For those unfamiliar with the term, the fourth wall is a theatrical term used to describe an imaginary wall separating the audience from the actors on stage.
When actors have words of dialogue that don’t involve addressing another character, they are often said to be “breaking the fourth wall.”
Quentin Tarantino, whose characters have been conversing with camera operators since his 1994 debut “Reservoir Dogs,” once said he didn’t understand the phrase: “I thought it was a real thing.”
“The idea of breaking the fourth wall” is real enough, though. It means an actor addresses the audience directly, either to share a secret or to acknowledge that he or she is in a movie.
A lot of theater and opera use this device, and it’s prominent in Shakespearean performances as well.
In film and television, though, breaking the “fourth wall” is rarer for two reasons. First, it makes the audience feel like they’re eavesdropping on something they shouldn’t be hearing. And second, actors can’t really see the audience when they’re performing.
Best Movies That Break The Fourth Wall
What Is breaking the fourth wall?
Breaking the Fourth Wall is a term used in film and theatre that describes a character’s awareness of their fictionality. It is when a character looks at the audience and talk to them.
Most commonly it occurs when characters address the audience directly, break character by addressing the audience directly, use expressions like, “I hope you’re enjoying this,” or “Don’t believe any of what’s happening.”
Breaking the fourth wall is less common now than it was in TV’s early days, but there are still a few shows that do it.
The most notable recent example is House of Cards, in which Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) addresses the camera directly throughout each episode.
One of the earliest examples of breaking the fourth wall in filmmaking is Charlie Chaplin’s 1918 silent movie “A Dog’s Life.” In it, Chaplin offers a coy wave to camera as he exits his apartment building.
The scene was so popular with audiences at the time that he repeated it later in his career — including in 1927’s “The Circus,” which earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor.
What Is The Fourth Wall and How Do You Break It?
Before you start breaking any walls, you need to know what you’re talking about. Do some research on other videos that have broken the fourth wall before you attempt it yourself.
You may find that there are some rules or best practices that should be followed when it comes to this technique.
The best place to start looking for inspiration is YouTube itself. Search for videos on your topic and see what other creators have done.
If there are other videos about your topic on YouTube, chances are someone has used this technique in one of them.
Some examples of breaking the fourth wall in Film:
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) takes time out to address the audience and explain his plans for a day off school in Chicago.
Annie Hall (1977) – Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) steps out of his apartment building to talk to the camera directly about his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).
Deadpool (2016) – Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) makes references to other Marvel films and their trailer release dates. He also talks about how he will be played by Ryan Reynolds in all future movies.
Frozen 2 (2019) – Olaf (Josh Gad) asks the audience questions about love.
The Fourth Wall is the name of the barrier between the actors and audience in a theatrical production; an invisible, imagined wall that separates the two.
Sometimes it is broken by actors or characters who directly acknowledge their audience and speak to them as if they are present in the room.
This lets the audience know that they are not invisible, but part of the performance as well.
Best Movies That Break The Fourth Wall
Let’s jump into our list of the best movies that break the Fourth Wall.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel of the same name.
The picture deals with juvenile delinquency, centering on a sociopathic delinquent whose “ultra-violence” leads to his downfall.
Told in a stylized manner with stark red lighting, often with a high camera angle, the film chronicles the life of Alex (Malcolm McDowell), leader of a gang of thugs (Pete, Georgie and Dim), and his retributions against society.
The soundtrack was performed by the experimental music group Wendy Carlos. The film was shot in England, with many of the cityscapes being shot in Liverpool and Manchester.
In an interview with Michel Ciment on the DVD release, Kubrick explained that he had wanted to make a film about juvenile delinquency for some time but that it had taken him some years to feel ready to tackle the project. He also told Ciment that A Clockwork Orange was a “very optimistic” story due to its main character.
A Clockwork Orange is an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ novel (1962) of the same title. Burgess also wrote another book, Language Made Plain (1985), which satirized the language reform movement.
- A Clockwork Orange
- Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Adrienne Corri (Actors)
- Stanley Kubrick (Director) - Stanley Kubrick (Writer) - Max L. Raab (Producer) - Anthony Burgess...
- English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
- Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Fight Club (1999)
Director David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel about an underground ring where men fight for sport is a visceral, stylish and darkly funny exposé of modern malaise. The film takes its title from the eponymous male bonding club, in which disenfranchised men form a brotherhood in which they find meaning through bloody fighting. The film’s prescient exploration of the destructive nature of consumerism, along with Brad Pitt’s and Edward Norton’s eerily charismatic performances, makes Fight Club a cult classic that provokes and surprises until the very last frame.
Troubled by insomnia and ennui-induced hallucinations, insomniac office worker Edward Norton begins attending support groups for testicular cancer patients. There he meets charismatic soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who spurs Norton to confront his repressed feelings about himself and his lifestyle. Norton proposes that he and Durden start their own support group for men like themselves — men who are tired of living life in America’s materialistic culture — but Durden has other ideas: he wants to form an underground fight club, in which men can fight out their aggressions without fear of legal or physical consequence. Soon the club expands into a nationwide network of clubs, bringing
Fight Club is a 1999 American film based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. The film was directed by David Fincher, and stars Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter. The film plot centers on an insomniac office worker who opens up a club devoted exclusively to staged fighting for bored parlor patrons. The film’s Fight Club is set in a post-consumer society, with many goods becoming illegal as the result of over-consumption. In this world, the narrator fights to find his place after relapsing into addiction and meeting Tyler Durden.
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Psycho is a 1960 American horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Joseph Stefano. It is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The film stars Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, Anne Baxter as her sister Lila Crane, John Gavin as Sam Loomis, and Vera Miles as Hitchcock’s cameo appearance.
Told in cross-cut flashbacks, the film is about Marion Crane (Leigh), a secretary who ends up stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to get herself out of debt. To escape after one night from being caught and possibly prosecuted for theft, she steals the identity of her boss. While looking for a place to hide from the police, she checks into the “Bates Motel”, assuming that it will be empty during the winter months. However, Norman Bates (Perkins) is only too happy to have someone stay at his motel. He is quite surprised when Marion ends up checking in and even more so when she asks if he has any vacancies, but nevertheless he shows her to her room. Later on that night when Marion decides to go back out to dinner with Sam Loomis (Gavin), Norman becomes very jealous and paranoid that she might be seeing
Psycho is a 1960 American psychological horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was shot in black-and-white on a low budget, and stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh and Vera Miles.
Told in the first person, it is about an encounter between a secretary (Leigh) and an ill-tempered motel owner (Perkins), before and after her encounter with the motel’s resident criminal (John Gavin).
The film was universally praised from critics upon release with some declaring it among the best films of all time. Often considered to be one of Hitchcock’s best films, critics have praised the effectiveness of its cinematography, especially that of standout sequence, as well as Perkins’ performance.
- Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles (Actors)
- Alfred Hitchcock (Director) - Joseph Stefano (Writer) - Alfred Hitchcock (Producer)
- Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
The Wolf of Wall Street is a biographical black comedy crime film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name. It tells the story of Belfort, a wealthy stockbroker who runs a firm that engages in securities fraud and corruption on Wall Street in the 1990s.
Tobey Maguire, P.J. Byrne, and Jon Bernthal appear in supporting roles. Leonardo DiCaprio (who was also a producer) stars as Belfort, with Jonah Hill as his business partner and friend Donnie Azoff; Margot Robbie plays his wife Naomi Lapaglia; and Kyle Chandler plays FBI agent Patrick Denham. Matthew McConaughey, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, and Jean Dujardin are also featured in the film. The film marks the director’s fifth collaboration with DiCaprio (after Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island), as well as his second collaboration with Mara after their work together in 2011’s Hugo.
In 1987, Jordan Belfort enrolls at the University of New York in a Bachelor of Science program for a double major of finance and economics to become an entrepreneur, inspired by his father.
The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American biographical black comedy crime film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort’s autobiography of the same name. It tells the story of his career as a stockbroker, and how his firm Stratton Oakmont engaged in rampant corporate fraud and corruption on a grand scale. The movie also stars Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau and Jean Dujardin.
The film received positive reviews with critics praising DiCaprio’s performance and Scorsese’s direction. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. In 1990, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) narrates the opening narration over a scene of early Wall Street in 1989: “Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the 1980s. Marijuana may not be addictive, but our share offerings are. And don’t forget our bold new idea: Massively dilute and sell off all our shares to investors.” It grossed $100 million worldwide at the box office on a budget of $100 million making it Scorsese’s highest grossing (domestic) film at that point.
- The Wolf Of Wall Street - Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Brand New
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill (Actors)
- Martin Scorsese (Director)
- English, French, Spanish (Subtitles)
- English (Publication Language)
Spaceballs is a 1987 American science fiction parody film directed by Mel Brooks. It was the third feature film collaboration between Brooks and star Bill Pullman, following 1981’s History of the World, Part I and 1983’s To Be or Not to Be. The film was written by Brooks, Thomas Meehan, Ronny Graham, and Michael McCullers.
The film pokes fun at Star Wars (1977), Aliens (1986), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Moonraker (1979) and also draws inspiration from Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (1968).
