Chekhov's Gun in your favourite movies

Thanks to the SDMB I only learned the meaning of Chekhov’s Gun several weeks ago.

In the past week I have re-watched both Die Hard and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and had “Aha! That’s a Chekhov’s Gun!” moments at the end, and beginning of the films, respectively.

In the opening scenes of Die Hard, Ellis seems to make a bit of a big deal about McClane seeing Holly’s new gift from the company, a gold Rolex. The timepiece never factors into the story whatsoever until the end, when the villain Hans Gruber is clinging to Holly’s wrist to keep from falling 30-odd floors to the ground below; McClane unclasps the wristband of her watch and Gruber loses his grip, plunging to his death.

In the opening scenes of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock pretends to “die” during Saavik’s Kobayashi Maru training sequence. Moments later, when Kirk meets up with Spock outside his quarters, Kirk playfully asks “Aren’t you dead?” Of course I know that Spock will die at the end of the movie.

Any other* Chekhov’s Gun* examples, from your favourite movies?

This is a tough one, because it’s not often used in movies, since they don’t trust typical audiences to catch it, and when they do, typical audiences don’t often catch it!

The only one I can think of is from My Cousin Vinny, where while Pesci is eating at a diner, he takes an interest in the preparation of grits, and then during the cross-examination part of the trial, he uses that knowledge to discredit a witnesses’ testimony.

My all time Chekhov’s gun is not from a movie, but from the TV show classic, The Honeymooners. Ralph Kramden has been selected to appear on a Game Show similar to Name that Tune, where he must identify the name and composer of songs. He has Norton help him out, by playing various tunes on the piano, but Norton has the annoying habit of playing, as a warm up intro to every song, the first couple of measures from Way Down Upon the Swanee River by Stephen Foster. Of course, it drives Ralph nuts.

Big night arrives, Ralph gets to the final stage of the TV show, and then can’t guess the final song, which is, of course “Way Down Upon the Swanee River.”

Back To The Future pretty much is Chekhov’s Gun: The Movie.

This was also done as a swerve. Word had gotten out that Spock was going to die in the movie and so Meyer put the scene in earlier to throw people off. It worked and having him “die” earlier adds to the emotional punch of his actual, later death, imo.

The most blatant Chekhov’s Gun that I can recall was in the Agents of SHIELD pilot episode where they take the time to show us a non-lethal gun then use it during the denouement to keep the Luke Cage expy from blowing up.

One I particularly appreciate is from Marvel’s The Avengers.

Our introduction to Black Widow has her in what first appears to be a precarious situation, and quickly resolves to reveal an elaborate (and apparently effective) ruse.

Later on, a similar situation pits her against Loki, with an equally satisfactory turnaround.

Really? I’m having trouble not coming up with one. Off the top of my head:

  • The giant untameable flying lizard in Avatar

  • “Don’t leave anything in Hannibal Lecter’s cell” - then someone leaves a paperclip

  • Kurt Russell taking flying lessons at the beginning of Executive Decision

  • The 13-seconds back time machine, magnetic mines and the rock monster from Galaxy Quest

  • Indy hates snakes in Raiders

  • Sigourney Weaver’s familiarity with the robotic cargo loader at the beginning of Aliens

  • The cardboard cutout of James Bond in Scaramanga’s lair in Man With The Golden Gun

  • Frank Dux learning karate blind in Bloodsport

  • Nicholas Cage’s daughter learning the butterfly knife trick from John Travolta, then using it on him later in Face/Off

  • “No capes!” - The Incredibles

Obligatory TVTropes link: Checkov’s gun in films.

I just saw Skyfall. When they gave Bond a gun that only he could shoot, you knew someone would take it from him and try to shoot him with it. So it’s Bond’s gun, too. (Actually, throughout the series, you knew that whenever Q gave Bond a piece of equipment, Bond would end up using it.)

I usually think of Chekov’s gun as being something that’s a little more directly influential on the later plot. Spock’s earlier “death” foreshadows his later actual death*, but it doesn’t really cause or influence it in any way.

Your watch example from Die Hard is a good example, but I don’t think Spock’s death is one.

*(I guess that “death” needs scare-quotes to).

Bond is the example I came in to mention to. The films almost always have a scene with Q where Bond’s gadgets are introduced, and the audience knows that each gadget will come into play later in the film. Q never introduces an extraneous gadget.

If I ever write a Bond film, I’m going to have Q give Bond a “special issue Russian Anton revolver” and then never have come up later in the movie. Actually, thinking about it more, that’s usually how I hear “Chekov’s gun” used in a sentence. Its a plot element that is introduced, but then never comes into play, in contradiction to Chekhov’s expression that it always should.

Coming up with examples of the opposite case is pretty trivial. Most movies introduce a few items purely so they can be used later in the plot to rescue the hero, help the villain, etc.

I can’t believe that Star Trek, in any of its incarnations, hasn’t given us a Chekhov’s Gun that was actually a gun held by Chekhov. (Chekhov has held a gun many times, most notably in the Star Trek II – just before collapsing from the earworm – and Star Trek IV – when it failed “because of the radiation” , but in neither case was it a “Chekhov’s Gun”)

Even in the TOS episode Specter of the Gun, Chekhov has a gun but is “killed” before he fires it.

In the P.D.Q. Bach Opera “The Abduction of Figaro,” there are no fewer than three instances of characters waving guns around…and never firing them!

(However, one guy does throw a hand-grenade.)

Some people call these “Easter eggs.” Another word for this sort of thing would be “foreshadowing.”

Easter eggs?

This is the first time I’ve ever seen the term “Chekhov’s Gun” used as a synonym for “Foreshadowing.” That isn’t what that term means.

Easter Eggs is totally wrong. That usually means a semi-hidden wink at the audience. In video games, they’re sometime literal.

I just listened to an old radio episode of The Cisco Kid, where they go to strange lengths to mention there is a railroad trestle just outside of town. I knew it would figure in the plot, and it did.

Some of these are more of a Chekhov skill, but the same principle applies. If the protagonist is shown being good at anything or learning a new skill in the first 1/3 of the movie then they’ll somehow use it, no matter how improbable, to save the day.

My personal fav might be in Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World when Ian’s daughter Kelly is introduced and said to be training hard for gymnastics. Sure enough, there’s the most ridiculous scene like an hour later where she finds some uneven bars and spin kicks a velociraptor through a window.

This actually happens a lot in The Sopranos. In the first or second season, Tony’s retrieving some money & guns out of a hidden closet, and there’s a closeup of a hand grenade…which is never shown again for the rest of the series! (Drives me crazy every time I see it…and don’t get me started on the Russian.)

Some of my favorite Chekhov’s Gun scenes are ones that aren’t crucial to the plot (unlike Holly McClane’s gold watch.) For example, in the underrated classic The Man With One Red Shoe, the FBI do a thorough search of Tom Hanks’ apartment including sawing off the legs of a chair and shoddily gluing them back together. It’s not until near the end, during a heated argument, when James Belushi sits down on the chair and pieces go flying everywhere. :smiley: