonists. Then Yomi, the villain, becomes the main character.
- The first episode of the Saikano anime opens with a haggard young man wearing broken glasses staggering through a deserted town, a service so that you don't mistakenly waste any hope on him later.
- The first part of episode one of Infinite Stratos shows an Action Prologue where Ichika and his team are fighting off against an unknown I.S. machine. The rest of the series then depict events leading up to that scene.
- The first episode of Slam Dunk shows the Shohoku team playing an important match, probably the nationals, before the opening song. The rest of the series is spent showing how they got there.
- Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl opens with two girls alone in a classroom, sharing a kiss and a third girl catching them in act, looking rather shocked. The rest of the episode is spent showing how a guy became one of those girls, not reaching the opening scene until midway through the shows run.
- The first episode of FUNimation's Dragon Ball GT dub, "A Grand Problem", performed this function so that they could skip the first 16 episodes of the show.
- The manga Mirai Nikki opened with Yuno kissing Yuki, stating he won't stab her. Played with in the anime version, as it was shown (thanks to the manga) to be in chronological order from the point of view of Yuno
- Samurai High School: Chapter 16 of the manga started with the twins being followed by members of the newspaper club and then it went back to when and how it began. Chapter 23 also invokes the trope.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The eight chapter of the manga starts with Sho and Judai dueling against each other. It's revealed to the readers Sho will be expelled from Duel Academia if he loses and Judai will lose his cards if he loses. Then it's revealed how it happened.
- Psycho-Pass opens with a scene from episode 16, showing us one of the main characters fighting a masked person, after which he met antagonist face to face.
- The Downer Beginning in episode 1 of Kotoura-san starts with Haruka walking alone to school, or, to be precise, people were◊ avoiding her like plague. She has Dull Eyes of Unhappiness, then a Flash Back her entire life up to that point is gradually played out and how she got those eyes.
- Hellstar Remina begins with a deranged mob about to crucify a teenaged girl under an Alien Sky, and then goes back to explain why the Alien Sky looms above, and why the mob blames the girl for it.
- Bleach: The "Everything but the Rain" arc starts with a glimpse of a pivotal scene from the middle of the story (Masaki introducing herself to Isshin as a Quincy) and then rewinds several hours to show what lead up to it.
- The first episode of Divergence Eve is the ending; the rest tell the story leading up to that point.
- Happened in X-Factor when Rictor, Guido, and Shatterstar appear in the middle of a fight with Cortex, who was surprised because he thought they were many miles away. When Cortex points this out, Guido replies 'That's very good question. And here's how we got here." and cue the end of the issue. The issue after that shows how they did it.
- The first issue of Mega Man opened with Mega Man storming Dr. Wily's Fortress and beginning to fight the Yellow Demon. It then goes into a flashback that lasts until the end of issue 3.
- An issue of Miracleman starts with paid assassin Evelyn Cream out in the jungle, wondering how he got there. The issue then flashes back, and it's slowly revealed that he's remembering all this after being decapitated by Dr. Gargunza's monster dog.
- Much of The Smurfs comic book story "Smurf Vs. Smurf" is basically Papa Smurf recalling the language war between his little Smurfs that reached the point where he sought after Gargamel's aid.
- Astťrix and the Laurel Wreath opens with Asterix and Obelix in Rome, and Asterix complaining to Obelix about the mess they've gotten into. The story then briefly flashes back to explain what's going on.
- The 22nd chapter of the Harry Potter fanfic I Saw My Lady Weep begins with Ginny Weasley on the edge of death, being rushed into a muggle emergency room and receiving life-saving care. The 23rd chapter tells the story of how she ended up in an emergency room. (She was hit by a delivery truck while walking through London on her own for the first time.)
- Trunk's New Look begins with the titular character wondering how the hell he ended up in his mother's Playboy Bunny outfit. It's a valid concern.
- Chapter 14 of The Immortal Game starts with Titan conversing with Celestia while simultaneously torturing Twilight. The rest of the chapter explains how he came to be torturing Twilight.
- The Princess of Themyscira: The story opens with Soarin' waking up on Themyscira and being confronted by Diana, with the next couple of chapters being spent showing her backstory and how he ended up there.
- The Rise Of Darth Vulcan: The story opens with Vulcan imprisoned in Canterlot and being interrogated by Celestia. The next 18 chapters are composed of him narrating to the Princesses how he arrived in Equestria and rose to be Public Enemy Number One.
- MLP Next Generation: Know Fear! opens with Starburst already as the Fear Lantern and fighting griffon soldiers in Stalliongrad. The next couple of chapters show how this came to pass.
- The Flashback chapters of The Twilight Child explain how the main character ended up the way she has, and why she was behaving the way she was in the first chapter, in-between a few acts of Break the Cutie.
- The Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe opens with the main character standing on a beach making a plea for the audience 'to listen to his story.' The entirety of the movie shows how he got there over the course of about three years or so.
- All About Eve begins at an award ceremony where Eve is about to be honoured. Then we flash back to the previous year and Eve's rise to fame. We end up back at the ceremony with Eve's acceptance speech.
