Forrest Gump

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

Forrest Gump is a 1994 film starring Tom Hanks and directed by Robert Zemeckis, and based on a 1986 novel by Winston Groom. It's the tale of a good-natured but simple-minded man touching important events and people from The Fifties to The Eighties (ranging from Elvis Presley to several presidents), rising to his own measure of fame and fortune in the process, mostly by just being himself. But he's forever pining for his childhood sweetheart Jenny (played by Hanna Hall and Robin Wright), who takes a different path in life that sometimes intersects with his.

Forrest's journey takes him from his native Alabama to the jungles of Vietnam, from walking in corrective leg-braces to running across North America, from misunderstood country boy to champion ping-pong player to shrimp tycoon, without ever quite losing the undying optimism of the era.

The film was a major box office hit, earning $677,387,716 worldwide (behind only The Lion King that year). The critics loved it; it went on to win six Oscars and numerous other awards. Thought by some to be one of Hanks' most memorable movies, Forrest Gump is also acclaimed for its soundtrack, peppered with dozens of iconic songs of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s — Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, the Four Tops, Simon and Garfunkel and Jefferson Airplane are just some of the artists heard.

Forrest Gump is the Trope Namer for:
Tropes used in Forrest Gump include:
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Lt. Dan asks if Gump has found Jesus yet. Gump tells him he didn't know he's supposed to be looking for him. This causes Dan to break out into laughter before he explains what he meant.
  • Accidental Athlete: Forrest ends up as a running back on Bear Bryant's University of Alabama team when a couple of bullies chase him and he ends up running through the school field when the team was practicing. It helps when you consider exactly who he was seen by. For those of you unaware, Paul "Bear" Bryant is universally considered to be one of the greatest American football coaches of all time.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Forrest is so dense that he routinely attempts things other people wouldn't even consider, and so single-minded that he puts his maximum effort into everything he does. As a result, he meets spectacular success while the skeptics are left scratching their heads.
  • As Himself: Both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson play themselves posthumously and interact with Forrest through the use of archive footage.
    • The same technology was also used with Richard Nixon, Alabama Governor George Wallace, and John Lennon. A more straight version of this trope occurs in the Lennon scene, where Dick Cavett plays himself, made to look younger through make-up.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: As noted in the Foreshadowing entry, Jenny tells Forrest that her dream is to "be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice..." She gets that dream, all right. Since she neglected to say whether she'd be wearing clothes in that goal, she also ends up doing it in her birthday suit.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Forrest ends up with one on his cross-country jogging spree.
    • Lt. Dan also has one when he first meets Forrest again after the war.
  • Berserk Button: Call post-Vietnam Lieutenant Dan a cripple all you want, but he will hurt you if you dare call Forrest any variety of "stupid." Also, I dare you to even lay a hand on Jenny whenever Forrest is around. Go ahead, try.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jenny dies, but left her son in Forrest's care, and Lieutenant Dan found the strength to live and love again.
  • Black Best Good Friend: Benjamin Buford "Bubba" Blue.
  • Black Dude Dies First: A poor nameless Red Shirt dies of Boom! Headshot! at the start of the ambush that also kills Bubba (who ironically ends up being the last of the squad to die that death)
  • Book Ends: The Object Tracking Shot of the feather and Forrest waiting for a bus.
  • Brick Joke: Bubba's momma serving dinner, then being served to.
    • At the beginning of the movie, Forrest tries to get to know the bus driver, Dorothy Harris, because his mother has told him not to take rides from strangers and , Forrest being as dense as he is, to him introducing themselves won't make them strangers anymore. At the end, Forrest Jr. immediately says upon being greeted onto the bus: "You're Dorothy Harris, and I'm Forrest Gump."
      • there was an even funnier call back to it where he introduces himself to the Army Bus driver, who rather than give his name, yells at him to get him on the bus.
    • When Forrest first ventures out in Nam with Lt. Dan's platoon. Dan orders them to get down and shut up. Forrest takes the time in his narration to introduce his fellow soldiers, with Tex being the last one introduced. When Forrest is later searching for Bubba, Tex is the first wounded soldier he finds and rescues.
    • When Forrest is with Lt. Dan celebrating New Years he rejects one of Dan's girlfriend's Long Limbs Lenore. When Forrest meets Jenny again years later, she's kept a scrapbook of his international Jogging. One specific page has a picture of him in the National Enquirer saying "Go Go Dancer Says.... Forrest Made Me His Secret Lover." But Forrest being Forrest had a response line under it saying "I don't know her."
  • Buffy-Speak: Forrest's general Verbal Tic. This leads to a nice Historical In-Joke when he ends up being a shareholder in "some sort of fruit company" (Apple Computers).
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Forrest announces this while meeting JFK of all people...
  • Cassandra Truth: Forrest's revelation that he's the owner of the wildly successful Bubba Gump Shrimp Company sends one listener off in unbelieving hysterics. The old woman was unbelieving at first, until he shows her a picture of him Lieutenant Dan on the cover of Newsweek.
  • Catch Phrase: Forrest has a lot of these.
    • "Stupid is as stupid does."
    • "Momma always said 'Life was like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're gonna get.'"
    • "And that's all I have to say about that..."
    • "...But most of all, I thought about Jenny."
  • Cluster F-Bomb: According to Forrest, Abby Hoffman enjoyed dropping these at the Vietnam War protest rally, and that everyone at the rally enjoyed hearing him dropping them.
  • Dead Presidents and Not So Dead Presidents: "I went [to the White House], a-gain, [and met] the President, a-gain." The Running Gag is that he meets almost all of the ones he reasonably could. He even moons LBJ (sort of on request).
    • He asked if he could see the spot...
    • Tom Hanks also invoked the "a-gain" when he won the Best Actor Oscar for Forrest Gump, having already received one the year before for his role in Philadelphia.

