22 Best ‘Chekhov’s Guns’ in Movie History
If you’ve never heard of Chekhov’s gun, it’s not the title of a lesser-known Tolstoy novel. It refers to the principle, defined by playwright Anton Chekhov, that a gun hanging on the wall in the first act must be fired in the third. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a gun, or even a physical object. Anything the writer draws the audience’s attention to should have some kind of payoff later in the story, otherwise you’re just squirting words into your narrative diaper for no reason.
It’s a concept that’s so ingrained in modern cinema that Redditor HenryWade6 could recently ask r/Movies, “What’s your favorite example of Chekov’s gun in a movie?” and get more than 1,000 responses. They ranged from the mechanical to the metaphorical to the butt pluggery, but they were always callbacks that made the audience go, “Oh, hell yes.”