It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Makeup.
Spaceballs is set in a distant future where space travel is common. Spaceball has been invaded by the evil Dark Helmet, who intends to steal the air from their planet. The President of Spaceball, Skroob sends Major Domo, a bumbling idiot who looks very similar to Star Wars’ C-3PO in a spaceship to seek the help of Druidess Princess Vespa of Druidia and her bodyguard Dot Matrix on Planet Druidia. Unbeknownst to him, his ship has been taken over by Dark Helmet and his second-in-command; Colonel
Spaceballs is a 1987 science fiction parody film written, produced, and directed by Mel Brooks. It stars John Candy, Bill Pullman and Rick Moranis as the three protagonists, with Brooks himself appearing in a cameo role. The story centers on an adventure in space, set in the year Spaceballs, in which a young hero named Lone Starr and his sidekick, Barf the Mawg (played by John Candy), must rescue Princess Vespa from the evil Dark Helmet, aided by President Skroob and his aides.
The film was released to mixed reviews but with a very strong box-office performance. It was Brooks’ most successful picture since Young Frankenstein (1974). In 2006, the Comedy Central cable TV channel ranked Spaceballs number 28 on its list of the “100 Best Comedies.” Spaceballs was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
The film’s success led to a short-lived animated television series sequel called Spaceballs: The Animated Series, which aired in 1988.
- John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman (Actors)
- Mel Brooks (Director)
- Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Goodfellas is a 1990 American biographical crime film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci. Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s non-fiction Wiseguy, the screenplay was written by Scorsese and Pileggi. The film narrates the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill (De Niro) from his childhood beginnings in Brooklyn, New York to his tenure as the underboss of the Lucchese crime family.
Goodfellas is a classic example of the genre of the “mob movie.” It received near-universal acclaim from critics and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in December 2002. The film ranked 471st on Empire magazine’s 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. The role of Henry Hill was originally offered to Michael Keaton, who turned it down due to schedule conflicts with Batman (1989). According to Scorsese, Jack Nicholson then expressed interest in playing the part; Scorsese hesitated initially, concerned that he would be typecast again after his performance in Raging Bull (1980), but eventually gave Nicholson the role.
Director Martin Scorsese has been fascinated by organized crime since he made his first film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967). The same obsession informs Goodfellas, his provocative gangster epic that is loosely based on the life of real-life Mob associate Henry Hill. Scorsese and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi adapted Pileggi’s book Wiseguy for their screenplay. Ray Liotta stars as Hill, who narrates the action in voice-over. Henry is a small-time hood from Brooklyn who works his way up to become a big-time player in the Mafia. Along the way, he falls in love with Karen (Lorraine Bracco), marries her, and tries to go straight. But when a Mob boss goes after him, Henry finds himself right back where he started. Scorsese won an Academy Award for Best Director; De Niro won Best Supporting Actor; and Joe Pesci won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Tommy DeVito, Henry’s hotheaded cohort. Bracco was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Pileggi received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.~ Sandra Brennan,
- Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci (Actors)
- Martin Scorsese (Director)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a 1986 American teen comedy film written, co-produced and directed by John Hughes. The film stars Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, a high school slacker who spends a day off from school, with Mia Sara and Alan Ruck starring as his friends and Jennifer Grey portraying his girlfriend.
Bueller’s Day Off has developed a cult following among audiences. In 2006, Entertainment Weekly named it the number one high school movie of all time, and it was ranked number five on the same magazine’s list of the 50 Best High School Movies in 2008. The film was Hughes’ directorial debut, and served as a coming of age story for him in addition to Broderick, who had previously starred in Hughes’ films The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986).
The film was written by Hughes in less than six weeks. Filming began in September 1985 at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook, Illinois (a north suburb of Chicago), which stood in for Shermer High School (the fictional setting of the film). Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics upon its initial release, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off later garnered critical acclaim. The movie also featured many future stars
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a 1986 American teen comedy film written and directed by John Hughes, and co-produced by Tom Jacobson. The film stars Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, a high school slacker who spends a day off from school, with Mia Sara and Alan Ruck. Ferris regularly breaks the fourth wall to address the audience, to comment on his own actions and to explain techniques used to avoid punishment for skipping class.
A sequel was planned with Broderick reprising his role, but never materialized.
The film was written for the screen by Hughes and Glenn Caron, who had collaborated on the TV series Moonlighting. The production was well received at the time of its release, being nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay. Broderick became an instant celebrity because of the film and received praise from critics who called him “one of the bright lights of movie comedy”. It also helped launch the careers of actors such as Alan Ruck.
