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10 Outrageous Movie Theories You Didn't See Coming

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Trailers Playground, Youtube

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

Yokid37, Youtube

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

Clevver Movies, Youtube

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

Andrea,Youtube

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

Movie Channel, Youtube

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

Movie Clips, Youtube

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

Columbia Pictures

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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10 Fascinating Practices on UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage List
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ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images

You've probably heard of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Sites—places like Machu Picchu, Auschwitz, and the Tower of London that UNESCO has deemed architecturally or historically important. But UNESCO doesn’t just choose important places to protect—it also maintains an Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which includes traditions and ways of life passed down from generation to generation and now in danger of being lost.

The list is rooted in a 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which created the list to raise visibility for the practices and encourage dialogue around cultural diversity. The list protects five types of cultural heritage: oral expression and traditions (including language); performing arts; social practices, rituals, and festivities; knowledge and practices about nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship.

In some ways, cultural heritage is even more fragile than buildings and archaeological sites because it lies in people’s memories, and so can be easily lost or changed with no real record to preserve it. And the results of a loss of cultural heritage can be dire: Culture helps define a minority group, and the loss of that culture can mean a disconnection from the past.

UNESCO now maintains two lists: the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (the latter only includes items identified as needing immediate protection).

To be added to a list, an item must be nominated by one of the countries that is a party to the convention. A committee then meets annually to determine which practices should be added to the lists, based on whether they meet the convention's definitions of cultural heritage, whether inscribing the practice will encourage dialogue and awareness, and whether there's been wide involvement by the culture concerned, among other criteria.

1. CULTURE OF JEJU HAENYEO // KOREA

Female divers (some as old as 80) from Jeju Island in the Republic of Korea have been collecting shellfish for hundreds of years. The divers, known as Haenyeo, submerge as much as 30 feet without scuba gear to harvest sea urchins and abalone, working up to seven hours a day. They hold their breath for a minute during each dive, and each makes a distinctive whistling noise when surfacing. Prayers are said to the goddess of the sea before the dives begin. The culture has played an important part in elevating women’s status on the island—women are the primary breadwinners in these families, and the haenyeo have become a symbol of the place.

2. HIKAYE // PALESTINE

Palestinian women over the age of 70 are part of this narrative tradition. During the winter, at gatherings of women and children (it's considered inappropriate for men to attend), the older women in the community tell fictional stories that critique society from the female point of view and, UNESCO notes, often reveal a conflict between "duty and desire." The storytelling involves rhythm, inflection, and other vocal arts, but is now on the decline due to the availability of mass media.

3. CAMEL COAXING // MONGOLIA

Mongol camel herders perform a special ritual when they want a mother camel to accept a newborn calf or adopt an orphan. The mother and calf are tied together and the camel coaxer sings a special song that includes gestures and chants designed to encourage the mother to accept the baby. A horse-head fiddle or flute is also played. The ritual reinforces social ties in the nomadic society, and is passed down from parent to child. But as motorcycles are replacing camels as transportation, the practice is in danger.

4. SUMMER SOLSTICE FIRES // PYRENEES MOUNTAINS

In the Pyrenees Mountains of Andorra, Spain, and France, residents from local villages carry flaming torches down the hills to light large beacons on the night of the summer solstice. Carrying the torches is a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, and setting the first fire is a special role given to priests, politicians, or the newly married. Unmarried girls greet the torch carriers with pastries and wine, and ashes are collected the next morning to put in gardens.

5. KNUCKLE-BONE SHOOTING // MONGOLIA

In Mongolia, residents play a game in which small teams of six to eight people flick pieces of marble across a table to push sheep knuckle bones into a target. The shooters wear personalized costumes denoting their rank in the game, and use individually created shooting tools. They also sing traditional tunes throughout the game.

6. VÍ AND GIẶM FOLK SONGS // VIETNAM

In northern Vietnam, folk songs in the Nghệ Tĩnh dialect are sung while people harvest rice, row boats, make conical hats, or put children to sleep. The songs focus on the values important in that culture, including respect for parents, honesty, and goodness. The songs also provide a way for unmarried young men and women to share their feelings with each other.

7. YURT-MAKING // KAZAKHSTAN AND KYRGYZSTAN

Nomads in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan make round yurts for use as temporary, portable homes, as well as for ceremonies like weddings and funerals. A round wooden frame forms the basis for the structure, and is then covered in felt and braided ropes. Men create the wooden frame, while women create the outside covering and inside decorations, working in groups to create the intricate patterns and reinforce social values.

