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Eye Recall

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"By the way, what's with all the obsessive eye shots? Do we really need to see the movie told from everybody's cornea? [gets super-close to screen] WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE WHOLE ENTIRE MOVIE TOLD LIKE THIS? I DON'T THINK SO!"

The old saying is that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and this trope treats the eyes as the windows to the memory bank as well.

A character is suddenly reminded of something. Rather than the old trope with the ripple and harp, fade out, or echo, the camera zooms to an extreme closeup of their black pupil — which suddenly becomes a dark tunnel. At the other end, a light! And that light leads to the memory Flashback the character is experiencing. The viewer gets to see the significant memory (because it's almost always significant) often with an eye-shaped aura around it, then the tunnel view reverses, coming back out the character's eye — the same one, or the other one.

Unlike Flashback Stares, which apparently goes on long enough to hang a lampshade on why a person is staring off into space, the Eye Recall memory visions appear to be pretty much instantaneous, or at the most only a few seconds from what's occurring real-time that triggered the memory.


  • Color-Coded Eyes is not this trope: that's when the eyes show an indication of the character's personality/spirit/etc..
  • Eye Remember is not this trope: that's when the eyes hold an image of the last thing a person saw.
  • Flash Back Stares is not this trope: that's when someone is flashbacking so long that people wonder why they're staring off into the middle distance.

The Eye Recall can also trigger a "Eureka!" Moment when the memories viewed through the eye tunnel are compared with new information. And occasionally an Imagine Spot will mimic the same Eye Recall effect.

Not to be confused with asking people to return their eyes due to a safety issue with them.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cowboy Bebop:
    • The Ax-Crazy Pierrot le Fou's Troubled Backstory Flashback starts with a zoom in on his eye. This is appropriate, since the trigger for his traumatic memories involves seeing anyone with heterochromatic eyes, causing him to involuntarily Flash Back to the similar-looking cat present during the painful experiments that empowered him and drove him mad.
    • The trope is also conversed when main character Spike Spiegel says that his artificial eye sees the past while his organic eye sees the present, as a metaphor for his inability to let go of his Dark and Troubled Past. In other words, it's this trope being Conversed in order to represent something more like Flash Back Stares.
  • This happens often for dramatic effect in Death Parade. Usually when a character is recalling a core memory that lead to their death.
    • In episode 9, this happens to Chiyuki when she asks to receive traumatic memories of murderers. While this never happens when Arbiters receive memories of the deceased, it is portrayed here to emphasize her humanity as well as the intensity of the situation.
  • Done twice in episode 34 of Digimon Adventure with Gatomon when she's reflecting back on her troubled memories.

    Fan Works 
  • Facing the Future Series: In Hearts and Minds, an amnesiac Danny and Sam have these moments whenever they come into contact with each other.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Ratatouille, this happens to hard-nosed food critic Anton Ego near the end of the movie when he tastes Remy's ratatouille that reminds him of his childhood.
  • In Tangled, Rapunzel experiences one when she notices the sun motif in her paintings and has a flashback to seeing it as a baby, which leads her to realize she's the lost princess. Becomes a coincidence, as she has the exact same eye design as her real mother's.
  • Happens several times in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, to the point that it gets disorientating. Perhaps the creepiest use is in the deleted scene where Screweyes recalls how a crow pecked out his eye, leading to a close-up shot of the screw thrust in his eye socket reflecting the crow pecking out said eye. Brrr...
  • Rise of the Guardians: Jack Frost experiences half of one when Baby Tooth encourages him to open his tooth reliquary and finally connects him to the memory of his past life.
  • The Angry Birds Movie: Happens several times throughout the movie. Chuck and Bomb both have this twice; the first time when recounting their anger management issues when Red was introduced by the anger management classmates, and the second time when they imagine the Mighty Eagle later on in the movie.
    • Leonard experiences this as well during the movie, when imagining himself and an bird's egg spending time together, with the Carpenters' song Close to You playing.
  • Frozen: When Anna comes to Elsa's ice palace and reminds her about their happy childhood, camera zooms on Elsa's eyes and a flashback shows her nearly killing Anna.
  • The computer animation showcase The Gate to The Mind's Eye starts and ends with a shot zooming into a live-action eye, suggesting the entire movie is one of these.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Thor: The Dark World: Played with to the point of inversion. When the Aether is withdrawn from Jane Foster, we see her eye leading to a vision of space leading up to a planet being destroyed. It turns out to be Jane getting a vision of Malekith's intent to destroy Earth.
  • In The Jungle Book (2016), Kaa's eyes are a window to Mowgli's past.
  • Tamara: When Tamara touches someone and takes mental control of them, flashbacks appear of the victim's past appear in her pupil; generally showing her victim to be a horrible person. However, when she tries this on Chloe, all she gets is memories of Chloe being to nice to her, and she is unable to control her.

  • Appears to be how Legilimancy works in Harry Potter. The one time we see it in action, the Legilimens sees a memory through the eye of his target.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Chuck: Played with. The Intersect and all its information got downloaded into Chuck's head, such that they tend to only pop up when triggered as flashes.
  • In the first episode of Doctor Who with the Eleventh Doctor, "The Eleventh Hour", when The Doctor attempts to recall what he just saw that was odd, the camera zooms into his eye and shows a flashback of a few minutes ago filmed with stop-motion photography.
  • Forever. Used at least Once an Episode: it happens at least once when Henry encounters fatal injury in each episode. Henry's eye leads to his entire life flashing before his eyes to end in the water.
  • iZombie. Used whenever Liv gets a vision of a memory from the person whose brain she has recently eaten. Naturally, she remembers it from a first-person perspective, but with a dark circle blocking out any peripheral vision. The memories are usually triggered by a sensory cue. Since Detective Babineaux doesn't know that Liv is a zombie, her memory recalls are passed off as psychic visions.
  • In That's So Raven, Raven's visions are shown by a dramatic zoom in and out of her eye.
  • True Blood. Used frequently when any vampire was remembering their human life or earlier in their immortal life. Occasionally used for humans flashing back as well.

