Meaningful Echo

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"You're lying, Dolores. And one must not tell lies."

"Look at us. Look at what they make you give."

Jason Bourne to the Blackbriar assassin, The Bourne Ultimatum

It's quite a popular device in fiction to reuse lines of dialogue. The Ironic Echo is a common trope built around this—when a prominent line of dialogue is repeated later, but with a flipped or surprising new meaning.

A Meaningful Echo is similar to an ironic echo, but without the irony. It occurs when characters, in their usual way, say things to one another. Normally, these things aren't all that notable or special—they're part of normal dialogue. However, later on in the story, one of these "ordinary" lines is repeated. But unlike the original line, it isn't in a normal, throwaway context. It's at a moment of emotional height, when the viewer or reader is deep into the work, making a callback to an earlier scene. Suddenly, the line isn't simple or meaningless anymore. It's heartwarming, tear-jerking, or awesome. If it had meaning before—however minor—it's now been expanded to a much greater context. It's gone from being something ordinary to something extraordinary.

Compare Ironic Echo, Gag Echo, Flashback to Catchphrase, and Arc Words.

Examples of Meaningful Echo include:

Anime and Manga

  • Bleach:
    • The Memories of the Rain arc towards the beginning of the manga has Rukia briefly flashback to someone telling her there are two types of fight (for life and for pride). Towards the end of the Soul Society arc we're given both the context of that comment and the identity of the person who said them.
    • Chapter 352 has a rather meaningful, though quite sinister, echo of Orihime's scream of 'Help me' to Ichigo. Ichigo comes back as a hollow, obsessed with protecting Orihime from everything, who is only capable of saying 'You. I'' Needless to say, it shakes Orihime up pretty bad.
  • In Trigun when the reason for the heaviness of Wolfwood's bundled cross is that it's "because it's so full of mercy!" The cross is actually a gun, the Cross Punisher, in disguise and Wolfwood's an assassin in disguise, and when he says it (in a slightly self-satisfied way) Wolfwood is basically enjoying a nice bit of sarcasm that no one else, at the moment, gets. Near the end of the series, shortly after a redeemed Wolfwood has changed his ways and died defending the cause of trying to save everybody that Vash do desperately believes in, Millie gives the Cross Punisher to Vash. He comments on its heaviness and Millie (Wolfwood's love interest) tells him that's because it's so full of mercy. And this time it is.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Chrono reacts with shock when Rosette overlooks the lights of a city and remarks "[It's] like each light is its own life." A later flashback reveals why: Mary said something very similar to Chrono right before Aion ordered him to kill her.
    • In another scene, a demon screeches to Chrono that he has nowhere to run to, and Rosette retorts "The place where Chrono can go back to was already decided four years ago!" In the very last chapter of the manga, the line is echoed before Chrono and Rosette part ways, when Chrono tells Rosette "Wasn't it you who said "The place where Chrono can go back to was already decided four years ago"? And that place is...wherever you are. So I'll definitely be back."
  • In the Pokémon Special manga, at the climax of the final chapter with Red vs. Green for the title of champion, they both repeat lines which they used right back in the first chapter.
  • Digimon: The exact lines may have been different in the Japanese version, but there's a moment in the movie, the segment known as "Our War Game," in which the Mons are fighting Diaboromon and the kids are back home acting as Mission Control. When they're cut off, Izzy looks at Tai with his best Oh Crap face, saying "connection... terminated." Later, once they get everything sorted out and figure out how to beat Diaboromon, it becomes an awesome Pre-Mortem One-Liner when Omnimon ends the fight by introducing the enemy's skull to his BFS, and says triumphantly, "Connection..." *kachunk!* "...terminated."
  • Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass has the philosophy that "The only ones who should kill are those who are prepared to be killed". He says it several times throughout the series, beginning with the climax of the first episode, directed at The Empire's soldiers who were about to execute him. Then in the final episode, he says it to his friend Suzaku to show that he's prepared to give up his own life for what he believes in as well as to atone for the countless lives he's destroyed on the path to that goal.
  • If you've seen Death Note once, a couple of the shots in Episode Nine (the pencil and the closing smirk, to be specific) are going to stand out a whole lot more.
  • In a recent chapter of One Piece, Vice-Admiral Crane tells Garp that "The sin rests not with you" in regards to Ace being found to be the son of Gold Roger. At the end of the chapter, Garp had a flashback to where Roger himself was telling Garp that "My child who is yet to be born bears no sin."
    • At Gold Roger's death, he told the whole world that his treasure is out there. When Whitebeard was about to die, he proclaimed that One Piece really does exist.
    • Queen Otohime always pinky swears with her children as a promise to make their future better. When she was dying, her oldest son Fukaboshi promises her that they will collect all the signatures she had long fought for and they will protect Shirahoshi, to reassure her that the future will be better. They seal the promise with a pinky swear.
    • In Mihawk's first appearance, he casually slices a ship in half. In Zoro's reappearance after the time-skip and having been trained by Mihawk, he slices a ship in half.
  • Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles has the phrase "what you can't see (on radar) you still can hit". First time, it's just a warning not to get cocky. Second time it's a means of getting determination to fight against superior (and stealthy) enemy.
  • In the first episode of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Kamina says to Simon, "Your drill is the drill that will pierce the heavens!" Then, much later in the series, Simon says to the Big Bad, "My drill is the drill that creates the heavens!"
  • In the early episodes of R.O.D the TV the Paper Sisters occasionally hold "Three Sisters Votes". This is merely a bit of comic relief, since Michelle and Maggie always agree and Anita never gets her way. Then halfway into the series Nenene gets kidnapped, and Anita delivers a passionate plea to her sisters that they had to rescue her. When she's done, Michelle announces a Three Sisters Vote. This time the vote is unanimous.
  • Eureka Seven. Renton saying (in English) "I! CAN! FLY!!!"
  • A Tear Jerker on in Karin where her older brother Ren always gives her nudgies, much to her annoyance. In the end, for the first and only time, he affectionately pats her on the head, remarking how she always hated it when he was rough on her. Then, he wipes her memory of him and her vampire family. Karin's family was planning this from the very beginning, since they know that Karin isn't a normal vampire and was more human than vampire.
  • The title character of Irresponsible Captain Tylor has this: his first and last order to the crew in the series is "Do what you want to do." The first time, it leads to utter anarchy and mutiny. The second time, after Tylor has greatly defused the war, it takes on a whole new meaning, and the crew of the Soyokaze takes it to a broader level. Most of them quit the military; the marines become fishermen, while their dropship pilot and comm officer become models.
    • And then, they continue following it by joining up together again with Yamamoto and Tylor to recrew the Soyokaze after Yamamoto's been reassigned as captain of a new ship.
  • An example where the echo comes from the original speaker: Early on in the manga Dengeki Daisy, Kurosaki insults Teru by telling her "I'm not interested in puny, A-cup girls." Later, he tells the school council president, in response to her flirting, that "I'm only interested in puny, A-cup girls."
  • Early in Countdown to Heaven, the 5th Non-Serial Movie of Detective Conan, Genta chides Mitsuhiko when the later leaves some rice uneaten with "My mom says it's bad luck to leave even one grain of rice." When asked why he saves Ai at the end of the movie, during her attempt at a Heroic Sacrifice, Genta responds with the same line.
  • In episode 21 of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gendo and Naoko Akagi have a conversation. He says he has no regrets about his work, and she calls him a liar, thereby offering the viewer a possible clue about Gendo's silent line in End of Evangelion, which was followed Ritsuko calling him a liar as well. It's further supported by the fact that Ritsuko was there and overheard them talking. She has a lot of issues regarding her similarities to her mother, making the repetition especially meaningful.
    • Evangelion has many other examples, such as:
      • ...the "I'm home"/"Welcome home" exchange between Shinji and Misato. The first time, it takes place when Misato becomes Shinji's guardian and brings him home with her, more as a form of formulaic politeness: Shinji obviously still feels uncomfortable and out of place in Tokyo-3. The second iteration of the dialogue takes place after he ran away and was about to leave the city for good, but couldn't bring himself to get on the train. When he realizes that Misato came for him, these words show that he has accepted Tokyo-3 as his home.
      • A flashback shows Asuka desperately trying to get the attention of a man twice her age by exposing her breasts to him, exclaiming "Look at me!". Soon after that, she is subjected to what was to become the Trope Namer for Mind Rape, and the deep rooted issues that caused her Attention Whore-like behaviour are unearthed. The breasts she was showing were meant to prove that she's an adult, but she was actually acting like a kid that wants attention - therefore, the Mind Rape shows her repeating the "Look at me!" line, this time showing her as a small child, with her face full of tears and snot.
      • In Rebuild, the Children and their friends visit an aquarium. Upon seeing small fish in a tank, Rei, who is an Artificial Human barely kept alive with tons of pills, notes that the fish can only live in an enclosed space, exactly like her. Later, she repeats that "I can only live in here" line, after she was absorbed by an Angel, telling Shinji that he shouldn't risk his life to save her, as she can be replaced. Shinji disagrees, tells her that no one can replace her, and proceeds to rip her directly out of the bastard.
  • Done with an action rather than a word in Gundam Wing: In the first episode, Heero tears up Relena's birthday invitation in order to distance himself from her (saying afterwards, "I'll kill you"). In the last episode, Relena tears up the birthday letter Heero left for her in order to bring them closer (saying afterwards, "Next time, tell me in person").
  • In Tiger and Bunny, Karina/Blue Rose's not sure she wants to continue being a superhero anymore and asks why Kotetsu/Wild Tiger sticks to it so passionately when he gets even less appreciation or acknowledgement for it than anyone of the other heroes. He replies, "I just want to help people in trouble. Isn't that enough of a reason?" When Kotetsu asks if she's made her decision after she saves him at the end of the episode, she simply repeats the same his answer.
  • "Close your eyes". Cue the last credit roll.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam: Look! The East is burning red! is said when Domon first reunites with Master Asia and when he dies.
  • Sailor Moon S, episode 110: "You're so unfair, Michiru..." Any explanation would be a major spoiler.

Comic Books

  • Sin City: "She says her name is Goldie." The first time he's referring to Goldie. The second time he's referring to Wendy, Goldie's twin sister, giving him his final night of passion before he's slated to be executed for the events of the story, who has just told him "You can call me Goldie."
  • "The dump. A breeding ground for insects and rodents," from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, referring to the Mutants gang. When Batman returns to the dump to take charge of the Sons of the Batman:

Some rodents fly.

Fan Works

Voldemort: Well there's an interesting look. So... fierce. No fear like before. Reminds me of your father. (chuckles) Yes, you've no doubt been told that you have your mother's eyes. Even I noticed, and I didn't even know them that well! Of course, it's hard for me to forget the details of the night I died. Anyway, it is true that you have your mother's eyes, but that look... that look is your father's. It's the same look he had right before I killed him. Defiant until the end, he died like a Gryffindor. He died like a fool.

  • Happens several times in Kyon: Big Damn Hero, most notably after the student council calls Kyon to question him for fighting in the high school grounds.

Kyon: I don't really believe that last part, but it's nice of you to say. I just want to point out, though, that a challenge against any one of us is a challenge against all of us(...).
Haruhi: (after barging in the room) Trying to pick us apart by calling out my underlings when I'm not around, eh? Well, you've got a lot to learn! A challenge against one of us is a challenge against all of us!

  • In Luminosity, Bella tells a person who wants to be a vampire that being bitten—which is a requisite for turning—is "not fun". She is quoting, Alice, but the echo comes when Elspeth is with the werewolves. When saying that a friend is probably going to be ill for a week:

Brooke: Bites are not fun.

Film - Animated

Belle says it the first time, pleading for her father's life.
Gaston says it the second time, pleading for his own life.

  • From The Iron Giant, the line "I go... you stay. No following!". Hogarth says it when he has to go home for dinner (and he obviously can't take a giant robot home with him). The Giant says it to Hogarth just before he saves the town via an explosive Heroic Sacrifice.
    • There's also Dean's advice to Hogart, "You are who you choose to be." Hogarth then tells it to the Giant to stop his rampage. And then it literally echoes in the Giant's memory as he heads off to his Heroic Sacrifice.
    • One word: "Superman"
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride Kiara quotes Simba's previous 'we are one' speech back to him to make him understand that the outlanders are no different from them.
  • Toy Story - "This isn't flying - it's falling with style!"
    • Toy Story 2 Buzz tells Woody "You are a toy!", referring back to the first film where Woody says this to Buzz multiple times.
      • Specifically, he shouts back Woody's exact line, with one minor change. "You aren't a space ranger a collectible, you are a child's plaything!"
    • Toy Story 3 As a Call Back to the second film, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head exclaim, " You have saved our lives! We are eternally grateful." after the aliens save them and the other main characters from a fiery death.
    • "The Claaaw..." in the first movie, the LG Ms in the crane game have a religious reverence for said crane. In the third movie, the LG Ms that have joined the group say it after using the giant crane at the dump to save everyone from falling into the incinerator.
  • WALL-E - "Directive."
  • Lilo and Stitch - "Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind. Or forgotten."
    • Said first by Lilo, stopping Nani from taking Stitch back to the shelter and, without realizing it, saving his life. And then later, said by Stitch when he breaks Lilo out of Gantu's prison case.

"You came back..."

"Nobody gets left behind.

    • You teared up reading that, and you know it.
  • In the Aladdin sequel The Return of Jafar, when Jafar shows himself for the first time to Genie and Abu, Genie tries to reassure Abu by saying that he's still a genie, "and genies can't kill anyone." Jafar, in response, turns his arms into dragons and blasts Genie, whereupon he revises his earlier statement: "But you'd be surprised what you can live through."
    • The line is used again when Jafar attempts to convince Abis Mal to use his last wish to free him from the lamp, providing him with all the treasure he could ever wish for as persuasion. Abis Mal is about to make the wish, but then asks how he can be sure the treasure won't disappear when he does. Jafar threatens his life in response, and when Abis Mal reminds him that genies can't kill, Jafar replies "You'd be surprised what you can live through."
    • And the last instance, when the heroes mourn Iago's Heroic Sacrifice, Aladdin mentions that he thought genies couldn't kill anybody. Cue Iago coughing up the Genie's earlier line, "You'd be surprised what you can live through."
  • The Incredibles. Villain Syndrome reenacts his "I'm your number one fan" confession to Mr. Incredible as a reminiscent to the time when Syndrome was just an excited boy, who wanted nothing but to be Mr. Incredible's sidekick and who was spurned by his idol and thus turned to evil.
    • Syndrome also calls back to Dash dismissing his mom's claim of "everyone's special" with "Which is another way of saying no one is. " when he says that "And when everyone's super, (Evil Laugh) no one will be. "
  • How to Train Your Dragon:

Hiccup: I did this...

    • Said again by his father after the final battle, when he finds Toothless without Hiccup, and believes his son is dead.

Stoick: We're vikings. It's an occupational hazard.

    • Said by Hiccup right before fighting the Big Bad. Even though he did not overhear his father say it, he quotes his exact words.

Hiccup: You just pointed to all of me...

  • Ice Age: The first movie has the line "That's what you do in a herd." It's first said by Manny when he saves Diego's life, and later by Diego when he saves Manny's life. Also, both instances happened in near-death situations, and in fact Diego is apparently dying when he makes the same reply back to Manny, but somewhat differently, as their situations are reversed.

Manny: You didn't have to do that.
Diego: That's what you do in a herd.

  • Treasure Planet: Jim talks about how people back home don't respect him, and how he knows how to save the ship and crew, if they turn around into what is currently a raging inferno.

Jim: But I'm gonna change all that.

  • Earlier in Tangled, Gothel wearily proclaims that she looked like "the bad guy" in an argument with Rapunzel. The second time she says it, she takes on the role more literally.
    • The healing incantation originally refers to Gothel's greed and her desire for beauty ("make the clock reverse, bring back what once was mine.") When Flynn had died, Rapunzel sang the line "bring back what once was mine", making it a lot sadder this time around.
  • Nine: "Sometimes, one must be sacrificed for the good of many..."
  • Tarzan:

Tarzan: Clayton!
Clayton: ...Have we met?

    • The first time it's said, Tarzan is mistaking Clayton's name as a term for gunshot, with Clayton being confused by it. The second time Tarzan is calling out to Clayton for help, whereupon Clayton shows his true trecharous colours.
  • Subverted in the The Simpsons Movie. When Homer is trying to convince Marge to move to Alaska, he says, in a rather poignant scene, that in a marriage everyone gets one chance to say "I need you to do this with me" and have their spouse trust them. Later Marge repeats the line when they need to save Springfield, only for Homer to scoff. "That's the stupidest thing I ever heard!"
  • The Adventures of Tintin:

Tintin: What was it you said, Captain? You hit a wall...
Captain Haddock: You push through it.

Roz: And I don't want to see any paperwork on this.

