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Flashback-Montage Realization

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Near the end of the film or episode, a character realizes something that puts many past events into a new context. The character's thought process is shown as a series of previous scenes and lines of dialogue, often with some filter on the footage this time around, culminating in The Reveal.

A specifically heroic version of this trope can involve a character remembering moments from previous scenes or one individual scene, or possibly dialogue without visuals, prompting the character to make an important decision in the moment or gain a new ability.

This is the go-to for visually representing a "Eureka!" Moment and is somewhat of a mental version of The Summation. New footage can also be interspersed in the montage before or after the main Reveal Shot/Wham Line, making it similar to Necro Cam. If the character having the flashback realises they did something wrong or horrible, it can also double as a My God, What Have I Done? moment. Somewhat of a subtrope of Once More, with Clarity. Compare to Flashback Cut, in which a previous moment from a character's life is flashed back to for humorous purposes, and Really Dead Montage, another type of flashback montage. Contrast Stress-Induced Mental Voices, in which a character remembers previous lines of dialogue in a time of distress.

As this is a form of The Reveal, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 
  • Brother Bear: At the salmon run, as Koda tells the story of how he got separated from his mother, Kenai starts having flashbacks from prior to his transformation about the bear he recklessly hunted and killed – now knowing just who that bear was.
  • The LEGO Ninjago Movie: Lloyd realizes the ninja team's elemental powers were inside them all along, flashing back to Master Wu saying "Find your inner peace" and "The power is inside you," with the former really meaning "inner piece," and Lloyd sees each ninja as representing the LEGO piece related to their element.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: When Puss is first scarred by the Wolf, moments from his various lives flash before his eyes, setting up his fear and his eventual drive to get more. In their final confrontation, he starts out with the same fear, only to flash back to a series of scenes strictly from throughout the movie, and he realizes that his final life is worth fighting for all on its own.
  • Turning Red: This is used to show Mei's epiphany about the red panda during the red moon ritual. In the space of a few seconds, she relives numerous memories from her time as the panda, both good and bad, all adding up to the realization that the panda has become an important part of who and what she is, and she doesn't want to lose it.
  • Zootopia: Judy has two quick flashbacks when she's in the secret lab spying on Doug the ram, right as he talks to his boss about him shooting Otterton and Manchas with the Night Howler serum.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Bourne Identity: Towards the end, Bourne confronts Conklin and Parsons at Treadstone's Paris station, where Conklin explains Bourne's connection to Treadstone, reviving the memories of his last assignment: Bourne was supposed to assassinate the deposed dictator Wombosi, but he fled upon realizing that his children were with him, and he was shot in his escape attempt, causing his amnesia.
  • Cut to the Chase: Max realizes Travis is right about Nola being a hitwoman and involved with his sister due to things she'd said earlier, which are shown again for the audience.
  • Fight Club: When it's revealed the Narrator is Tyler Durden, previous scenes are shown with him now in the place of Tyler.
  • An In-Universe example in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: When Harry learns through the Pensieve that Snape was good the whole time and that he had loved Harry's mother since childhood, both new and old scenes are shown in this light.
  • The Illusionist (2006) is narrated by Chief Inspector Uhl. In the film, a Love Triangle develops between Sophie, the stage magician Eisenheim and Crown Prince Leopold; Sophie is engaged to the latter, but does not love him. When Sophie attempts to leave a drunken Leopold, he chases after her brandishing a sword, and the following morning her body is recovered. Eisenheim, anguished by her death, puts on a series of magic shows in which he speaks with Sophie's ghost, and she implicates Leopold in her death. Growing unnerved and paranoid, Leopold kills himself. After a chance encounter with Eisenheim in the streets, Chief Inspector Uhl has a "Eureka!" Moment, and the audience is shown a montage of clips and lines of dialogue from the film explaining The Reveal: Eisenheim and Sophie faked Sophie's death in order to escape from Leopold and drive him to suicide.
  • Married to the Mob: Mobster Tony Russo encounters FBI Agent Mike Downey wearing various disguises throughout the movie. After the last encounter, Russo realizes why Downey looks so familiar, flashing back to Downey's various disguises, and deduces he must be some kind of undercover police officer.
  • Memento: When Teddy reveals that Sammy Jankis's story is really what happened to Leonard, moments from previous scenes are replayed now supporting that Leonard's wife survived the assault and was really killed when Leonard unintentionally overdosed her with insulin.
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Towards the end, as Neal Page is finally heading home, he starts thinking about having Thanksgiving dinner with his family, which segues into thinking about his time with Del Griffith over the previous two days, specifically remembering a cryptic comment Del made: "I haven't been home in years...". Neal suddenly realizes the truth about Del, and he returns to the train station to confront Del, who confesses he's been a homeless drifter since his wife Marie died 8 years earlier.
  • Predestination has a version of this, flashing back to an earlier scene where Ethan Hawke's character implies to another character that he is him from a different point in time, and soon after this is a series of snapshots (all from previous scenes) of the character throughout his/her life, from infancy to the present day, showing the character's entire personal history in chronological order for the first time.
  • The Prestige: When Borden and Angier explain their tricks at the end, previous clips are shown along with new footage, explaining how they did them and showing more of the personal sacrifices they had to make.
