When a filmmaker creates a world for a viewer and invites them in, it isn’t surprising that the visitor might see this world in a different light. After all, most movies only last a couple of hours, and there is little time to create a fully-detailed backstory. This leaves room for imagination and interpretation.
Often, these fan theories are simply flights of fancy that add nothing to the basic plot. Sometimes, however, fans have come up with ideas that make the film more interesting and allow us to watch it again with a different perspective. Let’s look at ten fan theories that are better than the actual movies.
Related: 10 Far-Out Theories About Beloved Sitcoms
The perhaps unlikely relationship between Jack and Rose, passengers on the Titanic, begins when Rose considers throwing herself into the Atlantic. Tortured by the pressures of her social class, her loveless engagement, and the demands of her mother, Rose sees suicide as the only way out.
Never short of a word or two, Jack tries to persuade her not to do it—if only because the water would be cold. Jack tells her he knows what he is talking about because he once went ice-fishing with his dad and fell in. Sufficient information, you might think, but Jack adds an unnecessary detail—the ice-fishing took place on Lake Wissota. All is well and good, but a dam created Lake Wissota in 1917. Five years after the Titanic sank.
As their relationship deepens during the four days, they chat about their future. Jack suggests riding the roller coaster on Santa Monica Pier. Lovely, but they would have to wait—there was no roller coaster there until 1916. There are other anachronisms. Jack smokes filtered cigarettes that hadn’t come onto the market, his rucksack is a future model, and his hairstyle is more New-Romantic than the pre-WWI era.
Some fans believe that a director as meticulous as James Cameron would not have let these errors creep into his movie. So, what is the fan theory? Jack is a time traveler who goes back to save Rose.
As the film stands, there is no obvious sequel, but add time travel, and anything is possible.
9 Harry Potter
Harry grows up an orphan living a dreary life in the Dursley household. The Dursleys are Harry’s aunt, uncle, and cousin, which are horrible to 11-year-old Harry. But why? Harry is an unassuming, polite, and likable boy who is, after all, a close relative. There is no earthly reason why they shouldn’t like Harry.
We learn Harry’s parents were wizards, and Harry will go to a school where the staff will hone his innate magical skills. Harry ends up in a struggle against Voldemort, who is protected by Horcruxes that must be overcome if good is to triumph over evil.
Who better than Harry to fight Voldemort? But why did the Dursleys hate him? Unless Harry is one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.
A Horcrux is a part of your soul. If Harry is a Horcrux created by Voldemort, then Harry is essential to Voldemort’s survival, and Harry can never destroy his antagonist without destroying himself. We see in the movies that a Horcrux can affect the emotional environment in its surroundings. Harry is influencing the Dursleys negatively.
If this theory is true, we will have to watch the whole series again in a different light, and we may just find some pity and understanding for the Dursley family.
8 Pulp Fiction
In one of the first scenes in the movie, Jules and Vincent go to an apartment to recover a case that belongs to their boss, Marsellus. The conversation with the boys living in the apartment suggests they owe Marsellus money. In fact, they have Marsellus’s attache case.
Vincent finds the case and confirms that it holds what they are looking for. One of the boys pulls a gun on Jules and Vincent and fires a full clip at them. They are miraculously unhurt. At the end of the movie, someone aims to steal the case. Jules opens it, and the thief stares in wonder. We never see what is in it.
Marsellus, a gang boss, has an unexplained bandage on the back of his head. One story has it that the devil can steal your soul through the back of your head. The combination lock of the case is “666.” Does the case contain Marsellus’s soul? Is the devil driving the storyline?
7 The Shining
We have all heard the conspiracy theory that the 1969 Apollo moon landing was a fake. To pull it off, the authorities needed expert help. Who better for visual effects than Stanley Kubrick, the director of the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey? The story goes that Kubrick’s 1980 horror movie The Shining has clues that are tantamount to a confession on Kubrick’s part.
