Life is like a box of chocolates or life was like a box of chocolates

5/51 rating

Forrest Gump is an award-winning 1994 movie featuring the eponymous character. The character of Forrest Gump popularized this saying in the movie. He says his mother always told him “Life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. Or did he actually say “Life is like a box of chocolates”? It is pretty confusing as both the lines are very similar to one another and there is not much scope for error. However, there is a major difference between what one hears and what the actual fact is. When everyone hears something the same way, but in truth they are mistaken, it gives rise to the phenomenon better known as the Mandela effect. 

The difference in the book and the movie

The movie was based on a Japanese book called Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. It was first published in Japanese in 1987 and was later translated to English in 1989. The book contains the line “Life is like a box of chocolates” whereas in the movie the line is “Life is like a box of chocolates”. Many fans believe that that the character says “Life is like a box of chocolates”. Both the lines, for the most part, sound the same and the difference cannot be made out unless one listens very closely. This can be attributed to the deep Southern accent the character has in the movie and the way Tom Hanks, the actor who played Forrest Gump, pronounced all the words. Many pop culture references have contributed to this apparent alternate memory and reality has been disputed in several instances. To this day die-hard fans of the movie strongly affirm that the line is “Life is like a box of chocolates” as they think it makes more sense. It is based on the idea that life cannot be referred to in the past tense and people have stuck on to that point.

For the line “Life was like a box of chocolates” to make sense, life would have to be over or no longer like a box of chocolates. However, that is not is not the context or theme of the movie. Pop culture has adopted the confusion regarding the line and has used it to draw in more spectators. The misquotation of the line has been weaved into public consciousness and has been cleverly exploited by the media and other enterprises. There is a popular themed restaurant in Southern California called Bubba Gump Shrimp. Here the servers play a little quiz game with the customers where they ask them to recite lines from the movie. “Life is like a box of chocolates” is always one of the questions asked in the quiz.

The explanation

There is an explanation as to why the line is “Life was like a box of chocolates”. In the movie, Forrest’s mother says “Life is like a box of chocolates” to Forrest years before he narrates his life story. One should note the present tense here. She is explaining her philosophy on life to him at that moment. Since Forrest is referring to a past event when narrating the story, he says his mother always said: “Life WAS like a box of chocolates”. It makes more sense from the narrating and scriptwriting point of view. The past tense, in this case, makes no sense without the context. When one hears his mother tell him this again, later in the film, she goes for the present tense.  Viewers probably started misremembering the line after watching this scene. From their point of view, it makes more sense saying “Life is like a box of chocolates” as life is an ongoing process. 


Many have wondered if the lines changed because there is an alternate universe out there which has a different version of the line and people are being mysteriously transported there.  To be more on the realistic side do people hear things wrong all the time and have distorted memories as a consequence? This is how the Mandela effect was theorized in the first place. It draws a fine line between truth and fiction and has people grasping for the right answers. Rational explanations as to why the line was misquoted exist but there is no denying the massive interest people have in unseen forces. We are always drawn to theories surrounding the unknown and the idea of an alternate dimension or time-traveling sounds very enticing. What Forrest Gump said does have some element of truth in it. We never know what we are going to get.

5/51 rating