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10 Outrageous Movie Theories You Didn't See Coming

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When a movie's narrative isn't straightforward, fans sometimes drum up their own theories to explain its inconsistencies and plot holes. Although a majority of these theories are far-fetched, there are quite a few that make the movie they're about feel more relatable and understandable.

1. The Theory: In The Dark Knight, The Joker was a War Veteran

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In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger, is a charismatic and insane villain, who some fans believe was a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The theory comes from a story The Joker tells Harvey Dent in the second half of the film about a truckload of soldiers being blown up. This might also explain the character's disdain for the establishment and his proficiency with explosives, a bazooka, and automatic assault rifles.

2. The Theory: James Bond is a Codename

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Since 1962, six actors—Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and now Daniel Craig—have played Agent 007 James Bond. A popular fan theory explains why the character’s appearance and age have changed over the last 52 years: “James Bond” is not one man, but rather a codename used for various MI6 agents. The theory leaves the door open for female actors and minorities to play Agent 007 in future James Bond movies.

3. The Theory: Grease is Sandy’s Elaborate Fantasy Before She Drowns

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At the end of the movie musical Grease, we see Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) fly off in a red convertible as they wave goodbye to their friends on the solid ground below. This weird ending led movie theorists to the conclusion that the flying car was the final result of Sandy’s fantasy.

During the song “Summer Nights,” Danny and Sandy recount how they first met and started a summer fling. The line, “I saved her life, she nearly drowned,” suggests that Sandy actually did drown and the whole movie is an elaborate musical fantasy due to the lack of oxygen getting to her brain. The flying red convertible also suggests that Sandy is happily being whisked away to heaven at the end of the movie.

4. The Theory: Childs is The Thing

The final moments of John Carpenter’s The Thing are one of the most ambiguous endings to a major Hollywood movie. After a violent melee with the shape-shifting alien invader, the film’s hero MacReady (Kurt Russell) is exhausted as he re-unites with Childs (Keith David) and the pair wait to “see what happens.” The question remains: Is Childs or MacReady the monster?

The popular theory is that Childs is The Thing at the end of the movie. There are a few clues that point to this conclusion. One, you can’t see Childs’ breath in sub-arctic weather; two, Childs takes a swig from a molotov cocktail that is believed to be made by MacReady as a test; and three, John Carpenter cues the audience with Ennio Morricone’s theme for The Thing before the film cuts to black and the credits roll. MacReady smirks and quietly laughs, acknowledging that Childs is The Thing because he didn’t react to drinking gasoline.

5. The Theory: Jack Never Existed and Rose Suffers from Psychotic Depression in Titanic

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There’s a popular belief that Titanic's male lead, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), was a figment that Rose Dewitt Bukater created due to having an abusive fiancée. Rose made Jack up to muster enough courage to finally stand up and leave Cal for good. This theory explains why there are no records of Jack and why the elderly Rose said, Jack “exists only in my memories.”

6. The Theory: RoboCop is Jesus Christ

The story of a man who is wrongfully executed, only to return to life as the savior of a dying world seems somewhat familiar to Christians. Only we’re not talking about Jesus—we're talking about the hero of the 1987 action film RoboCop.

Just look at the movie's story: Alex Murphy is violently murdered while patrolling the means streets of Detroit, only to come back to life as a part machine and part human “RoboCop.” He later goes around Detroit saving the lives of its citizens. There’s even a scene in the movie where RoboCop, walking through very shallow water, appears to be walking on its surface.

Director Paul Verhoeven validates this theory. “The point of RoboCop, of course, is it is a Christ story," he told MTV in 2010. "It is about a guy who gets crucified in the first 50 minutes, and then is resurrected in the next 50 minutes, and then is like the supercop of the world, but is also a Jesus figure as he walks over water at the end." Verhoeven also refers to RoboCop as “the American Jesus."

7. The Theory: The Ghostbusters Died When They Crossed the Streams

At the end of Ghostbusters, the team crosses the streams of their proton packs to defeat Gozer and save New York. Afterward, they are celebrated by the city. But some movie fans believe that the Ghostbusters actually died when they crossed the streams. Why? Because of Dr. Egon Spengler's (Harold Ramis) assertion that crossing the streams would be “very bad ... try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.” As soon as the Ghostbusters crossed the streams, they died a quick death, and the celebration was a fantasy.

You might think that the sequel discredits this, but theorists have an explanation for that, too: The Ghostbusters are in purgatory during Ghostbusters II. That film repeats the events of the first movie, but they're slightly skewed, and it seems that everyone in New York has forgotten the events of the first film, namely the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man attack.

8. The Theory: The Golden Briefcase in Pulp Fiction Contains Marsellus Wallace’s Soul

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The golden briefcase is the driving narrative force in Pulp Fiction. While it’s not important to know what’s inside of the briefcase to fully enjoy the film, there have been numerous theories out there relating to the case’s contents since the movie’s initial release in 1994. Although Quentin Tarantino has flat out said that nothing is in the briefcase and it’s merely a McGuffin, the popular belief is that crime boss Marsellus Wallace’s soul is inside of the briefcase.

This one you've probably heard. The theory is that Marsellus Wallace sold his soul to the devil and sent Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) to get it back. The glowing orange hue that shines upon Vincent Vega’s face when he opens the case, one of the characters calling the briefcase’s contents “beautiful,” how Jules and Vincent survived getting shot, and the adhesive strip on the back of Marsellus Wallace’s neck are just some of the reasons why this movie theory has persisted over the years—plus the fact that the combination for the briefcase’s lock is “666,” the mark of the beast.

In Roger Ebert's Questions for the Movie Answer Man, Pulp Fiction co-author Roger Avery said the briefcase originally contained diamonds, but that was "too boring and predictable." So they decided the contents would remain unseen, so "each audience member would fill in the blank with their ultimate contents."

9. The Theory: Stan Lee is Uatu the Watcher

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Comic book icon Stan Lee has appeared in almost every Marvel movie based on the characters he has created—including Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and The Avengers. While Lee’s cameos are considered fun for Marvel fans, many others believe that the comic book writer is playing the character Uatu the Watcher, but in human form. Uatu is part of an extraterrestrial species that is responsible for monitoring and cataloging the activities of other species on Earth and across its solar system.

10. The Theory: Bill Murray is Our Savior

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In an essay entitled “Groundhog Day The Movie, Buddhism and Me,” Spiritual Cinema Circle co-founder Stephen Simon calls the film “a wonderful human comedy about being given the rare opportunity to live several lifetimes all in the same day. Of course, that's not how the film was marketed but, for our purposes, I believe that concept is at the soul of the story.” In an interview with The New York Times, Dr. Angela Zito, co-director of the NYU Center for Religion and Media, noted that the film illustrates the Buddhist idea of samsara, or continuing rebirth. “In Mahayana [Buddhism], nobody ever imagines they are going to escape samsara until everybody else does,” she notes. “That is why you have bodhisattvas, who reach the brink of nirvana, and stop and come back and save the rest of us. Bill Murray is the bodhisattva. He is not going to abandon the world. On the contrary, he is released back into the world to save it.”

See More: 8 Creative Interpretations of Groundhog Day

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15 Things You Might Not Know About One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
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Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which premiered on this day in 1975, won critical acclaim, box office success, and a shelf full of Oscars. But even if you love the complex exploration of life inside a 1960s psychiatric hospital, there are a few things you may not know about its behind-the-scenes story. 

1. CUSTOMS NEARLY DOOMED THE PROJECT. 

Despite the middling success of the 1963 stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel starring Kirk Douglas, Hollywood legend Douglas was dead set on adapting the story for the screen. Douglas contacted Czech director Miloš Forman about the project, promising to send Forman a copy of the book for his perusal. 

Douglas mailed Forman the novel, but the package was confiscated by Czechoslovakian customs and never reached the director. Unaware of the parcel’s fate, the filmmaker resented Douglas’ broken promise, and Douglas thought Forman rude for never bothering to confirm receipt of the novel. It took a decade to sort the mess out, and things only cleared up when Kirk’s son Michael Douglas took another crack at production and contacted Forman once more. 

2. ONE STUDIO WANTED TO CHANGE THE ENDING.

When producers were shopping the picture to studios, 20th Century Fox was interested, but with a catch. Fox would distribute the film, but only if the filmmakers would agree to rewrite the ending; the studio wanted McMurphy to live. Producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas wisely considered this a deal breaker, and United Artists eventually distributed the film.

3. JACK NICHOLSON AND LOUISE FLETCHER WERE NOT THE FIRST CHOICES FOR THEIR CHARACTERS. 


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When Kirk Douglas spearheaded the first attempt to bring One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to life on the big screen in the 1960s, he had intended to play the Randle Patrick McMurphy role himself, just as he had on stage. When production began in earnest 10 years later, Douglas was too old for the part, leaving director Forman to consider and contact the likes of Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando, and (his personal favorite) Burt Reynolds before finally settling on Jack Nicholson.

A number of different actresses were considered for the role of Nurse Ratched, the film’s central antagonist, as well: Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, and Angela Lansbury were all in the running, before Louise Fletcher ultimately got the part. 

4. LOUISE FLETCHER CHANGED FORMAN’S VIEW ON THE CHARACTER. 

Forman’s original view of Nurse Ratched was as “the personification of evil,” a characterization that made Louise Fletcher a bad fit for the part in the filmmaker’s mind. As Fletcher pressed for the role, Forman’s perspective of Ratched evolved: “I slowly started to realize that it would be much more powerful if it’s not this visible evil,” he said. “That she’s only an instrument of evil. She doesn’t know that she’s evil. She, as a matter of fact, believes that she’s helping people.” This new take on the character paved the way for the official casting of Fletcher. 

