The film tells the tale of Forrest Gump, a good-natured but simple-minded man from Greenbow, Alabama, telling his life story to other people while waiting at a bus stop. As the story continues, you find Forrest touching important events and people from the 1950s to the 1980s (ranging from Elvis Presley to several Presidents), rising to his own measure of fame and fortune in the process, mostly by just being himself. Because he is so simple-minded, he doesn't fully understand the significance of everything that he has done and just sees himself as an average person just living his life. But he's forever pining for his childhood sweetheart Jenny (played by Hanna Hall and Robin Wright).
Forrest's journey takes him from his native Alabama to the jungles of Vietnam, from walking in corrective leg-braces to running across North America, from misunderstood country boy to college football star to champion ping-pong player to shrimp tycoon, without ever quite losing the undying optimism of the era. On the other hand, Jenny's life takes her from a Catholic Schoolgirl to being in one of the early issues of Playboy, from a flower child of the '60s to a hippie protester of the '70s. Between her and Forrest, they cover all the significant cultural emblems of that time period, all the while their lives intersect with each other's repeatedly.
Forrest Gump was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning for Best Picture, Actor (Hanks), Director (Zemeckis), Adapted Screenplay (Eric Roth), Editing (Arthur Schmidt), and Visual Effects. It's worth noting that this film, along with Philadelphia, was largely responsible for audiences seeing Hanks as more than just a comedic actor, and led to a long string of critically acclaimed performances in dramas which continues to this day. This genre transition even inspired a trope in its likeness on this site, fittingly named Tom Hanks Syndrome.
Groom published a sequel to the original novel, Gump & Co., in 1995, but due to Hollywood Accounting cheating him out of his fair share of royalties from the film's smash success, refused to license the rights to an adaptation, snarking that "I cannot in good conscience allow money to be wasted on a failure". Producers went ahead with sequel plans anyway, with a draft script being handed in on September 10, 2001. When 9/11 happened one day later, the film's very '90s approach to referencing and commenting on past events instantly became dated, and all sequel plans were dropped. As a result, Forrest Gump is one of the most successful films in modern history to never receive a sequel.
My momma always said, "Life is like a page of tropes. You never know what you're gonna get."
- Abusive Parents: Jenny's father was sexually abusive. Forrest doesn't realize this, at least not to begin with.
- AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Forrest is shot in the but-TOCKS in Vietnam.
- Accidental Athlete: Forrest ends up as a running back on Paul "Bear" Bryant's University of Alabama team when a couple of bullies chase him and he ends up running through the school field when the team was practicing. It helps when you consider exactly who he was seen by. For those of you unaware, Bryant is universally considered to be one of the greatest American football coaches of all time.
- Accidental Hero: Played with. Forrest ran back into the combat zone to find Bubba, only to be called upon by other soldiers to rescue them, which he did by carrying them to the river. What he did was technically heroic, but he didn't intend to save four others and be awarded the Medal of Honor. On the other hand, he did intend to save Bubba, and he was aware of the danger of the situation.
- Achievements in Ignorance: Forrest is so dense that he routinely attempts things other people wouldn't even consider, and so single-minded that he puts his maximum effort into everything he does. As a result, he meets spectacular success while the skeptics are left scratching their heads.
- Actor IS the Title Character: Some posters for the film state that "Tom Hanks is Forrest Gump".
- Adaptational Ugliness: Though no one would call Tom Hanks "ugly", his hairstyle in this film is not the most flattering, and his everyman looks are frequently mentioned, whereas the novel Gump was described as being 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 242 pounds, covered in muscles. At one point, he's put before a crowd shirtless and literally called "Adonis". A recurring theme is his physical attractiveness and muscles helping him get away with things others with his mental troubles and abrasive personality wouldn't, and getting him jobs like stuntman, astronaut, and pro wrestler.
- Adaptation Personality Change:
- In the film, Jenny is a vapid party girl, while in the novel, she winds up pressuring Forrest to stop meandering from one weird occupation to the next and finally settle down.
- In the novel Forrest is much more crass and outspoken. For example, Forrest refers to The Vietnam War as "a bunch of shit" multiple times in the novel, farts in public, and uses racial epithets toward both blacks and Asians. In the film he is much more innocent and polite.
- Almighty Janitor: After his myriad accomplishments that leave him a war hero, shaper of history, and gazillionaire, Forrest accepts the prestigious job of groundskeeper at his old high school football field, which he ends up doing for free because he likes it so much.
- Ambiguous Ending: The novel concludes with the familiar image of Forrest sitting on a park bench in Savannah, GA, not long after an encounter with a passerby with whom he has just shared much of his life story. In a scene very similar to one in the film, in which a man scoffs at Forrest's claim to own the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Forrest's story is regarded as simply unbelievable, leaving the reader to wonder whether the story is true or if Forrest is an Unreliable Narrator who likes to sit on a park bench and tell tall tales to strangers.
- An Aesop: The moral of the movie as stated by Forrest in the end is essentially, while people don't know the cards fate will deal them, they also choose what to do with them. They both have a hard start in life, but Forrest runs towards his challenges, while Jenny always runs away. This is shown throughout the movie, as Forrest often meets with success with the opportunities he's given through no action of his own but always makes the most of them by giving 100% of his effort and being a Determinator. Contrast that with Jenny, who is smart, beautiful and creative while constantly putting herself in places to do some serious meaningful things (the Civil Rights Movement, protesting the Vietnam War, etc.) but never gets anywhere because she can't or won't work through her own emotional trauma at the abuse she suffered as a child. Forrest succeeds in spite of his mental handicap while Jenny fails because of her emotional handicap because Forrest always faces his trials, obstacles and jobs head-on while Jenny always runs when things get bad.
- And I'm the Queen of Sheba: At one point, the jaded, legless Lt. Dan mocks Forrest's ambitions: "If you're ever a shrimp boat captain, that's the day I'm an astronaut!" Years later, after the two have made a fortune as shrimp boat captains, Lt. Dan attends Forrest's wedding wearing titanium prosthetics, "the same stuff they use on the space shuttle."
- Angry Black Man:
- Jenny's Black Panther acquaintances are very angry, because they were an angry group over all. One of them gets into Forrest's face and tells him just how angry he is about how black men are sent to Vietnam "to fight and die for a country hates them."
- Averted with Bubba. Bubba is totally genial and friendly in all his scenes.
- Appeal to Familial Wisdom: Sharing things his "Mama said" is something of Forrest's Catchphrase.Forrest: Mama always said there's an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes. Where they're going, where they've been. I've worn lots of shoes. I bet if I think about it real hard, I could remember my first pair of shoes. Mama said they'd take me anywhere. She said they was my magic shoes.
- Arc Words: People are always telling Forrest to "Run".
- An Arm and a Leg: Lt. Dan Taylor loses his legs in combat, and eventually gets prosthetics.
- Art Imitates Art: Zemeckis used the paintings of Norman Rockwell as the visual inspiration for Greenbow, Alabama. The scene where Forrest sits in the hallway of his school while his mother talks to the principal is a direct re-creation of Girl with a Black Eye.
- As Himself: Both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson play themselves posthumously and interact with Forrest through the use of archival footage. The same technology was also used with Richard Nixon note , Alabama Governor George Wallace, and John Lennon. (This was before easy computer manipulation, so these scenes where Forrest was integrated were a huge special effects triumph at the time.) A more straight version of this occurs in the Lennon scene, where Dick Cavett plays himself, made to look younger through make-up.
