Fight Club (1999)
The Foreshadowing: As the narrator knocks seven bells out of himself in front of his slack-jawed boss, he muses to himself, "for some reason I thought of my first fight… with Tyler."
How It Pays Off: This fight takes exactly the same form as his first one, i.e. he beats himself up on both occasions. Why? Because he and Tyler are one and the same.
The Foreshadowing: Hooper warns Brody about the potentially combustible nature of the scuba tanks. "Yeah, that's real fine expensive gear you brought out here, Mr. Hooper." sneers Quint. "Course, I don't know what that bastard shark's gonna do with it. Might eat it I suppose."
How It Pays Off: The shark ends up chowing down on one of said tanks, allowing Brody to blow it to high heaven.
The Foreshadowing: The numbers eight and two crop up throughout the movie, from the weather forecast that predicts an 82% chance of rain, to the forensic science convention that begins at 8:20.
How It Pays Off: All of these references point to a Bible passage (Exodus 8:2 to be specific) which details the threat of a plague of frogs, a threat that comes to pass at the movie’s conclusion.
The Foreshadowing: Norman Bates describes his mother as, "as harmless as one of those stuffed birds," to an unsuspecting Marion Crane…
How It Pays Off: It turns out that the comparison is rather appropriate, as Mrs. Bates is something of a stuffed bird herself.
Shutter Island (2010)
The Foreshadowing: Teddy interrogates one of the island’s inmates, who asks for a glass of water. As she lifts it to her mouth, we see there is no glass in her hand. Then we see her place an empty glass on the table. Finally she gets up, leaving a half-full glass behind.
How It Pays Off: This scene is a massive clue to the state of Teddy’s mental health, and the presence of the water itself takes on horrific connotations in light of Teddy’s memories of his wife and kids.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
The Foreshadowing: Check out Verbal's sight-lines throughout his interviews with Kujan. You can see him looking at the notice-board, the underside of the coffee cup, everything around him. Oh, and he's the only suspect we never see getting arrested…
How it Pays Off: Verbal is Keyser, and all the finer details of his cock and bull story have been plucked from his immediate surroundings. Kobayashi indeed…
The Foreshadowing: As the camera sweeps over Alkali lake, and Jean Grey's voiceover about the nature of evolution plays out, a bird-like shadow can be seen soaring across the water.
How It Pays Off: It's the beautiful final payoff to a whole movie's worth of foreshadowing, tipping a wink to fans that Jean Grey has become the Phoenix. The third film was brilliantly set up, only for Bryan Singer to jump ship and Brett Ratner to balls it up. Boo!
Shaun Of The Dead (2004)
The Foreshadowing: Ed outlines his masterplan for the next day as he and Shaun share a few jars in The Winchester. "A bloody Mary first thing, a bite at the King’s Head, couple at The Little Princess, stagger back here and bang… back at the bar for shots."
How It Pays Off: Turns out that's exactly what they do, in a manner of speaking. First off, they kill a blood-spattered girl named Mary. Then Shaun's stepfather gets his head bitten. Then they pick up Liz (Shaun's little princess) and another couple. Then they pretend to be zombies, staggering back to the Winchester, and finally end up behind the far firing off shots left right and centre! Now how's that for a slice of fried gold?
Batman Begins (2005)
The Foreshadowing: Lieutenant Gordon produces an evidence bag containing a playing card, before explaining to Batman that a new menace is threatening Gotham's streets. "Take this guy. Armed robbery, double homicide,” he begins. “Got a taste for the theatrical like you. Leaves a calling card…”
How It Pays Off: The calling card is a joker, setting up The Dark Knight 's storyline with considerable panache.
The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
The Foreshadowing: The black and white sequence at the beginning of the film foreshadows pretty much everything that will go on to happen, from elderly crone Mrs. Gulch threatening Dorothy's dog, to an encounter with a carnival fraudster predicting phony fortunes.
How It Pays Off: Miss Gulch is the equivalent of the Wicked Witch Of The West, and in her battle with her in Oz, Dorothy will learn self-reliance, rather than looking for answers from false idols. The carnie is the Wizard, in case you weren't following…