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Meaningful Background Event

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When some critical event is due to happen in a story, a work usually draws all our attention towards it. The moment is accompanied by the camera focusing on it, music and lighting effects serve to emphasize it, etc. But sometimes, the writer wants to be a bit more sneaky about it; yes, this moment is important to the plot, but they don't want the audience to immediately catch on. That's where this trope comes in. While our attention is drawn to the stuff happening in the foreground, usually a conversation of some kind, the real story is happening in the background. No Ominous Latin Chanting. No special lighting or triumphant music. Just some sort of silent background process which an attentive viewer may not notice right away. Often captured in a Convenient Photograph. Sometimes this background event will force itself into the spotlight after a few seconds, while other times it remains out of focus and serves as foreshadowing for events much later in the story.

The similar Funny Background Event and Annoying Background Event are used less for plot development and more for comedy.

See also Dramatic Irony and the many variants of Chekhov's Gun, which can overlap if the background event occurred much earlier in the work prior to the reveal. It can also overlap with the "There All Along" version of Nothing Is Scarier.


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  • Used to disturbing effect in "Evan", a PSA uploaded by Sandy Hook Promise. We see various scenes of the title character interacting with a mystery girl through messages written on a library desk, and others where he's wondering who she could be. They finally meet, begin talking...and suddenly, another kid enters the school auditorium and loudly cocks a gun, leading to mass panic. The PSA then goes back and reveals that each previous scene showed the shooter and hinted at this outcome, with the message that such individuals are often overlooked until it's too late.
  • Michigan State Police's "Look Again" PSA. It opens with what appears to be a service industry ad, with a voiceover explaining how workers improve the safety and quality of life for their customers. Then the footage is reshown, with attention drawn towards easily missed signs of human trafficking - a girl being shoved inside a van, a window with closed curtains and bars, a boy being made to wash shop windows, a padlocked door with a clipboard listing 30-minute appointments hanging nearby (implying whoever is inside is being used for sex work), and a man violently pulling a girl away from the window.
  • One Watersafe Auckland advert shows three women in bikinis getting ready to sunbathe on the beach. In the background, however, is a child in a dinghy, who is occasionally blocked by the women, and when one of the women lies down to sunbathe, the dinghy is suddenly empty.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan:
    • In Chapter 41/episode 30, as the tower is collapsing, and just before Ymir asks Krista and the others to climb onto her Titan form, a shot/panel focuses on Krista. In the background, you can see Bertholdt about to bite his hand and become a Titan in order to save himself from falling to his death or getting eaten by the Titans below, which is somewhat more noticeable in the anime.
    • In Chapter 42/episode 31, the revelation that Reiner and Bertholdt are the Armored Titan and the Colossal Titan, respectively. Absolutely nothing in the scene or tone suggests this conversation happening off to the side is important, until what's being said sinks in. Instead, all the attention is focused on the other characters discussing their next move, with the layout suggesting this is the important part to follow.
    • In chapter 72, while Armin is talking about how he wants to see the world outside the walls, several panels show that Levi is also listening in on the conversation. This doesn't seem like anything important until several chapters later when Levi remembers the conversation, and Armin's resolve to see the world convinces him to save Armin's life instead of Erwin's.
  • Black Clover: One of the most obvious signs that there's something wrong with the Wizard King Julius Novachrono is how in a couple of panels in the Spade Kingdom Raid Arc, when the Spade Kingdom Clock Tower is shown, the positions of the clock don't match the progression of the plot and would often rewind itself. They are snuck within action-packed panels and will usually remain un-noticed. Keep in mind Julius is supposedly incapable of holding a fight as a 13-year old kid with only one page of his Grimoire and he should be the only known person with Time Magic, so he shouldn't be able of casting spells that affect a whole continent. Come Chapter 331 and we find out he was just a split personality of the eldest sibling of the Dark Triad, and the Qliphoth Tree Ritual was a mean for him to grab Lucifero's power for himself and take over the underworld for his grand omnicidal plan.
  • In Bloom Into You, during Chapter 27, when the basketball team submits their paperwork for the school festival, Akari eagerly tells Yuu about how she'll get to spend time with her senpai and crush, Oogaki. As they're talking, Oogaki and Serizawa, the captain of the team, share a meaningful glance in the foreground, shaded slightly so as to avoid being immediately noticeable. Later that chapter, Akari is crushed to learn that Oogaki had been in a Secret Relationship with Serizawa for over a year(before she first confessed to him), when the latter asks to swap shifts with her, meaning that she never had a chance of winning him over.
  • Code Geass has a rather divisive example. The death and return of Nunnally vi Britannia was seen as an Ass Pull by some segments of the fandom. Others, however, pointed out some of these in the death episode, particularly the presence of a second, identical transport plane in the hangar. Additionally, Rollo is sent to retrieve Nunnally, while Sayoko rescues the captive Kallen, gets her to her mecha, and still manages to find Nunnally first. This doesn't make sense unless Rollo found the wrong plane and assumed Nunnally was in it without actually bothering to check.
    • During Zero's rescue of the Black Knights near the beginning of Season 2, Villetta can be seen sighing in relief at it going down successfully.
  • The ComiQ has this happen in-universe. Ryota realizes the supposed murderer Baba is innocent because of the specific flowers he used in his backgrounds, which symbolize hope and consolement.
  • In Side:Despair Episode 9 of Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, you can see Izuru continuing to stare at Chiaki after Junko and later Chisa interrupt them. This is one of the hints at his piqued interest in her, which is vital to his motivations for turning on Junko.
  • In Fly Me to the Moon, when Nasa is alone with his wife's laundry, you can see Kaname's hair poking out from around the doorframe, showing that she's listening in on him.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, while Al, Heinkel, Marcoh and Yoki's car breaks down in Central, you can see Fuhrer Bradley walking in the background.
  • In the Haruhi Suzumiya anime, during the episode "Live Alive", we can see Haruhi and Yuki with their musical instruments walking through the background, foreshadowing their unexpected involvement in the ENOZ concert. Earlier on, the two uninjured ENOZ members can briefly be seen running past in the foreground while the main characters are talking. And, even earlier on, all four members of ENOZ can be seen arguing with the student council representative in the background, as shown up close in the flashback later in the episode.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • If you listen very closely during all the times that Ishigami heads home early in season 1, you'll faintly hear the cheer team practicing in the background. This most likely played a role in his decision to join in the sports festival arc.
    • Once Kaguya and Shirogane start dating, they can occasionally be seen discreetly being affectionate to one another (as they have to keep their relationship a secret to keep Kaguya's family from finding out). One particular example being chapter 164, where they are clearly holding hands in the background while the rest of the student council is distracted with the "I love you" game.
  • In Kyo Kara Maoh!, multiple instances with the same character: Ken Murata gets Scary Shiny Glasses whenever he's plotting or hiding something, whether or not the camera is focused on him. It's often used to foreshadow that whatever is about to happen is actually all according to a plan, which the other characters may or may not be entirely aware of.
  • In episode 17 of Legend of the Galactic Heroes, while Yang Wen-li and his staff are having a discussion in the central command centre of the newly-captured Iserlohn Fortress, crews of technicians can be seen in the background dismantling the ornate Imperial decorations and replacing them with plain Alliance-themed fixtures.
  • Before the sudden and gruesome death of General Regius in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, we actually see the killer moving closer to the victim in the background with each shot of the room they're in. But since she was disguised as a Living Prop, it's quite easy for the audience's mind to ignore it the first time around.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid:
    • When Kanna runs away to New York in Chapter 62, while playing with her new friend Chloe, Tohru can be spotted watching her in the background of one panel. It's drawn small enough that you might not notice until the chapter end bonus page in the volume release points it out.
    • As Kobayashi is walking home in Chapter 97, the Holy Sword's human form is walking right alongside her. You could easily mistake them for a random passerby the first time around.
  • In Episode 11 of Monster Musume, "D" is visible in the background of at least one shot before they show up for real.
  • In the anime adaptation of Muhyo and Roji, during the confrontation with Enchu at the end of the Arcanum ark, as Yoichi steps forward to speak with Enchu, you can see Muhyo with his law book at the ready in the background. It soon turns out that Muhyo had Yoichi distract Enchu while Muhyo prepared an Anesthetic Needles magical law, in a failed attempt to incapacitate Enchu.
  • My Dress-Up Darling: After the group cosplay with the Inui sisters, Marin's phone call with Gojo, in which he informs her that Shinju was alone with him in his room several times to work on her secret cosplay, is underscored by the episode of Flower Princess Blaze!! she's watching on her TV, with her jealous pout happening alongside Neon's jealousy corrupting her into the Black Lobelia form that Marin had just cosplayed.
  • In the final arc of My Hero Academia, as Bakugo is seen in the foreground of one panel, you can see Midoriya being pulled into one of the Warp Gates in the background.
  • In Naruto, during the Chuunin Exam arc, when Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura create a password for identifying themselves we see a piece of bamboo sticking from the ground near them, the next shot, the stick is gone. Which turned out to be the villain Orochimaru in disguise eavesdropping.
  • In Paprika, it's entirely possible to miss Osanai's bloody hand moving across the glass in the background of a mostly still shot of Dr. Chiba and Shima.
  • In the background of episode 6 of Persona 4: The Animation, Nanako leaves a television show playing while the conversation with Yu and Dojima is going on. The words are fully intelligible, and it's very obviously reminiscent of Naoto's show on the Midnight Channel, much later on.
    Mr. Experiment: Thanks for tuning in, all you curious kiddos! With the body of an adult and the heart of a child, lovely whiskers and gentlemanly ways, I'm Mr. Experiment! [...] In this corner let's try to solve mysteries found in your everyday lives!
  • As much as he's a walking Funny Background Event, Chuchu from Revolutionary Girl Utena is usually part of these during the series as well. It's a good idea to keep an eye on him for hints on how Anthy is really feeling.

  • Sistine Chapel:
    • While Roselli's Last Supper shows the titular dinner in the foreground, the fresco also shows Christ's prayer, arrest, and crucifixion through the windows in the background, which are important to understand why the next of the Stories of Jesus depicts The Resurrection of Christ.
    • The foreground of Sandro Botticelli's The Temptation of Christ doesn't actually contain the temptations of Christ, which are relegated to three different spots in the background. Instead, the foreground contains a leper healed by Jesus talking to a Jewish priest, perhaps to represent the continuity between Mosaic Law and Jesus's teachings.
  • In Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, one can notice that Judas' arm has spilled the salt on the table, which signals him as the traitor.