  • It wouldn't be a Saw movie without a huge flashback montage at the end of almost every single one, which only makes sense given the extremely complex overarching storyline, not to mention that some movies happen literally at the exact same time as another one or take place out of chronological order.
  • The Sixth Sense: Bruce Willis's character remembers Cole's statements about dead people not knowing they are dead, as well as previous events such as when he was shot at the beginning of the movie, now with the insight that he was really dead/dying in those situations.
  • The Usual Suspects: Kujan reveals to Verbal Kint that Keaton was Keyser Söze as the film flashes back to various moments of the group and of Kint's interactions with Keaton, among others. Happens a second time when it's revealed Kint fabricated the story from images and names on the bulletin board in the room and that he himself is Söze, which Kujan realizes as he looks at the papers and flashes back to all the things in the story that Kint/Söze based on them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrested Development downplayed this in the episode "Storming the Castle". Gob meets with Michael to discus his latest issue with the Magicians' Alliance. He ends the meeting by shaking his hand with both hands, saying "I appreciate your time." Later, Michael goes to check the time on his watch and ends up looking at his bare wrist. He then flashes back to the handshake and realizes that that's when Gob stole his watch.
  • Arrowverse:
    • The Flash (2014):
      • In season 3 when Barry figures out Savitar's identity, he flashes back to all the cryptic things the characters (including Savitar himself) have said about the villain.
      • Combined with The Summation when Sherloque Wells reveals in "Time Bomb" that Nora is working with Thawne, cutting to clips of Nora's actions and Sherloque's investigation.
      • In the penultimate episode of season 5, Ralph flashes back to his previous observations about Thawne and the timeline as he realizes "The dagger is Thawne's plan."
      • When Iris explains to Joseph Carver in "Marathon" how she realized his company is affiliated with the evil organization Black Hole, previous shots of the company's and organization's light-based weapons are shown, among others. Happens again in a more downplayed way when Iris realizes the company's relation to mirrors, flashing back to her source saying the word "mirror" before dying and to the room number AV3 in Carver's building which is Carver's wife's name, Eva, in reverse.
      • A rarer external example in "Liberation", when Iris sees previous scenes replayed in mirror screens of some sort, showing her that Eva McCulloch was behind her abduction into the Mirrorverse and has been working with her mirror doppelgänger this whole time.
    • Legends of Tomorrow: Martin Stein realizes in "The Legion of Doom" that the evil speedster is Eobard Thawne, aka the Reverse Flash, and the reason he can't stay in one place for very long is that he's not supposed to exist. Stein briefly flashes back to the character's death in season 1 of The Flash, where Eobard was supposedly erased from existence due to the death of his ancestor Eddie Thawne.
  • In the Series 1 Blackadder episode "The Foretelling", a portrait of the enemy Henry Tudor is produced. Edmund then has a flashback of himself finding Henry Tudor in his bed, and not recognising him. He then rushes out to look for Henry Tudor.
  • Happens Once an Episode in Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa. When Himura figures out who the culprit is, the main theme kicks in and the camera rapidly spins around him while he flashes back to relevant clues from throughout the episode.
  • The Community episode "Aerodynamics of Gender" had Jeff and Troy come upon a secret trampoline maintained by college gardener Joshua. After Pierce gets injured while using it, Joshua is fired and makes racist comments about Troy. When Troy comments that the racism came out of nowhere, Jeff thinks back and realizes it didn't: specifically, he recalls two comments that didn't sound racist out of context ("A place free from the darkness", "Some people are natural jumpers") and Joshua showing off a tattoo of a swastika (which the audience didn't see before).
  • Janda Kembang: After Malik's best friend Wulan finally confesses her love to him, Malik has a flashback to several moments in the series when Wulan dropped clues about her feelings, only realizing what those clues mean now.
  • In the last episode of Jejak Suara Adzan, Putra has a flashback to several moments when Dimas talks to him about Dimas' long-lost brother Dika, which visibly makes him feels bad for never realizing that he could be Dika.
  • Scrubs: At the beginning of the episode "My Fifteen Seconds" JD said that doctors only listen to their patients for fifteen seconds at a time. Throughout the episode JD and Dr. Cox are talking to a patient who was inexplicably exposed to pesticides with a 15 second timer in the corner of the screen. At the end of the episode when Jordan tells her sister that doctors never listen to anyone, both JD and Dr. Cox have a flashback montage of everything the patient said in the fifteen second windows that they were actually listening to her and realized that she poisoned herself.
  • Supernatural, in the episode "What Is And What Should Never Be" (S02, Ep20): When Dean finds the bodies hanging from their wrists in the warehouse, brief cuts show the figures he saw in the closet and the reappearing woman in white, revealing that these figures were reality interrupting his fantasy.
  • A Touch of Cloth:
    • Parodied when DC Anne Oldman realizes that Chief Constable Tom Boss is the Serial Killer they're looking for. We get a series of flashbacks showing him asking her to make sure he's kept aware of all developments on the case, followed by two we haven't seen: one of him asking him to help lick the blood off his sword, and another of him flat-out telling her what he's doing and why. And then writing it on her hand.
      Oldman: I just didn't put it together until now!
    • Further parodied in Series 2 when Jack Cloth realises that the "Big Man" that Michael Macratty is working for is also Chief Constable Boss, and a series of flashbacks occurs that once again ends in a clip we didn't see the first time. It's then subverted when Cloth learns that Boss is actually innocent this time, and the Big Man is actually Hope Goodgirl.

