My Life Flashed Before My Eyes
Abel demonstrates the usefulness of the device.
"Ooh, me life flashed before me eyes!... It was really boring."
Oh no, that's his knife lodged in my gut
. I'm blacking out, too much blood loss. I can't die now! I had so much to live for! I can see my parents smiling as they tuck me in as a child. My school days as a lanky teenager, worrying about homework and girls. I see the day I got The Call
and meeting up with my four new friends
. You know, after seeing that sequence of relevant scenes either exposing parts of my Back Story
or using somehow familiar visuals
I see that this can't be the end. I have to get up and fight!
That, or it's just my brain going into overdrive
, and I really am dying
Characters using this trope go about it in two ways. In one, the audience is treated to a mini Clip Show
of Stock Footage
or Flash backs
. In the other, a character experiencing a harrowing experience says his "life flashed before [his] eyes". In that case, a common follow-up is mentioning how the flashback was awesome, boring or too short.
Truth in Television
. According to the Other Wiki
the phenomenon is known as life review and is a widely occurring experience of people seeing much of their life history in chronological sequence and precise detail during near-death encounters.
Compare Contemplate Our Navels
and Dying Dream
(where the entire story is revealed to be this). Really Dead Montage
is a meta version.
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- In a Volkswagen commercial, a couple is shown taking their baby home from the hospital and tucking him into the car seat, then driving off. A car backs out in front of them, and the car jerks to a stop, causing the camera to zoom in on the baby's face and the previous scenes of the commercial to flash before the baby's eyes (because that's pretty much his entire life).
- One Get a Mac ad has PC injured after someone trips over his power cord and knocks him to the ground. He mentions his life is flashing past his eyes and he sees a sunset in a field full of beautiful wheat, to which Mac asks if that's his screensaver.
- An add for rum had a man involved in a logging operation in South East Asia. One of the huge logs slips and starts rolling towards the man, who experiences an instant montage starting from birth to this accident. Then the log hits a rock and bounces over him. Cut to I Need a Freaking Drink.
Anime & Manga
- Inverted in Death Note, where Random images of L's orphanage flashed seconds before he died.
- In Naruto Jiraiya sees flashbacks of him with Minato and Kushina and also of Naruto after he gets his throat slashed by Pain. This drives him to wake up to encode a message before he dies for real. Later, Hinata has flashbacks of how Naruto inspires her during her fight against Pain.
- Played completely straight in Gundam 00 when Lockon dies.
- Osaka says that, while they're out seeing the pandas, she wants to see this. Though it takes a little bit to think of it.
- In the first episode of Excel Saga, really bizarre scenes from Excel's life flash before the paramedics in the ambulance and one of them says, "Uh oh, her life's flashing by. That's no good, crap."
- A variation of this occurs in Elfen Lied when Kurama blows himself up with his diclonius daughter. A vision of what life could have been like if his daughter wasn't a diclonius and his wife therefore hadn't died rather than how it actually was (thus avoiding the usual Clip Show part of this trope) flashes before his eyes just before the bomb goes off.
- Bandou plays it straight.
- Literally happens in Black Butler when Shinigami Grell slices into people's bodies and ribbons of film burst out; this so the Shinigami can determine where their victims go in the afterlife.
- Gungrave uses this trope as much as possible. Every character (good and bad) seems to have a flashback sequence or a life flashing experience as part of their death scene. In fact only the nameless mooks seem to be able to die without fuss.
- Shows up in a pivotal moment in GUN×SWORD. Van survives his near-defeat once he remembers Elena, but the flashback also hints at the depth of his feelings for Wendy, since she and Elena are the only two people he remembers in full color.
- Happens in Pluto with a tragic twist. The person in question was making a Heroic Sacrifice, broadcasting live footage of his duel with Pluto from his eye cameras to Geischt, which he could use to find Pluto's weakness. Once his life starts flashing, the footage is ruined and the guy died for nothing.
- In Nichijou, Mio experiences this after tasting her sister's jam.