Film - Live-Action

  • The page quote is from The Bourne Series (the films), and is first said as the last words of one of the assassins sent to kill Bourne, and is echoed by Bourne when another agent has him dead to rights.
  • Dirty Harry has a famous example. Early in the film Harry gives his "Do you feel lucky, punk?" speech in a jokey manner to an inept bank robber. In the film's climax, Harry gives the exact same speech to the Complete Monster Scorpio Killer, this time his delivery is full of venom and dead serious.
  • In the School of Rock Freddy quotes Dewey's previous speech back to him in order to get him to come along to the show.
  • "To 1966! The year one!" -- Rosemary's Baby. The second time is much more sinister.
  • Inception has three:
    • Dom's repetition of Saito's words about dying alone as an old man, filled with regret.
    • The entire You're waiting for a train speech given by Mal was originally said by Cobb, when he and Mal were stuck in Limbo. He says this as they lay their heads on a railroad track, so a train could run over their heads to wake themselves up.
    • "So, do you want to take a leap of faith?"
  • In The Machinist, Trevor has the exact same conversation with Stevie (a call-girl) and with Maria late on. This is a clue that Maria doesn't exist and his only in his imagination.

Stevie/Maria: Are you okay?
Trevor: Don't I look okay?
Stevie/Maria: If you were any thinner you wouldn't exist.

  • Batman Begins. Rachel Dawes reproaches Bruce Wayne for acting like a Rich Idiot With No Day Job. He tries to defend himself, but since he doesn't yet want anyone to know he's secretly a superhero, he just vaguely hints that there's a lot more to him than the playboy facade he wears in public. She isn't satisfied with his answer, telling him "It's not who you are underneath, but what you do, that defines you." Later, when Rachel asks Batman his name, Bats answers indirectly (in a way that, to most people, would come across as a simple refusal to answer) by referring to the last line of her prior reproach: "It's not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me."
  • A Beautiful Mind Two examples:

Hansen: You scared?
Nash: Terrified. Mortified. Petrified. Stupefied... by you.

    • And:

Hansen: Gentlemen, the great John Nash.

    • Later:

Parcher: Ladies and Gentlemen, the Great John Nash!

  • Cool Hand Luke: "What we've got here is [a] failure to communicate."
  • Most phrases that the title character of ET the Extraterrestrial learns to say, most notably "I'll be right here."
  • In Enchanted Giselle tells Robert in the beginning that she's searching for her Prince and True Love's Kiss, because it's "the most powerful force in the world." In the end, after Giselle has been put in an enchanted sleep by Queen Narissa, he remarks that only True Love's Kiss can save her--"It's the most powerful thing in the world."
    • Also, "Is this a habit of yours? Falling off of stuff?" "Only when someone's around to catch me." Only in the echo it becomes "Only when you're around to catch me."
    • A subtle one was that the first song sung in the film contained the lyric "I've been dreaming of a true love's kiss." The last song sung by Carrie Underwood in the Where Are They Now? Epilogue also contained the lyric "I've been dreaming of a true love's kiss." Also counts as a Book Ends.
  • "By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!" This is established early on in Galaxy Quest as the Catch Phrase of Dr. Lazarus. Alexander Dane, who plays Dr. Lazarus, has grown sick of hearing it from his fans. Eventually, though, he says it with real meaning as one of the Thermians dies in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry throws Umbridge's punishment back in her face:

Umbridge: [being carried away by rampaging centaurs] Tell them I mean them no harm!
Harry: I'm sorry, Professor. "I Must Not Tell Lies."

  • Killing Zoe gives us "I'll show you the real Paris." From what we see the first time, it's enough to make someone never want to venture from the tourism hotspots.
  • Love Story: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."
  • Miss Congeniality: The lead Grace is coerced into pretending to compete in the Miss America contest, and while being coached by Michael Caine's character is repeatedly told to say "Yes", never "yeah". Kathy Morningside, the head of the pageant, also reminds her that it is not a beauty pageant, it is a scholarship program. Later in the film, when Grace is escorting the villain of the story into a cop car...

Morningside: They steal my life! They steal my beauty pageant!
Grace: Hey! Hey! It is not a beauty pageant! It is a scholarship program!
Morningside: Yeah, yeah...
Grace: Yes. [slams cop car door]

  • Path to 9/11: Donnie Wahlberg's line "He won't let us down." is followed, much later, by "We let him down.".
  • The Philadelphia Story: "My she was yare!"
    • Also: "With the rich and mighty, always a little patience."
  • The Princess Bride: "As you wish."
  • Speed Racer: At the beginning of the film, Speed flashes back to him and big brother Rex driving on the Thunderhead and Rex telling him about how the car is a living thing, and that Speed needs to listen to the car tell him what it needs. At the climax, when Speed is stalled in the Grand Prix, a watching Racer X echoes this, revealing to the audience that he's really Rex.
  • The HBO original Strip Search is an entire movie built on this trope. It shows parallel interrogations of an American woman by a Chinese soldier and an Arab man by a female American federal agent using the exact same script. Some lines are more intimidating in one context over the other (an offhand comment about visiting Israel is much creepier when delivered to the Arab man), but in general the movie draws most of its emotional power from seeing the Americans treat a prisoner exactly the same as China.
  • Star Wars: "I love you." "I know."
  • Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one."

[after Kirk takes over as Acting Captain]
Uhura: I sure hope you know what you're doing, Captain.
[after Kirk is promoted to Captain for real, with a much more pleasant emphasis]
Uhura: Dock control reports ready, Captain.

    • Also, in Spock Prime's first meeting with Kirk, he told him "I have been, and always shall be, your friend".
    • An interesting one, where both Captain Robau and Captain Pike both surrender themselves to Nero, to buy the rest of the crew enough time to either escape or fight back.
  • In Return to Oz, Doctor Worley recommends electroshock therapy, stating that it's "just the thing to cheer Dorothy up." Later on, during his Pet the Dog moment, the Nome King (Worley's counterpart in Oz) exclaims "I know just the thing to cheer you up!" a subtle indication that his offer is just as much a Death Trap as the shock therapy.
  • In the beginning of A Knight's Tale, Roland mentions to William how God loves him and he replies because no one else will. Near the end, when William was in the stocks and being ridiculed by the crowds, Roland stands by his side and reminds him that God loves him and so does he.
    • "You have been weighed. You have been measured. And you have been found wanting."
  • In the Denzel Washington movie Deja Vu, Doug Carlin asks Claire Kuchever, "What if you had to tell someone the most important thing in the world, but you knew they'd never believe you?" She responds, "I'd try." At the end of the movie, Claire asks Doug the same, and he responds the same.
  • Batman Returns.

"Mistletoe can be deadly if you eat it."
"A kiss can be even deadlier if you mean it."

    • First time this exchange happens between Batman and Catwoman during a brief but sensual moment in a fight. When later they meet at a dancing party in their normal-life appearances (and unaware of each other's secret) they accidentally repeat the lines and thus recognise each other right away.
  • In The Lord of the Rings second film The Two Towers, Eomer and Theoden had made comments that hope isn't meant to be found in Rohan. Before the battle at Helm's Deep, a young boy drafted into the battle almost hopelessly mentioned to Aragorn that he has heard from others that there is no hope. Having heard Eomer and Theoden earlier, Aragorn simply replied back that "There is always hope". If you've read the appendices, you realize these are lots and lots of Anvilicious references to Aragorn's childhood name: Estel, pronounced the femmy way, is Elvish for "hope."
    • And an odd backwardsish one: In the theatrical version of The Two Towers, Faramir has two rather odd lines that don't quite mesh with David Wenham's usual delivery: "A chance for Faramir, captain of Gondor, to prove his quality," and "Tell him I send a mighty gift." A flashback in the extended edition reveals the source of the phrases he's repeating: both lines were spoken by Faramir's father in an earlier scene of heartbreaking emotional abuse.
  • In The Sound of Music, Rolf sings to Liesel "Sixteen Going On Seventeen", as him giving her advice, since he is older than her by a year. Later on, Maria (now married to Captain Von Trap) sings the song to Liesel after Rolf had acted indifferently towards her, in guidance on how she will someday find the right man.
    • The scene itself where Rolf and Liesel were singing together in the garden and proclaiming their love for one another is shown again when Maria and Captain Von Trap were singing together in the same garden, also declaring their love for each other. The Ironic Echo comes in when the first couple did not last, while the latter did and got married.
  • From The Mask of Zorro, in the beginning in the movie, Don Diego, the first Zorro, was telling his adventures to his baby daughter before abruptly changing the ending, as his wife was watching in amusement. Then, at the end of the movie, Alejandro, the new Zorro, was telling a story to his newborn child, before quickly changing the story's ending, as he noticed his wife (Don Diego's daughter) was watching him.
  • The 2010 Alice in Wonderland movie does it so much that you could make a drinking game out of it. There's at least half a dozen in the 90-minute film.
  • In the Mortal Kombat movie, Johnny Cage says "This is where you fall down" to his final opponent in the film shoot (who forgot to react like he was actually hit), and later to Goro, his final opponent in the tournament (who's hanging on by his fingers after being knocked over a cliff).
  • From the newest movie version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe:

Peter: "Why can't you just do as you're told?"