5. SEVERAL OF THE FILM’S STARS WERE NOT ACTORS. 

Following the production team’s decision to use Oregon State Hospital as its shooting location, the producers hit on the idea of casting facility superintendent Dr. Dean Brooks as Dr. John Spivey, the doctor charged with assessing R. P. McMurphy’s psychological health. Brooks agreed to play what turned out to be a sizable role, though it would be the only acting job he would ever take. He also helped secure employment for many of his hospital’s patients as extras and crew members during production. 

Mel Lambert, another non-actor, was wrangled to play the harbormaster who protested McMurphy’s ad hoc fishing trip. What’s more, Lambert—a respected area businessman who had a strong relationship with the local Native American community—introduced the production team to Will Sampson, the 6-foot-5-inch-tall Muscogee painter who would make his acting debut as the major character Chief Bromden. 

6. THE STARS LIVED ON THE WARD DURING PRODUCTION. 


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All of the actors who played patients actually lived on the Oregon State Hospital psychiatric ward throughout production. The men personalized their sleeping quarters, spent their days on campus “get[ting] a sense of what it was to be hospitalized” (as actor Vincent Schiavelli put it), and interacting with real psychiatric patients. 

7. MANY SCENES WERE SHOT WITHOUT THE ACTORS’ KNOWLEDGE. 

To complete this realistic immersion, Forman led his performers in unscripted group therapy sessions in which he directed the actors to develop their characters’ psychological maladies organically. He would often capture footage of the actors, both in and out of character, without explicitly mentioning that the cameras were rolling. The film’s final cut includes a shot of a visibly irritated Fletcher reacting to a piece of direction fed to her by Forman. 

8. FORMAN AND NICHOLSON HAD A TREMENDOUS SPAT OVER THE FILM’S PLOT. 

While the intensity of the turmoil varies from rumor to rumor, reports from the set were consistent on one fact: The star refused to speak with Forman for a large chunk of the production process. Nicholson took issue with Forman’s suggestion that the hospital inmates would be an unruly bunch upon the initial arrival of McMurphy. Instead, the actor insisted that such disavowal of the medical staff’s authority should only begin after the introduction of McMurphy into their lives and routines. 

Although the version of the story that we see in the film today is more closely associated with Nicholson’s alleged reading, suggesting that Forman ultimately took his advice, Nicholson refused to interact with his director from that point forward. When the star and Forman needed to communicate with one another, they used cinematographer Bill Butler as a middleman. 

9. DANNY DEVITO CREATED AN IMAGINARY FRIEND DURING PRODUCTION. 


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Emotionally strained by a demanding shooting schedule that kept him 3000 miles from his future wife, Rhea Perlman, DeVito developed the coping mechanism of an imaginary friend with whom he would have nightly chats. Concerned that his own sanity might be slipping away, DeVito sought the advice of Dr. Brooks, who assured him that there was no reason to worry as long as DeVito could still identify the character as fictional. 

10. THE CREW WAS WORRIED ABOUT THE SANITY OF ONE CAST MEMBER.

While Dr. Brooks had no concerns about DeVito, he echoed the rest of the cast and crew’s apprehensions about the psychological state of Sydney Lassick, who played Charlie Cheswick. Lassick exhibited increasingly unpredictable and emotionally erratic behavior during his time in character, a pattern that culminated in a tearful outburst during his observation of the final scene between Nicholson and Sampson. Lassick became so overwhelmed during the scene that he had to be removed from set. 

11. FLETCHER TOOK OFF HER CLOTHES IN ORDER TO GET FRIENDLIER WITH HER CO-STARS.

Envious of the camaraderie her male costars had forged, and hoping to dispel any associations with her tyrannical character, Fletcher surprised the cast one evening by ripping off her dress on the crowded ward. Years later, the actress laughed about the display, saying, “‘I’ll show them I’m a real woman under here, you know.’ I think that must have been what I was thinking.” 

12. THE FISHING TRIP SCENE BARELY MADE IT INTO THE FILM. 

Initially, Forman was vocally opposed to including a scene that took place beyond the grounds of the hospital out of concerns that a temporary liberation would undercut the dramatic force of the film’s ending. In the end, Zaentz convinced Forman to shoot the fishing trip sequence. It was the final scene filmed and the only piece shot out of chronological order. 

One thing to look for in the fishing scene: A very subtle Anjelica Huston cameo. Huston, who was dating Nicholson during production, has a nonspeaking role as one of the spectators on the dock as McMurphy and his fellow patients steer the stolen boat back to shore. 


