Reality Schmality: Top 10 Movie Alternate Realities

August 21, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

What would the world be like if I had never existed? Would my life have changed if I had just caught that bus? What would have happened if I didn’t get herpes that time?

These are the questions people ask themselves on a regular basis, but in the world of movies it’s always these questions that lead to alternate realities. Though these questions may garner small cosmic reactions, there are some films with slightly bigger aspirations.

We’re not spoiling anything by telling you that Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Inglourious Basterds, is a fairytale retelling of history and in terms of twisted realities, it’s one of our faves. Quentin’s Nazi-licious story has a band of Jewish American soldiers wreaking havoc on the German army in WWII and crazy, non-history ensues.

The world’s a little wonky or the history’s been altered; these are the movies give us a little glimpse into what life might have had in store for us. So we’re here to celebrate the twisted histories and wacky worlds that directors have made in movies.

WATCHMEN

Because the 80s just weren’t weird enough.

Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore’s brilliant graphic novel may have mixed reviews from critics but we love the bizarre twist on our favourite decade. Not only does the soundtrack boast some awesome tracks from the 80s but we get the chance to see the what the world would be like if superheroes were around.

We’ve got Richard Nixon getting a third term (thank God this is fictional) after they repeal the term limitations on the presidency. Remember the iconic image of a sailor kissing a woman on the streets of New York? Let’s make that two women. There’s also John F. Kennedy shaking hands with Blue Man Group reject, Dr. Manhattan and Neil Armstrong getting to the Moon and finding the big blue fella.

Take a look at My Chemical Romance’s music video of the song Desolation Row for the movie, set in the Watchmen universe.

THE TRUMAN SHOW

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives out a perfect life in the idyllic seaside town of Seahaven. Except that none of it’s real and all his friends are actors.

This movie gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘all the world’s a stage’. It may not technically be an alternate reality, it is a parallel one for Truman at least.

As Truman grows up and tries to go exploring, the creator of his world, Christof (Ed Harris) does everything he can to keep Truman in the town but he begins to see cracks in the facade. The game is pretty much up when TV lights fall from the ‘sky’ and lifts are actually filled with extras on their lunchbreaks.

People out in the real world watch the Truman Show like we watch Big Brother except Truman is an unwilling participant constantly trying to figure out the truth. The end of the movie touchingly shows Truman reaching the end of his world and stepping out into the actual reality.

Personally we’d rather stay in Truman’s world; there’s no Paris Hilton there.

Check out the trailer and see if you agree.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

Nobody has it tougher than George Bailey. Played by cinematic everyman James Stewart, George had a difficult life and was denied his chance in the spotlight at every turn.

One Christmas after even more misfortune, George stands on a bridge and decides to kill himself until an angel intervenes. Clarence, an angel in training, saves George and shows him what the world would be like if George were never born.

His wife is an old maid who never married, his kids don’t exist, the town has been turned over to the evil Mr. Potter and none of his friends know him. This gives George a revelation and he decides that life is wonderful after all. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Here’s George running into his alternate reality wife, Mary and begging to get his old life back.

GOLDEN COMPASS

If you ever read the books then you probably thought this movie was an absolute travesty. Well we never read the books so we don’t care that much.

Little Lyra Belacqua is the hero of a parallel universe which looks almost exactly like ours but a bit more steam punk-ish. There’s lots of flying airships and what appears to be nuclear energy powered carriages, and while we’re not sure that’s an especially safe way to travel, it looks very cool.

This is also a world in which people’s souls live outside their bodies in the shape of an animal called a daemon. Animal soul of choice in the OTB office? Meerkat.

Here to explain it better is strangely accented, Eva Green, in the first part of the movie.

WHITE MAN’S BURDEN

Here’s one you probably didn’t know about. We love John Travolta, we really do, but sometimes his judgment is more than a little off.

Now we broach this subject tentatively in these politically correct times, but to put it simply, the roles of black and white people are reversed in this movie. John T plays a poor white guy who loses his job thanks to a powerful black man who catches John looking at his wife.

The movie tries to explore racial inequality by switching the skin tones around and points out the subtle racist tendencies of society e.g. white superhero dolls. It’s not a horrible film but it’s definitely uncomfortable to watch in places.

Check out the trailer and just tell us we’re wrong.

