In real life, a fortune cookie contains a strip of paper that provides the reader with a piece of advice. In fictional works, a character can receive a fortune cookie which doesn't include a fortune but the opposite of it, such as a demotivational phrase, a foreshadowing of things to come, or something similarly grim. Often the plot of an episode is set in motion by these cursed messages, though they can also be used in the middle of the episode as a gag.
- In the Pucca short "Unfortunate Cookies", Tobe's latest plot to get rid of Garu is to give him a fortune that reads "He who reads this fortune shall explode", and indeed it causes people to explode when read. The cookie eventually gets to Garu, but he simply eats it and tosses the fortune to the ground, prompting Tobe to read it himself.
- In the Scooby-Doo story "Li See Lion" (Gold Key issue #16), the gang is at a Chinese restaurant (where the mystery about a lion spirit that is supposed to bring good fortune that has gone evil takes place) where they receive fortune cookies. They're all ominous. Shaggy's fortune reads "The hand that feeds shall be bitten." Sure enough—when the gang is put to sleep, Shaggy is dressed in a Li See Lion outfit. Scooby attacks him by biting him on the hand. Fred's fortune was "Do not drive tonight." He's put in the Mystery Machine while asleep and the vehicle is put in motion. Daphne and Velma do not suffer the fate of their fortunes ("Better a live coward than a sorry hero" and "Danger comes with the full moon," respectively). Scooby's was "Beware of strange animals," which is certainly the Li See Lion.
- In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs there's a scene where after Flint's food machine goes rogue, it drops a giant fortune cookie on the Great Wall of China, which cracks open revealing a fortune reading "You are about to be crushed by a giant corn." Immediately after a tourist reads it, a giant ear of corn falls down and begins rolling downward.
- In Cats Don't Dance T.W. the Turtle receives a whole bunch of these, but the last one he gets at the end turns out to be good.
T.W: "They can smash your cookie but...you'll always have your fortune".
- In one of Neal Shusterman's short story collections (Mindbenders), we get the short story Bad Fortune at Wong Lee's. After the Lauren's aunt receives a tragically accurate fortune predicting her fatal motorcycle accident, lauren becomes terrified of fortune cookies and destroy them every time she encounters one. Unfortunately, fortune cookies keep appearing in odd places, seeming to follow her around. In the end It turns out Lauren had been in denial about destroying them; she was too superstitious to ever truly destroy a fortune cookie, and so has been saving them in the attic. In the end, as the ceiling comes crashing down from the weight of the cookies, she finally reads the last one, which tells her She will be buried in good fortune.
- Stephen King's It features a gruesome finale to a Chinese dinner. The Losers got together for lunch and had quite a good time in spite of the monster from their childhoods they came back to kill. Richie cracks a joke when the cookies arrive, "You will be eaten by a big greasy monster, have a nice day". They crack open their fortune cookies and receive: a jet of blood, a live roach, a dismembered human eye, horrifying clacking mandibles, a living fetal chick, and something with chitinous legs sprouting from it. They quickly flee the restaurant.
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
- Interesting Times: Inept wizard Rincewind, on a visit to the Discworld's "Far East", receives a fortune cookie at the end of an interesting meal. He has just enough time to see it reads "Many Apologies", before he is hit over the head.
- A character once found the following note about someone else's misfortune in a fortune cookie:
- Men at Arms has the dwarf policeman Constable Cuddy saying that his previous job was making "fortune rats" for Dwarf restaurants. (Dwarfs on the Discworld cannot get enough rat-based foodstuffs). Here, the misfortune is not just Cuddy's, but also the rat's: apparently they were still alive when he inserted the fortunes. Ouch. This experience is what made him give up a career in Dwarf catering and join the police.
- In Feet of Clay, Nobby wonders why you don't get Misfortune Cookies more often, and speculates that people who buy fortune cookies are naturally lucky. Vimes says the real answer is that people who sell fortune cookies want to continue doing so.
- There is even a humor book entitled The Little Book of Misfortune Cookies.
- There was a Zack Files book where the title character kept getting fortune cookies that predicted his future with frightening accuracy, but in unexpected ways ("passing the test of time" referred to passing a test at school about an article taken from TIME Magazine, "danger in the lion's shadow" referred to choking on popcorn at the movies at the moment the MGM lion roared, etc.)
- James Bond in DoubleShot receives an ominous message in a fortune cookie which reads "Meeting you double means certain death". It was planted by his enemies, who had made an Evil Knockoff of him through plastic surgery.
- Charles E. Fritch's short-short story "The Misfortune Cookie" was loosely adapted as an episode of the revived Twilight Zone; the episode expanded the storyline quite a bit but ended with the same punchline. (See directly below.)