8. WEAVING OF THE Q’ESWACHAKA BRIDGE // PERU

Quechua-speaking peasant communities in Peru come together each year to replace the suspension bridge over the Apurimac River in the Andes Mountains. The bridge is made of an unusual material—straw that's twisted and tied into ropes. The ropes are attached on each side of the river, and the bridge builders work until they meet in the middle. When the bridge is complete, a festival is held.

9. BARKCLOTH MAKING // UGANDA

Buganda craftsmen from southern Uganda harvest bark from the Mutuba tree and beat the bark with wooden mallets until it is soft, cloth-like, and a terracotta color. The barkcloth is worn as togas by men and women (who add a sash to their outfit) during ceremonial events. The availability of cotton has resulted in a reduction in the production of this specialized cloth.

10. SHRIMP FISHING ON HORSEBACK // BELGIUM

In Oostduinkerke, Belgium, 12 families harvest shrimp using horses. The Brabant horses walk breast-deep in the water parallel to the shore, pulling funnel-shaped nets. They also pull a chain along the bottom, which causes vibrations that make the shrimp jump into the nets. The caught shrimp are then carried in baskets attached to the horses’ sides. Each family specializes in a particular part of the practice, such as caring for the horses or weaving nets. The community celebrates this heritage with a yearly Shrimp Festival.

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10 Sweet Facts About Napoleon Dynamite
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© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

ChapStick, llamas, and tater tots are just a few things that appear in Napoleon Dynamite, a cult film shot for a mere $400,000 that went on to gross $44.5 million. In 2002, Brigham Young University film student Jared Hess filmed a black-and-white short, Peluca, with his classmate Jon Heder. The film got accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival, which gave Hess the courage to adapt it into a feature. Hess used his real-life upbringing in Preston, Idaho—he had six brothers and his mom owned llamas—to form the basis of the movie, about a nerdy teenager named Napoleon (Heder) who encourages his friend Pedro (Efren Ramirez) to run for class president.

In 2004, the indie film screened at Sundance, and was quickly purchased by Fox Searchlight and Paramount, then released less than six months later. Today, the film remains so popular that last year Pedro and Napoleon reunited for a cheesy tots Burger King commercial. Here are 10 sweet facts about the ever-quotable comedy.

1. DEB IS BASED ON JERUSHA HESS.

Jared Hess’ wife Jerusha co-wrote the film and based Deb on her own life. “Her mom made her a dress when she was going to a middle school dance and she said, ‘I hadn’t really developed yet, so my mom overcompensated and made some very large, fluffy shoulders,’” Jared told Rolling Stone. “Some guy dancing with her patted the sleeves and actually said, ‘I like your sleeves … they’re real big.’” 

Tina Majorino, who played the fictional Deb, hadn’t done a comedy before, because people thought of her as a dramatic actress. “The fact that Jared would even let me come in and read really appealed to me,” she told Rolling Stone. “Even if I didn’t get the role, I just wanted to see what it was like to audition for a comedy, as I’d never done it before.”

2. NAPOLEON'S FAMOUS DANCE SCENE MANIFESTED FROM THE SHORT FILM.

At the end of shooting Peluca, Hess had a minute of film stock left and knew Heder liked to dance. Heder had on moon boots—something Hess used to wear—so they traveled to the end of a dirt road. They turned on the car radio and Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” was playing. “I just told him to start dancing and realized: This is how we’ve got to end the film,” Hess told Rolling Stone. “You don’t anticipate those kinds of things. They’re just part of the creative process.” 

Heder told The Huffington Post he found inspiration in Michael Jackson and dancing in front of a mirror, for the end-of-the-movie skit. But when it came time to film the dance for the feature, Heder felt “pressure” to deliver. “I was like, ‘Oh, crap!’ This isn’t just a silly little scene,” he told PDX Monthly. “This is the moment where everything comes, and he’s making the sacrifice for his friend. That’s the whole theme of the movie. Everything leads up to this. Napoleon’s been this loser. This has to be the moment where he lands a victory.” Instead of hiring a choreographer, the filmmakers told him to “just figure it out.” They filmed the scene three times with three different songs, including Jamiroquai’s “Little L” and “Canned Heat.”

3. FANS STILL FLOCK TO PRESTON, IDAHO TO TOUR THE MOVIE’S LOCATIONS.

In a 2016 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, The Preston Citizen’s circulation manager, Rhonda Gregerson, said “every summer at least 50 groups of fans walk into the office wanting to know more about the film.” She said people come from all over the world to see Preston High School, Pedro’s house, and other filming locations as a layover before heading to Yellowstone National Park. “If you talk to a lot of people in Preston, you’ll find a lot of people who have become a bit sick of it,” Gregerson said. “I still think it’s great that there’s still so much interest in the town this long after the movie.”

