Thursday , 28 September 2023
11 wild fan theories that completely change the meaning of famous movies

11 wild fan theories that completely change the meaning of famous movies

The very best films grow richer with each viewing, unfurling new depths of meaning each time.

But what happens when viewers look to create their own meaning?

So-called fan theories have become a booming talking point in the age of the internet, with film-lovers often scrutinising their favourite movies for hints of some secret narrative or dark twist.

While many of the theories shared – for example, on Reddit’s “fan theories” forum – are far-fetched and thinly substantiated, every so often someone is able to put a spin on a film that gives you pause for thought.

Sometimes they sound utterly ludicrous (Jar-Jar Binks being the devil in disguise?) but then when you hear the evidence, you can’t help but wonder.

Here are 11 of the most popular and interesting fan theories about famous movies.

The “Pixar Theory”

One of the most notorious fan theories in cinema, this spurious hypothesis seeks to situate all films produced by Pixar within the same canonical universe. There’s fodder enough to support this idea – characters are constantly cropping up in other films, in blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em Easter eggs – and, sure enough, in 2017 Pixar shared a video that seemed to confirm that this theory had legs. With each new release, however, the theory becomes a little bit more tenuous.

Woody (Tom Hanks) in ‘Toy Story’


Star Wars – Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord

This notorious theory posits that Jar-Jar Binks – the buffoonish, amphibious alien that became a hate figure within the Star Wars fanbase following the release of The Phantom Menace – was, in fact, a skilled villain the whole time. There are a number of curiously convincing pieces of supporting evidence for this theory. His chaotic, fumbling movements that “shockingly” manage to defeat opponents in battle somewhat resemble the fighting style of Zui quan, or “drunken boxing”. He uses hand gestures when trying to convince people of things – a Jedi mind trick? And he ends up insinuating himself into a senatorial position, ultimately putting in place Palpatine’s takeover of the empire. Far-fetched? Meesa think not.

The “Tarantino theory”

Much like the Pixar theory, this argument revolves around the idea that every film made by Quentin Tarantino in fact takes place in one universe. There are tidbits that support this theory – Pulp Fiction’s Vincent Vega and Reservoir Dogs’s Vic Vega are brothers; Donnie Donowitz from Inglorious Basterds is father to Lee Donowitz in True Romance; all characters smoke the same brand of fictional cigarettes (Red Apple).

The theory is based on the idea that films such as Reservoir Dogs and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood take place in an alternate reality – one where Adolf Hitler was killed in a hail of bullets and fire at the end of Inglourious Basterds. Tarantino himself has partially confirmed the theory to be true, but stipulated that there are in fact not one but two shared universes his films occupy.

Pulp Fiction Ezekiel 25:17 clip

Guardians of the Galaxy – Everyone is swearing (except Peter Quill)

As shared on Reddit by u/freelanceastronaut, this theory explains why all the characters in Guardians of the Galaxy cuss and swear like they’re in a film for kids. In the movie, many of the alien characters are not in fact speaking English, but are having their language translated for Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the audience via Quill’s universal translator.

Quill, however, was abducted from Earth when he was still a small child – meaning the kind of swear words that these rough-and-ready rogues are using simply wouldn’t be in his vocabulary.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Not a reward, but a punishment

Willy Wonka is a sicko. There’s no hiding this, of course – the man spends the majority of the film’s runtime doling out bespoke punishments to a gaggle of small children. At the end, he rewards the pure-hearted Charlie Bucket with inheritance of his magical chocolate factory.

What this theory, put forward by Reddit user u/MasterLawlz, posits, is that the ending is not a happy one at all. Rather, by bestowing the factory on little Charlie, Wonka is inflicting his worst punishment of all: a lifetime spent being a dysfunctional, vindictive recluse. The theory casts a pretty dark pall over what was already a prickly, sharp-edged kids’ fable.

Dark chocolatier: Gene Wilder’s Wonka may have had nefarious intentions

(Warner Bros)

Aladdin – One wish left

At the start of Disney’s animated classic Aladdin (and, I suppose, the dire live-action remake), down-on-his-luck pauper Aladdin discovers the magic lamp and uses his first wish to ask the genie (Robin Williams/Will Smith) to make him a prince. This happens, of course, and he is transformed into “Prince Ali Ababwa”, intending to court princess Jasmine. As the plan goes awry, he has to use up his second wish to save his own life.

After using the third and final wish to free the genie, all ends up happily after all: the sultan allows Aladdin and Jasmine to marry anyway, turning him into a prince. Given that the genie has the ability to see centuries into the future, it’s entirely possible that everything that happens after wish number one was simply a circuitous means of transforming Aladdin into a prince – which would also mean that he still has one wish remaining at the end of the story. Did somebody say sequel?

Toy Story – Andy’s parents are divorcing

The Toy Story films are never really about the humans: Andy and his family exist on the periphery of the first three films, despite their monolithic importance to Woody and co. Regardless, eagle-eyed fans of the series have claimed to track a narrative running through the glimpses we get of Andy’s life – and it’s not an entirely happy one. It’s hardly an open-and-dry case but there are some reasonably sturdy bits of evidence: the fact that Andy’s father is never seen, and the lack of a wedding ring on the mother’s finger.

The Rock – Secret Bond sequel

Michael Bay’s 1996 escape-from-prison thriller sees Sean Connery play a disavowed ex-spy who had been sentenced to years in a high-security prison. According to this theory, Connery’s character, referred to as John Mason, is in fact an older version of James Bond. The timeline adds up, and it’s stated in the film that John Mason isn’t his real name. The theory is certainly compelling, but maybe not intentional: producer Jerry Bruckheimer denied that the thought had entered the writers’ minds.

Inside Llewyn Davis – Mike is a Gorfein

The Coen brothers’ masterful folk elegy Inside Llewyn Davis sees Oscar Isaac’s prickly musician haunted by unspoken grief, after the suicide of his friend and singing partner Mike Timlin. While the film sees Llewyn bounce from sofa to sofa, cadging a bed from any casual acquaintance, he comes back multiple times to Mitch and Lillian Gorfein (Ethan Phillips and Robin Bartlett), whose relationship with him is never explained.

There are several subtle hints, however, that they are in fact Mike’s parents: their house is located near the bridge he jumped off; Lillian refers to the late character as “Mikey”, and knows his harmonies; “Timlin” would be a plausible stage name for an aspiring singer named Gorfein. Of course, the notoriously explanation-averse Coens have never clarified whether this theory is true.

Inside Llewyn Davis – Trailer 2

Mad Max – There is only one story

The chronology of the Mad Max franchise is hard to get your head around. Is Fury Road a remake of Mad Max? The world seems to change between each film, as does Max himself. What this intriguing theory claims is that all the films are in fact the same story, about the same man – only told by different people. In this interpretation, the story of Mad Max is something like a folk legend, a tale that keeps being re-shared with a different spin on it.#

Skyfall – Bond revisited

Another 007-related fan theory here, and a popular one at that. The line of thinking goes that Kincade, the shotgun-toting Scottish recluse played by Albert Finney in 2012’s Skyfall, was in fact a part written for Sean Connery – making the character in fact an older incarnation of Connery’s James Bond.

The speculation was partly confirmed by director Sam Mendes, who admitted that producers had had a “definite discussion” about Connery playing the role. What does this all mean? Skyfall more or less ties both Craig and Connery’s Bond films into the same universe – and, arguably, all the other Bond films by extension. Taken as canon, this would confirm the theory that “James Bond” is nothing more than a codename – that there have been a line of different Bonds taking the role after each other.

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