Most movies come with a unique message; commentary on social and political issues, or actual, well-known events in history.
Some writers may do a more blatantly obvious job at communicating their sentiments – see Wall-E or Avatar for some environmentally-political examples – while others may be more subtle in their approach, expressing themselves under the guise of satirical or more abstract storylines.
While its common to misintrepret the more metaphorical films out there, even some of the most obvious messages in cinema can, sadly, get lost in translation – with many audiences taking a completely different message from the film altogether.
Whether it’s trying to emulate a clearly horrible character, displaced outrage, or other un-befitting fan responses – here are a number of films in which countless viewers have sorely missed the mark.
We’ve already compiled a list of some well-known films that fall victim to this, but here are a handful more that completely confused audiences.
Here are the 15 Movies Where Audiences Completely Missed The Point – Part 2.
King of Satire, Paul Verhoeven, released his now-classic sci-fi action hit Robocop in 1987. It was a story that focused on a half-man, half-android police officer; an experiment weapon created by mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products to clean up the chaotic streets of Detroit city.
The film was chock full of violence, explosions, and carnage – a typical compilation of the mindless, “cheap thrills” that are often sought after in a usual, Hollywood popcorn flick.
While going on to claim a well-renowned status in the world of cinema, many audiences sorely missed the satirical point of Verhoeven’s masterpiece – solely consuming the bloodshed and brutality it had to offer, and not the specific societal issues it was aiming to attack.
Though a fast-paced entertaining film for sure, it was also an – albeit straight-faced – jab at capitalist America, corporate greed, and society’s often senseless obsession with consumerism. The death and destruction in most scenes was also Verhoeven’s subtle mockery of many movie-goers’ fascination with violence and gore.
14. Pulp Fiction
When it comes to gratuitous violence played out with surprisingly intelligent characters, Quentin Tarantino has undoubtedly mastered the art.
One of his greatest successes in cinema was 1994’s Pulp Fiction, featuring exactly this – with a non-linear story revolving around criminals, heroin, and what happens when you double-cross a merciless gangster boss.
Though a true Tarantino masterpiece, the movie appalled quite a number of viewers who thought Tarantino went overboard with the rampant gore and obscenities throughout the film. Former Republican Leader of the United States, Bob Dole, engaged in these criticisms himself – singling out the filmmaker, among a few others, as a promoter of “mindless violence.”
However, when one takes a closer look at the film’s plot, it doesn’t celebrate the deplorable lifestyle of their criminal protagonists in any way. If any – many of them end up dead, nearly dead, or horrifyingly violated by traumatic means. There are no “good guys” you’re meant to glorify.
At the same time, Tarantino has repeatedly assured that the brutality in his films are meant to be epic, entertaining spectacles rather than subliminal, pro-violence messages – finding no correlation between such themes in his movies, and real life.
13. The Dark Knight/The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises sparked heavy discussion among audiences in their prime, with both left and right-wing groups addressing its possible political undertones.
Amidst The Dark Knight‘s blockbuster success, conservatives were all for the film’s alleged allusion to the “War on Terror;” the struggle between Batman and the Joker as a metaphor for the global fight against terrorism.
A similar political debate was introduced in 2012 upon the release of The Dark Knight Rises, with many claiming that Nolan was trying to push a conservative, anti-Occupy Wall Street message – using the movie’s forefront villain Bane as a symbol for the economic 99%’s protest against the wealthiest 1% of America.
Of course, the character heroically representing this opposing sector is none other than Batman himself, who eventually defeats his evil, supposed “populist” foe.
While the theories make sense and are well argued by viewers, Nolan himself has stated that he had never intended for his movies to convey a political message in any way. He admitted to laying out relevant societal questions to ponder on, but firmly expressed that his films were merely “telling a story”.
12. The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project was one of the most innovative films of its time – back in an era where the genre of “found-footage” was still a ingenious, rare novelty.
The low-budget faux-documentary told the haunting tale of three film students, as they ventured into the woods to capture evidence of a legendary ghostly murderer known as the “Blair Witch.”
An absolutely unconventional treat (in both its production and marketing) – the movie was thus a divisive one among horror fans. Many disaparaged its “migraine-inducing,” handheld camerawork, its modest, slapdash production, and lack of any typical, box-office-horror scares.
However, the movie was never aiming for James Wan-esque terror – but rather a more realistic focus on fear, transporting audiences right into the characters’ situations with its makeshift, first-person approach and subtle, creepy imagery.
Audiences were meant to find horror in the film’s atmosphere and the protagonists’ eventual descent into panic, while tapping into their fears of unknown sounds and entities that go bump in the night.
Brian de Palma’s Scarface in 1983 was the movie behind one of cinema’s most famous lines in film history: “Say hello to my little friend!” — along with one of Al Pacino’s most recognized and acclaimed roles to date.
It is a story about about a Cuban refugee, Tony Montana, who starts from nothing and eventually fights his way to becoming one of the most successful and wealthy drug kingpins of Miami city, has become a much-loved masterpiece amongst directors, critics, and cinephiles alike.
