You think you know a movie–then a fan theory comes along that turns everything on its head. If you like the 1980s, there are some great 80s movie fan theories out there. Some of them may seem crazy, but they’re just crazy enough to change the way you look at the movie.
This will be a breakdown of ten of the best fan theories for 80s movies. Some of these you may have heard of–and some may be brand new. The great thing about movies is, we all can interpret them in our own way.
Some of the theories will never die: like the Shining is Stanley Kubrick’s confession that he faked the moon landing, and some pop up never to be seen again.
OK, here we go, in no particular order.
1. Indiana Jones Could Have Prevented World War 2
We’re going back to the movie that started it all: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you haven’t seen this movie in a while, it’s astounding to watch considering it came back in 1981.
The fan theory goes that Indiana knew that the Ark would kill anyone who opened and looked at it. He was one of just a handful of people who witnessed the power of the Ark. But since he knew they were trying to get it to Hitler–why didn’t he allow it instead of having it stored away forever.
He was aware of this way to take out all of the Nazis but didn’t go for it.
Here’s a bunch more I wrote on Indiana Jones and if he was actually based on a real person.
2. Doc Brown Was Trying to Take His Own Life + a Few More Back to the Future Theories
Even as a kid, I remember wondering why in the hell Doc had the Delorean pointed at them during the first test run.
Of all places to stand–why there? The theory regarding this is that Doc Brown had a death wish. He had sunk more than 30 years into studying time travel, and if this experiment failed: he didn’t want to be around anymore.
If it did work–then great. But if not, then we would have our answer right there.
My own personal fan theory is that Doc is actually Marty’s great uncle. This would explain why he was so connected to a high school student. We meet Lorraine’s parents in Back to the Future–but not George’s.
I think that Doc is actually related to the McFly family, but this was always kept secret because he was the shame of the family. This way, he’s always been aware of Marty and keeping tabs on him because he knew is home life wasn’t great.
I also think that Doc had created a second time machine that he had hidden away if the first one failed/the Libyan threat.
This isn’t technically a fan theory, but then there’s the whole issue of how George and Lorraine would not recognize or connect their son to Marty from 1955. There are too many circumstances that would make it impossible for them not to know their son is Calvin Klein.
I wrote a whole article about that that you can check out here.
Here’s one more good one: Marty actually died in Back to the Future 2. He was crushed to death by Biff in the tunnel. Doc knew this and that’s why they had to go back to the future. The story about his kids was set up by Doc in order to get him back. But then, you get into the issue of the second Marty not actually being in the past 1955 until the original version of him was taken back there again.
My head hurts.
I’ve got a lot more on Back to the Future, including an article about the 21 things you probably missed in the movie.
3. Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit Was Actually a Cartoon Possum
Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a movie that could only have been made in the 1980s. The licensing and copyright issues would be impossible to deal with today. The fact that all these studios lent their characters to another studio for a singular movie is astounding.
You can chalk this up to the influence of Steven Spielberg. We all know that *spoiler alert* Judge Doom turns out to be a toon. But was he a specific toon?
We know he’s a toon, but which one in particular? The movie never lets us know. But there may be some hints in the movie that he’s actually a cartoon possum: specifically the Pistol Packin’ Possum.
You have to look carefully, but easter eggs regarding this are contained in the movie. During that one interrogation scene, we see a poster of that possum. Like Judge Doom, the Pistol Packin Possum has red eyes.
The possum also has a very long gun. Again, similar to what Doom uses when he shoots R.K. Maroon–you can see it in the image above. You have to look close for this one, but it seems like the movie reveals Doom’s true identity in that scene when Maroon is shot.
When Doom shoots Maroon (great band name) his reflection is perfectly overlaid on that poster of the Pistol Packin Possum.
A pretty unknown fan theory–but a great one. I’ve got a full blog on the creation of this amazing movie you should check out right here.
4. Beetlejuice Isn’t Actually Dead
The crazy true fact about Beetlejuice is how little he is in his own movie. Check this out the next time you watch it; he’s barely on screen for 20 minutes.
In this 80s movie fan theory, we are led to believe that he isn’t dead. He isn’t even a ghost at all. This gets a little “6th Sense,” but the most obvious way to explain this is by the end of the movie.
When Beetlejuice gets eaten by the Sand Worm, he ends up in the waiting room for the afterlife. This wouldn’t make sense as if he is already dead, there would have already been a transition to the afterlife.
Yes, Beetlejuice is actually a real man.
If he was truly dead–the way Adam and Barbara are–he would just have to draw a door on the wall to get to the great beyond. They are also never forced to sit in the waiting room. We can conclude that Beetlejuice does die at the end, and is transitioning to the afterlife.
The only logical conclusion from these hints is that he was never dead throughout the rest of the movie.
I did a movie review over at Patreon.com. This is a way to support my show and podcast and get free audio content while doing so. You can check out more here: Patreon.com/80s.
5. Daniel is the Real Bully in The Karate Kid
This 80s movie fan theory has been given some more weight with the release of the Kobra Kai series.
We always think of Daniel as the hero in Karate Kid–which he obviously is. But he is a bit of a d-bag in the movie. He is the one who is most often aggressive, and sometimes a bully.