- The Alligator People starts with nurse Marvin being put under hypnosis, and recounting her past forgotten identity as Mrs. Webber searching for her disappeared husband.
- American Beauty opens with Kevin Spacey's character revealing that he is dead. The rest of the movie covers the year preceding that event.
- Bandits is a caper comedy that opens with news coverage showing the bank-robber protagonists having a Mexican Standoff with each other in the middle of what appears to be a robbery gone wrong, then flashes back to the jailbreak which brought them together in the first place.
- Better Luck Tomorrow begins with two of the main characters lying around in someone's back yard. A cell phone rings, but it's not theirs — the ringing is coming from underground. So they dig it up. "You never forget the sight of a dead body." The rest of the film is just one long flashback, and the opening scene is replayed near the end.
- The Big Mouth uses the trope in a way that's obviously gratuitous and employs a swordfish.
- Cole's dream in Twelve Monkeys of seeing a man gunned down is actually a childhood memory of seeing his future self die.
- Big Trouble in Little China opens with Egg Shen's lawyer asking Egg Shen to explain what exactly caused the giant, green fireball over Chinatown. The film proceeds to explain the fireball... but the issue of why Egg Shen's lawyer was questioning him in the first place is never answered. This scene was included after principle shooting had wrapped due to Executive Meddling.
- Blow starts with a scene that is repeated near the end, however, it is only the second time we get to see the end of the scene, and how quickly events of the scene become tragic.
- The Bothersome Man opens in a subway, where a couple kisses without any emotion whatsoever, and then a man jumps in front of a train. Some took the rest of the film as what happens once he's dead, but it becomes obvious that it's this trope when it comes back to the same scene. He's clearly in some kind of hell, because it seems he can't die, and just gets hopelessly bloodied, bruised and generally knocked about by the train, without dying.
- Carlitos Way starts with Carlito being taken away to the hospital.
- Cas And Dylan begins with Dylan driving while nursing her injured hand in an ice-filled cooler. Distracted by what's in the cooler, she looses control of the car and drives into a ditch, which propels the contents of the cooler - Cas' dead dog - into her lap. Cue hysterical screaming, followed by a rewind to two days prior.
- Casino begins with Ace's car blowing up with him inside.
- Cloverfield features a very subtle version. Early in the movie the video we are watching is said to have been recorded over another video. As the camera films the giant monster's rampage through the city and the character's attempts to survive, the camera keeps playing clips of the old video that was recorded over which is a vacation video of the characters going to Coney Island. In the movie's end we cut one last time to the old video after the monster is bombed by the army. In this last clip you can just barely notice that far off in the background, a very large object falls into the ocean from the sky....
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has an elderly woman called Daisy dying in hospital and she gets her daughter to read from the diary of the main character and the movie constantly switches between Benjamin's life story and the daughter's reaction. When the diary is finished being read Daisy fills in the last part herself.
- The movie adaptation of Daredevil begins this way, with a mortally wounded Daredevil explaining in narration how he got to be in that position. Once his origin is told and the story catches up to that point, however, Daredevil inexplicably shrugs off his injuries (he literally gets up and walks it off).
- Beautifully subverted in The Debt: near the beginning of the movie, a character (in 1997) reads a passage from a non-fiction book about an espionage mission she undertook in 1965. As she reads, we see the scene — the climax of the mission — unfold as a Flashback. The events leading up to the climax take up most of the rest of the film, and the scene from the book eventually repeats itself. Except that this time, when the Nazi prisoner knocks the heroine's head against the radiator, she's knocked out cold, and the bad guy gets away. Turns out that the three spies sent to capture him couldn't bear to report their failure and instead told the world that they'd killed him, knowing he'd go into hiding and no one but them would know he was alive.
- Deliver Us From Eva begins with the protagonist's funeral.
- D.O.A. opens with a scene towards the end of the story and then has the hero tell how he got there.
- Double Indemnity, through the device of the protagonist's confession.
- The movie adaptation of Bernard Pomerance's play, The Elephant Man, added a scene that is not in the original play after the end of all the play's events, so that Treves, as narrator, could use this trope. Arguably, this was to help explain the story to American audiences unfamiliar with the history, as in the play, there was no helpful narration either.
- Fight Club starts with Tyler Durden holding a gun in the Narrator's mouth. The film plays with and Lampshades it: Tyler first asks the Narrator if he has anything to say, and he says he doesn't. When the film catches up with itself, he asks the question again, and the Narrator replies he still can't think of anything, and Tyler quips, "Flashback humor."
- The Final opens up with a girl walking into a BBQ restaurant, her face horribly disfigured and hidden under her hair and a hoodie, with her fellow patrons all staring at her. She used to be the Alpha Bitch.
- For Love of the Game has aging baseball pitcher Billy Chapel pitching the final game of his career, with most of the movie taken up by his reminiscences of the ups and downs of his career and the effects it's had on his relationship. Between the flashbacks, Chapel is pitching a perfect game and not even realizing it until his flashbacks reach where he is now.
- Forrest Gump features Forrest talking about his life up until that point to people he's waiting at the bus stop with.