    Comic Books 
  • Used extensively in Astro City, and often from the perspective of someone in the background.
    • It's especially evident in "Confession," where several of these lead to The Reveal of the Confessor's true identity.
    • In "Knock Wood", every time policeman Josh Stone appears, there is a blurry skull-like reflection, shadow, or image nearby, hinting that he is The Blue Knight.
    • Every time the Gentleman appears you can see a small girl in pigtails somewhere in the background. She is the key to his existence.
  • Batman: Black and White: "A Slaying Song Tonight" has a scene where Batman stands on a rooftop looking down on a crowded street, reflecting that any one of the people below could be the hitman he's searching for, while scraps of conversation float up around him. A couple of the scraps of conversation are hints to the hitman's activities, such as a shopkeeper puzzling over someone breaking into his shop and stealing a single pillow.
  • ElfQuest: In #6, there is a scene where Cutter is telling the Wolfriders he's made an important decision. This goes on over three panels, and in the background of these panels his lifemate Leetah and his best friend Skywise are apparently conspiring behind his back.
  • In the beginning of the "Half a Life" arc of Gotham Central, almost a full issue before the reveal, Brian Selker (Private Detective) is following Renee Montoya to a restaurant called "Maloney's", taking intrusive pictures for a lawsuit that is about to be leveled against her. Being a long-distance shot in a comic book, with hand-drawn lettering instead of typed, there is not a lot of detail to be made out about the restaurant, and the name almost seems to be drawn as an afterthought: Maloney's Bar & Girl. It is not a typo, it is a revelation, and if you missed it you need to wait until the end of the issue to get the full story.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: In one issue, Legion leader Cosmic Boy is having a talk with the President of the United Planets over a viewscreen. In the panel backgrounds, you might not even notice an electronic pad on the President's desk quietly floating up and away — the only visible sign that Legionnaire Invisible Kid is making off with some damning information while Cosmic Boy provides a distraction.
  • Classical Comics' graphic novel adaptation of Macbeth depicts in the background, as Macbeth himself discusses battle plans in Act 5, Lady Macbeth throwing herself off the battlements.
  • In the MAD Monroe story in which he goes to China on an exchange program, while some sweatshop owners are pretending to be his host family, you can see his actual host family holding up a sign and calling out to him in the background.
  • In Marvel Zombies, the Wasp surprises people on two separate occasions. Both times, you can see her in the background of the panel before she pops up.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (IDW):
    • In the splash page in the first issue, there's a sneaky changeling right next to Time Turner.
    • Also, in both issues there appears to be a mysterious brown stallion observing the Mane Six, even appearing where he couldn't possibly have gotten to normally. In the crowd of freed ponies in issue 1, when the Mane 6 leave the caves in issue 2, when Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy are about to fall in the oubliette in issue 3, and when Celestia and Spike join the Mane 6 after Chrysalis is defeated in issue 4.
  • Robin (1993): While Ives is pulling up to a red light and talking to Tim an easily missed shabbily dressed familiar looking man can be seen out his window several paces away, and shortly afterwards Drury Walker breaks the driver's side window and tries to hijack the car.
  • In The Transformers: All Hail Megatron while the Decepticons are smashing up everything in New York, the reader might notice that in the background Thundercracker doesn't look particularly happy about what's going on. Sure enough in the finale of the story Thundercracker betrays the Decepticons and ends up saving the day.
  • Watchmen:
    • The strange-looking redheaded man carrying the "End is Nigh" sign. Later revealed to be Rorschach without his mask.
    • In #5, at page 6, panel 3, Rorschach mentions that if Moloch wants to send him a message, he could do it by "leaving him a note at the trash can in front of the Gunga diner, between the 40th and the 7th." At page 12 panel 9, and again at page 17, page 8, we see a character checking out that trash can. That means that the reader could have figured out Rorschach's identity before The Reveal at the end of the issue. The Dramatic Irony is that Bernie give us this monologue:
      Bernie: You never know, never know what awaits you. Everything we see is the surface. There is a lot of garbage that we don't even notice. Until it's too late.

    Fan Works 
  • In Forward, during the "Charity" episode, there are several minor scenes involving Zoe walking around with a child from the village named Katie, whose parents were killed in a raid, and whom Zoe became attached to out of a sense of maternal protectiveness. Katie's full name is Kathryn Wade, and she's an "Inducer" psychic who escaped from the Academy, and can apparently control emotions and perceptions in people around her - and is apparently behind everything that happened in that arc of the story.
  • Later, Traitor: Before Chapter 10, Clem and Crystal are offhandedly mentioned to be near the loudspeakers and on the roof of the main lodge, the two places in the game where they try to attempt suicide. This gets a Call-Back when they mention to Frazie that they've tried to kill themselves before.
  • Occurs in The Lion King Adventures. There are several holes scattered around the area Simba, Nala and Haiba are walking through in The Prince and the Frog. This foreshadows the sinister Camp Kazi in Dig It.
  • In Viridian: The Green Guide, Izuku stumbles across a group of thugs hanging together, with one of them complaining about the flies flying around them. Shortly thereafter, the flies bite them, with them going berserk (and showing signs of being affected by Trigger, despite not smoking or shooting up) immediately after. Shortly after, Izuku realises the flies should have been asleep, given it was late at night, cluing him in on how the Villains are drugging people with it.
  • In With Strings Attached, the four and the Hunter find themselves on a ledge overlooking a 500-foot-wide canyon that they have to get across. Paul and John get into an inane argument about whether or not Paul should jump across and thus break the ledge, while behind them, the Hunter calmly sets up a series of magic stepping squares across the canyon.