    Video Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham City, at the end of the game, Batman confronts The Joker who is seemingly killed by Talia al Ghul. Then as she reveals that she stole the cure for Titan poisoning from Harley Quinn, Batman looks over Joker's corpse and rethinks through the events of the game, triggering a montage that makes him realise that there were two Jokers the whole time - one of whom was Clayface masquerading as the Joker.
  • In BioShock, when Jack reaches Rapture Central Control, Andrew Ryan explains The Reveal that Jack is actually an unwitting Manchurian Agent. The player is then treated to a sepia-tinted montage of Atlas using the phrase "Would you kindly?" in conversation, now revealed to be Jack's Trigger Phrase.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Malak shows up and taunts the Player Character "Even the combined power of the Jedi Council couldn't keep your true identity buried forever...", there's a cutscene playing back several points of the game; the five Star Map locations, several bits of the player's "visions," and a couple offhand lines from Carth "They say the Force can do terrible things to a mind. It can destroy your memories and wipe away your very identity." and Bastila "What greater weapon is there than to turn an enemy to your cause? To use their own knowledge against them?" from earlier in the game. And the last one seals the deal Revan takes off the mask and it's the Player Character with full Dark Side Corruption.
  • In Singularity, when Renko realizes his quest to reset the timeline has been done many times already, he has a flashback to all the Time Travel related graffiti he's come across.
  • In The Wolf Among Us something similar to this happens at the end, when Nerissa says something that causes Bigby to go Oh, Crap! There's no visual montage of past scenes but there is an audible one where you hear several lines of dialogue overlapping each other as Bigby stands there looking thoughtful. The actual revelation is left ambiguous and up to the player (it's implied that Nerissa might be either Faith or vice versa)but then there is a prompt to either chase after Nerissa or let her go. This was likely meant as a cliffhanger, leading into the next game, however with Telltale Games having folded it unfortunately may never be made, and we will never know for certain what the truth is unless some other game company decides to make a sequel instead.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, when Kathy reveals that Amanda is writing the erotic stories instead of herself, and that this is because she’s attracted to the protagonist but ashamed of it, the protagonist flashes back to snippets of past scenes which contained hints of this.
  • This happens a few different times in Higurashi: When They Cry. Keiichi gets this in the Cotton-Drifting Arc when Rena finally gives him enough information for him to figure out that his failure to give the doll he received as a prize to Mion had insulted her femininity. This sequence ends with a flashback that one presumes is really more his imagination about how Mion telling Rena of her dilemma played out, but the narrative implies that it was also pretty close to the reality of the conversation. He also gets a version of this in the Atonement Arc when he gains the memories of the Keiichi from the Demoned Away Arc. They're modified a little bit because they show the situation as it really was instead of what Keiichi perceived it to be (He was hallucinating a ton). He then tries to use these memories to help get Rena to stop hallucinating.

  • In El Goonish Shive, the Writer's Block's solves the case in this way except with images representing the clues instead of full flashbacks.

    Web Videos 
  • In the Brandon Rogers sketch "All These Babies and I Get None!", Sam has one when Dr. Dini calls him a good father on her reality show (due to him fostering Blame for a while). He realizes that it counts as a public figure endorsing him, as Helen previously explained he needed if he wanted to adopt a baby like he dreamed of.
  • Scootertrix the Abridged uses this for a big twist in the final episode that recontextualizes a lot of what came before. Princess Luna remarks how Princess Celestia never seems to use any magic, but everything seems to magically work out okay for her anyway. Celestia tells her to repeat that, and really think about what she's saying. Luna says, "Everything... always... magically..." then has a flashback to all the previous times she's compared Celestia's absurdly good fortune to magic. This finally tips her off that Celestia has been warping reality all along to make her hare-brained schemes work when they logically shouldn't have.
  • Sword Art Online Abridged: In Episode 11, Healthcliff begins to act defensively when the players start calling out the various glitches in SAO, especially since they are stuck on Floor 75 after the boss glitched out. When Kirito compares their situation to TRON, Heathcliff exasperatedly remarks "Oh, so now you've seen TRON?" in response. At that point, Kirito realizes that Heathcliff is in fact Kayaba, the creator of SAO and the one responsible for trapping them in the game, as Heathcliff and Kayaba's shared love of pop culture references is what leads to him Spotting the Thread. Kirito's realization is accompanied by a montage of various moments throughout the season of Heathcliff making pop culture references, culminating in Kayaba asking his captive audience "How many of you have seen TRON?" from the start of the series.

    Western Animation 
  • Standard Once an Episode practice for Alma's Way, in which the young title character pauses to think about whatever dilemma she's confronting by recalling lines or events that occurred earlier in the same story. Her recollections play out in flashback thought-bubbles during her "I gotta think about this" moments, showing how her reasoning progresses.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
  • Central Park: In "A Boat-iful Mind", while tending to Bitsy's gout, Helen notices how similar her foot is to hers and comes to the realization that she has gout as well. Bitsy asks her how that could possibly be. It then cuts to Helen as she visually recalls all the times she ate Bitsy's food behind the latter's back.
  • In The Simpsons episode "The Great Louse Detective" there is such a montage framed within a Thought Bubble as Sideshow Bob thinks back to the clues pointing to the identity of the person trying to kill Homer, triggered by someone mentioning how a mechanic tuned up the Mardi Gras parade floats. The clues were the spa invitation envelope that had a fingerprint stained in motor oil, how a wrench was used to trap Homer in the sauna, and the meeting with the mechanic towing Homer's car. Ultimately, it pointed to the mechanic as the one trying to murder Homer.
  • South Park: Kyle has one near the end of "Members Only", when he flashes back to various quotes from throughout the season and deduces that the Internet troll "Skankhunt42" is his own father.
  • Steven Universe: Future: In "Growing Pains", as Dr. Maheswaran tells Steven that life-threatening events in his childhood could have led to his present post-traumatic stress, Steven begins flashing back to all the dangers he encountered in the series ever since he was 13.
    • In the original Steven Universe, Steven has one of these in the episode "A Single Pale Rose", when he realizes that there was no logical way his mother could have shattered Pink Diamond. Pearl, on the other hand...


Video Example(s):


Rob Remembers Who He Is

Rob is inadvertently reminded of what happened to him when Gumball suggests he be the villain, accompanied by a montage of Rob stuck in and escaping from the Void during ''The Void''

How well does it match the trope?

4.88 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / RegainedMemoriesSequence

Media sources: