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Happy Flashback

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A Happy Flashback is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin, a Flashback to a happy time in a character's past. Frequently they have a drastically different color palette from the rest of the film/tv show in keeping with most Flashbacks. It'll be very bright, warm, and colorful (possibly even supersaturated with color) or almost completely white from the brightness, or in simple sepia tones with blurriness added. Then again, it might be drawn in crayon to really invoke the "good old days" feel.

The Happy Flashback is often used as a mood counterpoint in a scene that is decidedly dark. It especially helps when the entire story is very sad or even tragic because it provides a "breather" for the audience and helps avoid Too Bleak, Stopped Caring. It's similar to comic relief, with the benefit of adding Back Story and helping to breathe some hope back into a character or plot. The emotional counterpoint is especially useful for storytellers since it serves to show that the character(s) aren't walking bags of Angst, they can feel other emotions, and the pain they feel now is all the more keen because they once were happy.

Point in fact, the Happy Flashback is almost a necessity for the Troubled Backstory Flashback to work as well as it does; transitioning from a Sugar Bowl into a Sugar Apocalypse.

Compare Happy Place and Happier Home Movie.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: Sui-Feng has one, during her fight with her sempai/possible love interest, Yoruichi. During their time together, we see a younger, happier Sui-Feng. Until Yoruichi betrayed her trust and devotion by running off with Urahara Kisuke. Which caused Sui-Feng to become bitter and angry; for which the fans dubbed her "Captain Bitch-Ninja".
  • This happens twice in Chrono Crusade, both times leading into a Troubled Backstory Flashback. Early in the series there's a flashback that shows Rosette's childhood with her brother, Joshua, as well-taken care of orphans who spend their days picnicking and playing before Joshua is kidnapped by the Big Bad. The second time it happens is when Chrono flashes back to when he met Mary Magdalene, whom he fell in love with but accidentally killed when he made a contract with her after he betrayed Aion. In the manga version, Rosette even wonders to herself if Chrono attempts to go back to those happy memories in his dreams.
  • Food Wars!: After tasting Megumi's food, Koujirou starts remembering when he was a child and got in a lot of fights with the other kids at school. After his mother reassured him that he was a nice kid deep down, he cried a little and went back home to have dinner. This may be a Shout-Out to the Ratatouille scene mentioned below.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny dedicates an episode to establishing Shinn's carefree civilian life in Orb and how he really wasn't interested in politics and war, featuring one of these...followed immediately with the Battle of Orb.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers has one of these in a flashback of England's. The viewer briefly gets a glimpse of America's childhood, with England taking the younger nation's hand and them going home together. It serves to contrast the current situation with how happy they used to be.
  • The Saint Beast OVAs as a whole are meant to be this, although they are tinged with hints of darker things to come.
  • In Brave10, Isanami has this on two occasions, once during the arc where she returns to Izumo, remembering how the temple was before the ninja attack, and in the sequel when she and her adoptive brother Seikai reminisce about playing hide and seek in the temple, right before Seikai is killed by Susanoo. Anastasia also gets one about her happy childhood in the middle of fighting Jinpachi.
  • Lucky Star gets in on this when Soujirou tells his memories to Konata about his late wife, Kanata, when she visits as a spirit. The flashbacks show the times when Soujirou and Kanata were childhood friends, and even the time when Konata was born.
  • Near the end of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha we see a flashback to when Fate's mother Precia was a sane, loving parent. Subverted at the end of the episode when we learn that they aren't Fate's memories.

    Comic Books 
  • Les Innommables: A flashback of people burning alive (thrown into locomotive furnaces) turns out to belong to Colonel Lychee, who's smiling happily at his wartime memories.
  • In the Red Robin and Batgirl (2009) crossover, Red Robin gets a couple of himself and Batgirl. Just as an assassin named Prudence, who's life he saved, and who he neglected to immediately incapacitate, is pointing a gun at Batgirl's head and saying she was ordered to kill her. The flashbacks include a nice one with a pink background of him and Stephanie kissing, and Tim blaming himself for getting someone else killed. Of course, Bat-Steph then proceeds to hand Prudence her ass, and Pru's gun is revealed to have not been loaded so the tragic contrast is subverted two seconds later.
  • Robin: After Jack Drake bankrupts Drake Industries and sequesters himself in his room refusing to speak to his wife or son Tim reminisces about spending time with his mom while she was still alive and going to the opera with both his parents on the rare occasions they were home in Gotham.
  • Secret Path (2016): Chanie Wenjak, early in the book, thinks back to when he was living happily with his family.

    Fan Works 
  • In Mutant, this is combined with Flash Back Echo to wrench all the pain she feels out for the reader.
  • In The Matrix Slashfic Bringing Me To Life Smith has a few about Neo. The moonlit picnic in a field with star-gazing, being one example.
  • To Absent Friends: Eleya remembers her, T'Var, Birail, and Tess going on vacation at the beach and somehow getting onto the subject of sex and of how T'Var is apparently a virgin. When queried by Gaarra, Eleya insists that she has absolutely no idea how they got on the subject. Tess theorizes:
    “Some combination of booze and the natural tendency of soldiers to turn roughly anything sexual if you leave them alone long enough.”
  • In Under the Big Top, there is a flashback to the first time Dean and Castiel kissed, and when Dean promised that they would run away together.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cars 3 does this twice with Lightning McQueen's memories of Doc Hudson. The first is during his pre-race meditation at the beginning of the movie and remembers Doc giving him advice. It happens again when he sees all the various newspapers of Doc in Smokey's garage, triggering a series of flashbacks to the two hanging out together, showing that Lightning himself was the best part of Doc's life.
  • Charlotte's Web: During the reprise of "Mother Earth and Father Time", as Charlotte is thinking about Wilbur during her final moments, we are treated to a series of Wilbur's wonderful times over the course of the movie, such as being saved by Fern, first meeting Charlotte, having fun with the farm animals, becoming famous thanks to the words in the web, and especially receiving a medal at the fair.
  • Patema Inverted: About 2/3 into the film, Patema finds a notebook belonging to Age's father, while they're stranded on the ceiling structure in the "sky". While Age reads through it, the audience is treated to a flashback sequence which showed how Age's father met and befriended Lagos. The two spent their time together sharing information from their societies, while jointly working on a flying machine to explore the sky. The final entry is a scribbled note summing up their elation: "We are alive". Which becomes a downer, since his father and Lagos were both killed by the Agian government, as a result, under Izamura's orders.
  • The Fuma Conspiracy has Goemon reminiscing to the gang about how he met Murasaki while they're on their way to make the Hostage for MacGuffin switch. The happy story is then ended with Inspector Zenigata's arrival, and the trio have to escape.
  • Ratatouille: When Ego takes a bite of ratatouille, it triggers a childhood memory of when he scraped his knee after falling off his bike, and his mother made the dish for him to cheer him up.
  • In Turning Red, during the red moon ritual, Mei has flashbacks to all the experiences she had as a giant red panda.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Sergeant Calhoun has one right alongside a Troubled Backstory Flashback, after Fix-It-Felix accidentally presses her Trauma Button by telling her that she is "one dynamite gal". Which are the exact same words her deceased fiancé used when they first met, on their dates (one of which serves as this page's picture) and right before a giant alien bug ate him alive at their wedding.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This happens twice in Batman Begins, with Bruce Wayne reflecting on times with his father in at least two separate scenes from the movie. The first is long before Bruce takes on the Batman identity, when he is planning to take revenge against the murderer of his parents. The second is after the climax of the movie, in the second-last scene of it. This is done to contrast the attitude Bruce had at the former time with that he had at the latter time. The first leads into a Troubled Backstory Flashback.
  • The Missing Picture: Many flashbacks of the life of the Pan family before the Khmer Rouge came and sent everyone to hellish labor camps. Rithy's father was a teacher, his brother played in a rock band, and Rithy liked to hang out on film sets and watch the actresses dance.
  • In Pandorum, Bower has happy flashbacks to his life with his wife back on Earth. Subverted when it turns out that she left him and stayed on Earth which disappeared.
  • The Road contains a few flashbacks to the pre-apocalyptic family life of the protagonists.
  • Rosenstrasse: Most of the film is a bunch of 1943 flashbacks set within a Framing Device, as Lena, a Gentile woman married to a Jewish man in Nazi Germany, frantically tries to save him from deportation to a concentration camp. But there's one flashback to before the Nazi takeover, showing Lena and Fabian as happy young lovers, deciding to get married.
  • Happens in Shutter Island. Some of the flashbacks have a more surreal, symbolic value and far from all of them are happy (but some are).
  • Saw:
    • There are numerous flashbacks to Jigsaw's comparatively joyful life before his Start of Darkness, the first one being hallucinated by him in Saw III.
    • In a more depressing example, Jill hallucinates a series of these (involving her times with John before their divorce) just before her death in Saw 3D.
  • The Godfather:
    • Part II ends with a somewhat happy scene showing the Corleone family sitting around the dinner table, as Michael tells them he is joining the Marine Corps and going off to fight in World War II. This represents the end of the happier, together times in the Corleone family's life, and Michael's transition to the lonely, ruthless man we see him as at the end. This is counterpointed by the final shot of Michael sitting alone in the Lake Tahoe compound.
    • The final scene of the saga is preceded by a montage reprising Michael's happy moments with the women of his life.
  • In His Only Son, Abraham's immediate preparations to kill Isaac are intercut with a flashback of Sarah and Abraham cuddling him as a newborn. In a particularly heart-wrenching moment, a shot of Abraham supporting little Isaac's head is immediately followed by a shot of him doing the same to bigger Isaac as he lays him on the altar.
  • Shallow Grave ends with one flatmate dead, another stabbed and uncertain about his fate and a third discovering they've been cheated out of the loot. Cue Happy Heart rolling over a repeated sequence of the three flatmates earlier in the movie, laughing and hugging. Wham.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past: 1973 Charles briefly reminisces about the first time he met Raven, which was a much happier and more innocent period of his life than his current state of abject misery and self-destruction. One notable difference between his memory of the event and what we saw in X-Men: First Class is that Charles as a kid didn't say, "And that's a promise" right after he told Raven that she would never have to steal again.
    • X-Men: Apocalypse:
      • Magneto recalls a couple of cherished moments that he had shared with Charles in 1962. One line which wasn't featured in First Class is Xavier telling him, "And it needs you, Erik."
      • When Charles restores the memories that he took away from Moira, there's greater emphasis on the cheerful times they had spent together.
  • Several happy flashbacks throughout Ivan's Childhood, depicting Ivan together with his mom and other kids. The peaceful childhood scenes build a stark contrast to the shadow-filled war environment Ivan finds himself in.
  • The main story of Other Halves is intercut with reverse flashbacks. As the horror ramps up in the A Plot, the flashbacks take us toa happier time, when the team all got along.
  • Four Days in November: This John F. Kennedy assassination documentary ends, after Kennedy's funeral, with a montage of Kennedy during his presidency, mostly with his little children.
  • The Nasty Girl: When Sonya's husband leaves her, there's a brief flashback to their honeymoon.
  • Justice League (2017) opens with a home video of Superman being interviewed by children at the scene of his heroics. We then get a montage showing the worldwide mourning and Despair Event Horizon caused by his death in the previous movie.
  • Aint Them Bodies Saints: The film ends with a flashback to Bob detailing his grand plans for himself and Ruth to their unborn child.
  • Train to Busan have Seok-woo dies remembering the joy he felt holding newborn Su-An for the first time.

  • In Stephen King's Firestarter this happens when the protagonist suddenly discovers the dead body of his wife. The feel of emotional pain is in contrast with the memories of their happy life together which start popping up in his mind at that moment.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire is rife with these, especially with regards to the Stark family. Very often a Tear Jerker.
    Sansa: "She had last seen snow the day she’d left Winterfell. That was a lighter fall than this, she remembered. Robb had melting flakes in his hair when he hugged me, and the snowball Arya tried to make kept coming apart in her hands. It hurt to remember how happy she had been that morning."
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves frequently flashes back to moments from Rasmus' and Benjamin's childhoods, often playing in contrast to the tragic things that are happening to them in the present.
  • The Girl from the Miracles District establishes that Nikita Used to Be a Sweet Kid by having her flash back to happier moments of her childhood before returning to her current unpleasant life.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, in the middle of the siege, when having to deal with the untrustworthy and possibly insane Shuos Jedao, Cheris has a flashback to a time from her youth when she had a Shuos girlfriend.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, used extremely effectively in season 7 by going back to a scene we didn't see from the beloved Musical Episode from the previous season.
  • In Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa, Akemi has to revisit her family's vacation home as part of a case. She flashes back to two years ago when her family (including her now-dead friend and uncle) welcomed her into the house, with the colours being much brighter and more saturated to contrast her gloomy present.
  • In Elementary episode "Déja Vu All Over Again" we see Watson's life before she met Sherlock Holmes. She is happy, laughing and hanging out with her friends. When the scene moves to current time, we see her breaking into cars with Alfredo. Subverted in that overall, Watson actually enjoys working with Holmes.
  • In Jericho (2006), a decidedly dark episode about a war with nearby town New Bern has multiple flashbacks from Jake to the day of his brother's wedding.
  • Jessica Jones (2015) has one at the beginning of AKA WWJD?, of her now dead family leaving for vacation from her childhood home...right when she's going back to her childhood home with her stalker/former rapist (mental and physical) in order to both hopefully record a confession and stop him from hurting and killing people around her.
  • Kamen Rider Build: Kazumi was a farmer before the Sky Wall Disaster rendered his farmland infertile. Now he is the cold Kamen Rider Grease, yet he is also obsessed with the internet idol Mii-tan. When Kazumi tells Ryuga of Mii-tan’s significance to him, he has a flashback to when it was just him and his employees working on his farm together, and watching Mii-tan’s newest videos as they are uploaded as a bunch of cheerful idiots.
  • In Monk, all of his flashbacks with his wife Trudy. Averted with his childhood memories, which are awful.
  • The Musketeers. Whenever Athos returns to Pinon he has flashbacks of his life with Anne (who would become Milady de Winter), including the two of them frolicking in the meadows.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves frequently flashes back to moments from Rasmus' and Benjamin's childhoods, often playing in contrast to the tragic things that are happening to them in the present.
  • Person of Interest starts this way, showing John Reese relaxing in bed with Jessica, then cutting to John as a homeless alcoholic with a Beard of Sorrow. Later flashbacks show this was the moment before 9/11, when John said he was going to leave the military and marry Jessica. Until he turns on the television.
  • Rome. Vorenus is having a dream where he's sharing a loving moment in bed with his (deceased) wife Niobe. Suddenly Niobe starts shouting in a foreign language and he wakes up in the squalid room of a bald Egyptian prostitute.
  • Schitt's Creek: The Christmas Episode begins with a rare glimpse of the Rose family's former life, as Johnny flashes back to one of their lavish Christmas parties. They are in their Big Fancy House, surrounded by admirers and Moira and David perform a Christmas medley, known as The Number, for their guests.
  • In the Smallville episode "Abyss", Chloe starts to forget everything due to Brainiac's interference. She is rushed to a hospital in which the doctor tells her to focus on her happiest memories while they scan her brain. They are all intimate moments with Clark. Including their First Kiss. Aww.
  • Stranger Things: In the episode "Dear Billy" Max gets these as Vecna starts the process of killing her and then subverts the trope as they give her the strength to break her bonds and escape.
  • Supernatural: Played With when the Winchester brother are killed and sent to Heaven, and Heaven manifests as flashbacks to their happiest moments. For Dean, this is when Sam and he set off Roman candles by themselves when they were young and when his mother cut the crusts off his sandwich when he was four. For Sam, he experiences moments from his childhood when he got away from his father and Dean, which hurts Dean when he realizes this is what happiness was to his brother.
  • In The X-Files episode "Piper Maru", Scully is grieving for her murdered sister Melissa. Coincidentally, she goes to visit her old father's colleague at the naval station where the Scullys used to live. At one moment as she's driving, she sees kids playing outside, especially two girls playing hopscotch. She flashes back and she sees herself and her sister playing the same game.