THE MATRIX

Red pills and kung fu aside, the actual matrix is an alternate reality for the people that are trapped inside. Or is the ‘real world’ another alternate reality? OK we’re not gonna go down this road.

The chosen one, Neo, is trapped in the matrix as a lowly processor until Morpheus comes to the rescue and sets him free. We couldn’t help but think that once Neo had known about the nature of the real world, he would actually have given his left ball to be plugged back in. The real world sucks; it’s cold, full of killer robots and there’s no McDonalds!

We bet if Morpheus had told Neo that he would be eating porridge-like goop for the rest of his life he would have jammed that blue pill down his throat quicker than you can say, ‘What is the matrix?’

SLIDING DOORS

Does anyone else wish Gwyneth Paltrow had been caught between those sliding doors and crushed to death?

Anyway, this film is exactly what we mean when we say alternate reality. A split second alteration in Gwynie’s life means that the entire course of her life changes and we get to watch the dual realities play out side by side. When she catches the train home she finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, but when she misses the train she carries on with him, totally oblivious.

In one reality she gets a funky haircut and changes her life by hooking up with the adorable John Hannah. In the other reality she becomes a sandwich delivery girl and her boyfriend continues to cheat on her.

This is the film that made British people so aggressive when it came to getting the tube home.
And here’s the moment that changed her life.

V FOR VENDETTA

Another of our twisted histories based on another of Alan Moore’s graphic novels, V For Vendetta shows us an England that has been taken over by corrupt, power hungry political party, Norsefire.

It’s a more serious look at an alternate reality; a modern Britain where something has just gone terribly wrong.

Norsefire and their high Chancellor, Adam Sutler, have banned homosexuality, muslims and immigrants. The party even took action against their own country in order to get the support of the public by poisoning thousands of people. This dystopian Britain has a curfew in effect, a news station that only puts out the Government’s message and roaming surveillance vans.

The only one standing up against injustice is masked avenger, V.

Here’s V speaking to the country, telling us what’s gone wrong in Britain and calling for change.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN

We don’t mean to love him so much, but Alan Moore’s so good that people love making films of his comics. Unfortunately he hates pretty much all of the adaptations. We however allow ourselves some guilty pleasures and here’s one of them.

In a world where famous literary characters are real people, the evil Professor Moriarty is trying to spark a world war and only the League can stop him.

There’s Captain Nemo, Tom Sawyer, Dr. Jekyll, Alan Quartermain, the Invisible Man and Mina Harker and Dorian Gray. While we love the cheesy adventure stylings of the League we do have one huge problem with it. Mina Harker, the vampire of the group, can stand in sunlight. Um, we’re not experts or anything but we’re pretty sure that if she did she’d be crispier than a bucket of KFC.

Anyway, these guys are like the superheroes of their time and they’re out to save the world. This alternate version of history means that not only do immortals, vampire and monsters work together to save the world but enormous submarines can fit through the tiny waterways of Venice.

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

Well Gwyneth’s back and this time she’s brought Angelina and Jude along for the ride in this twisted history of New York.

1930s style giant robots are attacking the city and Sky Captain Joe Sullivan is there to save the day with intrepid Lois Lane wannabe, Polly Perkins.

Visually based on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, there’s lot of robots, kooky sci fi designs, kidnapped scientists and Angelina Jolie in an eye patch. What fun. Well if you saw the movie you know that it wasn’t but it’s a good idea in theory.

This New York is somewhat of a fantasy; though set around 1939 there’s no sign of an economic struggle or any mention or sign of war with Europe. Well, it would’ve been nice eh?

THE INVENTION OF LYING

Yes we know that it’s not out yet but we’re so excited about this we just had to include it.

In this freaky reality everyone tells the truth because no one ever discovered lying. This all changes when one day Ricky Gervais stumbles onto to the truth, well he actually stumbles onto a lie but you know what we mean.

A star studded cast and co-written and directed by Gervais we’re expecting big laughs, particularly scenes in which Gervais tell beautiful women that if they don’t sleep with him the world will end. We’re not if we’d like to live in this particular reality; never again would any guy be able to ask, ‘Was that good for you too?’ without breaking up with us immediately.

Check out the trailer and get excited with us.



Emily Moulder


Enjoy that? Check out other movie liberty takers in our Biopics Full of Bull. Or check out our lowdown of liberty taker of the moment Quentin Tarantino.

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