- Barefoot Suicide: Subverted. Jenny absentmindedly slips out of one of her shoes while standing by a bridge, asking if she'd fly if she jumped off. Forrest is a little worried to hear her say that. Later on she actually does try to commit suicide, but doesn't take her shoes off and ultimately grows too scared to jump off.
- Bastard Boyfriend: Jenny goes through a bunch of them, in particular the hippie who slaps her and tries to defend his actions as being angered by the Vietnam War and bullies Forrest for being a veteran.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Jenny tells Forrest that her dream is to "be up on a stage with just [her] guitar and [her] voice". She gets that dream, all right, but she neglected to mention whether she'd be wearing anything, and when the time comes, she isn't.
- Beard of Sorrow:
- Forrest ends up with a beard on his cross-country jogging spree. Shaving wasn't on his list of priorites at the time.
- Lieutenant Dan also has a beard when he first meets Forrest again after the war, when he is bitter and dissillusioned about being "cheated out of his destiny". He shaves it off eventually.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Forrest's Mama and Jenny look as pretty and healthy on their deathbeds as they have throughout the entire film. However, it is believed to be in the early stages, as the doctor was just leaving his Mama's room after finding out she has cancer.
- Been There, Shaped History: Forrest teaches Elvis Presley his hip-swinging dance, inadvertently exposes the Watergate scandal, coins the phrase "Shit happens," and creates the design for the smiley face logo.
- Berserk Button: Call post-Vietnam Lieutenant Dan a cripple all you want, but he will hurt you if you dare call Forrest any variety of "stupid."
- Beware the Nice Ones: Forrest is the most even-tempered individual you could ever hope to meet, but if you hurt Jenny, he'll beat you. He is also incredibly strong due to being a football star and war hero.
- Big Damn Reunion: After Forrest returns from Vietnam and accidentally finds himself at a hippie rally by the Washington monument, a familiar voice calls out to him as Jenny runs across the Reflecting Pool to show herself to him, and the two share a big hug in front of thousands of applauding on-lookers.
- Bittersweet Ending: Lieutenant Dan finds the strength to live and love again, Jenny has a son with Forrest, and Forrest's dream of being with Jenny finally comes true as they get married. But shortly after, Jenny dies and leaves their son in Forrest's care, with Forrest passing on his torch to Junior and raising him.
- Black Dude Dies First: A poor nameless Red Shirt dies of Boom, Headshot! at the start of the ambush that also kills Bubba (who ironically ends up being the last of the squad to die).
- Bookends: The Object Tracking Shot of the feather and Forrest waiting for a bus.
- Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Jenny leaves Forrest several times and each of these is shown to be a mistake. Coming back to him are the few instances where she is truly happy.
- Brick Joke:
- Bubba's momma serving dinner to a white woman, then being served dinner by a white woman.
- At the beginning of the movie, Forrest tries to get to know the bus driver, Dorothy Harris, because his mother has told him not to take rides from strangers and — Forrest being as dense as he is — thinks introducing themselves to one another will mean they're not strangers anymore. At the end, when Forrest Junior is welcomed onto the bus: "You're Dorothy Harris, and I'm Forrest Gump."
- Broken Bird: Jenny. Engaged in a lot of self-destructive behavior and was very cynical due to her unhappy childhood.
- Buffy Speak: Forrest's general Verbal Tic. This leads to a nice Historical In-Joke when he ends up being a shareholder in "some sort of fruit company" (Apple Computers).
- Bullying the Disabled: As a boy, Forrest Gump had to wear leg braces to help him walk after he got sick from polio. When a group of bullies threaten young Forrest and with Jenny's command "Run, Forrest, run!", he flees with such fervor that he shatters his braces and bolts away with astonishing speed. He also has a mental disability and gets called "stupid" for it, which he hates. Lieutenant Dan, who lost both legs from an injury while they both served in Vietnam, flies into a rage over this and being called a "cripple".
- Caged Bird Metaphor: Jenny is associated with birds, from the moment she asks Forrest to pray with her.
- The prayer itself:Jenny: Dear God, make me a bird, so I can fly far. Far, far away from here.
- This is recalled in a conversation after he sees Jenny performing on stage:Jenny: Do you think I could fly off this bridge?
Forrest: [worried] What do you mean?
Jenny: [Beat] Nothing. Forget it.
- Later, we see her contemplating suicide again, ready to jump off a high-riser, with Free Bird's solo wailing in the background.
- After Forrest finishes talking to Jenny's gravestone, a flock of birds flies out of their tree as he walks away.
- The film opens and closes with a shot of a floating feather.
- The prayer itself:
- Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Forrest announces this while meeting John F. Kennedy, of all people. Kennedy asks "How do you feel?", as in, winning an award and meeting him, the President. Forrest, being Forrest, says "I gotta pee" because he drank too much soda beforehand.
- Carload of Cool Kids: A group of kids in a pick-up truck torment Forrest, which causes him to run.
- Cassandra Truth: Forrest's revelation that he's the owner of the wildly successful Bubba Gump Shrimp Company sends one listener off in unbelieving hysterics. The old woman was also unbelieving at first, until he shows her a picture of him and Lieutenant Dan on the cover of Fortune.
- Catchphrase: Forrest has a lot of these.
- "My name is Forrest, Forrest Gump."
- The one time he introduces himself differently (to Bubba), he does so in a spectacular Shaped Like Itself fashion: "My name's Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump."
- "Stupid is as stupid does."
- "Momma always said 'Life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get.'"
- "...And that's all I have to say about that."
- "...But most of all, I thought about Jenny."
- "My name is Forrest, Forrest Gump."
- Chekhov's Skill: Forrest's ability to run very fast allows him to escape from bullies and gets him a place on the football team, but it really pays off in Vietnam when he saves the members of his platoon, but especially Bubba as he has to outrun a friendly airstrike.
- Chewing the Scenery: Forrest is uncharacteristically expressive to Jenny, as she's about to leave with her radical boyfriend:Forrest: You know what I think? I think you, should go back, to Green-Bow, AL-A-BAM-A!
- Childhood Friend Romance: Forrest and Jenny went to school together, though the romance is unrequited by Jenny until they are adults.
- Chore Character Exploration: Forrest Gump and Bubba Blue have the overnight watch while the rest of the squad dozes. While the two are back-to-back, Bubba expounds about taking Forrest on as first mate aboard a shrimp boat, forming a 50-50 partnership in what is destined to become the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Forrest, being a simpleton, says little except to go along.
- Cluster F-Bomb: According to Forrest, Abbie Hoffman enjoyed using the f-word at the Vietnam War protest rally, and that everyone at the rally enjoyed hearing this. Being a PG-13 movie, however, we only hear one instant of the word, if you don't count a preceding one that is obscured by Hoffman's microphone feedback.
- Comically Missing the Point: Forrest is so naïve that he regularly misinterprets what is going on around him.
- When one character uses the name of an animal as a slur to refer to an African-American, Forrest thinks he is talking about said animal rather than a person.
- He assumes Elvis Presley died "from singing too many songs, or something".
- He notices Jenny performing as a nude stripper and thinks her dream of becoming a folk singer has come true.
