THN’s Top 7 Meta Films: When Fact Meta Fiction

E! calls it reality TV, but recently the meta aspect of visual storytelling, which is seen perhaps most often in the likes of EXTRAS, CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and pretty much any show named after the protagonist, are becoming especially prominent on the big screen. When you have James Franco, Seth Rogan and Emma Watson playing (supposedly) exaggerated versions of themselves, it’s meta, even more so if you throw in an apocalypse, as has been done in THIS IS THE END. Here’s our rundown of our favourite films to have blurred the line between reality and fiction.



ATONEMENT is based on a novel, which revolves around a story, in which a story is being written. Of course, although the foolish protagonist is seen inventing and writing stories from from the very beginning of the film, the greatest meta moment is when the true meaning of the atonement is revealed. The author is not only remembering and sharing her story, she’s repenting by creating a false, yet happier story from her past.



Although very far from being a super hero, Kevin Smith has managed to create a Smith universe with movies like MALLRATS and CLERKS, where the same actors and characters will reappear in his movies. After playing sinful homesick angels in DOGMA, everyone’s favourite writing duo, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, come together in JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK to make fun of themselves, as they shoot the ridiculous sequel to GOOD WILL HUNTING. Even Gus Van Sant is seen in the scene, greedily counting his money after the success of GOOD WILL HUNTING. However, instead of schooling the rich Harvard student in economics, Damon and Affleck decide it’s hunting season…



Whilst the first SCREAM movie represented the horror genre by picking it apart, the sequels focused more on blurring the lines between our reality and film. They delve into the media’s obsession with high school murders, self-referencing the first film in the shape of fake film, STAB, starring Heather Graham. The first SCREAM remained fairly meta-free, but the same cannot be said about the sequences where film buff, Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy), points out the pattern of the slasher subgenre, which creepily enough, is mirrored in SCREAM 2 by the Sidney Prescott-obsessed copycat killer.



Most people blamed Joaquin Phoenix’s odd behavior, and in particular his painfully awkward interview with Dave Letterman, on drugs, the reason for his brother’s untimely death, but Phoenix had simply teamed up with Casey Affleck to teach the audience and media a valuable lesson; what we see isn’t always what’s true. Joaquin steps into his new ridiculous rapper persona so well that even doing cocaine off a prostitute’s chest, and swallowing his assistant’s faeces didn’t have the audience questioning the authenticity of this mockumentary.



ADAPTATION is written by Charlie Kaufman and his imaginary brother, Donald Kaufman, and selfishly, it’s about the writers as well. Nicholas Cage portrays both Charlie and Donald to even further blur the lines. The film follows Kaufman’s struggle to adapt the novel, ‘The Orchid Thief’, into a film. The film is the result of Kaufman’s frustrated attempts at making a movie about everyday life interesting; because life is so boring and mundane according to our lost and hopeless protagonist.



I’d like to think it was the hilarious cameo by Bill Murray in ZOMBIELAND that allowed comedians the world over to both take a stab at themselves, and at times get stabbed to death. Murray is an accomplice to every attempt at mocking him; the GHOSTBUSTERS soundtrack, golfclubs, and a terrible hair piece contribute to the exaggeratedly cliched depiction of the legend, Mr Murray.


Although OCEANS 11 stuck to the rules of classic filmmaking, where Brad Pitt was suave Rusty, George Clooney was the team leader Danny Ocean, and Matt Damon played the innocent Linus, that all changed in the sequel. The success of the first film evidently went to the head of Steven Soderbergh as he decided to step out from conventional filmmaking to go for a more artistic approach on OCEANS 12. Miss Robert’s voice is only heard in the scene shared between her character, Tess, and Bruce Willis, who plays himself. The scene in the museum shows Willis calling Tess’ bluff, despite her uncanny resemblance to Julia Roberts. Willis had a similar turn in WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. Clearly someone is tired of saving the world in every DIE HARD movie and instead just wants to be himself.

THIS IS THE END is out in cinemas 12th June in the US and 28th June in the UK. 

Isra has probably seen one too many movies and has serious issues with differentiating between reality and film - which is why her phone number starts with 555. She tries to be intellectual and claims to enjoy German and Swedish film, but in reality anything with a pretty boy in it will suffice.

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