    Film — Animation 
  • Happens a lot in Coraline. Mr Bobinsky is often doing stuff in the background before the titular character notices him, as well as Wybie and the cat in the beginning. At one point, while Coraline's fighting yellow flowers, a bunch of bigger, blue flowers creep in from behind her. (It's very noticeable, though, because of the sounds and the very next scene is from the flowers' "point of view" crawling to her.)
  • In the Disney film The Emperor's New Groove, the wicked Yzma attempts to poison Kuzco over dinner. The poison is supposed to kill him, and her assistant puts it in every glass at the table. In order to dispose of her drink, Yzma tosses the liquid into the plant beside the table. Just before the poison, which is actually extract of llama, kicks in, we can briefly see that the plant in the background has changed into the shape of a llama.
  • Encanto: During Dolores' segment of "We Don't Talk About Bruno", there's a shadowed figure in green creeping around the upper floor of Casita. This is later revealed to be Bruno himself, with Dolores' lyrics also foreshadowing that he's been in the house the entire time.
  • When the Fantastic Mr. Fox breaks into Bean's cider cellar, Rat can be seen in the background for a full minute before he makes his presence known.
  • Finding Nemo:
    • The whale approaches Marlin and Dory slowly from behind before it swallows them whole.
    • A similar instance happens earlier with the swarm of jellyfish. Marlin and Dory don't notice the jellies swimming towards them until they've been surrounded.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 has the heroic viking chieftan Stoick engage the Big Bad Drago, whilst the gigantic Bewilderbeast allied with Stoick's wife Valka and Drago's own Bewilderbeast battle it out behind them. With Stoick and the benevolent Bewilderbeast the only characters on the heroes' side that are a physical match for Drago and his pet dragon, the two duel's mirror each other closely.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, as the Dazzlings initiate their Mind-Control Music on the students in the cafeteria to turn the school's musical showcase into a battle of the bands, DJ Pon-3 can be seen wearing her headphones and paying absolutely no attention, instead bouncing to her own music. This protects her from falling under the spell, and Spike finds her in the climax to help the Rainbooms defeat the Dazzlings once and for all.
  • A subtle version can be seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas. While Oogie Boogie is taunting Sally and Santa Claus, if you look behind him, you can see Jack Skellington sneaking into the lair all spider-like.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: At the very beginning of the film, while Puss is battling the giant golem, there is a shot of a crowd doing a wave. In that shot, the wolf (aka Death) can be seen in the back of the crowd, foreshadowing his role later in the film.
  • Toy Story 2: When Woody first sees the "Woody's Finest Hour" tape at Al's place, Pete stops it after a cliffhanger, explaining that Woody's Roundup was cancelled before airing the conclusion. invoked Later, Woody plays the same tape when the other toys come to rescue him. After Buzz delivers his Armor-Piercing Question and leaves, the tape keeps going in the background: the show's Woody asks "Everybody okay?" and Jessie responds "Sheriff Woody! I knew you'd make it!", indicating that Pete was lying and the cliffhanger was resolved after all. Unsurprisingly, this is the same scene where Pete shows his true colors.
  • In Yellow Submarine, Fred accidentally drops all the band's instruments in the Sea of Monsters. It's not mentioned (beyond all four Beatles playing imaginary instruments for "Nowhere Man") until they arrive in Pepperland and have to find new ones.
  • In the notorious mockbuster What's Up: Balloon to the Rescue, most major plot points, such as catching the monsters, occur in the background while characters talk to themselves.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Adaptation. has a really heartbreaking one when the car that kills Laroche's family starts coming toward the screen seconds before impact, making you jump before it even happens.
  • In Alexander, Hephaistion's death scene: Alexander speaks with him, then goes to a window and makes a speech about his future conquests and their growing old together... meanwhile, in the background, very much out of focus, Hephaistion dies.
  • In Aquaman (2018), when Arthur and Thomas exit the pub, Mera can be seen exiting the water and walking towards them as they get on Thomas' truck.
  • In As Good as It Gets, when Melvin and Simon return from Maryland, an attentive viewer will notice that Melvin does not go through his lock routine when he closes the door. Melvin doesn't realize this until a couple of scenes later, and it counts as his "Eureka!" Moment, realizing that he's changed for good.
  • Back to the Future
    • In Back to the Future, When Marty is in the cafe in the '50s, George McFly is there all the time, mostly concealed by his newspaper, before he's finally revealed to be sitting next to Marty.
    • In Back to the Future Part II, Marty is fretting about not knowing where Biff is while we can hear in the background his future mother being assaulted by Biff as in Part I. It gets louder until Marty hears it.
    • In Back to the Future Part III, when Marty and Doc are at the train stop looking at the map of the train and the ravine, Clara is in the background, waiting to be picked up by Doc.
  • Batman Film Series:
    • Batman (1989): At the beginning, we see Batman silently gliding down in the background to take on two unsuspecting robbers.
    • Batman Returns: In the scene where Bruce asks Selina to watch the Tree Relighting Ceremony at Wayne Manor with him, you can see the Ice Princess being briefed on how to light the tree in the background, and based on her facial expressions, she seems to be annoyed at it. The next scene, the Ice Princess goes over the instructions inside her dressing room, before she gets kidnapped by the Penguin.
  • In one scene of The Birds, Melanie is sitting outside a school, and behind her we see one or two crows flying down to perch, and then a few more, and a few more, until one of them finally catches her eye and she turns to see hundreds of them perching on the playground climbing frame...
  • In Black Swan, right before Nina starts having a breakdown, she's walking through the apartment. Keep an eye on the pictures on the wall.
  • In Boiler Room, during the scene when Seth and Abby are talking in the car, you see the FBI agents pull up and start walking over (to arrest Seth) in the background quite a while before it actually happens.
  • Chernobyl Diaries: One scene has the characters arguing on an empty street as a figure is seen walking on the background, unnoticed by any one of them.
  • All of Cloverfield, a film that does not stop to make sure you know what's going on. Particularly the end, when something crashes into the water in the background. Many people missed this, including everyone living in the movie's world, apparently, with the possible exception of the FBI guys who are presumably now watching the tape.
  • Come Play: The trailer portrays Oliver walking past an electronics display with each screen turning on to show the monster of the film as Oliver passes by it.
  • A Rewatch Bonus in Copycat is to see how many times the Serial Killer is present in the crowd scenes, often mere feet from the investigators. This includes the Chekhov's Lecture at the beginning of the film, when Peter Foley is one of the audience members Helen projects on to the screen while discussing the typical attributes of a Serial Killer.
  • In Darkness Falls, the evil Tooth Fairy pulls this trick when the good guys have made it to the top of the lighthouse. Everything seems okay to them, but after a moment we can see the monster out the window, drifting closer...
  • In The Dark Knight, Two-Face (or at least his hand) can be seen grabbing Maroni's passenger as Maroni gets in the car, before Two-Face gets in and kills his driver.
  • In the 2016 film Dark Night, based on the 2012 Aurora shootings, the suspected perpetrator is trying on various face masks while an InfoWars video podcast can be seen streaming in the mirror.
  • In Death Becomes Her, after Ernest has pushed Madeline off the stairs and is on the phone, Madeline can be seen standing up in the background. As she approaches the foreground, the audiences slowly realizes that Madeline's head is on backwards.
  • In Deep Red, when the main characters enters the psychic's apartment after her murder, the murderer's face can briefly be seen in a mirror as he passes. He spends the rest of the movie trying to remember what he's seen, and doesn't put it together until the very end; nowadays, an alert viewer with a DVD and a pause button can figure it out immediately.
  • The Descent:
    • A double example. Before the crash, you can see both the other car approaching and that their own car is drifting over the white line into the wrong lane.
    • The Crawlers are also seen briefly in the background a few times before their first proper appearance.
  • In Don't Look Now, the main character is convinced that his daughter (who drowns in the opening) is alive and wandering around the town he is staying in. During the movie's events, background noise coming from nearby radios and televisions warn civilians about a serial killer terrorizing the town. When the man finally corners the apparition of his daughter, it turns out to have been the serial killer — an elderly midget — in disguise the whole time.
  • In Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella and Terrance Mann travel all the way to the town of Chisholm, Minnesota to find former ballplayer Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, only to discover that he had died more than a decade previously in 1972. Exasperated, Ray goes out for a walk in downtown Chisholm and an elderly Dr. Graham walks right past him before Ray realizes he's stepped back in time to 1972.
  • In Final Destination, the airplane explosion that kicks off the plot happens in the background just as characters are mocking the guy who had a premonition of it.
  • A Fish Called Wanda has Otto spying in through the window on Archie and Wanda before entering the house. This doubles as a Funny Background Event.
  • Early in Forbidden Planet, Dr. Morbius introduces the characters the great machine's power gauge, explaining that each dial indicates exponentially more power being put out; there are more dials on the machine than can be seen in frame, suggesting the machine can output trillions of petawatts. Later in the film, after the monster attacks, the film cuts back to the lab where Morbius has been sleeping, and in the background every dial on the gauge is lit up. The gauge slowly trickles down to zero as Morbius gathers his senses and explains the nightmare he just had, which sounds eerily similar to the monster attack.
  • In The Forgotten, when Telly and Ash are driving, you can see A Friendly Man's car rapidly approaching them from the side.
  • In Friday the 13th (1980), one girl sees there's nothing there and says she must be going crazy, just as we see the shadow of an axe rising up behind her.
  • In the film of Glengarry Glen Ross, as Blake explains that the bottom two salesmen will lose their jobs at the end of the month, the chalkboard behind him tells the audience what the characters realize about that stipulation immediately: Roma has such an insurmountable lead on the leaderboard that the other three recognize they'll be fighting for just one spot. That's probably also why Blake went on with his "pep talk" despite Roma not being there.
  • Since there is no sound in space and the musical score does not make a big deal out of the action sequences, all of the space debris attacks in Gravity are experienced in a purely visual manner.
  • In Grudge Match, when Stallone's character is driving and talking to his girlfriend, as he goes through an intersection we see a car on the cross street. The car hits his from the side while he is in mid-sentence.
  • Halloween: Michael Myers just sort of appears all over the place in Halloween (1978). Ditto the remake. Myers is seen several times out of focus just standing around. The 2018 film not only features Michael in the background, but additionally shows Michael beating a gas station attendant to death in the background at one point.
  • In The Hands of Orlac, Nera the blackmailer can be seen moving around with the rescuers during the chaos of the train wreck. Because his character has not been introduced yet, there is no reason to attach any special significance to him, although the camera does linger on him.
  • In Happy Death Day, while Tree is getting into a messaging-fight with Danielle, the killer has entered the room and is killing Danielle's boyfriend.
  • Harry Potter:
  • High-Rise depicts the slow but sure decline of the title building in the form of ever-increasing rubbish piles and the building's infrastructure falling apart bit-by-bit.
  • Early on in I Am Alone, when Mason and Adam are interviewing people for the show, things such as a man puking and crowds of people running and screaming can be seen, indicating that the Zombie Apocalypse is in its early stages.
  • Insidious:
    • The first film has Renai walking right by the demonic boy in her new house on her way to the kitchen less than a minute before he actually appears. What makes this even scarier is not only is his presence not accompanied with a scare chord or acknowledgement in anyway, but that he is hardly in the background at all, literally right to the side of her. But because most audience members will focus on Renai, and not her surroundings, it goes easily missed. How many times have they been walking past ghosts/demons and simply not noticing?
    • Repeated in the sequel, Chapter 2. While Renai is doing housework, she passes by the living room, where the female ghost, Michelle Crane, can be seen calmly sitting on the far side of the room several minutes before Renai encounters her properly.
  • During the infamous rape scene in Irréversible, a figure in silhouette is seen entering the far end of the tunnel while the attack is still in progress. Rather than come to any kind of aid, the figure simply watches for a few moments and then departs, allowing the attack to come to its brutal conclusion.
  • It (2017): In the scene where Ben is reading a book about Derry's history in the library, an old woman (possibly Pennywise's avatar) can be seen turning towards him and smiling in the background.
  • At several points in It Follows, if you look very closely in the background various individuals seem to be walking with great determination towards the main characters without them noticing. They are implied to be the titular "It".
  • In Jaws, just before the famous "You're gonna need a bigger boat." line, while Brody is dropping bait food in the water, you can distinguish the shark just below the surface. However, since on first viewing it is more likely to be focused on Brody, it's probable the audience has jumped just as much as him when it emerges.
  • In Jeepers Creepers a car drives up close and blares its horn before proceeding to drive them off the road. Also used when a truck approaches from Trish's blind side as she's watching the road and subverted, as it's the wrong truck. To say nothing of what the audience gets a glimpse of, when Darry stops to tie his shoe with the flashlight under his arm, so its beam tilts up and reveals that the ceiling (!) is covered with corpses.
  • In the 1973 film of Jesus Christ Superstar, during the song of Simon Zealotes, Roman soldiers can be seen gathering in larger numbers observing the commotion, and more meaningfully, Judas is in the background visibly disturbed by the events, forcibly walking off in the background during the next song, "Poor Jerusalem".
  • In Joker (2019), during the iconic scene of Arthur dancing with the Joker makeup on the stairs, we see the two police detectives appearing at the top on the background, before breaking into chasing him.
  • Ju-on:
    • The very first film has one at the end of the first segment. As Kobayashi looks through the first floor window of the Saeki house, Kayako can be seen emerging from the second floor window. The scene happens so quickly that you will only see it either on second watch or if you freeze frame it.
    • The first theatrical film has a particularly unsettling scene in which the female lead is slowly exploring the haunted house. The camera turns with her to a foyer and stairs leading up. And if you aren't paying very careful attention, you probably won't notice anything unusual until the little boy's head peeking out from halfway up the stairs leans out of sight.
    • A classic scene from both the Japanese film and the American remake The Grudge is the lead in an elevator travelling up, with aforementioned little boy staring at her from the second floor. And the third floor. And the fourth floor. And the fifth floor...
  • Jurassic Park:
    • In Jurassic Park III, as the human characters enter the InGen compound, a Velociraptor can be spotted stalking them in the far background.
    • In Jurassic World, while Gray and Zach wander into the Ankylosaurus grounds, they (and the audience) don't realize the I.Rex slowly approaching them from behind. Upon subsequent viewings, it becomes terrifying how close the I.Rex was able to blend into the environment and sneak up upon the boys and the Ankylosaurus herd without them realizing it before it was too late.
      Gray: We shouldn't be here you know, there's five dinosaurs!
      Zach: Aren't you supposed to be a genius or something? [counts off the Ankylosauruses] There's one, two, three, four.
      [one of the grazing Ankylosauruses suddenly has an "Oh, Crap!" face while Gray points to the reflection on the Gyrosphere]
      Gray: [appropriately frightened] Five.
    • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom loves this:
      • At the beginning we see the Mosasaur's silhouette in the dark background with its jaws open as it's prepared to munch on a mini-sub.
      • Later we briefly see the T.rex's head illuminated by lightning as it rears upon an unsuspecting worker.
      • On the climax with the Indoraptor showdown on the roof of the museum, we see Blue climbing on the background just before she jumps on the Indoraptor.
      • Near the end as Mills climbs out from beneath a car that was wrecked by a dinosaur stampede, we see the Carnotaur sneaking upon him on the background, but then Mills get quickly grabbed by the T.rex and the Carnotaur briefly has to try and pull a piece of him from Rexy's jaws.
  • Like the movies it's ripping off, Ju-Rei is fond of sometimes having ghosts appear silently in the background with no obvious attention drawn to them.
  • In Kairo, the main characters ride in a car and are busy talking. The viewer follows their dialogue and is quite startled when another car smashes into the characters' one, although we could see the second car coming for a while.
  • In The Karate Kid we see the bullies gathering outside the dinner where Daniel and his mother are having a conversation, then leaving as they plan their next prank against Daniel.
  • King Kong (1933):
    • Just before Ann is attacked by the Pteranodon, you can see it flying by in the distance, at such a range that it could easily be mistaken for a normal-sized bird.
    • Before the film's famed climactic showdown between the titular ape and the aeroplanes, Kong's climb up to the top of the Empire State Building while carrying Ann Darrow is featured in two wide, distant shots. The second of these fits the trope even more because, as Kong completes the climb in the centre of the shot, the aeroplanes sent to dispatch him can be seen approaching from the far right, increasing anticipation for the climax.
  • In Knives Out, while Marta is about to tell the Thrombey family how Harlan died, in the background Benoit Blanc reads Harlan's toxicology report and realizes what really happened and who the real killer is.
  • In the beginning of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a man is pretending to be Allan Quatermain, while halfway through the conversation we can see Sean Connery, the real Quatermain, sitting in shadows just to his left. Eventually he turns around and tells the impostor to toddle off.
    Nigel: [cheerfully] Toddling.
  • In The Learning Tree, Newt is lying on his stomach on the ground, idly regarding an anthill, when the dark clouds above suddenly form a funnel cloud far away. A tornado then whips through the area.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Captain America: The First Avenger has a lot of these foreshadowing what happens to Bucky Barnes in the sequel, even not counting the overt plot buildup:
      • During the confrontation between Captain America and the Red Skull on the way out of the HYDRA base where he was being held prisoner, Bucky is staring in anger/horror not at the Skull but at Zola.
      • His facial injuries from there on out are in the shape of the electrical mind-erasing plates from Winter Soldier.
      • After he completely fails to catch Peggy's attention at a bar with the Super-Soldier-ified Steve:
        Bucky: I'm invisible. I'm turning into you. It's like a horrible dream.
      • A Meaningful Foreground Event that just seems like part of the On Patrol Montage: the conspicuously long moment he spends with his crosshairs on Steve's head before moving them to shoot a Mook.
      • A Heartwarming and Tearjerking one; at the end of the film, Steve reveals over the radio to Peggy that he has to sacrifice himself. In the background, Phillips immediately taps Morita on the arm and gestures for them to clear the room, to give Peggy privacy to say goodbye.
    • Ant-Man: while Scott is trapped in the Quantum Realm near the end of the movie, there is a split-second scene showing what looks like a humanoid figure trapped in there with him. It is implied (and the sequel would later confirm) that this figure is Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp and Hank Pym's wife. Said sequel also pulls a similar trick while Hank is exploring the Quantum Realm during the climax by showing an entire city in the background, hinting that the Microverse is canon in the MCU.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has this is Played for Laughs in the opening credits which feature Baby Groot cheerfully dancing to "Mr. Blue Sky" while the other Guardians battle an inter-dimensional monster in the background. The battle finally moves front and center after the monster throws Drax into the speaker system, angering Baby Groot.
    • In Spider-Man: Homecoming, while Peter and his date are being driven to the homecoming dance by said date's father, a traffic light turns from red to green as said father, Adrian "Vulture" Toomes, puts two-and-two together when his daughter's description of Peter's unusual disappearances line up with Spider-Man's appearances, allowing him to deduce that Peter is Spider-Man.
    • Black Panther (2018): During the prologue with N'Jobu in 1992 Oakland, the television in the background is broadcasting the Rodney King riots, making his desire to use advanced Wakandan technology to help oppressed minorities even more poignant.
    • In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Quentin Beck and one member of his team can be seen among the crowd in Venice before the Water Elemental attacks.
    • In Spider-Man: No Way Home, while Aunt May is talking to Peter in the homeless shelter kitchen, Norman Osborn can be seen behind them filling his coat pockets with donuts, a sign that Norman isn't in control. His Green Goblin persona is.
  • In The Matrix Reloaded, when Neo flies to rescue Morpheus and The Keymaker from an explosion, we can see Neo coming from some distance away, before he grabs the two and corresponding music plays.
  • Men in Black:
    • At the beginning of the movie, we see a ramshackle house with a starry sky above, and hear a husband and wife fighting. Unless you know what you're looking for, by the time you notice that one of the stars is moving and getting brighter, it's already been moving for some time.
    • Agent J and Agent K are sitting, contemplating their navels and covered in alien goo, when in the background out of focus something stirs... and then lunges for J! Only to be obliterated by a chick with a really big gun.
  • In the 2007 film adaptation of The Mist, there's a scene in which one of the townsfolk is keeping watch at a window, and you can see a bug flying towards the glass. Only gradually do you realize that this is not a normal-sized bug.
  • Moxie: On the first day of school, Mr. Davies has two sheets of paper tacked to the whiteboard. They read "You Matter" and "Don't Give Up", but the way he has them placed side by side, it can be read "You don't matter. Give up." Towards the end of the film, he has moved the second paper underneath the first, fixing his meaning and signaling his awakening and support for the female students.
  • Nope: Near the beginning of the movie, a radio can be heard talking about a group of hikers that have gone missing in the area, with authorities having no answers as to where they went. The film itself never directly follows up on this, but in retrospect it serves as an early warning sign that Ricky's "Star Lasso Experience" was already in major trouble: if the hikers were indeed eaten by Jean Jacket (which would explain the screams OJ hears coming from the sky, and the coin, key, and other objects that fell at the beginning of the movie), then that means that even before everyone in the audience stared at Jean Jacket, the alien had already acquired a taste for humans.
  • In Ocean's Eleven, after the first scene of Rusty playing cards with the "teen beat cover boys" he goes out and gets a drink at the bar. As he sits there drinking, Danny Ocean can be seen walking in the crowd behind him to go sit down at the card table and wait for him to get back.
  • One Missed Call has an example of this. The main girl and her love interest are in the ghost child's former apartment, in broad daylight, searching for clues about the child's death... and the girl suddenly reacts in horror to the sight of the ghost's hand and face crawling slowly out of the kitchen cupboard behind her head. They are visible in the scene for a good few seconds before attention is drawn to them.
  • In The Phantom Menace, while Qui-Gon talks with Watto after the podrace, one of Darth Maul's probe droids passes by in the background.
  • In Paddington (2014), when the Browns first meet Paddington at the train station and he's telling Mrs. Brown about himself and how he came to be here, the electric "Lost and Found" sign in the background blinks out so only "Found" is lit.
  • In the first scene of Pulp Fiction, when Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are discussing the merits of robbing liquor stores or restaurants, Vincent can be briefly seen heading for the bathroom, and Jules can be overheard in the background (listen here starting at 3:06).
  • In Pumpkinhead, there's a moment when a character walks across the room and we just see the titular monster walking past the window behind her.
  • In the airport at the beginning of Red Eye, Jackson Rippner is first introduced this way, standing quietly in line behind Lisa for a good amount of time.
  • In Reservoir Dogs, after Mr. Pink sneaks off with the diamonds, the viewer is left to expect that he managed to get away scot-free. If you listen closer though, you can hear him getting caught by the cops offscreen.
  • In the first scene of Seven Psychopaths, two mob hitmen are discussing violent criminals and eye removal, all while someone in the shot's background is walking towards them. Eventually, it becomes more apparent that the figure is heading towards them. Cue the Jack of Diamonds shooting them both in the back of the head.
  • A lot of the humor in Shaun of the Dead comes from background events to which the heroes are initially oblivious. The most startling example comes from the scenes where Shaun and Ed enter and exit The Winchester. When they enter, there is a couple making out by a phone booth. When Shaun and Ed leave, the couple is still there. Shaun and Ed make a note of this and go on their way, not noticing how one is being devoured. Another oft-noted example contains an element of Ironic Echo — in two scenes, Shaun walks to his local supermarket, buys something, and walks back home. The first time, everything's normal. The second time, the street is trashed, and there's a lot of blood and dead bodies — some walking about — around the place. Shaun's equally oblivious both times.
  • In Showdown in Seattle, as two World Trade Organization trade representatives are strolling down a Seattle street, being trailed by an interviewer, as they offer a Rose-Tinted Narrative about the WTO proceedings, a busload of police in full riot gear pass the corner behind them.
  • In Signs, we first see the shadowy figure of an alien on the roof while Mel Gibson assures his daughter nothing's there; however, you only notice it's there when it moves at the end of the scene.
  • In Spider-Man 3, a meteorite falls to earth while Peter and Mary Jane are macking on a giant web hammock.
  • In Star Trek: First Contact, in the scene where the Borg use the Enterprise to fire on the Phoenix, Data can be seen in the background advancing toward the warp core coolant tanks. Moments later, when the queen discovers that Data set the torpedoes to miss the Phoenix, he breaks it.
  • In The Strangers, one of the killers just walks right into the house, a few feet behind the main character, with absolutely no fanfare. You might not actually notice him at first, and he leaves shortly after entering. When you do notice him, it can be quite unsettling.
  • In Superman: The Movie, while Perry is talking about journalism and Superman, Clark is listening to Luthor's message and looking for a window to duck out of.
  • The first third of Threads shows the normal lives of a pair of Sheffield families, with news reports in the background talking about a (non-existent in reality) armed conflict between the Soviet Union and the USA in Iran which is slowly boiling over, that are more or less just ignored. It's only when the civil defense ads start running that anyone starts to pay any attention at all, but it's still more or less just token stuff like propping a door against a wall and stocking up on tinned food. Then, one morning, apropos of nothing as far as they're concerned, the bombs go off.
  • Mr. Kreeg of Trick 'r Treat is one of the few horror movie characters to try to get out of his house when he knows that there's an intruder trying to kill him; in this case, Creepy Child Sam. Unfortunately for him, by the time he gets to the door, his hands are all cut up, and the door is covered in locks because he's a shut-in. So as he's trying to open all the latches with his cut-up hands while panicking... Sam comes crawling along the ceiling.
  • In Vanishing on 7th Street, Luke is wandering through the abandoned streets when a plane suddenly crashes behind him. It's shockingly loud after the silence, but one can see the plane nosediving for several seconds beforehand.
  • In the "X-Men 1.5" extended cut of X-Men (released to home video just prior to the theatrical debut of X2: X-Men United), when the energy pulse from Magento's device washes over Jean Grey, it affects her (and only her) noticeably. This hints at the Power Incontinence she develops in the sequel.