- After giving a guy named Wesley a beating at a meeting of the Black Panthers he and Jenny are sent away. He then apologizes: "I'm sorry I had a fight at your Black Panther party."
- During his time in the Vietnam War he notices they were looking for "somebody named Charlie" and assumes that the money of his so-called "million dollar wound" was kept by the Army.
- Forrest remembers where everyone in his platoon was from. Except Tex. He can't remember what state Tex was fromnote .
- He notices people in the Watergate Hotel keeping him awake with their flashlights, asks the hotel receptionist to do something about it, but never thinks much of it, assuming they're just looking for a fuse box.
- He assumes Apple is "some kind of fruit company."
- This, though it's Black Comedy at best, and how silently Forrest sits beside Jenny as she cries after angrily throwing rocks at her father's old house seems to imply he understands a lot more than he did as a child:Forrest: Sometimes... I guess there's just not enough rocks.
- Cult: Forrest accidentally forms one merely by jogging across the U.S.A. and growing a giant Charles Manson beard. Only in the seventies.Gump Groupie: I mean, it was like an alarm went off in my head, you know?! I said, here's a guy that's got his act together! Here's somebody who's got it all figured out! Here's somebody who has the answer! I'll follow you anywhere, Mr. Gump!
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Lieutenant Dan is mad when Gump saves him and says he wishes he died with honor instead.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: In an innuendo, the invalid Lt. Dan tells Forrest that since he doesn't have legs anymore, he spends much of his time "exercising his arms".
- Daylight Horror: Forrest's platoon was ambushed in broad daylight, immediately after the end of a long rain, no less.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lt. Dan has a dry and bitter wit that is all the more apparent next to the plain and literal Forrest.
- Death by Adaptation: Forrest's mother and Jenny die during the events of the film, but not in the novel. Forrest's mother dies between the ending of the novel and its sequel Gump and Co., and Jenny dies in the beginning of Gump and Co.
- Death Montage: Forrest explains Lt. Dan was from a long military tradition. Then we see a montage of Gary Sinise (the actor playing Lt. Dan) playing a different ancestor just at the moment of his death, in a different battleground and a different uniform each time, specifically, during the American Revolutionary War, The American Civil War, World War I and World War II.Forrest: [narrating] Somebody from his family had fought and died in everysingleAmerican war.
- Adding to the... family tradition, all of said ancestors happen to die with the same expression on their faces.
- Death Seeker: Lt. Dan lost an ancestor in every major American war, and is looking forward to his turn. He gets over it after surviving Hurricane Carmen. In the book's sequel Gump and Co., he gets killed by friendly fire during Operation Desert Storm.
- Deep South: Most of the film takes place in Greenbow, Alabama, "where the skies are so blue!"
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: One of Forrest's classmates casually refers to black people using racial slurs during the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door scene.
- Destroy the Abusive Home: Jenny throws rocks at her abandoned childhood home, then her shoes, then can't find anything else to throw and collapses sobbing. After her death, Forrest does her a favor by having her abusive home demolished.
- Determinator: Forrest. Once he decides to do something (or someone tells him to), he will do it, no questions asked, end of story, goodbye. Jenny, as a child, tells him to run from a gang of bullies? He runs so fast he breaks out of his leg braces. The Drill Sergeant Nasty tells him to assemble a rifle? He sets a new company record in the process. The President of the United States seems interested in his war wound? He'll get to see it, on national TV, no less. And so on and so forth.
- Did Not Get the Girl: Zigzagged. Anytime Forrest reunites with and/or attempts to pursue a relationship with Jenny, he's shot down and loses her again and again. Averted by the end of the movie when Jenny finally settles down from her chaotic lifestyle after having Forrest Jr. and asks Forrest to marry her, then cruelly subverts THAT when Jenny dies not long after their marriage. Basically, Jenny never stays with Forrest for long, no matter what.
- Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: While not in a supernatural sense, during the Hurricane Carmen scene, Lieutenant Dan raises his middle finger to the sky while cursing God.
- Did You Think I Can't Feel?: A variation is used as a Call-Back. Before shipping off to fight in Vietnam, Forrest drags Jenny out of a strip club, and when she asks why he did it, he responds by saying he loves her, Jenny snaps at him, saying he doesn't know what love is. Years later, when Jenny grows tired of her hard partying lifestyle she stays with Forrest when this exchange happens:Forrest: Will you marry me? I'd make a good husband, Jenny.
Jenny: You would, Forrest.
Forrest: But you won't marry me.
Jenny: You don't wanna marry me...
Forrest: Why don't you love me, Jenny? I'm not a smart man... but I know what love is.
- Disappeared Dad: Forrest's father is never seen, and is only mentioned twice when Forrest is a child. His absence is hand-waved immediately.Mr. Hancock: Is there a Mr. Gump, Mrs. Gump?
Mrs. Gump: He's on vacation.
- The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Jenny is suffering from some sort of viral disease, which hasn't been identified, and for which there's no treatment. Word of God confirms that it was hepatitis C which wouldn't be correctly identified until 1989.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Forrest. Jenny abandons him multiple times throughout the film and generally treats him like crap yet he thinks about her a lot and always welcomes her back.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Played with, as the drill sergeant frequently praises Forrest for his dedication and obedience...in the exact same tone of voice typically used to berate anyone else. Truth in Television: This is how a Drill Sergeant is supposed to act — having a favorite may inspire people to turn on them, destabilizing the team. The Drill Sergeant is just letting them know that Forrest is getting it right, but at the same time lets the team know nobody's getting any slack.Drill Sergeant: WHAT IS YOUR SOLE PURPOSE IN THIS ARMY?
Gump: To do whatever you tell me, Drill Sergeant?
Drill Sergeant: GODDAMNIT, GUMP! YOU'RE A GODDAMN GENIUS! THAT'S THE MOST OUTSTANDING ANSWER I'VE EVER HEARD! YOU MUST HAVE A GODDAMN I.Q. OF 160! YOU ARE GODDAMNED GIFTED, PRIVATE GUMP!
Forrest Gump: [having just completed assembling his weapon] DONE, DRILL SERGEANT!
Drill Sergeant: GUUUUUUMP! WHY DID YOU PUT THAT WEAPON TOGETHER SO QUICKLY, GUMP?
Forrest Gump: ...You told me to, Drill Sergeant?
Drill Sergeant: JESUS H. CHRIST! This is a new company record! If it wouldn't be a waste of such a damn fine enlisted man, I'd recommend you for OCS, Private Gump! YOU ARE GONNA BE A GENERAL SOMEDAY, GUMP, NOW DISASSEMBLE YOUR WEAPON AND CONTINUE!
- Driving a Desk: Mostly averted, as Forrest is almost seamlessly integrated into the historical footage, but they did a much better job digitally erasing Gary Sinise's legs. In fact, there's only one scene in the entire movie where the digital erasure of Sinise's legs fails: when he's picking himself up after the party girls leave on New Year's Eve. Watch carefully and you can see Sinise is clearly propping himself up on supposedly nonexistent legs.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Lt. Dan wanted to die in combat, so naturally, he doesn't take living with amputated legs too well. Watching Forrest receive a Medal of Honor from the President himself made all that worse.Lt. Dan: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Forrest: That's Lt. Dan... [turns around and sees Lt. Dan] Lt. Dan!
Lt. Dan: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor!
Forrest: Yes, sir, they sure did.
