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10 Crazy Cinematic Conspiracy Theories

by Nolan Moore
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Everyone loves going to the movies. After all, they take us on adventures, touch our hearts, and secretly program us with hidden messages. At least that’s what some people claim. Since the Golden Age of Hollywood, conspiracy theorists have claimed that movies are filled with evil actors, mysterious murders, and Illuminati indoctrination.

10Randy Quaid And The Star Whackers

Randy and Evi Quaid bring Evi's bizzare docu-drama "Star Whackers" to Vancouver's Rio Theater

The Hollywood Star Whackers are dangerous killers at the center of Hollywood’s most evil conspiracy—at least according to Randy Quaid. The Golden Globe–winning actor and his wife, Evi, claim there’s an evil organization out to murder Hollywood stars. Quaid claims the Whackers have knocked off Michael Jackson, David Carradine, Heath Ledger, and Chris Penn. They framed Mel Gibson and Robert Blake (renowned superstar), and they might be after Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. And the Quaids are next. Evidently, Hollywood producers are sick of paying their actors exorbitant sums of money, so they hired the Whackers to take out the A-listers. That way, they can use unknowns and won’t have to fork over millions of dollars.

The most noticeable hole in Quaid’s conspiracy is that Randy has never been what you might call a “star.” Additionally, Santa Barbara District Attorney Anthony Davis believes the whole thing is a bizarre excuse to avoid some serious legal charges. The Quaids have been arrested numerous times for breaking and entering, squatting, burglary, and damaging property. To avoid paying their dues (or the Star Whackers, depending on what you believe), the Quaids took off for Canada. However, as of January 2013, Randy was having a hard time applying for permanent resident status, probably because Canada doesn’t want to deal with his craziness. Or maybe they don’t want to mess with the Star Whackers.

9The Clark Gable Cover-Up

Gone with the wind

During the 1930s and 1940s, Clark Gable was the King of Hollywood. As one of MGM’s top leading men, Gable won an Oscar for his performance in It Happened One Night and achieved immortality in Gone with the Wind. However, despite his big-screen success, Gable was a heavy drinker. After an all-night bender in 1942, he found his car wrapped around a tree on Sunset Boulevard. Fortunately for Gable, MGM representatives showed up before the reporters did, and they were able to whisk him off to a hospital where he sobered up.

Hoping to save face, MGM told the press that Gable had been forced off the road by another car. No one really believed them, and people began whispering about what really happened that night. The craziest theory was that a drunken Gable had run over some unlucky woman. Obviously, MGM didn’t want its big star going to prison for manslaughter, so the head of the studio, Louis B. Mayer, made a deal with a lower-level MGM executive. If the exec took the fall for the woman’s death, he’d have a job at MGM for the rest of his life and get a very nice raise. According to the story, the exec served a year behind bars, and Gable went on acting.

8Errol Flynn Was A Nazi Spy

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn was Hollywood’s favorite swashbuckler, famous for films like The Adventures of Robin Hood as well as his wild lifestyle. Born an Australian, Flynn became a naturalized American citizen on the eve of World War II, but when he tried to join the military, he was turned down because of his weak heart. So instead of fighting, anti-fascist Flynn made World War II movies such as Objective, Burma! and Desperate Journey.

However, biographer Charles Higham questions Flynn’s patriotism. In fact, he claims that Flynn was actually a Nazi agent. Higham points to Flynn’s friendship with the Nazi doctor Hermann Erben as proof. He also unearthed a letter Flynn sent to Erben in which the actor used the phrase “slimy Jews.” Higham went on to claim that Flynn had a secret meeting with Hitler, used his fame to spy on German communists, and filmed his 1941 movie Dive Bomber on a Californian naval base so the Japanese could have a good look at American defenses.

This conspiracy has an interesting twist. A professor from the University of Ulster discovered a letter from Flynn to the OSS asking to be made a spy. Flynn offered to use his family connection with the Irish Republic to help the Allies. However, FDR turned him down because even the president had heard the Nazi rumors and didn’t want to take a chance.

7Snow White Is About Cocaine


The Walt Disney Company has been the center of countless conspiracy theories, most of them about sexualizing children. However, some claim Uncle Walt also wanted to teach the kids about doing blow, and that he intended Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to be a timeless classic about cocaine. The biggest piece of “evidence” supporting this theory is the characters’ names: Snow White is slang for cocaine, and the dwarfs’ names supposedly represent the different stages of addiction. First, users are happy, and then they start sneezing. Eventually, they get sleepy, and then they’ll feel depressed or bashful. Then users will act dopey, and eventually they’ll need to see a doc.

Not surprisingly, there isn’t any real proof to back these claims. No one who knew Walt Disney ever claimed that he or his animators used recreational drugs. Even so, Snow White was released in 1937, and the big drug of the ’30s was alcohol, not cocaine. So perhaps Dumbo was part of a conspiracy to have kids grow up to be alkies. (Of course, anyone who saw that pink elephant sequence probably swore off drinking for life.)

6Bruce And Brandon Lee Were Murdered

Brandon Lee

Bruce Lee, the most iconic martial artist in cinematic history, died of a cerebral edema when he was 32. In a sad twist of fate, he passed away right before his movie Enter the Dragon became an international hit. Twenty years later, his son Brandon died while filming The Crow. During a key scene, he was accidentally shot and killed by a fragment of a dummy round that had been lodged in the barrel of a prop gun.

It’s not surprising that the Lees’ deaths are surrounded by controversy. It’s a situation ripe for a conspiracy theory: They were related, they were young, and they died before the releases of their most popular films.

There are two main theories as to how the Lees died. The first is that the Chinese Mafia murdered Bruce for sharing martial arts secrets with the world. After Bruce’s death, Brandon picked up his father’s mantle and had to be eliminated as well.

The second major theory involves the Triads, a group of gangsters associated with the Chinese film industry. Supposedly, the Triads wanted Bruce to star in some of their films. When Bruce turned them down, they whacked him. And because gangsters hold grudges, they killed Brandon too.

5The Dark Knight Rises Is Very Dark

The Dark Knight Rises will always be linked to the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado. However, some conspiracy theorists claim that Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman movie actually foreshadowed James Holmes’s murderous rampage as well as the Sandy Hook shooting.

Three days after Adam Lanza’s shooting spree, YouTube conspiracy theorist “Dahboo7” uploaded a video claiming that signs of a government conspiracy were hidden in The Dark Knight Rises. According to Dahboo7, there’s a skyscraper in the film bearing a sign that reads “Aurora.” Later on, Commissioner Gordon (played by Gary Oldman) is looking at a map of Gotham, and at the bottom-left corner of the map are the words “Sandy Hook.” So what’s going on here? According to Alex Jones’s website Infowars, The Dark Knight Rises was meant to precondition audiences to these massacres, and the shootings themselves were actually ritual sacrifices.

All of this is pretty creepy, but pause Dahboo7’s video and analyze the Aurora Tower. It’s covered in Chinese characters, and no scene in The Dark Knight Rises takes place in China. However, as another conspiracy website points out, a tower bearing the “Aurora” sign does show up in the trailer for Skyfall which actually has scenes in China. Was this YouTube video less than genuine? Or was Daniel Craig also in on the shootings?

4The Patriot Is A Right-Wing Warning

The Patriot

Most cinematic conspiracy theories deal with hidden Illuminati messages or satanic subtext, but Uri Dowbenko, author of Hoodwinked: Watching Movies with Eyes Wide Open, has a very different interpretation of The Patriot. Instead of claiming that Roland Emmerich’s 2000 war epic contains some sort of evil code, he believes that it’s actually a warning straight from Mel Gibson to Big Brother.

The Patriot revolves around Gibson’s Benjamin Martin, a peaceful man who finds himself drawn into the American Revolution after British troops murder his son. Armed with a musket and a hatchet, Martin launches a campaign of guerilla warfare against the redcoats. According to Dowbenko, Martin’s war against the British army depicts what will happen if the government ever tries to disarm the American people. He also claims that when British troops murder innocent Americans, it’s symbolic of tragedies such as the Waco siege. Evidently, The Patriot is a warning shot, declaring that the American people won’t sit by and let the Illuminati take over. As Mel Gibson said in some other movie, you can take away their lives, but you’ll never take their freedom.

3Labyrinth Is About Mind Control


It’s well known that from 1953 to 1975 the American government experimented with mind control through its notorious MK-ULTRA project. So if they’ve done it once, they might do it again, right? Enter Monarch Programming. Named after the metamorphosis of a butterfly, Monarch Programming is supposedly used to create brainwashed slaves. By using extreme torture methods, secret agencies can create sleeper agents like Sirhan Sirhan. But the torture isn’t just physical. Conspiracy theorists claim that handlers use movies to screw with their slaves’ minds—movies like Labyrinth.