  • From the first Spider-Man movie, the line "Don't tell Harry" is said at least twice. The first time is when Peter discovers that Mary Jane works in a cafe and she asks him not to tell Harry. The second time is when Norman just impaled himself on his own glider and his last words to Peter was not to tell Harry.
    • Mary Jane and Peter had just ran into each other and he tells her that "I was in the neighborhood". Later, when she was about to be attacked by some thugs, Spiderman saves her and tells her the exact same lines.
  • Rush Hour: The first movie contains a scene where some henchmen beat up Carter. Sang, one of the villains, says, "Wipe yourself off, you're bleeding." Towards the end of the movie, Carter fatally shoots Sang and says, "Wipe yourself off, man. You dead."
  • Office Space: "Fuckin' A". First said by Peter's neighbor Lawrence, and then by Peter himself at the end of the movie.
  • Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation: The recording of the titular conversation is played over and over, but its true meaning isn't understood until the final repetition. Of course, it's partially implied that the ending was All Just a Dream anyway, and the recording might not mean that at all.
  • In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin mentions that he once used "aggressive negotiations"; that is, negotiations with a lightsaber. Later in the film, during the battle in the stadium, Anakin asks Padme, "You call this a diplomatic solution?" Padme replies, "No, I call it "aggressive negotiations"."
  • At the action climaxes of the first and third film of the same words are repeated, halting the fight completely.
  • In Coldblooded, the veteran hitman tells the apprentice hitman "you're too close" (meaning he'll get splattered by blood from his victim) on his first hit. Much later, when the former apprentice pulls out a gun to kill the veteran hitman, his last words are "you're too close."
  • A terrifying twist in Being John Malkovich. Near the beginning of the movie Craig and Lotte are making dinner and the parrot is being annoying. When Lotte goes to put it up it says "Help! She's locking me in a cage!" and it's kind of cute. Later in the movie however when Craig goes crazy and stuffs Lotte in a cage, she screams "Help! He's locking me in a cage!". Not so cute.
  • In The Lovely Bones the last words Ray says to Suzie before she is murdered are "You are beautiful, Suzie Salmon". Later on when she enters Ruth's body so she and Ray could have their first kiss, he repeats the line.
  • In Executive Decision, when Dr. Grant is trying to land the plane.
  • From Tron: Legacy, after rescuing Sam, Quorra attempts to make a jump with Sam telling her they won't make it. After she made the jump, she responds with "Made it." Later with their roles reversed, Sam rescuing Quorra from the command tower, she doesn't think they'll be able to escape. After jumping from the tower using Sam's BASE skills and landing safely, he says "Made it."
    • Sam announces that "I'm not a program. My name is Sam Flynn" twice. The first time was when Jarvis and Clu were inquiring his identity and Sam was trying to figure out what was going on. The second time was as a Badass Boast when he was confronting the guards in Clu's ship.
    • One that is hard to notice:

Kevin Flynn (in a clip at the beginning, talking about the Grid): "In there is a new world! In there is our future! In there is our destiny!"
CLU (Near the climax, talking about Earth): "Out there is a new world! Out there is our victory! Out there is our destiny!"

Theron, just before sleeping with Queen Gorgo: This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this. I'm not your King.
Queen Gorgo, just before she kills Theron: This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this. I am not your Queen!

  • In Yankee Doodle Dandy, when the 4 Cohans perform together, George M. Cohan thanks the audience by saying, "My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you and I thank you." At the end of the movie when President Franklin Roosevelt presents him with the Medal of Freedom, Cohan thanked the President with those same words.
  • In X Men First Class, Raven/Mystique encountering Charles in a kitchen in her true form when they first meet. However, the second time shows how they have both changed and starting to grow apart in ideals. Bonus for them switching positions. The first time, it was Raven by the fridge with Charles walking in. The second time was Charles by the fridge with Raven walking in.
  • In the first scene of Machete, when Machete's partner tries to talk him out of going up against the powerful drug lord Torrez, Machete asks him, "If not us, then who?" Towards the end of the film, when a pair of local teenagers offer to help Machete battle Torrez and his men, he blows them off until one of them asks him, "If not us, then who?" He relents.


  • In Watership Down, "There's a dog loose in the wood."
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First & Only, Gaunt leads Tanith First—the "First And Only", since their planet was destroyed and no more regiments will be raised. In the Flash Back where Gaunt learns how his father died, the woman telling him starts by saying that he is his father's "first and only" son.
    • Only in Death has a much darker version -

Are we the last ones left alive? Are we? Someone, anyone, please? Are we? Is there anybody out there? Are we the last ones left alive?

  • In Jim Butcher's Death Masks, Harry Dresden is trying to negotiate with Don Paolo Ortega, a duke from the Red Court. During the negotiations, Ortega has a drink of beer, prompting Harry to ask why he drinks beer when all he needs is blood. Ortega responds with a profound "Life is more than mere survival." Minutes later, Ortega offers to turn Harry into a Red Court vampire, citing the upside as Harry continuing to survive. Ortega starts ranting at Harry, screaming at Harry that he will die. "I thought that life is more than mere survival."

Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face.

    • becomes this:

Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't a wizard's ghost standing beside you with tears in his eyes.

  • Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner: "For you, a thousand times over!" is heart-wrenching enough in its first appearance; its recall at the end demands several boxes of Kleenex.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the former Trope Namer. The first time out, Dumbledore is escorting Harry somewhere, and expresses his confidence that Voldemort and his Mooks will not accost them because "You are with me." The second time, the same two have just gone out on a quest to weaken You-Know-Who, successfully, though at great cost to Dumbledore's health. Dumbledore expresses his confidence in Harry by turning the phrase around: "I am not worried, Harry. I am with you."
  • In Coraline, Ms Spink remarks that Coraline, who appeared to be talking nonsense (when she was trying to lure out the hand of the Other Mother), was an extraordinary girl. Then, later, when Coraline thanks Ms Spink and hugs her, she says the same line, only this time in amazement and gratitude, as no one had hugged her like that for a very long time.
  • From Holes: Ms Katherine often asked Sam the onion man (who she liked, but couldn't act on her feelings due to Sam being black) to help her fix things in her schoolhouse, to which he would always cheerfully reply "I can fix that". Finally, when she couldn't think of anymore excuses to continue seeing Sam, she told him that her heart is breaking. To which he says "I can fix that". And then, he kissed her.
  • A Thread of Grace: Whenever Claudia would complain about how a group of people were bad, her mother always told her to "name two." If she couldn't name two, it was just an irrational prejudice. Later on, after Claudia's become orphaned and widowed, she joins the Italian Resistance who managed to capture a group of Nazis. The Nazis had pictures of Jews they hung in the woods for "crimes." Claudia orders the the Nazi Officer to "name two" crimes. The officer couldn't. The Resistance proceeds to beat the Nazis to death. Also doubles as a Hope Spot.
  • In Malevil, Man Child Momo had a Catch Phrase, "Leave me alone for God's sake". At the end of the novel, his mother says the same thing before withdrawing from the group and suddenly dying.
  • In The Host, Ian and Wanderer are talking and Ian says "Strange world, isn't it?" to which Wanderer replies "The strangest." Then at the very end, Wanderer and Burns repeat the conversation, and this time Wanderer says "It's a strange world."
  • In Bridge of Birds, Ten Ox and Fainting Maid's first stroll through the gardens leads to them arguing about whether a bird is a cuckoo or a magpie imitating the sound of a cuckoo. Later on, Master Li induces Fainting Maid to faint right into a deep well after exposing her as the murderess of her father's concubine and lover and then tells her father that as far as he's concerned, all he hears is the sound of a magpie imitating the sounds of a scream and a splash.
  • There is an example in the The Lord of the Rings books that lampshades Not So Different and War Is Hell: Even when the heroes have We ARE Struggling Together! and the villains have an Enemy Civil War, both sides knew that their enemies will destroy them ruthlessly:
    • In the second book, the orks Gorbag said to Shagrat:

But don't forget: the enemies don't love us any more than they love Him, and if they get topsides on Him, we're done too.