  • Angel Child, Dragon Child: When Ut and Raymond are locked in a room and are sitting in angry silence because they're being forced to talk to each other by the principal, there is a banner on the wall that says "Silence is Golden!"
  • Invoked in-universe in Animorphs. In his first appearance, the Ellimist freezes time (saving the Animorphs' lives) and then makes a deliberate point to appear to them with a drop-shaft behind him. The drop-shaft also has a woman going up in it, showing them a way to escape. Later he shows them a Bad Future, and when they get to downtown only one building is still standing, and it now has a glass dome. Its the location of the Kandrona. Both of these double as a form of Loophole Abuse. He is bound by restrictions and rules, which include not interfering. In these cases he's simply providing them with subtle clues, but they have to recognize them and deduce what he's trying to tell them.
  • In Antlers, Colorado, protagonist Austin's quickly glossed-over dream sequences usually contain massive amounts of foreshadowing, sometimes giving away plot points long before they happen. Of course, Word of God confirms that Austin's dreams are often premonitions, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise when they end up predicting later events.
  • In A Brother's Price bandits are the reason why Jerin meets Odelia, and they are always there as a danger to be dealt with by the women. When Jerin is kidnapped, it turns out that the mastermind behind it was the same as with the other crimes, and it is all part of one big plan.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway: On Page 171, Manny can be seen swimming underwater with a bucket in hand. Seven pages later, we find out what he put in said bucket...
  • The Dresden Files:
    • In White Night, when Harry and Elaine are heading for Thomas's boat at the marina, there's mention of another boat with a particularly bad engine belching smoke. It gets passed off as merely irritating. The boat in question is carrying Madrigal Raith, a White Court vampire with a grudge against Thomas and Harry, and his ghoul hit squad. They attack Thomas's boat a chapter later, using the horrible exhaust both as cover to sneak up on our heroes, and to hide the attack from any vanilla human bystanders.
    • In Turn Coat several characters are described as having ink on their fingers, and the clerk is often described in the background insistently and obsessively collecting people's signatures for menial things. This seems insignificant until the end, when the clerk is exposed as a traitor and the ink turns out to contain alchemical substances used as a vector for psychic influence.
    • In Cold Days, Murphy, Harry, and Thomas are in a standoff with seven Sidhe. Harry is injured and on the ground, so isn't participating in the parlay. The situation changes, and he's the only one who notices.
      Harry: Hey, weren't there seven of you guys a minute ago?
  • In the opening scene of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the narration keeps mentioning the bulldozers outside Arthur's house, but he's too sleep-deprived to notice (or care when he does notice) for a while, so it reads like an ordinary Morning Routine with random interjections about bulldozers.
  • In Purple Hibiscus the main character's father is head of a newspaper that repeatedly refuses to censor its stories so the government looks better. It's very much out of focus until the main editor is violently killed by a parcel bomb.
  • In Thank You, Mr. Falker, while everyone else in the school thinks Trisha is stupid because she can't read, Mr. Falker is the only one who recognizes that she is special in her own way, and an amazing artist. When he is praising one of her drawings, the chalkboard behind him says, "All children have gifts. Some open them at different times."
  • These show up occasionally in The Wheel of Time. Sometimes a person (or persons) slipping into the scene is slipped into a paragraph. A paragraph or two later, someone notices that he (or they) are carrying knives. It's a Gray Man attack.
  • In Worm, during Skitter's first bank robbery, Tattletale is described as wandering off to the bank manager's office, ostensibly to use the computer systems there to monitor the response of the authorities and the security cameras. She's even able to give the Undersiders some warning when the Wards are scrambled. We find out later that she used the opportunity to skim from the robbery's take and bank assets for her own personal funds. This is one of the instances used to build a financial power base to rival Coil's.
  • In the first book of Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, So You Want to Be a Wizard, has Nita waking up rather disappointed after she's taken the Wizard's Oath and nothing is different. Except a careful reader will notice that now "Sun" is capitalized, even if not at the front of a sentence...