You can change the way you perceive this movie by considering that Johnny Lawrence is actually the good guy. He starts out as a jerk, but he is taking the steps to improve himself. He has more of a positive trajectory than Daniel who stays the same throughout the movie.
When you look at it from this perspective, it completely changes the movie.
6. Basically, Every Single Thing in The Shining
We can’t ignore the 80s movie that redefined what the fan theory could be. However, I’m not going to cover this for a few reasons:
- We would be here for 1,042 years
- I already wrote a blog that broke down the biggest theories, and you can read that here
But, I do have to at least touch on some of the main ones, including:
- The faked moon landing
- Jack was actually abusing Danny
- Wendy is imagining the entire thing
- The Overlook Hotel represents the plight of the Native American
- The hotel is actually alive and controlling Jack
- Danny is the one that let Jack out of the locked pantry
- The hotel represents the evil that exists deep in the heart of mankind
- The theme of the movie is about the Holocaust
- Everything that happened was a figment of their imagination, thus revealing the power of the mind.
7. Sandy Died at the Beginning of Grease
This whole movie seems to be set in reality, so why in the hell did Danny and Sandy drive up into the heavens at the end of the movie. I always thought this was such a bizarre–and surreal–ending to a high school movie.
But maybe they were really going to heaven…
At the start of the movie, during the “Summer Nights” song, we hear that Danny had saved Sandys life at the beach because “she nearly drowned…”
So what about the fact that maybe she did drown? The telling of the Ridale High story, could have just been Sandy’s subconscious working before she actually passed away. It would explain some of the other “heavenly” scenes such as “Beauty School Dropout.”
But then, she finally succumbs to the effects of the drowning, and that’s when we see her ascend into heaven.
8. E.T. Is a Jedi
This is a super common fan theory and now seems to be canon. In E.T., we see him drawn to a Yoda costume when they are out on Halloween.
E.T. obviously recognizes a fellow Jedi and is immediately drawn to him. There are no other costumes that grab his attention. The race of E.T.s exists in the Star Wars universe and this has been confirmed when we see several of his kind in the Galactic Senate in the Phantom Menace.
E.T. is considered an Asogian, and he can use the Force by moving things with his mind.
9. All of the Goblins in Labyrinth Used to be Babies
All of those small little Goblin heads we see in Labyrinth are former babies. This would explain why The Goblin King is trying to steal a human baby. He is trying to build up an army and get all the resources he can.
He has a backstory, too. He wanted to marry a girl named Sarah, but her parents wouldn’t allow it. He creates a kingdom waiting for her, but she eventually grows too old and dies. He never gets over this and tries to find a replacement.
This is kind of like the Dracula story, but with more eyeliner.
He now is scouring the world for someone to replace her. Over the centuries, he has found dark-haired Sarahs and tried to get them to his kingdom. The way he does this is by stealing their babies, or very young siblings. They then have to get to his kingdom to rescue them.
All of the goblins represent the Sarah’s that either didn’t make it or weren’t the right one for him. Each of those past Sarah’s has failed in some way, and Jennifer Connely’s Sarah is believed to be the true one for him.
The maze was built to keep the Sarahs in longer, so he could figure out if they could serve as a replacement.
10. Ferris Bueller Isn’t Real
This is the 80s movie fan theory that has probably been around the longest. This theory predates the internet, and it is simply this: Ferris Bueller is a figment of Cameron’s imagination.
This has a real Fight Club feel to it and there’s the possibility that both of these films exist in the same universe.
The entire wacky-filled day actually never happened. The whole day–and Ferris himself–are just thought up in the mind of Cameron while he is sick in bed. This could even be considered a fever dream, or some sort of hallucination.
The idea is that Sloan is real, but this is the only way that Cameron can have any interaction with her. It goes a bit further in that Ferris is an extension of Cameron’s personality. Ferris is everything that Cameron wished he could be.
Ferris is bold, confident, adventurous, and can easily talk to a girl like Sloan. This whole “day off” is Cameron imagining he’s cool enough, and not afraid to talk to Sloan.
I think this is meant to resonate with all of us. Cameron is who really are, and we all aspire to be Ferris. We all struggle with our personal identity, and this is reflected in the character of Cameron.
We witness this when Cameron says: “Ferris can do anything.” These are all his desires being manifested in this character he is imaging.
Ferris is that voice in our head and it’s why he’s always talking to the camera.
Ferris also seems to know what’s going on in Cameron’s mind. In the scene when Cameron is in bed, he mumbles out loud that “he’s dying.” Soon after, Ferris phones up and says “you’re not dying.” There’s obviously no way he would have known that.
Then, Ferris knows that Cameron is sitting in his car trying to decide if he should come over. The two are inextricably linked because they both exist in one mind.
Wrapping it Up
Some of these 80s movie fan theories are far-fetched, and some seem so genuine that they have to be true. What’s fun about them is that they can transform a movie that you have seen countless times.
These fan theories give you a new way of looking at the movie that can increase your appreciation of it. Specifically, go back and watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Labyrinth, and these theories will completely transform the way you view the movie.