The True History Of Movie Spoilers

The Origins Of Spoiler Culture

Spoiler Alert
reddit

It's worth reminding everyone that spoiler culture existed long before the Internet ever came up with a name for it, and though today it is most aggressively centered around major Hollywood tentpole films such as Avengers: Endgame and hit TV shows like Game of Thrones, the concept of plot as a closely-guarded secret is nothing new.

Hell, back in Victorian times, novelist Wilkie Collins warned critics against spoiling his 1859 mystery novel The Woman in White, and fans quite literally queued outside the publisher's offices waiting for copies to be delivered - not unlike the ludicrous midnight queues for MCU and Star Wars movies.

When it comes to films, though, the first major movie to actively engage with the concept of spoiler culture was the 1926 silent film The Bat, which in its opening titles asked the audience, "Can you keep a secret? Don't reveal the identity of The Bat."

A far more prominent example came decades later with 1955's legendary French psychological thriller Les Diaboliques, which ends with a title card that says, "Don't be evil! Don't destroy the interest that friends could have in this film!"

Les Diaboliques No Spoilers
wikipedia

But by far the most memorable example of early spoiler guardianship in the Golden Age of Hollywood was Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.

Adopting a similar strategy that Henri-Georges Clouzot employed on Les Diaboliques, Hitchcock insisted that cinemas deny entry to any late cinema patrons, to ensure the surprise of Janet Leigh's early exit from the film remained in tact (rather than disappointed late arrivals vocally complaining to staff about Leigh's "absence").

Further still, Psycho's marketing campaign extensively featured Hitchcock in tongue-in-cheek ads playing up the film's secretive nature, urging, "Don't give away the ending, it's the only one we have" and, "If you can't keep a secret, please stay away from people after you see Psycho."

Psycho Alfred Hitchcock
Paramount

Legend even suggests that Hitchcock attempted to buy up every copy of Robert Bloch's 1959 novel in the quest to keep the spoilers under wraps.

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Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.