- Goodfellas begins with Henry, Tommy and Jimmy disposing of a dead body.
- The Hangover has a double-dose of this. It starts with the main characters in the middle of the Nevada desert saying they're not going to make it to the wedding before flashing back two days. Then there's a variation when the crazy night happens, and in the aftermath leaves the characters asking how they got there.
- This is one possible interpretation of Head. It opens with The Monkees interrupting the dedication of a bridge then Micky Dolenz throwing himself off it. The movie itself has no coherent plot, and events are tied together through transitions and occasional recurring elements. Nonetheless, there is a slight sense of progression, culminating in the band running away from many of the film's characters and interrupting the dedication in the process, then all of them jumping off a bridge to escape, bringing us back to the beginning.
- The Hole opens up with the protagonist Liz stumbling towards her school after spending 10 days locked in an old war bunker. The circumstances are then told in a series of flashbacks to a police psychologist. Halfway through the film we discover Liz made up the first half of the story and another person tells the truth about the circumstances and Liz remembers the real story.
- The movie Hoodwinked starts at the Little Red Riding Hood climax - Red's confrontation with the Wolf impersonating Granny inside the cottage, Granny comes out of the closet, bound and gagged, and then a lumberjack bursts through the window. The police come by to investigate and interview all four characters, who then each tell their story about how they came to end up here, and each story is shown as individual flashbacks.
- Im Juli opens with a scene chronologically towards the end of the movie. Therein the hero tells the story of how he ended up in that remote place.
- Inception opens with Cobb washing up on a shore and being taken to an elderly man. Said man sees his items, says it reminds him of someone he met long ago. Then the main plot begins. In the film's ending, it turns out Cobb is there to rescue the man from the dream he's been trapped for long enough for him to age.
- House of Sand and Fog opens and ends with the same scene of Jennifer Connelly's character staring blankly at her house.
- The Jerk starts by showing Navin Johnson homeless. He then narrates his journey from rags to riches to rags.
- Just Married opens with Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy bickering over their bad honeymoon, before showing Kutcher reminiscing how he and Murphy got married and how bad their honeymoon was.
- Kill Your Darlings opens with a shirtless Lucien Carr disposing of a body in a river, covered in blood.
- Kind Hearts and Coronets opens with the protagonist in prison, about to be executed. He decides to spend his last hours on earth writing his memoirs... cue flashback.
- Kiss Kiss Bang Bang starts with Harry telling the viewers how he and Harmony ended up in the same party.
- Ladder 49 is about a firefighter who is trapped in a very large burning building after saving someone's life and is unsuccessful in escaping, with flashbacks involving his career, marriage, and family making up the bulk of the movie.
- The Kubrick version of Lolita begins with Humbert Humbert going to see Quilty, asking him about a certain 'Lolita' and shooting him to death behind a portrait. The movie ends with Humbert walking into Quilty's house and a written epilogue over a frozen frame of the painting explains that Humbert died in prison while waiting for his trial.
- Love Story starts right off with "What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?" and thus gives you plenty of time to find some tissues.
- The Matrix Reloaded opens with Trinity falling from an upper window of an office building with an Agent in pursuit. She gets shot, then Neo wakes up — it was All Just a Dream. Then at the end, we realize Neo's dream was prophetic.
- The first scene of Melancholia is the titular planet destroying Earth, then it flashes back to the past.
- It could be said that the movie Memento is based on this device. The movie starts at the end then goes through each previous scene in backwards order, establishing... well ...how he got there.
- Michael Clayton opens with a sequence then rewinds to four days earlier and then revisits the opening with more information and greater context that gives it a new meaning.
- Monsters (2010) opens with a convoy of soldiers retrieving a young couple, then getting attacked by a giant alien which kills or wounds the woman. The rest of the movie depicts how the couple got to that point, but ends before actually reaching it.
- Moulin Rouge! opens with Christian typing up his story and then it goes back to show what events led to him writing the story to begin with.
- Pan's Labyrinth; however, it's only obvious that this is what they did when the movie comes back to the shot near the end.
- Megiddo: Omega Code 2 starts off with the battle of Armageddon and fills the rest of its running time showing how the Antichrist and his brother, who became the President of the United States, got to where they are now in the battle.
- Pain and Gain starts with the cops going after Daniel, and then flashing back to 6 months earlier.
- The movie (and, by extension, the album) Pink Floyd: The Wall starts in Pink's trashed hotel room, with Pink having already completed the metaphorical wall — from there the movie goes into flashbacks, with many of the subsequent songs/scenes describing the different "bricks" of his life which helped build it. (Although, confusingly, there is also a brief flash-forward to Fascist Pink at the concert/rally for the song "In the Flesh?" right near the beginning.)
- Pulp Fiction begins and ends with the same scene in the diner, but from the perspective of different characters.
- Shimotsuma Motogari opens with the main character speeding around some truly epic scenery porn on a motorscooter while wearing a frilly Victorian style dress. She is hit by a truck carrying cabbages and slow-motion falls through the air, quietly thinking about all the people, clothing brands and embroidery she'll miss now that she's dead. The screen then says THE END before she realizes that 'that's a bit too short, so let's rewind a little'. We then get the series of events that led up to this moment, followed by the conclusion of the movie.