Hanks: *inflecting Forrest's voice* So I went to the Academy Award, a-gain. And I won an Oscar, a-gain.

  • Death Seeker: Lt. Dan, who's lost an ancestor in every major American war. He gets over it after surviving Hurricane Carmen.
    • In the book's sequel Gump and Co., he gets killed by friendly fire during Operation Desert Storm.
  • Deep South: Greenbow, Alabama
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: A subversion is that he frequently praises Forrest for his dedication and the exact same tone of voice he'd use to berate anyone else.
    • Of course, he does offer some backhanded compliments along the way.

Gump: To do whatever you tell me, Drill Sergeant?

    • Here's another one:

Forrest Gump [having just completed assembling his weapon]: DONE, DRILL SERGEANT!
Forrest Gump: ...You told me to, Drill Sergeant?
Drill Sergeant: JESUS H. CHRIST! This is a new company record! If it wouldn't be a waste of such a damn fine enlisted man, I'd recommend you for OCS, Private Gump! YOU ARE GONNA BE A GENERAL SOMEDAY, GUMP, NOW DISASSEMBLE YOUR WEAPON AND CONTINUE!

  • Dude, Where's My Respect: Lt. Dan wanted to die in combat, so naturally, he doesn't take living with amputated legs too well. And watching Forrest receive a Medal of Honor from the President himself sure didn't help.

Lt. Dan: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Forrest: That's Lt. Dan... [turns around and sees Lt. Dan] Lt. Dan!
Lt. Dan: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor!
Forrest: Yes sir, they sure did.
Lt. Dan: They gave you, an imbecile, a moron who goes on television and makes a fool out himself in front of the whole damn country, the Congressional Medal of Honor?!
Forrest: Yes, sir.
Lt. Dan: Well, then, that's just perfect! Yeah, well I just got one thing to say to that. Goddamn bless America.

