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"Ooh, me life flashed before me eyes!... It was really boring."—Babs, Chicken Run
" Well little buddy, my life is flashing before my very eyes...I wondered where I left my wallet."—Sam, Sam and Max
Oh no, that's his knife lodged in my gut. I'm blacking out, too much blood loss. I can't die now! I had so much to live for! I can see my parents smiling as they tuck me in as a child. My school days as a lanky teenager, worrying about homework and girls. I see the day I got The Call and meeting up with my four new friends. You know, after seeing that sequence of relevant scenes either exposing parts of my Backstory or using somehow familiar visuals I see that this can't be the end. I have to get up and fight!
That, or it's just my brain going into overdrive, and I really am dying.
Characters using this trope go about it in two ways. In one, the audience is treated to a mini Clip Show of Stock Footage or Flash backs. In the other, a character experiencing a harrowing experience says his "life flashed before [his] eyes". In that case, a common follow-up is mentioning how the flashback was awesome, boring or too short.
Truth in Television. According to the Other Wiki the phenomenon is known as life review and is a widely occurring experience of people seeing much of their life history in chronological sequence and precise detail during near-death encounters.
Anime & Manga
- Inverted in Death Note, where Random images of L's orphanage flashed seconds before he died.
- In Naruto Jiraiya sees flashbacks of him with Minato and Kushina and also of Naruto after he gets his throat slashed by Pain. This drives him to wake up to encode a message before he dies for real. Later, Hinata has flashbacks of how Naruto inspires her during her fight against Pain.
- Played completely straight in Mobile Suit Gundam 00 when Lockon dies.
- Osaka says that, while they're out seeing the pandas, she wants to see this. Though it takes a little bit to think of it.
- In the first episode of Excel Saga, really bizarre scenes from Excel's life flash before the paramedics in the ambulance and one of them says, "Uh oh, her life's flashing by. That's no good, crap."
- A variation of this occurs in Elfen Lied when Kurama blows himself up with his diclonius daughter. A vision of what life could have been like if his daughter wasn't a diclonius and his wife therefore hadn't died rather than how it actually was (thus avoiding the usual Clip Show part of this trope) flashes before his eyes just before the bomb goes off.
- Bandou plays it straight.
- Literally happens in Black Butler when Shinigami Grell slices into people's bodies and ribbons of film burst out; this so the Shinigami can determine where their victims go in the afterlife.
- Gungrave uses this trope as much as possible. Every character (good and bad) seems to have a flashback sequence or a life flashing experience as part of their death scene. In fact only the nameless mooks seem to be able to die without fuss.
- Shows up in a pivotal moment in Gun X Sword. Van survives his near-defeat once he remembers Elena, but the flashback also hints at the depth of his feelings for Wendy, since she and Elena are the only two people he remembers in full color.
- Happens in Pluto with a tragic twist. The person in question was making a Heroic Sacrifice, broadcasting live footage of his duel with Pluto from his eye cameras to Geischt, which he could use to find Pluto's weakness. Once his life starts flashing, the footage is ruined and the guy died for nothing.
- In Nichijou, Mio experiences this after tasting her sister's jam.
- Happens in With Strings Attached as John is plummeting to his doom in the Deep Gap:
Tumbling down end over end wind resistance on wings hurts oh Yoko oh Sean I'm dead I'm dead I'm dead you'll never make money with that guitar they're going to be bigger than Elvis THE BEATLES how do you add up all your money I once had a girl hey man I'm so fat and terrible can't he do his own bloody lyrics love love love Yoko oh God Yoko Apple is rotting I want a divorce primal SCREAM Paul is such an asshole where's Yoko why can't I come back mother Kotex green card Sean oh Sean I wanted to see you grow up
- In the novelization of the third Batman movie, Papa Grayson's life flashes before his eyes seconds before he dies. And to his surprise, there's nothing he would've done differently.
- Done in Armageddon when Harry detonates the bomb. Images of his daughter and wife briefly flash on the screen.
- In the last few moments of Vanilla Sky, David experiences this when jumping off a building
- Shanghai Knights
Roy: "My life is flashing before my eyes! Wait! I don't remember her"
B.E.N.: My whole life flashed before my eyes. At least I thought it was my life. Was I ever out dancing with an android named Lupe?
- In The Producers, someone else's life flashes in front of Max Bialystock's eyes.
Max: "I see my mother in a nice, gingham gown calling, 'Alvin! Don't forget to do your chores! The wood needs a cuttin' and the cows needs a milkin'! Alvin! Alllllvin!' Wait. My name's not Alvin."
- In Beavis and Butthead Do America, the two characters are about to die of thirst when they end up having their life flash before their eyes. Butthead's life just showed them at various ages, but always sitting on the same couch chuckling at the TV (he concludes that his life was cool). Beavis flashes back to when he was just a sperm, hitting on the ova before he gets shoved in by the other sperm.
Beavis: Hehehee ... I scored.
- Inverted in American Beauty.
- Spoofed in Chicken Run as seen in the quote at the top of the page.
- From A Cinderella Story:
David: "I think I just saw your life flash before your eyes."