    • In the third book, after Frodo and Sam saw a little ork kill another of their own:

For a while the hobbits sat in silence. At length Sam stirred. 'Well I call that neat as neat,' he said. 'If this nice friendliness would spread about in Mordor, half our trouble would be over.'
'Quietly, Sam,' Frodo whispered. 'There may be others about. We have evidently had a very narrow escape, and the hunt was hotter on our tracks than we guessed. But that is the spirit of Mordor, Sam; and it has spread to every corner of it. Orcs have always behaved like that, or so all tales say, when they are on their own. But you can't get much hope out of it. They hate us far more, altogether and all the time. If those two had seen us, they would have dropped all their quarrel until we were dead.'

  • In John C. Wright's Count to a Trillion, the princess tells Menelaus that they should not quibble about the new century beginning with 2401, as it's too widely accepted by the commoners; later she observes that she's not a queen, and he tells that given that it's so widely accepted, she should not quibble.
  • "I am the thing you cannot kill. I am hope." These are the last words of Kelsier to the Big Bad in Mistborn. At the end of the same book, the Big Bad's killer turns these words into a Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
  • In Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel, "Go now, and Sin no more." First from Elijah Bailey to R. Daneel Olivaw, trying to make the robot understand the difference between enforcing the law and true justice: the second time, from Olivaw to the killer, showing that he has understood the lesson.

Live-Action TV

  • Angel (episode 2x10, "Reunion"): "And yet I just can't seem to care."
    • Also, "Let's get to work", the final line of the series, was said by Angel in the first episode before he stormed the bad guy's lair.
    • In the episode "A Hole in the World", the episode begins with the characters light-heartedly debating who would win in a fight: Cavemen or Astronauts? Fred is infected by the spirit of an ancient demon and it becomes apparent that none of their powerful, modern magics can stop it. As she nears death, she whispers "Cavemen win. Of course the cavemen win."
    • In the Season 1 episode "Hero", the words Doyle says at the end of the commercial Cordelia films become painful when the commercial is replayed at the end, after he dies. "Is that it? Am I done?"
  • Used in an episode of Drop Dead Diva.
  • The Eureka episode "I Do Over" does this with several lines. Granted, you'd expect an episode centering around a time loop to repeat lines, but this episode does it in such a way that the lines echo, rather than simply repeating, and the meaning changes with the timeline.
  • Farscape - "Was it a bass or a trout?"
  • In Firefly's "War Stories," Kaylee wins a game against River and jokingly declares "No power in the 'Verse can stop me." River uses the same line near the end of the episode after gunning down three of Niska's men with her eyes closed to save Kaylee, giving the line a much more chilling effect.
    • Don't forget the episode "Message":

Tracey: "When you can't run, you crawl. And when you can't do that... well, when you can't do that-"
Zoe: "You find someone to carry you."

  • Lexx Kai died in the first scene of the series singing while flying to battle. Four seasons later, he beats the devil in chess to win a chance at life again, but the devil disappears and Kai still seems to be undead. A while later, in the series finale, Kai embarks on a dangerous mission that will save countless lives by destroying a Cosmic Horror, and the devil reappears unexpectedly to fulfill his end of the bargain by returning him to life. As an undead assassin, Kai had a chance of returning intact, but as a mere mortal, it's a hopeless suicide mission. That's when he starts singing again...
  • Used quite a bit in Lost, mostly with "live together, die alone," and "don't tell me what I can't do."
    • Most awesomely?

Rose: Jack, if you say 'live together, die alone' to me I will slap you in the face.

    • A more plot related example occurs when the person posing as Locke reveals his true identity to Richard via a phrase--"it's good to see you out of those chains"—which the man, in his original form, said to Richard 140 years earier.
    • The physical therapist who taught John to use a wheelchair said, "You fell eight stories and survived, okay? I don't wanna hear about what you can't do."
    • And in the series final, when Jack tells Desmond "I'll see you in another life, brother." He does, literally.
    • Hurley's Berserk Button is people calling him "nuts", "insane" or "crazy", even if it's just in jest,[1] leading to his other Catch Phrase, a very insistent, serious declaration that "I'm not crazy". In the epilogue, Hurley visits Walt, a similarly "special" individual.

Walt: They said I was crazy.
Hurley: You're not crazy, dude. Not even close.

  • In the M*A*S*H episode "A War for All Seasons", Colonel Potter rings in 1951 with the heartfelt and hopeful toast "Here's to the new year. May she be a damn sight better than the last one, and may we all be home before she's over." After an episode taking place over an entire year where nothing changes, we end with Potter giving the same toast in a far more somber fashion.
    • In the season 3 episode "O.R.", visiting psychiatrist Sidney Freedman tells the 4077th staff: "Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice." In the show's final episode, he repeats the line while departing camp for the last time.
  • In an episode of Stargate Atlantis, we meet McKay's sister for the first time, as they had been estranged for some time after she quit her education. She hated him particularly because he never even wrote or called, even on holidays (even before he was trapped in another galaxy). "Just two or three times a year? Are you happy? Are you okay? That would have been enough!" At the end, Rodney admits he's wrong (a very rare occasion), and as the two tearfully embrace, Rodney asks, "Are you happy? Are you okay?"
    • Rodney McKay said the following to Jennifer Keller when thought he was about to die, which Keller echoed several episodes later after Rodney saved her life:

I love you. I have for some time now. I just thought you should know.

Leo: Don't help me.
Josh: I'm gonna help ya, 'cause y'know why?
Leo: 'Cause you walk around with so much guilt about everyone you love dying that you're a compulsive fixer?
Josh: No, Leo, no, it's 'cause a guy's walkin' down the street and he falls in a hole.

    • This is an echo from the previous season when recovering alcoholic Leo explains why PTSD-suffering Josh doesn't need to worry about his job security.

LEO: A guy's walking down the street and he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A priest walks by, the guy calls up, "Hey, father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" Priest writes him a prayer and throws it down in the hole. A doctor walks by. "Hey, you, can you help me out?" Doctor writes a prescription, throws it in the hole and keeps walking. His friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me." The friend jumps down in the hole with him. Our guy says, "Are you stupid? Now we're both down here!" The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out." (Beat) As long as I've got a job here, you've got a job here.

Barney: It's a poem,Ted!
Ted: It's a poem, Barney!

  • Torchwood: "Children of Earth." In Day One, Jack gets Ianto out of a dangerous situation, saying "I can survive anything." In Day Four, he must add "but you can't." And Ianto dies.
  • The Sarah Jane Adventures has a real Shout-Out of an echo in The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith, featuring an appearance from the Doctor. Their last words to each other echoing a phrase spoken between them twenty years ago, with the Doctor asking her not to forget him: and this time Sarah Jane has an answer. Even more poignant is that this is almost David Tennant's last appearance as the Doctor. The next time she sees him will be the last, at least in this form.

Doctor: Don't forget me, Sarah Jane.
Sarah Jane: No one's ever going to forget you.

  • In the pilot episode of House, House says: "As the philosopher Jagger once said, "You can't always get what you want." At the end of the episode "Wilson's Heart" House has a vision in which she's on a bus with Amber, who just died because of a bus accident. He tells her that he wants to die; she responds: "Well... you can't always get what you want."
    • The sheer amount of times that song is either referred to or played in the soundtrack approaches the level of absurdity.
  • Dexter Season 4: "It doesn't matter what I do, what I choose... I'm what's wrong." First said by Debra when she is breaking down in guilt over Lundy's death, and her ruined relationship with Anton. Later said by Dexter when he finds his son sitting in Rita's blood.
    • Dexter does this consistently throughout the series. Since he often doesn't know what to say in a given situation, or how to articulate his emotions, he ends up parroting other people's words, sometimes with success, sometimes inappropriately.
    • An excellent example is when he listens in to the police interview of a female stalker who has murdered a man she has never met because she was obsessed with him. Dexter later uses the bizarre outpouring of her feelings for this man as his word-for-word proposal of marriage to his girlfriend, Rita. Rita is, of course, thrilled by the romantic phrasing while the viewer, knowing the previous context, has chills down the spine.
  • From Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Repeated twice by Tara in Buffy's dream in the season 4 finale, and then repeated by Dracula in the season 5 opener:

"You think you know: what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun."