The film was commercially successful, grossing over $70 million domestically and becoming one of the year’s highest grossing films. In September 2010, Empire magazine placed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at number 8 on their list of “the 500
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- Various (Actor)
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- Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Deadpool is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is intended to be the eighth installment of the X-Men film series, and is a spinoff of X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). The film is directed by Tim Miller, with a screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and stars Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool. It is intended to be the first instalment in the X-Men film series’ “Merc with a Mouth” trilogy, followed by Deadpool 2 (2018) and Deadpool 3 (2019). In Deadpool, antihero Deadpool hunts the man who nearly destroyed his life while also trying to reunite with his lost love.
Deadpool was announced in 2004 with New Line Cinema, but moved in 2009 to 20th Century Fox who bought the film rights. The film had languished in development hell for many years; Ryan Reynolds lobbied for his portrayal of Wade Wilson for years, and though director Tim Miller was attached since April 2011, production did not start until March 2015 due to budget concerns. Additional casting began in early 2015, and principal photography commenced in Vancouver from March to May. Other locations included Los Angeles and Jalisco, Mexico.
Deadpool is a 2016 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is the eighth installment of the X-Men film series, and stars Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson / Deadpool, alongside Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić, Leslie Uggams, and Karan Soni in his feature film debut. Development began in February 2004 with New Line Cinema, but moved in March 2005 to 20th Century Fox who bought the film rights. David S. Goyer wrote a script for the film in June 2005 and left it unpublished for some time. In 2009, 20th Century Fox chairman Tom Rothman announced that the studio was working on a film about Deadpool. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick were hired for Zombieland (2009) and were tapped to write the script in March 2012. By April 2013, Ryan Reynolds was already cast as Deadpool and Tim Miller was attached to direct; by October two years later, Miller left the project citing creative differences with Reynolds over “the character’s direction”.
- Deadpool - Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Used Very Good
- Ryan Reynolds, T.J. Miller, Ed Skrein (Actors)
- Tim Miller (Director)
- Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Annie Hall (1977)
Two of the greats: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton.
Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen from a screenplay he co-wrote with Marshall Brickman. Produced by Allen’s manager, Charles H. Joffe, the film stars the director as Alvy “Max” Singer, who tries to figure out the reasons for the failure of his relationship with the film’s eponymous female lead, played by Keaton in a role written specifically for her.
The film contrasts the perspectives of Alvy and Annie during their six-year relationship. The film won four Oscars in all, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (for Allen and Brickman), Best Actress (for Keaton), and Best Director. Its North American box office receipts of $38,251,425 are fourth-best in Box Office history among movies released in 1977.
Critic Roger Ebert called it “just about everyone’s Woody Allen movie”. The film received nearly universal acclaim, and along with winning the Academy Awards for which it was nominated, was listed at No. 89 on AFI’s 100 Years…100
Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen from a screenplay he co-wrote with Marshall Brickman. The film stars Allen as Alvy Singer, who struggles to decide whether to remain with the woman that he loves, played by Diane Keaton in a role written specifically for her, or pursue a relationship with the younger and more naïve Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).
Annie Hall was the third of four films starring Allen and Keaton; other than Love and Death in 1975, all were released within two years of each other and all but Interiors were also written by Allen.
Annie Hall was filmed in and around New York City. The film’s producer Jack Rollins was recognized with an Academy Award for Best Picture nomination for his work on the film. Annie Hall was considered to be one of the top films of 1977, receiving widespread critical acclaim and multiple awards and nominations, including 4 Academy Awards and a Golden Globe for Allen. It has been named one of the funniest films ever made by such publications as Sight & Sound and Time. In 2001 it was voted 25th among the 100 best American films of all time in a survey of members of the American Film Institute.
- Annie Hall - Blu-ray Brand New
- Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts (Actors)
- Woody Allen (Director) - Woody Allen (Writer)
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Tips For Breaking The Fourth Wall In Film
Breaking the fourth wall is a useful device in filmmaking. It creates an interesting dynamic between the filmmaker and the audience, and allows for moments of surprise and tension. Below are some tips for using this device in your own films.
What Is Breaking The Fourth Wall?
Breaking the fourth wall is when a character becomes aware that he or she is in a film.
When this happens, it often means that the character can interact directly with the audience or step out of the frame entirely.
This can be done through dialogue, but it can also be done through visual cues like shaking the camera or having someone step in front of the camera and look at it directly.
The Dynamic Breaking The Fourth Wall Creates
The dynamic created by breaking the fourth wall is interesting because it often forces an interaction between a character and the audience, who may have been previously unaware of one another’s presence.
This interaction has several benefits: It allows a filmmaker to address anyone watching who might have been affected by what’s happening on screen.