The movie Arrival (2016) has an unusual kind of plot twist where

several sequences that look like "typical" flashbacks to the eye of the viewer are later revealed to be a flash-forward, that is, they happen after the main story line of the movie rather than before.

This is, in my view, an interesting twist because it goes against the expectations of the viewer who is used to that plot device.

Was Arrival the first movie to feature this trick? Are there earlier examples?

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    Like for example in Pulp Fiction? Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 9:00
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    @SZCZERZOKŁY Does Pulp Fiction try to mislead the watcher about the order of the events? In my head it's just a typical movie with a complicated out-of-order storyline. Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 9:10
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    It did when it came out. Same with "Memento". I think "The Butterfly Effect" (or a movie that came around that time) had also this premise. Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 9:17
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    TV show Lost also did this in one episode.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Mar 15, 2019 at 14:34
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    One episode? The entire last season of Lost was 2 concurrent story lines that take place at different times (and in different universes) without really letting the viewer in on it until much later in the season. Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 1:28

3 Answers 3



There is a scene in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) where Robert, the character played by Michael Sarrazin, is seen being thrust into a jail cell by a police officer, even though he has done nothing to provoke such treatment. The audience is notified, later in the story, that Sarrazin's character would have indeed made choices that warrant his arrest.

There was also a TV series literally called FlashForward (2009-10) in which every character experiences a memory blackout, and each episode flashes forward to a character's future life.


I guess what makes Arrival different from other media where this has been done is that the main character refers to future events as if they were the past. It's not just a flash forward. She's actually remembering the future.

In the Westworld TV series, they often show the audience 2 different timelines and sometimes it becomes difficult to know what happens when until the last episode of the season. (This was especially true of the first season where it wasn't at all clear there were 2 timelines.) But the hosts (the robots) will often get confused about what timeline they're on, asking "Is this now?" They don't see the future like Louise, but they often can't tell if they're living a moment or remembering something from the past in a reverie.

These both contrast with something like Memento where the story is told backwards, but the characters experienced the events in the usual order. In fact, the entire premise of that movie is that the main character has trouble making memories at all.


I don't know if it fits exactly, but in Helix Season 2 (2015), The show start with two plots that we are made believed are concurrent

while we learn later they occurs 20 years apart.

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