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"I think I'll try extra hard to remember today's events and conversations, in case I someday want to recall them verbatim."
Gordon Frohman, Concerned

A narrative technique in which we're shown events that took place before the episode's main action. Said events may have taken place on-screen earlier, but may also be new scenes depicting things hitherto only referenced.

Specific types of flashbacks include:

  • Another Man's Terror: A character relives the end of another character's life.
  • Death by Flashback: A character who gets a flashback has a high probability to die.
  • Flashback B-Plot: A linear secondary story is told through flashbacks alongside the main story, both involving the same character(s).
  • Flashback Cut: A very brief flashback.
  • Flashback Echo: Past events in a flashback parallel what's occurring in the present.
  • Flashback-Montage Realization: A character's realization is shown with a montage of previous scenes and lines of dialogue.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: A flashback within a flashback occurs when a character recounts an event in which they also flashback into ANOTHER event within the first flashback.
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  • Happy Flashback: A flashback to a happy time, may segue into a Troubled Backstory Flashback.
  • How Dad Met Mom: A flashback to how two parents met.
  • How We Got Here: The episode opens In Medias Res, then the events leading up to the episode's beginning are explained via flashback.
  • Pensieve Flashback: The present-day version of the character shows up inside their own memories of the past, in order to provide snarky commentary or to inexplicably interact with the past.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Multiple flashbacks depicting one event from several different perspectives.
  • Regained Memories Sequence: Multiple very brief flashbacks used to show the return of a character's memories.
  • Self-Serving Memory: A character flashes back to an event, only for the flashback to be quite different from what actually happened, usually to make that character look better.
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  • Third-Person Flashback: A character flashes back to things they did not actually witness themselves.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: A character with a Dark and Troubled Past flashes back to a happy memory that transforms into a bloodbath.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: During the flashback, the voiceover's narration doesn't match what's being shown.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: A flashback that takes up the whole episode. (in literary works, this would be an example of a "frame story").

Sub-Trope of Separate Scene Storytelling. Dreaming of Times Gone By and Past Experience Nightmare are two ways to show them. See also Flashback Effects for ways of distinguishing a Flashback from normal action, and Viewers Are Goldfish for flashbacks to events that are still fresh in the audience's mind. It's also a brilliant way to indulge in some Exposition of Immortality. The inverse of this trope is the Flashforward, which depicts events in the future instead of the past. Compare Interquel, which is usually a separate installment in the franchise but set in between previously released works.

When a character is having a flashback, it can be because of psychic/magical powers, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or simply resurfacing memories. In either case, it's a common justification for a movie to show the audience a Flashback.

If you want the page about the game Flashback: Quest for Identity, go here.


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    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes employs flashbacks fairly often, with Season 8 containing a few specifically to earlier episodes prominently featuring Kalo since Careful S. is remembering him since the Heroic Sacrifice he performed in Season 7. The episodes from Season 10 onwards with the new art style that flashback to pre-art shift episodes keep the footage in the old art style, with Season 12 episode 35 and its flashbacks to pre-art shift episodes featuring Zelia (as well as the theatrical film Happy Heroes 2: The Battle of Planet Qiyuan, which was also from before the new visual style was first used) being one example.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: In episode 173, Wolffy has a flashback to when he ate some disgusting cookies earlier.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Sally Forth: In an arc for Feb. 12, 2010, Sally remembered the first time she met her boss, Ralph. She eventually snaps out of it.
    Ted: You seemed zoned out for days! I almost called the hospital.
    Sally: Don't worry. No one's ever died from a flashback.