- Star Wars, when watched in the Machete Order (IV - V - II - III - VI) treats Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as an extended flashback sequence explaining how the reveal at the end of The Empire Strikes Back came to be.
- Sunset Boulevard starts with the main character explaining why he's floating face down in a pool.
- The film Swordfish, which probably did it so they could show off the coolest scene in the movie twice: once as the opening scene, and again about 2/3 through.
- Thor: opens with Thor getting hit by a truck in the middle of the desert. The next half-hour or so is spent on how he got there, and why being hit with a truck would be bad for him.
- Transcendence, opens with the ending scene, making it clear the Apocalypse How went down already.
- Unknown2006 involves five men waking up in a warehouse with no memory of how they got there and soon learning that at least two of them have been kidnapped and at least two of them are the kidnappers...
- Vanilla Sky is shown by being told from David, the main character, to Curtis, a psychiatrist from prison.
- Vanishing Point opens with Kowalski heading at high speed towards a huge police roadblock, complete with bulldozers. Flash back to two days previous to discover how he got there.
- The biopic Veronica Guerin begins with the titular character being gunned down as she's driving home from traffic court. The film then flashes back to two years earlier, when she began her work investigating the drug trade in Ireland.
- TV movie Wedding Belles had a kickass one wherein a bride and three bridesmaids dig up a grave, round up three other guys they have some sort of beef with, and shoot them [including the corpse] down by the docks. Somewhat disappointingly, it turns out to be a wish fulfillment dream.
- The Yes Men begins with the two men in a bathroom, rushing to get one of their number into a ridiculous-looking golden bodysuit and arguing about time zones. As it turns out, this is just before they carry out their first major hoax, but they've got plenty more to go through before the film is over.
- This is a popular technique for historical non-fiction works, especially popular non-fiction written in novelistic style.
- Kurt Eichenwald's book about Enron, Conspiracy of Fools starts with a board meeting not long before Enron's collapse in which crooked CFO Andrew Fastow was fired, then vaults back in time to tell the history of the company from the beginning.
- Pope Brock's book Charlatan, a biography of notorious quack doctor John W. Brinkley, starts with Brinkley's demonstration for the Kansas State Medical Board in 1930 and the board's subsequent revocation of his license, then jumps back to tell Brinkley's life story starting with his birth in 1885.
- Older Than Feudalism: Homer's The Odyssey did this.
- Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith, of the Discworld series, starts off not just at the ending, but at a possible ending.
- Lampshade Hanging and Subversion: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians begins with the title character/narrator about to be sacrificed by the equally Evil Librarians on an altar of encyclopedias. Naturally, we immediately go off to a low-key domestic scene. The narrator explains that he has done this to screw with the reader, to prove he's not a nice person. Ultimately this scene never actually occurs, which the narrator cites as further proof that he's a bad person Two books later, we find out that this scene will only occur in the fifth (and last) book of the series.
- And the series is on hiatus . . . right before the fifth book. Fudge . . .
- Used in the Chuck Palahniuk novels Survivor, Lullaby, and most notably, Fight Club.. Survivor opens with the protagonist in an empty plane he's hijacked that's running out of gas somewhere above the Australian outback. The rest of the book is a flashback being recited into the flight recorder. Lullaby starts with the protagonist and someone named Sarge on a hunt for witches, and every so often the story of How We Got Here is interrupted for an update on the latest stop in their hunt. Fight Club more or less begins at the end, before coming back to the opening for the second chapter.
- The novel George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt opens with a very cool sequence featuring George commanding the space shuttle during a launch, which then turns out to be a dream from which he is awakened in an unfamiliar bed. The first half of the book covers how he got there.
- Wicked has an unusual version: the "end" is an event the audience presumably knows already, due to the ubiquity of The Wizard of Oz, but goes on to tell the events leading up to it in a completely different manner, focusing on side characters from the original story (which also makes it something of a Lower Deck Episode).
- K.J Parker's The Scavenger Trilogy The whole series is an extended journey to appreciate how we got to the mysterious start of the story.
- Infinite Jest, although one could certainly be forgiven for not realizing it.
- Finnegan's Wake ends with an incomplete sentence that is resolved by the first sentence (opened with a lowercase letter) in the book. Since the book is heavily based on Vico's Historic Cycles, it's How We Got Here to the extreme.
- Eastern Standard Tribe opens with Art on the roof of a pysch hospital and is split between the present and past storylines.
- They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starts with Robert, the protagonist being sentenced for the murder of his friend, Gloria (which he did on her request). This happens at the very end of the book.
- Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron is begins with the narrator being slowly digested by a carnivorous plant. 400 pages later you find out why.
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher starts out after a girl named Hannah's suicide. The protagonist Clay receives 13 tapes made by her explaining why she killed herself.
- Alyson NoŽl's Saving ZoŽ takes place one year after ZoŽ is brutally murdered. It follows her sister Echo reading ZoŽ's diary and finding out about her life before she was murdered.
- Robopocalypse starts immediately after the destruction of the final A.I. bastion then flashes back to the creation of that A.I. and the start of the robot war.
- Dr. Seuss' The Lorax starts and ends at the place where the Onceler's Thneed factory once stood, with the Onceler telling the young boy listening how it all happened.
- Catcher In The Rye starts off with Holden hospitalised and telling a psychologist the events that led up to it.
- Roger Zelazny is fond of this trope:
- Doorways in the Sand: Every single chapter, except the first and the last, works this way.
- Lord of Light after the In Medias Res first chapter, a little more than half the book is dedicated to explaining how Sam came to be at war with the Gods.
- P. G. Wodehouse uses a six-line version of this in his short story Right Ho, Jeeves before the Narrator pulls back and laments the difficulty of deciding when best to start a story.
- In The Bible, the entirety of the Book of Genesis is this. Tradition holds that it was written and narrated by Moses.
- In the Southern Sisters Mysteries, Murder Shoots the Bull opens with Mary Alice and Patricia Anne in jail because Mary Alice hit a bank president over the head with an umbrella. Patricia Anne observes that to explain how they got into this predicament, she'd have to back up a few weeks, and proceeds to tell the reader about her latest wacky adventure.
Live Action TV
- The sixth volume of Witch Hunter opens on Tasha somewhere (most probably in England), fighting a guy whose face we've only seen once and whose name is yet unknown (Lancelot), and apparently in a tight spot, what with his right arm having been ripped off and Halloween being nowhere in sight. That's the first few pages; the chapter then goes on to show Tasha being sent away in a mission. Two volumes later, he's still only on his way to the place where this all is supposedly going to happen...
- Pink Floyd's concept album The Wall begins with the song "In The Flesh?", sung from the perspective of the main character Pink: "If you want to find out what's behind these cold eyes / You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise." From there the album goes into a long flashback of Pink's entire life, beginning with the sound of a baby crying leading into the next song "The Thin Ice". The narrative of the album finally returns to where it began with the sort-of Dark Reprise "In The Flesh".
- The Vocaloid trilogy Shinseiki ~New Millenium~,Risoukyou ~Utopia~,and A Faint Wish. The first video is chronologically the last, and the second two are basically flashbacks telling us how the story led up to the first video.
- The Slick Rick song "Sittin" In My Car" begins unsurprisingly with Rick sitting in his car. Rick then proceeds to tell the tale of debauchery and intrigue that explains why he is waiting in his Jeep outside a club for a particular girl.
- Watsky's video for "Stupidass" starts with Watsky dirty and naked, then rewinds until the audience sees what happened.
- Many Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals begin at the end and are told in flashback: Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Aspects of Love, Sunset Boulevard (of course, the source material for this one did, as well).
- Love Never Dies opened this way as well in the original London staging (and the cast album), but by the time the Australian production was filmed, the prologue was dropped.
- Another musical example; the Rock Opera Quadrophenia, by the Who, opens with the main character stranded on a rock off the coast of Brighton, in the pouring rain, with no means of egress, and goes on to explain how he ended up there.
- The musical Wicked follows the same format as the novel, with the added twist that it turns out Elphaba faked her own death.
- The musical Merrily we roll along does this to the point where it's told in entirely reverse order.
- The off-Broadway run of Vanities: The Musical followed this format, with a prologue in the mid-80's/early 90's, which the story returns to in the Distant Finale.
- Anne Of The Thousand Days begins with Anne awaiting execution while Henry steels himself to sign her death warrant.
- Grey Gardens begins in 1973 with Big and Little Edie playing a record of "The Girl Who Has Everything", which segues into the 1941 flashback for the first act. At the end of the 1973 second act, the story returns to the opening scene.
- Abe's Oddysee begins with Abe tied up and looking miserable, a voice over delivered by Abe explains the situation he's in and proceeds to explain how he got there which makes up the entire game.
- The video game Max Payne opens this way, with Max completing a shot with a sniper rifle in the opening cinematic, and then flashing back to the Back Story, eventually starting the gameplay somewhere in the middle.
- Its sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, opens the same way, with an injured Max laying with Mona on the floor of a mansion with police moving in, and then flashing back to how they ended up there. Which, in turn, opens with a wounded Max trying to escape from a hospital, and then flashes back to how he ended up there for all of Part I and Part II.
- The Movie has Max telling of how did he end up in the freezing ocean.
- Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge opens with Guybrush dangling from a rope over a deep, dark pit, while hanging onto a treasure chest. Love interest Elaine Marley slides down on another rope and asks how Guybrush got himself into this mess. Has the advantage that at the one point in the game where's it's theoretically possible for Guybrush to die, the game returns to this scene for Elaine to point out the incongruity and you get to go back for another go.
- Final Fantasy X opens with the first part of a sombre campfire cutscene outside Zanarkand. Tidus narrates: "Listen to my story. This may be our last chance." You really get to this campfire about 2/3 of the way through the game.
- The sequel Final Fantasy X-2 plays with this by explaining the beginning. A small sidequest explains what the real Yuna was doing while Rikku and Paine were gate-crashing the concert from the opening scene.
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens as The Prince relates his story to Farah, and takes place almost entirely in the flashback thus framed. Each time you die, The Prince says something like, "That didn't happen," or "Wait, let me go over that part again."
- The same words the Prince first uttered at The Sands of Time are also the last words he says at the end of The Two Thrones, making the entire Sands of Time Trilogy a How We Got Here story.
- Fahrenheit is narrated past tense by the main character. When you die, though, he says things like "And that was the end of my story. I never cleared my name and I never found out why I killed that man".
- Final Fantasy Tactics begins with Ovelia's kidnapping, and then goes into flashback for Chapter One to show how the characters got to where they are "now". Furthermore, the Framing Device of the game itself is that it's presenting the "true story" of the Lion War generations after the fact.
- God of War begins with the protagonist attempting to commit suicide, with the rest of the game leading up to why.
- Heavenly Sword begins with Nariko facing down King Bohan's entire army with the title sword, which tries to kill her at the end of the scene before it flashes back to how she got to this point.
- Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves follows the series tradition of a setup/prologue level, though in this case, it's the huge caper that will make Sly's career and recover his family fortune. At the end of the prologue, Sly is caught by the Big Bad's ultimate monster; the opening cutscene and the first six main levels are his life flashing before his eyes, as he assembles his ultimate team of thieving experts for the vault job. The final level opens on the same scene, as Sly's strength starts to fail him, but the gameplay picks up with a different playable character riding to the rescue.
- Sacrifice: The entire story is a flashback, told by Eldred after he rescues Mithras from the ruined world shown in the intro. Notable in that the game has a branching storyline, but the outcome is set: No matter which god you serve, the world's going to end up a wreck. Similar to Prince of Persia above, the narrator comments "Now where was I... ah yes." when loading or "Of course, that's not what really happened." when restarting. He's also at one point interrupted by Mithras demanding that he explain something else about the Big Bad.
- In Romancing Sa Ga 2, the bard is retelling the tale of your empire in the pub of said imperial city. The Emperor you chose at the beginning of the game is in the same room, speaks to the bard at the end of the game and reminisces of all the allies and classes the player has met and recruited based on what events were cleared.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is presented as a narration of the primary protagonist Zoe Castillo, who lies in coma and recalls the events that left her in this condition.
- Done to great comedic effect in Sam & Max: Night of the Raving Dead. Sam and Max are in a deathtrap with spikes closing in on them. Max states "I can't even remember how we got here!" and Sam calmly narrates the story that the player is about to see. When the player eventually reaches the deathtrap, Sam says just as calmly "Oh, drat. I was so busy telling the story, I forgot to come up with an escape plan!" at which point the trap closes, killing them both. Fortunately, they come back as zombies and are thus able to thwart the schemes of Big Bad Jurgen.
- It's also played with in Sam & Max 301: The Penal Zone, when Max uses the future-vision goggles to see how he and Sam are going to defeat General Skunkape. Skunkape then subverts it by using the goggles to discover their plan and promptly throw a spanner in the works.
- Sam & Max 302: The Tomb of Sammun-Mak uses this as a game mechanic. You find the skeletons of your ancestors in the basement of your building together with some movie reels that contain the story of what happened to them. You can play the reels out of order to get hints on what happened further along in the story and then you go back to an earlier reel to play out the story as it happened. The final reel is one big How We Got Here since you have to explain how you solved all the other reels in order to progress.
- AceAttorneyInvestigations—the second and third cases are flashbacks occuring before the first case— and the fourth case is a flashback seven years back from the third case. It's less confusing in context.
- Made very well in the popular RPG Maker game A blurred line. It all starts with three agents of sort trying to stop a terrorist from destroying an extremely important facility. After the intro, the player takes control over the terrorist, set one year earlier.
- Pitfall The Lost Expedition opens up with you fighting against the demon jaguar, the semifinal boss, only to wind up pinned and about to get your head bitten off, which is when the movie pauses. Harry then says "They say that when a giant demon jaguar is about to terminate your existence, your life flashes before your eyes..." The game then flashes back to twenty-four hours previous, and the game up until you reach the demon jaguar is buildup to that point.
- Devil May Cry 3 begins with Lady narrating over the fight between Dante and Vergil, which really happens in Mission 7 of the game and is only the first of three major clashes the brothers have.
- The opening scene of Eternal Sonata is that of Polka standing on the edge of a cliff, facing away from it. She convinces herself that "this" is something she has to do... and lets herself fall off, uttering a couple more lines over the course of her fall. After you beat Frederic, the final boss (in game terms), if the appearance of the environment hasn't tipped you off, the next part will. Against Allegretto's protests, she says... most of the lines from the first scene again (but compare the last thing she says in that scene where she's falling to what she says in the analogous scene here). Then we proceed beyond the scene and see what's probably been happening afterward.