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • In one episode, Garibaldi, Franklin, and Lyta are all travelling through tunnels under the surface of Mars and stop for a break. Garibaldi takes a drink from a canteen and passes it on. While he talks in the foreground, you can see Lyta drinking from the canteen, and Franklin taking a big swig. When Garibaldi gets the canteen back, he notices how light it is and asks which of them gulped, when they were all supposed to sip. He even uses his skills as an investigator to correctly guess it was Franklin.
    • In the first season, Talia comments to Sinclair that she thinks Garibaldi is following her, as every time she gets on an elevator, he's in it. Astute viewers could confirm this, as in a couple previous episodes, when she got on an elevator, he was indeed in there already.
  • In one episode of Boy Meets World, the characters are sitting around in the student center having a comedic conversation while Cory gets in a fight with his teacher in the patio outside. The event is brought to the foreground when Cory shoves the teacher through the doorway.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • "The Body" is noted for its complete absence of any incidental music. This is used for great effect when Dawn goes into the morgue to look at her mother's dead body and a vampire silently rises in the background.
    • In "After Life", when Xander is on the phone to Willow and Anya after the Buffy impostor attacks them, just out of focus, we see Anya walking back into the room, possessed.
    • In "Him", Principal Woods is oblivious to Buffy carefully taking aim at him with a missile launcher as Spike interrupts her and then Buffy starts chasing him, cartoony-like back and forth. Finally, Woods looks up and see no one around, and shrugs it off.
    • In "Conversations with Dead People", Dawn is alone in the house, and strange things are happening. As she tries to figure out what's happening, the camera suddenly shifts angle, and we see her mother's body in the background. Cue Scare Chord as she suddenly realizes what's behind her, and turns to see nothing.
  • Cheers: How Frasier Crane is introduced in "Rebound, Part 1", in the first appearance of the character that Kelsey Grammer played on TV for 20 years. He is first seen mutely holding a beer mug as a drunk Sam Malone storms out of his office. During the whole scene where Diane and Sam argue about Sam's need to see someone to help him quit drinking, Grammer sits mutely at the bar, next to Norm, randomly nodding along with the rest of the barflies. Finally Sam agrees to see Diane's shrink and tells Diane to tell him to drop by. Diane says "Why don't you see him right now?", and Frasier stands up and says "I'm Dr. Frasier Crane."
  • Community:
    • In "The Psychology of Letting Go", Abed has a subplot play out in the background of other characters' stories — he meets and bonds with a pregnant girl, gets in a fight with her boyfriend, and delivers the baby. This is then lampshaded in a later season 2 episode — when Shirley goes into labor, everyone is surprised to learn that Abed has experience with the situation.
    • In "Cooperative Calligraphy", you can very briefly see Annie's Boobs picking the pen up off the table just as Troy says "I want to lick it!"
  • CSI: NY:
    • While Stella is searching a victim's apartment in "Live or Let Die", the woman's landlady can be heard berating a contractor over the phone because one of his guys didn't show up to paint the apartment across the hall. It turns out, that not only did the painter in question kill Stella's victim, he's also revealed a few episodes later to be the serial rapist whom Aiden has been after since before she got fired.
    • During the Cold Open of "The Real McCoy", the camera focuses on a woman going into a speakeasy and ordering a drink from the bartender. In the background, a man who appears to be a bouncer is escorting a male patron out. After the bartender is found dead, it is revealed that he and the "bouncer" are the speakeasy's co-owners. Turns out, the rejected patron had shown up to confront the bartender about something and had killed him after closing time that night.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Partners in Crime": If you pay attention during the Doctor and Donna's silent reunion, Miss Foster noticeably pauses while speaking to Penny Carter about ten seconds in, indicating that she's noticed their presence.
    • "Forest of the Dead": While the Doctor is talking to the Vashta Nerada, Other Dave says "We should go now, Doctor!" repeatedly. It turns out that he has been eaten, and the words are just his communication device ghosting.
    • "Midnight": A videoscreen behind the Doctor briefly shows Rose mouthing his name. None of the characters notice. This is foreshadowing for the next episode.
    • "The Waters of Mars": The first person to get infected by the Flood does so in the background of the shot with his back to us, with lots of jerking and writhing, so that we know something is wrong and are yelling for the character in the foreground to get out of there.
    • "The Time of Angels": You can notice Amy occasionally slipping numbers into her dialogue. It's so fast you'll have trouble noticing it, and you might not even pick up that she's counting down. Eventually, the Doctor notices and realizes that it means the Weeping Angels are possessing her For the Evulz.
    • Spin-Off series Torchwood continues this — in the episode "Captain Jack Harkness", a "Vote Saxon" poster is seen on the dance hall door.
  • In ER, when Doctor Pratt was seeing off a patient up on the roof, there were two faint lights behind him. Then, when Pratt turned around, we see that the two lights collided. A commercial plane and a private jet had crashed.
  • Firefly:
    • In "Safe", while Simon and Kaylee are arguing in the general store, River can be observed in the background wandering away, setting up the rest of the episode.
    • In "Objects in Space", while (almost) everyone's asleep, Serenity is boarded by a bounty hunter looking for River. The hunter's ship could actually be seen in the background in the previous episode, although its significance wasn't immediately apparent.
  • During the first season of Fringe, viewers began noticing that the same bald man appeared in the background of at least one scene in every episode. Of course, the significance of this was made clear as the series went on as the man became an official recurring character. As a publicity stunt during Fringe's first season the same actor appeared in character in a crowd shot during an actual live NFL football broadcast.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • In "The Lion and the Rose", there is a brief scene where Olenna Tyrell speaks with Sansa Stark during the wedding between Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. In a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, Olenna plucks one of the seven crystals from Sansa's necklace. Those crystals contain a deadly poison, and we see Joffrey put down his goblet within arm's reach of Olenna. Guess who ends up dying of poison at the end of the episode? For bonus points, a later shot of Sansa shows only six crystals on her necklace.
    • When Joffrey decides to behead Ned Stark regardless of his mother and fiancee's requests and the advice of his council members the only person smiling is Littlefinger.
    • In the negotiation scene in "Battle of the Bastards", Drogon can be seen in the background swooping down from the Great Pyramid about twenty seconds before he makes his big appearance.
  • In Ghostwatch, the evil poltergeist "Pipes" can be seen several times at the back of a room, etc., meaning you could either jump or not notice it at all.
  • An episode of The Golden Girls titled "The Case of the Libertine Belle" is a Locked Room Mystery set in a hotel, with Blanche's boss Kendall Nesbitt as an (apparent) victim and Blanche herself as the prime suspect. At one point, Blanche gives Kendall the key to her room; as he does, sharp-eyed viewers can notice Posey McGlynn, Blanche's rival and the real "murderer," slipping a steak knife into her purse and exiting without anyone seeing her. When Dorothy gives The Summation at the end of the episode, the scene replays and shows this more clearly.
  • The Haunting of Hill House: Ghost are usually hiding in the backgrounds of practically every scene, and the statues tend to seemingly move on their own. But in one instance, the ghost is actually there in plain view, as Hugh mentions the old-timey construction worker that Steven would pass on the staircase in the middle of the renovations, was a ghost all along. Likewise, while viewing her body during the wake, Nell's ghost as the bent neck lady, can be seen popping in out, sitting in the background with the rest of her family, unnoticed by them all, except for the time Hugh looks and sees her crying out for him.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • In the (Wham) episode "Bad News", numbers starting at 50 and counting down can be seen strewn about random locations throughout the entire episode. When the "countdown" finally hits zero, Marshall learns that his father's just died.
    • In "Drumroll Please", behind Ted first seeing and falling in love with Victoria, you can see Marshall first tasting and falling in love with the best cake of his life; a comparison that comes up later in the episode.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022):
    • "The Thing Lay Still":
      • Blink and you'll miss it, but while Lestat de Lioncourt is twirling Louis de Pointe du Lac in the ballroom, there is a brief shot of Claudia in the background handing Tom Anderson the poisoned glass of whiskey.
      • In the final scene of Season 1, Daniel Molloy confronts Louis about being an Unreliable Narrator in the foreground while an out-of-focus Rashid stands behind them as he removes his gloves and contact lenses. Rashid then slowly levitates, which proves that he's actually a vampire in Human Disguise.
  • In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger episode 13, you can briefly see a man in a red shirt making the Monster of the Week obey a crosswalk sign. In the very next episode, we learn that the man is Kyosuke Jinnai, former Carranger leader Red Racer and the focus of that particular episode.
  • In the first episode of Kamen Rider Double, during Shotaro's phone conversation with Phillip, the Magma Dopant can be seen for a brief few seconds before Shotaro could bat an eye at it.
  • In Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger and its American adaptation, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, the final battle between the heroic Red Ranger and evil Green Ranger happens whilst their respective Robeast partners in the Red Tyrannosaurus and Green Dragon battle it out behind them. Whilst the more heavily armed villain and dragon hold the initial edge, the Red Ranger manages to turn the tide in tandem with the Tyrannosaurus getting its second wind.
  • In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Raw", as Casey Novak and a defense attorney are discussing a case near the courthouse entrance, a plainclothes cop is seen bypassing the metal detector. It turns out he's actually a civilian with a fake badge smuggling in weapons that are used in a courtroom shooting a few scenes later. You'd be forgiven for not realizing this until your second viewing.
  • The Lost episode "The Other 48 Days" opens with a beach scene. Several dots appear in the blue sky, which slowly get bigger and reveal themselves as the tail and other pieces of Oceanic Flight 815 hurtling towards the island.
  • Mad Men did this well with JFK's assassination as two men are in an office having a conversation with the TV on with very low volume. The report becomes a special report, but neither pay attention as they are busy in their conversation.
  • In the second-to-last episode of M*A*S*H, "As Time Goes By", a nameless chopper pilot, previously reported as MIA, requisitions a fan belt from Klinger, who sends him to the Motor Pool. He dismisses his lateness as engine trouble and his radio silence as malfunctioning equipment. Near the end, a patient, wounded by sniper fire, reveals the pilot was evacuating him when they came under fire, damaging the fan belt and radio, forcing the pilot to land to allow the engine to cool off. The chopper could only fly two hundred yards before overheating, so the pilot walked two hundred yards to scout for a safe landing zone, then returned to the chopper to fly to the clearing, at which point the engine overheated and he was forced to land and repeat until it was too dark to fly and he had to wait until morning. At the end, Hawkeye suggests they include the broken fan belt in their time capsule as a memento of the pilot's heroism, noting that nobody paid him any attention when he was there and that his actions deserve to be remembered in the future.
  • In The Middleman there is a scene where the focus is on the Middleman speaking to his Mission Control, who is telling him that the Monster of the Week MUST be captured alive. In the background, the Middleman's sidekick is shown finding, fighting, and ultimately killing the fish. Really more of a Funny Background Event, but plot-relevant.
  • The Nanny did it once (combining with the humorous cousin): when Fran describes to Mr. Sheffield the reactions of children being disappointed by their parents, C.C. is on the patio acting out these symptoms on Niles. Then commented on by Fran "And that concludes today's audio-visual demonstration."
  • Our Miss Brooks: It happens occasionally on the program:
    • In "Mr. Casey's Will", Mrs. Davis' sister Angela briefly mentions that her late cat "Mr. Casey" had a widow, a Siamese Cat named "Mrs. Casey". When it comes time for Miss Brooks to read the titular will of Angela's pet cat, she finds out she inherits Mr. Casey's treasure chest. The treasure is a box with Mrs. Casey and the Caseys' newborn kittens.
    • Early in "Fisher's Pawn Shop" (a Sound-to-Screen Adaptation of the radio episode "Baseball Uniforms"), Miss Brooks mislays a letter from principal Jason Brille of Madison High's arch-rival Clay City. There's no time to focus on this: due to Mr. Conklin's mismanagement of the atheltic fund, there's no money to buy baseball uniforms and Madison High School may be forced to cancel the season opener. Throughout the episode, Miss Brooks, Mr. Conklin, Mr. Boynton and Walter Denton are trying to raise money to buy Madison High School some baseball uniforms so they won't have to cancel the season opener with Clay City. At the end of the episode, the money raised (in Fisher's Pawn Shop), Mr. Fisher looks into the loving cup being pawned. Miss Brooks opens the letter to find out that arch-rival Jason Brille has mismanaged his own school's athletic fund, and has written Madison cancelling the game to the fact the Clay City team has no uniforms!
  • In the Stargate SG-1 episode "The Broca Divide", you can see one of the Touched in the forest behind Daniel and Teal'c as they tend to the body of a woman. They actually attack a couple of minutes later.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "Absolute Candor", it's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, but just after Picard deflects Tenqem's sword blow and pushes him, Elnor can be seen on the left side of the screen emerging from the Romulan Social Club and unsheathing his tan qalanq. An eagle-eyed viewer would've known in advance that Elnor will intervene in the Duel to the Death and protect Picard.
  • In the second season finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, during the confrontation between Weaver and the Connors in her office, one can see the explosive HK drone that's about to crash into the building out the window a few moments before it becomes very relevant.
  • True Blood:
    • The first season has several of these, which are all replayed for the audience in the finale when we learn that Renee' is the killer and get to see his background reactions every time the murders were brought up in his presence. They're subtle but very telling.
    • In one episode, two characters are talking in the foreground. In the background, a hanging corpse is visible through a doorway for several minutes before the characters draw attention to it.
  • The pilot episode of Twin Peaks has a famous one in its final scene: Sarah Palmer awakens from a dream, sits up, and screams — and as she does so, a wall mirror enters the frame, and if you look closely, you'll see the reflection of someone else in the room with her. This was actually the reflection of one of the set dressers, Frank Silva, but showrunner David Lynch — who had already been considering putting Silva in the show — decided not to reshoot the scene, eventually writing Silva in as a Humanoid Abomination and the series' Big Bad.
  • In the Ultraseven episode "Escape from Area X", Dan is seen covering his ears while an Ultra Garrison staff officer is explaining the concept of virtual space to Kiriyama. This may look like a blooper, but the Monster of the Week hiding in that virtual space emits an ear-piercing ring that bothers and eventually harms humans, but it can and does stun a Human Alien like Dan. It seemed like Dan's hearing could pick up the sound no matter how faint. Cue the ear-piercing ring coming out of the radio a few seconds later.
  • Veronica Mars has an In-Universe example. Shortly after Lynn Echolls supposedly commits suicide, a group of kids reveal they were shooting an amateur action film nearby at the time. Veronica and Logan watch the film and see in the background of one shot someone diving from the bridge into the water.
  • In the season 2 premiere of The West Wing, Josh is waiting for a plane when several Secret Service agents enter the frame around him, one-by-one. It takes a bit before the audience notices, but Josh doesn't until the President enters from offscreen.
  • In Whitechapel, the camera often lingers on a red-headed nurse who works in the hospital that the investigators keep visiting. She ends up being the Ripper's last victim.