  • During the War (Vietnam)
  • Dumb Is Good: Forrest is this trope
  • Engineered Public Confession: Inverted: During Forrest's stump speech during an anti-Vietnam rally that he somehow got convinced to go to, a large percentage of the speech involving things he was going to admit to the people about his experiences in Vietnam during the speech actually ended up missed because a Pro-Vietnam police officer pulled the plug on the mike, and the mike's sound output was only restored right when Forrest finishes up the statements. Of course, that didn't stop Abby Hoffman (who apparently heard the whole thing) from expressing sympathy about what happened in his experiences.
  • Exact Words: When he receives the medal of honor from Lyndon B. Johnson, Johnson jokingly expresses interest in seeing the wound on Gump's butt. Gump interprets this as being literal, and... obliges his request.
    • Jenny also was inflicted with this trope (although the inflicter wasn't any one person other than possibly herself, but rather fate). She tells Forrest "I wanna be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice...". In adulthood, she gets that dream. She never specified whether she'd do it while wearing clothes, so fate took what she said exactly, and made it exact by having her do it in the nude.
  • False Soulmate: Jenny to Forrest.
  • Foreshadowing: "I wanna be up on a stage with just my guitar and my voice..."
  • Fly At the Camera Ending: The Feather.
  • The Fool: Forrest is good natured but naturally dim witted, most importantly though, he appears to be quite lucky throughout the film.
  • Genius Ditz: Forrest in the book.
  • Good Ol' Boy: Forrest and many other folks from Greenbow, Alabama.
  • The Gump: (Trope Namer)
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Forrest is a natural runner and a natural table tennis champion.
  • "Have a Nice Day" Smile: According to the film, Forrest is the originator of the design.
  • The Hedonist: Jenny becomes this in her adulthood.
  • Historical In-Joke: So many that not all of them made it to the movie.
  • I Was Just Joking: Not actually said, but it was strongly implied that Lyndon B Johnson's "desire" to see the wound on Forrest Gump's butt was actually intended to be a joke. Forrest, being Forrest, interprets this literally, and proceeds to oblige his "request" on live TV, causing Lyndon B Johnson to chuckle to himself and say "goddamn, son!"
  • Identical Grandson: Lieutenant Dan's ancestors are all played by Gary Sinise; all of Mrs. Blue's ancestors are played by the same woman who plays Mrs. Blue, Forrest's namesake General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan, is also played by Tom Hanks.
  • Idiot Hero: Forrest Gump.
  • Imagine Spot: When Forrest talks about Lieutenant Dan and Bubba's ancestors, and then happily inverted when Bubba's mom uses Bubba's share of Forrest's shrimping venture.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Among other things, Forrest doesn't quite understand what the big deal is with desegregation, the war protesters, or the Black Panther Party. Also, he calls Jenny's father a "very loving man."
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Forrest, and later Lt. Dan.
  • Ironic Echo: Bubba's mother being served lunch by a white lady, using the exact same shot as the Imagine Spot of Bubba's mother's ancestors doing the same thing for their white masters. "...and so they shot him" is sort of one as well, considering the famous people Forrest has met (does the man have a death god following him?).
    • A less straightforward example is when Forrest's mother had to sleep with the principal just to allow Forrest to have a regular school environment instead of a special needs environment. During the mom and the principal's... "pleasure time", The Principal is faintly heard panting from outside. When the Principal afterwards asks Forrest whether he says anything at all, Forrest's response is to mime said panting (without realizing what it meant).
  • It Will Never Catch On: Forrest doesn't seem too impressed by the "Fruit Company" Lt. Dan suggested he invest in, which we see is really Apple Computers, now Apple Inc.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lieutenant Dan in the movie, and perhaps surprisingly to some, Forrest in the original novel.
  • The Long List: "Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo..."
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Forrest finds out he has a son via Jenny. Epileptic Trees say this might not be the case, but Forrest is the only reliable parent Jenny can find.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Forrest tells Jenny he loves her, she annoyingly tells him he doesn't know what love is. Years later, he proposes to her, but she declines, telling him he doesn't really want to marry her. His response: "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is."
  • "Mister Sandman" Sequence
  • Mooning: Forrest Gump does this to President Johnson. See Exact Words for more details.
  • Narration Echo: On multiple occasions, due to Forrest's thoughts being so straightforward.

Forrest: *narrating* When I got home, I had no idea, but Mama'd had all sorts of visitors.
Mrs. Gump: We've had all sorts of visitors.

  • Noodle Incident: Forrest's speech during the Vietnam protests, lost to everyone except those standing near him because the microphones have been sabotaged, but it moves those people to tears. According to Tom Hanks, it goes something like this:

"Sometimes when people go to Vietnam, they go home to their mommas without any legs. Sometimes they don't go home at all. That's a bad thing. That's all I have to say about that."

  • No Infantile Amnesia: Averted: Forrest Gump explicitly states that he has absolutely no recollection of his birth.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Forrest's Crowning Moment of Awesome.
  • Nothing but Hits: From the 50's on through the 70's.
  • Object Tracking Shot: The feather.
  • Obvious Blue Screen: Mostly averted, as Forrest is almost seamlessly integrated into the historical footage, but they did a much better job digitally erasing Gary Sinise's legs.
    • In fact, there's only one scene in the entire movie where the digital erasure of Sinise's legs fails: when he's picking himself up after the party girls leave on New Year's Eve. Watch carefully and you can see Sinise is clearly propping himself up on supposedly nonexistent legs.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Forrest gets shot in the buttocks in Vietnam and suffers no long-lasting ill effects. In fact, he gets all the ice cream he can eat.
    • Notably, this about the only part of the body where this can realistically happen. (Thus, why it's called a "million-dollar wound".) It also happens to infantrymen A LOT, as one's natural inclination when crawling is to stick your butt in the air. Army training tries to curtail this but not everyone remembers.
    • Bubba: "I'm okay, Forrest. I'm okay."
  • Overly Long Gag: The Long List of shrimp recipes and the Imagine Spots for Lieutenant Dan and Bubba's ancestors.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Are you crazy, or just plain stupid?"
  • Pinball Protagonist
  • Playing Gertrude: Sally Field, who plays Mrs. Gump, is just ten years older than Tom Hanks. And on top of that, they previously played love interests in the film Punch Line.
  • Popular History
  • Potty Emergency: Happens to Forrest, simply saying "I gotta pee!" as he meets President Kennedy. Drinking a dozen Dr. Peppers will do that to you.
  • Puppy Love: Jenny and Forrest as children.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Lt. Dan in the storm scene.
  • Running Gag: It's subtle, but in every photo of Forrest, his eyes are closed.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: A rather loose variation.

