Top 10 Movies Within Movies
There’s something especially fun about a movie that exists within the world of a movie. There’s an extra level of separation from reality that makes them feel absurd. It’s a strange little insight into the world we’re peering into. Some are fun opportunities for cameos, meta in-jokes and experimenting with the form of cinema. So here’s ten of them. As a special bonus, none of them have James Franco.
THE STAB FRANCHISE
Wes Craven’s Scream series deconstructed the slasher sub-genre in the twilight years of the trend and cast an eye over the cliches and tropes as they were on their way out. In order to build upon this idea in the sequels, Craven introduced the Stab movies, an in-universe horror movie series based on the events of the first film. As the Scream movies continued, Stab followed with a film-within-a-film-within-a-film during the prologue of Scream 4. The cast of Stab is almost as good as that of Scream. Luke Wilson stars as Billy Loomis, Heather Graham as Casey Becker, Tori Spelling as Sydney Prescott, David Schwimmer as Dewey, Lucy Hale, Kirsten Bell, Anna Paquin.
What makes it especially mind-bending is when fictional actors get mixed with the real ones playing themselves. Jennifer Jolie – a fictional character played by Parker Posey in Scream 3 – played Gale Weathers until she’s replaced in-universe by Parker Posey and I don’t know what to do with this information.
MACHETE & HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s experimental double feature Grindhouse fell flat at the box office, but had its fans.A big part of the fun was the included fake movie trailers created by guest directors. Rodriguez created Machete starring Danny Trejo and ran a competition for young film-makers, resulting in Hobo With A Shotgun, both of which were adapted into full features films with Rutger Hauer in the title role. Rob Zombie recruited Sherri Moon Zombie and Nicolas Cage for Werewolf Women of the SS, Eli Roth included Michael Biehn for Thanksgiving and Edgar Wright put Jason Isaacs into Don’t.
THE ORCHID THIEF & THE 3
Adaptation is possibly one of the best movie scripts ever written, documenting screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s mental breakdown that led to him writing his experience writing the script into the script. If you’re having trouble getting your head around it, watching the movie means watching the screenwriter (played by Nicolas Cage) writing the script for the movie you’re watching. Kaufman was supposed to be writing a script adapting Susan Orlean’s novel The Orchid Thief, a script that only exists within Adaptation. Along with this, his fictional twin brother writes the script for The 3 is every bit the dumb, Hollywood thriller Kaufman didn’t want to write. Look, I can’t explain it better than that.
THE DUELING CAVALIER
Standing tall as one of the most iconic and lasting examples of the musical genre, Singin’ in the Rain is an indisputable classic. The story of a pair of movie stars facing ruin after the advent of synchronised sound is delightfully told through song and dance numbers. It’s a fun encapsulation of a pivotal moment in cinema, and while The Dueling Cavalier isn’t given a great deal of screen time it is the driving force behind the tale.
GOOD WILL HUNTING 2: HUNTING SEASON
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is hardly the most subtle satire of the Hollywood studio system. On the flip side, director Kevin Smith is more than happy to call on his film-star friends to stack some of the gags and nowhere is this better utilised than when the title characters crash the set of a Good Will Hunting sequel. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck return to the roles that turned them into A-listers, with director Gus Van Sant counting money in the background. This sequel has Will channelling his anger into a shotgun attack on snooty college students. Props to Scott William Winters for also coming back to play the douchy ponytail guy again. Apple sauce!
ANGELS WITH FILTHY SOULS
This is possibly the one example of the list that is more quoted than the movie that showcases it. Home Alone is one of the most popular family holiday movies of all time, and is packed with memorable moments. One of the best is Kevin Mcallister’s use of the made-up noir thriller Angels With Filthy Souls in his schemes, along with the classic line “keep the change, ya filthy animals”. When it came time to make Home Alone 2, they also brought with it an equally made-up sequel in Angels with Even Filthier Souls.
STOLZ DER NATION
This may take the prize for being the most technically impressive film in the list, possibly because Quentin Tarantino doesn’t do anything by half. Although Stolz der Nation (or Nation’s Pride) appears in Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds, it was directed by Eli Roth with his co-star Daniel Brühl playing the fictionalised version of his character Zoller as played by Zoller. Perfectly capturing the style of German propaganda films from World War II, right down to era accurate movie posters, Stolz der Nation adds a hefty dose of realism to a movie that otherwise toes the line of absurdity. It does use the Wilhelm Scream nine years before it existed though.
The Player is an all-time classic ensemble comedy from legendary director Robert Altman. Made in response to problem’s Altman faced with studios when he couldn’t bring in blockbuster hits, the movie is a takes a cynical look at the disinterested executives who decide which scripts to develop into movies, with Habeas Corpus being one of the 12 out of 50,000 projects to get the green light. Promised to be an Oscar contender, the courtroom drama about a women facing execution promised no stars and a depressing ending. Naturally, the studios ultimately decide this wouldn’t sell enough and tacked on a happy ending instead.
HEARTS AND PEARLS
Buster Keaton is one of the greatest actors of the silent era, with a stoic hangdog expression working in contrast to most performance styles during the time. Keaton’s insanely dangerous stunt work and comedic timing is only best by his on-screen trickery. Sherlock, Jr. sees Keaton playing a projectionist who falls asleep on the job and, in an extended dream extended, walks into the screen and joins the cast of Hearts and Pearls. It’s not clear what this movie should have been before Keaton took on the role of the detective, but we wouldn’t change a second of it.
Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It is undoubtably one of the smartest and unique films ever made, brilliantly creating a world where cartoon characters live alongside humans in a way that has not be matched since. It’s embarrassing how poorly Tom and Jerry and Space Jam 2 turn out compared to how well it was done more than 30 years prior. What sets the tone for the world is the opening short, Somethings Cookin introducing us to our hero, perfectly capturing the Looney Tunes style of madcap animation and transitioning into a grounded, live action noir thriller.