Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short-story writer who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. He produced four plays, and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics due to his dedication to elevating the quality of the genre.
Chekhov's Gun is a dramatic principle that he ascribed to where he stated that everything irrelevant should be removed from a story, leaving only elements that are vital to plot points. He argued that it was wrong to make 'false promises' to the audience by showing things that never lead to anything in the story. It has come to be accepted as the occasion when a seemingly inconsequential object or event in a movie is later revealed to be of important significance.
The James Bond franchise uses this concept repeatedly, with Q demonstrating his clever new gadgets to Bond at the beginning of each film, and every feature encompassed in them coming to his aid later on in the story. The idea is very satisfying for the viewer, as it means a twist ending has been properly set up and is earned, not coming out of nowhere.
There are many examples of movies with Chekhov's Guns, but here are 10 of the best (warning - spoilers).
10. The Fifth Element - Match
Taxi driver Korben Dallas is attempting to give up smoking, with a clever machine that rations him to four cigarettes a day. Endeavouring to find a match, he searches around his flat, finding empty match boxes until he finally discovers one with two left. He uses one to light his cigarette, putting the box with the other one in his pocket.
The scene is forgotten about until the end of the film when he and his associates attempt to activate the four element stones and Ruby Rhod exclaims that he has no fire to set off the fire stone. Luckily Korben remembers his last match and manages to light it, saving the day from the aliens.
Korben could have easily had a match in his pocket anyway, but the fact it was shown early in the film why he had one on him, and that it was his last one, helped to build the tension and make the solution more satisfying for the viewer.
It was the one element that they couldn’t access using bodily functions or dust found in the room so it was pivotal that he had put it in his pocket rather than back down on the shelf, which he could have done considering he only had cigarettes at home!