- The bag of gimmicks which came with Penn & Teller's How to Play With Your Food included a variety of pre-printed fortunes to either switch with the actual ones or slip into homemade fortune cookies. They ranged from "The chef spit in your food" to "It wasn't chicken" to "That lump is cancer".
- An episode of The Twilight Zone (1985) aptly titled "The Misfortune Cookie" has Harry Folger, a nasty food critic for a newspaper, visit a new restaurant—Mr. Lee's Chinese Cuisine. He starts writing a negative review before he goes, then refuses to eat any of the massive order he places before demanding the check. Mr. Lee instead offers a fortune cookie—"A grand reward awaits you just around the corner." After leaving, Harry turns a corner and immediately bumps into a crook who just robbed a jewelry store; the owner gratefully gives him a thousand dollars, or a grand, in thanks. Harry realizes that Mr. Lee's cookies can predict the immediate future and demands another, which predicts that "April arrives today bringing romance" despite it being September—and sure enough, he bumps into an attractive woman named April on the way to the office and asks her for a date. When they go to Mr. Lee's again that night, April's cookie warns that she'll soon realize "a grave error in judgment," while Harry's simply says "You're going to die." Harry causes a massive scene, and April realizes that the "error" was dating him, so she leaves. Mr. Lee explains that the fortunes always come true, but Harry storms out anyway, only to suddenly become so famished that he can barely walk. He finds himself facing an endless series of Chinese restaurants, visiting each and devouring as much as he can only to find that he's still hungry. A final fortune cookie reveals the truth—"You're dead"; he'll be spending all of eternity eating plate after plate but never feeling a bit satisfied.
- In "The Fortune Cookie" episode of Dennis the Menace, when the Mitchells and Wilsons open their fortune cookies, George receives a fortune that reads "Beware of tomorrow". Dennis comes over and offers Mr. Wilson some homemade fudge, which leaves his mouth stuck. A TV quiz show calls Mr. Wilson at home while his mouth is stuck; by the time his mouth is unstuck, the time expires for the quiz show. When a salesman comes over with a check, Tommy asks if Mr. Wilson will drop the check on the floor to see if it bounces, mentioning someone who makes rubber novelty checks. The offended salesman tries to leave with Mr. Wilson's coin collection, only to be stopped by a mean-looking guard dog named Tiny, which bites him in the pants, and Mr. Wilson recovers his collection. The next day, when Mr. Wilson decides to let Tiny have the fortune cookie, Dennis takes out the fortune, which reads "You are about to lead a dog's life", with Mr. Wilson groaning when Dennis believes that fortune was meant for Mr. Wilson.
- Home Improvement: Al mass produces a 'Tool Time Game' he invented for the show but misses an error that causes the board to catch on fire. As he's wallowing in misery another guy offers him a fortune cookie. It says "Your best days are behind you." At Tim's insistence he tries another and it says, "You've gone as far as you can in life." At that point Tim accuses the guy of handing out misfortune cookies.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark? takes this trope literally in the aptly named "Tale of the Misfortune Cookie": The protagonist, a young Chinese-American who is dissatisfied with his family's lifestyle and longs for fame and fortune as a comic book author, opens a special fortune cookie from his father's restaurant. The fortune cookie promises him "perfect living within imperfect living" and transports him to an Alternate Universe where his everything he's ever wanted is his. But Be Careful What You Wish For is in full effect here: Though he has the fame and fortune he desired, he's now estranged from his family and has no friends.
- Danger 5. Danger 5 travel to a Bad Future where Hitler has taken over the world, including fast food joints. Holly opens a swastika-shaped fortune cookie and reads "You are all going to die". Then Hitler enters and kills them all (they get better).
- Person of Interest. In "The Crossing", Simmons plays this trope for all it's worth when torturing Detective Fusco in a fortune cookie factory.
Simmons: [cracks open a cookie and throws the crumbs at Fusco] "You will be unusually successful at your career." Y'know, I don't think that one's true. [tosses the paper away and cracks open another] "A thrilling time is in your future." We're getting close now. [cracks open a third] Ah, here we go: "Tell your friends what they wanna know, or they will break you apart limb from limb." That's more like it.
- An episode of The Upright Citizens Brigade featured a skit where a group of friends were adding "... in bed" to the end of all their fortunes for poops and giggles. One guy kept drawing fortunes which sounded bad enough without the suffix; even switching cookies with one of the others at the last minute didn't help him out.
- Family Ties once opened with the Keatons eating Chinese food. Mallory comes in with Skippy and announces that she's running for class president. She and Skippy take fortune cookies for good measure.
Mallory:(reading fortune) "Good news will soon be smiling your way." See? That's good news for the election. What does yours say?
Skippy: "You have fifteen minutes to live."
