In 1957, the first messages encouraging moviegoers to buy Coca-Cola and popcorn were spliced into movie theater film strips, and audiences did just that. The age of subliminal messaging in entertainment was born, and has been used as a running gag in movies like Fight Club, or as a genuine attempt to influence audiences without them realizing it.
Here are Screen Rant's Shocking Subliminal Messages Hidden In Popular Movies.
Did you know that Cloverfield contains a King Kong cameo? Matt Reeves' found footage monster movie is well known for its shaky, stuttering handheld camcorder, and in between cuts and flickers the director inserted single frames from classic monster movies like King Kong, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Them! Whether they were put there to disturb the audience without them realising it, or just as an homage to the kind of movies that inspired Cloverfield, these flashes are a fun subliminal secret that can only be seen if you slow the scenes down.
Gore Verbinski's remake of this Japanese horror film takes the idea that watching movies affects us, and stretches it to a terrifying extreme. The meta concept is reinforced when single frames from the haunted videotape flash up during other scenes in the movie. Again, not all copies of the film feature the same frames. But fans can all catch a flash of The Ring at the very start of the movie, where it meshes with the crescent moon in the DreamWorks logo. These hidden frames are worth re-watching the movie all on their own - just don't answer the phone when you’re finished.
Subliminal messaging isn't always about advertising. Some filmmakers use it to try and create a certain emotional effect in their audience, without them consciously knowing why they felt that way. The first thirty minutes of Gaspar Noé’s film Irreversible contains an extremely low frequency background noise that is virtually inaudible to humans, but capable of causing uneasiness and nausea. Noé deliberately inserted the noise into his soundtrack to make people feel sensations of disgust while watching his movie. But trust us - it's far from the only disturbing part of the movie.
William Friedkin's tale of demonic possession is widely recognized as one of the most terrifying horror movies ever made, and its use of subliminal imagery only makes The Exorcist more unsettling. The demon Pazuzu - nicknamed 'Captain Howdy' by Regan - can be seen in a few frames scattered throughout the movie, but its appearances go by so fast that some audience members may never even be aware that they saw them. For those who did manage to spot the pale-faced Pazuzu, the fact that the demon's horrifying face is only visible for a fraction of a second is far more frightening than a drawn-out close-up.
There have been countless examples of people finding sexual imagery hidden in the frames of Disney movies, and not every one of them is convincing. But one film that definitely has a sexy subliminal secret is 1977’s The Rescuers. The animated adventure about two mice on a quest to find a kidnapped girl has a not-so-innocent image inserted during a sequence where Bianca and Bernard are flying on the back of Orville the albatross. A topless woman was superimposed onto two of the windows flying past during the movie's post-production. This discovery of the image in 1999 led to Disney issuing a recall of 3.4 million home release copies of The Rescuers - but thanks to the internet, it's still easy to find the clip.
The first of two entries from Alfred Hitchcock on this list, Psycho is full of smaller details that make it worth watching the movie over and over again - including a brief cameo from Hitchcock himself. During one of the final shots of the movie, as Norman Bates is sat in the police station after being arrested, Hitchcock subtly superimposed the image of Mrs Bates' mummified skull onto actor Anthony Perkins' face. To make things even creepier, not all of the theatrical prints of the movie included this detail, so audiences in the 1960s could spot the skull in one screening and then find it gone in another - leaving them to wonder if they'd ever really seen it at all…