Carter: "Oh yeah? Well, did you see the part where I run away?" *turns and flees*
Nick: "When we crashed, my entire life flashed before my eyes. It didn't take too long."
- Played around with in various Discworld novels: Death states that humans do indeed see their lives flash before their eyes before they die, but this happens starting from their birth, and is called "living". (He says this a lot - Death doesn't have many pearls of wisdom to give out, he doesn't have the capacity to understand most, so the ones he can show up often. People in his line of work are kind of stuck to a theme.)
- Also in Discworld, it's mentioned as early as The Light Fantastic that Rincewind had seen his life flash before his eyes so often that he could sleep through the boring bits.
- Vimes has done this once or twice, complete with him hoping they could skip a few bits.
- In the Young Wizards novel High Wizardry, Dairine relives all 11 years of her life in the span of several milliseconds when the Motherboard downloads all of her memories.
- This happens to everyone the first few times, apparently. It happened to Roshaun when Dairine took him there in Wizards At War.
- The whole planet is a wizard computer chip with (almost?) unlimited memory space. You expect it to not do this to everyone it can?
- This happens to everyone the first few times, apparently. It happened to Roshaun when Dairine took him there in Wizards At War.
- Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy: Subverted, in that Ford Prefect uses the flashback in order to gain inspiration on ways to get out of dying in the current situation.
- Before its completion, a press release for Life The Universe And Everything gave this as the way Arthur learned to fly: he was so taken aback by some of the things he saw as his life flashed before his eyes after jumping off a cliff that he neglected to hit the ground. The scene played out differently in the completed novel, of course.
- Double Dragon
Billy Lee: "My whole life flashed before my eyes! Dude, I sleep a lot."
Marty: "I was sitting there alone on prom night, in a goddamn rented tuxedo, and my whole life flashed before my eyes. And I realized finally, and for the first time, that I wanted to kill somebody. So I figured since I loved you so much, it'd be a good idea if I didn't see you anymore."
Wyatt Earp: When we were kids, we used to argue about whether when you were dying, your whole life flashed in front of you or not. He said, "It ain't so, Wyatt."
- Parodied in the Paul Simms essay "My Near-Death Experience" , which provides tips on making your life more interesting to watch in case it flashes before your eyes.
- The entire point of Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff. (Since it's literature, the character can actually die and still narrate.)
- In the first Dune novel, Duke Leto Atreides' life flashes before his eyes as he succumbs to the poison gas he released in an attempt to kill Baron Harkonnen which only killed Piter de Vries. The moments that stand out the most are the happy times he shared with Paul and Jessica, in particular the day he taught a young Paul how to fly a kite.
Live Action TV
Saffie: "My life just flashed before my eyes."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Killed by Death"
Xander: "Man, Buffy. My life just flashed before my eyes. I gotta get me a life."
- Also, in "Bargaining":
Caitlin: "This one time, I got choked on a pickle at Wendy's and my whole life flashed before my eyes and I said, 'Not yet, sweet Jesus, not yet; I've never been to Disney World!' and then I threw up all over the restaurant and the manager gave me a certificate for one free hamburger a year for the rest of my life! Isn't that right, Rick? Rick, Rick, Rick!"
- In Blackadder Back & Forth, Blackadder holds Baldrick's head in the toilet until he nearly drowns, so that he'll see the initial settings on the time machine control panel (needed to get home) when his life flashes before his eyes.
- Called and inverted in Dead Like Me:
[As a toilet seat from the re-entering Mir station plummets through the sky, George is awkwardly moving through a city plaza.]
George: [voiceover] They say your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the moment before you die? That might be true if you're terminally ill, or your parachute doesn't open...
[She looks up to see the fireball heading straight for her.]
George: [voiceover] ? but if death sneaks up on you, the only thing you have time to think is...
George: Aw, shit.
- Firefly, "Out of Gas": Mal has flashbacks of meeting the other crewmembers
- On Bottom, as Richie and Eddie dangle above the ground in a broken ferris wheel:
Richie: My entire life flashed before my eyes! It was one long, relentless collage of grey... interspersed with visits to the lav...
- On QI, Stephen Fry suggests that, if you lose your keys, you should start drowning yourself -- then you can wait until you see the moment where you last had them flashing before your eyes, save yourself, and go get them.
- David Fisher, in one episode of Six Feet Under, is kidnapped by a violent lunatic who comes very close to shooting him in the face. This trope is represented by a montage of short clips from earlier in the series, just as David is convinced his life is almost over.
- Darien Fawkes of The Invisible Man notes to his colleagues, shortly after nearly being killed by a bomb: "You know that whole thing about your life flashing before your eyes? Doesn't happen."
- Lost episode Flashes Before Your Eyes has an interesting variation: not only do the flashes triggered by a near-death experience continue after the event is over, they actually are a combination of premonitions and Mental Time Travel. This trope is merely used by a character to describe the weird things happening to him.
Desmond: "When I turned that key my life flashed before my eyes. And then I was back in the jungle and still on this bloody island. But those flashes, Charlie - those flashes - they didn't stop."