    Fan Works 

  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "Flies":
      • The first flashback is to over twenty years ago; when the trio discuss Beelzebub and establishing flychology by analyzing the emotions of Casey's flies.
      • The second flashback is to about eighteen years ago; when they discuss animals having religion and Polen is starting to become miserable because of his empathic abilities.
    • "What If— (1952)": Mr What If has a pane of cloudy glass that he uses to show "what if" timelines. The characters experience them as if they were reliving a memory together.
  • Dreamblood Duology: In The Killing Moon, Nijiri's and Ehiru's first meeting, in which Nijiri has requested a gathering of his mother to end her suffering from The Plague and Ehiru is sent to enact it, is described in a flashback.
  • In the Erebus Sequence, the first book alternates between telling the main story and providing chronologically-ordered scenes from the protagonist's life before that, meaning that what's happening "now" and the background of How We Got Here are interwoven. The second book uses fewer flashbacks, but there's still a reasonable number.
  • In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel On the Razor's Edge, Donovan has many flashbacks of recovering memories.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Tom Riddle's diary, introduced in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, could show the reader events that had occurred while Tom Riddle had been at school, fifty years before current events.
    • The Pensieve allows characters to relive memories that have been added to this magical bowl.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower:
    • Book One: The Gunslinger: The first quarter of the novel is devoted to flashbacks to events just prior to the beginning of the novel, and flashbacks to Roland's childhood within those.
    • Book Four: Wizard and Glass: The bulk of the story is a flashback to a formative event in Roland's early adulthood.
  • The Machineries of Empire:
    • Multiple flashbacks to Jedao's past happen near the end of Ninefox Gambit as Cheris starts swallowing wraithglass to view Jedao's memories and figure out what his plan is about.
    • In Extracurricular Activities, Jedao's and Meng's first meeting is shown in a flashback.
  • Sten: In the final book, the Emperor flashes back to his childhood and his steps on his rise to power.
  • In Transitions Catti-brie's magical illness causes her to float in the air while being trapped in flashbacks of her life. Drizzt can even discern the scenes from what she's saying, which really doesn't make his emotional stability during the crisis any easier.
  • In Vampire Academy, Rose occasionally interrupts the present narrative to Flashback to past events. Rose herself, Lissa, Dimitri, and Sonya Karp all receive additional characterization through these Flashbacks.
  • War Crimes: For Garrosh Hellscream's trial, the court uses the Vision of Time to view past events, in order to avoid errors in the witness testimony.
  • Shtum: Ben has a series of these in "Rollercoaster," remembering his youth, the time around Jonah's conception, and Jonah's childhood.

  • Our Miss Brooks: A large portion of "Borrowing Money to Fly", features Miss Brooks flashing back to her initial arrival in Madison.

  • The first act of Nine (Musical) ends with a series of flashbacks to Guido's youth.
  • Miss Saigon goes back to "The Fall of Saigon" midway through the second act
  • During the song "Poor Thing" from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the story of Lucy Barker's rape is shown onstage as Mrs. Lovett sings about it.
  • Arcadia alternates scenes between flashbacks and the modern day.
  • In Proof, there are several scenes that flashback to when Robert was alive.
  • The original version of Merrily We Roll Along had the story told in flashback, framed by Frank speaking at a graduation ceremony.
  • Angels in America: In something not unlike a Pensieve Flashback, Prior recounts his encounter with The Angel to Belize in the middle of a later scene, and both his telling and the encounter are played simultaneously onstage.
  • The Phantom of the Opera is told in one giant flashback, as the show's opening scene is of the aged Raoul attending an auction selling off items from the opera house.
  • In the musical Violet, flashbacks occur regularly. Some characters (e.g., Young Violet, Father) appear only in flashbacks.
  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: About a third of installment four, Gilded Cages, takes place in 1859 Singapore, where Mrs. Hawking grew up, met the man who would she would reluctantly marry, and made her very first discovery of the injustice of the world.
  • In The Miracle Worker, Anne Sullivan's past is revealed to the audience through multiple flashbacks. During her flashbacks, she hears and interacts with the voices of her younger brother and others from the orphan asylum.
    Boy's Voice: Annie, what's that noise?
    Annie: Just a cot, Jimmie.
    Boy's Voice: Where they pushin' it?
    Annie: To the deadhouse.
    Boy's Voice: Annie, does it hurt to be dead?

    Video Games 
  • 96: Late in the game, Niles starts flashing back to when Sixten was alive before the outbreak hit the island.
  • In a game that revolves around memories, Another Code covers a variety of these.
  • Echo: Secrets of the Lost Cavern has a couple of flashbacks at the beginning of the game. They're of Arok and a shaman artist named Klem.
  • Flashback: The Quest for Identity. In-game flashbacks.
  • In Fredbear and Friends, the player gets to see two flashbacks to a security guard working during the pizzeria's heyday. While the first is playable, the other is just a short cutscene.
  • Halo 3: ODST makes extensive use of this, though technically, it's actually Rookie going through camera recordings, not flashbacks per se, but it still counts.
  • In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, when Price finds out Zakhaev is behind the game's plot, he decides to roll a flashback to explain the guy's background. Players know this as the "All ghillied up" mission.
  • All of the interludes in The Reconstruction. Subverted in that all but one of them are flashbacks to the prologue's cast.
g Toy Story 3: The story mode is told in this form.
  • In Valkyrie Profile, flashbacks are often used to show the events leading up to the Einherjar's deaths.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Minori's route in Brass Restoration, flashbacks are used much more frequently than needed, often to recap something that happened half a scene ago. Thankfully not as prevalent in other routes.
  • The protagonist’s breakup with Rachel is shown with one of these in Double Homework. In the same flashback, he realizes exactly how he first met Dennis.
  • Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! has flashbacks interspersed between routes as necessary; no single path gives a complete background on the family, with each person's pertinent set of flashbacks happening in their own storyline.
  • A large portion of fault milestone one is comprised of Rudo and Albas' memories.
  • Many of the scenes in the after-story routes of Princess Evangile are flashbacks to events that took place during the Common Route.


