8 Awesome Alternative Movie Interpretations

    May 18, 2011 at 6:00 am

    For every movie that has a clear-cut story and transparent themes, there’s another film that garners a melee of alternative interpretations. Movies are art, and the great thing about art is that it’s always open to interpretation. While some alternative film interpretation theories are well-deserved (people have written books on how to interpret Inception and 2001: A Space Odyssey), some movies aren’t quite as deserving of their own alternate theory. Nonetheless, eager film fanatics are always chomping at the bit to come up with a new, innovative alternative theory on even the most mundane movies. Here are some of the best/most ridiculous alternative movie interpretations:

    The Fight Club-Calvin & Hobbes Theory

    fight club calvin and hobbesThe Theory: The movie Fight Club can be seen as a future version of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.

    In the Calvin & Hobbes comic strip, Calvin is a young boy who creates an imaginary friend, Hobbes the Tiger. Calvin and Hobbes are almost constantly bickering and fighting, though they remain the best of friends. According to The Fight Club-Calvin & Hobbes Theory, Ed Norton’s Fight Club character (who is never given a name) is Calvin. At some point in his childhood, Calvin was eventually forced to adhere to societal norms and abandon his troublesome imaginary tiger friend. Unfortunately, Hobbes never disappeared. He was just hiding away in Calvin’s subconscious, only to reappear later as Calvin’s maniacal alter-ego Tyler Durden and unleash a fury of havoc on the society that forced Calvin to repress him (and to bare-knuckle box next to a bunch of nitroglycerine).

    fight club calvin and hobbesWhy It’s a Bad Theory: Technically, this theory is sound. The parallels seem to ring true, for the most part. The problem is that these parallels can be applied to nearly every comic, book, TV show, and movie that features an imaginary friend of any sort. You could easily say that Little Monsters is a prequel to Fight Club, with Fred Savage as the Ed Norton character and blue Howie Mandel as early Tyler Durden. Similarly, the classic Jimmy Stewart film Harvey could also be viewed as a prequel to the Calvin & Hobbes comic strips, albeit a slightly more tame version than David Fincher had in mind. And don’t even get me started on Drop Dead Fred! The only advantage that Fight Club has is that its main character is never given a name, but that hardly suggests that it was intended to be a character from a classic comic strip.

    The Hot Tub Time Machine is Limbo Theory

    hot-tub-time-machine theoryThe Theory: Lou (played by Rob Corrdry) actually did kill himself at the beginning of the movie, and the entire movie is his adventure through a traditional Tibetan Bardo to prove his worth, right the wrongs in his life, and earn a place in heaven.

    Hot Tub Time Machine is an awesomely funny and incredibly self-referential movie about 4 friends who attempt to relive their glory days in order to show their recently-suicidal buddy that life is still worth living. The film begins with Lou (played by Rob Corrdry) attempting suicide and failing. Then the friends go to their old ski lodge and magically get transported back in time to the 80’s, where they’re given the chance to alter their lives for the better.  According to the theory, the film features not four separate characters, but rather four aspects of one character, Lou, in his attempts to repair his shattered life. The characters in the film conquer issues of love, spontaneity, abandonment, and self-worth. The icing on the cake is the enormous question that’s plaguing the characters (and the viewer) for the majority of the film: who is the father? In the end, Lou succeds and all of the film’s characters are given their own versions of the ideal heaven.

    hot tub time machine lougleWhy It’s a Bad Theory: As interesting as it is to severely over-analyze films, this one is a bit of a stretch. It’s more likely that the writers of the film came up with the premise of four guys traveling through time in a magical hot tub and reliving their glory days at an 80’s movie ski lodge, and then thought “y’know what? That’s pretty complicated as it is. Maybe we should NOT add another level of postmortem soul-searching Limbo to the mix.” Also, the Hot Tub Time Machine is Limbo Theory doesn’t really account for the multitude of awesome side characters that seem to have no bearing on the direction of the narrative, but provide some of the most hilarious aspects of the movie (i.e. Crispin Glover’s amazing portrayal of the chainsaw-juggling ski lodge bellboy).Why would those characters be in the Bardo if they had absolutely no role to play, other than comic relief?

    No Country For Old Men: Anton is an Angel

    anton no country for old menThe Theory: Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem’s creepy character) is not simply a hired hitman. Instead, he’s an angel sent by God to battle the devil, which in this story is the drug trade.