    • In the episode The Gift, Buffy tells Dawn that "the hardest thing in this world is to live in it" before making a Heroic Sacrifice. Towards the end of "Once More With Feeling", Dawn repeats those words.
    • In Season 6 "As You Were" Riley Finn, having seen his relationship with Buffy collapse because she doesn't love him, returns to find Buffy at a low point in her life. He states that he loves her regardless, that nothing he's seen her do affects that in the least, and concludes by saying "You're a hell of a woman." In "Touched" Spike, having seen his own relationship with Buffy end for exactly the same reason, rallies her at a low point in her life with a Love Confession that concludes with the same words.
    • Dark!Willow says "Bored now" just before killing Warren. The line was used by the evil Wishverse vampire Willow, yet Willow herself had never heard the line being used, making its use in this context particularly chilling (well, that and the whole flaying-alive thing).
    • Angel tells Buffy just before they make love for the first time; "I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop." When Buffy becomes involved with another vampire, Spike, she insists their relationship is purely sexual, because she is terrified that history is repeating itself.

Spike: I love you.
Buffy: (upset) No, you don't!
Spike: You think I haven't tried not to?
(Buffy punches Spike clear across the alley) Try harder!

    • And that dialogue is then echoed in the series finale, as Spike makes his Heroic Sacrifice.

Buffy: I love you.
Spike: No, you don't. But thanks for saying it.

The Doctor: [aims at the Master] "Get out of the way." (shoots a console)
The Master: [aims at the Doctor] "Get out of the way." (shoots Rassilon)

    • A possibly unintentional example, as there are nearly fifty years in between, but the circumstances are very similar when you think about it. The first time, it's the Doctor trying to keep his companion from trying to change the past by interfering with a Human Sacrifice. The second time, it's a companion trying to keep the Doctor from trying to change her past by interfering with her Heroic Sacrifice.

The Doctor: You can't change history, Barbara! Not one line!
River Song: Not those times. Not one line.

    • There's a lot of running in Doctor Who. In fact, one of the Doctor's first lines in the new series was "Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!" When the Eleventh Doctor is facing down the first major threat to Earth in his new body, what does he say to them, after a Badass Boast to end all Badass Boasts? "Run."
    • In the episode Blink, Sergeant Billy Shipton asks Sally out for a drink. Why? "Because life is short and you are hot." A few minutes later, when they see each other again, he's aged about fifty years and on his deathbed, he tells her that "life is long...and you are hot."
  • Veronica Mars: The pilot establishes that "Who's your daddy?" is Keith's (somewhat oddball) way of saying he has his daughter's back. This is repeated twice later on: first is part way through the first season when Veronica's paternity is in question, he reveals after a test that he is indeed her biological father, and again in the last episode of season one where he rescues his daughter from being burned alive by the Big Bad
  • Ashes to Ashes - In the first episode of Series 3, Gene comments on how he accidentally shot Alex at the end of series 2, saying 'you fell all wrong', and Alex replies with 'Sometimes in life, you can't help which way you fall.'. At the end of the episode, a woman who got involved in a kidnapping because she was in love with a criminal repeats this exact line to Alex, which now has new meaning because it makes Alex think about whether she might be falling for Gene (in the metaphorical and not literal sense).
  • Scrubs: Season 5, "My Lunch" - Dr. Cox lectures J.D. about how, once you start blaming yourself for other people's deaths, it's a "slippery slope that you can't come back from," and that he's seen it ruin people. At the end of the episode, after the three patients, including Dr. Cox's friend, die from rabies, J.D. reminds Dr. Cox of the same thing. It almost does ruin him, as seen in the following episode. Guess who pulls Dr. Cox out of his slump?.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation - "The Most Toys": Interstellar thief, "collector", kidnapper and ultimately murderer, Kivas Fajo, tells Data in Evil Gloating that Data can't feel as he's "only an android". At the end, when Fajo's been brought to justice, Data tells him that his entire collection has been confiscated, leading to this:

Fajo: It must give you great pleasure.
Data: No sir, it does not. I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android.

    • His demeanor makes it quite clear that Data is lying (for the second time that day).


  • In the Barenaked Ladies song, 'Tonight is the Night I Fell Asleep at the Wheel' we hear, "You're the last thing on my mind." After the accident, the singer lies dying in his car, saying as the last line of the song, "You're the last thing on my mind."
  • The Tim McGraw song Don't Take the Girl repeats the title three times with gradually increasing meaning.
  • The chorus from Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris. The first time Jack breaks his toy horse and Jack repeats it almost word-for-word years later under different-yet-similar circumstances:

"Did you think I would leave you crying
"When there's room on my horse for two?
"Climb up here, Jack, and don't be crying
"I can go just as fast with two."

    • Turns into:

"Did you think I would leave you dying
"When there's room on my horse for two?
"Climb up here, Joe, and don't be crying
"I can go just as fast with two."


  • Similar to the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix example mentioned above, several stage versions of the musical Annie have one particular sequence that uses this trope. Early in the play, Ms. Hannigan tells Annie that her one rule is "never tell a lie". At the end, when Hannigan begs her to tell the police she's been a kind and loving orphanage matron, Annie says "Remember the one thing you always taught me: never tell a lie."
  • In Children of Eden, Father says "No more questions, daughter Eve. It's time to sleep" twice. The first time is when she's an excited child tiring herself out with curiosity. The second is when she's a grandmother about to die, worrying about the future of her children and humanity.
    • "Oh Father, please don't make me choose/Either way it's more than I can bear to lose", is sung by Adam, Abel, and Noah.
    • 'Father's Day' is echoed by Cain's bitter "Is this what it means to be a father...?" The first time, the tune is innocent and soothing, and the second time, it's bitter and mocking.
    • Noah reprises "The Mark Of Cain": the first time, it was an epic number with the entire cast onstage, and his reprise is much more mellow but also more heartbreaking.
    • Mama Noah sings part of 'The Spark Of Creation' to Noah in the second act, telling him that he 'must be the father now.'
    • The tune of the titular song crops up first as Father presenting the garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, Eve saying goodbye to all her children in the first act finale, Yonah setting the dove free in the second act, and then by the cast to the audience at the very end of the play, with a different meaning each time. In case you can't tell, Children of Eden LOVES this trope.
  • Rent. The final chorus of "I'll Cover You."
    • Same idea, but somewhat subverted in Roger's words to Mimi in "Another Day"- "Who do you think you are/barging in on me and my guitar"- in that he changes them when he sings to her at the end of "Finale" to "Who do you think you are/Leaving me alone with my guitar". Cue Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Wicked features Elphaba's musical repetition of "unlimited" - from her solo "Unlimited / My future is unlimited" of "The Wizard and I" to her "Unlimited / Together we're unlimited" spoken to Glinda in "Defying Gravity" to her "Unlimited / The damage is unlimited" in the full version of "No Good Deed" to her final "I'm limited / Just look at me, I'm limited" in "For Good."
  • In Curtains, after Lieutenant Cioffi solves the murders and restores the love of the theater in the jaded company, Randy profoundly recites his line in the reworked scene from the very beginning of the show.

"You came to us as a stranger, rid this place of crime, and gave us a new hope in ourselves. That's gonna be one tough act to follow.

Big Momma / Maggie: I love you.
Big Daddy / Brick: Wouldn't it be funny if that were true.

  • Vanities: The Musical(the off-Broadway version): "Let Life Happen", the last song of the second act, is echoed in "Setting Your Sights (What You Wanted)", the first song of the third act. "One life, and all you have to do is let it happen..." Another echo, this time of the lyric "if you don't give (your obsessive organization) up, it's gonna drive you mad", occurs in "An Organized Life (1974)": "If that's how you organize your existence, you have an organized nervous breakdown... It's what you tried to tell me way back in college..."
  • In My Fair Lady, when Eliza went to Henry Higgins to ask him to give her speech lessons, he said "She's so deliciously low! So horribly dirty!" To which she indignantly replied, "I washed my face and hands before I come, I did." Towards the end, when Higgins was despondently listening to a recording of that same conversation, Eliza walked in and repeated her earlier line more softly and tenderly.
  • The original version of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along had several, but in reverse due to the backwards order of events. For example, in the first act, a lovesick Mary sang a heartbreaking reprise of "Not a Day Goes By" to her unrequited love interest Frank; while in the second act, a newly-married Frank happily sang it to his then-wife, Beth.