    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, various characters have flashbacks which often explain their past and their relationship with other characters.
  • Unusually for the series, lonelygirl15 episode "Comfort Food" included flashbacks to Daniel's grandmother's funeral. Flashbacks were again used in the series 3 episode "I Miss Her".
  • LG15: the resistance makes frequent use of these to show Maggie's past.
  • Frequently used in The Gungan Council in order to explain why a character has or does something. "It's Not That I Keep Hanging On, I'm Never Letting Go" uses it in spades.
  • Parodied in episode X of Transolar Galactica, when Captain Trigger gets a flashback without the series actually cutting to it.
    Reggie: Oh great, he's having one of his little flashback things.
    Samson (after half a minute of Trigger staring vacantly into space): ... how long does it take?
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device has quite a few of those:
    • In episode three, Kitten flashes back to the Age of Apostasy to break the monotony of his monologue.
    • In episode five, the Emperor reminiscences of Malcador and how he set up what would later become Inquisition.
    • In episode thirteen, Magnus has two flashbacks, both showing his corruption by Tzeentch.
    • Episode sixteen is largely a huge flashback to the War in Heaven.
    • The short "Why Kitten Hates The Tau" plays with this — it might be a flashback explaining the eponymous matter, or it might be the Emperor trolling Kitten.
  • Funny Business has a flashback right in the middle of the story that manages to double its overall length, and making what would otherwise be an ordinary Plot Twist into an Ass Pull.
  • The Most Stupid Deaths In Super Mario 64: In 'Even More Stupid Deaths', Mario has a flashback to the first time he went on the "slider".
  • Mahu: "Second Chance" sees several flashbacks, not all of which have the Commonwealth as the protagonist.

    Western Animation 
  • Invader Zim also lampshades a common problem with this trope: In "The Fry Cook What Came From All That Space", Zim recalls a flashback of being demoted to fry cook under fry lord Sizz-Lorr, and then escaping. After Zim escapes, it shows Sizz-Lorr alone, shouting at the top of his lungs:
    Sizz-Lorr: I will find you Zim, so help me, I will search the entire universe, and I! WILL! FIND YOOOOOOOOU!
    (Cut back to present time with Zim and Sizz-Lorr)
    Sizz-Lorr: How did you remember what I said if you weren't there?
    Zim: *shrugs*
  • Ninjago often uses flashbacks, for example, to show Wu and Garmadon before the latter became fully evil.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, there have been a few flashbacks about Lucius' life under his father, including the one that made him a Self-Made Orphan.
  • Used a lot in Phineas and Ferb by the character Dr. Doofenshmirtz, since almost all of his inventions have a backstory and he uses flashbacks to let Perry and the audience know the purpose for it. However, there have been some occasions where he'll skip over a flashback since Perry already knows the story, and on one occasion he had a horrible headache and said it hurt too much to do a flashback.
    • In "The Belly of the Beast", Perry was going into a flashback of how he escaped, which Doofensmirtz took advantage of by attacking him.
    • Parodied in "Doof Dynasty", an Elseworlds episode set in ancient China, where this discussion occurs about "Master Perry".
    Phineas: What's he doing?
    Ferb: That's a ripple dissolve. He must be having a flashback.
    Phineas:...does he know we can't see it? Should we give him some privacy? I don't know the protocol for flash-backs.
  • Used frequently in Avatar: The Last Airbender, usually in the form of someone in the present narrating something that happened in the past (like the flashbacks in "The Storm," "The Avatar and the Firelord," and "The Southern Raiders"). "Zuko Alone" and "Appa's Lost Days" have characters who don't or can't talk about their pasts quietly remembering them in the form of flashbacks.
  • The Care Bears Movie is told as this.
  • Danger Mouse: "The Return Of Count Duckula" uses footage of DM's first encounter with Duckula from "The Four Tasks Of Danger Mouse" as a flashback as he recounts the meeting to Colonel K.
  • The questionable reliability of flashbacks is Played With in the Futurama episode "Mobius Dick", when Farnsworth recalls the earliest days of Planet Express.
    Amy: Zoidberg had hair?
    Farnsworth: I never said he had hair! If you chose to imagine him that way, that's your business!
  • Kaeloo: In Episode 136, a flashback is shown to Kaeloo, Stumpy, Quack Quack and Mr. Cat at school in the same class as little kids. This is despite the fact that other episodes have established that Kaeloo and Mr. Cat are older than the other two.


Video Example(s):


Amphibia - The Sleepover

The episode, "The Beginning of The End", begins with a flashback of Anne, Sasha, and Marcy having a sleepover as they watch a movie. The end credits at the end of the episode returns to the same sleepover as Marcy finishes the rest of the movie while Anne and Sasha sleep together.

How well does it match the trope?

4.91 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / Bookends

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