    Apparently, this theory holds a bit more water when applied to Cormac McCarthy’s book No Country for Old Men, but many of the parallels can still be applied to the Cohen Brothers’ film adapatation. Anton Chigurh is portrayed, both in the book and the film, as a cold, heartless, calculated murderer. He seems to show no signs of mercy or remorse. Nearly everyone who’s come into contact with the coveted drug money is brutally killed. If Anton is in fact an angel, he was sent by a ruthless Old Testament God, rather than the mooshy “love everybody” God of the New Testament.  Ominous, dressed in all black, and always carrying a large silver weapon (which is exactly how one might describe the Angel of Death), Anton swoops onto the scene out of nowhere and kills nearly everyone in his path. For those who aren’t directly involved in the drug money debacle (i.e. the gas station attendant), Anton flips a coin, implying that the choice to kill them is not his to make. Instead, “Fate” (God?) makes the decision for him.

    bardem jesus angelWhy It’s a Bad Theory: This theory is actually not terrible. It’s wrong, but it’s not terrible. Cormac McCarthy was known to be a staunch conservative, and it’s very possible that he would base his leading antagonist on the Angel of Death. Anton executes corrupt souls like livestock. It’s almost as if we’re the sheep and he’s the shepherd. He doesn’t kill Llewelynn’s wife, who didn’t spend the drug money but definitely had more interaction with it than some of Anton’s other hapless victims. But Llewelynn’s wife also confessed her “sin” to the Sheriff, so maybe that counts as repentance? It may be impossible to say, but If McCarthy did intend for Anton to literally be the Angel of Death, I’d hate to see his version of Heaven.

    Labyrinth is About Girls Having Periods

    labyrinth jennifer connelly babyThe Theory: The movie Labyrinth is about girls reaching puberty.

    You have to admit: there’s a lot of puberty and fertility symbolism in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. The film is about Sarah, a young teenaged girl, chasing after a baby. The labyrinth that Sarah must find her way through is constantly changing. She’s literally working her way toward confusing changes and moving toward a baby. In one particular scene, Sarah encounters the Firey Gang, a clan of Henson puppets whose body parts are constantly changing and altering. In other words, they’re constantly going through puberty. The Firey Gang embraces their eternal puberty though, and they do a song and dance about it while swapping limbs and body parts with each other. But when they try to get Sarah in on the fun by ripping her head off, Sarah discovers that her physical change is more of a struggle. She can’t alter her body at will. Add to this the fact that David Bowie’s codpiece, which is heavily emphasized throughout the entire movie, makes him more of a walking, talking penis than a mischievous wizard, and you’ve got one giant analogy for a girl’s transformation to sexual maturity.

    bowie-labyrinth spandexWhy It’s a Bad Theory: Is it more likely that Jim Henson made a film that’s a veiled analogy for girls getting their period, or that he’s just a super weird, insanely creative dude who’s work can be interpreted in many different ways? Is Labyrinth about Jennifer Connelly desperately seeking a baby through a maze of confusing physical changes, or is it about a girl who’s trying to find her baby brother in a bizarro fantasy world created by a wacky musical wizard? I guess either can be true, but I like to imagine Jennifer Connelly as always being at the height of her sexual maturity. It’s just better that way.

    The Ferris Bueller Fight Club Theory

    ferris-beuller-fight-clubThe Theory: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a Schizophrenic fantasy from the mind of Cameron Frye.

    The Ferris Bueller Fight Club Theory states that, much like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, Ferris Bueller is not a real person, but rather a figment of Cameron Frye’s shattered mind. The contrasts between Cameron and Ferris, like those between Ed Norton and Tyler Durden in Fight Club, are apparent from the start; Cameron is actually very sick, and his parents are nowhere to be found. Ferris, on the other hand, is faking sick while his parents pamper him and shower him with love and affection. It’s almost like Ferris is living Cameron’s ideal life. Throughout the film, Ferris is constantly convincing Cameron to participate in activities that are far outside of his conservative comfort zone. Ferris convinces Cameron to steal his father’s prized Ferrari and take it on a joyriding day trip through Chicago, after breaking Ferris’s real girlfriend (and Cameron’s dream girlfriend) Sloane out of school. During their excursion, Furthermore, Cameron is the only character in the film who actually develops in any way. At the end of the movie, Ferris Bueller is right back where he started: on top of the world. Sloane is still in love with Ferris, and Principal Ed Rooney is still a loser. Cameron, however, has developed the confidence and assertiveness to finally confront his parents about (basically) the lack of love for him. As soon as Cameron comes to this epiphany, the stories of Sloane and Ferris wrap up in an all-too-tidy, almost fairytale ending. All in all, the theory states that Cameron has created the persona of Ferris Bueller to be everything he’s not (and the Sausage King of Chicago as well).

    Why It’s a Bad Theory: Believe it or not, there are a lot of elements in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that fully support this theory, and re-watching the film with this idea in mind is truly a blast. But there are many elements of the story that just don’t add up, and in some cases fully contradict the theory altogether. Ed Rooney, for example, is traversing the city in search of Ferris Bueller the entire film. Why would Ed be searching for an imaginary character? And if Rooney was actually searching for Cameron, why would he mistakenly approach someone who looks like Ferris? Furthermore, what about Ferris’s parents and his sister, Jeannie? The theory chalks these film elements up as nothing more than an imaginary fantasy of Cameron’s, but that’s just a cheap way of saying “yeah, I guess that really doesn’t fit with this theory, so just forget about it.” Nonetheless, this is definitely one of the most interesting alternate film theories to date.

    Drag Me To Hell is About Bulimia

    drag-me-to-hellThe Theory: Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell is a personification, or rather a Gypsification, of eating disorders.

    This theory hinges almost solely on one simple, yet admittedly uncanny, fact: every scene in the film that features the lead character, Christine, being attacked by an evil spirit begins when food is nearby. At the beginning of the film, we see an old picture of Christine as a chubby young girl in front of a sign that reads “Swine Queen”. According to the theory, Christine is not being attacked by an evil spirit. She’s simply starving herself and hallucinating as a result. The evil spirit only comes to Christine’s home when she is in the kitchen.  At night, Christine has nightmares that she’s being vomited on, but this is actually a warped memory of Christine herself purging in the bathroom. At one point she dreams that a fly enters her mouth and buzzes around in her stomach. This is Christine’s stomach growling because she’s starving herself. At the gypsy woman’s funeral, everyone is eating and drinking. Suddenly the gypsy woman attacks Christine, vomits on her, and shoves her arm down Christine’s throat. She’s literally making her eat it. During another pivotal scene in the movie, Christine is attending a dinner with her boyfriend’s family. She’s served a piece of cake, and she’s being forced to eat it. Suddenly an eyeball shows up in the cake, causing her to choke on her food and stop eating.

    drag me to hell cakeWhy It’s a Bad Theory: What about the crazy fight in the bank parking lot, where the gypsy woman attacks Christine in her car? There’s no food there. Also, what’s up with Christine being DRAGGED INTO HELL at the end of the movie? And what about the weird seance they all had? Admittedly, it is quite strange that most of the scary scenes take place around food, but Raimi’s angle on this particular horror movie was gross out horror, so it makes sense that a lot of the scariest scenes involve vomit, biting, and putting things in people’s mouths. It’s scary and gross, and that’s exactly what Raimi was going for.

    X-Men is About The Civil Rights Movement

    xmen professor x martin luther kingThe Theory: The parallels between the plight of mutants in X-Men and the plight of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement are mirror reflections of one another.

    According to the theory, Professor Xavier plays the role of Martin Luther King, Jr., an honorable leader fighting peacefully for equal rights for his people. Magneto, on the other hand, falls more into the Malcolm X line of action, claiming that he’ll make sure that mutants are treated equally, even if it takes violence and destruction to get there. Meanwhile, the millions of mutants who are distributed among society are persecuted, misunderstood, and horribly mistreated, much like the African Americans of the South during the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960’s. The parallels, like the X-Men, are truly uncanny.

    uncannyWhy It’s a Bad Theory: This alternative movie theory is probably spot-on, but it’s less of an alternative interpretation of the franchise and more of a simple tracing back to the story’s source material. The X-Men franchise was created in the early 60’s, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s very likely that the franchise’s creators drew directly from current events, which also happened to fit perfectly into their X-Men story. When you’re writing a story about a group of segregated people trying to obtain equal treatment in society, and you’re surrounded in the news by a group of segregated people trying to obtain equal treatment in society, you’re going to draw some ideas from reality.

    Mac & Me Takes Place in an Alternate Reality

    mac and meThe Theory: The blatant E.T. ripoff Mac & Me takes place in an alternate dimension where everything seems the same at first, but then it turns out that everyone in this dimension is really, really stupid.

    In the alternate Mac & Me dimension, nobody has seen E.T., so they don’t realize how much of a ripoff it is that, instead of loving Reese’s Pieces, their adorably little alien refuge loves coke and skittles. It’s a tiny distinction, but it has to be close enough to sue over. The stupid idiot people in this alternate dimension also fail to realize that a) no matter what room they’re in, there always seems to be a coke can with a clearly visible label nearby. But their stupidity goes way beyond that. The people in this dimension are so stupid that they somehow failed to realize that it’s not normal for an elaborate dance party to spontaneously break out at a McDonalds, that clean-cut teenagers don’t just hang out breakdancing in front of that McDonald’s for fun, and that the little “thing” that refuses to take of its bear costume, despite dancing on the McDonald’s counter during the dance party and defying gravity in front of dozens of witnesses, is actually a really stupid alien creature. They also don’t realize that, when that stupid little aliens stupid family shows up on Earth, it’s nowhere near legal for those people to grant the stupid alien family with legal alien citizenship, give them human clothes and a pink Cadillac, and send them riding off into the sunset in search of the American dream.