  • Cloud's comments about the Midgar train early in Final Fantasy VII - "No-one lives in the slums because they want to. It's like this train. It can't go anywhere except where its rails take it." It's profound at the time, though, to some degree, since it's the first emotional thing we hear Cloud say; Barret, The Lancer, points this out. For him, especially, it sticks, and a mangled version becomes his catchphrase - "There ain't no getting off of this train we're on!"
    • It's eventually used by the rest of the cast to complete Cloud's recovery from Heroic BSOD. Except Cait Sith, who viciously mangles it: "This train we're on ain't got no stops!"
  • In Tales of Symphonia, shortly after the Angel Remiel tells Collete that he is her father, she gets a little confused about who she is and what that means for her. In response to this, Lloyd tells Collete, "It doesn't matter who your father is, you're still you". Much later in the game, while Lloyd is distraught after finding out that Kratos is his father, Collete delivers that same line right back to him. It was just the thing that Lloyd needed to snap out of it.
  • In Beyond Good and Evil, Double H is prone to spouting random sayings from his military training manual; one of his favorites is the faux motivational mantra "D.B.U.T.T! Don't Break Up The Team!" His normal usage of the phrase is akim to "Hey! Wait for me!" However, in a later scene, he dives to catch the heroine Jade as she falls from a roof. When he catches her, he says, with a sigh of relief, "Don't break up the team..." showing his dedication for her.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has Midna telling the hero, "See you later!"
    • A Tear Jerker in that the last time she says it is in tears, while destroying the Mirror of Twilight, the only known connection between the realms of Light and Twilight, in order to prevent another crisis in the future. So it's most likely that she will not be seeing him later, or ever.
  • Used so frequently in the Metal Gear series that it's pretty much unquantifiable. The series knows it has a mythos and isn't afraid to use it. A few of the more obvious ones:
    • "Kept you waiting, huh?"/"Sorry for the wait"/"Sorry to keep you waiting" (all the same phrase in Japanese) is used over and over as a reference to Snake speaking the line in the earliest Metal Gear Solid 2 trailers, and in a different, increasingly poignant situation every time. The most poignant is Otacon's melancholic lampshade hanging - "[Snake's] always keeping people waiting" - at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4, after Snake has left him to kill himself.
    • Big Boss unconsciously 'repeats' Snake's "I've never been interested in anyone else's life" speech to EVA in Metal Gear Solid 3, after she asks him the same question Meryl asked Snake in Metal Gear Solid.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2 - after helping Raiden get through a door, Emma says "Are you impressed?" with exactly the same intonation that Meryl used when she said it to Snake in Metal Gear Solid. Obviously an unconscious hint for where the story was heading.
    • The script on the Document of Metal Gear Solid 2 Making-Of disc has large amounts of stage directions for the actors saying things similar to 'This line should be said in the same way the line was said in Metal Gear Solid'.
    • One which crossed the voice-acting barrier - "I have no family", first said by Snake in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake as a simple answer to a question about whether he was married or not, and later said by Snake in Metal Gear Solid to highlight his loneliness upon being asked about whether there was anyone who cared about him at all.
    • And another which crossed the voice-acting barrier - "TURN OFF YOUR MSX AT ONCE!!". Echoed by Campbell in Metal Gear Solid 2, as "Turn the game console off, right now!" Since Big Boss's order to switch off the MSX happens right at the end of Metal Gear just before his betrayal, it's fairly clear what it was trying to do.
    • Even the radio frequencies are like this, starting from Metal Gear 2. Your commander will use 140.85, the girl will use 140.15, the mentor 141.80, the save girl 140.96, the ninja 140.48 or 140.00, and so on. It's used to make a point in Metal Gear Solid, which plays around with assigning behaviours to Meryl and Naomi which we have seen in Metal Gear 2's Holly and Nastasha, and swaps around which girl is which at the last moment.
  • In Warhammer Fantasy Battle: Dark Omen, after the first battle Bernhardt crows he never loses a battle. (Which segues into a point that "I deal in gold for red blood, or green blood.") Towards the end the sentence is repeated, but the Commander's attitude has changed through fighting the Undead.
  • One Meaningful Echo was botched in at least one translation of the Kingdom Hearts games: If you're an English-speaking player, the first you saw or heard of the line "We'll go together" is as the closing line of both Sequel Hook trailers found in the original game—Another Side Another Story and Deep Dive. It appears again in the ending of Kingdom Hearts II from Sora to Riku, about returning home at last. The line's actual first appearance is in the opening, post-trippy-dream-sequence cutscene of the first game: Kairi to Sora, about leaving their home to go on an adventure, translated from "We'll go together" to "So what're we waiting for?"
  • Grand Theft Auto 4 has Niko's cousin Roman saying "Welcome to America!" as he gets off a boat in the opening cutscene. If one takes the "Deal" ending in the game... After Roman dies, Niko hunts down Dimitri, he says the exact same thing before Dimitri dies of blood loss.
  • Star Fox 64 (aka. Lylat Wars): One of Peppy's catch phrases is "Never give up. Trust your instincts." It's later repeated twice by James McCloud's ghost as he guides Fox out of the exploding remains of Adross' base - the first time as "Never give up, my son" and the second time word-for-word.
  • At the end of the first Mega Man Zero game, Mega Man X (now just a literal Virtual Ghost) appears to the title character, the latter exhausted from battling the Big Bad. X asks Zero to protect the world in his stead while X rests for a while, and Zero's answer:

I'll do what you want... Rest for a while. I will handle it, you can count on me. I won't stop! If an enemy appears... I'll terminate it.

  • In Modern Warfare 2, both General Shepherd and Captain Price note that "History is written by the victors." The point they're both making is that only they should be trusted to write the history of the events that occur in the plot. The twist is that Shepherd is the Big Bad, and Price, despite being He Who Fights Monsters, is one of the good guys.
  • Halo is chock full of them. Perhaps the best example is where, at the beginning Master Chief John 117 and Arbiter Thel 'Valam are stopped from killing each other by Sergeant Johnson. Thel mutters "Were it so easy..." and stalks off. At the end, where Johnson is dead and Chief is MIA, Lord Hood tells Thel that he can't believe Chief is dead. Thel looks to the sky and sighs "Were it so easy...". This had to have tugged at some heartstrings.
    • Not to mention the Cortana moments. Pick any of them, they all are either this or an Ironic Echo.
  • "What can change the nature of a man?" - The question of Planescape: Torment. It's asked more then once during the course of the game and in the end it turns out to be the prerequisite of the whole story: the protagonist longed to atone for some crimes so hideous that a whole life of good deeds wouldn't suffice. Regret drove him to seek and obtain immortality.
  • In Final Fantasy X, the Arc Words of "This is my story" is often repeated by Tidus and Yuna, until eventually, Auron changes the words to "This is your story", referring to all the characters.
    • Auron echoes this awesomely in his appearance in Kingdom Hearts 2 when he bluntly tells Hades, "This is my story, and you aren't part of it."
  • From Ace Combat Zero: "Yo, Buddy. Still alive?"
    • Ace Combat: Assault Horizon: "I saw my death in my dreams, many times." First describing his nightmare, and then at the end describing him overcoming his nightmare.
  • Fallout: "War... war never changes."
  • In Deadly Premonition, the line "Welcome to Greenvale" is first spoken when York first arrives in town; it is repeated at the beginning of the second boss fight.
  • Metroid: Adam Malkovich ends every mission briefing with the line "No objections, right, Lady?" to acknowledge Samus. (Who, in turn, gives a thumbs-down just to be cheeky.) The Sector Zero cutscene in Other M turns the exchange into a Tear Jerker as Adam departs on a suicide mission to destroy the sector.
    • Anthony's thumbs-down in the ending is also an Ironic Echo.
    • In Metroid Fusion, the last game story-wise, Samus reminisces about Adam, saying the computer she's taking orders from reminds her of him, except that Adam finished his orders with "Any objections, Lady?" (The game was made before Other M). She accidentally calls the computer Adam to its "face" later in the story, in a moment of frustration. Moments later, the computer goes against the Federation's orders by ordering Samus to take out the planet and the station in one fell movement, finishing with "Any objections, Lady?"
  • While fighting your way through the raid content of ''World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, you encounter Yogg'Saron, during the Battle in the Center of the Mind, he will tell you that "no King rules forever", referring to the Big Bad. These words are repeated by the ghost of Arthas' father after his defeat by the players. Yogg'Saron is also know as God of Death.
    • It's even better than that: Yogg's line is: "He will learn, no king rules forever". And King Terenas's line is: "You see, my son, no king rules forever".
    • A great one you can easily overlook: Arthas' Famous Last Words were "I see... only darkness before me." In the Forsaken's questline in Silverpine Forest, faction leader Sylvanas Windrunner, who as of Cataclysm is adopting more and more of Arthas' tactics and ruthlessness, briefly spends some time dead. Her words after coming back? "I saw... only darkness before me." Sadly, it's not an epiphany moment.
  • Assassin's Creed Malik Al-Sayf hates Altaïr after the protagonist got his brother killed during a botched mission. When Altaïr delivers the standard greeting of "Safety and peace" early in the game, Malik's bitter response is "Your presence here deprives me of both." At the end of the game and after some serious Character Development, Altaïr again says "Safety and peace," to which Malik replies "Your presence will deliver us both."
  • During the beginning of Max Payne, the titular character stubs out a cigarette in front of Alex and says "See? My last smoke. It's bad for the baby." Three years later, when B.B offers Max a cigar, Max retorts "I don't smoke."
  • Legacy of Kain: "Become my Soul Reaver", the Elder God tells Raziel at the beginning of Soul Reaver. This rather throwaway line comes back to haunt the player at the end of Soul Reaver 2
  • In Mass Effect 2, if you romanced Thane Krios and played through the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, you will learn of a letter that he wrote to you, to be delivered to you in the event of his death, which ends with the poignant line "I will await you across the sea." In Mass Effect 3, after Thane is stabbed through the chest trying to protect the salarian councilor from Kai Leng, during his death scene at the hospital with Kolyat at your side, your final words to him are "Bye, Thane. Meet you across the sea." *sniff*
    • In the same two games, when you ask Badass Bookworm Mordin Solus why he, personally, partook in a dangerous mission to strengthen the Krogan genophage, his reasoning is simply that it had to be him, as someone else might have gotten it wrong. In Mass Effect 3, before he ascends the destructing Shroud Tower to cure the genophage, which he actually feels immense guilt over fixing previously, his last conversation with Shepard is...

Shepard: I'm sorry.
Mordin: I'm not. [smiles] Had to be me...someone else might have gotten it wrong.

  • Near the end of the first act of Final Fantasy Tactics, there is a flashback to the main character's father on his deathbed. Among his Last Words to his son are
Listen, Ramza...... A Beoulve has served the royal family for generations. The warrior spirit is in us. Never shame your name... never tolerate injustice... Living true to your heart is the warrior's way......the Beoulve way.
—PS1 Translation
Hear me, Ramza. For generations, we Beoulves have stood foremost of those who serve the Crown. Ours is the soul of the knight. Become a knight worthy of your name. Tolerate no injustice. Stray not from the true path. You will know the path you must walk. A Beoulve can...can walk no other...
—PS1 Translation
    • Later, Ramza is questioned by a new acquaintance why he did the right thing despite the likely consequences to him, leading to the following exchange.

Ramza I'm not fighting for thanks. I'm fighting for honor and pride as a Beoulve.

Rafa: That's a lie....You aren't that noble. You can't ignore injustice or evil in front of you.
—PS1 Translation

Ramza I do not fight for gratitude. I am a Beoulve. I fight for the honor of my name.

Rapha: I'd not believe that for a moment. You strike me not as the sort of man to fight for things so trite. No, you see evil and injustice before you eyes and cannot turn away. You do not even think to seek reward.
—PSP Translation
    • The connection between the Beoulve name and fighting injustice show up when when Ramza rejects an offer to work for the Corrupt Church and when his brothers (who were present for their father's words to Ramza) duel to the death after one is revealed as treacherous.

Visual Novels

Western Animation

  • In a Futurama episode, after God fixes the situation: "If you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."
    • The reason this is particularly significant is that God just told Bender the same thing, only Bender interpreted it as "you can't count on God for crap". Which he then uses as justification to save some God-seeking monks that would have otherwise starved after Fry says that they can ask God to help them. So...yeah.
  • The first season of Transformers: Beast Wars, and Optimus Primal's "Sometimes, crazy works." Said the first time after a borderline-insane escape, and the second time before heading of on an apparent suicide mission.
  • This happens at least twice in Transformers Animated. Sari and Bumblebee have one in the three-episode-pilot ('You can trust this face, can't you?') and then there's Ratchet and Omega in the season three premiere ('We do what we must, even if, sometimes, it doesn't make sense.')
  • Metalocalypse has "That's my bread and butter you're f* cking with." First said by Charles Foster Ofdensen when he comes to rescue Skwisgaar and Toki at the end of Season One, and simply cool. In Season Two, Nathan repeats it when he saves a beaten and bloody Charles from the masked assassin who had finally managed to get ahold of him.
  • Early in the first season of The Spectacular Spider-Man, Harry Osborn tells his father about his problems at school. Norman, coldhearted as he is, harshly tells Harry to "cowboy up" and deal with his problems. At the end of the second season, Harry repeats the phrase to his father as he pilots a helicopter and destroys an apartment in pursuit of the Green Goblin.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of American Dad:

Stan Smith: I forbid it!
Judge: Okay, obviously, that's a callback to something earlier.

  • In Mulan, there was a nice callback when the Emperor calmly told Shan Yu that "No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it" and after Mulan had stopped Shan Yu, the Emperor himself and everyone else bowed down towards her in gratitude.
  • In ReBoot, although the line is usually a Running Gag, when the mysterious stranger who called off the Webrunner attack reveals himself as Bob, he utters the line "You can't talk in these things".
  • When she first arrives at her new high school, Daria is given a mandatory psychological test. She jokes that she sees the picture of two people talking as "a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains", and repeats the phrase when prompted to come up with a conversation the two people are having; she is then diagnosed as antisocial with low self-esteem. In the last episode, "Boxing Daria", a flashback reveals that Daria was given similar tests as a child for being antisocial, which put strain on her family. The therapist giving her a Rorschach test explained that people might see different things in the blots, including "a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains" - a Call Back that transforms Daria's first sarcastic joke into a Tear Jerker.
  • Iroh saying "A man needs his rest" Book Ends the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender: the first use trying to calm down Zuko's Determinator nature, the second congratulating him for admitting he's "tired" of fruitlessly chasing the Avatar. The delivery makes it clear that Iroh thinks Zuko has become his own man. (He hasn't.)
    • Iroh's little song: "Leaves on the vine / falling so slow..." The first time, he uses it to comfort a crying toddler, and it's cute. The second...


  • Homestuck does this pretty much constantly. The author even states that he's building a storytelling vocabulary so that the readers will get the idea quickly when he uses the same phrase again in a different situation. He even does it with visual gags, deliberately putting two different characters in identical poses in different parts of the story to symbolize some emotion or other plot relevance. One of the characters even runs his own webcomic, which the other characters are privy to and quote constantly as an inside joke. And then when the story cuts to a bunch of aliens, they do it all over again, copying the echos from the humans story into the aliens story, to get the point across even more efficiently despite the fact that there is virtually no way the two groups could have known all each other's references in such a short time.
  • Punch an Pie has a big one when Angela runs into a friend of her ex-boyfriend's. She makes with the Self-Deprecation in trying to explain why they broke up, but the friend corrects her: his reasons were exactly the same as those of the woman who more recently broke up with Angela.
  • Order of the Stick had this in the form of what was once a gag line, that is, Belkar referring to himself as a "sexy, shoeless god of war" (after killing a pile of hobgoblins, naturally). Later, when a hallucination of Lord Shojo forces Belkar to "scream" what he IS, he actually mumbles the line in the real world, which just happened to have been misinterpreted as the response to a question by a cleric, who then healed Belkar of his sickness and, yeah, CMoA ensues.
  • Starslip: Vanderbeam's suit costs more than Mr. Jinx's carapace wax.
  • Everyday Heroes: on the day Jane got out of prison, she told Mr. Mighty that even though she's broke, homeless, and unemployed, it's still the best day she's had in a long time. Years later, she repeats the line after telling her story to the neighbors ... and getting a hug from her daughter.
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Chapter 6, Antimony jokingly says, "I'll save you, little girl!" as she jumps out of the tree after Kat. Two chapters later, Kat repeats that line when she swoops in on her hovercraft and saves Annie's bacon.
    • And in the flash-back chapter "Ties", Mr.Thorn gives a young Eglamore some advice that shows up in one of the earliest chapters...
  • A Crowning Moment of Heartwarming for El Goonish Shive: Nanse has just come out to her ex-boyfriend and is terrified of how her mother will react. Elliot, not sure how to respond, pats her fairy avatar on the head and says "Normally I'd put my arm around you to comfort you, but I don't want to crush you." Later, after Ellen tells Nanase that she wants to be with her regardless of how hard it will be to keep it secret, she says "I'd give you a hug, but I don't want to crush-" before getting interrupted by a soapy mini-glomp.
  • Goblins did it with this and that comics.

Web Original


  • From Vocaloid, "Rolling Girl" by Hatsune Miku is about a girl who is implied to be bullied and how her world kept spinning out of her control, as she is seen spinning by herself. Throughout the video when the guy asked her if she was okay now, she would never quite answer the question. At the end, as he is holding her, the guy tells her that it's going to be okay now and they both spin together.
  1. You'd be sensitive too if you'd actually spent time in a mental institution and could speak to the dead