20 jaw-dropping TV and movie fan theories
From Titanic to Breaking Bad, these wild interpretations will leave you wondering.
Breaking Bad is a The Walking Dead prequel
Through five seasons of Breaking Bad, Walter White was responsible for a number of horrific events, including his brother-in-law's death and a tragic plane crash. But one fan theory ponders whether his drug empire also could have resulted in the zombie apocalypse on The Walking Dead. The most compelling sign that Breaking Bad is a prequel to The Walking Dead is the presence of blue meth in both series. The seed for this theory was planted in the second episode of The Walking Dead, in which Merle's secret drug stash strikes quite the resemblance to the product that turned White into a kingpin. Further hints at a possible connection between the AMC dramas include a red sports car and characters named Glenn, Gus Fring possibly being patient zero, and the description of Merle's drug dealer as a "janky little white guy," who Daryl quotes as saying, "I'm going to kill you, b----." Breaking Bad's Jesse Pinkman does fit that physical description and sure did have a penchant for saying that particular B-word. —Dylan Kickham
Sandy died at the beginning of Grease
Sarah Michelle Gellar circulated a 2013 fan theory about Grease when it resurfaced three years later. "Wait this has blown my mind," the actress wrote on Facebook. "At the end of the movie, Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson fly off in a red convertible as they wave goodbye to their friends on the solid ground below, leading to the conclusion that the flying car was the final result of Sandy's fantasy. (As in she is dead.) During the song 'Summer Nights,' Danny and Sandy recount how they first met and started a summer fling. The line, 'I saved her life, she nearly drowned,' suggests that Sandy actually did drown and the whole movie is an elaborate musical fantasy due to the lack of oxygen getting to her brain. The flying red convertible also suggests that Sandy is happily being whisked away to heaven at the end of the movie. Wait what?!?!" —D.K.
Related: See the stars of Grease: Live with their big-screen predecessors
Jack in Titanic is from the future
Were Jack Dawson's intentions for saving Rose in Titanic something beyond just love? The signs seem to point to yes. One fan theory posits that Jack is actually a time traveler who came back in time to keep Rose from dying by suicide, because that would have caused a delay in the ship's course and potentially kept the RMS Titanic from crashing, altering the course of history. Some signs that Jack is from the future include his anachronistic fashion (his haircut and backpack weren't common until later) and his mentions of man-made structures that weren't yet created in 1912 (a roller coaster on Santa Monica Pier and Lake Wissota). —D.K.
Related: 6 things Kate Winslet recalls from Titanic, 20 years later
The Always Sunny characters don't actually look like that
Ever wonder how Dennis, Mac, and Dee look so attractive but seem to disgust almost everyone they meet on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia? One Redditor posits that the characters are unreliable narrators, and present the audience with idealized versions of themselves. Dennis uses cheap tactics and manipulation to sleep with women despite being conventionally attractive, Mac normally has solid muscles but is shown to be weak and not very intimidating, and Dee presents well but no level-headed man is ever interested in her. We already know these characters are insanely narcissistic, so perhaps that extends to how they have us see them: Dennis and Dee are attractive in their minds, but in reality are unattractive, and Mac presents himself with more muscle than he actually possesses. —D.K.
Bender wasn't the Bender we know in the Futurama pilot
The Bender that all Futurama fans know is a reckless, misanthropic criminal, but, according to a fan theory, the foul-mouthed robot is only this way due to an electrical issue that we see in the pilot. In the first episode, Bender is uncharacteristically depressed after learning that he has been making suicide booths. Another important facet of the theory is that when Bender reboots, his personality is set to a mode that befits his surroundings, which happens in the episode where he becomes a penguin. The theory states that when Bender gets electrocuted in the Hall of Criminals, he reboots into a criminal personality himself. —D.K.
Scooby-Doo is about kids trying to escape the draft
The cartoon mystery franchise Scooby-Doo never really explained why a ragtag group of four dissimilar teenagers decided to travel in a van to no known destination, so a fan developed an origin story theory. As the show premiered in 1969, the same year the Vietnam War was at its height, the Scooby gang is driving to Canada to escape the draft. The theory posits that the clean-cut Fred was drafted, but ran away to be with his fiancée Daphne, while hippie Shaggy and activist Velma joined them, as they both opposed the war themselves. —D.K.
The Simpsons are a family of geniuses
TV's most iconic animated family certainly doesn't seem to be full of geniuses, but according to one fan theory, it is! The theory puts forth that Lisa is the only member of the family who accepts her genius, while the others purposely quash their brilliance in order to live happy lives. It was revealed that a crayon lodged in Homer's brain was the origin of his suppressed intelligence, and he very literally chooses to be dumb but happy rather than smart and miserable by putting the crayon back in his brain. Marge was once an amazing student, but left her academic pursuits behind to become a homemaker. Finally, in another Simpsons episode, we see Bart was once a gifted child, but then his grades began to decline. The episode blamed it on a gene that makes the male Simpsons stupid, but Homer's crayon incident disproves that. Instead, Bart saw how happy his dad's life was despite his lack of intelligence, and decided to strive for happiness instead of genius. Thus, Bart uses his brains to come up with elaborate pranks instead of schoolwork. —D.K.
