Ranking the Stupidest Fan Theories of All Time From Dumb to Dumbest
Fan theories are dumb.
There’s nothing wrong with discussion. Nothing is more rewarding than unpacking a movie, discussing the choices the director and the actors made, the structure of the screenplay, how various choices lead to various tones, and so on and so forth. Let’s talk about movies. Let’s love movies! But how about we not devise theories about crazy things that you have pulled out of your butt because you’ve seen Back to the Future too many times.
In “honor” of a new fan theory about Jurassic World that’s currently making the rounds (see below), here are the most irritating fan theories that have ever emerged from the bowels of the internet ranked from dumb to dumbest.
Alfred is Bruce Wayne’s Real Father/The Joker is a War Veteran
The Theories: It’s a The Dark Knight double-header! In this corner, we have the theory that the loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth isn’t just a butler ... he’s actually the secret father of billionaire superhero Bruce Wayne! And in the other corner, there’s the theory that the Joker is a former soldier, possibly a veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq, who lost his marbles thanks to PTSD.
The Defense: Alfred is Bruce Wayne’s secret father because he cares way too much about him to be anything else:
Well, Alfred wasn't always the curmudgeonly old butler we see in the comics and movies - and in The Dark Knight trilogy, at least, he was in the SAS as a young man. So the idea of a young, handsome and dashing British soldier turning up, and gradually sweeping Martha Wayne off her feet isn't quite as strange as it sounds.
After all, the logic goes, why would a butler - even one as handsomely rewarded as Alfred presumably is - not decide to retire, and get the hell away from the constant threat of death that being Batman's ally brings? Back when Alfred was first introduced in the comics, the idea of the eternally loyal man-servant didn't seem quite so strange as it does today, perhaps, but to a modern audience it seems fairly implausible
Meanwhile, the Joker is obviously a military veteran because he showcases all of the necessary skills:
His superb fighting, being able to overpower a door guard, almost beating batman, and easily making a pencil disappear might be from military training. His precise planning, from the bank heist, to the escape from the police station, even the last scene, it's all planned perfectly, might imply that he was a high ranking general or tactician of some sort. And he knows a lot about "the system", meaning he probably worked for the government, but ended up hating it. Another note, during the police burial ritual, he seemed to know what the movements were, perfectly, implying he has had some training.
Also, war has been known to make people " Insane", and his strong almost painless resistance to batmans interrogation might imply that he was a prisoner or even a hostage once.
Supporters of this theory also cite the Joker referencing a truck-full of soldiers blowing up an example of things not going according to plan.
Stupidity Level: As far as fan theories go, the Joker theory isn’t too terrible, especially since The Dark Knight deliberately avoids revealing anything about the character’s backstory. It makes a certain amount of sense that the Joker would have combat experience, but when the film goes out of its way to avoid giving you solid information, why try to spoil the fun of the mystery? This theory is dumb, but it’s more guilty of trying to ruin a terrific performance by draining it of its mystery.
The Alfred theory is significantly dumber and it showcases a lack of empathy on the part of people who seem to believe that a man can only love a child if he is his own flesh and blood. It’s no secret that Alfred has always been intensely loyal to the Wayne family, so of course he steps into the adoptive father role to young Bruce when his parents are murdered. Making Alfred a secret dad diminishes him in almost every way and makes his affection for his young charge a requirement, not a character-defining choice.
Aladdin Takes Place in the Post-Apocalypse
The Theory: Disney’s Aladdin doesn’t take place in the Middle East many centuries ago. It’s actually set in the post-apocalypse, years after civilization has fallen and long enough for humanity to rebuild itself into a new feudal society.
The Defense: This theory begins with the fact that Robin Williams’ Genie spends the bulk of this movie making references to pop culture icons who won’t be alive for another thousand years, but it goes much deeper:
In the middle of Aladdin’s make-over in to Prince Ali (fabulous he) Ali Ababwa, Genie declares that his fez and vest combo is ‘much too third century.’
Carpet isn’t just a ‘magical carpet’, he’s a remnant of hover-technology that has been hidden in the Cave of Wonders, presumably to keep it safe from the coming nuclear war that turned the world in to a big empty desert.
