I am the narrator. A generic voice that doesn't actually exist, but moves the plot along for your convenience. Don't I sound irresistibly sexy?
—Smashtasm, Season 2 Episode 1.
A character, sometimes part of the story proper and sometimes completely external to it, who acts either as the storyteller or as a framing device. A Narrator always breaks the Fourth Wall, explicitly addressing the audience to tell them the story. Sometimes the Narrator is also responsible for presenting An Aesop to the audience at the end of the story, as in The Twilight Zone and its imitators.
To be a Narrator, the individual must directly relate to the story in some way, if only as the person telling it. For example, Alfred Hitchcock was not a Narrator for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, because his footage was independent of and had no bearing on the story or stories it appeared with. Rod Serling was a narrator, because he specifically introduced stories, often provided a lead-in to set them up, and provided a closing after the story footage ended; in one episode he actually was in the story, explaining how it was clearly ridiculous fantasy until the protagonist hears him and burns an envelope with his name on it, causing him to disappear.
Sometimes the Narrator can also take on aspects of a Greek Chorus or be otherwise weird, but a pure Narrator does not offer opinion on the action, he just lays it out—and occasionally delivers a punchline or moral. A Narrator is one of the primary ways of providing Exposition.
One way of subverting this trope is to have one or more characters able to hear the narrator (in most instances, the characters do not hear the narrations), and refuse to do what the narrator describes. Another is to make the narrator a complete liar.
See Narrator Tropes for specific types of narrators.
- The Dragon Ball series. Recaps the previous episodes. And closes the final scene. On occasions he narrates in the middle of episodes. The Funimation Texas dub narrators are infamous for gravely voiced, "Last time, on Dragon Ball Z!". The Japanese dub sounds like an elder man telling a story.
- Detective Manzou (a.k.a. "The Saw"), in Samurai Champloo. Oddly enough, his narration has a tendency to transcend time, as he has narrated about future events which he could not feasibly be alive long enough to be knowledgeable of, like Vincent Van Gogh, modern Japan's feeling regarding same-sex relationships ("getting back to the Edo period"), the Zen movement in the 1960s, and the cross-cultural popularity of baseball in Japan and America.
- Suzumiya Haruhi gives us Kyon, who gives us an on-the-fly narration in his head... perhaps. The title character sometimes responds to his narrations. It's never really made certain as to whether he's saying much of the narration out loud, or just to himself. Haruhi's own nature further confuses things.
- In the original novels, what Kyon says out loud is often (but not always) typeset as narration, which intentionally confuses the reader as to when he is speaking and when he is thinking.
- Digimon had an interesting variation on this: in the first two seasons, most episodes began with the previous one being recapped by a character and ended with narration by a generic narrator. However, the third season begins a new-year-is-new-universe format similar to Super Sentai, and from then on, episodes are narrated by one of the previous year's characters!
- Of course, this is just for the dub...which is somewhat abandoned in Savers in favor of a next episode preview. One of the characters still recap the previous episode, but only when it's needed.
- For Adventure and 02 the generic narrator (who does more of the narration in the original like the recaps, which makes more sense as sometimes the characters end up talking about things they can't possibly know about) is in the epilogue revealed to be Takeru (TK in the dub) who's become a novelist writting about their adventures in the digital world
- The unnamed Narrator from Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo frequently acts as goofy and strange as the rest of the characters, such as when he decides to speak in a bad western accent for an entire episode or when he's forced by the producers to say everything in rhyme. Due to the No Fourth Wall nature of the show, both he and the characters sometimes get on each others' nerves.
- Who could forget the narrator from Speed Racer? Unknown to Speed, Racer X is secretly his older brother, Rex, who ran away from home years ago!
- Princess Tutu begins every show with a Narrator telling the audience a fairytale. Sometimes it's from the (fictional) fairytale that one of the characters is from, sometimes it concerns a character's backstory, and sometimes it's a story that's somehow related to the episode. Drosselmeyer also serves as an odd narrator in some scenes, appearing on-screen to question details about the characters and the scene, and to occasionally tell the characters (who can rarely hear him) what they should do. Considering he's actually writing the story, it makes sense for him to be the narrator.
