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11 Clever Moments of Movie Foreshadowing You Might Have Missed

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While unexpected twists and surprising reveals can keep moviegoers engaged, sometimes a filmmaker can’t help him or herself from adding in a subtle moment of foreshadowing that warns of or suggests a particular plot line before it happens. Here are 11 movies that did just that.

1. PSYCHO (1960)

After Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) checks into the Bates Motel, she overhears the motel’s owner, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), get into an argument with his mother, who is emotionally abusive toward him. Nevertheless, Norman defends her when Marion suggests that their relationship might be toxic. Norman explains that his mother is “as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.” The line foreshadows the film’s twist when it is revealed that Norman killed and taxidermied his mother.

2. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

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In the middle of the second installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) goes to the planet Dagobah to meet Master Yoda to begin his Jedi training. During his journey, he duels with a vision of Darth Vader in the Dark Side Cave. Luke strikes Vader down with his lightsaber and finds his own face behind Vader’s helmet and mask. This hints at the revelation that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father, which he learns at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

3. BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

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The opening credits sequence of Back to the Future features dozens of ticking clocks in Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) laboratory. One of the clocks features actor Harold Lloyd from the silent film Safety Last! hanging from the minute hand. The clock foreshadows Doc Brown hanging from the Hill Valley clock tower, trying to harness a bolt of lightning to send Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his DeLorean back to the 1980s. 

4. TOTAL RECALL (1990)

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Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 science fiction film Total Recall is full of clever clues that keep audiences guessing as to whether Doug Quaid’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) adventure as a secret agent on Mars was real or merely a memory implanted into his brain. One of the biggest hints comes at the beginning of the film, when Quaid visits Rekall and one of the engineers tells him that he will experience “blue skies on Mars.” At the end of Total Recall, the Red Planet is terraformed and there is now a blue sky on Mars. 

5. RESERVOIR DOGS (1992)

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Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs follows a small group of criminals brought together to pull off a diamond heist. But when the police show up in the midst of the job, it’s clear that one of the men is an informant. The criminals are unknown to each other and are only referred to by colorful aliases (i.e. Mr. White). However, if you pay close attention to the opening scene, you can figure out that Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is the police informant who set up the rest of the gang.

During the breakfast scene, when Joe (Lawrence Tierney) leaves the table to pay the bill, everyone contributes a dollar for the waitress’ tip—everyone except for Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi), who refuses to tip based on principle. When Joe comes back to the table, he notices that the tip is short and asks who didn’t contribute. Without hesitation, Mr. Orange rats out Mr. Pink.

Additionally, when Nice Guy Eddie (Chris Penn) rushes to the hideout after the heist-gone-wrong, there’s an orange balloon following his car, which is a nod to the fact that Mr. Orange is after him.

6. JURASSIC PARK (1993)

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When Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), and lawyer Donald Gennaro (Martin Ferrero) arrive to Isla Nubar for the first time, their helicopter slowly descends through a valley onto a launch pad on a lagoon. The descent is a turbulent one, so everyone buckles their seat belts. Dr. Grant finds that he has two female end buckles, but ties the straps together and manages to make it work. While the scene is meant as a comedic moment, it actually foreshadows that all the dinosaurs on the island are female, but manage to make it work and reproduce, thus “life finds a way.” 

7. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

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When Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) arrives at Shawshank at the beginning of the movie, Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) gives all of the incoming inmates a copy of the Bible and tells them that “Salvation lies within.” Eventually, Andy escapes from prison by digging through a concrete wall for 20 years with a small rock hammer that he has kept hidden inside the Book of Exodus in the Bible. When the warden discovers the hollowed-out Bible in his personal safe, he also finds an inscription from Andy: “Dear Warden, You were right. Salvation lay within. —Andy Dufresne.”

8. THAT THING YOU DO! (1996)

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At the beginning of That Thing You Do!, Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech) and Lenny (Steve Zahn) go to Patterson’s Appliances to recruit Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) to be their new band’s drummer after their regular drummer, Chad (Giovanni Ribisi), breaks his arm. The guys are watching the TV show Fireball XL5 when Lenny remarks, “My grandma and I watched this. Three weeks, we've been watching it and last week, she realizes there’s strings. They’re puppets.” Jimmy responds with, “Yeah. They’re marionettes. That’s what they are.”

While the exchange seems like a throwaway moment, it actually hints at how Playtone Records will treat The Wonders when their song “That Thing You Do!” becomes a hit single. The band goes to California and essentially becomes puppets for the record label—appearing in a teen movie, performing on a variety show, announcing a fake marriage engagement between Jimmy and Faye (Liv Tyler), and recording a Spanish version of “That Thing You Do!” instead of Jimmy’s new original song.

Additionally, when local band manager Phil Horace (Chris Ellis) goes to Patterson’s to find the drummer of the band he saw the night before, a bus with an ad for Wonder Bread passes by the store, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reference to the band's name change.

9. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

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David Fincher’s Fight Club is one of the director's most popular movies because of its over-the-top style, memorable characters, and iconic twist ending. About two-thirds into the film, it is revealed that Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is the alter ego of the Narrator (Edward Norton) and that they are, in fact, the same character. While there are a number of visual cues that foreshadow this revelation, including single frames of Tyler Durden spliced into the film before he’s properly introduced, there’s one very clever moment where the Narrator beats himself in an attempt to blackmail his boss. The Narrator says, “For some reason I thought of my first fight … with Tyler.”

10. SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)

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After Liz (Kate Ashfield) breaks up with Shaun (Simon Pegg), he drinks his sorrows away with his friend Ed (Nick Frost) at the Winchester Tavern. To cheer him up, Ed plans a fun-filled day of drinking the next day, which includes, “Bloody Mary first thing, bite at The Kings Head, couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here, back at the bar for shots.” Co-writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright actually reveal Shaun of the Dead’s entire plot with Ed’s plan: The first zombie Shaun and Ed encounter is wearing a nametag that says “Mary,” then a zombie bites the neck of Shaun’s stepfather, the king of his family. Shaun later saves a couple, Dave (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis), and his princess, Liz. The group then stumbles their way through a zombie herd to get back to the Winchester, where they shoot at the living dead.

There’s another moment of clever foreshadowing at the beginning when Shaun’s roommate screams at Ed, “You wanna live like an animal?! Go live in the shed.” At the the end of the movie, we see a zombified Ed chained up like an animal living in the shed in Shaun’s backyard.

11. THE AVENGERS (2012)

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When the superheroes assemble on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarrier for the first time, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) makes an offhanded remark about one of the ship’s engineers playing the classic arcade game Galaga. The objective of the video game is to defend Earth from invading aliens as they descend on the planet, which is exactly what The Avengers have to do during the Battle of New York with the Chitauri aliens in the film’s climax.

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12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
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After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Walt Disney Pictures
10 Facts About Hocus Pocus
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Bette Midler said she'd be interested in doing a Hocus Pocus sequel. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. "The ball's in their court." While you get those cards ready, here are some facts about the original, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago today.

1. THE STORY ORIGINATED AS A BEDTIME STORY.

The story for Hocus Pocus came about after writer David Kirschner invented a bedtime story for his kids. He later wrote the story up and submitted it to Muppet Magazine (why does this not still exist?), where it gained recognition.

2. THE WRITERS USED PROPS TO PITCH IT TO STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

Bette Midler in 'Hocus Pocus' (1993)
Walt Disney Pictures

To pitch the story to Disney, the writers had execs enter a dark room with broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling. They also scattered 15 pounds of candy corn throughout the room in an effort to invoke Halloween nostalgia. It obviously worked!

3. IT WAS NOT AN IMMEDIATE HIT.

Though it’s a cult classic now, Hocus Pocus didn’t do that well when it first came out in 1993, perhaps because it was released in July instead of September or October. Though it didn’t have a terrible opening—$8,125,471, putting it in fourth place at the box office that weekend—it fell to $2,017,688 a few weeks later, and bad reviews from the critics didn’t help matters.

Entertainment Weekly was particularly put off by the movie, calling it a “piece of corny slapstick trash” and saying that “It’s acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell.”

4. BETTE MIDLER LOVES IT.

Bette Midler, by the way, has said that Hocus Pocus is her favorite film out of all of the films she’s ever done. (At least as of 2008.) Thora Birch agreed, recently saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus.”

5. KATHY NAJIMY LOVES IT, TOO.

Midler isn't the only star of the film who isn't immune to its allure: Kathy Najimy has said she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.

6. IT COULD HAVE STARRED LEONARDO DICAPRIO.

The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

7. SARAH JESSICA PARKER IS RELATED TO A WOMAN FAMOUSLY ACCUSED OF BEING A WITCH.

Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When the actress went on the show Who Do You Think You Are to trace her family history, Parker discovered that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, one of the women accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. After a young girl said she saw Esther’s “spectre” strangling neighbor Mary Fitch, Elwell was arrested, but escaped going to trial.

8. THORA BIRCH REVISITED THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICAN BEAUTY.

While the kids are prematurely celebrating victory against the Sanderson sisters after locking them in the kiln, they’re shown talking in front of a house as they walk to a park. The house was later used as the house Thora Birch’s character lived in for American Beauty.

9. THE KIDS WEREN'T HUGE FANS OF THE CATS.

The kids all hated working with the cats. Many different cats were used to represent Binx, and each one served a different purpose—one was good at cuddling with the kids, one would jump on command, etc. Every time a new cat was used, the children would have to coerce the kitty to trust them by using treats and a clicker. They got sick of it.

10. MUCH OF THE ORIGINAL CAST REUNITED FOR A 20TH REUNION.

Most of the cast participated in a 20th anniversary event for D23 (the Disney fan club) members. Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler were not in attendance, but pretty much everyone else was, including Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson). You can watch some of that reunion above.

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