The best fan theories are found in the minds of screen junkies who think too much. That’s not to say the theories are always nonsense. Far from it. Surfing the internet reveals a ton of movies and TV series with hidden meanings running deeper than the foundations of a Dubai skyscraper.
After all, movie makers have regularly used a between-the-lines technique known as an allegory: “A piece of art or literature, like a poem or story, in which people, things or happenings have a hidden or symbolic meaning” (Your Dictionary, 2017). Examples of movie allegories are ones in The Seventh Seal (the relationship between man and religion), Avatar (Pandora Woods represent the Amazon rain forest), and The Wizard of Oz (the lion representing cowardice).
In essence, fan theories are the unofficial allegories of the industry. Some are insane, while others are properly foaming at the mouth. One or two, however, are eerily plausible -- and almost none of them are confirmed (or denied) by those involved in production. The reason? More than likely, the producers want to keep people guessing. In short, it’s good for business.
It may be true that most theories are bupkis, but one or two fans have taken things beyond the guess work, using the nuances and subtleties of on-screen action to come up with something undeniably accurate.
While many of the guess jobs are just feather-duster interpretations of favorite plots, sometimes, a theory is so sensible that it’s impossible to view the original film in the same light. Sometimes, they're so logical that it's almost infuriating! Here are 15 such theories, guaranteed to make you think… and worry.
15 The Simpsons (1989-)
Theory: Redditor Hardtopickaname came up with the idea that the past 22 years of the Simpsons have been a post-death figment of Homer Simpson’s imagination. The Redditor’s theory originates from a scene in the 1992 episode Homer “The Heretic” when Homer, “during a conversation with God, is about to find out the meaning of life but is rudely interrupted by the end credits” (Reddit, 2015).
Plausible? It’s complicated but not entirely unlikely. In the 1993 episode "So It’s Come To This," Homer lies in a coma in hospital after falling victim to one of Bart’s pranks involving a vending machine. Hardtopickaname claims that “Homer may never have woken up from that coma at all – and that everything we have seen since has simply gone on in his head. This is why the characters don’t age. Homer remembers Bart, Lisa, and Maggie as 10, 8, and 1 year/s old, so they will always appear that way in his dreams” (Metro, 2015).
14 Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1996)
Theory: Will from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air died in a fight in West Philly. The “rare” cab he took was a vehicle to heaven. The taxi driver was actually God (actually it’s rumored to be Quincy Jones) who accompanies Will to heaven. It's here -- according to numerous Redditor theories -- that he works out his issues with his wealthy Aunt and Uncle. Will only meets his mother and father on special occasions… because that's when they come to visit his grave. Hit the ceiling!
Plausible? Yes, despite DJ Jazzy Jeff, aka Jeffrey Townes shooting the theory down. Townes appreciated the fans’ efforts, though. “It’s just, that’s so far-fetched you just laugh,” Townes said. “To see someone take all of that stuff and almost create a whole world around it, you’re kind of like, ‘Wow, it wasn’t that deep, but that’s amazing that their brain took it there.’” On the flip side, Fandom magazine dedicated a whole page to the opening title song with heavenly explanations of the lyrics. It makes for very interesting reading…
13 Friends (1994-2004)
Theory: The whole 10 years was just a drug-fuelled fantasy of a homeless Phoebe staring through the window of Central Park and imagining the lives of the globe trotters inside -- at least that’s according to mega-fan Gareth Stranks. Stranks made a name for himself (seriously) with the insane notion that the producers of the hit show might have better ended it by having Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, and Joey making a reference to the “crazy lady” standing in the street, watching them drink coffee.
Plausible? Yes, of course, and producers have so far made no comment. Spooky, don’t you think? Stranks justified his brain wave to British newspaper The Mirror in 2015. “Every kooky aside, in every episode, she made everything about her, every instance of how much of an outsider she was... It all makes sense. All 10 seasons were merely her fevered imagination, projecting herself into the lives of the other five. All she ever wanted was... Friends,” he said, no doubt smugly.
12 Twin Peaks (1990-)
Theory: David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is the television fertility bank of weird crime stories, giving rise to a host of others including True Detective. The essence of Twin Peaks -- the supernatural feel, the sense of otherworldly goings on, the slightly bizarre outcomes -- is well matched, in fact, to the 2014/15 anthology crime drama created and written by Nic Pizzolatto. One theory is that Rustin Spencer "Rust" Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey) is Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks (played by Kyle MacLachlan) after spending 25 years in purgatory.