Hancock: "Your mama sure does care about your schooling, son!"

  • Seemingly-Profound Fool
  • Seen It All: After a while, Forrest finds it hard to work up enthusiasm for meeting Presidents after meeting virtually each one during his life.
  • Shot in the Ass: "I got shot in the butt-tocks."
  • Significant Birth Date: Jenny's date of birth which can be seen on her tombstone is July 16, 1945 - the date of the Trinity test in New Mexico, the world's first successful test of the atomic bomb. Her date of death - March 22, 1982 - is also the date that the Space Shuttle Columbia launched on its 3rd mission (STS-3)...which landed at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.
    • The latter would at first glance seem not so significant within the film's context as the Columbia disaster happened long after the film's release. However, the backup commander for mission STS-3 was Ken Mattingly, who was portrayed by Gary Sinise (Lt.Dan) in Apollo 13, which also starred Tom Hanks.
  • Significant Monogram: Jenny Curran.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Forrest has eyes for Jenny. No one else.
  • Sleeper Hit: Paramount didn't see the film being a big hit and only opened in 1,500 theaters mid-week after Independence Day. Strong word-of-mouth from sneak previews made it a long runner in theaters.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter!: Lieutenant Dan rides out Hurricane Carmen clinging to the mast of a small boat, challenging the lightning and waves to kill him while giving God the middle finger.
    • Which, according to Forrest after, results in Dan's religious epiphany.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Forrest meets some anti-Vietnam activists who mostly wear their old uniforms, but made into Non Uniform Uniforms.
  • Sweet Home Alabama: A particularly Anvilicious illustration of the trope.
  • Tear Jerker (in-universe):
    • The old lady that Forrest is narrating his story to has this reaction, to the point where she sticks around after missing her bus.
    • Forrest's speech when getting his medal also causes this reaction in those that can actually hear him.
  • This Is My Story: "Hello, my name is Forrest, Forrest Gump. Would you like a chocolate?"
  • This Is Sparta: Lieutenant Dan's Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter! antics.


    • Also:

Abbie Hoffman: "The war... in Viet-FUCKING-NAAAAM!"

  • Too Quirky to Lose: Forrest, in general.
  • Try Not to Die: One of Lieutenant Dan's two standing orders for his platoon. (The other one is to always, always change your socks for clean ones regularly.)
  • Unflinching Walk: While carrying the somewhat heavyset Bubba to the shore in Vietnam, an airstrike is raining bombs down just behind Forrest's heels. The only acknowledgement he gives of the explosions is a slight increase in walking speed near the end of the shot. It's made especially impressive considering he has a fresh bullet wound in his buttocks.
    • Which may sound vaguely humorous, especially remembering Hanks' pronunciation of the word, but just take a moment to think about what it actually means. He either has a bullet or a jagged piece of debris lodged in a part of his body that is moving and flexing around with every step he takes, even more so for the fact that he's running over difficult terrain. And he still never even considers stopping. Unflinching indeed.
  • Unfortunate Names: Forrest is named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the KKK. Awkward, seeing how he would describe Bubba as "My best good friend."
    • Forrest specifically says his mother named him after Nathan Bedford Forrest so he would remember what the KKK did. Forrest being Forrest, he didn't really understand what the KKK was.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Played straight for laughs, and for drama. The naive Forrest incorrectly describes events he witnesses through his life. Notable examples: He believes that Charlie was someone the Army was looking for, opposed to the code name for the Vietcong; and that Apple(Computers) was a fruit company.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: During the live broadcast of the first moon landing, everyone at the Army hospital is watching Forrest play Ping-Pong with himself and no one is watching the TV.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Lt. Dan was furious that Forrest saved his life, rather than leave him to die. He eventually gets over his rage.
    • Later in the film, when Lt. Dan fiercely defends Forrest after their female companions call him 'stupid', the implication becomes that while Lt. Dan loses his legs, gets lost in his own misery, and spends decades watching the world fly apart, Forrest is his polar opposite -- innocent, kind, confused and, above all, happy. Lt. Dan doesn't want anything to spoil that.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head

And that's all I have to say about that.