    Music Videos 
  • The music video for "This is America" by Childish Gambino interplays Lyrical Dissonance along with this in its music video. It frequently shifts focus between Gambino's gleeful dancing in the foreground, and the shifting scenes of chaotic violence, death, and rioting in the background, including images of a man jumping to his death and one of the Four Horsemen of Death riding a white horse. Considering the lyrical content itself makes similar shifts between being hedonistic and carefree to critical and disturbing, this juxtaposition is very much intentional.
  • Tears for Fears: It's easy to miss if you're not paying close attention, but during the birthday party sequence in the "Mad World" music video, Curt Smith's character is at the back of the room gazing out the window instead of joining the festivity that's taking place in the foreground. It's a visual shorthand that he suffers from depression because he obviously doesn't want to socialize with anyone, preferring to sulk on his own than potentially ruining the merry mood of the guests (who don't seem to care about his emotional state).

  • In the Cool Kids Table game Bloody Mooney, the camera is said to focus on two government agents behind Jess and JT as they walk home from detention at the end of episode one.
  • Interstitial: Actual Play: The Bugatti being sacrificed to destroy a Nobody Dragon and exploding occurs out-of-focus and in the background of the fight between Criss and Xigbar.
  • When the Animorphs sabotage a Sharing event in episode 4 of Sporadic Phantoms, Chapman can be heard muttering "bandits" under his breath in the background.

  • Destroy the Godmodder consists of lots of strings of this. Almost everything big that happens was alluded to earlier, was a failed action that got upgraded, or a summon that a player has been charging for a very long time. The vast majority of these are drowned out almost entirely by the swarm of player actions and entity attacks up until they take the forefront.

  • A few little things in Hamilton:
    • If you look closely in "The Reynolds Pamphlet", you can see someone give a pamphlet to a disappointed-looking Phillip.
    • In some performances, after Angelica and Laurens finish walking down the aisle in "Helpless" and separate to make way for the bride and groom, the two share a significant look, referencing Angelica's soon to be overt and Laurens' subtextual feelings for Hamilton.
    • Angelica stays onstage after "The Schuyler Sisters", and watches the events of "Farmer Refuted" from the upper level.
  • Marie Antoinette (Musical): In the revised plot, while Orléans sings "Illusionen" in the foreground, Margrid takes the paper slip from Hébert that proves that he collaborated with Orléans to take the throne. This later indicts both of them.
  • During "The Crying Scene" in Murder Ballad, Tom can be seen pushing the Narrator aside in order to get at Sara. This hints towards the nature of their relationship: the Narrator is the girlfriend Tom is neglecting for his affair with Sara.

    Video Games 
  • In Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, in the mission "Rescue", when Trigger tries to draw the UAVs away from Harling’s V-22, if they don’t use missiles, a missile will fly past Trigger and strike the V-22. The cutscene that plays afterwards shows an unmanned F/A-18 Hornet fly past Trigger as the Oseans try to figure out who shot down the V-22.
  • Batman: Arkham City uses this five times in row during the opening. When the player first starts walking through into the city they can see Black Mask, one of the villains, getting forced into a corner by some guards. Shortly after while standing in line they see a prisoner that looks an awful lot like Deadshot standing in line and hear him say that Bruce Wayne is "on his list". Shortly after that as the player walks towards the gates they just barely see Azrael standing on the top of a nearby building. Soon after you get the batsuit you can encounter a group of doctors, one of whom has been disfigured and is wearing bandages that make him look just like Hush. Finally during one of Joker's messages you can just barely hear someone that sounds oddly similar to the Joker coughing and whispering in the background. Turns out later that the "Joker" you've been interacting with is actually Clayface in disguise.
  • In BioShock, the first time you see a Little Sister Annex (the metal things built into the walls where Little Sisters come out of), there's one staring at you for a few moments. The object isn't a visual focal-point for the player, and quite a distance away from you when it happens, so many players miss it.
  • In Brütal Legend, upon arriving at the Kill Master's domain, there's a difficult to see event occurring just above the default camera position (and above the focal points of the scene): Razor Girls, who will not be introduced for a couple of missions, are peering through the holes in the rock building to see if Ophelia is going to be okay.
  • In Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth there are several instances early in the game where you get visions of being watched. If you look in the right direction at the right moment, you may catch glimpses of your watchers on the rooftops, hinting at what's waiting for you later in the game. Also, if you look through certain windows in the starting area, you can see various disturbing sights, such as corpses being dragged away.
  • During one of the motorcycle levels in Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, at one point you can see a bird collide with one of the road signs. It's a Player Nudge towards the Alien road sign, which serves as the entrance to the secret level, Hot Coco.
  • At the very beginning of Crysis, during the HALO jump, you can actually see the Ceph mech flying in the distance close to the edge of the screen before closing the distance in a split second and colliding with the player character.
  • In Devil May Cry 4, during the intro, one can spot Dante casually perched on top of one of the buildings, watching Nero's opening fight with the Scarecrows, implying he was keeping an eye on Nero from the very start. He can also be seen again during Hideaki Itsuno's credit.
  • At the end of the Dragon Age II: Legacy DLC, before Hawke strikes the final blow on Corypheus, we see his eyes turn briefly black and Janeka or Larius stagger in the background. It's heavily implied that Corypheus is now possessing them, since they adopt a large Slasher Smile as they leave.
  • There are a few points in the Lonesome Road DLC for Fallout: New Vegas where, with binoculars, the player can spot Ulysses watching the player's progress through The Divide.
  • Friday Night Funkin': Among the numerous cameos in the background of Week 5's stage, one particularly notable character, placed between the xXsquidwardXx rapper and Miku in the far back right, is the Lemon Monster, who turns out to be much more than just a fun background element come the week's final level.
  • A lot of plot points in Golden Sun games tend to be foreshadowed in NPC dialogue or thoughts, browsing through bookshelves in random houses, or the like.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: During the cutscene for the 'Wu Zi Mu' mission, a man in a black jacket and green jeans is sitting casually on a car in the background. That man is Claude, the player character of Grand Theft Auto III, who is Catalina's new boyfriend in the next mission and who gives CJ his car garage in San Fierro.
    • Towards the end of the story of Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony, just as Tony and Luis complete the exchange between Gracie and the diamonds with Niko and Packie, a car is seen approaching from behind the latter two. This turns out to be Ray Bulgarin coming to claim the diamonds himself, as shown in Grand Theft Auto IV.
  • Most of the G-Man's appearances in Half-Life. The first is even before all the trouble starts - he appears on a tram on another track in Black Mesa Inbound. He can later be found arguing with a scientist in the Anomalous Materials lab, just before the disastrous experiment...
    • In Nova Prospekt In Half-Life 2, if one watches Mossman during the Eli Teleport scene, one can see them entering in new coordinates behind Alyx's back.
    • The Combine Advisors can be seen in monitors throughout Half-Life 2: Episode One.
    • When first arriving in the trainyard early on in Episode Two a Combine Hunter appears on top one of the buildings before quickly running away. Another then appears in the back of a building after switching on a light before running away.
  • Hazelnut Hex: A witch with a giant fork can be seen somewhere in the background of every stage, usually some time after defeating the first miniboss. This turns out to be Lamona, the Final Boss and the cause of the conflict, who is stalking Nat throughout the entire game.
  • Kingdom Hearts II: While Sora and co. are talking with Leon in Ansem's secret lab, Stitch can be seen crawling around in the background a couple of times. When Stitch does get noticed, he lands on the computer and indirectly causes Sora, Donald, and Goofy to get sucked into it and arrested by the MCP.
    • A more serious one occurs in the re-release cutscenes of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. In the final scene, Young Xehanort explains to Braig (who will later become Xigbar) that Xehanort's Keyblade, No Name, is the oldest one in existence; immediately after he says this, Braig's eyes narrow suspiciously. Kingdom Hearts III reveals that this is because Braig / Xigbar is actually Luxu, an apprentice to the Master of Masters and a previous owner of that very Keyblade.
  • Kirby's Return to Dream Land: The final battle against Magolor features a giant portal leading to Planet Popstar off in the background. As the fight progresses, you notice that the portal gets larger and moves to the center of the background, suggesting that the room Kirby and his friends are fighting Magolor in is moving closer to Popstar.
  • A number of suspense scenes from The Lost Crown have small yet creepy details in the background, like the face of an Ager brother looking on when Nigel is attacked by flies in the Nightmare Room.
  • Mass Effect 2: On the Derelict Reaper, if you look closely when you first enter the room with the Dragon's Teeth, you can see Legion walking along the upper catwalk, several minutes before he finally makes his dramatic entrance.
  • Metroid Dread foreshadows most of its bosses in this manner. You can see the invisible form of Corpius roaming around and eating over wildlife in the distance while roaming Artaria, notice the Chozo Warrior Robots being built and Experiment No Z-57 being experimented on in Dairon, etc.
  • Mirror's Edge:
    • In the New Eden level, shortly before arriving at the New Eden Mall, you can see Pope and Ropeburn's assassin running across the rooftops across the street in the same direction. You later chase them through the mall, where you finally get a good look at them. The fact that the assassin uses some basic runner moves and appears somewhat feminine can hint towards her true identity as Celeste. This is furthered in the Pirandello-Kruger level. While finding out exactly what Project Icarus is, Faith finds profiles of all the known runners and their handlers, listed as targets for the pursuit cops. While your attention is on the screens, perceptive players might notice that all of Celeste's information beyond her name is marked "Classified", while everyone else's information is either filled in or marked as unknown.
    • Also in the runner profiles, Merc's profile lists the location of his hideout, as Celeste is one of his runners. This is slight foreshadowing to his death after a police raid on his hideout after Faith brings Kate there.
  • When Princess Peach's birthday cake is first seen in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you may notice for a second that the "decorations" are actually the hair/headgear of the Koopalings.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: During an early cutscene, a man falls from the sky and destroys a car across the street from where Travis and Sylvia are sitting, without even getting a notice or mention in their conversation. What at first seemed like a random incident turns out to be the final boss' One-Hit Kill trick during one of his phases.
  • Not for Broadcast: There's a lot going on throughout Episode 2. For example, in Day 296, Jeremy is becoming increasingly agitated about the heat and about Advance's plans and their blockade to Jenny, and drinking a lot of water and getting his makeup applied repeatedly isn't helping him. At one time he even takes off his black tuxedo suit, revealing what may be feared later as the White Shirt of Death. Since there's no sound going on in Camera 1, you have to go to the Rushes Room to hear what's going on, as described in this video.
  • There are a handful of instances in Persona 4 where the person that the Investigation Team is trying to track down makes an appearance before their identity is revealed as such. On the team's first visit to Tatsumi Textiles looking for Kanji Tatsumi, his mother receives a knock on the door announcing a delivery, and later on in the story the gang chases down someone stalking their latest person of interest, while a delivery truck passes by along the street. Both of these are later revealed to be Taro Namatame on their way to kidnap their latest target.
  • On April 15 in Persona 5 Royal, just after Ann's Persona awakens, the gang emerges from battling in the Metaverse in a small alleyway in front of the school steps, and proceeds to have a conversation about what just happened. As they are talking, for a split second a man in a brown jacket can be seen descending the stairs behind them before turning to continue down the street; this is actually the first appearance of Takuto Maruki, having just completed his interview to work at Shujin Academy as a guidance counselor. More important, however, is the later revelation that Maruki actually saw the group emerge from the Metaverse while descending the steps, and having a Persona himself was able to piece together their secret identities as the Phantom Thieves later.
  • In one of the later, Wheatley controlled levels in Portal 2, you can briefly spot Atlas and P-Body from the Co-Op campaign fleeing through the wreckage, but only if you're looking in the right place and have keen eyes.
  • Psychonauts has a few of these these.
    • Multiple times throughout the scene where the Lungfish is attempting to fish for Lili and Raz.
    • While ascending the insane asylum, it's easy not to notice the sobs or the flashes of a girl's image. (Unless you have subtitles on...) It's Sheegor, trying to warn Raz off.
    • Throughout the Meat Circus level, one might notice a strange blue apparition appearing randomly to scare the crap out of players. Raz's father is trying to break into Raz's mind to save him.
  • In Rule of Rose, when Jennifer first goes up to the Old Mansion (first part of the intro), take a gander up at the roof region; most players miss it, but the airship's billowing form can be briefly (like 1 to 2 seconds) seen as a dark shadow overhead while a cloud passes in front.
    • Another scene that this happens is in the first half of the April chapter. You are given the task to find a beautiful butterfly in the background; after rescuing Brown, when you're doing 'Find' commands with him you will sometimes notice the little boy from the opening occasionally running by if you have Jennifer facing the camera. This sometimes serves as a reminder that the game's creepy as sin.
    • Several moments before the terrible Player Punch with Brown occurs, Wendy is visible in a window outside near the coffin (after the cut scene) if you rotate your camera around while walking in the orphanage.
  • Sakuna Of Rice And Ruin: How a big fire happens in the opening section. Sakuna notes the possiblity of fire, right after it's ignited. Then she notices and runs around in an outburst of emotion.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: During the Jedi Knight storyline, there’s a scene where you reveal to the Jedi Council that Kira is a Child of the Emperor. The Council all react with understandable shock... except for Syo Bakarn, who can be seen in the background shifting around uncomfortably and acting very awkward for the rest of the scene. Guess who’s also a Child of the Emperor?
  • In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, the Wily's Castle stage will have the Yellow Devil appear on the roof of the castle in the background before disassembling himself and sending his chunks to the main platform to regenerate.
  • Terraria: Since the Journey's End update, a giant flaming meteor falling to the ground can be seen in the background moments before the appearance of a Meteorite crater somewhere in the world.
  • In Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, if you look closely during the chase scene in the flashback to Drake's childhood, you can see Sully take down some of Marlowe's goons.
  • In Undertale, if you backtrack in certain places you can briefly see Flowey, who disappears into the ground as soon as he comes into view. This foreshadows his appearance after the Disc-One Final Boss.
    • If you examine some of the bushes, trees, and sentry stations you encounter in Snowdin, the narration will tell you that there are cameras hidden behind them. There's also one hidden behind a waterfall early on in, well, Waterfall. As you encounter no more after the Waterfall one, it's easy to forget about them until you reach the lab in Hotland, where it turns out that Alphys has been watching you since you left the Ruins.
    • There's also a downplayed version. In Snowdin, you'll find a wolf who is throwing large blocks of ice into some water, which you'll see floating past on your way to Waterfall, and again on your way to Hotland. If you call Undyne while you're in the area where the wolf is throwing ice, she'll say that Alphys told her it was to cool down parts of the Core in order to create the energy that powers the Underground, and you will indeed see those blocks again in the Core.
  • In World of Warcraft, early on in the Terrace of Endless Spring, you can see Tsulong fighting with the Sha of Fear off in the distance while you fight the trash and the Protectors of the Endless. After the Protectors are defeated, Tsulong gets corrupted and you face him as the second boss.
  • In the XCOM 2 DLC, Alien Hunters, on a cutscene near the end of the mission of exploring Dr. Valhen's laboratory, you can see the Viper King slithering in the background before appearing in front of your troops to serve as the boss encounter.

