Film and TV

3 Films That Clearly Take Place Only in Characters' Minds

It's an overused trope, I'll give you that. The idea that an entire movie is merely a delusion or dream of a certain character's mind is at least as old as The Wizard of Oz, and can be as explicitly stated as Fight Club or as subtly hinted as Taxi Driver. It's a fun way to mess with your audience, and it never really goes out of style.

That being said, the majority of movies take place in the real world, or at least the real constructed world of their settings. There are a few that claim to that frankly I no longer buy, and a fair amount of fan theorizing backs me up on this. Today we look at three beloved films that you may think you know, but that are obviously just mind-benders from a character's troubled noggin.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

The Movie You Know: Ferris Bueller is the most popular kid in his school. He runs the joint, but not with his all-consuming control over space and time like history's greatest monster, Zack Morris. One day he ditches the institution by faking illness, dragging along his timid, sick friend Cameron and his smoking hot girlfriend Sloane. The trio have the best day of their lives gallivanting about the city, and '80s America was taught the important lesson of forsaking education and cheating the system with computers in less than two hours.

But...: The whole scenario never happens, it is all a figment of Cameron's imagination possibly brought on while he was feverish.

Ferris is a character that is unbelievable, even for a John Hughes creation. Absolutely every inch of fate aligns to his whim throughout the movie in sharp juxtaposition to the much more human and believable Cameron. It's obvious that Cameron lives under the roof of a cold, Type A, distant father who neglects his son in favor of conspicuous consumption and corporate advancement. Left alone, his mind begins to wander.

Ferris is more or less Cameron's Tyler Durden, the living embodiment of everything he is lacking. Where Cameron is lonely -- it's telling that he interacts almost exclusively with Ferris throughout the film -- Ferris is the subject of a pledge drive for the slightest illness. Cameron is terrified of the slightest infraction; Ferris breaks laws and rules with impunity.

Only in the end, when Cameron in a delirious rage destroys his father's prize car, the entire imagined episode being a mental crutch to catalyze the frenzy, does Cameron break free of his own mental prison, banishing Ferris and Sloane to absurdly happy endings while he himself prepares to face the real world.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner