Looking for awesome alternate theories about the plots of movies
February 16, 2013 5:20 AM   Subscribe

What are some of the most interesting theoretical models for understanding the plots and themes of movies that were not designed to generate them like Inception was?

I am familiar with Cool Papa Bell's theory for the plot of Ferris Bueller's Day Off as well as the Totoro as the Angel of Death theory, what else is there that is fascinating in the same way?
posted by Blasdelb to Society & Culture (33 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
I personally see It's a Wonderful Life as a version of Dickens's A Christmas Carol -- the hero, George, is a banker who doesn't understand his place in life, the long flashback at the beginning (where we see how George becomes deaf in one ear) is Christmas Past, the middle section is Christmas Present, and the scenes of what Bedford Falls would be without George is Christmas Future. Clarence stands in for the ghosts. There are other parallels.
posted by ubiquity at 5:38 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aladdin takes place in the distant future because Genie has been in the lamp for 10,000 years but can do impressions of 20th-century celebrities.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:48 AM on February 16, 2013 [15 favorites]

The term you want is fan theories.

Reddit has had a few epic threads on them in AskReddit and now is home to a 45,000 strong community devoted to discussing them (sort by top, all time): http://www.reddit.com/r/FanTheories
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:17 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Chewbacca is the mastermind of the rebellion:

posted by chengjih at 6:17 AM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

For example, this gem.
posted by dontjumplarry at 6:22 AM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

This is the basis for a shockingly large amount of fandoms.


Wild Mass Guessing

Should get you started.
posted by The Whelk at 6:22 AM on February 16, 2013

The MacGuffin from Pulp Fiction has been theorized to be Marcellus Wallace's soul (although I see from this article that it isn't an entire consistent theory).
posted by mmascolino at 6:23 AM on February 16, 2013

And when fan theoris get really out there, Eplileptic Trees.
posted by The Whelk at 6:24 AM on February 16, 2013

Well, there's the theory that the entirety of The Shining is Kubrick's confession about faking the moon landing.

(Yes, I know.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:35 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take a look at Slavoj Zizek's The Pervert's Guide to Cinema?
posted by londongeezer at 7:07 AM on February 16, 2013

I'm not sure this is quite what you're looking for, but lots of bits of Coen brothers movies play off each other.

In Raising Arizona, H.I. works in manufacturing at Hudsucker Industries.

Guys are tracked by the smell of hair pomade in O Brother and Raising Arizona.

There are more. The theory being that their movies are all part of the same universe.
posted by phunniemee at 8:18 AM on February 16, 2013

Check out Room 237.
posted by Chenko at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love it when one actually makes me wonder: Kill Bill
posted by tyllwin at 9:22 AM on February 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Not a movie, but to me this is one of the most delicious examples of this: Garfield is slowly dying of starvation.
posted by seasparrow at 9:41 AM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Not exactly the same, but these Accurate but Misleading Movie Descriptions present, to various degrees, alternate views of the events of a movie.

Similarly: In Django Unchained Candy, the modern morality and past practices of slavery aside, is a law-abiding citizen. So Django and Schultz con their way into this man's house and when they're caught murder Candy, his entire family, and all of his employees.
posted by cmoj at 11:46 AM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Pixar movie "Cars" happens in Stephen King's "Trucks"/"Maximum Overdrive" universe after the cars have killed off all the humans. That's why they use gasoline, have doors, and steering wheels.
posted by alchemist at 12:18 PM on February 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

R2-D2 is the most important character in Star Wars. (This is almost not an alternate theory, since Lucas has basically said this is no coincidence, since R2's a sort of audience surrogate. But it's still fun to watch the series viewing it as R2's story - he's present at nearly every major event and often plays an essential role.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:22 PM on February 16, 2013

Ah, chengjih's link actually makes the R2 case in some depth, in addition to the Chewie case.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:25 PM on February 16, 2013

I once read a fascinating theory that the DeLorean in Back to the Future actively manipulates events in order to prevent paradoxes and protect the timeline. Unfortunately, no amount of Googling seems sufficient to unearth the original source. The closest thing I can find is this blurb from TV Tropes:
The DeLorean's habit of stalling in the middle of a road has prevented possible time paradoxes: In the original movie, Marty is forced to disguise the car behind a billboard, being unable to drive it openly through 1955 Hill Valley. By stalling right before the final run towards the clock tower it delayed Marty about 30 seconds; if he had started driving when the alarm went off he would have beat the lightning bolt and been stuck in the past for the rest of his life. At the end of the film, the DeLorean stalls again, preventing Marty from interrupting the shootout at Lone Pine Mall (thus avoiding direct contact with his past self).
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:48 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

In Hudson Hawk, the entire movie is a dream sequence following the drugged espresso scene.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:35 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Breaking Bad is about Anakin turning into Darth Vader
posted by tiburon at 9:11 PM on February 16, 2013

I saw the trailer for Boondocks Saints last night which made it look like William DeFoe's police detective was the hero.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:48 PM on February 16, 2013

As an aside, I'd just offer that my test for self-important pseudo-intellectualism is anyone who thinks they can effectively interpret Donnie Darko. As I've told others, it's a brilliant film, but I don't know what it's about.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:57 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a simple time travel story. Watch the Director's Cut. I can PM you my explanation but basically it's a reverse It's A Wonderful Life.

Last night I realized The Force might be orgone energy.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:20 PM on February 16, 2013

Breaking Bad is about Anakin turning into Darth Vader

Not really an alternate theory.
posted by benbenson at 5:36 AM on February 17, 2013

Did they ever shoot the alternate ending to Scott Pilgrim where Scott is a serial killer who murders his girlfriend's exes and leaves coins on their bodies?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:46 PM on February 17, 2013

In Blade Runner, there is the fan theory that Deckard is actually Gaff, reinstated in a replicant. Gaff knows what Deckard's dreams are, because Deckard has all of Gaff's memories.

The story goes something like this: Gaff was the best blade runner they had, but get's hurt. (hence the limp and cane). They need a blade runner who can keep up with the nexus 7 model, so they create a nexus 7 (Deckard) with Gaff's memories to hunt down the rogue models.

Original Source
posted by Freen at 7:08 AM on February 18, 2013

You might enjoy this subreddit: r/FanTheories
posted by ejazen at 8:35 AM on February 18, 2013

Observe and Report: The characters are all dead and in hell.

Each and every character is a terrible person, consigned to hell by a fatal flaw or several (Nell's flaw is her self-loathing).

At the end of the movie, the worst person is made king.

Another alternate interpretation is much like Taxi Driver: None of what we see after Ronnie's firing actually happens. It's all in his head.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:52 AM on February 19, 2013

The Shining has a ton of these (some more credible than others). Of particular note: which are super worth reading.

i love this movie
posted by cybertaur1 at 3:27 PM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not a movie, but a well reasoned theory about The Lord of the Ring's Tom Bombadil
posted by ohforf at 10:39 AM on February 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

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