    Video Games 
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Ike remembers sparring with his dad.
  • This happens in Final Fantasy VIII. After Selphie's home is destroyed by a missile, the main characters take time to realize that all but one of them grew up in the same orphanage. Although this is a plot-heavy part of the game, the flashbacks are generally happy, with comforting music playing while they happen.
  • Loopmancer have this happening after your first "death", where your mind loops backwards to before your wife and daughter died.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: "Simon and Marcy" is basically an episode-long version of this for Marceline and Ice King, though of course he doesn't know it.
  • In one episode of The Simpsons, Bart and Lisa are on opposing hockey teams. While staring each other down during an overtime shootout, they each have one of these, remembering good times when they were friends, and not just siblings. They end up hugging and skating off the rink arm-in-arm, causing a riot in the stands.
  • Used to great effect in Avatar: The Last Airbender: brief still images appear of Iroh playing with children, accompanied by happy laughter, as Zuko wanders through his family's abandoned house.
  • Used in a House of Mouse episode when Pluto has a dilemma on whether or not to save Figaro and has flashbacks of them playing with each other.
  • Ōban Star-Racers has Molly's flashbacks with her parents when she was a little girl. The flashbacks show her that she was Used to Be a Sweet Kid, but this trope was later subverted when her mother died in a race accident.
  • Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja: The Sorcerer had this in Stank'd to the Future to the 1985. It just showed him sitting annoyed in his prison, as a different rat did the moon walk.
    • Hannibal McFist had one in McOne Armed and Dangerous. It was similar to the one Anton Ego had in Ratatouille.
  • South Park parodies this in "Red Man's Greed". When the Native Americans buy the whole town and plan to level it for a twelve-lane superhighway, Stan has a moment of relection to himself, saying, "We'd had such great times here." The flashbacks that follow, however, depict scenes of destruction in previous episodes (specifically, "Pinkeye", "Trapper Keeper", "Starvin' Marvin", "Krazy Kripples", "Summer Sucks", "It Hits The Fan", "Korn's Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery", "I'm a Little Bit Country", "The Red Badge of Gayness", "Chef's Salty Chocolate Balls", and "Mecha-Streisand").
  • Elena of Avalor uses a gold filter with some blurriness for some of its flashbacks:
    • In "King of the Carnaval" when Elena and her family remembers Elena's late mother Lucia wearing her tiara during a Carnaval parade.
    • In its second Dia de Los Muertos episode during the segment where Elena sings "Make Them Proud" as she looks back on fond childhood memories she had with her deceased parents.
    • Also used in "The Return of El Capitan" when Francisco and the ghosts of his old friends remember their glory days as swashbuckling vigilantes.
    • And for completion's sake, the unhappy flashbacks (Elena's PTSD flashbacks of watching Shuriki kill her parents, the flashback of Esteban and Victor helping Shuriki invade Avalor) are shown in a cold greyish-blue filter.
  • Star Wars Rebels did this in its Series Finale, when Ezra sees a time portal (or an illusion by Palpatine?) in his house, showing his parents doing normal things and calling him to come to the kitchen.


Video Example(s):


The Warden

The Second Coming is at the mercy of a terrifying monster called the warden and is trapped at a dead end with nothing but a book, a candle, and a stick. Having no choice but to use whatever he could use at his disposal, The Second Coming finds that the warden is not really a monster.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MusicSoothesTheSavageBeast

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