So much so, that Pacino’s character, Tony Montana, has been highly regarded among viewers for his desirable life of money, power, and dominating mobster charisma.
However, those who look beyond Montana’s glamorous life of wealth will find that while he does wade in good fortune, his dirty decisions have spiralled him into becoming a coke-addicted, wanted criminal who eventually causes his wife to leave him, murders his best friend, and gets his sister killed.
Another Paul Verhoeven flick makes the list with his 1995 erotic camp classic, Showgirls. Unlike Robocop, the film was widely and ruthlessly panned by many who viewed it, excoriating the director for producing what was then considered a kitschy mess of awful, cheesy dialogue, over-the-top acting, and needless amount of exploitative sexual content.
However, much like his previous sci-fi hit, many once again failed to see the glowing satirical motive behind the film – instead focusing on the tackiness of it all, and not the subject matter it was aiming to ridicule.
While frequently taken at a mere face value, the film’s events are meant to be a mockery of the entertainment industry: a world where one’s morals, virtues, and integrity are thrown out the window to climb to the top; where misogyny prevails and divas abound.
Verhoeven had even admitted to encouraging the movie’s leading lady, Elizabeth Berkley, to exaggerate her acting to a campy degree – believing it to suit the elements of the film. Her efforts, sadly, were humorlessly received, along with the rest of this Verhoeven flop.
9. Finding Nemo
Pixar’s Finding Nemo was a heartwarming animated tale of an overprotective clownfish named Marlin, who raises his only son Nemo in sheltered paranoia that puts Mother Gothel to shame.
In a fit of rebellion, Nemo one day escapes from his father’s supervision and immediately regrets it when he, almost instantly, gets kidnapped by an Australian deep sea diver.
Thus, our underwater adventure begins as Marlin sets out on a quest to retrieve his son and return him to the ocean where he rightfully belongs.
As loveable as Pixar’s characters were, the film was clearly a message against tearing animals away from their natural habitats. That didn’t stop numerous families, however, from going out and purchasing clownfish of their own to keep in little, domesticated home aquariums.
Unsurprisingly, many of these new clownfish owners had little to no knowledge on taking proper care of saltwater fish – a breed that demands much more sensitive requirements – leading to the unfortunate deaths of many captured Nemos and Marlins.
The spiked sales in clownfish also resulted in localised extinction, including the Philippines and parts of Thailand and Sri Lanka.
8. The Graduate
The 1967 Mike Nichols classic The Graduate tells a stoy of an impulsive young man by the name of Benjamin Braddock.
He spends his newly-graduated life having a scandalous affair with a married Mrs. Robinson (he’s father’s law partner), eventually developing feelings for her daughter, Elaine. A livid Mr. Robinson also finds out about Ben and his wife’s relationship, forcing Elaine to drop out of college to marry a classmate of hers.
The film’s most iconic scene takes place after Benjamin crashes Elaine’s wedding, whisking her away on a bus in a grand gesture of romantic spontaneity. The two quietly sit at the back of the vehicle as they ride off into the distance – to live happily ever after, right?
Many audiences have misread the film’s conclusion (including Roger Ebert, upon his first viewing) as a typical, blissful victory to the characters’ romantic storyline – when in fact, it is the moral punchline to Benjamin’s character and careless decisions throughout the entire film.
Having torn Elaine away from her wedding, the excitement has now faded, leaving the two nervous about an uncertain future. They are left dealing with yet another consequence of Benjamin’s brash, impulsive behaviour.
Few romance stories are as disturbing as Vladimir Nabokov’s literature classic Lolita, which Adrian Lyne turned into a cinematic adaptation in 1997.
The plot centres on a 40-year old British professor named Humbert Humbert (yep, you read that right) who becomes romantically obsessed with a 12-year old Dolores Haze. The two eventually travel about America, seeking refuge in various hotels and posing as father and daughter.
While a truly unsettling premise, the film did a notable job of exhibiting the harrowing consequences of Humbert’s actions – ones that eventually lead him to a disastrous life of crime, deceit, and despair.
However, it still had a difficult time in obtaining mainstream distribution, as many American distributors were afraid of its possible glorification of pedophilia. Child protection activists were outraged, and the Daily Mail even went so far as to call it the “acceptable face” of such a culture.
Due to its limited release, Lyne’s film was an ultimate flop at the box office. However, with a clearly catastrophic ending for both characters as a result of their relationship, these people seemed to miss the film’s condemnation, rather than celebration, of Humbert’s disturbing romantic attraction.
Generously laden with signature mindless explosions, overdone cliches, and generic, dumb characters – audiences were less than impressed with Peter Berg’s Battleship, with movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes describing the film as “poorly written” and “a lot less fun than its source material.”
The statement can very well be a deserved jab at Berg’s gratuitous action flick – though it can also be argued that the film itself knew what it was from the get-go.
With its absurd, yet entertaining CGI visuals, jam-packed adrenaline, and stereotypical valiant heroes – the movie serves itself to viewers as a mere escapist, summer blockbuster flick, and is well aware of it.