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13. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST WAS THE FIRST FILM TO WIN ALL “BIG FIVE” ACADEMY AWARDS IN 41 YEARS.

Not since 1934's It Happened One Night swept the Oscars had a film walked away with awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest took home the lot, with Nicholson and Fletcher winning the top acting awards. The feat would not be matched again for another 16 years, with Silence of the Lambs becoming the next (and last to date) movie to earn the distinction. 

14. THE FILM ENJOYED ONE OF THE LONGEST THEATRICAL RUNS IN MOVIE HISTORY. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was revered worldwide, but Swedish viewers developed an especially soft spot for the film. Cuckoo’s Nest remained a regular option for Swedish moviegoers through 1987—11 years after its initial release. 

15. KESEY REFUSED TO SEE THE FILM (BUT MAY HAVE BY ACCIDENT). 

The poster child for the “the book was better” movement, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author Kesey disapproved of a big screen adaptation of his novel as soon as he found out that the filmmakers had abandoned the use of Chief Bromden as the story’s narrator. Kesey never intended to see the movie, but one story says he inadvertently caught a few moments during a bout of channel surfing one evening. Once Kesey realized what he was watching, he promptly changed stations.

According to fellow novelist Chuck Palahniuk (who has famously praised director David Fincher’s adaptation of his novel Fight Club, plot changes and all), Kesey once stated privately that he did not care for the material.

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11 Times Mickey Mouse Was Banned
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Despite being one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved characters, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Mickey Mouse, who turns 89 years old today. A number of countries—and even U.S. states—have banned the cartoon rodent at one time or another for reasons both big and small.

1. In 1930, Ohio banned a cartoon called “The Shindig” because Clarabelle Cow was shown reading Three Weeks by Elinor Glyn, the premier romance novelist of the time. Check it out (1:05) and let us know if you’re scandalized:

2. With movies on 10-foot screen being a relatively new thing in Romania in 1935, the government decided to ban Mickey Mouse, concerned that children would be terrified of a monstrous rodent.

3. In 1929, a German censor banned a Mickey Mouse short called “The Barnyard Battle.” The reason? An army of cats wearing pickelhauben, the pointed helmets worn by German military in the 19th and 20th centuries: "The wearing of German military helmets by an army of cats which oppose a militia of mice is offensive to national dignity. Permission to exhibit this production in Germany is refused.”

4. The German dislike for Mickey Mouse continued into the mid-'30s, with one German newspaper wondering why such a small and dirty animal would be idolized by children across the world: "Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed ... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.” Mickey was originally banned from Nazi Germany, but eventually the mouse's popularity won out.

5. In 2014, Iran's Organization for Supporting Manufacturers and Consumers announced a ban on school supplies and stationery products featuring “demoralizing images,” including that of Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Sleeping Beauty, and characters from Toy Story.

6. In 1954, East Germany banned Mickey Mouse comics, claiming that Mickey was an “anti-Red rebel.”

7. In 1937, a Mickey Mouse adventure was so similar to real events in Yugoslavia that the comic strip was banned. State police say the comic strip depicted a “Puritan-like revolt” that was a danger to the “Boy King,” Peter II of Yugoslavia, who was just 14 at the time. A journalist who wrote about the ban was consequently escorted out of the country.

8. Though Mussolini banned many cartoons and American influences from Italy in 1938, Mickey Mouse flew under the radar. It’s been said that Mussolini’s children were such Mickey Mouse fans that they were able to convince him to keep the rodent around.

9. Mickey and his friends were banned from the 1988 Seoul Olympics in a roundabout way. As they do with many major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, Disney had contacted American favorites to win in each event to ask them to say the famous “I’m going to Disneyland!” line if they won. When American swimmer Matt Biondi won the 100-meter freestyle, he dutifully complied with the request. After a complaint from the East Germans, the tape was pulled and given to the International Olympic Committee.

10. In 1993, Mickey was banned from a place he shouldn't have been in the first place: Seattle liquor stores. As a wonderful opening sentence from the Associated Press explained, "Mickey Mouse, the Easter Bunny and teddy bears have no business selling booze, the Washington State Liquor Control Board has decided." A handful of stores had painted Mickey and other characters as part of a promotion. A Disney VP said Mickey was "a nondrinker."

11. Let's end with another strike against The Shindig (see #1) and Clarabelle’s bulging udder. Less than a year after the Shindig ban, the Motion Picture Producers and Directors of America announced that they had received a massive number of complaints about the engorged cow udders in various Mickey Mouse cartoons.

From then on, according to a 1931 article in Time magazine, “Cows in Mickey Mouse ... pictures in the future will have small or invisible udders quite unlike the gargantuan organ whose antics of late have shocked some and convulsed others. In a recent picture the udder, besides flying violently to left and right or stretching far out behind when the cow was in motion, heaved with its panting with the cow stood still.”

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