- In the novelization of the third Batman movie, Papa Grayson's life flashes before his eyes seconds before he dies. And to his surprise, there's nothing he would've done differently.
- Done in Armageddon when Harry detonates the bomb. Images of his daughter and wife briefly flash on the screen.
- In the last few moments of Vanilla Sky, David experiences this when jumping off a building
- Shanghai Knights
Roy: "My life is flashing before my eyes! Wait! I don't remember her"
- Treasure Planet:
- In The Producers, someone else's life flashes in front of Max Bialystock's eyes.
Max: "I see my mother in a nice, gingham gown calling, 'Alvin! Don't forget to do your chores! The wood needs a cuttin' and the cows needs a milkin'! Alvin! Alllllvin!' Wait. My name's not Alvin."
- In Beavis And Butthead Do America, the two characters are about to die of thirst when they end up having their life flash before their eyes. Butthead's life just showed them at various ages, but always sitting on the same couch chuckling at the TV (he concludes that his life was cool). Beavis flashes back to when he was just a sperm, hitting on the ova before he gets shoved in by the other sperm.
Beavis: Hehehee ... I scored.
- Spoofed in Chicken Run as seen in the quote at the top of the page.
- From A Cinderella Story:
David: I think I just saw your life flash before your eyes.
Carter: Oh yeah? Well, did you see the part where I run away? *turns and flees*
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids:
Nick: When we crashed, my entire life flashed before my eyes. It didn't take too long.
- The Decoy Bride:
Katie: Thanks for saving my life.
James: Well, I'm sorry you nearly drowned.
Katie: Don't be. My life flashed in front of my eyes, and halfway through I was just bored. Being drowned was a highlight.
- At the end of Mission to Mars, one of the characters is about to fly away on a Martian starship to meet the rest of the Martians. The pod fills with some sort of oxygen-saturated liquid that allows him to breathe (and acts as Inertial Dampening). Just as the ship is taking off, he gets flashbacks of episodes in his life, most of the including his dead wife. While he's not really dying, it's heavily implied that he'll never make it back to Earth.
- In American Beauty, it happens to Lester when he dies.
Lester: (narrating) I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn't a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time.
- In The Muppets Take Manhattan, after his and Camilla near-fatal scuffle with a con-man producer, Gonzo says that his "life flashed before his nose."
- Played around with in various Discworld novels: Death states that humans do indeed see their lives flash before their eyes before they die, but this happens starting from their birth, and is called "living". (He says this a lot - Death doesn't have many pearls of wisdom to give out, he doesn't have the capacity to understand most, so the ones he can show up often. People in his line of work are kind of stuck to a theme.)
- Also in Discworld, it's mentioned as early as The Light Fantastic that Rincewind had seen his life flash before his eyes so often that he could sleep through the boring bits.
- Vimes has done this once or twice, complete with him hoping they could skip a few bits.
- In the Young Wizards novel High Wizardry, Dairine relives all 11 years of her life in the span of several milliseconds when the Motherboard downloads all of her memories.
- This happens to everyone the first few times, apparently. It happened to Roshaun when Dairine took him there in Wizards At War.
- The whole planet is a wizard computer chip with (almost?) unlimited memory space. You expect it to not do this to everyone it can?
- The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy: Subverted, in that Ford Prefect uses the flashback in order to gain inspiration on ways to get out of dying in the current situation.
- Before its completion, a press release for Life The Universe And Everything gave this as the way Arthur learned to fly: he was so taken aback by some of the things he saw as his life flashed before his eyes after jumping off a cliff that he neglected to hit the ground. The scene played out differently in the completed novel, of course.
- Double Dragon
Billy Lee: "My whole life flashed before my eyes! Dude, I sleep a lot."
- Grosse Pointe Blank
Marty: "I was sitting there alone on prom night, in a goddamn rented tuxedo, and my whole life flashed before my eyes. And I realized finally, and for the first time, that I wanted to kill somebody. So I figured since I loved you so much, it'd be a good idea if I didn't see you anymore."