Besides the filming locations, the town used to host a Napoleon Dynamite festival. In 2005, the fest drew about 6000 people and featured a tater tot eating contest, a moon boot dancing contest, boondoggle keychains for sale, and a tetherball tournament. The fest was last held in 2008.

4. IDAHO ADOPTED A RESOLUTION COMMENDING THE FILMMAKERS.

Jerusha and Jared Hess
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

In 2005, the Idaho legislature wrote a resolution praising Jared and Jerusha Hess and the city of Preston. HCR029 appreciates the use of tater tots for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.” It extols bicycling and skateboarding to promote “better air quality,” and it says Kip and LaFawnduh’s relationship “is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho’s technology-driven industry.” The resolution goes on to say those who “vote Nay on this concurrent resolution are Freakin’ Idiots.” Napoleon would be proud.

5. NAPOLEON WAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF NERD. 

Sure, he was awkward, but Napoleon wasn’t as intelligent as other film nerds. “He’s not a genius,” Heder told The Huffington Post. “Maybe he’s getting good grades, but he’s not excelling; he’s just socially awkward. He doesn’t know how much of an outcast he is, and that’s what gives him that confidence. He’s trying to be cool sometimes, but mostly he just goes for it and does it.”

6. THE TITLE SEQUENCE FEATURED SEVERAL DIFFERENT SETS OF HANDS.

Eight months before the theatrical release, Fox Searchlight had Hess film a title sequence that made it clear that the film took place in 2004, not in the ’80s or ’90s. Napoleon’s student ID reveals the events occur during the 2004-2005 school year. Heder’s hands move the objects in and out of the frame, but Fox didn’t like his hangnails. “They flew out a hand model a couple weeks later, who had great hands, but was five or six shades darker than Jon Heder,” Hess told Art of the Title. “If you look, there are like three different dudes’ hands—our producer’s are in there, too.”

7. THE MOVIE MESSED UP NETFLIX’S ALGORITHMS.

Beginning in 2006, Cinematch—Netflix’s recommendation algorithm software—held a contest called The Netflix Prize. Anyone who could make Cinematch’s predictions at least 10 percent more accurate would win $1 million. Computer scientist Len Bertoni had trouble predicting whether people would like Napoleon Dynamite. Bertoni told The New York Times the film is “polarizing,” and the Netflix ratings are either one or five stars. If he could accurately predict whether people liked the movie, Bertoni said, then he’d come much closer to winning the prize. That didn’t happen for him.

The contest finally ended in 2009 when Netflix awarded the grand prize to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos, who developed a 10.06 percent improvement over Cinematch’s score.

8. NAPOLEON ACCIDENTLY GOT A BAD PERM.

© 2004 Twentieth Century Fox

Heder got his hair permed the night before shooting began—but something went wrong. Heder called Jared and said, “‘Yeah, I got the perm but it’s a little bit different than it was before,’” Hess told Rolling Stone. “He showed up the night before shooting and he looked like Shirley Temple! The curls were huge!” They didn’t have much time to fix the goof, so Hess enlisted Jerusha and her cousin to re-perm it. It worked, but Jon wasn’t allowed to wash his hair for the next three weeks. “So he had this stinky ‘do in the Idaho heat for three weeks,” Jared said. “We were shooting near dairy farms and there were tons of flies; they were all flying in and out of his hair.”

9. LAFAWNDUH’S REAL-LIFE FAMILY STARRED IN THE MOVIE.

Shondrella Avery played LaFawnduh, the African American girlfriend of Kip, Napoleon’s older brother (played by Aaron Ruell). Before filming, Hess phoned Avery and said, “‘You remember that there were no black people in Preston, Idaho, right? Do you think your family might want to be in the movie?’ And that’s how it happened,” Avery told Los Angeles Weekly. Her actual family shows up at the end when LaFawnduh and Kip get married.

10. A SHORT-LIVED ANIMATED SERIES ACTED AS A SEQUEL.

In 2012, Fox aired six episodes of Napoleon Dynamite the animated series before they canceled it. All of the original actors returned to supply voices to their characters. The only difference between the film and the series is Kip is not married. Heder told Rolling Stone the episodes are as close to a sequel as fans will get. “If you sit down and watch those back to back, you’ve got yourself a sequel,” he said. “Because you’ve got all the same characters and all the same actors.”

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