The Rugrats are all figments of Angelica's imagination
This Rugrats fan theory is pretty morbid. It states that all of the toddlers were merely a product of a lonely girl's imagination. Angelica imagined her parents' friends having babies in order for her to have other kids with which to play. Hypothetically, Chuckie and his mother died, which is why his father is constantly a nervous wreck; Tommy was stillborn, leading Stu to always make toys for the son he never had; and the DeVilles had an abortion, so Angelica imagined male and female twins as she didn't know the gender. —D.K.
The peddler in Aladdin is the genie
Fans love to speculate about hidden meanings in Disney films, but so often the ideas are huge stretches. This fan theory about Aladdin, however, has been confirmed by the film's directors, Ron Clements and John Musker. Theorists claimed that the peddler who welcomes us to Agrabah at the beginning of the film is actually the Genie in the form of a human. Viewers picked up on this after noticing that the peddler had four fingers and, like Genie, was voiced by Robin Williams. Clements confirmed the suspicion, and said there was a scene planned where the peddler reveals himself to be the Genie, but it was cut for time. —D.K.
Related: 25 interesting facts about Disney's animated hit Aladdin
Nemo was an imaginary device for Marlin to cope with his wife's death in Finding Nemo
In Latin, "nemo" translates to "no one." This helped spur the theory that Marlin's son doesn't actually exist in Finding Nemo, but is just an invention he uses to cope with the death of his wife. We see Marlin go through the five stages of grief in the film: first, denial, when he invents Nemo's egg after the rest of his family is killed; second, anger, as he freaks out whenever Nemo is too far away from him; third, bargaining, as he convinces Dory to join his quest and then puts up with her; fourth, despair, when he sees Nemo flushed down the toilet; and finally, acceptance, as he is able to let Nemo go off on his own in the end. —D.K.
Walter White was Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle
It's always funny to compare Bryan Cranston's dopey dad Hal on Malcolm in the Middle and his no-smiles Breaking Bad drug kingpin Walter White, but a very interesting fan theory seems to think there are more similarities between the two shows than just Cranston. The theory suggests that Malcolm grew up to be Walter White. Malcolm was very intelligent and had a knack for chemistry, but was also stubborn and manipulative, which are shared qualities with Walter. Plus, he would probably grow up to look like his father. Additionally, Malcolm's surname is never spoken in the show, and we see that he has a special relationship with his grandfather on his dad's side — Walter. —D.K.
Related: Frankie Muniz doesn't remember starring on Malcolm in the Middle
Eric is in a coma for half of That '70s Show
Grappling with the various inconsistencies that arose in the later seasons of That '70s Show, one fan decided to try to explain what happened with a theory: Eric was in a coma for the whole second half of the show. In season 4, episode 15, Eric ventures out into a tornado while everyone else is at Snow Prom to pick up Donna from her radio station. In a subsequent scene, you can hear an announcer on the radio say that the warning has been lifted, and that "a local teen is in critical condition." If this teen was Eric, none of his friends or family would know until after the storm died down, and that's when his comatose mind would take over the storytelling in an attempt to imagine his life going on as normal. His mind finally finds peace in the end, as he imagines his friends and family living without him, and shows up to say one last goodbye in the finale before dying. —D.K.
Related: 14 people you totally forgot were on That '70s Show
Willy Wonka sacrificed those kids Cabin in the Woods-style
The end of Drew Goddard's The Cabin in the Woods lays out a few rules for making a sacrificial offering to summon demonic beings to destroy the world, and one fan theory noticed that Willy Wonka is basically following this same formula while giving children a tour of his factory. Each of the kids is one of the five archetypes that Goddard's film describes: Augustus is The Whore, whose lust for food leads to his downfall; Violet is The Athlete, who is a gum-chewing champion brought down by an athletic challenge; Veruca is The Fool, a spoiled brat who blindly runs after for clearly dangerous squirrels in the book and 2005 film adaptation (she ends up in a garbage chute after demanding a goose who lays golden eggs in the 1971 film); Mike is The Scholar, a television expert taken down by his arrogance; and finally Charlie is The Virgin, because he has pure and innocent motives. —D.K.
Related: The Cabin in the Woods director breaks down his favorite monsters
The spinning top doesn't even matter in Inception
Cobb supposedly uses a top as his totem, an object that will tell him whether or not he is in a dream. At the end of Inception, we see the top spinning and show a hint of a falter before the film cuts to black, creating a cliffhanger ending in which we aren't sure if Cobb is still in a dream or not. Really, though, the top doesn't matter. Cobb even says that the top is his wife Mal's totem. Cobb's totem is his wedding ring. In his dreams, he is wearing the ring, but when he is awake the ring is gone. That's how you know he is awake in the final scene—his wedding ring is gone. —D.K.