Lt. Dan: They gave you, an imbecile, a moron who goes on television and makes a fool out himself in front of the whole damn country, the Congressional Medal of Honor?!
Forrest: Yes, sir.
Lt. Dan: Well, then, that's just perfect! Yeah, well I just got one thing to say to that. Goddamn bless America.
- During the War: Vietnam.
- Dumb Is Good: Forrest is "stupid is as stupid does", which, in practice, means that he is polite to everyone he meets, and never considers sinister undertones in what he hears or sees.
- End of an Age: Many have interpreted Jenny's death from a disease that might be AIDS as being symbolic of the death of the 1960s/1970s counterculture in the early 1980s.
- Engineered Public Confession: Inverted. During Forrest's stump speech during an anti-Vietnam rally that he was pulled into, a large percentage of the speech involving things he was going to admit to the people about his experiences in Vietnam during the speech actually ended up missed because a pro-Vietnam military officer pulled the plug on the mike, and the mike's sound output was only restored right when Forrest finishes up the statements. According to Tom Hanks, the actual censored portion of the speech was "Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they dont go home at all. Thats a bad thing. That's all I have to say about that." Arguably, seeing Abbie Hoffman (who was standing next to him and heard the whole thing) moved to tears by Gump's speech was effective enough.
- Ethnic Menial Labor: Bubba's mother is depicted as being a cook for an aristocratic white family, from a long line of the same. When Gump cuts her into the profits from the fishing company, she turns the tables and hires a white cook for herself.Forrest: And ya know what? She didn't have to work in no one's kitchen no more.
- Exact Words:
- When he receives the Medal of Honor from Lyndon B. Johnson, Johnson jokingly expresses interest in seeing the wound on Gump's butt. Gump interprets this as literal, and... obliges his request. (LBJ, never the most reserved or well-mannered individual, absolutely loves it.)
- Jenny gets caught by this too, after she tells Forrest "I wanna be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice..." She later gets that dream. But she never specified whether she'd be wearing clothes at the time, and ends up with just her guitar and her voice.
- Jenny also tells Forrest that when he's in Vietnam, if he finds himself in danger, she wants him to run. As it happens, he ends up doing just that...running back and forth carrying wounded soldiers to a river bank during an ambush, earning himself the Medal of Honor.
- Forrest thinks his Vietnam wound was literally worth a million dollars.Forrest: They called it a "million dollar wound" but the Army must keep that money 'cos I still haven't seen a nickel of that million dollars.
- Faint in Shock: A positive example occurs when Forrest gives Bubba's mother Bubba's share of his profits. When Bubba's mother receives a large check from the company in the mail, she is so immersed with joy that she faints almost immediately.
- Foil: Forrest (the cheerful, innocent man) serves as this to Lt. Dan (the grumpy, disillusioned, emotionally broken man). Also, Forrest is unintelligent but has a strong, healthy body whilst Lt. Dan is smart but crippled, this makes them an effective brains-and-brawn team who make a success of the shrimping business.
- The Fool: Forrest is good-natured but naturally dim witted, most importantly though, he appears to be quite lucky throughout the film.
- "I wanna be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice..."
- At the very beginning of the movie, Forrest opens his suitcase and we see not only the Curious George book (which Mama reads to him and Forrest Jr. takes to show-and-tell) but also his Bubba Gump hat and his ping-pong paddle. We also see he's wearing muddy Nikes, like those he wore when he ran for two and a half years. Even the box of chocolates shows up in his story when he gives Jenny a box at college.
- In one of his first scenes, Lt. Dan tells his men to change their socks regularly, and always look after their feet. He ends up losing both his legs.
- A subtle example. Lt. Dan pokes fun at Forrest over his aspirations of captaining a shrimping boat, saying, "If you're ever a shrimping boat captain, I'll be an astronaut." Later, Lt. Dan shows up at Forrest and Jenny's wedding, sporting titanium legs which Lt. Dan explains "is what they made the space shuttle out of."
- Framing Device: Most of the movie is Forrest telling his life's story to people at a bus stop.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When we first see Forrest's platoon in action, they are walking through a rice paddy. You can see plumes of smoke behind, indicating they torched a village on the way over.
- Funny Background Event: After Forrest runs through dog crap, we see several of his followers jump out of the way of it.
- Genius Ditz: Forrest in the book has savant syndrome. In the film, his natural talent is running but he's also really good at putting guns together. He also develops a talent for ping pong.
- The Ghost: Jenny's sisters are spoken of but never seen.
- God Is Good: After coming back from Vietnam, Lt. Dan is told stuff like this. One example is, "If I let Jesus into my heart, then I will walk beside Him in the kingdom of Heaven". He thinks it's bullcrap for a while, but after Hurricane Carmen, the two of them come to an understanding. Forrest notes that he "made his peace with God".
- Good Ol' Boy: Forrest and many other folks from Greenbow, Alabama are honest and hardworking, but many others are not.
- Gun Stripping: Forrest is shown to be able to strip and assemble an M-14 in record time, to the amazement of his drill sergeant.
- Half-Witted Hillbilly: Forrest is an edge case, as his low intellect is due to a genuine disability rather than his rural origins. However, like many other characters fitting this trope, his folksy charm and humorous misunderstandings are integral to his character and a major reason for his popularity.
- Handicapped Badass: Lt. Dan has no legs and he can still work on a shrimp boat and survive a hurricane from a ship's mast.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Forrest is a natural runner, a natural table tennis champion, and his drill sergeant is amazed that he can take a gun apart and put it back together so quickly.
- "Have a Nice Day" Smile: According to the film, Forrest is the originator of the design. He got splashed by mud, wiped his face on a yellow shirt and the person who handed him the shirt saw the design in the negative space left behind by his eyes and mouth.
- Hayseed Name: Invoked by Bubba, who notes with bemusement that his nickname is "like one of them redneck boys."
- The Hedonist: Jenny becomes this in her adulthood: drugs, sex, you name it.
- Hippie Van: Jenny's radical friends pick her up in a van.
- Historical Domain Character: Forrest meets various celebrities who were historically, culturally or sociologically important to American history between 1945 and 1981: Elvis Presley, George Wallace, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Abbie Hoffman, John Lennon and Richard Nixon.
- Historical Figures in Archival Media: Almost all of the historical figures and celebrities appear in the film as footage of themselves. note
- Historical In-Joke: So many that not all of them made it to the movie. Forrest inspired and named for a while the trope that is now Been There, Shaped History.
- History Repeats: A lot of scenes mirror each other.
- Forrest meets Jenny on the bus, where nobody wants him to sit next to them. Later when he joins the Army by bus the same situation happens again, but this time it's Bubba who allows him to sit next to him. Later, when Forrest's son goes to school by bus, he also introduces himself to the bus driver first.
- Forrest being chased by bullies with Jenny defending him occurs both when he is a child, as well as when he is a teenager. The only difference is that they chase him by bike as a child and by car as an adult.
- Forrest's mother dies in bed in his house, mirrored later by Jenny dying in the same bed.
- Forrest meets a President of the United States three times: Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
- Lampshaded by Forrest: "So I went [to the White House]... again. And I met the President of the United States... again."
- Forrest beats up men who mistreat Jenny.
- Forrest walking or running past the same barbershop.
- Hollywood Atheist: Lt. Dan after Vietnam. Downplayed in that the movie never outright says he's an atheist, but he's overtly contemptuous of the proselytizers he meets at the V.A. (especially since they keep talking about "walk[ing] with Jesus in the Kingdom of Heaven", when, you know...).
- Honor Before Reason: Lt. Dan started off as this as his main goal was to die with honor, and was appalled at surviving as a cripple. Eventually he came to terms with this and became grateful that Forrest saved him.
- Hourglass Plot: Bubba's mother and female ancestors had served as cooks for wealthy white people. When Forrest gives her and her family riches from Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, she becomes wealthy enough to hire a white woman to cook for her.
- How We Got Here: Twice. The framing narrative is Forrest talking with people at a bus stop.
- I Gave My Word: When Forrest Gump tries to fulfill Bubba's promise of going into the shrimp business, Lieutenant Dan sarcastically tells him that if Forrest ever becomes a shrimp boat captain, he'd be his first mate. A few years later, after buying a boat with endorsement money from a ping-pong paddle company, Forrest does become a shrimp boat captain. After sending a letter to Lt. Dan telling him about it, Lt. Dan shows up to honor his word:Lt. Dan: Well, I told you that if you actually got a shrimp boat I would be your first mate. And I am a man of my word. But if you think for a second that I am calling you "Sir," you got another thing comin'.
Forrest: No, sir.
- After Forrest becomes a millionaire from shrimping, since Hurricane Carmen destroyed the competition, and from Lt. Dan's investment in Apple Computers, Forrest remembers the promise he made to his late friend, Bubba, to split their earnings down the middle. Thus, despite Lt. Dan telling him not to do so, Forrest gives half of his profits to Bubba's mother, allowing her to retire.
- I Was Just Joking: It was strongly implied that LBJ's "desire" to see the wound on Gump's behind was actually intended to be a joke. Forrest, being Forrest, interprets this literally, and proceeds to oblige his "request" on live TV, causing Johnson to chuckle to himself and say "Goddamn, son!"
- This is actually a historical reference of sorts: LBJ once pulled his shirt up to display a scar from gallbladder surgery to the press, as a way of dispelling a rumor that he had had cancer. Furthermore, behind closed doors LBJ was also famous for such things as taking meetings — in person — while on the toilet, and flopping out his own Johnson.
- Also, possibly, a Shout-Out to actor Lee Marvin, who served in USMC in the Pacific War and (by some accounts) was wounded in the buttocks, resulting in a severed sciatic nerve.
- Identical Grandson: Lieutenant Dan's ancestors are all played by Gary Sinise and Forrest's namesake General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, is also played by Tom Hanks (despite not being related). Bubba's mother and her ancestors are played by the same actress.
- Idiot Hero: Forrest Gump becomes, among other things, a war hero and a successful shrimp boat captain based on single minded determination and a lack of sense to know that what he's doing is stupid/crazy/dangerous etc.
- Imagine Spot: When Forrest talks about Lieutenant Dan and Bubba's ancestors, he imagines them serving people. Then it is happily inverted when Bubba's mom uses Bubba's share of Forrest's shrimping venture to hire people to serve her.
- Implied Rape: Although not outright stated, this is why when Forrest and Jenny were best friends in elementary school, she asked him to help her hide in the cornfield from her father, as Forrest mentions that her father was a loving man who was always "kissing and touching" Jenny and her sisters. He later gets arrested and has his children taken away. Later, when Jenny briefly comes back after giving up her hedonistic life, she throws rocks at her old abandoned house, and breaks down crying, and though Forrest doesn't know what exactly happened in that house, he knows it's bad. After Jenny dies, he pays for her father's house to be bulldozed, as he only knows that it brought her bad memories.
- Innocent Inaccurate: Among other things, Forrest doesn't quite understand what the big deal is with desegregation, the war protesters, or the Black Panther Party. Also, he calls Jenny's father a "very loving man" because he was "always touching her".
- Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Forrest (spine problems and a mental disability) and later Lt. Dan (bilateral leg amputee). Both of them come to terms with their conditions and reach success.
- Insult Backfire: When asked if he is stupid, Forrest replies, "Stupid is as stupid does."
- Ironic Echo:
- Bubba's mother being served lunch by a white lady, using the exact same shot as the Imagine Spot of Bubba's mother's ancestors doing the same thing for their white employers.
- "...and so they shot him" is sort of one as well, considering the famous people Forrest has met (does the man have a death god following him?).
- A less straightforward example is when Forrest's mother had to sleep with the principal just to allow Forrest to have a regular school environment instead of a special needs environment. During the mom and the principal's..."pleasure time", The Principal is faintly heard panting from outside. When the Principal afterwards asks Forrest whether he says anything at all, Forrest's response is to mime said panting (without realizing what it meant).
- Early in the movie, after beating up the people who tried to grab Jenny on stage, she angrily chews him out and says he "doesn't know what love is" when he says that's why he keeps trying to protect her. Later in the movie when he asks her to marry him and she rather dejectedly says he doesn't truly want to marry her, likely due to shame over the person she's been, he says that he's not a smart man, but "I DO know what love is" before leaving.
- It Began with a Twist of Fate: In the original book version, most of Forrest's adventures start with some variation of the following: "So I was just sitting there minding my own business and a guy comes up to me and says 'Do you want to [join the Army/be in a play/play college football/get shot into space/star in a movie/etc.]?' Well, I had nothing else to do that day so I said OK."
- It Will Never Catch On: Forrest doesn't seem too impressed by the "fruit company" Lt. Dan suggested he invest in (at least not until Lt. Dan tells him they won't have to worry about money anymore), which we see is really Apple Computers, now Apple Inc.
- Jackhammered Conversation: During the March on the Pentagon, Forrest claims he only has one thing to say about the war. Then, an Army officer sabotages the speaker system and unplugs the microphones right as Forrest starts talking. By the time the speakers are back up, his speech is over. (Tom Hanks says that Forrest said, "Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don't go home at all. That's a bad thing.") The only person who appears to have heard what Forrest said was Abbie Hoffman, who tearfully replies "That's so right-on, Army man. You said it all."
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
- Lieutenant Dan in the movie is a rude hardass, but also a patriot who wants to be the only casualty in his group.
- Perhaps surprisingly to some, Forrest in the original novel was more violent than the one in the film.
- Just Following Orders:
- A staple of Gump's character, and why he thrives in the Army."Run, Forrest, Run", "[Because] you told me to, Drill Sergeant?", "The secret of ping pong is never taking your eye off the ball", "I got it — The Medal of Honor — just by doing what you told me to do."
- Defied in that Gump ignores Lt. Dan's order not to rescue him and chooses Good over Lawful, which leads to him earning the Medal Of Honor.
- A staple of Gump's character, and why he thrives in the Army.
- Kids Are Cruel: None of the kids, except Jenny, would let Forrest sit next to them on the school bus. Three in particular made a hobby of chasing Forrest around after school and throwing rocks at him, all the way until senior year.
- The Klan: Forrest says he was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
- Legacy of Service: Bubba's family has apparently been in service for at least a century. The montage which shows different generations serving seems to imply that they are serving different generations of the same family. In this case, it's treated as a bad thing, since their service originated during the time of slavery. This would be inverted when Forrest gave Bubba's mother what he felt was Bubba's share of his shrimp venture: she was now rich enough to afford a servant of her own.
- Leno Device: Forrest appears on the Dick Cavett Show (alongside John Lennon) in the wake of his ping pong success.
- Lighter and Softer: The book is broadly similar but has a darker, more sardonic and cynical tone (particularly during the Vietnam sequence, as the author served in the war) and explicit sex and drug use along with weirder misadventures. Though Jenny doesn't have AIDS at the end. It begins:Let me say this: bein' a idiot is no box of chocolates. People laugh, lose patience, treat you shabby. Now they says folks 'sposed to be kind to the afflicted, but let me tell you it aint always that way.
- Like Father, Like Son: Subverted. When Forrest finds out that he has a son with Jenny, he asks if he's smart or dumb (he can't bring himself to say it, he just places his hand on his chest to indicate himself. Jenny reassures him that Forrest Jr. is one of the smartest in his class.
- Played straight to a small extent. In the final scene, when Forrest Jr. is getting on the bus to school, he is, like Forrest himself in several earlier scenes, wearing a blue and white plaid shirt; he also introduces himself to the same bus driver, Dorothy Harris, in more or less the same way that Forrest did. As well as, of course, the fact they both have the same first name.
- Literal-Minded: Forrest has no concept of metaphor. For example, while in Vietnam, he thinks that their platoon is looking for "some guy named Charlie" note . Another example occurs when Lt. Dan shows up after Forrest buys his first shrimping boat:
- Forrest: Lt. Dan, what are you doing here?
Lt. Dan: Well, I thought I'd try out my sea legs.
Forrest: But you ain't got no legs, Lt. Dan.
- The Long List: "Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo..." There's a lot of recipes you can make from shrimp, apparently.
- Luke, You Are My Father: Forrest finds out he has a son via Jenny. Epileptic Trees say this might not be the case, but Forrest is the only reliable parent Jenny can find.
- Match Cut: Forrest flinches when trying to remember his first pair of shoes, and so the first flashback starts with himself as a child, flinching while the doctor puts his braces on for the first time.
- Meaningful Echo:
- When Forrest tells Jenny he loves her, she annoyingly tells him he doesn't know what love is. Years later, he proposes to her, but she declines, telling him he doesn't really want to marry her. His response: "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is."
- The "Run, Forrest, run" scene is repeated with Jenny and Forrest as teenagers. The first time saw Forrest overcoming the issue with his legs in order to walk (or rather, run) properly. The second time saw just how fast Forrest could run. Rather appropriately, this got the attention of a football coach...
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Lt. Dan tries to be this to a T, as he gives Forrest and Bubba advice on how to survive Vietnam (concluding the mentor part) and then tries to die fighting in the war, believing that it was his destiny. However, he didn't count on Forrest to defy that.
- A Million Is a Statistic: The storm that destroyed every ship in the harbor undoubtedly ended or destroyed the lives of dozens of people. Gump considered it a good thing because it benefited Forrest's shrimping business. And, well, he didn't really know anything was wrong.
- Mistaken for Profound: When Forrest's runs across America start attracting attention, members of the press assume he's running for a noble cause, even though he isn't.Reporter 1: Are you doing this for world peace?
Reporter 2: Are you doing this for the homeless?
Reporter 1: Are you running for women's rights?
Reporter 3: Or for the environment?
Reporter 4: Or for animals?
Forrest: [narrating] They just couldn't believe that somebody would do all that running for no particular reason.
- Mood Whiplash:
- When recounting his experiences in Vietnam, Forrest has just described how extreme the jungle's weather is ("Somebody turned off the rain") as we watched the downpour almost comically switch off and be replaced by sudden sunlight... then the soldier next to him goes down in a spray of blood as the Vietcong ambush his unit, kicking off the single most harrowing part of the movie.
- When Forrest finally reunites with Jenny and meets Forrest Jr. he's possibly the happiest he's ever been in his life... then Jenny tells him that she's sick and dying.
- Any time Forrest follows up on describing how he met a famous person (JFK, John Lennon) by mentioning how they were killed.
- Mooning: Forrest does this to President Johnson when he is asked to show his "war wound," which required him to drop his pants. See Exact Words for more details.
- Narration Echo: On multiple occasions, due to Forrest's thoughts being so straightforward.Forrest: [narrating] When I got home, I had no idea, but Mama'd had all sorts of visitors.
Mrs. Gump: We've had all sorts of visitors.
- Nice Guy: Forrest! Oh good God and sweet mercy, Forrest! Forrest might be one of the definitive nice guys in film. It's this character trait that makes him the ideal hero for this film because there are few other nice guys. The summary calls him "an innocent in a nation losing its innocence".
- Nice to the Waiter:
- After getting rich, Bubba's mother hires a (white) housekeeper, and they're implied to have a much friendlier relationship than she did with any of her own employers.
- Forrest and his mother too are shown to be close with their long-time housemaid Louise, who happily exchanges greetings with Forrest when he returns home from the Army, mourns over his mama getting sick, and has a front row seat to his and Jenny's wedding.
- No Infantile Amnesia: Averted: Forrest explicitly states that he has absolutely no recollection of his birth.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Forrest runs back and forth in hostile territory and under fire to recover all the injured people from his unit; played with, in that his main objective was to find Bubba.
- Non-Idle Rich: After Forrest finds success with the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., the city offers him "a fine job": cutting grass. Since he found success with Bubba Gump, and Lt. Dan successfully invested their profits in "some kind of fruit company", he decides to cut the city's grass for free - just cause he enjoys doing it so much.
- Noodle Incident:
- Forrest's speech during the Vietnam protests, lost to everyone except those standing near him because the microphones have been sabotaged, but it moves those people to tears. According to Tom Hanks, it goes something like this:Forrest: Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don't go home at all. That's a bad thing. That's all I have to say about that.
- Bubba's montage where he talks about the many ways that shrimp can be cooked ends with him and Forrest scrubbing the floor with toothbrushes, which is a punishment. Why Bubba and Forest were punished is never explained, although some think it was because Bubba was rambling too much to Forrest about shrimp, and it was distracting them from their duties.
- Forrest's speech during the Vietnam protests, lost to everyone except those standing near him because the microphones have been sabotaged, but it moves those people to tears. According to Tom Hanks, it goes something like this:
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Richard Nixon, in a Pet the Dog moment, inquires what hotel Forrest is staying at and instead books him a room at a better one. Unfortunately for him however, he booked Forrest a stay at the Watergate Hotel, and it is Forest who later reports the break-in (albeit unintentionally) that prompts the Watergate Scandal and Nixon's resignation from the Presidency.
- Not Helping Your Case: Jenny's abusive hippie boyfriend was not happy when she brings Forrest to the Black Panther meeting because he's a soldier, despite Jenny trying to reassure him he's not like the other soldiers. Then he nearly got in hot water with the Black Panthers because he beat up the boyfriend for slapping Jenny.
- Nothing Is Scarier: We never actually see "Charlie," only their machine gun fire and explosives as they kill or wound the American soldiers. Truth in Television: this was one of the most devastating psychological aspects of fighting the Viet Cong. They did their best to avoid being seen, because it was scary and demoralizing.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Forrest's whole platoon in Vietnam at the start of the ambush.
- Forrest when he finally finds Bubba and sees he's critically wounded. Then again when he notices the approaching airstrike.
