I never understood why this quote was such a major theme to the movie because to me, it's really not that clever or poetic.

Is it supposed to be taken literally to mean that life has a lot of unpredicted and random occurrences? Or is it supposed to mean represent how simple Forrest is to find meaning in the quote because the quote doesn't really make sense since the box has a label with all the different flavours inside? Or something else?

  • 16
    It's 'pseudo-profound' i.e., it makes 'sense' if you don't analyse it too carefully, or spoil by adding '...unless you read the inside of the lid" ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 13:56
  • 30
    Life is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. Unreturnable because all you get back is another box of chocolates. So you're stuck with this undefinable whipped mint crap that you mindlessly wolf down when there's nothing else left to eat. Sure, once in a while there's a peanut butter cup or an English toffee. But they're gone too fast and the taste is... fleeting. So, you end up with nothing but broken bits filled with hardened jelly and teeth-shattering nuts. And if you're desperate enough to eat those, all you got left is an empty box... Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:29
  • 2
    @StephenCollings that should've been an answer.
    – SQB
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:35
  • 6
    @SQB Do you really want to draw the Cigarette Smoking Man's attention to this place? We probably shouldn't pull that thread... ;)
    – Walt
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:44
  • 4
    @Tetsujin Is it possible that box lids back then (1950s) didn't show what chocolates were in the box? Especially boxes bought from independent chocolatiers; they probably had more variance in how many they produced of each type of chocolate in every batch. So it wouldn't have been cost-effective to print all the variations maybe?
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 17:40

9 Answers 9


Well, it means that you don't really know what a chocolate tastes like until you bite it. And in the end, you've tasted whether you liked it or not.

This applies the same for life. You don't really know what every day of your life is going to be until you live it. It may be great experience or can be worse, but you would not know it until you live it.

From quora,

When you open a box of chocolates, there is a variety of flavors available. Problem is, since they are covered in chocolate, you can't really tell what any given piece of chocolate is going to taste like. You're going to eat a chocolate (you know you are! admit it! you want chocolate!), but you won't know what you are getting until you bite into it - and then it's done. Like it or not, you've tasted it.

You never know what life is going to give you. But you live nevertheless. So every day - every new experience - is something you really don't know about until you actually live it. It may not be an experience you like. It may be the greatest experience ever. But you don't know until you've lived it, and by then it's too late to not live it.

Forrest uses this quote to exemplify the randomness of life.

Credits to R.M.,

Forrest has had such a random, eclectic life - much like the variety of chocolates which is in the box. And Forrest, like someone without the box lid, hasn't been going through life with any sort of plan, he's just been picking up the next chocolate and just finding out if it's a toffee or something else once he has eaten it.

  • 12
    So I guess it would've been more appropriate with "Life is like a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans"... Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 18:04
  • I always thought about it like this: you won't know if you'll get diabetes or heart disease if you consume a whole box of chocolates or just enough of it
    – jokab
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 22:17

You removed the quote's meaning by only reading/providing half of it.

The quote fragment you provided is elucidated by the fragment which follows it (and which you didn't include for some reason) to wit: "you never know what you're going to get".

While chocolate snacks are generally supplied by the bag or as single bars, a "box of chocolates" implies a class of higher quality, and usually more expensive chocolates which are given as gifts to people close to, and very often romantically involved with the gifter. Thus they are common as dirt on store shelves around valentine's day.

These boxed chocolates are almost invariably "assorted", and while most packages provide an identification key for the contents, using this key is by no means foolproof or definitive, and in the end, you really never know just what you're going to get.

Kind of like life, really...


You have to understand the literal meaning of "box of chocolates". They're not so common anymore, but at one time fancy boxes of chocolate-covered candies were the gift of choice to mothers and wives on the occasion of a birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, etc.

A typical box contained maybe 40 individual unwrapped pieces, neatly arrayed with paper (and later plastic) dividers keeping them from sliding around. But even though the pieces were unwrapped, since they were chocolate covered it was difficult or impossible to tell if a given piece contained nougat filling, or cherry, or nuts, or whatever. (Many later boxes contained a label or "crib sheet" stating what pieces were what flavor, but this information was not commonly present in boxes prior to maybe 1960.)

So, when offered you would take a piece and eat it, unsure of whether the particular piece would be something you like or something you don't like.

Thus, as Forrest's mother said, "You never know what you're going to get." It might be something you really wanted, it might be something that you simply have to tolerate.

(I recall my aged aunt speaking of a friend she had visited who had such a box of chocolates and offered her a piece. When my aunt looked at the box she saw that all of the pieces had been pinched by this friend, in order to break the chocolate slightly and allow the friend to tell what was inside. My aunt found this to be hilarious.)


It's quite a literal quote, your choices in life can lead to unexpected outcomes, but many of them will be something nice you may not have expected.

Of course. this was in a simpler time, when a box of chocolates didn't either explicitly list the chocolates and flavours, or just had a little card which you could avoid to experience the random luck of the draw.


I think it has different meanings, at different levels. Life is a box full of chocolates, not just one chocolate. You pick one and eat it, you may like it, but you may not like the next one you have. But having a bad one or even good one should not stop you from trying the next one. Also, even though the box is full of chocolates, whether you like one or not is entirely dependent on how you perceive it, even if it looks good or bad to someone else other than you, who is not eating it. I think the movie captures these ideas.


I think it just represents the simple underlying meaning that life is full of surprises. You never know what you'll get. These were Forrest's mother's advice given to him to make him understand life.


I think the line is a bit deeper than you might think. It's about Forest's inability to understand the marking system on a chocolate assortment, or not even knowing that there is one. That type of abstraction is just beyond Forest. The writer is using the line to explain how Forest sees the world.

  • There was no such system until rather late in the history of boxed chocolates. And when the "crib sheet" was present in later boxes it was often removed and hidden by the box's owner.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 18:42

Toru Wantanabe, the lead character in Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood said, "Just remember, life is a box of chocolates. You know, they've got these chocolate assortments, and you like some but you don't like others? And you eat all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don't like as much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. 'Now I just have to polish these off, and everything'll be OK'. Life is a box of chocolates" This novel was published in 1987, Forrest Gump, in 1994.


Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. It means life is unpredictable. For example you could have a factory defect with your chocolates and have one or more missing or broken and you would have to deal with it. In life something unexpected could happen and you will have to deal with it.

  • Are factory defects particularly common with chocolates then? Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 18:55
  • Well I guess something COULD happen to the chocolates. Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 19:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .