Movies are open to a lot of different interpretations and, often, fans like to speculate about the meaning behind various events and themes within films. Sometimes this can lend an incredibly additional layer of depth to a story – and other times a fan theory can suck the joy from a movie’s conclusion or cast a shadowy light over the supposed triumph for the hero.
No movie is immune to the piercing gaze of fan analysis, and as such, some of the more popular and enjoyable movies of the past few decades have been scrutinized to reveal potential clues that might dramatically alter the way audiences react to a story.
Here are some theories which might just make you consider your favorite movie in a more negative light. these are the 15 Fan Theories That Will Ruin Your Favorite Movie.
16 The Harry Potter Series – Hogwarts is Imaginary
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels and the movies that are based on them have been captivating audiences young and old for two decades now. The timeless story of a young orphan who is rescued from his abusive family to learn about magic and wizardry is a story of hope – even though Harry’s upbringing is less than ideal, he’s able to develop into a popular, wealthy hero with the help of his friends.
Some fans, though, have wondered if Harry’s saccharine story is a little too good to be true – the poor, friendless orphan goes from a world where he’s routinely ignored to a place where he’s the most important person alive, and is surrounded by admirers. One theory suggests that Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts all happen within his own head, and that the boarding school he attends, Hogwarts, is actually a metaphor for a mental institution.
Looking at the story through these eyes, a lot of the joy and wonder of the Harry Potter series becomes tainted – after all, they’re only the delusions of a young boy who will never be loved the way he wishes he could be.
15 Back to the Future – Doc Brown is Suicidal and Wants to Kill Marty
In Back to the Future, the young Marty McFly’s best friend is an aging scientist who manages to invent a time machine. Fans have wondered for years what chain of events would lead Marty and Doc Brown to become friends, and Doc’s initial test of his time machine leaves many fans wondering if there might be something sinister lurking underneath the surface in the relationship.
In the movie, audiences learn that even as far back as 1955, Doc’s career as an inventor is hardly taking off. A string of unsuccessful inventions leave Doc Brown jaded and alone. Thirty years later in 1985, having befriended Marty, Doc tests his time machine for the first time – by driving it directly at the pair. While Marty attempts to get out of the way of a speeding car racing towards them, Doc forces him to stay on the spot. If this truly is the first test of the time machine, though, and Doc’s never successfully invented anything before, some fans suggest that this is a last-ditched attempt from Doc to either prove his invention works, or die without having to face one last failure.
The fact that Doc is intent to take Marty with him casts a new light on his relationship with the teenager – suggesting that Doc’s relationship with Marty is hardly sunny.
14 E.T. The Extra Terrestrial – E.T. is a Sith Lord
Thanks to some friendly nods shared between Steven Spielberg and George Lucas in their science fiction movies, fans have long been able to see Easter Eggs which point to a shared universe between E.T. and Star Wars. E.T.’s species can be seen in a Senate meeting in The Phantom Menace, and when on Halloween E.T. sees a child in a Yoda mask, the little alien reacts eagerly, recognizing something about the mask.
Some fans have used this evidence, alongside E.T.’s powers of resurrection and healing, to suggest that E.T. might in fact be a Jedi, having travelled to Earth from a galaxy far, far away. Other fans, though, argue for a darker interpretation – power over death is typically a Dark Side trait, and E.T.’s ability to manipulate and control Elliot through a mental link suggests that the extra-terrestrial is actually a Sith Lord, using a bond with Elliot to draw away his life force.
13 Home Alone – Kevin’s Mother Sells Her Soul to the Devil
The original Home Alone wraps up nicely when, after having been left on his own to defend his home from a pair of thieves, the young Kevin is reunited with his mother, Kate, who’s managed, thanks to some help from Gus Polinski (played by John Candy), to make it home from Paris in spite of the holiday rush.
Fans of the movie, though, have concocted a theory about Kate’s dealings with Gus Polinski which casts a darker meaning behind their negotiation. According to some fans, John Candy’s character is actually the devil, and in order to get home, Kate has sold her soul.
As evidence, fans point to the fact that Candy’s character appears at a crossroads within an airport, after having just said that she’d sell her soul to get home. In response, the devil appears in the guise of Gus Polinski, and offers Kate a ride.
12 The Dark Knight Trilogy – Alfred is Bruce Wayne’s Real Father
Throughout Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, nobody is more supportive, nor shows more affection to Bruce Wayne than his loyal manservant Alfred. The performance delivered by Michael Caine is so moving, in fact, that some fans speculate that Alfred might actually be Bruce’s real father.
According to the fan theory, Alfred had an affair with Martha Wayne, producing a child. Some fan theorists take this further, arguing that Thomas and Martha’s murder was a deliberate hit organized by Alfred to get Thomas Wayne out of the picture, but that it went horribly wrong, leaving Alfred to care for his illegitimate son.
There’s not a lot to go on in this movie, especially considering how similar Thomas and Bruce Wayne look in Batman Begins, but it’s a theory that some fans are convinced of.
11 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – Willy Wonka is Actually George Weasley
Fans have speculated endlessly about exactly how much forethought Willy Wonka put into his grand plan to invite children into his chocolate factory. At each point in the journey there are only enough seats or equipment for the children who remain, leading some fans to speculate that Wonka intends to see children suffer at every stage of his tour.
Perhaps a more heart-wrenching theory, though, is the suggestion that Willy Wonka might in fact be an alias. Wonka’s magic chocolates and bizarre method of chocolate manufacture has led some fans to speculate that he might secretly be a wizard – after all, when Fred and George Weasley open a joke shop in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, they have plenty of chocolates and candy treats on offer which bear a resemblance to Wonka products.
According to this theory, after the Battle of Hogwarts, George Weasley changes his name and begins making chocolate, using all of his magical charms in the process. There are several pieces of evidence for this theory, such as Wonka claiming to be deaf in one ear (the ear which George Weasley loses in a fight in Deathly Hallows Part 1). The most compelling evidence, though, is a look inside Wonka’s office in his factory, where everything is halved. There’s half a hat stand, half a desk, and half a clock – symbolism, fans claim, showing that without his beloved twin brother, George Weasley, is only half a man.
Why George then decides to start punishing children for their greed is anyone’s guess…
10 The Thing – Childs is The Thing
John Carpenter’s The Thing ends somewhat ambiguously, with the two remaining survivors of an alien attack glumly drinking beer as each wonders whether the other is secretly infected with the titular Thing – an entity which assimilates organic hosts to turn them into horrific mutants.
Fans have endlessly debated the ending of the movie, wondering if either of the remaining heroes, Childs and MacReady, are infected. Many fans believe that in passing Childs a beer, MacReady is secretly performing one last test – having been favoring Molotov cocktails throughout the movie, MacReady may have filled the bottle with gasoline, and in the close of the movie is watching to see whether Childs can notice the awful taste of the drink. Childs fails to react negatively, leading MacReady to chuckle quietly to himself before the movie ends and, moments later, MacReady lights Childs up with a flamethrower.
9 Groundhog Day - Punxsutawney is Purgatory, Bill Murray is Buddha
There are plenty of theories bouncing around the internet about a hidden meaning within the Bill Murray vehicle that is Groundhog Day. The movie, which sees Murray’s character, Phil Connors, repeating the same day in a small town over and over, slowly learning about all of the people within the town and developing his own talents and skills.
Two prevalent theories stand out from the pack with this movie – firstly, that the town of Punxsutawney is in fact Purgatory, the world between worlds, and Phil Connors is stuck there having died at the beginning of the movie.
Another theory suggests that Connors is a metaphor for Buddha, and that Punxsutawney represents the endless cycle of life and rebirth. Having overcome this cycle at the end of the movie by achieving enlightenment, Connors is able to return to the world, as does Buddha, in order to teach others the truth of the universe and how to reach Nirvana.
8 Toy Story – Woody Ruins Sid’s Life
Pixar’s first smash hit movie, Toy Story, is a story about the world as seen through the perspective of a group of children’s toys. At one point the movie’s main protagonists, Woody and Buzz, find themselves trapped in the home of Sid, a malevolent child who, the audience is told, "tortures toys." When Buzz is in danger, Woody stages a daring rescue which involves scaring Sid and revealing that his toys are always watching him.
Of course, when events are viewed from another perspective, Sid doesn’t seem particularly evil – not knowing that his toys can feel pain, he’s been playing with them in a creative fashion. While the child is hardly well behaved, he’s unaware of how much he’s hurting his toys.
The next time audiences see Sid, he appears as a garbage man in Toy Story 3, which has led to many fans speculating that, after being confronted by Woody, Sid changed his life goal, taking the job as a garbage man to save toys from the furnace which Woody and his friends end up getting stuck in at the end of the movie.
Sid could have been the toys’ greatest ally if only they hadn’t set out to scar him emotionally.
7 Batman – The Joker Didn’t Kill Batman’s Parents
Tim Burton’s take on Batman played with the lore behind the character a bit – in the movie, Bruce Wayne’s parents aren’t killed by Joe Chill, but rather by Jack Napier, the man who would ultimately become The Joker. This means that when, at the end of the movie, The Joker is murdered, Batman is able to feel closure in the death of his parents.
Some fans, though, feel that this ending is a little too convenient. Instead, the theory has been suggested that the trauma Bruce suffers as a child, which leads him to become Batman, also causes him to project his killer’s identity onto whichever enemy he’s facing at a given time. In this way, Batman can never escape the need to avenge his parents’ murder, as he always believes that each new villain is responsible for their deaths.
6 Fight Club - The Narrator and Tyler are Actually Calvin and Hobbes
The plot twist around which Fight Club centers – that Brad Pitt’s Tyler is nothing but a figment of the Narrator’s imagination – has led to a lot of speculation and analysis of the movie. One fan theory, though, which takes a dark movie to an even darker conclusion, suggests that these two characters are in fact none other than the grown versions of everyone’s favorite comic strip boy-tiger duo.
In the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip by Bill Watterson, Calvin is a young boy with an overactive imagination who firmly believes that his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, is real. According to fans, as Calvin grows to adulthood and is forced into a dead-end job which stifles his creativity, his best friend returns in a new form – that of the smooth-talking, destructive Tyler. This adds a new layer to Fight Club as it suggests why the Narrator is so desperate to escape the crushing horrors of modern life. It also adds a darker note to the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, as it suggests that for all the wonder and imagination of Calvin’s childhood, his adult life is far less idyllic and colorful.
5 Forrest Gump – Jenny’s Child is Not Forrest’s Son
While Forrest Gump is hardly free from depressing moments as it is, most fans take solace in the fact that it has a happy if bittersweet ending – Forrest’s love interest Jenny passes away from AIDS, but Forrest is able to raise the pair’s son, giving him the family that he’s always wanted.
Some fans, though, wonder whether Jenny is entirely truthful when she tells Forrest that her son, named after him, is actually his child – after all, Jenny is promiscuous throughout the movie, and there are plenty of other men who could be the father. Suggesting that Jenny is simply manipulating Forrest into taking care of her son after her death makes the ending all the more poignant and emotional, even if Forrest Sr. would never think to question Jenny’s words himself.
4 Casino Royale – James Bond is Sterile
One thing has to be said for Daniel Craig’s James Bond – more so than any other Bond, he knows how to take a beating. The origin story for the world’s most famous spy shows Bond going through an unprecedented amount of physical pain on his mission to save the day, including being whipped repeatedly in the genitals.
Some fans have wondered whether this torture scene has any larger effect on Bond’s lifestyle afterwards, wondering if Bond is perhaps so cavalier about having sex with so many women because he doesn’t have to worry about getting them pregnant – perhaps after being tortured, he winds up unable to father children. This would not only explain why Bond never faces any consequences of his promiscuity, but also might suggest that his actions are simply a way of compensating for his sterility – which would make sense considering how much Bond values his suave, macho image.
3 Wreck-it-Ralph – Calhoun Murdered Her Husband
In Disney’s video game-inspired movie Wreck-it-Ralph, audiences meet Sgt Calhoun, a tough military leader who has been programmed to have the most tragic backstory. According to a flashback, Calhoun’s wedding was interrupted when a deadly Cy Bug ate her new husband – after which, Calhoun pulled a machine gun from underneath her wedding dress and exploded the bug.
An analysis of Wreck-it-Ralph lore, though, has led fans to surmise that this backstory is even more tragic than it appears at first. Cy Bugs are shown to mutate into whatever they eat – one bug eats Ralph’s gun and turns into a giant flying, shooting metal weapon, while other Cy Bugs eat candy and are transformed into sugary sweet monsters. The movie’s antagonist, Turbo, is eaten by a Cy Bug near the end of the movie, and returns at the climax, as the bug who ate him has mutated into a Turbo-Cy Bug hybrid with all of Turbo’s memories and thoughts.
This, fans point out, means that Calhoun’s new husband isn’t killed by a Cy Bug when the bug eats him. Instead, the bug would have mutated into Calhoun’s husband, had Calhoun not instantly shot the bug. This being the case, Calhoun’s real tragedy is not having seen her husband murdered, but rather having killed him herself to avoid him turning into a Cy Bug, the one creature she hates more than any other.
2 Jurassic Park – There Are No Real Dinosaurs
When it was originally released in 1993, scientists praised Jurassic Park for being an incredibly accurate portrayal of what paleontology believed at the time that dinosaurs were like. In spite of this, though, there are multiple inaccuracies in the way dinosaurs appear throughout the movie – most notably in real life, velociraptors were a lot smaller, and in the years since the movie’s release researchers have surmised that most dinosaurs were covered with feathers.
More problematic, though, is the fact that dinosaur cloning from DNA trapped in amber is impossible: DNA has a half-life of only 521 years, meaning that it would be impossible to clone a creature from a blood sample that’s millions of years old.
To combat this, one fan theory suggests that the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park are not clones at all, but rather genetic experiments that the park’s owner, John Hammond, is attempting to pass off as real. Everything in the park is just as fake as the flea circus Hammond used to start his empire.
There are plenty of fan theories around on the internet, and while some can be used to smooth over the cracks of a movie’s plot holes or otherwise enhance the viewing experience, others take some of the excitement and enjoyment from the resolution of the story.
Ultimately, though, any movie which gets people talking enough to concoct a bizarre theory has done its job: it’s not only entertained audiences, but given them something to think about as well.
What are your favorite fan theories? Which theories on this list do you suspect are true? Share your thoughts in the comments below.