The name of the "Avada Kedavra" curse in Harry Potter illustrates how wizards and muggles interacted in the past
J.K. Rowling has stated that she based the name of her killing curse in the Harry Potter series on the harmless words every magician loves to use, "Abracadabra." Fans have circulated many theories about this link; some say that the word's widespread use among muggles is a sad relic meaning that wizards would often attack and kill muggles before the two worlds were separated. More optimistic fans, though, recall the spell-casting rule that the power of the spell comes from its intention. These fans theorize that the killing curse could have also been used to kill bacteria or viruses in the human body, thus making it a healing spell with a change of intention on what to kill. —D.K.
Related: Harry Potter: A to Z
Dexter created his family in Dexter's Laboratory
Think Dexter's Laboratory is just a cute, innocent little show? One fan suggests you should think again. The theorist hypothesizes that Dexter's entire family was killed by one of his experiments gone awry, leading him to create a new family in their likeness using his lab. The show's theme song suggests that Dee Dee has a tendency to blow up his experiments, followed by doom and gloom. Dexter is shown to have the ability to create clones and imbue intelligence, so making a new family is definitely in his wheelhouse. It could also explain why his family is so oblivious to his lab. —D.K.
Hardy's Mad Max is actually the Feral Kid from Road Warrior
The original Mad Max movies starring Mel Gibson began in 1979 and ended in 1985, so how should we explain the youthful Tom Hardy claiming to be the titular character 30 years later in Fury Road? Well, some fans have a theory that Hardy isn't the original Max at all, but a character that we've seen before who has taken over the title. The idea is that Hardy's Max is actually the Feral Kid who appears in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Not only would the kid be about Hardy's age in 2015, but Max also, similarly, speaks mostly in grunts. Plus, the kid as an old man narrates Road Warrior, just like Hardy's disembodied voice narrates Fury Road. —D.K.
Related: Fury Road actually deserves Best Picture at the Oscars
Ferris Bueller is just a figment of Cameron's imagination
This is a pretty famous fan theory that posits the classic '80s film Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a lot more similar to Fight Club than you might think. The thought is that Ferris only exists in Cameron's mind, and Cameron is imagining this entire adventure-filled day as he lies sick in his bed. The whole movie, then, is in Cameron's mind, and Sloan is a girl that he has a crush on, while Ferris is an idealized version of himself who is not afraid to talk to her. —D.K.
There's much more to Jar Jar Binks
A fan theory about Star Wars' Jar Jar Binks took off in 2015, making it all the way to The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams. Made public on Reddit, the theory suggested that Jar Jar was not, in fact, "the bumbling idiot he portrays himself as," but rather, "a highly skilled force user in terms of martial ability and mind control," who manages to keep his powers veiled. Reddit user Lumpawarroo went on to highlight the creature's seemingly sinister motives, adding, "[Jar Jar] and Palpatine were likely in collaboration from the very beginning, and it's entirely possible that Palpatine was a subordinate underling to Binks throughout both trilogies."
"The one I heard that I think is so great is the Jar Jar is a Sith one," Abrams said of the theory at a Sirius XM Town Hall in 2015. "There was this unbelievably lengthy analysis, in a very seriously thought-out way, as to why it's obviously true that he is [evil]. That to me is remarkable. —D.K.
Related: In defense of Jar Jar Binks
Pokémon takes place in post-Pokémon War society (Part I)
When you think about it, the world of Pokémon is very strange. Why are kids allowed to just roam the world training monsters for battle? Over the years, fans have come up with a theory for why Pokémon is the way that it is: Sometime before the events of the Pokémon games, shows, and movies, there was a great war. Given their powerful destructive capabilities, Pokémon were likely used as living weapons during the conflict. Lieutenant Surge, one of the original Gym Leaders from Pokémon Red and Blue, tells the protagonist straight up that "electric Pokémon saved me during the war!" That line from Surge was one of the core components of the original creepypasta post that first promulgated this popular fan theory. Surge certainly dresses like a veteran with his army camouflage, and there are few adult men of his age around in those games; it's mostly single mothers like the protagonist's, or older men like Professor Oak. That demographic arrangement would make sense after a destructive war, as does the proliferation of tall grass across the Pokémon landscapes—grown wild over scarred battlefields, perhaps? —Christian Holub
Pokémon takes place in post Pokémon War society (Part II)
Others have added to this theory over the years. In a 2015 video from PBS Ideas Channel, host Mike Rugnetta adds that a Pokémon War would explain why the protagonist is sent out into the world with a Pokédex in the first place: "To either collect or verify information lost during the war, and to determine which species of Pokémon survived the conflict." The war would also explain why regions like Kanto and Johto seem so cut off from each other and can only be explored in different games. In this light, the Pokémon stories take on a rather beautiful subtext: The protagonist is not just going on a grand adventure, but also reconnecting these different regions and learning to live with Pokémon as friends and companions rather than soldiers and battle slaves. No one ever said peacetime was easy. —C.H.