Cracked Columnists

5 Movies Plots Given Away by the Characters' Names

#2. The Secretly Dead Villain of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Is Actually Named "Death's Head"

Paramount Pictures

It's the year 1939 in an alternate universe, and already most of you can guess how the rest of that summary of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow probably goes: A bad stand-in for Indiana Jones must fight a retro-futuristic Nazi and his army of diesel punk robots. Also, there are Hindenburg blimps in there somewhere, because alternate history stories about the 20th century without blimps are like Sky Captain without the overused CGI: nonexistent.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures
"Mr. Lucas, what are you doing?!"
"Don't you knock?!"

In the movie, the bad Indy stand-in is named Joe Sullivan, aka Sky Captain (Jude Law), an ace fighter pilot trying to stop the evil Dr. Totenkopf from launching a rocket that will incinerate the whole planet. By the end, it turns out that the mad scientist has actually been dead the entire time, and that his plans were being carried out by his army of lifeless automatons.

Paramount Pictures
In a second twist, it's revealed that Gwyneth Paltrow wasn't one of them!

Why We Should Have Seen It Coming:

"Totenkopf" is the German word for "skull," but it was also the name of the insignia worn by the SS, which kind of makes it sound like the name "Totenkopf" was chosen because "Dr. Nazi" performed poorly with test audiences. However, when you break the word down to "toten" and "kopf," it literally means "death's head," which, granted, is a pretty great word for a skull, alongside "calcium brain helmet" and "zombie fiesta bowl." But in the context of the movie, it starts to sound a bit spoilerish when you consider that the dead Totenkopf first appears on screen as a giant floating head:

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures
"Pay no attention to the corpse behind the screen."

Admittedly, Dr. "Death's Head" was "portrayed" by old recordings of Laurence Olivier, who himself had been dead for more than a decade when the movie premiered, but it didn't necessarily mean that his character would be dead as well. (Hey, if Jude Law can play an action hero, then Olivier's corpse can totally pull off a non-dead guy.) Maybe the creators of Sky Captain thought that their movie would be such a giant success that they didn't need to make it marketable to German-speaking countries.

Unfortunately, for all the work put into it, Sky Captain was a commercial and critical flop, because even if there had been a demand back then for a bad movie clumsily based on old film serials, most people were apparently willing to wait a couple of years and just go see Kingdom of the Crystal Skull instead.

#1. Cypher Was Obviously a Bad Guy in The Matrix Because His Name Literally Means "Anti-Neo"

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Matrix is the story of Keanu Reeves being constantly told by everyone around him that he is the prophesied Techno Jesus, or "the One," who will save all of humanity from a race of malevolent machines. He later finds out that, yup, they were totally right and he really is the guy. Roll credits.

The only much-needed detour from the straightforward plot of the film is when Joe Pantoliano's Cypher, the bald IT guy of the Nebuchadnezzar, betrays the human resistance and kills two of his friends for the off chance of tasting steak again, a decision I'm not sure I can fault him on. His turncoat moment also gave the story some depth by showing that, in the war between man and machine, not all humans are automatically good.

Warner Bros. Pictures
"The floating symbols told me to do it. They said you were all crazy!"

Why We Should Have Seen It Coming:

The Matrix is not what you'd call a subtle movie. When it wanted to make it clear that Neo is in fact the guy destined to rid the world of machines like some kind of Amish Superman, it did so by giving him a name that was an anagram of the word "one," as in "the One." And when the film wanted to hint that Pantoliano will turn traitor, it named his character after the spelling variant of "cipher," which means, among other things, "zero."

In binary terms, "zero" is the opposite of "one," which is how everybody refers to Neo, which in turn would make anyone named "Zero" the polar opposite of the supposed hero of the movie. And doesn't that describe Cypher perfectly? Because he wasn't just a villain: He represented an entirely different philosophy of dealing with the machines, preferring blissful ignorance over fighting for a desolate piece of rock with a permanent layer of sun-blocking depression surrounding it.

Cracked has already talked about how Cypher could actually have been the One, seeing as he was seemingly able to unplug himself from the computer after his meeting with Agent Smith. So maybe the original plan was for Cypher to become the Coke Messiah to Neo's Pepsi Jesus and spread his message of blue pills and steak.

The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo
And cancer. Delicious, low-calorie cancer.

But once the Wachowskis realized that the audience would always side with the group that wanted to shoot robots in the face, they scrapped that idea and made Cypher a secondary baddie. It's certainly possible, given the Zero/One name opposition and the fact that they pretty much did the exact same thing with The Matrix Online. Then again, it's equally possible that the Wachowskis decided on the name "Cypher" because they hate people who study and understand science and wanted to spoil the movie's only twist for them.

Warner Bros. Pictures
"Eat shit, nerds!"


Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com.

Recommended For Your Pleasure

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz

  • Rss

More by Cezary Jan Strusiewicz:

See More
To turn on reply notifications, click here

522 Comments

The Cracked Podcast

Choosing to "Like" Cracked has no side effects, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Weekly Hit List

Sit back... Relax... We'll do all the work.
Get a weekly update on the best at Cracked. Subscribe now!