Stories have troupes. I don’t think anyone would argue against that. The phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” exists for a reason, after all. But every now and then, there are people who can take those troupes, throw them out the window, and make something that is both unique and memorable. This topic has come up in an online film community, and the members have begun to share their favorites. With that in mind, here are 12 times storytelling took the unusual route.
1. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
If I were to list all of the ways these books, and everything related to them, break the storytelling mold, we would be here all day, so I won’t do that. Instead, we’ll look at the elements that stick out more than the others, starting with the narrator. A self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking narrator is nothing new, but there’s nothing quite like the in-universe Snicket’s random tangents and detailed definitions of tricky words. Not to mention, how many series tell you not to consume the media and just leave? Telling your reader to put down the book and walk away makes this book deserving of a spot here!
There’s also the matter of how there is genuinely no happy ending for the Baudelaire children. The title is not just a way to entice you into watching or reading; it really is a series of unfortunate events. The three never get a happily ever after and instead only just barely break even with their antagonist. Many have stated their frustrations with the ending in the forum, but with a story like this, it’s sadly very fitting.
2. Clue’s (1985) Multiple Endings
As a board game, anyone can be the killer in Clue, and it is the players’ job to solve the mystery of who’s done it. As a film adaptation, Clue took this concept and ran with it in a way never seen before and eternally referenced now. Old-timey title cards with the phrases “Here’s What Could Have Happened…” and “But Here’s What Really Happened” now live on forever because someone somewhere decided that one of the best parts of Clue was that anyone could be the killer.
3. The Scooby-Doo Ending of Wayne’s World (1992)
Whether it’s the skits or the movies, Wayne’s World is an all-around good, fun time. The ending of the 1992 film reflects this quite well, too. At first, everything seems to end on a rather sour note, culminating in Wayne’s house burning down and Garth dead. But, then, Wayne and Garth address the audience, saying, “As if we’d end the movie like that. Let’s do the Scooby-Doo ending!” The scene restarts and turns into a Scooby-Doo skit and ends with a “mega happy ending,” with everyone being happy and satisfied.
4. Free Will in The Stanley Parable
In narratives, there is usually only one path with one solution. Sure, sometimes video games can have a few different choices with multiple endings, but they typically follow the same plot points. The video game The Stanley Parable saw these and then decided to spit in that concept’s face and do the complete opposite. And it worked! In this game, you have complete control of what happens, and the omniscient narrator just has to go along with it, at times rather reluctantly. You are no longer at the mercy of the game’s story; the game’s story is now at the mercy of you and your free will.
5. The Police in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
I have always preached my love for this movie to anyone who will listen, and I will continue to do so until the end of time. There are so many witty, multi-layered jokes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but one of my favorites is the ending. After a long and perilous journey, King Arthur and Sir Bedevere the Wise reach Castle Aarrg in search of the Grail, only to find it occupied by the French. When negotiations go nowhere good, the King and his knight summon an army to take the castle by force. Before a fierce battle can even begin, everyone is arrested by modern police officers. After years of watching this film, I finally found out that this is quite literally a cop-out ending.
6. Doki Doki Literature Club Isn’t So Oki Doki
If you were to go into this visual novel completely blind, you’d think it was a cutesy story with some silly and heartfelt moments. That is, until the morning of the club festival, the main character and the four other poetry club members, Sayori, Yuri, Natsuki, and Monika, had been working hard to prepare for. Promising to take your childhood friend, Sayori, to the festival, you enter her house to find her dead in a gruesome, traumatizing site. From there, the game resets, but everything is wrong, glitched, and the characters keep disappearing. Doki Doki Literature Club is actually a horror game.
7. The Prince Doesn’t Save the Princess in Maleficent (2014)
I must say, out of all of Disney’s attempts to revamp their classic animated films and humanize their villains, Maleficent is the best. I think it may be because it wasn’t just a carbon copy of the original. Sure, there are similar plot points, but the focus is entirely different. Maleficent may not be pure evil, but her actions early on in the film are still monstrous. The only difference is that we get a very clear picture of why she does these things and watch as she realizes she’s made a grave mistake.
This evolution of the character peaks when Princess Aurora is waiting to be awoken from her cursed sleep. Princess Phillip is there to save the sleeping beauty with true love’s kiss in classic storybook fashion, but it doesn’t work. Maleficent emerges from the shadows to apologize for what she has done to the girl, regretting her actions and vowing to protect her before kissing the princess’s forehead. Suddenly, Aurora awakes from a different kind of true love, a familial love.
8. Shrek (2001) Turning Classic Fairy Tales on Their Head
Yes, Shrek is a fairytale movie, but I would argue it’s also an anti-fairy tale. Everything about it goes against what classically happens in this sort of story. The monster is the one to rescue and fall in love with the princess, the noble is the villain, and the curse is lifted in the end, but the princess isn’t what one would generally consider beautiful. The happy couple don’t get a happy ending in a big, fancy castle but in a humble swamp. I mean, when your main character literally wipes themselves with the traditional story that should be told, you should expect a break from the mold from every direction.
9. The Doctor’s First Regeneration in Doctor Who
The origins of why The Doctor regenerates into a different look are actually quite interesting. The first actor to play the Doctor, William Hartnell, faced many problems that made it challenging to continue playing the role, including being ill. To solve this, there came the idea to have the Doctor’s appearance change whenever they regenerate, allowing different actors to fill the role over the years. It’s amazing what creativity under pressure can create!
10. Attacking Is Bad In Undertale
Undertale is a pixelated RPG about a little kid falling into a world full of monsters. That sounds like you’ll be doing a lot of fighting, right? Well, you will if you’re going for the soul-crushing bad ending. From the very beginning, the game gives you the choice to show mercy to those you encounter or literally turn them to dust. What you decide to do to these loveable characters is entirely up to you, but remember, your choices will have consequences.
11. The Tale of the Three Brothers in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Despite being a series centered around magic, the Harry Potter films have always been in a more realistic style. Flashbacks were not overly common, and they certainly were not in a completely different style. The first part of Deathly Hallows is a different story. When Hermione reads “The Tale of The Three Brothers,” the shot morphs into a monochromatic animated section, the first in the franchise. Everything in the story is incredibly stylized, almost like a mix of shadow puppets and ink drawings on old parchment. This style never shows up after this segment, either, making it all the more memorable.
12. “Jake the Brick” From Adventure Time
Adventure Time has always been a mishmash of different styles, genres, and moods. How one episode looks may be different from what the next will look like. If one episode is silly and fun, the next may still be serious and deeply impactful. With a title like “Jake the Brick,” you’d think that this episode would be a silly one, but it turns out that it’s actually quite impactful to fans of the show.
At first, Jake the Dog appears to have just transformed himself into a brick because he “wants to be a part of a brick shack when it falls apart.” Eventually, he gets bored of waiting for the shack to collapse and starts to narrate what he sees around him. Unknown to him, his best friend and brother, Finn the Human, has left him with a turned-on walkie-talkie that now broadcasts Jake’s descriptions. It goes on to become a beloved pastime to listen to Jake’s narrative over the radio for people all over the land. A big theme for the episode is being a greater part of something than you realize, and it all starts with Jake deciding to be a brick.
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