As a general rule, movies are about what you think they’re about. Romantic comedies are romance movies that make you laugh, horror movies are meant to scare you, action movies are about mindless high-octane thrills and alien invasion movies are about… well… aliens invading – and the same generally applies across the board.
However, sometimes, a movie that seems like one thing on the surface could represent something else when you look deeper into it.
Screenwriters, directors, producers and other people behind movies may have a hidden agenda – a plan to subconsciously implant a message in the minds of audiences or a sneaky plan to get one over on a certain group of people without making it totally obvious.
The entire plots of some movies – or merely aspects of them – can be symbolic of something completely different, and that’s what this article is going to be all about. Here are 15 movies with extremely interesting hidden meanings.
15. The X-Men Movies (The Fight For Gay Rights)
You may think the the X-Men movies are just about mutants with superpowers, but they actually have an underlying meaning that was the main reason Ian McKellen AKA Magneto was attracted to star in them.
You see, the fact that mutants are cast out by society for no good reason is very reflective of gay people in the real world and, as such, the fight for mutant rights represents the real world struggles for gay rights that gay people have fought to gain for many years. A chat with Bryan Singer convinced McKellen of the movie’s deeper significance and it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
14. Spider-Man (Dealing With Puberty)
The Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies (the ones starring Tobey Maguire) are extremely reflective of the problems associated with dealing with puberty. A teenage boy is bitten by a radioactive spider and his body goes through a number of changes – including his body becoming more muscular and a sticky, white substance excreting from it (webbing, incidentally).
It is also said to have other hidden meanings, including having more explicit sexual connotations and issues related to drug use (for example, there is a lot of phallic weaponry when it comes to the movies’ villains and Peter Parker’s altered behaviour is similar to if he was on drugs).
13. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Racism & Segregation)
Roger Rabbit may have seemed like a nice, child-friendly movie (in spite of the rather terrifying Judge Doom) about a world in which real-life human beings and cartoon characters lived alongside each other, but there’s actually an underlying message in the movie about racism and segregation.
With Roger Rabbit accused of killing human Toontown owner Marvin Acme, there is a state of unrest between humans and toons – the latter who, despite mingling with humans on a day-to-day basis, do live in their own designated area. This whole situation is said to be representative of the segregation and state of unrest between African Americans and whites in 1940s America.
12. Groundhog Day (Achieving Enlightenment)
On the face of it, Groundhog Day is about Bill Murray‘s character – Phil Connors – living out the same day until he lives it correctly and productively and breaks the loop (which theorists have claimed could have been for anything up to thirty years and beyond). That moment in which he wakes up to finally find that it’s a new day may seem like a moment of relief, but it is said to represent more than that.
It is said to illustrate the concepts of Buddhism and achieving enlightenment, with Connors finally understanding the meaning and purpose of life itself when he breaks the aforementioned loop.
11. Aliens (The Vietnam War)
Aliens is the 1986 sequel to the 1979 movie Alien. It sees action heroine Ellen Ripley returning to the planet where her crew encountered the titular hostile Alien creature (the Xenomorph) the first time around, but this time she’s accompanied by a unit of space marines.
In addition to merely being a science-fiction horror movie with the above plot, it is also said to be a metaphor for the Vietnam War. The parallels include the dehumanisation of soldiers, the use of booby traps, the feeling of claustrophobia, the underestimation of opponents and moments of extremely incompetent leadership. Even the posters for the movie came with the accompanying tagline “This Time It’s War!”
10. Alien (Rape)
1979’s Alien introduced audiences to the highly dangerous and aggressive Xenomorph. The alien attacked the crew of the commercial spaceship the Nostromo and killed the crew one by one, with Sigourney Weaver‘s Ellen Ripley eventually succeeding in killing it, prior to a subsequent series of films in which her character would face more of them.
The film is said to have an underlying rape theme, with the titular creature representing it specifically. In its “Facehugger” form, the creature orally violates its victims and the phallic imagery involved in the process of the violation is obvious. Then, when the resulting “Chestburster” emerges from the victim, it is very phallic in shape, the victim struggles helplessly and, in one case, was being held down during the ordeal – and all of that is merely touching on the theme, which was prevalent throughout.
9. Toy Story 3 (The Holocaust)
The Toy Story movies are the last films you’d ever expect to be anything other than innocent kiddy flicks, but Toy Story 3 is said to have a very dark underlying meaning – it is a metaphor for one of the worst events in human history, the Holocaust.
Andy heads to college and leaves his toys behind – just like the host nations left behind the Jews as the Third Reich conquered Europe. The toys then have a meeting in which they discuss possible outcomes for their new position in the world. It’s extremely reminiscent of the scene at the train station in Roman Polanski’s Holocaust drama The Pianist. In the same meeting, Buzz Lightyear suggests the toys take sanctuary… in an attic. Ringing any bells?
8. A Serbian Film (The Serbian Government)
A Serbian Film is, frankly, one of the most disturbing movies ever made – it’s pretty damn vile and depicts a retired adult actor being persuaded to come out of retirement to star in one more adult movie. The movie he is asked to star in is as depraved and twisted as anything the human mind could come up with – but the whole thing is said to have a hidden meaning.
