Sometimes as a person recalls an event, we get to see what happened then... but wait, why is this person's memory showing the person who remembered it? For example, if Bob remembered a date with Alice, and we see in his memories: Alice at table, waiting... then Bob appears late and in such a messy state! If it's Bob's memory, we should be seeing it though his eyes...or at least, we certainly shouldn't see anything from before the point when he showed up.
Usually an acceptable break from reality as it's usually hard to convey events through someone's viewpoint, and sometimes because the stage cannot be recreated with the remembering character's viewpoint if it was filmed much earlier.
Another reason this could be an acceptable break from reality is for some nice visual cues or adding a Rewatch Bonus into the Third-Person Flashback. A Third-Person Flashback could be perfect for placing a Chekhov's Gun of some kind, a Brick Joke, Funny Background Event, or a bit of Foreshadowing. For example, Bob had lost something and he remembers where it was, but it was right behind him - this would be lost in a first person flashback but by showing it third-person, the viewer can observe where the item Bob was looking for is, allowing for some comedy or drama.
As this is very common, only list examples that are subversions or aversions, or otherwise unusual.
- In an episode of the anime School Rumble, Yakumo has a flashback/dream to when she was a little kid that is from the first person perspective. Up to and including when the camera shakes up and down to indicate her nodding her head.
- Every longer One Piece flashback has this, but in several cases, the third person scenes are really only there to enlighten the viewer with the whole picture of the past events, because the main character in the flashback often doesn't understand the whole situation, and so it would be confusing and not very good Exposition to only tell the story through his/her eyes. In most cases, it's not that noteworthy because one character is simply flashing back without any other character knowing it. However, in a few cases, like Nojiko's and Jimbei's, the trope is played straight: here, the flashback is actually one character telling his/her recollection of times past, and the flashback is a Show, Don't Tell method preferable in manga instead of filling page after page with long speech bubbles. Still, the flashback should logically be told from Nojiko's and Jimbei's points of view, but there are still some scenes (especially in Jimbei's flashback) that they don't take part in and shouldn't realistically know about.
- Man With The Screaming Brain: William had memories of himself being murdered, not surprising since half of brain was from someone witnessing his own murder.
- Pulp Fiction's flashback to when Butch is given his father's watch, with Christopher Walken telling him the story, starts in first-person but then goes third.
- In Flash Gordon, as Doctor Klytus and General Kala are draining Hans Zarkov's mind, historical events are seen in third person (things Zarkov watched on television, for example), but his personal memories (like when he was fired from the university, or meeting and marrying his wife) are all shot from first person.
- This is one function of a Pensieve Flashback in Harry Potter. The most obvious example is in book five, when Harry sneaks a look at one of Snape's school memories and spends more time following his teenaged father than Snape himself. He does worry that if they get too far apart he won't be able to keep following James, but it never happens.
Interview question: So there are things in there that you haven't noticed personally, but you can go and see yourself?
Rowling: Yes, and that's the magic of the Pensieve, that's what brings it alive. (...) Otherwise it really would just be like a diary, wouldn't it? Confined to what you remember. But the Pensieve recreates a moment for you, so you could go into your own memory and relive things that you didn't notice at the time. It's somewhere in your head, which I'm sure it is, in all of our brains. I'm sure if you could access it, things that you don't know you remember are all in there somewhere.
- Unintentionally hilarious in The Star Wars Holiday Special, when Chewbacca's memories are all film clips from A New Hope. Noted by Rifftrax:
Kevin: Uh, so why are all of Chewbacca's memories from the perspective of someone observing Chewbacca?
Mike: Why do none of his memories involve his family in any way?
- The Rifftrax gang also mocked this back in Mystery Science Theater 3000:
Crow: He's flashing back to other people's memories!
- Farscape: As Bialar Crais is forced to recall events on the memory probing chair operated by Scorpius, the screen shows Crais snapping his executive officer's neck when she found out that he was committing barratry.
- In the Babylon 5 Pilot show, this is notable averted when Kosh got poisoned and a telepath saw the events as seen from Kosh's eyes.
- Played for Laughs in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the Unreliable Narrator episode.
- An episode in Touched by an Angel used this in the episode where a student was accused of plagiarizing. The flashback started with what the person remembered, and it was then extended to include something the person didn't see (his own submission being modified by a person he helped). That caused a negative reaction from the person, who wasn't present during the extended portion.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- Lampshaded in an episode when, while Barney and Robin are discussing something within a closed room, Robin says how hard it is to measure any men since she and Ted broke up. Future Ted then says "I wasn't there but this is how I imagine it happened."
- During his quest for a perfect week (7 women in 7 nights), Barney is largely narrating by being interviewed by Jim Nantz. During this he does exactly the same thing, assuming that each of his friends were in love with him in various ways.
- Cold Case, a series which uses flashbacks heavily, usually plays this straight in terms of showing it from a third-person perspective, but generally sticks to only showing the parts of the scene that the character could have witnessed. More than that, it's frequently significant that they do it that way, because the thing that the witness missed ends up being an important twist later.
- Averted in all flashbacks in Silent Hill: Homecoming as flashbacks are in first person.
- Justified in Chrono Trigger. During the trial, all the flashbacks of what you did are in third-person, because they were actually coming from somebody else's descriptions.
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: As Geralt follows in Ciri's footsteps, he has witnesses recount when they last saw her, which the player experiences as gameplay in control of Ciri during the events.
- The Mansion of E: All flashbacks are shown with all characters blackened out with, sometimes with vague background. At one point, the author stated that it is possible that person doing flashback may have misremembered or imagines what have happened. Example.
- Wasted Away: Radon's memories are third-person, and represented as video tapes in his mind.
- Cracked mocked The Eternal Mind usage of this trope.
"We're not entirely sure why all the happy memories in The Eternal Mind are from someone else's perspective, though."
- Lampshaded on Invader Zim. When Zim is captured by Sizz-Lor, we get a flashback to when Zim used to work for him and then escaped; it ends with Sizz-Lor seeing that Zim is missing and vowing to bring him back. When the flashback ends, Sizz-Lor wonders how Zim could remember the part that happened after he left. Zim has no answer.
- The Rick and Morty episode "Morty's Mind Blowers" has a series of short vignettes, depicted as being Morty's memories, that have been physically stored and erased. One memory cuts to another set of people, that Morty hadn't even met at that point. Morty questions this, and Rick explains that he cut some things together to make it flow better.
- If you can understand this... there's a real example.
- It's generally accepted by psychologists that, when people recall episodic memories, they can experience them either in a field perspective (1st person) or in an observer perspective (3rd person). The latter is possible because memories are reconstructed upon retrieval rather than preserved exactly how they were experienced. Especially if they were preserved in photographs or video tapes, mostly the latter. When you reconstruct it upon retrieval through the tape, you remember it through the camera's perspective.
- Real Life/Literature example: In his memoir, My Mother's Sabbath Days, Chaim Grade begins with his mother having a conversation with another woman. A few pages later, Chaim Grade enters the room. (And it's in first person.)