16 Movie Flashback Scenes That Pack An Emotional Punch

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Vote up the flashbacks that deliver a true emotional gut-punch.

Flashback scenes in movies can have a variety of purposes. They can reveal the answers to a mystery, provide context for a character’s choices, or disorient the viewer with a non-chronological narrative. In the case of these films, however, the flashbacks are used for emotional impact at crucial moments in the plot. The purpose is often to draw parallels between a point in the past and the current scene, and can also provide insight into the thoughts and memories of key characters. Not only do these sequences allow the narrative to slow down, but they also have a greater impact because of the filmmaker’s choice to withhold them until the audience is properly invested in the story and characters.

There are films that are essentially all flashback, while other movies save the moment for an emotional payoff. Sometimes, the flashback is to a crucial moment before the death of a character, giving us a scene of emotional connection to enhance the impact of their passing. Other times, the scene is a seemingly ordinary memory, but within the context of the narrative, the flashback is given additional significance. These scenes can contain some of the film’s most poignant dialogue, while other times the emotional impact comes from images alone.

Photo: Ratatouille / Buena Vista Pictures