Let’s consider Stephen King’s original novel. In the book, the “evil” room is number 217, and Danny sees the specter of one child. In the film, Kubrick has changed the room number to 237. The average distance from the earth to the moon is 237,000 miles (it’s actually a little more). Danny sees two dead twins in the movie. Surely a reference to the Gemini (twins in astrology) project that led to the Apollo program. Finally, Danny wears a sweater with an image of the Apollo rocket knit on the front.
Even the title reflects the moon. It couldn’t be clearer.
6 The Wizard of Oz
There is something surreal about the world of Oz. The characters seem so odd that it must be about something more than a girl trying to get back to Kansas.
In one fan theory, the Cowardly Lion is the central figure. He represents William Jennings Bryan, a presidential candidate known as “The Great Commoner.” Bryan hated the gold standard that tied the dollar’s value to the price of gold. In this interpretation, “Oz” is an ounce, Dorothy is the ordinary citizen, the Scarecrow represents farmers, the Tin Man stands for industrial workers, and the Wizard is the President of the United States.
The band is following the yellow brick road—gold.
5 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The much-sought-after tickets to enter the chocolate factory are invitations to death! Visitors become fewer as they tour the vast building in various vehicles. But each vehicle has a capacity for exactly the number of people left. This suggests that everything is planned beforehand and that Willy and his workers are, perhaps, cannibals who are eating the guests off-camera.
We can take this theory even further by looking at the 2005 remake starring Johnny Depp. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka (Depp) informs the group that everything is edible. “Everything in this room is eatable. Even I’m eatable, but that is called cannibalism, my dear children, and is, in fact, frowned upon in most societies.”
4 The Matrix
In the fourth century BC, the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi said he dreamed of being a butterfly. When he woke, he couldn’t be certain that he was a man who had dreamed of being a butterfly or that he was a butterfly dreaming of being a man.
Neo has the same problem in The Matrix. When he emerges from the imaginary world, he can’t know whether the “real” world is real or simply another construct.
Fans happily scour the movies for evidence that Neo is still living in an alternative reality. This explains some oddities that occur in the “real” world.
Danny and Sandy meet at the beach, sing, and dance their way through a romance with its usual teenage challenges. But the popular movie contains fantasy sequences—especially the ending—that don’t comfortably fit the story.
Unless the whole tale is a fantasy, there are references to Danny saving Sandy from drowning, but perhaps, he didn’t. Sandy’s imagination constructs the whole story as she drowns and dies, with Danny unable to help the girl.
Sandy’s first line is:
“I’ve just had the best summer of my life, and now I have to go away.”
Yes, but not back to her native Australia; she is dying. This makes the film much darker and explains why everything works out well for each character—it’s Sandy’s last wish. Sandy is not an unusual name but oddly relevant to her fate.
2 The Silence of the Lambs
There are many fan theories about this film. Two stand out that might change the way you view it.
In one, Hannibal preyed on Buffalo Bill when he was treating him and turned a damaged personality into a killer. This was an insurance policy. Hannibal knew that if the FBI ever caught up with him and he was jailed, the FBI would need his help in catching Bill. A situation that Hannibal could exploit to escape captivity.
The second theory is that the FBI is taking serial killers and turning them into assassins. Hannibal is part of the program, and Clarice Starling is a candidate. This one is a little far-fetched, but you will view Clarice’s boss differently.
1 Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Neal is trying to return to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with his family. His flight is diverted to Wichita because of atrocious weather. Here, Neal hooks up with an unwanted travel companion in the shape of Del. The two have completely different personalities, and the clash between them is the comic hinge of the movie. Neal likes to have control; Del is a ceaseless chatterer who constantly goes on about his wife.
After various misadventures, the pair finally reach Chicago, they go their separate ways, but Neal decides that he should go looking for Del, who he finds sitting alone at the railway station. Del admits that he has nowhere to go and that his beloved wife, Marie, has been dead for years. Off they go to Neal’s house, carrying Del’s large trunk.
The fan theory is that the trunk contains Marie’s body, Del’s dead wife. Watch the film again and think of Del as a crazed murderer—you will see it differently.