    Why It’s a Bad Theory: It’s just wrong. Mac & Me doesn’t take place in an alternate reality where everyone is really stupid. It takes place in an alternate reality where only screenwriters are really, really stupid.


    1. Here is another theory that adds its own credence to the Ferris Bueller theory. I saw “Titanic” and am of the mind that while Rose’s snobby fiancé Cal existed, Jack Dawson was the product of Rose’s shattered mind. Cal abused her so much that her mind broke and Jack came to be when she attempted suicide. Jack was everything Rose wanted in a mate and he gave her the courage to stand up to her mother and Cal. The other passengers were sympathetic to Rose’s plight and so Jack existed for them. I think Cal pitied her because her dead father left her nothing and he thought his presence would give Rose and her mom prestige.

    2. I do think that Jack Dawson from “Titanic” was invented by Rose because of the abuse Cal put her through. Rose made them all think that he existed and some of her expressions belonged to a woman who was not really there. Rose wanted a congenial, salt-of-the-earth type who was an artist because she loved art so much and Jack came along to save her both physically and mentally. When Rose was whole and out of the clutches of her mother and Cal, Jack left her. If I remember right, Rose said there was no picture of Jack or records that he existed.

    3. Ellen says:

      Furrealz? That’s mavreolusly good to know.

    4. Chris says:

      he clearly kills carly jean moss in No Country

    5. Benji says:

      With No Country for Old Men, I think it’s safer to assume Anton is the personification of Death, but not necessarily an angel. Tommy Lee Jones is God (he is the only person Anton is scared of in the movie, he chases after Llewellyn and claims he will be safe with him, etc.). Llewellyn is representative of the common man. His wife may represent the faithful.

      Drag Me to Hell makes constant references to how the main character used to be fat. It makes sense, then, that the demons haunting her would come from food. I don’t think it’s about an eating disorder so much of her fear of becoming fat again.

    6. I have read some of these theories before and it was refreshing to read them again. others were new to me and are also intriguing (except the mac and me—it isn’t an alternate reality—OUR reality produced the script writers that made that dick-shaped turd of a movie.)

      The only thing i wish to state is that in the X-men movie franchise does mirror the comicbook franchise which is intentionally an allegory for oppressed people.

      The co-creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were given the task of coming up with a comicbook to compete with Detective Comic’s “Teen Titans” book, obviously about a group of teenage superheroes and their adventures. Stan and Jack based their concept of teenagers with powers to be the opposite of Teen Titans: in other words, the Teen Titans were accepted as a superteam that was admired and trusted, and the X-men were not. The idea was further fleshed out and was discussed with Stan’s family, including Larry Lieber, his brother, and Jack Kirby also discussed it with his family and other marvel artists of the time and it was definitely based on the peace movement and the civil rights movement, but was to symbolize any oppressed people—Stan Lee named that it represented African Americans, Liberals, Homosexuals/Transgenders and etc.

      Fun fact? Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are not their original names—changed to be less “ethnic”. Why? they are Jewish, one of the oldest group of oppressed people.

    7. James says:

      You’re saying the X-men movies don’t parallel the Civil Rights Movement, because the X-men movies are based upon the comic series, which parallels the Civil Rights Movement.

      Way to debunk that theory. You’re brilliant.

      • “This alternative movie theory is probably spot-on, but it’s less of an alternative interpretation of the franchise and more of a simple tracing back to the story’s source material.”

        In other words, it shouldn’t be considered an ALTERNATIVE interpretation. It’s the intentional message. It’s like finding something in English, writing it down again in English, and claiming that you translated it.

    8. You guys are totally right. I forgot about the blood on the shoe. The “Anton is an Angel” theory comes with the caveat that the God who sent Anton is more of an Old Testament, Yaweh-type god who doesn’t really care about killing people that much (turning entire cities into salt, flooding the world, etc.), so that’s an easy way to account for all of the other random deaths at Anton’s hands.

    9. ME says:

      Also Anton kills the guy for his car.

    10. duder says:

      I’m pretty sure Anton Chigurh does kill Llewelyn’s wife. He offers her a chance with the coin flip, but she refuses to choose. Then it cuts to him checking his shoes after leaving the house, implying that he is checking for blood after killing her.

    11. Name says:

      Interesting article, but Anton did kill the wife. He did so in the book, and as he’s leaving the house, he’s seen checking his boots for blood. It was subtle, but yes, he killed her.

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