Guys, all of your favorite fictional characters are dead. No really, they are all dead.
Well, technically, there are theories about how all of them are dead or never existed. But, who is to say these theories are right or wrong? Sure, in many of the cases, this dead or nonexistent character theory doesn’t seem to be the intent of the screenwriter or showrunner, but all art is subjective. After they make the film or television show, it’s up to the audience to then determine what they are seeing… and sometimes we see major dead character theories.
Today, it seems that no television show or movie is safe from having theories about the state of their characters. On this list are theories about critically acclaimed AMC dramas and theories about shows from your childhood. (Oh, and the theories about the shows from your childhood might be the darkest of the bunch. You’ve been warned.) There’s theories about Academy Award-winning films, Marvel films, musicals, and films from the ’80s. Basically, if you ever made a movie or television show, there will likely be a theory about one character being a ghost or something. This surge in fan theories is likely thanks to the Internet. Oh Internet, you’ve given us so many gifts – Joe Biden memes, kitten videos, and these insane fan-theories. Bless you, Internet.
Without further ado, below are 15 theories that will totally change the way you watch… and definitely ruin a few of your favorite shows and movies.
15. Titanic: Jack Never Existed
Let’s start with the ghost theory that finally clears up one of the biggest, most heated arguments in film history as we know it.
Titanic is the story of young love, during which Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCarprio) have sex in the backseat of a car that’s also on a ship. I don’t know why but I’ve always loved the whole car being ON the ship thing. Moving on, the Titanic hits an iceberg, which isn’t technically a spoiler because, history. After the ship sinks, Rose finds herself on an oversized door floating in the Atlantic, all while Jack literally freezes to death while clutching onto this door. IT WAS TRAGIC. Fans have argued, for 20 years now, that there was totally room on that door for the both of them. (WHY, JAMES CAMERON, WHY?) Well, a recent fan theory has given us a real, actual reason as to why Jack wasn’t on that door: He was never real.
This fan theory suggests that Jack was merely a figment of Rose’s imagination, created in order to help her cope with marrying Cal, aka 1912’s biggest douche bag. The fact that Jack first appears to Rose during the moment she is about to kill herself helps highlight Rose’s instability and need for escape. And, Jack was totally in the really right place at the really right time, right?
Need more proof that Jack Dawson was never real? When one of the film crew members tells Old Rose that there is no record of Jack, she responds with this nugget: “No, there wouldn’t be, would there? He exists now only in my memory.”
14. Up: Carl Died
Up is already depressing as it is. But, that’s pretty much the case with all Pixar films, which disguise themselves as “children’s films” but are really deep, dark, tragic tales. In Up, we see the life story of Carl, who falls in love with the adventurous Ellie. In a montage that has virtually no dialogue (because the people at Pixar are masters of storytelling) we learn that Carl and Ellie marry, buy a house, and hope to have a baby. Only, Ellie can’t have a baby. So, Carl is like, ‘Hey, let’s go on adventures and travel instead.’ But, then their car breaks or a tree falls on their house, y’know real life stuff, and they have to empty their Adventure Fund. So, Carl and Ellie never travel and never have kids, and then Ellie dies. UM, THIS IS A CHILDREN’S FILM?!
While Up is already way too realistic and way too upsetting, this fan theory might be even sadder. It suggests that after Ellie dies and Carl is told he’ll have to move out of his beloved home, he then dies in his sleep that night. Yes, most of the plot of Up would then be Carl’s journey in the afterlife. Russell, the Boy Scout, would be seen as a guardian angel, who is helping Carl on his journey. And hey, the last badge Russell needs is for assisting the elderly… like helping old people get to heaven?
13. Rugrats: Almost Everyone Was Dead
Weird theories about characters being dead the whole time or never existing aren’t just for movies. Nope, these theories are here to ruin your favorite childhood shows too. And, Rugrats was about as childhood as it got. I mean, this is a show straight up about babies. Sure, there was some weird stuff going on, like why did Tommy always have all that stuff in his diaper? Was it just a screwdriver? I don’t know. It seemed like that kid had everything in his diaper.
This Rugrats theory suggests that Angelica is actually the protagonist of the story and the only character that’s really alive. All of the other characters are theorized to have died in some sort of very dark way. In this theory, Chuckie and his mother died in a car accident, which is why his dad was a paranoid mess all the time. (Get your shit together, Chas.) Tommy was a stillborn, which threw his father into despair. Stu Pickles dealt with his grief by making toys for his lost son. (It gets darker, guys.) Phil and Lil were really just one baby… that was aborted. Because Angelica never found out the sex of the baby, she imagines them as twins so there’s an option of a boy and a girl. This theory does suggest that Dil Pickles is real. In the show, Dil cried, didn’t talk, and didn’t respond to Angelica’s orders like the rest of the – imaginary – babies.
12. Friends: Only Phoebe Exists
Ah, Friends. That show about six friends drinking coffee and not working, right? But, what if it wasn’t? One fan theory has snowballed into something rather sinister about the six main characters. We’ll start with the first theory, which is that all of the friends are actually patients at a mental institution. They all have a triggering event that landed them in the mental facility, but they don’t really mention it. This theory suggests that Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) is the only one who accepts her sordid past, as she often talks about her mother’s suicide and time on the street. This theory also accounts for the fact that the main character mostly just sit around and talk all day.
That theory led to a DARKER theory, which is that Friends completely happened in Phoebe’s head. This theory suggests that Phoebe is very much a crazy person living on the streets, and has imagined a world in which she has friends, friends like Monica, Rachel, and Joey. Considering the fact that Ursula exists – a mirror imagine of Phoebe – this theory could have some plausible symbolism throughout the series.
11. Iron Man: Tony Stark Is Dead
Let’s ruin the Marvel Universe, shall we?
If you think back to 2008’s Iron Man, it opens with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) traveling in the Middle East. He, and the military personnel he’s traveling with, come under fire from terrorists. All of the members of the military are wearing their uniforms with bulletproof vests and helmets, y’know the whole works. But, it’s those characters that die and yet Tony Stark, who is wearing a dashing suit and not much else, survives gunfire and explosions. Seem implausible, right? Well, a fan theory suggests that Tony Stark does die in this scene but, in those moments before death, he imagines the whole Marvel Universe. I mean, he is a genius, right? So, he could totally imagine a ton of stuff. And, what less likely – a genius imagines a whole universe before is death or that universe actually exists?
10. Star Wars: Yoda Was Dead
Yoda is the little green dude from Star Wars that everyone loves, but what if Yoda was dead the whole time? Yep, a fan theory that Yoda is a ghost popped up, and it kind of makes total sense. The reason this theory works well is because it touches on the way we show ghosts in films and television. The reason most ghosts in films exist is because they have unfinished business, right? Well, Yoda has unfinished business, as he did not defeat Emperor Palpatine and he failed to stop Anakin from turning to the Dark Side. Yoda cannot leave Dagobah, just as many ghosts are bound to a particular place. In the prequels, Yoda has a lightsaber but the he doesn’t in The Empire Strikes Back, at least not one that was seen. If Yoda is a fugitive, as he says, where’s his lightsaber? There’s also the fact that Darth Vader reads Luke Skywalker’s mind and never mentions Yoda. Not once. SO MANY CLUES, GUYS!
9. Breaking Bad: Walter White Was Dead (At Some Point)
Breaking Bad may have ended, but there are still many theories and that’s probably just because most of us wish Breaking Bad was still on the air. (It was just so good, you guys.) One of these theories is that Walter White was dead. Well, actually there are several theories about Walter White (Bryan Cranston) being dead with several different explanations. One theory is that Walter White died very early in series and everything we see is his fantasy of what he wished had happened, making the whole series a dying man’s wish. Considering just how BIG everything got during the course of the series, this is plausible.
The New Yorker offered a theory – yes, because even the New Yorker cannot help itself from getting into the fan theory game – that Walter White died during the final episode. In the scene in which Walter White is in that frozen car, the theory suggests that he freezes to death. Supporting this theory are the facts that in the frozen air you even see his breathe, which looks like his soul leaving his body. There’s also the fact that he says, “Just get me home.” Throughout the finale, Walter White somehow sees all the people he wants to say goodbye to and evades the FBI, despite being the most wanted man in America. The theory suggests that the goodbyes were all just fantasy. There is another theory that suggests this finale symbolism means Walter White did, in fact, make a pact with the devil. I think I like the pact with the devil theory best of all.
8. The Walking Dead: It’s All In Rick’s Head
So far, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has survived the unimaginable and that’s clearly because none of this is real. If you think back to the pilot episode, we see Rick Grimes wake up from a coma. (We all know where this theory is heading, right?) Coma + zombies only means one thing: It’s all a dream. This fan theory suggests that Rick is still in his coma and the whole series is taking place inside his head. Fair enough, though that would mean that Rick is having one twisted coma dream.
There is also a theory that Rick is actually dead, in a way. Because Rick was in a coma during the outbreak, it’s theorized that he’s actually already a zombie and slowly turning. There’s also a theory that Rick is immune to the virus because he was in a coma at the time of outbreak. Ugh, so many theories. One thing is for sure, if you have your protagonist in a coma during a zombie outbreak, theories are bound to happen.
7. 3 Men And A Baby: There Was A Ghost, But Really
3 Men and a Baby is a film starring Ted Danson, Tom Selleck, and Steve Guttenberg as three Manhattan bachelors who find a baby on their doorstep. That is Hollywood’s idea of comedy, if I’ve ever heard it. The film came out in 1987, so that was long before we had Reddit to create fan theories. Still, this movie fell victim is a rather eerie fan theory. In a particular scene, a human figure can be seen hiding behind curtains in the background. Obviously, this figure is a ghost, right? To make matters creepier, it was rumored that a 9-year-old boy had committed suicide in the very apartment this scene was filmed. A REAL GHOST. But, it turns out that the film was actually filmed on a Toronto soundstage and that “ghost” was just a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson that was accidentally caught on film.
6. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Ferris Bueller Never Existed
This is a wildly popular fan theory, so apologies if you already know it. But, I have to talk about it because it’s one of those wild-but-also-totally-works theories.
This theory suggests that Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off isn’t real at all, but rather a creation of Cameron’s mind. So, Fight Club if you will. The evidence that points to this is that both Ferris and Cameron happen to be sick from school on the same day, without even planning it ahead of time. What are the odds of that happening? There’s the time that Cameron says he thinks he’s dying and Ferris chimes in with, “You’re not dying, you just can’t think of anything good to do.” That means that Ferris knows Cameron’s thoughts… because they’re the same person! The Ferrari scene, with Ferris driving and Cameron in the backseat, is said to symbolize the fact that Ferris had taken the wheel that day.
5. 13 Reasons Why: Tony Is A Ghost/Not Real
13 Reasons Why is Netflix’s newest show to make everyone stay in on a Friday night to watch nine back-to-back episodes, or maybe the whole season in one sitting if you’re really hardcore. Since it’s a popular show, of course there are fan theories about it. One theory suggests that Tony – the high school student with more tattoos than most bikers – is a ghost. Fun, right? Well, there’s really no evidence whatsoever to back to up the theory other than the fact that Tony is really mature for his age, some would even say too mature for his age. In fact, Tony’s so mature and wise that Clay calls him an “unhelpful Yoda.” If he’s mature and has tattoos, he’s got to be a ghost, right? But, it’s not just Clay who can see Tony. All of the characters can see and interact with Tony. This means that, unless a whole town can see this ghost, Tony is real.
4. Spectre: James Bond Died
James Bond may have died in Spectre without us even realizing it. The end of 2015’s Spectre was criticized for being, uh, for lack of a better term, a hot mess. It lacked the realism that many James Bond films have, not that they are all so very realistic. More specifically, it was the third act with which many people took issue. In the climax, Bond is being tortured. This makes sense, then, after his love interest tells him that she loves him, Bond breaks out of the torture device by sheer force. Bond and his love interest escape and leave an explosion behind. Then, action action blah blah, and Bond and his love interest sail away, again leaving behind an explosion. What was happening? The third act was largely criticized for being all over the place and not making sense. But, what if it didn’t make sense because it was all a fever dream Bond was having while he was dying from the torture? BOOM, fan theory.
3. Lost: The Theory That Totally Came True
Lost was the show that made fan theories a huge thing. I mean, fan theories happened before Lost, obviously, but when Lost was on the air, fan theories were wildly important. In fact, we can all probably blame our obsessions with fan theories on Lost.
Alright, so to the actual fan theory. Throughout the course of the series, the theory that wouldn’t quit was that all the characters were already dead. This theory suggested that the plane crashed, killed everyone, and that everything we were being shown was the afterlife, and more specifically purgatory. This means that the characters were all in limbo and being judged for their past sins, aka all the things we were seeing in flashback scenes. While the showrunners denied this theory during the series, it ended up panning out in the series finale that was very heavy with spiritual symbolism. Hey, so some theories about ghost/dead/non-existent character can totally come true.
2. Grease: Either Sandy Or Danny Is Dead
Just when you think Grease is a happy-go-lucky musical about the hardships of fitting in during high school, the Internet goes and ruins it for you. In this lovely fan theory, it’s suggested that Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) had drown while frolicking on the beach with Danny (John Travolta). This theory suggests that the whole film is Sandy’s journey into heaven, with the end scene being them literally driving into the sunset. With lyrics about Danny saving Sandy’s life after she nearly drown (in “Summer Nights”) and saying goodbye to Sandra Dee (in “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”) it does seem to add up.
Another fan theory surfaced, flipping the characters. In this theory, it’s suggested that Danny dies while trying to save a beautiful girl from drowning. The movie is his trip to heaven and he imagines this beautiful girl to be “Sandy” because… well, he saw her on the beach and he isn’t all that clever.
1. Aladdin: We’re Actually All Dead
The inclusion of this fan theory is a little bit of a cheat, but since the theory suggests that WE are actually all dead I thought it fit. This fan theory suggests that Aladdin takes place in the year 11,992 and we’re all dead. Yes, the year 11,992… and we’re all DEAD.
Here’s the evidence to support the theory: When the Genie is released, he comments on how he was in the lamp for 10,000 years. Then, Genie critiques Aladdin’s outfit calling it “too third century.” Hm, okay timeline is weird. Genie also does impressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack Nicholson. So, what time does this actually take place in? The theory suggests Aladdin takes place in the year 11,992 and that there was some kind of nuclear warfare that killed most of mankind, living behind the small civilization we see in Aladdin. So, in Aladdin we’re all the dead/ghost character. MIND BLOWN.
You see, it’s like I said, all of your favorite characters are actually dead… even you. (Whoa, that got dark.)