What is the “fourth wall”? Simply speaking it’s the window we as an audience look through when watching a movie. Here are 10 great movies that break the “fourth wall rule”…
What is the “fourth wall”? Simply speaking its the window we as an audience look through when watching a movie. It’s our point of view. In fiction film, the fourth wall doesn’t exist within the story. In other words the characters within the fictional world don’t know it’s there. However, filmmakers have chosen to use the imaginary fourth wall within the story to create a different dynamic between the film and the audience. This is usually seen by way of a character looking into camera (therefore acknowledging that it exists) and speaking directly to the audience.
One of the most famous uses of this technique can be seen in 1965’s Alfie starring Michael Caine. Caine plays the titular title character, a larger-than-life Londoner and serial womaniser, who frequently speaks directly to camera as if the audience is a friend of his. In the Top 10 Films that break the Fourth Wall, Dan Grant takes a look at his favourite moments in film where characters address the audience directly thus “breaking the fourth wall”…
In Superman and the sequels, the film usually ends with Superman flying away and nodding or smiling to the audience. There are other examples in the first film. After Clark catches a bullet in his hand, he looks to the camera and gives a slight smirk, as if to say, “it’s just between us.”
9. Fight Club
In Fight Club, Brad Pitt gives the speech that starts off with, “You are not the car you drive, you are not the contents of your wallet…” By the end of the monologue, he is staring directly into the camera, then it shakes and apparently comes loose. It’s one of the most blatant breaking of the fourth walls in film history.
8. We’re The Millers
In last summer’s very funny film We’re The Millers, David Clark, played by Jason Sudeikis, stares at the camera and smiles as if to say, “Hell yea!” when Jennifer Aniston is performing her strip tease for the bad guys. It also gets a good laugh from the audience.
7. Pretty In Pink
In Pretty In Pink, after Duckie sees Andi at the prom and tells her to go after Blaine, he glances around and spots a very attractive girl checking him out. Ducky, as you may recall, lacks self esteem and it was one of his glaring faults all throughout the film. But when this new hot girl is checking him out, he points at himself and whispers, “ME?”, and she nods yes. He then looks directly into the camera, raises his eyebrows and makes his way over to her. It gets a big laugh every time.
6. The Wolf of Wall Street
In The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio talks to the audience on numerous occasions, two of the most notable are when he is walking down the stairs in the morning, explaining all the drugs he takes throughout the day. As he is walking towards his chauffeur, he tosses his glass of orange juice behind him and you hear it break and DiCaprio never stops talking to us.. There are other scenes where he attempts to explain eclectic terms and scenarios to us, before stopping and just telling us the audience that it really doesn’t matter. All of this adds to the brilliance of the film, which is why, in my opinion, it is the best film of 2013.
5. In The Line of Fire (Teaser Trailer)
There is a great breaking the fourth wall moment in the trailer for Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire. In the teaser trailer, we hear the voice of John Malkovich telling us that he sees Clint Eastwood standing over the body of another dead president. As the numbers 1963 turn into 1993, we see Clint loading his gun and he then turns to the camera and says, “That’s not going to happen.” It was a very effective teaser for the film.
In JFK, the fourth wall isn’t broken in the traditional sense, but director Oliver Stone breaks it nonetheless. In Jim Garrison’s closing arguments, he is pleading his case to the jury. The closing speech is very lengthy and as Kevin Costner is finally ready to wrap it up, the camera begins to move towards Costner so that it is eye level with him. His last words are, “It’s up to you.” And as he is saying these words, he is looking directly into the camera, at us, the audience. Although this is not the number one spot on my list, it is my favourite breaking the fourth wall moment as the JFK fairy tale told by the Warren Commission is something I am very interested in.
3. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
In one of the funniest breaking the fourth wall films, the criminally underrated Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, there are two very funny moments. One is when Holden, played by Ben Affleck, says to Jay and Silent Bob, “a Jay and Silent Bob movie? Who’d pay to see that?” And then all three of them turn to the camera and glare at the audience. There’s another funny scene where Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play themselves playing their characters in Good Will Hunting and Affleck says, “you gotta do the payback picture because your friend says you owe him,” and then they pause and stare back at the camera (and Kevin Smith, who is directing Jay and Silent Bob and who produced Good Will Hunting, which made stars out of the two of them).
2. Gremlins 2
In Gremlins 2, Hulk Hogan is summoned by an usher at a theater because the gremlins have stopped the movie “Gremlins” and replaced it with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Hogan, who at the time was one of the most well known celebrities in the world, stands up and in character, tells the Gremlins that the audience has paid good money to watch the film and if they don’t put Gremlins back on, Hulkamania is going to run wild on them. The Gremlins take heed to his warning and put the film back on. Clever and completely ingeniously done by Joe Dante.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
And the number one breaking the fourth wall moment in film is of course Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The entire film has Ferris talking to us, the audience. From moments where he tells about how much he loves driving the Ferrari to the time when he is in Chez Quis talking to us about not getting busted by a guy like him, they are all funny.
But the best is the after credit scene where he has just gotten out of the shower, peers around the corner and asks, “You’re still here?” And then he tells us, “Go home, it’s over.” A great bonus for those who stuck around till the end of the movie.