- Judging by sharing voice actors the narrator for the openings of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann may possibly be Simon at the age in the epilogue.
- He is.
- Alphonse Elric in the 2003 anime adaptation of Fullmetal Alchemist. In Brotherhood, it's implied to be Father.
- Kaiji has a particularly popular narrator, due to his overly serious tone and use of overblown metaphors to describe what's going on.
- Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-hen's Narrator may be THE MOST HOT BLOODED Narrator. EVER! Oh, and he's also a Large Ham as well.
- The GaoGaiGar Narrator explains all the scientific Keys to Victory without really letting emotion into it. He doesn't need to - explaining how the Monster of the Week will be getting its ass(es) handed to it in through what is basically the Japanese version of Morgan Freeman is enough.
- Ookami-san has Shirai Kuroko as a Lemony Narrator who also makes frequent observations about the main heroines' lack of endowments.
- The narrator of Keroro Gunso is a typical narrator, usually summing up the episode with a little piece of wisdom at the end of each segment. However, everyone is aware of his existence. He even appears on screen (wearing a mask) and is sometimes called upon by the characters. He's offered Natsumi fashion advice, tried to keep a stranded Keroro company, and even provided his voice for a fake invasion video.
- He's only a typical narrator in the Japanese version. In the dub, he openly hates his job and tries to seperate himself from the insanity. In one episode, he actually quit his job because the series recycled a plotline too many times, and a new British narrator replaces him until he comes back at the end. He also only does the show because he's deep in gambling debts, apparently.
- Kimba the White Lion sometimes uses a narrator who would set up the premise of the episode or go over plot points that the audience may have missed from previous episodes.
- Kingdom Come has a dramatic subversion of this. Norman McKay has been chosen by the Spectre, embodiment of God's vengeance, to be the one who witnesses the downfall of the world. As they look, separate from reality but able to observe it, upon the members of the Justice League debating the ethics of what they've done, suddenly the Flash, who exists on all dimensional levels at once, turns around and plucks a very surprised Norman McKay out of the air.
- Invincible usually doesn't use a narrator, but sometimes makes an exception. A perfect and funny example was when two characters were going to have sex, and the story jumped to another person, with a narrator explaining that they deserved a little bit of privacy.
- The Sandman would occasionally make use of a narration, sometimes it would be one of the series’ characters and other times it would be anonymous but fairly poetic.
- One of Frank Miller’s signature tropes is his usually hard boiled style narration.
- Nextwave has some fairly odd narration.
- “Nextwave is in your room and touching you stuff”
- For the Frankenstein segments of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers the narrator was also a Large Ham.
- One of Stan Lee's key tropes, True Believers!
- Parodied until the break of dawn by the George of the Jungle movie. The narrator not only narrates the action, he talks to the audience (at one point assuring them "Nobody dies in this movie... they just get really big boo-boos"), corrects the actors when they mishear his description and at one point gets into an argument with one of the Mooks over how he's describing him, even rewinding the movie just to give him a hard time.
- The narrator was also parodied with in the old George of the Jungle cartoons, including one point where he made a character in the cartoon crash his plane into the top of the mountain with the warning, "Let that be a lesson to you: never monkey around with a narrator."
- 300. At the end of the film, the Narrator turns out to have been relating the entire tale to his fellow Spartans.
- The Adam Sandler flick Eight Crazy Nights had narration as well.
- Little Children plays this oddly straight, with a narrator explicitly saying what the characters are thinking at a given moment. It's surprisingly effective, though frequent PBS viewers will be rather weirded out, as the narrator they use is Will Lyman, the voice of Frontline and many an episode of Nova.
- Stranger Than Fiction is very meta about this: the narrator is an author writing about the main character. The character can hear the narrator, and most of the film is spent trying to find out who she is. They meet.