- One True Love: Forrest falls in love with Jenny the first time he hears her voice and never even thinks about any other woman. The one and only time any woman comes onto him (one of the women Lt. Dan picks up for them) he's appalled and shoves her away. For Jenny's part, the core of her character arc is coming to terms with the fact that Forrest is the only man who has ever loved her, after a lifetime spent being used and abused.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Forrest gets shot in the buttocks in Vietnam and suffers no long-lasting ill effects. In fact, he gets all the ice cream he can eat at the hospital. This is about the only part of the body where this can realistically happen (thus, why it's called a "million-dollar wound"). It also happens to infantrymen a lot, as one's natural inclination when crawling is to stick your butt in the air. Army training tries to curtail this, but not everyone remembers.
- This might qualify as a Shout-Out to All Quiet on the Western Front which includes a scene during which one of the experienced squad members places a panicked recruits helmet over the recruits raised buttocks, for this reason. This becomes a Deconstructed Trope when the recruit is last seen having sustained a serious wound there, which the more experienced soldiers regard as certainly crippling and probably fatal; one contemplates Mercy Killing but is dissuaded on the grounds that the shelling is over and witnesses are starting to appear.
- Outrun the Fireball: Forrest has to outrun a friendly air strike when he rescues Bubba. He just barely manages to avoid getting caught in the blast.
- Overly Long Gag: The Long List of shrimp recipes and the imagine spots for Lieutenant Dan and Bubba's ancestors.
- "Pan from the Sky" Beginning: It opens with a Long Take of a bird feather falling from the skies (with the camera initially pointing at the clouds) and eventually landing at the title character's feet.
- Phrase Catcher: Forrest is often asked "Are you crazy, or just plain stupid?"
- Pinball Protagonist: Forrest just does whatever he feels like doing at the time. At one point, he becomes sort of a running guru and unintentionally leads a group of literal cross-country runners for months. At one point, he stops running ("Listen, he's about to say something!") and he just says "I'm kinda tired. I'm going to go home now," and just walks home (from the Nevada desert).Runner: Now what are we going to do?
- Playing Gertrude: Sally Field, who plays Mrs. Gump, is just ten years older than Tom Hanks. And on top of that, they previously played love interests in the film Punch Line.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: The storm that took out every ship is considered to be a good thing since it allowed Forrest's shrimping business to thrive. This ignores how many lives the storm would have ruined or possibly ended. Though it is justified by Forrest's stupidity making him unable to consider the effects that the storm had on anyone but himself and those close to him. and further Averted in that Forrest himself doesnt regard it as good, but simply observes the outcome, while Lt. Dan is too absorbed in his own misfortunes to care about anyone else.
- Protagonist Title: Forrest Gump.
- Potty Emergency: Happens to Forrest, simply saying "I gotta pee!" as he meets President Kennedy. Drinking fifteen Dr Peppers will do that to you. A Running Gag in the book, to the point that it becomes his senatorial campaign slogan.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: While the screenplay stays fairly close to the novel's structure (mostly as it relates to Forrest getting involved in life events), the character of Forrest is, in the novel, fairly smart; he just has extreme difficulty articulating his thoughts. The book is also rather dark and mean-spirited in several instances.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- Rage Against the Heavens: Lt. Dan in the storm scene is basically him venting all his frustration about being denied his "destiny" of dying in battle at God.
- Rags to Riches: Bubba's family ends up very rich because Forrest decided to give them what would've been Bubba's share of the revenue from Bubba-Gump.
- Rank Up: It's subtle, but Forrest gets offscreen promotions during his time in the Army; He's a Private in Vietnam, but by the time he is awarded the Medal Of Honor by Lyndon Johnson, he's wearing Corporal stripes, and he's wearing Sergeant stripes when he receives his discharge.
- Rape as Backstory: It's heavily implied that Jenny and her sisters were sexually abused by her father.
- Real Award, Fictional Character: Forrest is awarded the Medal of Honor for saving four members of his platoon in Vietnam and getting Shot in the Ass in the process.
- Real Event, Fictional Cause: Forrest is an Accidental Hero who routinely shapes history by being at exactly the right place at the precise time. Who inspired Elvis Presley's hip-shaking stage moves? Gump. Who discovered the Watergate burglary? Gump. Who inspired John Lennon to write "Imagine"? Gump. Who sparked the T-shirt phrase "shit happens?" Gump. Who designed The '60s Smiley Face? Gump. If it's a critical juncture in American history, Forrest Gump went jogging through it.
- Real Footage Re-creation: In addition to digitally altering historical footage to insert Tom Hanks, the film also makes extensive use of recreating historical scenes in the traditional sense, namely George Wallace's 1963 Schoolhouse Door speech and the 1967 March on the Pentagon rally, as well as Dick Cavett's interview of John Lennon (with the former starring As Himself).
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Played for tears, in the scene where Forrest holds a dying Bubba in his arms:Bubba: Forrest... why'd this happen?
Forrest: You got shot.
- Road Apples: During his cross-country run, Forrest steps in a pile of dog poo, which leads to the creation of the "Shit Happens" bumper sticker.
- Running Gag:
Forrest: [narrating] When I got home, I had no idea, but Mama'd had all sorts of visitors.Mama Gump: [on-screen] We've had all sorts of visitors.
- It's subtle, but in every photo of Forrest, his eyes are closed.
- Many celebrities that Forrest met or talked about end up getting killed, most of them getting shot.
- In the first scene of every transition of Forrest's age, he is always wearing a blue and white plaid shirt. He's also wearing one at the bus stop.
- As mentioned above in Narration Echo, Forrest narrating things that people have said to him, followed immediately by them saying it on-screen.
- Saved From Their Own Honor: Every ancestor of Lieutnant Dan Taylor died on a battlefield, and Dan himself intended to keep on this tradition in Vietnam. He was initially distraught Forrest saved him.
- Sex for Services: A rather loose variation, when it comes to Mama Forrest and the school principal.Hancock: Your mama sure does care about your schooling, son!
- Scenery Porn: Many shots in Alabama are beautiful to look at. When Forrest decides to go running you see marvelous natural landscapes in various places in the USA. Of particular note is when Forrest stops running. He's standing in front of Monument Valley, one of the most iconic landscapes in America thanks to the work of John Ford.
- Seemingly Profound Fool: A lot of people take Forrest's words at greater value than he does. The cross-country running, for instance. There's nothing political, social, or philosophical about it; he just "felt like running".
- Seen It All: After a while, Forrest finds it hard to work up enthusiasm for meeting Presidents after meeting virtually each one during his life.
- Serial Escalation: Forrest's cross-country run builds over time. First he runs to the end of the road. Then he runs across town. Then he runs across the county, and then the state, and then etc., etc.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Invoked in the film, where Jenny climbs into Forrest's bed and the scene fades to black.
- Shot in the Ass: "I got shot in the butt-tocks."
- At various times we see archival footage or well known TV series play on TV sets, such as Bob Hope greeting the American troops at New Year's Eve 1971, and Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street.
- When Forrest is pushing Lt. Dan across a street after they reunite in New York and a cab almost hits them, Dan shouts "Hey! Hey! I'm walkin' here!"
- Early in the film, the stock footage of the Ku Klux Klan is recycled from The Birth of a Nation.
- Significant Birthdate:
- Jenny's date of birth (which can be seen on her tombstone) is July 16, 1945, the date of the Trinity test in New Mexico, the world's first successful test of the atomic bomb. Her date of death, March 22, 1982, is also the date that the Space Shuttle Columbia launched on its 3rd mission (STS-3)...which landed at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.