- Hour Of The Gun
Wyatt Earp: When we were kids, we used to argue about whether when you were dying, your whole life flashed in front of you or not. He said, "It ain't so, Wyatt."
- Parodied in the Paul Simms essay "My Near-Death Experience" , which provides tips on making your life more interesting to watch in case it flashes before your eyes.
- The entire point of Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff. (Since it's literature, the character can actually die and still narrate.)
- In the first Dune novel, Duke Leto Atreides' life flashes before his eyes as he succumbs to the poison gas he released in an attempt to kill Baron Harkonnen which only killed Piter de Vries. The moments that stand out the most are the happy times he shared with Paul and Jessica, in particular the day he taught a young Paul how to fly a kite.
- From the book version of You Only Live Twice, James Bond writes a haiku that seems to be describing this.
"You only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face."
- Averted in one of the Soldiers of Barrabas books involving an I Have Your Wife plot. When the Big Bad's plan goes pear-shaped, he orders The Dragon to execute Barrabas' Love Interest before fleeing. As The Dragon puts a pistol to her head and does a Dramatic Gun Cock, she reflects that this trope is rubbish as there's no time to experience anything. He fires into the wall instead, not wanting to be pursued by Barrabas for the rest of his life.
Live Action TV
- Absolutely Fabulous
Saffie: "My life just flashed before my eyes."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Killed by Death"
"Man, Buffy. My life just flashed before my eyes. [beat
] I gotta get me a life."
- There's also a meta example in the 100th episode "The Gift", where the Previously On montage contains rapid-fire clips of every single preceding episode in chronological order. The episode ends with Buffy's death.
- Saturday Night Live
Caitlin: "This one time, I got choked on a pickle at Wendy's and my whole life flashed before my eyes and I said, 'Not yet, sweet Jesus, not yet; I've never been to Disney World!' and then I threw up all over the restaurant and the manager gave me a certificate for one free hamburger a year for the rest of my life! Isn't that right, Rick? Rick, Rick, Rick!"
- In Black Adder Back & Forth, Blackadder holds Baldrick's head in the toilet until he nearly drowns, so that he'll see the initial settings on the time machine control panel (needed to get home) when his life flashes before his eyes.
- Called and inverted in Dead Like Me:
[As a toilet seat from the re-entering Mir station plummets through the sky, George is awkwardly moving through a city plaza.]
George: [voiceover] They say your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the moment before you die? That might be true if you're terminally ill, or your parachute doesn't open...
[She looks up to see the fireball heading straight for her.]
George: [voiceover] ? but if death sneaks up on you, the only thing you have time to think is...
George: Aw, shit.
- Firefly, "Out of Gas": Mal has flashbacks of meeting the other crewmembers
- On Bottom, as Richie and Eddie dangle above the ground in a broken ferris wheel:
: My entire life flashed before my eyes! It was one long, relentless collage of grey... interspersed with visits to the lav
- On QI, Stephen Fry suggests that, if you lose your keys, you should start drowning yourself — then you can wait until you see the moment where you last had them flashing before your eyes, save yourself, and go get them.
- David Fisher, in one episode of Six Feet Under, is kidnapped by a violent lunatic who comes very close to shooting him in the face. This trope is represented by a montage of flashbacks from his childhood and short clips from earlier in the series, just as David is convinced his life is almost over.
- Darien Fawkes of The Invisible Man notes to his colleagues, shortly after nearly being killed by a bomb: "You know that whole thing about your life flashing before your eyes? Doesn't happen."
- LOST episode Flashes Before Your Eyes has an interesting variation: not only do the flashes triggered by a near-death experience continue after the event is over, they actually are a combination of premonitions and Mental Time Travel. This trope is merely used by a character to describe the weird things happening to him.
Desmond: "When I turned that key my life flashed before my eyes. And then I was back in the jungle and still on this bloody island. But those flashes, Charlie - those flashes - they didn't stop."