- In the vein of that film is Click, in which the main character's life becomes a DVD of sorts. The narrator is James Earl Jones.
- Pick a character played by Morgan Freeman. Any character played by Morgan Freeman.
- Taken to its logical conclusion in a Family Guy sketch, where Morgan Freeman stars in a movie called The Narrator, which is nothing but him talking for two hours.
- I'd see that movie...twice.
- Taken to its logical conclusion in a Family Guy sketch, where Morgan Freeman stars in a movie called The Narrator, which is nothing but him talking for two hours.
- The Wizard in Conan the Barbarian explains much of the story while it's happening on screen. Then again, it's Mako's voice, so it's not that bad.
- Harry Lockheart in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
- A Christmas Story is narrated by the adult Ralphie.
- The Neverending Story suddenly sprouts a narrator only at the very, very end. It would be all too easy to construct a lofty critical reason for this, such as, "It's to emphasize thematically that the real story is only beginning etc..." but in all likelihood it was just because of earlier scenes being cut or a sloppy mistake in the film's writing or editing.
- (500) Days of Summer features a particularly citrusy one.
- The Criminologist fulfills this role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- "I would like (You would, wouldn't you?), if I may (No, you may not), to take you on a strange journey (So strange they made a movie out of it!)."
- The Hallelujah Trail: Veteran western character actor John Dehner provides an ongoing commentary on the supposed historical context surrounding events, sometimes including maps and arrows to help the viewer keep track of just where everyone is.
- RocknRolla makes use of this by having the genre-savvy dragon Archy explain to the audience how his boss and London's underworld works.
- It's entirely possible to just listen to Casino from another room and understand almost everything that's going on because of the detailed narration.
- Kuzco in The Emperors New Groove. Eventually, the onscreen Kuzco tells him to shut up.
- Chaucer's narrator in the The Canterbury Tales.
- Lemony Snicket, the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events, is essentially omniscient, yet remains a distinct character. He never plays a direct role in the action, but is clearly intertwined with the events: his two siblings are major characters, his picture appears once, and he loved the protagonists' mother, before she married their father. He also appears, unidentified, in The Penultimate Peril, though the character in question is referred to in the third person.
- To some extent, Mike Hanlon in Stephen King's IT. Between every section of the book there is an interlude where Mike narrates the history of It in the form of a documentary journal.
- Peter Jones.
- Every adventure in the Hank the Cowdog series is told by Hank himself.
- Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone.
- Ron Howard's voiceovers in Arrested Development.
- Richard Dean Anderson would sometimes serve as a narrator in MacGyver, either to reveal a chunk of backstory or to describe the principles of his Bamboo Technology.
- Waylon Jennings as the Balladeer in The Dukes of Hazzard, though his narration was usually restricted to a Quip to Black along the lines of, "Them Duke boys are in a whole heap of trouble."
- Or "In case you're wondering what's going on, So. Am. I."
- Likewise George, of Dead Like Me, who narrates from a distance, sometimes showing omniscience and talking directly to the audience, and sometimes just within her head.
- Classic example: the series The Untouchables was narrated by famous columnist/political commentator Walter Winchell. His distinctive, urgent, sharply voiced, melodramatic announcements became a television icon, selling corny set up lines similar to this: "As Al Capone and his henchmen talked of murder over steaks and bootleg champagne, Eliot NESS and his UNTOUCHABLES made plans to topple his empire of crime!"
- Doctor Who episode "The End Of Time" has a character known as The Narrator, who even helpfully fills us in on the plot so far in the middle of the first half. He's also known as Lord President Rassilon, possibly using an alias.
- Jim Dale in Pushing Daisies.
- JD of Scrubs narrates his own life in his head, as well as the lives of nearly everyone he has regular contact with, so he is essentially the narrator of the show. Lucy Bennett takes over this role in the last season.
