Examples of voice-over narration and flashbacks that.. just don’t work

February 22nd, 2013 by

Okay, so I’m in full voice-over narration and flashback get-our-shit-together mode, prepping for a two-week series beginning next Monday. For background, go here, here, and here. The general idea: Let’s study movies that use voice-over narration and flashbacks well.

Yes, that’s right, voice-over narration and flashbacks are not inherently EVIL as some would lead us to believe, witness movies like The Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca, Inception, Fight Club, Apocalypse Now, and To Kill a Mockingbird. 

You can actually use voice-over narration and flashbacks effectively and to the general benefit of your story and you will not necessarily be thrown into the pit of Development Hell.

I know. Shocking, but true.

So that’s where our heads will be the next two weeks.

But today, let’s wallow in the miasma of Hollywood Conventional Wisdom, that voice-over narration and flashbacks are by definition flaccid, flabby, effed up writing.

What movie examples of voice-over narration and flashbacks can you think of that… just don’t work? As a touchstone, you can always check out what is perhaps the worst case of exposition ever.

For the next two weeks, we’ll revel in the creative inspiration and aesthetic value of well-written voice-over narration and flashbacks.

Today let’s check out what doesn’t work. For starters, how about this flashback:

See you in comments with your suggestions.

4 thoughts on “Examples of voice-over narration and flashbacks that.. just don’t work

  1. churnage says:

    As Teddy P. pointed out a little while ago, Vicky Cristina Barcelona has one of the worst uses of voice-over in recent memory. The narrator just repeats what you can SEE happening on the screen.

  2. Bryan Colley says:

    It’s not as bad as your example, but The Descendants has awful voice-over.

  3. AmosPosner says:

    Horrible Bosses. Uses tons of expository voiceover from three protags at top of the movie, but it’s not funny and doesn’t give us a running start in a good way. Then at the end, the voiceover is just from one character, if I recall correctly. Just felt sloppy and cheap.

  4. brianjwalton says:

    THis has to be one of the best examples of how bad VO can ruin a great film: the ending of Blade Runner, the original theatrical edition.


Leave a Reply