Similarly, Iago isn’t just another anthropomorphic Disney character. He’s either the result of a society so obsessed with its pets they developed technology to understand their animal’s every thought (why anyone would want these thought expressed in the voice of Gilbert Godfrey is another question entirely) or a mutation caused by nuclear fallout (slightly more likely, assuming that as the daughter of a Sultan, Jasmine would almost certainly get a translator to understand her beloved tiger Rajah).
It’s also odd that [the Genie] would reference the 3rd and 20th Centuries and nothing in between. We could assume that the connecting years were another period of time he spent imprisoned in the lamp, but what are we supposed to make of his obvious trip to Disney World on being granted his freedom?
Stupidity Level: This theory is stupid, but it’s definitely on the more forgivable end of the Dumb Fan Theory spectrum. It’s mostly guilty of being super literal-minded – the Genie makes pop culture jokes, so the movie has to take place in the future! With that logic in place, Shrek and countless other animated movies are also post-apocalyptic. The reality is that Robin Williams came into a recording booth, riffed a whole bunch, made a lot of people laugh, and then the animators kept those jokes and worked them into the animation.
Doc Brown Tries to Commit Suicide With the DeLorean
The Theory: Back to the Future’s Doctor Emmett Brown, broke and down on his luck, never intended for the time traveling DeLorean to work. His first test run is actually a suicide attempt and he fully expects the remote controlled car to strike him and kill him at 88 miles per hour.
The Defense: This one pretty much speaks for itself:
The Doc is ready to kill himself along with Marty in that parking lot during the first time travel scene. Not only has he never tested the time machine, but he claims that many of his inventions have been failures.
So during the moment when he's about to find out if his life's work was a huge success, or a complete waste, he not only drives the Delorian towards himself, but grabs onto Marty when he tries to run away.
If that first time travel test was a failure, they both would have been killed. Which is exactly what Doc wanted had the experiment been a failure.
The same theory also believes that Marty is one of an infinite loop of Martys created by Doc for, uh, reasons.
Stupidity Level: This is where we take a hard left turn into absolute stupidity. There is no actual evidence of a suicidal Doc in Back to the Future. None. In fact, Christopher Lloyd’s performance is that of an enthusiastic, joyful dreamer. Sure, his inventions haven’t worked in the past, but he’s spent 30 years not giving up, even transplanting his experiments to a new home after his mansion burns down.
This theory rests entirely on one image – the famous shot of Doc steering the DeLorean straight at him and Marty in the mall parking lot. While directing Back to the Future 30 years ago, Robert Zemeckis rightfully assumed that this shot would be iconic. It has come to define the film and the imagery surrounding it for years to come. It’s a shot that exists because it looks really damn cool and Zemeckis has always been all about movies that look really damn cool. That’s it. Plus, even if Doc was secretly suicidal, there’s even less evidence that he was homicidal. Why drag Marty into the line of fire?
Amity Has Been Covering Up Shark Attacks For years
The Theory: The Great White terrorizing Amity in Jaws isn’t the first shark to terrorize the small town. In fact, the local authorities have been hiding the truth for a long time!
The Defense: It seems that Chief Brody has walked into a conspiracy on Amity Island:
The town of Amity had been covering up its shark attacks for years, with the tiger shark being planted by the Mayor in order to distract attention from the real culprit.
It does seem a little coincidental that the attacks should start at the exact same time as the new police chief starts work. And then there’s that comment regarding the first attack that, “it’s happened before”… That dastardly mayor!
Stupidity Level: This theory rests entirely on evidence that doesn’t actually exist in the film. The characters in Jaws already have plenty of motivation to ignore or play down the shark attacks. Their livelihoods depend on it! Without tourists, the town faces financial disaster. Tacking a conspiracy on top of that clutters on the cinema’s great simple stories. Plus, if there have been shark attacks before and they have been covered up, why haven’t previous summer seasons been ruined? Why haven’t other characters approached Brody and let him in on the fact that something is rotten?
Oh, and that line the theory cites about how “it’s happened before”? Here’s the context:
Two people were killed in a week and it’s gonna happen again. It happened before, The Jersey Beach, 1916. Five people were killed.
Brody says that. To the mayor. To give an example of an extreme situation where a Great White swam beyond its normal turf. And it didn’t even happen in Amity. Most fan theories have the decency to grab onto something that actually makes sense within some wild context. Defending this theory is like juggling water.
