Of course, all (or most) movies have a theme or meaning they are trying to convey. Well, shoot-em-ups and action flicks are mostly about the sequence of wild events, but every once in a while there’s one with a deeper message. In the film circle, deeper meanings are often referred to as “sub-text”, which is the meaning behind the words or actions.
But even going deeper than sub-text, there are some movies that include hidden meanings that you may never catch if the clues aren’t a part of your own cultural beliefs or knowledge-base. Some references go by without interfering with your enjoyment of the basic sequence of events that make up the story, while others hit you over the head with deeper meanings. There are also movie makers who intentionally bury symbolism and hidden meanings for their own enjoyment or to speak to a select group of viewers.
There are hundreds of movies with deep and hidden meanings, so we selected a group of 12 of our faves that have meanings you may or may not have caught. Read on…
Coraline was a little dark, especially the bold and sinister graphics that depict the little girl who moves to a remote home with her parents only to escape into her own world of fantasy. Well, her world of fantasy is metaphorical for child abduction and mind control programming, according to many film theorists who cite the article Origins and Techniques of Monarch Mind Control, as the model. Captured, traumatized and then saved by someone who reprograms the eager-to-move-on victim – which is such a large part of this story it appears to be intentional.
The Truman Show is an adventure into human nature which shows how typical the voyeur characteristic is in the average human being. Watching someone else in a variety of situations is addicting for many reasons. The myriad of successful reality shows that follow people around in their “normal daily lives” is proof.
The Truman Show takes the concept a step further and shows us what humanity may become by living through others vs. living life. The movie is also a demonstration of how man overcomes fears by facing them, just like Truman did when he finally busts through the facade of his life.
There has been quite a bit of debate about the deeper meaning of this movie. One thing is for sure, there is little certainty as to whether the movie contained any hidden meaning at all. It’s the kind of movie that you have to watch a second time to be sure. Most online film buffs feel the real and deepest question the movie begs to answer is, “Why was I created? Is there an agenda or is free will what it is all about?”
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
This cleverly produced movie was a one-of-a-kind blend of animation and actors, when it premiered in 1988. It was enjoyed on many levels by both children and adults and appeared to be a typical mystery story. Come to find out, the story was really an allegory about the finale of the public transportation trolley lines in the 1930s. Evidently, National City Lines, Inc. was a front company for General Motors, circa 1922. NCL was a holding company set up to acquire a transit company. Once an acquisition was accomplished, trolley lines were discontinued, dismantled and buses that used roads and freeways became the option for public transportation.
In the movie, the allegory becomes more transparent when the secret plot is revealed to Jessica Rabbit. Judge Doom explains, “a construction plan of epic proportions. They are calling it a freeway … I see a place where people get on and off the freeway. On and off, off and on — all day, all night!”
You thought you were watching a science-fiction movie about a cop who is murdered and becomes the first RoboCop. The sub-text or “story-behind-the-story” is about Jesus Christ and how he was murdered to “protect the innocents” and later resurrected and heralded as “the savior”. Toward the end, RoboCop is seen walking across water, almost as though he is walking on top of it.
Director Verhoeven confirmed this perspective in an interview with Vince Mancini in 2010, by saying, “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.”
Writer/director James Cameron is always full of surprises and the Aliens franchise was one of his best. Aliens is a science-fiction film with an overlay of horror, as many parts in the story appear to be shades of our possible future. According to hollywood.com, the movie was really about motherhood and all of its emotional and physical facets. According to others, it is really about the Vietnam War as it shows main character, Ripley, going back into the nightmare to rid herself of the demons that have haunted her since the first installment. Cameron confirms there were Vietnam visuals and overtones.
Although Quentin Tarantino is always full of surprises, it is no surprise that his movies contain deeper meanings. Pulp Fiction was one of the first in a series of films that had messages conveyed in bizarre ways. One of the most loving of the film’s deeper meanings is that all people have good within them and all people live normal lives, doing normal things and having normal conversations – regardless of what they do for a living or their particular social strata. No generalities. No labels. Anything and everything goes… for everyone.
There was quite a bit of noticeable symbolism in the Jurassic Park movie, but have you ever stopped to wonder how much you may have missed? It is more than a story about humans being attacked by prehistoric beasts. It is about genetic engineering and becoming so obsessed with science that the importance of life and lives is diminished until danger becomes imminent. Scary, right?
Wizard of Oz
Most people who watch this movie think that the deeper meaning is simply a matter of, “the grass isn’t always greener” because of the “no place like home” ending. However, the movie is actually laced with deeper meanings and theorists have come up with more than ten over the years. One of the most common cites the myriad of religious undertones that are included throughout the movie. The wizard behind the curtain symbolizes a supreme being. Another common interpretation is about self-doubt and gaining the inner confidence and strength to get to where you want in life and realizing that it is always inside of each of us.
Lord of the Rings
The adventures in the Lord of the Rings are actually so satisfying that a deeper meaning easily escapes us. While many LOTR fans and students have come up with their own versions of deeper meaning, we were given the good fortune of learning of it directly from the writer. Over 20 years ago, a recording was discovered that was made by J.R.R. Tolkien himself, “That seems more like an allegory of the human race. I’ve always been impressed that we’re here surviving because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds.”
Man of Steel
Some think all Superman movies are about a supreme being who has extraordinary, superpowers such as super hearing, x-ray vision and – of course – flying. However, it is really the story about a planet that is not attentive to the signs of extinction (Krypton) and a warning to those on our planet. Clark Kent is caught between acting on his blood father’s vision (becoming the earth’s supreme being) and his adoptive father’s determination to keep his powers a secret. The deeper message also predicts how earthlings might deal with aliens from other planets – or, more close to home – how average, main street citizens deal with differences, such as, bisexual/gay or any types outside the stereotypical gender roles.
This unique story about a smart weatherman with a bad attitude (Phil) is endearing on so many levels. On the surface, we see this weatherman living a tortuous life of repeating the same day over and over. He tries every available option to make the nightmare go away, including trying to kill himself. But each day he wakes up and the events of the day are the same. The depth of the story is in Phil’s desperate attempts to find a purpose out of life after all of his other failed attempts at creating change. There are definite connections to metaphysics – with the time/space continuum repeating itself. And it is also a wonderful and strong reference to the fact that life is “what you make it”.