Labyrinth follows a young girl named Sarah (played by Jennifer Connelly) who navigates through a dangerous labyrinth in order to rescue her baby brother from the clutches of Jareth the Goblin King (played by David Bowie’s codpiece). According to conspiracy theorists, Sarah’s kidnapped brother represents her “core persona,” which is controlled by her handler. Her quest through the labyrinth thus symbolizes her programming. Along the way, Sarah goes through traumatic episodes designed to break her will. She meets the Fire Gang, a band of monsters who want to rip her head off. This symbolizes a slave’s “dissociation from reality.” Later, she must go through the bog of “Eternal Stench,” a smelly swamp that obviously represents the torture technique of dunking slaves in feces. Finally, after eating an enchanted peach (which represents drugs — duh), she imagines herself in a masquerade (Illuminati) ball which she can only escape after shattering a mirror, a symbol of her fractured personality.

(Spoilers) After returning home with her brother, Sarah is sad she left her friends behind in the labyrinth. She decides she still needs them in her life, and then they magically appear in her room. Sarah and her Muppet buddies dance the night away, signifying that Sarah has accepted Jareth’s programming. She’s now a monarch slave who’s eventually going to assassinate someone.

And you thought The Dark Crystal was grim.

2Cannibal Holocaust Was A Snuff Film


Conspiracy theories rarely leave the realms of Internet chat rooms, YouTube videos, and late-night talk shows.  But conspiracy theories sometimes end up having real-world repercussions, and the prosecution of Ruggero Deodato for his role in creating Cannibal Holocaust is a perfect example.    Holocaust is one of the most controversial films of all time thanks to its depictions of torture, gang-rape, and castration.  The movie also shows the actual killings of animals, including a monkey, a pig, and a turtle.  Obviously, it’s a bad pick for family movie night.

The Italian government seized Cannibal Holocaust after its release and arrested Deodato on obscenity charges.  However, Deodato was in trouble for a lot more than just making torture porn.  Holocaust contains a scene where a woman is impaled on a stake, and the special effects were so realistic that Deodato was suspected of murdering his cast members.  The director was then forced to explain what really happened on set: Deodato convinced the government of his innocence by bringing one of his “murdered” actors to court and by explaining the impalement scene.  The girl had been sitting on a bicycle seat that was fastened to a pole while holding a piece of wood in her mouth.  The court was satisfied, and Deodato was free to go, but his film wasn’t.  Cannibal Holocaust was banned in nearly 40 countries, but it went on to influence directors like Quentin Tarantino and kick-start the found-footage horror genre.  

1The Shining Is About The Apollo 11 Moon Landings


Some folks say that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is about a lot more than just a guy with bad parenting skills. Some claim it’s really about the Holocaust, while others say that Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is really a Minotaur. However, the craziest theory comes from the mind of Jay Weidner. According to Mr. Weidner, The Shining is really about how Stanley Kubrick faked the Apollo moon landings. It’s a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory!

The story goes that the American government asked Kubrick to fake the Apollo 11 moon landings in order to intimidate the Soviet Union. After filming Neil Armstrong moonwalk across a Hollywood set, Kubrick realized he’d become an expendable accessory and was now in danger. So to protect himself and his family, he filled The Shining with clues about the conspiracy. For example, Jack Torrance agrees to watch over the Overlook Hotel during the winter just like Kubrick agreed to help America during the Cold War.

Also, The Shining is based on a Stephen King novel. In King’s book, the infamous haunted room is number 217. However, in the film, it’s room 237. Why did Kubrick change the number? Because the distance from the Earth to the moon is 237,000 miles! Actually, the distance is really 238,857, but we’re rounding down here for some reason.

Weidner also claims that the creepy guy in a bear suit (it’s actually a dog) represents Soviet Russia, and he notes that Danny Torrance is wearing an Apollo 11 sweater. Finally, the phrase “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is really a code. The word “all” is really “A11” which is short for Apollo 11. There’s so much evidence here it points to just one thing: that Jay Weidner has seen The Shining way too many times.

Nolan Moore was once bitten on the foot by an alligator, but he survived to become an ESL teacher. He hopes to avoid future alligator encounters and one day make it as a writer.

fact checked by Jamie Frater