Ferris Bueller and Jack Dawson Don’t Actually Exist
The Theories: The sly title character from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and noble Jack Dawson from Titanic have one thing in common – they’re not real. They were actually cooked up by Cameron and Rose as coping mechanisms for dealing with troubled lives.
The Defense: The popular and adventurous Ferris represents everything Cameron cannot be, so he creates a new best friend and a great day off to psychologically prepare himself to finally confront his father:
Cameron awakens ill–though his physical symptoms all but disappear once he’s out and about–and he intends to spend the day wishing that his mother never returns from Decatur. But if Cameron were a more audacious version of himself, what would he do? Start off by wearing a funky hat, maybe even a vest. Then pick up his beautiful girlfriend and journey into the big city in a quarter-million dollar automobile, go to Wrigley, eat at Chez Luis, hit the museum, deceive authority, be bold, devilish, virile ... All the things that Cameron’s afraid he’s not.
So Ferris becomes a creation Cameron uses to finally assert himself against his fathers cruelty and more importantly, his own hypercritical conscience. I think the theory can go further, though, in that Cameron never actually leaves his room. That everything is imagined but the catharsis is real, which is Cameron - egged on by ‘Ferris’–finally taking his rage out on the Ferrari and then accepting the consequences. We know, of course, that Ferris Bueller, grotesquely self-seeking, would never take the heat, so his false sincerity in offering so is just more fantastic bravado from an imaginary friend.
For the other theory, it is argued that Jack is too convenient, too good, and too perfect to be anything other than a vivid hallucination that exists to help keep Rose alive:
As we see from the movie's first half an hour or so, Rose is clearly not happy with her lot in life. She is being forced to marry a man she doesn't love, or even like, in order to save her family's fortune. It is quite possible that Rose is suffering from depression – she has been broken. It is only when she has run out of options and steps onto the ship's stern to kill herself that 'Jack' conveniently appears to convince her otherwise. "Come any closer and I'll jump!" she yells. "No you won't," says Jack, who is basically a voice in Rose's head – a manifestation of her fractured psyche, compelling her to hold on.
A lot of Jack's dialogue is very prescient for someone who's only just met her and enjoyed a steamy bunk-up with her in the back seat of a car. Lines such as "They've got you trapped, if you don't break free you're gonna die!" sound much more like Rose's conscience, don't you think? Consider Jack's parting lines: "Promise me you'll survive. That you won't give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise." This is essentially Rose convincing herself to stay alive.
Then, of course, there's the most obvious piece of evidence of all: there were no records of any 'Jack Dawson' being on board the Titanic ("We never found anything on Jack... there's no record of him at all"). Responds Old Rose: "No, there wouldn't be, would there? And I've never spoken of him until now... But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me in every way that a person can be saved. I don't even have a picture of him. He exists now... only in my memory.”
Stupidity Level: Both of these theories can be shattered by simple logic.
If Ferris is a figment of Cameron’s imagination, why does the film open with Ferris, introduce Ferris’ family, introduce Ferris’ enemies, and spend a significant portion of the running time dealing with subplots that are connected to Ferris and not Cameron? Why does the movie’s climax deal exclusively with Ferris and characters who must also not exist since they’re talking to him? Sorry, that’s not how storytelling works. If every scene in the movie was told through Cameron’s eyes, this could maaaybe, possibly be worth talking about. This theory has often been compared to Fight Club, but watch that movie again and get back to us. Tell us when that movie leaves Edward Norton’s perspective to focus solely on Brad Pitt’s family and friends for extended periods.
Somehow, the Titanic theory is even more ludicrous. Forget about the fact that Rose’s family and evil fiancee actually interact with Jack. Forget about the side characters we only meet because they know Jack directly (and don’t know Rose). Forget about the fact that there was no record of Jack Dawson on board the Titanic because he won his tickets in a poker game at the literal last second. What’s really off-putting about this idiotic theory is that it cheapens a truly moving story. What would you prefer: a movie where an insane woman has to conjure an imaginary man to help her survive or a movie where an independent woman chooses to love a man against the wishes of her family and finds the strength to move on after he dies?