It is believed that the movie was a metaphorical diary of the Serbian people’s “molestation” at the hands of their own government – how they are essentially brainwashed and/or hypnotised by said government into doing things they don’t want to do.
7. Drag Me To Hell (Bulimia)
On the surface, Drag Me to Hell is about a young woman named Christine who is cursed by an old gypsy lady for refusing to extend her loan from the bank she works at. However, its underlying meaning is that of a woman suffering from bulimia and the anxiety-related side effects that come with the terrible eating disorder.
Look at some of the facts; whenever there is food on screen, Christine is attacked by the spirit of the curse and she’s in the kitchen every time it appears at her house. At night she dreams she’s being vomited on and there are a number of scenes in which things are being forced both in and out of her mouth. Essentially, the ghostly old woman is her bulimic anxiety (she’s lost her teeth, looks terrible and loves eating sweets).
6. The Dark Knight (George W. Bush & The War On Terror)
To most people, The Dark Knight is just a Batman movie – but it’s actually also a not-so-subtle metaphor for George Bush‘s presidential reign and his war on terror after the events of 9/11.
Look at the Joker’s first move – he’s an insane, unkempt and radical foe who likes making home videos and whose plans are orchestrated to perfection (Osama Bin Laden, anyone?). This prompts an heroic aggressor to use hard-earned corporate money to create weapons for the ensuing fight. The conflict results in Batman torturing criminals for information and the public wanting him to step down. Ultimately, he does so – even taking some of the responsibility – and a young upstart politician is seen as his successor. There’s more to it than that, but you get the drift.
5. Battle Royale (The Japanese Education System)
Battle Royale is a great film in which a group of Japanese students are forced into a deadly game by the government in which they must kill each other, over the course of three days, until only one of them remains.
On the face of it, it’s a brutal, sadomasochistic piece that serves to shock – something reflective in the fact that it was banned in numerous countries – but it also serves as a metaphor for the tough Japanese education system. It is said that the strict system warps the characters of Japanese students, expects far too much from them and has actually subtly encouraged bullying among children. Whether or not those accusations are true, it’s a stern message to the authority figures in the system that they should perhaps loosen up a little.
4. District 9 (Apartheid)
District 9 is a science-fiction movie in which extraterrestrial creatures (known derogatorily as “prawns”) are confined to a specific area of Johannesburg in South Africa. It appears to be a fictionalized version of Earth on which this occurs, but it’s actually symbolic of something in the real world.
It’s a metaphor for the apartheid era, in which different races were segregated in South Africa – enforced through legislation by the National Party. In fact, the interviews with local South Africans at the start of the movie are the real views of the people towards Zimbabweans – and, worryingly, you can’t actually tell that they’re not really referring to aliens. The movie is also banned in Nigeria because the evil warlord in it is named after former long time Nigerian ruler Olusegun Obasanjo.
3. The Shining (The Death Of Native America)
Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining – a live action take on Stephen King‘s novel of the same name – is a complex enough film to understand to begin with, without factoring in potential hidden meanings. But the fact is that there are said to be several hidden meanings – the most prominent of which is that it represents the murder of the native American race.
Look at some of the evidence; the hotel in the movie is built on an Indian burial ground and is called the “Overlook” – emphasizing America’s ability to overlook the aforementioned genocide. There is Indian artwork and decor throughout the hotel and one of the key scenes takes place at the July 4th Ball – a date with particular relevance to American Indians – and yet, in spite of this, there are no Indians in the film at all. The only man to die in the movie, apart from Jack Torrance, is a black man (perhaps reflective of more modern racism in America) and he dies sprawled across a large Indian design on the floor.
2. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (Jesus)
One of the outright biggest movies of all time, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial sees the coming to Earth of a friendly little alien who just wants to get home. Simple enough? Well, maybe, but the story draws a lot of parallels with the life of a certain Jesus Christ and, as such, has hidden religious undertones.
When E.T. first arrives on Earth, he is persecuted and hunted by scientists, just as Jesus was pursued by King Herod. There are countless other parallels, such as E.T.’s first English sentence being “Be good” (which sums up the entire Sermon on the Mount in two words), his ability to heal people, as well as his death, resurrection and “ascension” (which, in E.T.’s case, was actually back into space, rather than up into heaven).
1. RoboCop (Jesus)
A very different movie than E.T., RoboCop is said to have the same underlying meaning. It’s a violent and bloody movie, unlike the kid-friendly E.T., but both the alien and the cyborg police officer are representative of Jesus Christ.
In the first fifty minutes of the movie, the titular character is tortured and killed (essentially, his crucifixion) and then, in the next fifty minutes, he’s resurrected and becomes a saviour of sorts. Also, very symbolically, he walks over water at the end of the movie (well, he appears to levitate over a puddle at a scene in a factory, but you get the point). Jesus is the last thing you’d associate with the movie on the face of it but, when you actually think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
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