Plausible? Redditor octopodest believes the characters have too many similarities to ignore. “Both are secretive detectives fascinated by mysticism and conspiracy. They’re both competent and charming, always a step ahead of their partners, but ultimately loners drifting through the world,” said octopodest. Agent Cooper may have had a race-proven record in crime prevention, but 25 years in the Black Lodge would've taken a chunk out of him.
11 Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
Theory: Picard is Wesley Crusher’s real father on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Throughout the series, there's a bad smell in the air, which Picard and Dr. Crusher refuse to acknowledge. What's certain, though, is that one of them is responsible for it. According to Redditor TangoZippo, the smell has something to do with events taking place when they were younger. Many have argued that it points to a love affair between the captain and the doctor resulting in the fresh-faced youth known as Wesley.
Plausible? Yes. According to Thought Catalogue, despite not liking kids, “Picard tolerates Wesley on the bridge and even helps him advance his career, acting as a mentor.” The Captain is certainly a little wary of Wesley at first, and there's a hint of discomfort in the way he acts around him – which, of course, might be because the boy reminds him of his past.
10 The X-Files (1993-2002)
Theory: Dana Scully is immortal. In one episode of the hit show ("Monday") Scully and her sidekick, Mulder, are repeatedly killed but yet survive an explosion because they are caught in a time-loop. This allows them to change their circumstances and eventually escape death. However, many have surmised that Scully was immune to death and never really in danger.
Plausible? According to some Redditors, the theory is well explained in an episode from the third season called “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” The pair comes across a man called Bruckman who can envision how people he meets die. When Scully asks how she dies, Bruckman replies, “You don’t.” What’s more, in “Tithonus,” Scully meets a crime-scene photographer who's been unable to die since “he looked away from Death in a moment of illness” (Fandom, 2017). When Scully is shot, he instructs her to do the same and dies in her place.
9 Star Wars (1977-2017)
Theory: Rey is Luke Skywalker’s clone daughter, according to Mike Zeroh, who's a famed Star Wars conspiracy theorist. He proposes that Rey is logically related to Luke in some way. However she “cannot be his natural daughter because Leia would have recognized the proto-Jedi when they met on Takodana in The Force Awakens” (The Guardian, 2017).
Plausible? Luke’s confusion at the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is odd, yet if Rey was a clone, it would make more sense. We're meant to believe that Luke sees in Rey something of himself, or the Force, or the spirit, or perhaps, a familiar mole. The only issue, Zeroh reminds us, is that “cloning is already firmly established in the Star Wars canon: the stormtroopers began in the prequels as members of the Galactic Republic’s clone army.” And as he rightly points out, if Rey was a clone, she would've looked almost identical.
8 How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
Theory: How I Met Your Mother is a sitcom retelling of the book “Love in the Time of Cholera.” The novel tells the story of a love triangle between characters Fermina Daza, Florentino Ariza, and Juvenal Urbino, who, some believe, are represented by Robin, Ted, and Barney, respectively.
Plausible? Early on in the season, we find out that Ted's favorite novel is “Love in the Time of Cholera,” and he's caught reading it at a train station just before meeting Tracy. A coincidence? We think not. Robin was storyline-pledged to hitch Barney but ends up with Ted. Similarly, Fermina married Urbino but eventually went back to Florentino. Redditor Mark_Zajac says, “The series was faithful to the book, in meticulous detail, for eight years, with Stella Zinman, Zoey Pierson, and Carly Whittaker as doppelgangers for Olivia Zuleta, Leona Cassiani, and America Vicuna, respectively, to name just a few.”
7 Modern Family (2009-)
Theory: ABC’s sitcom Modern Family is actually a sequel to Married with Children. Married with Children features the character Al, who intends to swap his wife for a younger, sexier woman. Kelly is the rebellious type, and Bud chases girls (unsuccessfully).
Plausible? In Modern Family, salesman Al has left his wife and found someone he considers far more attractive. Redditor CrazyWhirlygig notices that “Kelly has grown up and tries to hide her rebellious, promiscuous past from her children because she is terrified that they will repeat her mistakes. She always worries that they caught her dumbness, which is why she holds so much faith in the one smart child that she has.” What’s more, Bud, who previously showed an overcompensating drive to sleep with women, has come out of the closet! It all makes perfect sense. No fruitcakes here.
6 Walking Dead (2010-)
Theory: Have you ever wondered how the dreaded Walkers manage to get so close to their victims without being spotted? You’re on the hoof, you stop to catch your breath, and suddenly, one of them is spit-roasting your neck. And they’re not exactly quiet, not when they sound like out-of-breath asthma sufferers. Well, for those interested in this sort of thing, the theory is that the main characters are all suffering from major hearing loss after repeatedly firing off stage guns without adequate hearing protection.