Fan theories have this habit of going out of their way to cheapen a story by nullifying so many major components and characters. Somehow, these are more innocent examples.
The Raptor Kid From Jurassic Park is Owen Grady in Jurassic World/The Feral Kid From The Road Warrior is Max in Mad Max: Fury Road
The Theories: Chris Pratt’s raptor handler in Jurassic World is actually the young kid terrorized by Alan Grant in Jurassic Park, grown up and ready to respect raptors. Similarly, another theory claims that Tom Hardy’s Max in Mad Max: Fury Road is actually the Feral Kid from The Road Warrior, all grown up and emulating the hero of his youth.
The Defense: Jurassic World wasn’t even in theaters when this first theory was concocted. Based solely on a trailer, the internet decided that the annoying kid from an early scene in Jurassic Park most definitely grows up to be the hero of the new movie:
While explaining how awesome the dinosaurs are, an annoying kid interrupts the archaeologist to say “That doesn’t look very scary, more like a six foot turkey.” Grant then turns to the kid and does a terrifying monologue about how the raptor would eat a person alive if it had the chance.
“Try and show a little respect” he concludes.
In the trailer for Jurassic World, Chris Pratt’s character says that he and the four raptors have “a relationship based on respect.” See where this is going?
The originator of this theory also went on to say: "[Jurassic World] will have to actively contradict [the theory] for me to not just assume that it's true.”
Just a month earlier, fans spitballed about whether or not the Max in Fury Road is the Mad Max or not. There is enough evidence, the internet argued, to suggest that this is the grown version of the grunting, growling child sidekick seen in The Road Warrior:
There’s a fun fan theory making its way around the interwebs that proposes that Hardy is Max in moniker only. As if Gibson’s Max passed the torch along with his jacket and his V8 Interceptor on to a new Road Warrior…but if this is true, then who is this mysterious man hesitatingly calling himself Max in Fury Road?
Maybe someone not so mysterious after all, someone we were already introduced to long ago, though he was only a boy then…a growling, grunting, boomerang-throwing boy. None other than ‘The Feral Kid’ from Road Warrior!
When Max Rockatansky happened upon Pappagallo’s tribe, The Feral Kid became enamored with The Road Warrior — who gave him a small wind-up music box. A music box similar to the one that we see Hardy’s Max have in his possessions, found by one of the wives in the War Rig. And that’s the first major clue at what could be one of the coolest subtle plot points in the Millerverse.
The evidence for this one goes on and on and on and on and you can read the rest of it at the link above if you want to feel like you’ve bashed your head against a wall for 10 minutes.
Stupidity Level: What’s frustrating about these theories is that you can’t really disprove them. They stem from a very specific geek sickness – the belief that everything has to be connected.
The Fury Road theory is the more easily dismantled of the two. Forget that the Mad Max series has never valued continuity and that director George Miller treats his hero a mythic figure rather than a literal one. In The Road Warrior, we eventually learn that the elderly narrator is the Feral Kid, all grown-up and telling us about the time the time he hung out with Max for a few days. He then says that he moved on with his people and helped rebuild civilization. In other words, he didn’t wander around, go a little crazy, and embark on a joy ride with Furiosa. The character makes this clear in his own words. Fury Road itself deflates this theory in two specific ways. First, the opening credits specifically read that Tom Hardy is playing the role of Max Rockatansky, giving him the last name that he never reveals to anyone outside of the first, pre-apocalyptic movie. Second, Max is still wearing that same leg brace from The Road Warrior. Unless the Feral Kid went full cosplay, consider this theory thrown out the window.
The Jurassic World theory is far, far worse and it stems from that desperate desire to connect everything. One of the things that Colin Trevorrow’s film gets right is how it distances itself from the earlier franchise and introduces a cast of entirely new characters. For the first time, this series feels bigger than Alan Grant and Ian Malcolm. But viewers bred on “hero’s journey” nonsense can’t help but love the idea of a kid who learns about raptors when he’s young only to grow up to work with raptors. It’s trite. It’s pat. It’s preposterous. Most of all, it’s no fun. Let these characters exist on their own, thank you very much.
All of/Portions of Taxi Driver/Harry Potter/Minority Report/Grease Are Dreams/Hallucinations
The Theory: Great swaths of many movies didn’t actually happen and exist only the minds of their protagonists.