- During the sixth season finale of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Dr. Forrester and Frank order Chinese. All of Dr. Forrester's cookies warn that he will die alone, afraid and never once having been loved in his life. Forrester just keeps wondering why he's getting the same one every time.
- On NCIS, fortune cookies are left as a Calling Card by the "Port-to-Port Killer" (and a lone copycat).
- One Gahan Wilson cartoon shows several Chinese restaurant customers departing the establishment in various states of wailing despair, with one of the restaurant's employees berating another: "We've got to lighten up on those fortunes!"
- The "Weather the Cuckoo Likes" supplement to the Over the Edge RPG revealed that the fortune cookie maker on Al Amarja provides a much wider assortment of fortunes than most, including "you will be eaten by demons." They don't have a higher rate of accuracy than normal fortune cookies...unless you're deliberately using them as a form of divination.
- In Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you can buy fortune cookies from Timmy and Tommy's shop, then give the fortune to them for a prize. Usually, it's a piece of Nintendo memorabilia, but there's a 1 in 10 chance you'll get a pessimistic-sounding fortune that will yield you a random piece of furniture, flooring, or wallpaper.
- Fortune cookies in NetHack are one of the game's way of providing Player Nudges. Some of them have true rumors, while others provide advice that leads to Yet Another Stupid Death.
- One location in Dark Fall 2 has a set of fortune cookies at a birthday party. Each one you pick from the pile is random. Some of them are Foreshadowing, others just random advice.
- In Brawl in the Family, Yoshi gets hit with this.
- In one IDGet strip, Kevin and Amanda dine at a Chinese restaurant, where Amanda reads the fortune in her fortune cookies says, "You will eat a fortune cookie."
Kevin: Aw, I wanted to get that one.
- In another strip, Kevin and IDGet eat caramel Hershey's Kisses, where IDGet mistakes the label strips for fortunes, and thinks that "CARAMEL CARAMEL CAR" means he will one day own a car made of double caramel; for kicks, Kevin reads his and concludes his means he will meet two people named Cara and Mel.
- Jack (David Hopkins): the seer Arloest runs a Chinese restaurant giving out accurate fortunes, ranging from "You will not be able to say 'in bed' at the end of this fortune" to "Don't take the highway home."
- T-Rex and Utahraptor have this idea in a strip of Dinosaur Comics, including phrases such as "I HAVE THE ANTIDOTE" and "YOUR BODY WILL BE OUR NEST".
- One Buttersafe comic sees a man and a woman on a date in a Chinese restaurant. The woman receives a happy fortune—"You will enjoy prosperity in the near future." Unfortunately, said prosperity comes when the man reads his own fortune: "You will remain calm, act casual, and slowly slide your money across the table." He looks up to see the woman pointing a gun at him.
- An episode of ¡Mucha Lucha! has Buena Girl receiving a fortune donut that gives her a derogatory message completely destroying her self-esteem. The rest of the episode is Rikochet and Flea trying to get her out of her fugue. It later turns out she got the wrong one, and the one she was supposed to get went to a complete loser whose fortune she got instead.
- The Penguins of Madagascar episode "Misfortune Cookie" has Rico receiving a message telling him that he'll "meet a foul end". By "foul end" it meant "fowl end", as in "duck butt".
- The Regular Show episode "Fortune Cookie" has Rigby swapping the fortune in his fortune cookie which read "Bad luck is coming your way" with Benson's, the former becoming lucky and the latter having his streak of good luck go south, culminating in him losing his apartment due to unpaid bills and almost losing the park to a warlock who tries to suck the place and everyone in it into a bottomless fanny pack. In the end it turns out the bad fortune was Muscle Man's until he swapped it with Rigby's and went on to play in the video game competition that Rigby was first picked for.
- In the Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi episode "Cursed", as part of Ami and Yumi's pre-established streak of bad luck Yumi receives a fortune telling her that she'll have a horrible life, while Ami's tells her that her life will be even worse. Ironically, Yumi's fortune has a happy face on it and Ami's has a heart.
- Pictured above, the Rocko's Modern Life short "Fortune Cookie" had Filburt (nicknaming himself "Mr. Lucky" after scoring a spot on a game show) receive a bad fortune from his cookie. And in dozens of cookies afterward, proving it wasn't just a one-off. This triggers a chain of bad luck he suffers throughout the rest of the short, until he gets one little spot of good luck in the wake of causing disaster for everyone else around him.
Filburt: Bad luck and extreme misfortune will infest your pathetic soul for all eternity.