- Calvin and Hobbes: "They say when you're falling, your life is supposed to flash before your eyes. The problem with being 6 years old is that my life won't take very long to watch. Maybe I can get a few slow-motion replays of the time I smacked Suzie upside the head with a slushball."
- In one of the Garfield comics the titular cat says, "My life just flashed before my eyes. It looked like a fast food commercial." Not surprising considering all he does is eat and sleep.
- Played with in a stand-up comedy routine of Larry Miller. He's taken on a skiing trip by some of his (now ex-) friends, and ends up going on a steep slope that's well beyond his limited ability to navigate safely. Naturally, he ends up careening wildly out of control down the slope, and naturally, he ends up heading directly for some large trees. He describes a few past events that then flash before his eyes just before the collision, but then realizes that he'll emerge from this skiing catastrophe mostly all right, since the life flashing before his eyes clearly isn't his (it had too many awesome moments).
- Old Harrys Game: Thomas when he's about to be taken off life support.
Thomas: My whole life is flashing before my eyes! Hold on... that's not my life! I don't recognise any of these people! They're all talking Swedish! YOU'VE GIVEN ME THE WRONG LIFE! Bloody NHS!
- Every episode of The Very World of Milton Jones is built around this, since they all begin with him about to die.
- At the start of Sly Cooper 3, the titular thief ends up in the crushing grip of the Big Bad's monster. The entire game after this point up until the final part is really his life flashing before his eyes as a way to show How We Got Here.
- Played 100% straight in Star Fox 64 every time you finish a mission with Peppy's ship barely holding.
- And 100% laughable. That peppy gets me every gosh dang time.
- Cave Story: When Professor Booster uses the teleporter.
- Featured in the opening cinematic of Sam and Max: Night of the Raving Dead
Sam: "Well, this is it, little buddy. My whole life is flashing before my eyes... I wondered where I left my wallet!"
- Incorporated into the Game Over sequence for Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots: the screen flashes scenes from previous cutscenes as Snake collapses before "Mission Failed" is displayed.
- The short japanese commercial for Mega Man Zero 4 begins with a bunch of gameplay videos scattered around the screen, accompanied by sad music. Suddenly, all of them are thrown away as Zero, surrounded by light, dissolves...
- Happened in Zebra Girl, only it was Sandra's life flashing before Sam's eyes.
- This DMFA strip.
- Irregular Webcomic has one where Monty is going to get excecuted, which he flashed a parody of the early sequence of The Last Crusade, and another one with Lambert, who's seeing a fireball (and might die of one, again).
- In Concerned, we find out that you life in fact doesn't flash before your eyes. Your death does, however.
Dvorak: My whole life just flashed before my eyes.
Qwerty: Mine's still flashing. I've got to buy some faster memory.
- In Survival of the Fittest, this happens for Beth Vandelinder when someone charges at her and she's unable to defend herself, but stops when the attacker is shot with an arrow by one of her allies.
- A short cartoon made by Stevecums, had a middle aged man slip on a Banana Peel and fall off an 18 story building and literally watches his life flash by (with film, screen, and music conveniently carried by crows), showing his life full of happiness and wonder as a child and young adult, then replaced dullness and depression in the workplace afterwards. Seeing how much his life sucked since then, he happily lights a cigarette and waits contently for the fall to kill him followed by a Black Screen of Death and screams of passerby.
- In Garfield and Friends, when Jon takes up skydiving: "My life is flashing before my eyes, and I'm not even in it!" Indeed, everything he sees is Garfield and Odie.
- Ed, Edd N Eddy, "Pop Goes the Ed":
Ed: "My life is flashing before my eyes!"
Eddy: "What life?"
- In The Eighties, there was a cartoon featuring Martin Short's Saturday Night Live character Ed Grimley. One episode had him fall out of a plane and this trope was played. However, he seems to remember only embarrassing or unpleasant things. After the flashback, he looks up and yells "You call that a life?!"
- In Family Guy where Peter was about to be killed by a bear. Images of him constantly held back in Fourth Grade show up. The last one shows that he passed Fourth Grade hours before this happened.
- The Simpsons: This happened to Homer twice, in two episodes, "Homer's Triple Bypass" and "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Kind", and to Mr. Burns in the episode, "Burns' Heir".
- In one episode of The Amazing World of Gumball, Gumball claims this is happening to him while a car is backing very slowly towards him.
Gumball: "My life is flashing before my eyes...and it's boring!"
- An episode of Timon and Pumbaa managed to turn this concept into a Clip Show as they were falling off a very deep cliff.
- Parodied when Toot from Drawn Together is forced by seniors who faked having alzheimers so they can be waited on hand and foot to walk the plank into the disgusting nursing home's pool It Makes Sense in Context (or not). As her life flashes before her eyes, were treated to a happy sounded montage of various food interspersed with random grim photographs of the Vietnam War.
- Recess: Smart Girl overachiever Gretchen claims this when she gets an A- on her paper.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, "Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind}} Homer sees his life as a parody of the viral video photographer Noah Kalina's "Everyday", where pictures of Homer's life spanning a period of 39 years are all played sequentially (interspersed with Shout Outs to earlier episodes). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_3qlxBQnRY&feature=related