We all know what it feels like when a movie slightly touches on critical events/twist endings yet to come. Usually it’s the best when it’s something that you could only pick up on after already watching the movie once before – it’s like a little inside joke you get to have with the filmmakers, a reward for sitting through the movie more than once.
At times it’s not even the fact that it foreshadows event in the films, but rather that it’s so subtle that it takes a few goes to even pick up on. Other times are less subtle, but just as fun. Most of the time the brilliant implications work in the movie itself, few times it works in its sequel if there is a movie franchise involved, which is a more rewarding thing for you to pick it up on.
Here are 20 great movie foreshadowing moments you probably didn’t notice when you saw them, you may have not realized it even till now. This is going to have spoilers in the list.
20. Reservoir Dogs
The Foreshadowing: When Nice Guy Eddie is on his way to the warehouse, an orange balloon can be seen floating behind his car…
How It Pays Off: It transpires that the rat in the organization was Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange.
19. King Kong
The Foreshadowing: Jack Black’s filmmaker outlines the plot of his latest picture: “The Beast was a tough guy… He could lick the world. But when he saw Beauty, she got him. He went soft, he forgot his wisdom, and the little fellas licked him.”
How It Pays Off: The same thing happens to the mighty Kong, whose love for Ann Darrow is eventually his undoing.
18. The Terminator
The Foreshadowing: It is explained in the first Terminator film that dogs are able to spot cybernetic infiltrators. Man’s best friend, after all…
How It Pays Off: When the disguised T-1000 turns up at John’s house searching for his prey, you can hear John’s dog going wild in the background.
17. Back To The Future
The Foreshadowing: Marty’s mum Lorraine frowns on today’s youth, claiming she never called, kissed or sat in a parked car with a boy when she was the same age. Little does she know, Marty will soon be able to verify that for himself.
How It Pays Off: Not only do we see Lorraine doing all of those things later in the film, the suggestion is that she isn’t doing them for the first time…
16. Back To The Future pt. 2
The Foreshadowing: When Biff is sat in the hottub, you can see him watching A Fistful Of Dollars, specifically the scene where Clint tricks the bad guys into shooting him in the chest, feigning death thanks to a concealed metal plate.
How it Pays Off: Marty uses that exact same trick to con Biff’s ancestor, Buford, in the third movie!
15. The Shawshank Redemption
The Foreshadowing: Having turned over Andy Dufresne’s cell, the Warden lifts up his bible and condescendingly tells him, “salvation lies within”.
How It Pays Off: Turns out salvation really does lie within, as Andy uses the hollowed out pages to conceal his rock hammer.
14. Fatal Attraction
The Foreshadowing: Glenn close urges Michael Douglas to come over to her place, despite his assertion that he has to walk the dog. “Just bring the dog over,” she says. “I’m great with animals and I love to cook.”
How It Pays Off: She proves herself to be both those things. Just ask that poor bunny.
13. Iron Man
The Foreshadowing: Tony Stark receives an unexpected visitor in this ace post-credits sequence, as Nick Fury drops in to talk to him about the Avenger Initiative. “Mr. Stark,” he begins, “you’ve become part of a bigger universe…”
How it Pays Off: It pays off in spectacular style with The Avengers, some four years later. It’s one of the most forward looking pieces of foreshadowing on the list!
12. Final Destination
The Foreshadowing: Of course, foreshadowing is this series’ whole raison d’etre, but premonition scene aside, pay attention to the opening credits. Featuring a guillotine, a knife in somebody’s chest and a hanging man, they’re gruesomely significant.
How It Pays Off: These grisly pointers actually spell out how several characters will eventually die. Morbid stuff.
11. Predator 2
The Foreshadowing: The presence of a Xenomorph skull in the Predator’s trophy room is a perfect example of fanboy-baiting foreshadowing.
How it Pays Off: In the form of the largely disappointing Alien vs. Predator films. Perhaps it was better left as a sci-fi in-joke.
10. Fight Club
The Foreshadowing: As the narrator knocks seven bells out of himself in front of his slack-jawed boss, he muses to himself, “for some reason I thought of my first fight… with Tyler.”