Plausible? According to Popsugar (2016), “Rick went mostly deaf in that tank in Atlanta; everyone else had a similar experience off camera. Now, they don't even flinch when a gun goes off, they're all deafer than f*ck, stomping through the woods, yelling at each other constantly.” It seems perfectly reasonable to assume that without the usual 20-20 surround sound most of us enjoy, the Walkers have easy pickings.
5 Dexter's Laboratory (1995-2003)
Theory: According to TV Tropes, he may have a huge secret lab under his house and unlimited resources to build anything he wants, but Dexter's life isn't all it’s cracked up to be. Most theory fans believe Dexter suffers from Asperger's syndrome. Asperger's is “a disorder characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication” (Wikipedia, 2017).
Plausible? Likely, when we consider Dexter’s personality defects. He struggles to mix socially with others (in this respect, though, half the world would be diagnosed with the disorder). He also shows almost obsessive repetitive patterns of behavior. If he didn’t have to, Dexter would stay hidden in his laboratory forever. According to Cracked.com, another clue is his perplexing pseudo-Austrian accent. “A lot of people with this condition sound like foreigners to their own families because they mimic words the way they were pronounced when they first heard them (in many cases, on TV).”
4 SpongeBob SquarePants (1996-)
Theory: The zany underwater world of Bikini Bottom (including the submerged pineapple) came about as a direct result of U.S. nuclear tests in the South Pacific Ocean. All your favorite characters -- Squidward Tentacles, Sandy Cheeks, SpongeBob -- are mutated sea creatures.
Plausible? Highly likely given the continued references to Bikini Atoll (on which the US detonated over 23 nuclear bombs just after WW2). Squidward’s Moai residence refers to nearby Easter Island, which was within the shockwave radius of the explosions, and every bang that occurs in the cartoon is in the shape of a mushroom cloud. That’s not all. Bikini Bottom’s magazine is called Toxic Waste Monthly, and the wrecked ships and atoll itself are still uninhabitable due to high levels of radiation. The island that appears at the beginning of each SpongeBob episode is, according to reports, all that remains of Bikini Atoll.
3 Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Theory: The plot is a metaphor for the segregation of blacks in Los Angeles, according to film fan reddit_account_deleted (no, really... that's the correct username). Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a mix of live action and animation following the adventures of Eddie Valiant, a human Private Investigator probing a murder involving Roger Rabbit and his attempts to exonerate him. Judge Doom wants to kill all the cartoons by submerging them in his "Dip" concoction.
Plausible? According to reddit_account_deleted, “Short of the filmmakers including a talking crow called 'Jim' to spell it out, the clues couldn't be more obvious. The movie takes place in 1947, at the height of the Jim Crow era, where mandated state and local laws prohibited whites and blacks from having the same sh!t or being in the same places.” With all of that in mind, next time you watch the film, we think you’ll see it all in a completely different light.
2 Toy Story 3 (2010)
Theory: According to proper film critic Jordan Hoffman, Toy Story 3 is about the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust was the “systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators” (www.ushmm.org).
Plausible? Toy Story 3 focusses on Andy leaving home and going to college, leaving his toys behind him. Matthew Moffitt, writing for Cracked.com, believes the toys represent the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied Europe, and Andy, the host nations subsequently annexed by the Nazi machine. Woody suggests hiding in an attic just as Anne Frank did in Amsterdam, but when they're caught, they're sent off to a place of maltreatment -- in Toy Story 3, Sunnyside Daycare, and in Frank’s case, Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Moffitt goes on to say that Sunnyside Daycare is where “their kind is 'concentrated' and routinely mistreated (only by little children instead of Nazis).”
1 Frasier (1993-2004)
Theory: Frasier and Niles were secret gay lovers who used the story of being brothers as a cover for their relationship.
Plausible? As a fan of Frasier, this one has shattered my illusion. But it’s worth a mention. Back in the 1990s, homosexuality still had a stigma -- something Redditor awbullmarketing used as reasoning for this theory. Frasier is concerned about his reputation at the radio station, so keeps things secret, and Marti is prone to outbursts of anger about a relationship he doesn’t agree with morally. Niles has a fake relationship with Maris (whom we never see) and Daphne (whom everyone thinks is a ditzy wannabe psychic) is actually aware that Niles and Frasier are gay and makes a deal to marry Niles (for immigration purposes). What’s more, Fraiser, who himself might be bisexual, never seems to end up with a woman. Thanks, awbullmarketing.
Sources: mirror.co.uk, popsugar.co.uk, x-files.wikia.com, theguardian.com