Subliminal messages have been a fascination of the public for many years. The concept is pretty neat, but they've proven to be based more in paranoia and myth than anything resembling reality. In regards to subliminal messages in film, the idea is that a message is placed within the movie that the viewer sees or hears but doesn't realize they've seen or heard it. The message comes in just below our perception threshold, meaning we aren't consciously aware of what's happened. The thought is that these messages then influence us slightly, making our reactions to the subliminal message feel natural and authentic.
Subliminal messages are, apparently, at their most effective when they are goal oriented. By splicing in a quick shot of Coca-Cola, for example, audiences might feel an increased urge to get a Coke. But there are very few examples of these actually in film. In fact, the 15 examples on this list are some of the only known attempts at putting subliminal messages in film. It's completely unclear if any of these messages actually worked to achieve their goals, plus some of the goals of these hidden messages aren’t even clear. But it's fun to point them out nonetheless. It's just another example of a tiny, seemingly insignificant detail, making a film seem that much better for the viewer. Since none of these messages hurt the film, there's no harm in trying to influence the audiences in whatever ways you can. If nothing else, knowing they exist is great trivial knowledge to have. Here are 15 insanely sneaky subliminal messages in film.
15 The Ring – Seeing the Ring
14 Robocop – American Jesus
13 The Wise Quacking Duck – Buy Bonds
12 Fight Club – Tyler Durden
11 Psycho – Skeleton Face
10 Memento – Spoiler Alert
9 The Lion King – SFX Or?
8 Cloverfield – Classic Monsters
7 The Godfather – Oranges
6 Aladdin – Bad Advice
5 The Shining – The Impossible Window
The Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is meant to be confusing and disorienting. Yet, rather than just state that the place is mazelike, Kubrick decided to just show it. He wanted to devise a building that didn't quite make sense in order to trouble the audience. The effect is subtle, and it might not even work, but the goal was to make people feel lost and uneasy, like the characters within the film. While there are a vast number of doors that appear to lead nowhere and hallways that don’t quite make sense, the most blatant example is the "impossible window" in Mr. Ullman's office. This window can't really exist when you think about the layout of the area.
4 Irreversible – Discomforting Sound
3 Sunshine – Crew Members
2 The Shining – Faked Moon Landing
1 The Exorcist – Captain Howdy
In terms of subliminal messages, The Exorcist is probably the film with the most famous instances. Throughout the film, there are several quick flashes of the demon who is possessing Reagan, named Pazuzu—also named Captain Howdy. The flashes are all different and each of them pass by so quickly that you can watch the movie several times and never see them. These subliminal messages have been well documented and have resulted in a few cases of serious paranoia from people who have watched the film. There was a long-standing rumor that the film itself was haunted by a demon, no doubt largely influenced from these subliminal shots. The intent of these flashes is to make the viewer question what they just saw, maybe even burning a subtle, lasting image of Pazuzu in their minds even after the film is over.
Sources: Wikipedia; IMDB; TheQuietus
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