    Visual Novels 
  • In The Great Ace Attorney, during the second case of the second game, Ryunosuke and Susato investigate the crime scene, where a poisoning victim is sitting in a chair, slumped over the table. When they're talking, the supposed murder victim sits up and reveals himself to be alive in the background.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend:
    • During the summer holiday, Hiyoko decides to go for a run, and several backgrounds proceed to pass by. One of them consists of the ruins of several skyscrapers, hinting that things aren't quite as cheerful as they first seem. Also, during Yuuya's route you can find him chatting briefly with the janitor, who has a role more fully revealed in BBL.
    • One event that shows up on many routes is Hiyoko finding a student's lost ID card and returning it to a member of the faculty she trusts. On Dr. Shuu's route, it's obvious that she's helping him hide the evidence of his... experimentation. In the paid version, she can recognize it as belonging to Anghel if she's on his route.

    Web Animation 
  • Broken Saints: The scene where Raimi's coworker is killed has the killer visible in the shadows of the background the entire time until he decides to commit the act.
  • DEATH BATTLE!: In "Bill Cipher vs. Discord, after Bill has unleashed Weirdmageddon on Equestria, both he and Discord end up in one his Weirdness Bubbles during their fight. After going through multiple animation mediums, a keen eye can notice that aside from the Fearamid, the dark sky, and the rift (which also has the wrong colors, being blue instead of red), there aren't many signs of Weirdmageddon. It's revealed when Discord's soul is being destroyed that he had warped both of them into the Nightmare Realm, undoing Weirdmageddon and rendering Bill's victory pointless.
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Centurion can be seen listening on Chaos-related conversations quite conspicuously before the season finale reveals him to be Rogal Dorn.
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: The opening of "Freaking Out" has Arthur's detached demon arm slithering around and escaping the cave behind Shiromori.
  • In Red vs. Blue, in Season 2, Church and Tucker are having a conversation, and someone in blue armor just runs by in Blue Base. In Season 3, it's revealed to be Church from the future (or "past") trying to fix everything that went wrong in the past two seasons. Didn't work well.
    • Until Season 8, where it is revealed that the whole time travel loop he went through (aside from the idea of making copies of himself) was just a sample of Cold-Blooded Torture For the Evulz by Gamma. So it was probably just Caboose after all.
  • RWBY:
    • Volume 1 Episode 12: While Jaune is confessing his secret to Pyrrha, Cardin Winchester can be seen leaning out of a window below them, listening to everything he says. Overhearing that Jaune cheated his way into Beacon allows Cardin to blackmail him for a while under threat of telling the teachers and getting him expelled.
    • Volume 7, Episode 6: Throughout the episode, the percentage of cast election votes can be see on screens. Each time a shot is seen, the tally shows that Jacques is steadily catching Robyn. Watts is rigging the election. Just as the polls are closing, he makes one last manipulation to change the results just enough to ensure that Jacques wins the election by 53% to 47%, a score that is confirmed in the background of end-credit concept art.
    • Volume 8, Episode 2: While Yang, Jaune, Ren and Oscar try to help evacuate Mantle, a single Grimm can be seen in three separate background shots, paying attention to what they're doing. This is foreshadowing for a later event. The Grimm was sent out by Salem to hunt down Oscar at the end of the first episode; it can be seen stalking Oscar in the background throughout the episode until it finds the perfect moment to ambush them and kidnap Oscar.
  • Crosses over with a Funny Background Event in the first Tankmen cartoon. During one scene there's a gag in the background where we see a soldier get shot right after learning that he's about to have a son with his wife. It seems like just a minor one-off joke in the background. Over the course of the various Tankmen cartoons we learn who he was, how he joined the Tankmen, how he met Sgt. John Captain, his origins, some of his personality, and who killed him.

  • This page from Ask Frisk and Company features two examples of this trope. The first, more minor example is when Monster Kid calls out the askers, Toriel can be seen trying (and failing) to heal Sans, who is revealed shortly thereafter to be faking his own death. The other, more notable, example happens at the same time, as Flowey gradually realizes what is happening over the course of three panels. Look at the first of those three panels. He appears to be genuinely upset, something that shouldn't be able to happen, due to his lack of a SOUL. The next arc reveals that he regained part of his SOUL shortly before the aformentioned page.
  • Awful Hospital: Take a look at what's in the corner where the worm corpses used to be. It's a horribly mangled corpse of an alternate Fern.
  • In Blood And Smoke, a murder suspect is shown wearing and casually taking off a pair of gloves only for Carson to spot them in a trashcan a few pages later. These gloves end up proving that the suspect in question was the killer.
  • Cucumber Quest
    • During the second interlude, Cucumber is futzing around with his wand in the background while the Dream Oracle addresses the group. He's confirming that his wand can indeed equip the Disaster Stones (which he'd done by mistake earlier), an ability he puts to good use in Chapter 3.
    • While Cucumber, Almond, and Carrot are trussed up by the Guardener, Cabbage sneaks around behind the Guardner to nab the artifact they'd been searching for (which he plants in Almond's bag).
  • In Chapter 5 of The Dragon Doctors, while Kili and Greg are wandering through their linked Mental Worlds, readers can catch a couple glimpses of the Crax in the background before he finally shows up in person.
  • In Drowtales, Shodun, a previously introduced character and a member of the Big Bad Nidraa'chal, appears briefly in the foreground of a scene, and then later shows up out of focus through several pages before coming into the foreground again, where she blasts Sandaur out a window.
  • The Fox Sister: The Kumiho is shown in human form, presumably nursing her shoulder which was hurt in a fight with Soot Bull. Her shadow on the wall behind her shows her fox form, licking said shoulder.
  • In this General Protection Fault comic, Fooker gets a call from his brother that turns out to be much more meaningful than he lets on.
  • El Goonish Shive:
    • While Rick and Rhea discuss drinking in moderation, a pair of party guests are visible in the background and one of them gradually transforms into a girl without anyone noticing. Also, an attentive reader would note that the other person in the background was seen in an earlier strip as a guy. Dan hints at all this in the commentary by insisting that there is nothing else to comment on after he comments on the events in the foreground.
    • In panels four and five of this comic, there is a girl visible in the background who seems to be looking at Elliot and Tedd. She isn't drawn with a lot of detail, but because of her distinctive hairstyle, she is easily recognized as a background character who had been crushing on Elliot. Anyway, she is there in the background because she is about to approach Elliot as he is transforming and see everything.
    • In the "So a Date at the Mall" arc, Mr. Tensaided is briefly visible geeking out over something in the background as Elliot and Ashley linger in front of the book store. He later becomes much more important when he calls Elliot to let him know that there's a strange creature a the mall.
  • In the foreground of this Girl Genius strip, Agatha is posing as her own assistant to the Deepspeaker, for reasons that neither she nor the reader are yet clear about. In the background, Dimo is explaining something, possibly related, to Gil, Tarvek and Trelawney, who at first find it funny, then, when they realise he's serious, fly into a panic.
  • An odd example in Homestuck: Newer readers may find themselves confused by what looks like random arms and drops of oil. They are actually the result of John's new powers that he acquired after touching the weapon that will defeat Lord English, the arms being from when he stuck his hand in there, and the oil being from when he learned to transport things other than himself, and sent all the oil from his planet to different parts of the webcomic. The arms and oil weren't added until after these events happened, which is why it only applies to those who started reading after these events happened. The same goes with John teleporting to different parts of the comic, those panels were also edited to include flashes of light where he appeared.
    • Much earlier, Tavros accidentally kills his lusus by running it over with his wheelchair. This is actually shown a few pages before he realizes it.
    • During Roxy and Calliope's conversation in a Dream Bubble, one of the stars in the background looks a lot more like the meteor that Rose, Dave, and the remaining Trolls are travelling on. Some time later, Rose starts dreaming in the same bubble and almost meets Roxy for the first time, only for Calliope to force them both to wake up.
  • This trope is the only reason this The Order of the Stick page isn't filler. Elan tells Haley that he just found she was right about his father. Until it became foreshadowing for Malack's method of having children.
  • In one PVP Online strip, Cole watches Francis via webcam as he stands in line for Star Wars Episode III (around the time Episode II was released), worrying about him and hoping he will be alright. In the second to last panel, before Brent reassures Cole, you can see Francis walking in, the first indication that he put a robotic double in his place.
  • In Ruby Quest, both Filbert and Bella are introduced this way- Filbert looks through a window at Ruby, and Bella's face appears on a monitor.
  • Schlock Mercenary: A very perceptive viewer might spot that among the prisoners that the Toughs have rescued from the Buuthandi, there's an Ob'enn in panel 2. This becomes rather more significant nearly 4 months later when it becomes apparent that Petey has been engineered such that he has to take orders from biological Ob'enns with suitable military rank.
  • Selkie: When Theo is scouring the internet for information regarding a secret city of Fish People that he (correctly) believes is located in Lake Superior. His computer screen is shown shortly before he gives up the search. This includes a search result for a tabloid article about a "merman" caught by fishermen on Lake Superior. Not only does that story turn out to be true, but it was the triggering incident for a civil war that is currently tearing said hidden city apart.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: In the Norway segment of the Distant Prologue, one of the discussion subjects among the friends on which the segment focuses is the fact that the only land road in and out fo their village is broken because of an ongoing storm. That isolation most likely contributed to that village surviving The End of the World as We Know It and still being around ninety years After the End.
  • Unsounded: During the flashback to the day that Duane was murdered, at one point he passes by Bastion, the man who orchestrated his death and brought him back to life.

