5 Misunderstood Movie Scenes and What They Really Mean

Brian Linder
Star Wars Movies
Star Wars Movies TV
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Even the greatest movies have scenes that aren’t always easy to understand. That obscurity can even be part of what makes them great. But viewers and fans occasionally misinterpret these scenes to such a degree that the intended meaning is lost. The upcoming second season of Adam Ruins Everything got us thinking about the most misunderstood scenes in film and what they really mean. So let’s drop some cinematic truth bombs and figure out the truth behind some of the worst offenders.

What does Han Solo mean when he says the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs?

Han-Kessel-run

In Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Han Solo famously boasts that the Millennium Falcon is “the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” in an attempt to impress Obi-Wan Kenobi. But that doesn’t make any sense. A parsec, after all, is a unit of distance.

The easy answer is that Han is BSing them — that wouldn’t be out of character for the show-off space pirate. But George Lucas confirmed that Solo is telling the truth. He explains in a commentary track that ships in the Star Wars universe can’t travel in straight lines while in hyperspace due to collisions with celestial objects. Thus, distance is a crucial factor in how quickly a ship can get from point A to point B. The Millennium Falcon‘s superior navigation computer allowed it to travel shorter distances between points and arrive faster.

The top is still spinning at the end of Inception, but does that mean it’s still a dream?

spinning-top-inception

Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a complex and confusing movie. The ending, in particular, has had people scratching their heads since it came out in 2010. The top, the “totem” of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Cobb, is the object that he uses to tell if he’s still in a dream-state. If the top falls, he is in the real world. But as the screen cuts to black at the end of the movie we see the top is still spinning. So, is Cobb awake or not?

Note that there is still some debate about this because Nolan himself has refused to confirm the meaning of the film’s ending. It’s meant to be left open to interpretation. That said, the script describes the scene just as it appears on screen, indicating that the top is “still spinning.” So, he’s still in a dream.

Nolan, for his part, says it doesn’t matter. “I choose to believe that Cobb gets back to his kids… The most important emotional thing about the top spinning at the end is that Cobb is not looking at it. He doesn’t care.”

The ending of Spielberg’s A.I. has absolutely nothing to do with aliens — they’re robots.

ai-ending

Spielberg’s A.I. is a controversial movie. Developed in part by the late Stanley Kubrick, the 2001 film received mixed reactions from fans and critics. The one thing we can all agree on is that the ending is kind of weird.

The movie’s final moments are a flash-forward 2,000 years into a future when unknown characters revive the film’s robo-protagonist, David. Many viewers seem to have confused these characters for aliens because of their lithe form, but they aren’t aliens at all. If you pay close attention to the dialogue, you’ll realize that these vaguely humanoid forms are, in fact, advanced descendants of robots who have evolved.

Spielberg calls these creatures “supermechas” and notes that the ending of the film is meant to show that the world is now “a silicon-based society, no longer a carbon-based society.”

Where did the jet engine originally come from in Donnie Darko?

donnie-darko-jet

If you misunderstood something about Donnie Darko, we don’t blame you. It’s a movie that’s meant to be quite strange, and much of the meaning is intentionally ambiguous. But let’s talk about that jet engine that falls on Donnie’s house — twice.

The Director’s Cut of Donnie Darko is helpful in deciphering what the heck is going on in the movie, so do check that out if you’re struggling to make sense of it all. In this version, we learn that Roberta Sparrow/Grandma Death wrote a book called The Philosophy of Time Travel.

What we can glean from this additional information is that the jet engine that falls on Donnie’s house at the start of the film is an “artifact” — a physical remnant that slips through a corruption in the fabric of the Fourth Dimension. (Stay with us!) This is a sign that a Tangent Universe exists and that’s what we experience throughout most of the film. The full explanation is much weirder, but Donnie restores the space-time continuum by sending the jet engine from the Tangent Universe he’s experiencing back to the Primary Universe. He then wakes up in bed just before the very same jet engine falls from the sky onto his roof.

The computer virus from Independence Day wasn’t just a convenient plot device created by Jeff Goldblum’s character.

jeff-goldblum-independence-day

Now, Independence Day isn’t exactly a cerebral movie experience full of deep meaning, but there’s still a common misconception about a pivotal scene. You know, the moment when Jeff Goldblum’s character conveniently uploads a computer virus and disables the alien mothership.

How the heck would he be able to write a program that could interact with alien technology? Are these evil invaders running Windows 95? Well actually, a deleted scene shows Goldblum’s character inside the alien ship at Area 51. He discovers that the alien computers use the same programming language he deciphered at the beginning of the film that uncovered the invasion plans. Working from that, he’s able to develop a virus that can shut down the entire extraterrestrial fleet.

Ready to learn the truth about more than just movies? New episodes of Adam Ruins Everything air Tuesdays on truTV. You can also watch full episodes On Demand or at truTV.com.

Brian Linder
Brian is a Sr. Content Producer at FANDOM. He's been on the fan-media scene since dial-up. Arriving at FANDOM via IGN, Brian was a founding editor at early Star Wars fansite TheForce.net and co-created the movie site, FilmForce, acquired by IGN in 2006. He's a fan of space operas and superheroes.
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