Breaking the Fourth Wall

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Deadpool may have just done this perfectly in his much deserved and much praised solo movie but he’s not the first to break the fourth wall. Here are seven striking examples of the technique through film’s history.

Wizard of Oz - 4th Wall
Photo Credit: Metro Goldwyn-Mayer

Wizard of Oz – The Wicked Witch

The much-loved 1939 classic has one of the scarier fourth wall breaks in this list. A scene that has scared thousands of children is the second Dorothy looks at the crystal ball and the Witches head out of it and laughs evilly directly at the audience. Suddenly we no longer feel safe in the room. Stanley Kubrick used a similar technique in “A Clockwork Orange” with Alex looking directly at us and was also used in Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Road to Morocco - 4th Wall
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Road to Morocco – Theme Song

The 1942 film and third film in “Road to” series utilizes the fourth wall break in a unique way. They break the fourth wall in song. The song sung by lead actors Bob Hope and Bing Cosby contains the lines “for any villains we may face we haven’t got a fear, Paramount will protect us ‘cause we’re signed for five more years”. The song itself was honoured by AFI, as it’s 1942 pick for 100 years, 100 songs. The use of the song to break the fourth wall tells the audience that this is a lighthearted comedy film rather than a more serious thriller.

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Rocky Horror Picture Show – Well How about that?

The 1975 cult musical has its fair share of fourth wall breaks. It teaches the Time Warp and Dr Frank N Furter even demands applause in his big song. However one of the most iconic is during the classic song “Sweet Transvestite” where Frank sings “stuck with a flat? How about that?” while raising his eyebrow to the audience. This suggests Frank is sharing in the disbelief that Janet and Brad just so happened to end up at his creepy castle on the night he unveiled his newest creation. It’s funny and makes for an incredible image.

Photo credit: Paramount
Photo credit: Paramount

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Entire Movie

1986’s John Hughes classic features lovable scoundrel Ferris on his last day off school as he goes off to have a good time. The film feature Ferris constantly talking to us be it explaining what’s going on or giving us personal observations.

Part of what makes the movie is work is Broderick’s charm as the title role. The after credit’s scene is one of the cleverest bits of film making in it. Hughes experimented quite a bit with Fourth Wall breaking including in hits like Home Alone but it was in this film that he really did well with it.

Photo Credit: Touchstone
Photo Credit: Touchstone

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? – That’s All Folks

1988’s groundbreaking live action comedy is memorable in it’s own right. Even its development changed filmmaking as we know it and became instrumental for the development of motion capture technologies. However it’s ending scene is the fourth wall break that brings back the cartoons it was based on and whose characters populate Toon Town. Familiar Looney Toons character Porky reaching out of the screen to say That’s All Folks proved a perfect ending to a brilliant film.

This of course was parodied in 2013’s Filth.

Photo credit: Touchstone
Photo credit: Touchstone

Ed Wood – Which dresses?

One of my favourites on this list. Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic pulls a very clever fourth wall break by acknowledging the film being in black and white. In the scene Ed consults someone on set about which color dress to use, red or green.

The other man replies saying he couldn’t see the difference and then chooses the “dark grey” one. This fourth wall break is slightly different to the others as it is more a joke with the audience about how the film is in black and white rather than a simple line to the camera.

Picture Credit: Paramount
Picture Credit: Paramount

The Big Short

2015’s biopic about the 2008 Housing Market crisis distinguished itself from all the other Oscar bait using Fourth Wall Breaks. Director Adam McKay took us out of the story and had the complex financial terms explained by famous people in increasingly interesting situations; from a chef cutting up fish to Margot Robbie in a bath to Selena Gomez gambling with an expert. The use of these meant that the audience got to understand the subject without being pandered to.

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