- Future-Ted Mosby (from the year 2030) in How I Met Your Mother, like JD above, is practically omniscient from the viewers' perspective, so he qualifies as a narrator too.
- Most Super Sentai series have a narrator to handle recaps of previous episodes and Opening Narration, but Dekaranger's deserves an honorable mention. Anything, from the mechanics of the Transformation Sequence to Jasmine's Psychic Powers and Sen's thinking pose would be explained every time. Up to and including The Movie and the Grand Finale. Most probably tuned him out around the middle of the series.
- The most notable example for Dekarangers is probably the Judgment system. Every time the judgment system is activated, the narrator explains how it works, even in the finale and special movies.
- Earl Hamner Jr. as the voice of the older John-Boy Walton in The Waltons.
- Burn Notice has its main character, Michael, narrate a lot of the story. Most likely this was to allow him to explain the clever tricks he was doing without the need of a Watson hanging around all the time. It also serves as the gimmick of the show.
- Main character Zack Morris did this at least once in every episode of Saved by the Bell.
- William Conrad's omniscient narrator on The Fugitive.
- Thomas the Tank Engine: The Narrator is the only voice on the show and provides all the voices for all the characters.
- Mary Alice Young (an omnipresent dead character), on Desperate Housewives.
- Chris, of Adventures in Odyssey fame. In the early days of the show, she had a good deal more air-time and personality, and occasionally interacted with the characters as well as introducing the story and setting the scene. By now, though, she has spent the better part of the series briefly introducing the show, then showing up at the end to explicitly state the moral of the day and relevant Bible verses before moving on to the credits.
- The gangster parody Dickie Dick Dickens has two narrators who tell the story in tandem, with the one often adding additional tidbits to the other's stated information. Occasionally they'll disagree with one another about what's relevant to the narrative, or contradict each other on minor details, but both tend to over-dramatize the events and nearly worship the titular character.
- Garrison Keillor provides the narration for most of the segments on A Prairie Home Companion, including Guy Noir's Private Eye Monologue, and the show's signature "News from Lake Wobegon".
- The Narrator from Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Though the play would be fine without her (with her lines distributed to the other characters), it seems that ALW wanted to have at least one woman in the show who actually had a part.
- The Stage Manager of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, who routinely addresses the audience and offers commentary on the characters' actions.
- The Narrator of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods becomes a more tangible character in the second act and gets sacrificed to the giant's wife.
- The Narrator of Passing Strange, who is meant to be the grown-up version of the Youth the story revolves around, and who was originally played on Broadway by one of the show's co-writers, Stew.
- The Cat in the Hat in Seussical
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time put an interesting twist on this, that the Prince himself was the narrator, and at save points would say, "Would you like to take a break for now?" and if he got killed would say, "Wait, no, that's not how it happened..." In the end, It's revealed that he's telling the story to Farah, his love interest from the game, after undoing the game's events via time travel. Naturally, she doesn't believe a word of it. Later, in The Two Thrones, after having prevented any of the events of the first game by changing the flow of time in the second (bear with me here...), the game ends with the Prince, once more with Farah, beginning the same narration that opens The Sands of Time.
- A very similar conceit is used in Sacrifice where the wizard Eldred is telling the story of why the world is ending to The Big Bad.
- Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant featured an active narrator describing the game world to the party, frequently offering a cynical view of what the party's uncovered.
- Tidus is technically the narrator of the entirety of Final Fantasy X; the introduction actually takes place near the end of the game, and Tidus tells us "his story".
- Yuna narrates the sequel.
- Marquis Ondore narrates, via his memoirs, several key points in Final Fantasy XII.
- Alazlam is technically the narrator of Final Fantasy Tactics. Though he doesn't get involved in the actual story scenes, his "Brave Story" menu allows you to replay any of them, and gives his description of what happens. Plus, he has the final words in the ending, not counting the last "bonus" scene. Daravon, who runs the Tutorial menu, appears sneakily in the game via the Mediator skill "Mimic Daravon"—which puts enemies to sleep!