    Video Games 
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, when the Wraith does his psychic-interrogation trick on a captured orc, the camera zooms in on the orc's eye (giving a rather unfortunate up-close look at the game's facial textures in the process). Rather than a flashback or other visual representation of the intel being extracted, however, it brings the player to a menu where they can choose which Captain or Warchief they want intel on.
  • Eyes are a big thing in Dead Space 2. Exposure to the Marker from the first game the has a psychological effect on Isaac and Stross, compelling them to build another one, and to that end they have schematics to build a marker implanted in their minds. Earth Gov is interested in this, and have been subjecting the two to sessions with a machine that pokes into their eye to retrieve data on the markers for the years between this game and the first.

    Western Animation 
  • Big City Greens:
    • "Family Legacy" has this effect happen on Gramma Alice as she realizes the meaning of the last riddle and where the family treasure is kept.
    • "Phoenix Rises" does this with Phoenix as she remembers what she was doing while she ran away and why she did in the first place.
    • "Clubbed" does this with Andromeda as she remembers what Gloria said to her and Tilly, making her think she forgot them.
  • Gravity Falls: Done during the "Abaconings" segment of "Little Gift Shop of Horrors", as Waddles remembers all his past memories with Mabel as she tries to talk him out of being smart and just being his regular pig self.
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012):
    • "Bad Hair Day". Blythe abuses the trope. The first time we see her eye recall, it's actually more of an Imagine Spot than a Flashback, in which she assures Mrs. Twombley that she's an ace stylist. The second time, she remembers the memory unembellished, and realizes she's not the awesome stylist/groomer she believes herself.
    • "The Secret Recipe" Blythe tells her best friend Youngmee about her ability to communicate with animals. Youngmee gives her an incredulous look, then the camera zooms in to Youngmee remembering multiple instances dating back to Season 1 of Blythe seeming to understand things about the pets and trying to find ways to explain it without giving herfself away. She has a "Eureka!" Moment and thus, no trouble at all taking Blythe at her word.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Played with in "The Return of Harmony Part 2". Twilight casts her memory spell on her friends who have been turned into their opposite selves by Discord. The shot generates the dark tunnel, then comes back out to show the memories literally flashing at high speed through the pupils of the pony the spell has been cast on.
    • "Secret of My Excess". When Rarity tells off the greedy beast dragon who's ponynapped her, he gets a look at her fire ruby. The Eye Recall happens and he is reminded how she got it — and that he, Spike, gave it to her and was rewarded with a kiss for being so generous. The recollection is enough to jar him from his greed and revert him to normal.
    • "A Friend in Deed". When Pinkie's usual manic friend-making tactics fail with Cranky Doodle Donkey, she has an Eye Recall to what she did, checking off each thing as it occurred until the last item, which was Cranky failing to become her friend.
    • An inversion occurs in part 1 of the Season 2 finale "A Canterlot Wedding". While Twilight is remembering her time with Cadance as her foalsitter, the camera zooms out of young Twilight's eye when the flashback begins, then it zooms in on her eye as it returns to the present.
    • The Season Four opener two-parter: "Princess Twilight Sparkle" has the trope used with a magical potion to show Twilight events from Equestria's past, millennia before her birth. Further, the zoom in is white rather than black.
    • Season Five episode "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone" has the effect when Gilda flashbacks to how she met and made friends with Rainbow Dash.
    • The Christmas Special "Best Gift Ever" has Pinkie do this when she realizes the meaning behind the Gift Givers' riddle and what to do to stop the giant pudding ocean.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017): Done during the Villain Song, where it reveals Tempest Shadow's backstory, and how her horn got broken.
  • Samurai Jack: Happens in Episode C, when Aku senses a strong amount of himself inside Ashi, and has a flashback to when he appeared before the all-female Cult of Aku and gifted them with his dark essence in a chalice. From there, he discovered the High Priestess drank his essence which caused her to supernaturally conceive and give birth to the seven daughters.
  • Tangled: The Series: In "The Return of Strongbow", Eugene has a flashback to his days as Flynn Rider, stealing a ring off a woman he thought was simply a young noble of Corona. As the flashback ends, Eugene gasps in stunned dismay and whispers, "Oh no"; he realizes his younger self actually stole the ring off Queen Arianna, Rapunzel's mother. Worse still, due to a friend's lies, Rapunzel is currently wearing the ring as a gift from Eugene.
  • Transformers: Rescue Bots. In "Spellbound", the Mind Control device putting the team and the bots in an obedient trance falls off Boulder and breaks. The camera zooms into Boulder's eye, at which point he remembers events before he became entranced.
  • Wander over Yonder. In "The Epic Quest (of Unfathomable Difficulty!!)", Destructor remembers his happy childhood being wrecked by the loss of his sock puppet friend this way.


Video Example(s):


Anton Ego's Flashback

Upon tasting Remy's Ratatouille, Ego has a flashback to when his mother cooked him Ratatouille to comfort him after he fell off his bike.

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Example of:

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