7 Great Fourth Wall Breaking Moments in Film

Imagine collating all your favourite characters into a little cinematic tableau that you could apply your voyeurism and watch them go about their lives. In no way are they aware that you are watching them, it’s all secret. And then some crazy renegade character decides to show their self-awareness, turning ever so slightly for a moment to address the audience watching. Ok. This is my favourite thing in the movies. I love that wink and sly nod that says “Oh hey, I know you are watching.” It’s that finger click moment between a pairing that sets up a new level of excitement to films.

I’ve collected some of my favourites that make me as giddy as an aunt.

And yes, spoilers.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club is one of those movies, like American Beauty, Kick-Ass, and Tangled, that have a constant narration flowing throughout. From the second you enter the screening you know that this is going to be Fincher’s mind-blowing, story bending film and completely mess with your psyche as twists and turns are revealed. So Edward Norton’s drama is laid bare as he tackles with Tyler Durden and the eponymous underground club. But the highlight, of many, is when The Narrator is talking about Tyler and introduces the seedy character including the extra fluid he adds to meals… It’s funny, witty, and sets the tone for the ending at the end.

film brad pitt fight club david fincher edward norton

Jumanji (1995)

Jumanji is a good film, possibly even great and when you look back, you recognise the brilliant rambunctiousness of the film and ideas. Especially with the late and great Robin Williams at the centre of it. The idea that a board-game could come to life along with the monsters of a jungle is such an alluring premise and in most ways it pulls it off. Amongst the things that are excellent about it is the split second fourth wall breaking moment that is definitely a case of “blink and you’ll miss it.” Basically, Williams’ Alan is trapped in the floor and rushes the young Peter, who is now part monkey, out to the shed to get an axe. Peter cannot get into the shed and uses a nearby axe to break in realising halfway through that this is the thing he needs. Duh. It’s a fairly innocuous scene but it works on many levels as its proof that less is more. Peter didn’t need to say; “What a twat! Look at how foolish I am.” He just looks at the camera with this “really?” look long before The Office ever thought it up. It’s pure gold.


Moulin Rouge! (2001) 

I don’t know why this pleases me as much as it does because frankly, there are loads of glorious things in Moulin Rouge! to concentrate on. But there is something about this slither of musical banter with the audience that makes me smile. Basically, The Duke believes that Satine isn’t interested in him and is about to leave, taking with him any funding opportunities that Zidler had in mind. Launching into Madonna’s Like A Virgin, the pair have a romping good time across the table tops, talking about the young woman. Only at the lyric “feels so good inside,” The Duke sings it at us. Smarmy, the reason this works so well is because it’s as though he is expressing his dick-headish ways and trying to convince us that anything he feels for Satine isn’t because he wants to bone then own her. It’s a clever little nuanced moment.


Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)  (2014)

Whether you liked it’s Oscar Win or not, there is no denying the powerhouse film is a glory to be applauded. It cleverly smashed the visuals whilst telling a powerful story at the core of it. Alejandro Innuritu has truly accomplished something magnificent, especially when placing his entire faith in the hands of Michael Keaton who terrifically masters the pained thespian at the centre and making his determination likeable whilst still enticing us with the general deplorable nature of his vanity. During the entire film, Innuritu inserts many different moments where they take chunks out of certain artistic groups such as theatre goers, cinema lovers, actors, directors, and critics. And at one point, even the audience. As he battles with his consciousness, the form of his alter-ego famed movie character Birdman, the flying superhero spits venom at the audience saying “yeah, you like it when there’s explosions and special effects, not like this talking drama.”

Which makes everyone excited for superhero films squirm in their pants a little.

movie film emma stone birdman michael keaton

Filth (2013)

Ah, I nearly made it through this article without talking about it. Honestly, I’ve been on a 12 step program trying to detox my way out of obsessively talking about this film. But then half way through I remembered: Filth has bucket loads of fourth wall breaking moments and it totally rocks my boat. The story of Bruce Robertson, a bipolar cop who succumbs to the stresses of his life during am murder case, is riddled with narration and sly to the camera moments. It all highlights the selfish centrism of the character and how he has built this ego wall around him that makes him a shocking excuse of a man.

mcavoy filth

I can talk about all the little cheeky moments where James McAvoy’s face practically says “I’m in charge and look how I manipulate all the silly people around me.” But the one I’m going to talk about is the finale. After the world finding out that he’s been pretending to be his wife, suffered from an extreme nervous breakdown, killed a suspect (in self-defence) and was subsequently demoted, he decides to commit suicide. It’s a very sombre moment made better by Clint Mansell’s cover of Creep playing in the background as his friend Bladesy watches his tape. As he climbs the chair, thwarted momentarily by another human connection – a wife and son of a man he tried to save – arrives at his door. There’s a brief moment of “maybe he can be saved” then he turns to the camera, utters his immortal lines “Same rules apply” and ambigiously he falls to his death.

The “Same rules apply” is important. Because it highlights how he uses little games with himself in order to shield the world from his illness and his secret – that he is slowly losing his identity and breaking down. That the pain is unimaginable. And that “Same rules apply?” It’s both a fuck you to the world and a way of saying that the games are always on…

Trading Places (1983)

Perhaps the most famous of the entries is sheer comedic timing. There isn’t actually a word uttered but it is a brilliant case of knowing when to pull the right face at the right time. In the heyday of Eddie Murphy’s career when he nailed every single film he was in and didn’t resort to fat suits. In Trading Places this coveted “rich white old men are racist as fuck” joke works because of Murphy’s droll reaction to their ignorance. The concept is simply, Murphy is a poor man who is embroiled into a scheme to oust the rich CEO of a company. As the aforementioned “racist as fuck” men explain to him their basic patsy scheme, at one point they describe what a BLT sandwich is in the most irritating patronizing way. One look to the camera to say “can you see what the fuck I have to deal with?” is simply perfection. It allows the audience immediately in to his mind set and sends them on raucous journey of hilarity. It’s genius, really
movies eddie murphy trading places

Deadpool (2016)

Yes, of course. I mean, we couldn’t start an article in celebration of his film without including a bit about the master of fourth-wall breaking. Ryan Reynolds’ brilliant, energetic, and foul-mouthed hero – a character that he was destined to make – has been the funniest movie of the year. The hype was real and despite the fact the story is lacking somewhat in narrative originality, the character himself and the ferocious jokes (as well as the gore and violence) are just completely brilliant!

Look, there are thousands of moments in the film that we can address, particularly the nods to his fourth wall breaking shenanigans, the title sequence, and more. And I’m actually not going to address them this time (although, my favourite addresses Reynolds in all his glory.) The fast, furious, and fucking funny film is enhanced by these scenes and jokes – and Ryan Reynolds’ arse in red-spandex.

Image result for Deadpool 2 gif
What? Did you think he made it this far on his superior acting skills?

Deadpool 2 is out 15th May!


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