How It Pays Off: This fight takes exactly the same form as his first one, i.e. he beats himself up on both occasions. Why? Because he and Tyler are one and the same.
The Foreshadowing: Hooper warns Brody about the potentially combustible nature of the scuba tanks. “Yeah, that’s real fine expensive gear you brought out here, Mr. Hooper.” sneers Quint. “Course, I don’t know what that bastard shark’s gonna do with it. Might eat it I suppose.”
How It Pays Off: The shark ends up chowing down on one of said tanks, allowing Brody to blow it to high heaven.
The Foreshadowing: The numbers eight and two crop up throughout the movie, from the weather forecast that predicts an 82% chance of rain, to the forensic science convention that begins at 8:20.
How It Pays Off: All of these references point to a Bible passage (Exodus 8:2 to be specific) which details the threat of a plague of frogs, a threat that comes to pass at the movie’s conclusion.
The Foreshadowing: Norman Bates describes his mother as, “as harmless as one of those stuffed birds,” to an unsuspecting Marion Crane…
How It Pays Off: It turns out that the comparison is rather appropriate, as Mrs. Bates is something of a stuffed bird herself.
6. Shutter Island
The Foreshadowing: Teddy interrogates one of the island’s inmates, who asks for a glass of water. As she lifts it to her mouth, we see there is no glass in her hand. Then we see her place an empty glass on the table. Finally she gets up, leaving a half-full glass behind.
How It Pays Off: This scene is a massive clue to the state of Teddy’s mental health, and the presence of the water itself takes on horrific connotations in light of Teddy’s memories of his wife and kids.
5. The Usual Suspects
The Foreshadowing: Check out Verbal’s sight-lines throughout his interviews with Kujan. You can see him looking at the notice-board, the underside of the coffee cup, everything around him. Oh, and he’s the only suspect we never see getting arrested…
How it Pays Off: Verbal is Keyser, and all the finer details of his cock and bull story have been plucked from his immediate surroundings. Kobayashi indeed…
The Foreshadowing: As the camera sweeps over Alkali lake, and Jean Grey’s voiceover about the nature of evolution plays out, a bird-like shadow can be seen soaring across the water.
How It Pays Off: It’s the beautiful final payoff to a whole movie’s worth of foreshadowing, tipping a wink to fans that Jean Grey has become the Phoenix. The third film was brilliantly set up, only for Bryan Singer to jump ship and Brett Ratner to balls it up. Boo!
3. Shaun Of The Dead
The Foreshadowing: Ed outlines his masterplan for the next day as he and Shaun share a few jars in The Winchester. “A bloody Mary first thing, a bite at the King’s Head, couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang… back at the bar for shots.”
How It Pays Off: Turns out that’s exactly what they do, in a manner of speaking. First off, they kill a blood-spattered girl named Mary. Then Shaun’s stepfather gets his head bitten. Then they pick up Liz (Shaun’s little princess) and another couple. Then they pretend to be zombies, staggering back to the Winchester, and finally end up behind the far firing off shots left right and centre! Now how’s that for a slice of fried gold?
2. Batman Begins
The Foreshadowing: Lieutenant Gordon produces an evidence bag containing a playing card, before explaining to Batman that a new menace is threatening Gotham’s streets. “Take this guy. Armed robbery, double homicide,” he begins. “Got a taste for the theatrical like you. Leaves a calling card…”
How It Pays Off: The calling card is a joker, setting up The Dark Knight’s storyline with considerable panache.
1. The Wizard Of Oz
The Foreshadowing: The black and white sequence at the beginning of the film foreshadows pretty much everything that will go on to happen, from elderly crone Mrs. Gulch threatening Dorothy’s dog, to an encounter with a carnival fraudster predicting phony fortunes.
How It Pays Off: Miss Gulch is the equivalent of the Wicked Witch Of The West, and in her battle with her in Oz, Dorothy will learn self-reliance, rather than looking for answers from false idols. The carnie is the Wizard, in case you weren’t following…