- The latter would at first glance seem not so significant within the film's context as the Columbia disaster happened long after the film's release. However, the backup commander for mission STS-3 was Ken Mattingly, who was portrayed by Gary Sinise (Lt.Dan) in Apollo 13, which also starred Tom Hanks.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Forrest has eyes for Jenny. No one else.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: It may take place in a cynical and hostile world, but Forrest's kind-nature, sweet-heart, and belief in the best of humanity, makes this movie incredibly idealistic.
- Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Lieutenant Dan rides out Hurricane Carmen clinging to the mast of a small boat, challenging the lightning and waves to kill him while giving God the middle finger. Which, according to Forrest after, results in Dan's religious epiphany.
- So What Do We Do Now?:
- Lt. Dan says a variation of this to Forrest after Forrest saves his life, thinking Forrest has robbed him of his destiny and will have to live the rest of his life as a cripple: "What am I gonna do now?"
- Also happens when Forrest stops running across the country and decides to just walk home from the Nevada desert. One of the runners following him has this reaction out of frustration: "What are we going to do now?"
- Still Wearing the Old Colors: Forrest meets some anti-Vietnam activists who mostly wear their old uniforms, but made into Non Uniform Uniforms.
- Storefront Television Display: Played for laughs. Not too long after young Forrest teaches Elvis what becomes the singer's signature hip-swinging moves, Forrest and his Momma are walking past an appliance store & see Elvis performing on one of the tv sets in the window. Momma covers Forrest's eyes with her hand, saying such a thing isn't fit for children to see.
- Straight for the Commander: When Forrest and Bubba meet Lt. Dan for the first time, he specifically tells them not to salute him to avoid this trope:Bubba and Forrest: [both raise arms in salute] Morning, sir!Lt. Dan: Whoa, get your hands down! Do not salute me; there are goddamn snipers all over this area who'd love to grease an officer.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Played for laughs, no less:
- Forrest jumps off his boat and swims over to Lt. Dan. The unmanned Jenny promptly slams into a dock.
- When about to meet JFK, Forrest drinks fifteen Dr Peppers and ends up suffering a Potty Emergency. Luckily, he is able to meet JFK and make it to the bathroom in time.
- Sweet Home Alabama: The film takes place in Greenbow, Alabama. Also, when Jenny and Forrest are at Forrest's home they are dancing to Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
- Symbolic Baptism: Lt. Dan swimming in the ocean after a hurricane almost destroys his and Gump's shrimp boat, where he comes to terms with his PTSD. Forrest believes that's the moment where "he made his peace with God."
- Take Our Word for It: Abbie Hoffman's reaction to Forrest's cut-off speech.Abbie: You said it all, man.
- Tear Jerker (in-universe):
- The old lady that Forrest is narrating his story to has this reaction, to the point where she sticks around after missing her bus.
- Forrest's speech when getting his medal also causes this reaction in those that can actually hear him.
- Tempting Fate:Lt. Dan: Where's this God of yours now?
Forrest: [narrating] It's funny Lt. Dan said that, 'cause right then, God showed up.
- This Is My Story: "Hello, my name is Forrest, Forrest Gump. Would you like a chocolate?"
- Try Not to Die: One of Lieutenant Dan's two standing orders for his platoon (the other one is to always, always change your socks for clean ones regularly).
- Unflinching Walk: While carrying the somewhat heavyset Bubba to the shore in Vietnam, an airstrike is raining bombs down just behind Forrest's heels. The only acknowledgement he gives of the explosions is a slight increase in walking speed near the end of the shot. It's made especially impressive considering he has a fresh bullet wound in his buttocks. Which may sound vaguely humorous, especially remembering Hanks' pronunciation of the word, but just take a moment to think about what it actually means. He either has a bullet or a jagged piece of debris lodged in a part of his body that is moving and flexing around with every step he takes, even more so for the fact that he's running over difficult terrain and he still never even considers stopping. Unflinching indeed.
- Ungrateful Bastard: Lieutenant Dan is initially mad at Gump for saving his life, in part because he had his legs blown off and feels like life isn't worth living anymore. He eventually gets better.
- Also Bubba's mother. Rather than being happy that a member of her late son's platoon cared enough for him to come pay his respects and make an effort to live out Bubba's shrimping dream for him, she simply calls Forrest an idiot with a contemptuous look on her face. Nor is there any indication that she showed him any gratitude for the share of the Bubba Gump Shrimp fortune that she received.
- Unreliable Narrator: Played straight for laughs, and for drama. The naive Forrest incorrectly describes events he witnesses through his life. Examples:
- He believes that Charlie was someone the Army was looking for, as opposed to the codename for the Vietcong; and that Apple (Computers) was a fruit company.
- A few darker examples occur, as well — like describing Jenny's father as "a very loving man," unaware that what he witnessed were signs of sexual abuse.
- The novel ends with the iconic image of Forrest sitting on a park bench in Savannah, GA, not long after an encounter much like the one with the incredulous man in the movie ("Boy, I've heard some whoppers in my time..."), leaving open the possibility that Forrest is nothing more than a halfwit telling tall tales to strangers on a park bench. Consider the story from that perspective for a moment...
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
- During the live broadcast of the first moon landing, everyone at the Army hospital (except Lt. Dan, who's staring out the window) is watching Forrest play Ping-Pong with himself and no one is watching the TV.
- When Reagan is shot, the footage is playing on TV but Forrest is not even watching the screen.
- When we first see Forrest play football, he's just zoned out and unaware of the game he's participating in.
- Unwanted Rescue:
- Lt. Dan was furious that Forrest saved his life, rather than leave him to die. He eventually gets over his rage. Later in the film, when Lt. Dan fiercely defends Forrest after their female companions call him "stupid," the implication becomes that while Lt. Dan loses his legs, gets lost in his own misery, and spends decades watching the world fly apart, Forrest is his polar opposite — innocent, kind, confused and, above all, happy. Lt. Dan doesn't want anything to spoil that.
- Jenny, when Forrest tries to save her from a couple guys harassing her. While stuff like that always happens to her, she tells Forrest he can't keep protecting her.
- The Vietnam Vet: Both the eponymous character, and Lt. Dan. For the former it was just a period in his life, whereas for the latter, it ruined much of his life, and he was nothing but a bum until he ran into Forrest who gave him a job as first mate on his vessel.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Forrest doesn't see it but Lt. Dan has a lot of anger towards him and generally treats him with contempt. But underneath it is an appreciation that Forrest holds no grudges and will do anything to help a person in need. By the end, there is no doubt they are best friends.
- Wealthy Philanthropist: Forrest Gump's shrimp business really takes off and Lt. Dan wisely invests their money in Apple Computer. Following his mom's philosophy, Forrest starts giving money to various projects in his town and state, like renovating their town church and founding a new hospital department.
- Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Abbie Hoffman wears an American flag-patterned shirt at the Vietnam protest rally.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Jenny's sisters were mentioned exactly once. Were they sent to live with their grandma like Jenny?
- The bullies who chase Forrest around aren't seen or heard from after Forrest graduates.
- Wham Line: Jenny reveals a shocking one about herself.Jenny: I have some virus, and the doctors, they don't know what it is, and there isn't anything they can do about it.