- The The Odd Couple episode "You Saved My Life" has Felix do this after nearly falling out a window.
You know what? My whole life flashed before my eyes. I remembered where I lost my skate key.
- When Ted of How I Met Your Mother gets in a car crash, he says that he didn't see his whole life flash before his eyes - just the important things. This made him realize he wanted to be with Stella. Barney, who gets in a considerably worse crash shortly afterward, has a similar revelation about Robin.
- Mad About You: This series has an entire episode revolve around this trope, "Paul Slips in the Shower". As the title implies, early in the episode we see Paul taking a shower when he suddenly slips. As he falls, flashes of random scenes from his past start playing for almost the entire episode. About a minute before the episode ends, we jump back to the present where we see Paul barely managed to grab the shower curtain, saving his life. Note that despite the premise, this episode is not a clip show, as all the footage is entirely new.
- Dollhouse. In "Haunted", Echo is implanted with the personality of Margaret Bashford, a deceased friend of Adelle DeWitt who wants to find out Who Dunnit To Me. It's only a temporary arrangement however, and at the end of the episode Margaret is about to have the implant erased, 'killing' her permanently, when she asks, "Will I see my whole life flash before my eyes?" Adelle chokes out the reply, "Every single moment." The scene then cuts to the standard erasure moment when all the previous Echo scenes of the episode flash up on screen.
- An episode of Torchwood has the team trapped by a collapsed building. Each of them flashes back to how they ended up at Torchwood Three. Jack remembers a number of things from his life, such as his brother being captured by aliens, being forced to join Torchwood at gunpoint, and becoming the head of Torchwood when his former commander kills everyone else.
- The Grand Finale of Eureka has wormholes opening up all over town. Things get dangerous when they start criss-crossing, meaning people could get sliced in half while traveling through one (Deputy Andy loses an arm, but, luckily, he's an android and can be fixed). In order to close the wormholes, someone has to jump through one with a device designed to collapse them. Of course, Jack chooses to go. As he's flying through it, he sees images from past episodes in the tunnel. However, he comes out the other end just fine. This may also explain his feeling of deja vu when Allison tells him she's pregnant, as this experience may have jogged some memories from an alternate future erased by Henry, in which he and Allison are married and have a family.
- Calvin and Hobbes: "They say when you're falling, your life is supposed to flash before your eyes. The problem with being 6 years old is that my life won't take very long to watch. Maybe I can get a few slow-motion replays of the time I smacked Susie upside the head with a slushball."
- In one of the Garfield comics the titular cat says, "My life just flashed before my eyes. It looked like a fast food commercial." Not surprising considering all he does is eat and sleep.
- Played with in a stand-up comedy routine of Larry Miller. He's taken on a skiing trip by some of his (now ex-) friends, and ends up going on a steep slope that's well beyond his limited ability to navigate safely. Naturally, he ends up careening wildly out of control down the slope, and naturally, he ends up heading directly for some large trees. He describes a few past events that then flash before his eyes just before the collision, but then realizes that he'll emerge from this skiing catastrophe mostly all right, since the life flashing before his eyes clearly isn't his (it had too many awesome moments).
- In Survival of the Fittest, this happens for Beth Vanallen when someone charges at her and she's unable to defend herself, but stops when the attacker is shot with an arrow by one of her allies.
- A short cartoon made by Stevecums, had a middle aged man slip on a Banana Peel and fall off an 18 story building and literally watches his life flash by (with film, screen, and music conveniently carried by crows), showing his life full of happiness and wonder as a child and young adult, then replaced dullness and depression in the workplace afterwards. Seeing how much his life sucked since then, he happily lights a cigarette and waits contently for the fall to kill him followed by a Black Screen of Death and screams of passerby.
- In the Red vs. Blue episode "Crash Site Crashers", a mook jolds a knife to Caboose's throat. After Carolina saves him, he exclaims, "My life just flashed before my eyes! It was awesome!"