With that it mind, perhaps Battleship was Berg outwardly embracing his flair for senseless thrills and asinine destruction. As the movie was able to entertain in that respect, it may just be meant to be enjoyed as such.
5. 127 Hours
The 2010 127 Hours was a biopic dedicated to a hiker named Aron Ralston, who, without telling anyone, ventures alone into the Blue John Canyon and has an unfortunate accident of slipping, falling, and finding his arm trapped underneath a large, immovable boulder.
Desperate to break free, he takes up the grueling task of amputating his own arm, and drinks his own urine to keep hydrated. The entire ordeal leaves Ralston trapped for 127 hours in a canyoneer’s worst nightmare in which he spends a good portion of the time regretting his decisions.
If there was anything audiences could have reasonably taken from the movie – it would probably be always, always keep others informed of your whereabouts before setting about on such perilous expeditions – or perhaps to just avoid these deadly situations altogether.
In an ideal world, that’d be the case. Sadly, viewers were actually inspired by Ralston’s exploits and sought the same journey themselves including a 64-year old man named Amos Wayne Richards who managed down a 70 foot-deep ravine in the same canyon, where he also slipped and fell.
4. The Lion King
When someone mentions the movie The Lion King either Mufasa’s traumatic death scene comes to mind (a haunting scar on most people’s childhoods), or you find yourself mentally humming to the tune of “Hakuna Matata”.
The animated ’90s classic was a Hamlet-inspired tale of Simba, a lion King-to-be who escapes his home upon being blamed by his uncle, Scar, for the murder of his father.
Burdened by guilt, he eventually finds friendship in a meerkat and a warthog named Timon and Pumbaa. The two teach him the phrase “Hakuna Matata,” their problem-free philosophy that essentially encourages Simba to forget the troubles that worry him.
Unsurprisingly, this musical segment in the movie became one of the soundtrack’s biggest hits – inspiring many viewers to live by the same words themselves. Sure, while we all need a little “hakuna matata” in our lives, the story actually places a greater importance on facing your responsibilities and doing what’s right.
By film’s end, Simba returns to his pride and stands up to Scar, restoring harmony and peace in the land. The lesson isn’t to run away when times get tough, but to face your demons and ultimately conquer them.
3. A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 A Clockwork Orange is, without a doubt, a movie not made for everyone. Its incredibly graphic, violent scenes – and there are many – have turned it into one of the most controversial pieces of cinema, despite both its critical and box office success.
Like Tarantino, Kubrick was berated by many viewers who were disgusted by the absurd amount of brutality; a recurring element that served as one of the film’s center themes.
While the director definitely doesn’t shy away from moments of shock, these people seemed to have missed the underlying point of the film’s violence: to horrify and appall.
Viewers were force-fed exaggeratedly disturbing events and imagery – mainly involving the protagonist, Alex DeLarge, and his unashamed delinquency – to truly repulse them out of finding the character and his life of crime an attractive one.
Of course, a large number never saw past the film’s vicious nature, accusing it of perpetrating a culture of violence and depravity. Additionally, many young viewers were drawn to DeLarge as an “edgy” character, rather than an abhorrent human being.
2. Into the Wild
Into the Wild was a 2007 film adaptation of a 1996 book of the same name, written by Jon Krakauer in dedication to the late hitchhiker, Christopher McCandles.
A man who lived by anti-society sentiments, he rejected the conventional American life and set about on a solo odyssey into the Alaskan wilderness with little on his back.
Unprepared for the merciless nature of the wild, McCandles met his unfortunate fate in an abandoned bus, dying alone of berry poisoning. The film bleakly concludes the adventurer’s tale as he comes to the realization that “happiness is only real when shared,” and not found in the murky flora of an Alaskan Valley.
Although the film portrayed McCandles’ feat as an ultimately disastrous one, a large handful were inspired and attempted to replicate the same, dangerous journey for themselves.
1. The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby was essentially about a man who indulges in a life of prestige, wealth, and glamorous parties – an ongoing facade that was ultimately an empty and meaningless one.
He spent his entire life attempting to attain the American Dream, pursuing money and success to win back his one true love – a woman named Daisy – only to realize that the “dream” is an illusion, that a rich status does not necessarily equate to happiness.
Both the classic novel and 2013 film adaptation were thus a critical commentary on such shallow mindsets – though of course, the lavishly grand party culture depicted in the film brought a different message to audiences.
Instead of taking its critique of such self-indulgent, selfish lifestyles to heart – viewers decided to plan Gatsby parties of their own.
These have included “grandiose” galas at various universities (including Princeton and other Ivy League campuses), a multi-million dollar soiree at an AirBnB in Long Island, and large celebrity parties thrown by big names like Paul McCartney, Prada, and Prince Harry.
It’s as if numerous audiences were solely drawn to the fancy images of flapper dresses and golden chandeliers, setting aside F. Scott Fitzgerald’s condemning undertones altogether.
Do you know any other movies with a frequently missed moral point? Let us know in the comments!
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