- Prototype opens with Alex Mercer rampaging through Manhattan, with no explanation why. After killing a military commander in Times Square, we cut to a scene on a rooftop where Mercer and a shadowy behind the scenes person are having a discussion about how things led up to the present (New York being a total hellscape). We then flashback to the start of the outbreak and move forward.
- Saints Row IV opens to a person in full-body armor sitting upon a throne. That scene is from the ending, after the Boss kills Zinyak and takes over his empire.
- The first level of The Conduit consists of a tutorial set in a subway system. The second level starts with a flashback five days earlier, and the story doesn't return to the subway until late in the game.
- with about 2-3 times more enemies than there were the first time around, which doesn't make sense.
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty begins with Solid Snake as the narrator reminiscing of the events of the Tanker chapter.
- Its sequel, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, shows Snake at a graveyard (the same one from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater) in its main menu, about to kill himself. The scene is partially explained part of the way through the game, but is not fully shown until the epilogue, where Snake cannot bring himself to commit suicide, and Big Boss, having previously been thought to be dead, shows up to explain the events of the game, and to tie up any remaining loose ends in the series.
- Possibly (subverted? inverted?) twisted in the game Second Sight, you play as John Vattic, waking up in the hospital with the sudden power of telepathy. Periodically throughout the game, you suffer flashbacks to an adventure you had in Russia, where you were acting as a paranormal specialist (with a strong disbelief in psychic powers). The twist is that flashbacks are usually triggered by discovering something that triggers your memory, but (really quite minor spoiler) after what happens in the flashback doesn't match the information you received, (i.e. some one you knew supposedly dying in Russia), the information changes to reflect your memory (same example- the person's records listing them as alive, now). And then, of course, (major spoiler:) he later discovers that his list of psychic powers actually includes precognition, and that all the events from waking up in the hospital on are actually a possible future that he is foretelling will happen if he doesn't change it, and his supposed flashbacks are the actual events as they unfold.
- Battlefield 3, of the Battlefield series, does this with the campaign. You start out with handcuffs on one of your arms, the player running from the police, and then jumping onto a subway train. And then you immediately start fighting masked soldiers on said train, where people seem to recognize you, and you run into the Big Bad. The final mission has you repeating that segment, in a Once More with Clarity fashion.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves begins with Nathan Drake, bleeding out from his stomach, barely holding on to a train car that's hanging precariously over the edge of a cliff in a snowy mountain range, and the game uses the opportunity to teach you how to climb stuff. The game then flashes back and forth between that point and four months prior when everything started, and eventually sticks you back four months ago and goes from there. You get back to the hanging train car about halfway through the game. And then you have to climb it again, with Nate complaining about all the spoilery stuff you wouldn't have known about at first, such as Chloe refusing to be rescued from Lazarevic and how his "hero" efforts aren't appreciated and how he is just sick of climbing shit...
- Endless Ocean Blue World opens with whales absolutely everywhere, the player in a boat with a bunch of strangers, an entrance to a mysterious ruin... and then the flashback kicks in and you're asked what you look like and given your job interview.
- Elemental Gearbolt, as evidenced by its introductory cutscene.
- Conkers Bad Fur Day starts off with Conker sitting on the throne, king. The rest of the game is the day before leading up to that point.
- In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, that opening trailer is the final battle of the individual character stories with some scenes added, and the rest of the game is showing how things led to that battle.
- In Dragon Age II, the legend of Hawke is told by Varric, a dwarven companion of his/hers to the Chantry Seeker Cassandra. Varric for his part plays a bit of the Unreliable Narrator, exaggerating certain parts of the story whenever he feels like it while Cassandra tries to find the true story.
- In the remake of Wild ARMs 1, the first two minutes is about a group of people with a giant structure and a reunion of sorts. The rest of the game then tells how events happened. Thankfully, they don't spoil Zed being a party member.
- The campaign of Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars starts off with a Forced Tutorial of two soldiers in a mission with no explanation of why they were there in the first place except a few dialogue. After which the actual campaign starts in the beginning. Four-fifth through the game, the tutorial mission got to be replayed again as an actual mission near the end of the story.
- Halo 3: ODST is practically built around this trope. You begin the game several hours after the battle has been lost, having been knocked unconscious during the opening cutscene. Much of the game is spent searching for clues as to what happened that day, whereupon you play flashback levels from the perspective of one of your team-mates.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops uses this as its framing device, with Mason in the midst of an interrogation for 95% of the game and the actual missions being him recounting his experiences to the other men in the room.
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 has a level where you start out in the middle of an ambush. The mission then flashes back 20 minutes to show you how you ended up in that ambush. Sadly, it feels like they really shouldn't have bothered with the flashback.
- Discworld Noir opens with an Impending Doom P.O.V. shot of something chasing Lewton down and eviscirating him, before his Private Eye Monologue begins "I've had some bad days since I started work as a private investigator. But I've never woken up dead before. It all started the week before..."
- A partial example in Bastion. The events of the game start at the beginning of the story and continue on normally, but eventually it's revealed that Rucks' ongoing narrative is being told to Zia while The Kid storms the final dungeon of the game. When the player finally reaches that point, Rucks runs out of story to tell, and instead starts talking about their present situation and speculating what's going on on The Kid's end.