The Defense: It has been argued that the final scenes of Taxi Driver, where Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle is rewarded for his brutal vigilantism, is a near-death hallucination. After all, why would such an obvious lunatic get away with everything in the end?
But here’s a new-ish one: apparently, the entire Harry Potter saga is just a vivid dream that poor Harry creates for himself to deal with the fact that he lives with an adopted family that hates him. This is a long one, so feel free to check out the details.
And then there’s this Grease theory, which will be presented without comment:
Stupidity Level: Two of these theories are actually fairly forgivable. It’s possible to just shrug off the theory about the ending for Minority Report. After all, it is a big shift from the rest of the movie and it is possible within the context of the movie for Cruise’s character to create a happy ending for himself while frozen in cryo-sleep. That would ignore Spielberg’s lifelong penchant for happy and literal endings, but we’ll allow it.
We will also allow the Taxi Driver theory because it simply isn’t quite as dumb as others. Yeah, it’s weird that Bickle’s grotesque actions are ultimately rewarded ... but it’s supposed to be weird. Director Martin Scorsese deliberately allows the film to end with this psychopath being labeled a hero. It empowers him. De Niro himself has made it clear that Bickle is alive and well (and he’s probably George Zimmerman-ing all around New York City), so it’s clear that those final moments were never intended to be a dream. And yet, there’s just enough wiggle room here to get away with it. Go ahead and believe in that weaker, more comfortably moralistic ending. It’s okay. You are forgiven.
However, those are so easy to forgive because other “it was all a dream” fan theories are bottom of the barrel crap. There are too many actual movies that resort to making large portions of their narrative being dreams or hallucinations, so it’s downright infuriating that we insist on transforming other movies to fit these conventions.
There is literally no evidence that Harry Potter’s fantasy existence isn’t real. There is literally no evidence that Grease is a secret tragedy about a dying woman (the flying car is there because it’s a goddamn musical and reality has already shattered every time the characters opened their mouths to sing).
James Bond is a Codename Passed Down From Agent to Agent
The Theory: James Bond isn’t an actual name, but rather a codename, passed down from spy to spy over the years. Whoever takes on the 007 title is also given a new identity.
The Defense: The “James Bond is a codename” theory has existed for years as a way for fans to justify how six actors could play the same character over the course of five decades. However, Skyfall seemingly put a pin in this line of reasoning when it took us back to Bond’s childhood home. Where he was named James Bond. There was even a grizzled old caretaker who recognized him and everything.
What I suggest instead is this: James Bond is a codename, but James Bond doesn’t know that it’s a codename. Why? Because the man who knows himself as James Bond has been brainwashed.
Columnist Stephen L. Carter has suggested that this secret is that Silva is the long-lost son of M, writing about it in “The Secret James Bond Missed in Skyfall.” While I agree with the evidence for this, my interpretation is not that he is the literal son of M, but that he identifies as one of her many sons, as all her agents are her sons. But he is also this: the only other living James Bond.
It explains his connection (and affection) regarding Bond, his disdain for M, their complicated dynamic, and, finally, let’s return to Bardem’s acting. Remember that knowing look of his? It’s on full view as he arrives at Skyfall, casually walking out of his helicopter and tossing grenades at the house. He remembers Skyfall well. It’s the place he had been brainwashed into believing was his childhood home. Just as Daniel Craig’s Bond was brainwashed into thinking the same thing. The brainwashing was so thorough, the identity so complete, that Silva even knew Bond would bring M there, and he had prepared for it. Not only is it the place where they are brainwashed into believing they were raised, but it is also the place where their training and brainwashing occurred.
Stupidity Level: The various ways that a certain shade of Bond fan bend over backwards to justify this theory never ceases to amaze. There is actual, physical evidence strewn through all of the James Bond movies that make it very clear that all of those actors are playing, more or less, the same guy. After all, James Bond’s wife is murdered when he looks like George Lazenby, he sets out to avenge her when he looks like Sean Connery, he lays flowers on her grave when he looks like Roger Moore, and his good friend mentions his long-ago marriage when he looks like Timothy Dalton. If you take the chronology of the Bond series literally (and that’s also crazy), this theory can’t hold water.