10 Great Movies That Break The Fourth Wall

Fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break? That's, like, sixteen walls...

Ferris Bueller
Paramount Pictures

The fourth wall is the imaginary barrier which separates a story from the real world. When an actor is on screen, delivering their lines, there is no audience, no camera, just them - in their character, in the moment, in that world. It comes from theatre, where performances are done in front of a live audience and the stage represents a whole world removed from those watching.

Since the early years of cinema, the fourth wall has often been broken to elicit a reaction from the audience. Early examples can be found in the pictures of Laurel and Hardy, or in the Marx Brothers' films of the 1930s.

Usually used for comedy purposes in the aforementioned films, modern cinema has seen the fourth wall break occur a lot more often, and in many more genres.

Whether giving the audience exposition about what's playing out on screen, getting them involved in the feelings of the characters, or simply narrating the story as it plays, a fourth wall break is often very effective when used right - making the audience feel closer to the action and more sympathetic to the characters.

The following list will take a look at some of cinema's most effective examples of movies breaking the fourth wall, from the out-right classics and beyond.

10. Deadpool (2016)

Ferris Bueller
Fox

It wouldn't be fair to talk about fourth wall breaks without mentioning Deadpool. The breaks in this superhero action-comedy are more than just a fun recurring joke, but a narrative tool used to perfection by Ryan Reynolds to make the superhero's adventures even more hilarious and engaging, guiding the story along and characterising the titular protagonist through constant narration.

Like all good fourth wall breaks, Deadpool's allows the audience to become one with the action playing out on screen, and works wonders to set itself apart from the rest of the Marvel movie catalogue.

Deadpool was a long time in the making, and for a while it looked as though it wasn't meant to be. But thanks to Reynolds' passion for the subject and his need to see it made (perhaps to redeem himself for whatever Green Lantern was), it came out to rave reviews.

Most of the praise sits on Reynolds' performance, with Deadpool being the character he was born to play, but if it wasn't for the decision to make Wade such a witty, self-aware master of pop culture references, the film might not have been as great as it was.

Contributor
Contributor

I get to write about what I love, so that's pretty cool. Be excellent to each other.