- Slender: The Arrival: Throughout the game, the player (aka Lauren) finds letters from CR to Kate talking about both characters' growing conditions. Towards the end, it's revealed that Kate was turned into one of Slender's proxy and CR committed suicide by setting himself on fire.
- Xenogears' entire second disc consists primarily of this.
- Always Sometimes Monsters opens with a Mexican Standoff in an alleyway, as a Mysterious Stranger recounts a story about whichever protagonist you selected. This story contains its own Flashbacks to events that shaped the protagonist's past.
- Practically an Omnipresent Trope in this medium, as every work desperately tries to avoid having to start with waking up in an Ordinary High-School Student's bedroom on a schoolday morning, where the stories usually start, so they put something in front of it.
- CLANNAD starts with the first part of the final Illusionary World sequence, which isn't fully played until the end of the game.
- Kira-Kira, over and over again. You're dropped in the middle of a scene, and the next five minutes are spent explaining what happened before then.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni: The first arc begins with a long monologue and a black screen, with someone apologizing... as a wet and sickening THWACK noise sounds repeatedly in the background. This is Keiichi apologizing to Rena and Mion after bludgeoning them to death. This is likely where the anime adaptation (see above) got the idea of opening some arcs (including this one) with a clip from the end, or a suitably dramatic point.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni, episode 5. Ushiromiya Natsuhi, you are the culprit! Way to start an episode of an extremely long murder mystery story. In the end, it turns out that Erika was wrong after all. In fact, Natsuhi becomes one of the two characters confirmed to not be the culprit. EP 6 follows suit starting with BATTLER and Erika's Wedding, with BATTLER in a logic error
- Fate/Stay Night starts with a scene from the the third day, before starting on the first.
- Chaos;Head starts with one of the endings.
- ef - a fairy tale of the two. starts with the ending, and jumps to two different points in the middle, before starting at the beginning.
- Chapter 7 of Gunnerkrigg Court begins with Antimony standing on a bridge, thinking to herself, "Something is wrong. I shouldn't be here." By the time we see how she got there, we agree with her.
- The Sprite Comic Captain SNES: The Game Masta uses this with the main character as the narrator (who likes to jump around), while Alex and his captor in the present discuss the events in the flashback and verbally spar.
- Several Sluggy Freelance storylines have done this, most notably "The Storm Breaker Saga" and the second half of "Oceans Unmoving."
- The Least I Could Do storyline College Party begins with one in this comic.
- How I Killed Your Master
- This strip of Irregular Webcomic!.
- The entirety of The Space Between thus far is framed like this, told in flashback by the main character, three years later.
- The first 10 pages of Dragon Ball Multiverse are chronologically placed between chapters 9 and 11 (chapter 10 is a special chapter). They also work as a trailer.
- The first story of What the Fu starts with this, but doesn't really offer much of an explanation.
- The first page of The Fuzzy Five apparently starts In Medias Res, but after one frame, Spirit invites Otto to Flashback to how it all got started.
- The first chapter of Sire begins in a juvenile mental hospital and spends the rest of the chapter having the main character describe how she ended up there.
- Chapter one of Sunstone starts with Lisa taking off her wedding ring, revealing it's inscription "Forever Mine", she threads the ring onto her necklace, cracks her knuckles, and starts writing about how it all transpired.
- Chapter's 5 through 20 of The Zombie Hunters. Chapter 1 through 4 establish the team's dynamic is falling to pieces under Jenny's sub-par leadership. Chapters 5 through 20 shows how everything went so wrong as to land them in the predicament they found themselves in in Chapter 1, with the story finally returning to the present in Chapter 21.
- The "Catnip" chapter of El Goonish Shive starts In Medias Res and most of it is a flashback which is revealed at the end to have been shown to Sarah as a video.
- On The Gungan Council, "It's Not That I Keep Hanging On, I'm Never Letting Go" slips into three different flashbacks to explain how and why Bianca and Darth Apparatus were separated for over two decades.
- The entirety of Season 2 to Marble Hornets. The first few entries show Jay waking up in a hotel room with no memory of the last seven months. After finding a large number of tapes in his room safe, he witnesses the events that lead up to his amnesia.
- The very first episode of The Accuser started with the protagonist, Dan Mason, in a hospital bed, motionless, hearing the doctors mentioning that his wife was dead. Then we get flashbacks of his career as a criminal defense attorney and how it led to his hospital bed.
- On The Thrilling Adventure Hour, the "Beyond Belief" episode "Love Love Me Doom" parodied this. It opens with Frank and Sadie yelling at each other and wanting a divorce and then the narrative goes back to before the fight. However, when time catches up, they only act the fight because it was heard at the beginning, though they still love each other.
- Arby 'n' the Chief's fifth season.
- Splinter Cell: Extinction: the prologue starts "47 minutes from now". Hence we know that the Corbin mission is a bust in advance.
- Mario Brothers starts with Mario running from something while lamenting his failures, and flashes back to show what occurred.