- It's also implied Alazlam Durai is getting this information from the "Durai Reports", written by his ancestor Olan Durai (who hangs around at the periphery of the plot through much of the game, only actually appearing in battle once)
- In the 2004 version of The Bard's Tale, the events of the game are narrated by the man who's reading the tale (as voiced by the late Tony Jay). He and the eponymous Bard (as voiced by Cary Elwes) frequently bicker throughout the game, discussing issues like the morality of claiming items from chests for one's self, or the absurdity of finding money or sellable goods from killing various creatures.
- Spoofed in a summer 2006 installment of the webcomic Sluggy Freelance.
- spoofed again in the summer of '08
- Gunnerkrigg Court has two narrators. Antimony does the bulk of the narration from some unspecified point in time. (According to Tom Siddell, she's telling the whole story, even the bits without narrator-text boxes.) And Tea (that white-haired girl) serves as a fourth-wall-breaking Miss Exposition on a few of the end-of-chapter bonus pages.
- Schlock Mercenary has a narrator who sometimes interacts with the characters.
- In Gold Coin Comics [dead link], Lance complains about having to narrate about his past.
- The BLU Spy in Cuanta Vida.
- The narrator in Rocky and Bullwinkle (as well as the two spin-off movies) was not only a narrator but often a character. The cast frequently spoke to him, the characters talked about him, and at one point the villains robbed him.
- And, in The Movie, being reduced to moving in with his mother and narrating his own life when the show was cancelled, as shown above.
- The narrator of Powerpuff Girls, starting out every episode with, "The City of Townsville:" and ending every episode with a variation of, "So, once again, the day is saved, thanks to the Powerpuff Girls!" In the Freaky Friday episode, the Narrator ended up sounding like Bubbles at the end.
- The Storyteller in Dave the Barbarian.
- Parodied in one episode of The Fairly OddParents. Timmy wishes for Super Friends, to replace his old boring friends. He then begins to hear a voice over about his new buddies. Wanda promptly explains the Narrator comes with the Super Friends package.
- SpongeBob SquarePants has a French-accented narrator inspired by Jacques Cousteau, who seems to be "studying" SpongeBob and friends. He rarely interacts with the characters, save for one memorable moment where, as he was narrating, SpongeBob ran over him.
- The Fish TV Announcer (Who looks like an actual fish) is mentionable.
- Also, in the movie, the French narrator started talking, only for the Fish announcer to speak up and state it was his job to narrate. He does this, then the two converse until they realize they left the mike on.
- The narrator of Sheep in The Big City has so little fourth wall that he regularly appears on-camera in a recording studio. He interacts with the characters so often it's more noteworthy when they can't seem to hear him, has been fired, physically attacked...the list goes on.
- The narrator for the British cartoon Danger Mouse tended to break the fourth wall; sometimes complaining about the direction of the story or making atrocious puns (only to receive a phone call from the show's producers, telling him to cut it out). In "Once Upon A Timeslip" he developed reality warping powers: "It is now 12:15 as they..." (The landscape transforms into medieval England) "Look, I said 12:15 I didn't mean 1215 AD." The remainder of the episode became a Robin Hood parody. Another typical narration line from one episode:
"Meanwhile... Look, is that all I have to say in this bit, 'meanwhile'? Well, I was on my tea break..."
- A Family Guy cutaway shows Peter narrating his own life:
Peter: I walked into the kitchen and sat down at the table. I looked with a grimace at the questionable meal Lois had placed in front of me. Of course I would never tell her how disgusted I was with her cooking, but somehow I think she knew. Lois had always been full of energy and life, but lately I had begun to grow more aware of her aging: the bright exuberant eyes that I had fallen in love with were now beginning to grow dull and listless with the long fatigue of a weary life. (Lois knocks him out) I awoke several hours later in a daze.
- In Word Girl, other than opening and closing each episode, the disembodied narrator oftentimes interacts with the tittular hero to help her and sometimes the villains, also.