    Web Videos 
  • Breaking Trail: An unintentional example, but during Night of the Deadly Creatures, during Coyote's explanation and handling of a blunthead snake, viewers could notice a somewhat blurry snake starting to coil up behind him without anyone else noticing. Only later after he's almost done do the cameramen (and a second later Coyote himself) notice the very upset and very dangerous fer-de-lance snake already in position to bite him.
  • In A Couple Of Cunts In The Countryside, the long-haired figure who provides a Jump Scare in the intro to the horror episode actually appeared in the three previous videos, in the distance at first, before getting gradually closer.
  • In Final Fantasy III Trilogy, while the heroes are answering the bridge troll's questions, you can briefly see Kefka pull Celes offscreen and then replace her after taking her likeness.
  • In Noob: La Quête Légendaire, Ystos accompanies Omega Zell to a place where he has to Hold the Line in a Multi-Mook Melee alone and won't get a second chance if he fails. Little after Omega Zell starts fighting, Ystos gets accosted by a player who knows him and they have a Wham Line-heavy conversation. Meanwhile, Omega Zell is still holding up in the fight.
  • This is the Slender Man's entire shtick, right up until he takes you. You never notice him.
    • Marble Hornets in particular milks this for all it's worth.
      • Many times in the videos Slender Man is visible in the background standing statue stiff and staring at the viewer. And except for Entry #7, no one ever notices him.
      • There is also Entry #12, where the cast seems to notice him but not his strange features. This has led some to theorize that he looks different to people seeing him in person.
      • Also, look very carefully at the window in Entry #19. Masky peeks in for a couple of frames before coming into the room.
      • In the DVD Commentary, the creators joked that all of MH can be summed up as: "Agh! Look at the background!"
  • In "Sneaky Deathclaw," a Fallout 4 gameplay video, a deathclaw can be seen in the background as the Sole Survivor talks with an NPC, before it kills the NPC in the middle of the conversation.

    Western Animation 
  • In the 6teen episode "Dude of the Living Dead", several minor characters are seen walking as, or being turned into zombies in the background.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Return of the Bling", when it's revealed that Roger was a professional hockey player who won the 1980 Winter Olympics while on steroids, Stan convinces him to return his medal. On the flight to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, while Stan and Steve are calling Roger mature for willingly returning his medal, Roger can be seen going outside the jet and chainsawing the right wing, then getting blown away by the ensuing explosion before the jet crashes.
  • In Archer episode Lo Scandalo, Malory reloads her PPK in what initially just seems like the setup for asking Lana to kill an NYPD detective snooping around her apartment while they conceal a dead body. Eagle eyed viewers and Lana Kane might notice that the ejected magazine is empty, foreshadowing that Malory’s description of the murder is a lie and that all nine shots fired over the course of the episode came from her gun.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender while Zuko is talking to Jet. In the back, we can see Iroh subtly moving, before steam rises from the cup he'd previously declared as cold, leading Jet to correctly believe they are firebenders once he notices/realizes.
  • An early episode of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes introduces villains Amora the Enchantress and the Executioner. Before they make their official debut attacking the heroes, they're first seen several scenes earlier as just two civilians walking past the Avengers Mansion.
  • Several episodes of Detentionaire have an auditory version of this. While characters are walking through the school halls, you can just hear the PA announcement system asking so-and-so to please report to room 113 B. This foreshadows the reveal in the second season finale that VP Victoria is routinely testing her brainwashing technology on the students at the school, and room 113 B is actually an elevator leading to the underground labs where the equipment is kept.
  • In the Futurama pilot, Nibbler's shadow can be seen for a split second after Fry falls into the cryogenic chamber. You'll have to be looking for it to notice. In another episode, Nibbler's eye can also be seen sticking out of a trashcan in a flashback. As with the shadow example, it's only there for a split second and you have to pay close attention to see it.
    • The first time Leela meets the mutants, when she still thinks she's an alien, you can see her parents in the crowd.
  • Gravity Falls:
    • Blendin Blandin, a time anomaly corrector from the future, shows up in the backgrounds of three different episodes in the show's first season before making a formal appearance in the episode "The Time Traveler's Pig"; the events of which explain why he was in the previous episodes.
    • Government agents Powers and Trigger from the second season premiere continue to appear in the background of almost every subsequent episode. They return to having speaking roles in the stinger for "Northwest Mansion Mystery" before reintroducing themselves to the main cast in the midseason finale, "Not What He Seems".
  • Hey Arnold! had an episode where Eugene was on trial for pulling the fire alarm at school, with Arnold as the Rogue Juror. The evidence is recounted with Flashbacks to the events in question, and the actual culprit, Curly, can be seen in each one.
  • Infinity Train:
    • Passenger numbers will regularly go up and down between scenes based on a character's actions, even when the story doesn't drew attention to it.
    • In "The Grid Car", when Tulip first wakes up in the snow car after boarding the train, some kind of pod can be seen behind some trees in the background before flying off. A later episode has her meet the Conductor, whose head appears to be one of these, and Book 2 reveals that these pods are how new passengers get taken to one of the cars after their memory tapes are created and they recieve their numbers, with Amelia simply repurposing her own as part of her mech.
    • In "The Ball Pit Car", a shadow can be seen moving past in a few scenes. It's the Steward's shadow, and they show up with the Conductor towards the end of the episode.
    • In "The Engine" when the Conductor brings up a list of other passengers on the train, two people with very long numbers are among them. These characters would have their proper debuts in the Book 2, before becoming the protagonists of Book 3.
    • "The Train Documentaries" shorts have several details that foreshadow elements in Book 2, from as the Movie Theatre Car having black spray paint all over the place from MT spraying any reflective surfaces she encounters to holes in the shape of a deer.
  • In the Milo Murphy's Law episode "The Doctor Zone Files", Sara leaves her movie tickets (and hazmat suit) on the hood of a car when she gets up to make her big inspirational speech. It drives off while she's making it, and everyone only realizes this a few minutes later.
    • Cavendish and Dakota appear in the background of just about every episode, even before they became important.
  • The Moral Orel episode "Innocence" has Orel come into his teacher Miss Sculptham's classroom to ask for advice. She freaks out (because all the adults are avoiding him) and puts away her newspaper she was cutting out. The paper reads "Rapist's Profile Emerges: He Doesn't Like Blondes" and less noticeably "Victims Share Common Characteristics." She's shown to still have this newspaper article the next episode.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • "Keep Calm and Flutter On": Several occur. While Discord enchants several beavers in a subtle-yet-not-so-subtle way near the beginning of the episode, and they build a notably huge dam by the end of it, the beavers can be seen hauling logs and sending them downriver throughout the time between. They're easy to miss the first time with Discord being quite the scene-stealer.
    • After her introduction in the season 5 opener, Starlight Glimmer can be seen hidden in the background in several of the subsequent episodes (almost always in scenes where Twilight Sparkle is present), leading towards her return in the finale.
    • In the episode right before the series finale, titled "The Big Mac Question", Big Mac and Sugar Belle proposing to each other is the focus of the episode. But one moment in the background has two fan-favorite characters doing the same thing: Lyra and Bon Bon.
  • The Owl House: "Hollow Mind" tells the entire history of a character like this. Through paintings in the background of Belos/Philip's mindscape, we learn that he grew up in the human realm with his older brother (whose name is later revealed to be Caleb), but that Caleb went missing when Philip was a teenager after he followed a witch into the Demon Realm. Philip followed his brother into the Demon Realm and searched for him for years, only to discover that Caleb had gotten Happily Married to a witch in the time they'd been seperated. He became so enraged at this perceived betrayal that he stabbed Caleb to death, vowed to kill every single witch on the Boiling Isles, and started creating the Grimwalkers in order to make a "better" Caleb.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars: Played for Laughs. The movie is portrayed as a Lower-Deck Episode of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope — none of the Phineas and Ferb cast are on the Death Star bridge, so Alderaan's destruction happens outside of the window of a scene in Darthenshmirtz's office. (Right when he was checking his profits on his Alderaanian timeshare, too.)
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: "Where Pleasant Fountains Lie": The moment that AGIMUS plugs himself into the ship, it powers up and a screen behind him shows it releasing a signal. It turns out that it's a distress signal and Boimler tricked Agimus into helping him.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: "Crystal Clear" pans across a Crystal Prison showing various (alleged) evildoers imprisoned by Rhombulus. It consists mostly of generic monstrous-looking creatures, but in the background is a single humanoid figure. It's Eclipsa, the Queen of Darkness, and she ends up playing a major part in the second half of the series.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Missing in Action", when Colonel Gascon and WAC enter the Power Sliders diner and get into a confrontation with the Sullustan owner, a dark-haired human man in a yellow vest can be seen at the far end of the bar before heading into the back. When Gascon and WAC meet him tossing out trash behind the diner shortly later, he turns out to be one of the reasons Borkus kicked them out, because Gregor is a clone with amnesia and Gascon loudly identified himself as a Republic military officer when he came in, so Borkus didn't want them to see him.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "Blood Sisters", at the beginning, Sabine, Ezra and Chopper are looking for a Rebel courier who arrived on board a passenger shuttle. While Sabine and Ezra are walking up to various disembarking passengers and saying the code phrase, a Gonk power droid can be seen sitting among the offloaded cargo. He's the courier.
  • Steven Universe: Future has the episode "Growing Pains", which begins with Connie encouraging Steven to see a doctor about random swelling. Shortly after Steven enters the doctor's office, one can see through the window that Connie picks up her phone and calls someone. This detail is easy to miss/write off. At the end of the episode, Greg arrives, commenting that Connie called him.
  • X-Men: Evolution: Not in terms of plot, but theme. After the kids are outed as mutants, there's an episode about whether mutants should be allowed to go to the same schools as 'normal' people. In the shot when they walk back into the school for the first time, there's a black kid in the background drinking from a water fountain; a clear nod to a rather less Fantastic Racism.
  • Young Justice: In "Infiltrator", Miss Martian and Artemis are supposed to be guarding the perimeter, but start arguing over how Artemis embarrassed Superboy. While they are distracted, the assassin Cheshire can be seen in the background, somersaulting over the fence and sneaking in behind them.

    Real Life 
  • Due to change blindness, you can miss this happening right in front of you, even if you are told it is happening, unless you are told exactly what you are looking for. Visit the University of Illinois Visual Cognition Lab and try the seven "Gradual changes to scenes" videos. You know in advance that something is being added or taken away from a scene you are watching, but many (most?) people will miss most of them.
    • There is also the Selective Attention Test video, in which two groups of people pass a basketball each back and forth, and half the audience is supposed to keep track of how many times one of the groups passed the ball. Most people fail to notice the guy in the gorilla suit walk in, thump his chest, and walk out partway through the video.
    • A similar test had students who volunteered for a survey who were met by a receptionist and given a form to fill out. This receptionist dropped a pen, bent down behind the counter to pick it up and a completely different person stood up and continued the conversation. A large number of the participants didn't notice.
  • This trope was how a purse snatcher got nabbed.
  • A Tampa reporter was filing a report about high gas prices when two cars had a serious collision in the intersection right behind her. The anchorwoman deadpanned: "They must have been shocked by the gas prices."
  • A woman in Myanmar was conducting a virtual aerobics class without noticing the military convoy driving past her towards the Myanmese parliament during the January 2021 coup d'etat.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Significant Background Event


Background Birth

Pay attention to what's happening in the background of these shots -- Abed interacts with a heavily pregnant girl and her male partner, and later winds up successfully delivering their baby in the back of a van.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / MeaningfulBackgroundEvent

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