- In The Simpsons episode "The Last Temptation of Homer", Homer is tempted to have an affair with an attractive co-worker and it looks like the universe itself is encouraging him to do so. At one point he gets a fortune cookie that says "You will find happiness with a new love", causing him to lament "Even the Chinese are against me!" Then we cut to the kitchen, where one employee says that they're out of "new love" cookies and his co-worker tells him "Eh, crack open a barrel of 'Stick with your wife'."
Marge: I feel terrible. The Van Houtens split up at our party.Homer: Marge, please, that was twenty minutes ago.Marge: I shouldn't have served those North Korean fortune cookies. They were so insulting: "You are a coward." No one likes to hear that after a nice meal.
- Also discussed in the episode "A Milhouse Divided," when the Van Houtens decide to divorce after a fight at Marge's dinner party:
- An episode of Almost Naked Animals has Howie and Octo receiving fortunes that say they need to make new best friends. When they receive them again at the end of the episode, it turns out all of the ones from the restaurant had that printed to save money.
- In a Cutaway Gag on Family Guy Peter gets a fortune saying "Your wife is thinking of leaving you."
Lois: What does it say Peter?
Peter: Just something about perseverance. What does yours say?
Lois: It says I'm very creative.
Closeup on Lois' fortune: "He knows. You should do it now."
- Another episode has Meg and one of her boyfriends each getting a cookie. Meg's reads "You will meet the love of your life," which gets her excited, while the boy gets one that reads "Dude. Run."
- In the second episode of Jackie Chan Adventures when the Chans are eating dinner at a Chinese restaurant and Jade reads her fortune.
- In an episode of The Emperor's New School, Kuzco becomes hooked on seeking fortune cookies for advice, so Yzma sends him one claiming that he'll turn into a sloth unless he hands his title to her by a certain time. Malina identifies the forged fortune as Yzma's because of the I's being dotted with an incredibly small Yzma face, then she later tells Kuzco that the fortune can't be true because it was daylight savings time and after the time that the fortune said he would turn into a sloth.
- In Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown gets one that simply says, "Forget it, kid!"
- Back when King Features Syndicate made cartoon adaptations of some of their Newspaper Comics, there was a Beetle Bailey cartoon where some of the soldiers went to a Chinese restaurant. One of them drew a fortune that said, "Beware of beetles. They are bad luck." Bailey immediately turned into The Jinx.
- An inversion of sorts in the Star vs. the Forces of Evil episode "Fortune Cookies": Star begins relying on fortune cookies for guidance, so Toffee suggests that Ludo send a minion to replace a cookie in her bag with a cookie containing a forged fortune telling her to become an Actual Pacifist, so she'll be distracted trying to make friends with Ludo's minions long enough for him to steal her Magic Wand. It almost works, until one of his minions that Star was giving a hug comes clean about it. Played straight at the end of the episode when Star gets a fortune that reads, "A great evil has been unleashed." Star and Marco dismiss it, but the camera then focuses on Toffee, hinting he is this great evil.
- In the Hey Arnold! special "The Journal", when Arnold and his grandparents get Chinese takeout, Phil opens his cookie to see his fortune and says that it's "not bad". The lucky numbers on the fortune were 13, 13, and 666.
- In the Pickle and Peanut episode "Freeway Island", while the duo is stuck on a patch of land surrounded by a busy highway, Peanut gets hit in the head with a box of Chinese takeout. The fortune cookie inside it tells him "Nice try. This place will be your grave."
- Near the beginning of the Pig Goat Banana Cricket episode "The Tooth of My True Love", Banana gets a fortune saying that he'll get severe food poisoning. He brushes it off, then it immediately comes true.
- In the U.S. Acres segment of Garfield and Friends "Fortune Kooky", Wade gets a fortune cookie which says "Bad luck will befall you if you venture outdoors", causing him to become superstitious. After Orson tells Wade not to believe in those fortune cookies, Roy takes advantage of this and offers Wade another fortune that says "You will be caught in a rainstorm and then pummeled and harmed by a wild ape who wants to tap dance in a potato salad", coupled with a prank that seemingly makes those things come true. And then Roy himself gets a fortune cookie that says "You will lose all your feathers during a solar eclipse on Arbor Day while listening to the Marine Corps Band playing Home on the Range and watching a Badminton between two guys named Ichabod." Roy dismisses it, only for everything said by the fortune to immediately come true. The episode ends with Orson also getting a fortune cookie which says "You will spend today gluing feathers on a friend", by which the now-featherless Roy hands him a glue container to stick his feathers back on.
- The Brothers Flub episode "Scared Stiff" begins with the Retrograde employees eating fortune cookies and reading their fortunes. Fraz's fortune simply reads "you are doomed". Since this is the first episode of the show, this scene serves to establish Fraz's signature paranoia about being doomed.
- One episode of Cyberchase opens with Hacker reading a fortune cookie that says, "Sorry, you've run out of luck."