15 Movies That Are Packed with Subliminal Messages

You'll have to pause your VHS tape at just the right moment.
15 Movies That Are Packed with Subliminal Messages


Movies run at 24 frames per second. It’s kind of nuts really — our eyes and brains work together to join these crazy-fast images together and turn it into a story. People have been messing about with this for as long as cinema has existed, using impossibly brief imagery to fuck with audiences’ heads.

For a while there was enormous paranoia that single-frame imagery could be used to influence moviegoers’ behavior — a brief glimpse of a packet of cigarettes here or a beer there leading people to walk out of the theater and, without knowing entirely why, smoke and drink themselves into oblivion.

While that turned out to be an unfounded fear, and cigarettes and beer did perfectly well out of regular advertising for decades and decades, filmmakers have used the technique in more creative ways, generally to create a feeling of discomfort or uncertainty in the viewer, perfect for suspense and horror. You might not know entirely what you saw, or if you saw anything at all, but you know you don’t feel too good afterward…

‘The Exorcist’ (1970) Shows Us Even More Horror Than We Think

CRACKED On three brief occasions in the late William Friedkin's horror masterpiece, the demonic face of Pazuzu appears - too fast for people to really register with any certainty what's happened, but enough to create a creeping sense of dread. Best kind!


‘Fight Club’ (1999) Is Packed with Blink-and-You-Miss-It Brads and Dicks

CRACKED Just as Tyler Durden inserts single-frame penises into movies he projects, David Fincher does the same with Fight Club. Brad Pitt appears briefly several times before we properly meet him, and the credits are preceded by a great big dong.

Source / Reddit 

‘Memento’ (2000) Told Us from the Beginning, er, End

CRACKED At one point in Christopher Nolan's fantastic backways-frontways Memento, Leonard (Guy Pearce) tells a story about Sammy Jankis, who accidentally killed his wife. During the telling, for one brief, hard-to-catch moment, Jankis is replaced with Leonard.

Source / Indiewire 

‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991) Is Kind of Goth

CRACKED When Gaston plummets from the balcony at the end of Beauty and the Beast, instead of showing a mangled corpse, for one frame, skulls are shown reflected in his eyes, as though he's looking into the face of Death. Gnarly.


‘Black Swan’ (2010) Shows You Everything

CRACKED There's a sequence early in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan in which, in zoetrope-like nightclub strobe lighting, everything yet to happen is briefly shown. It's vastly too fast for the viewer to comprehend but something fucked-up is clearly happening.


‘Midsommar’ (2019) Assures You, Death Is Everywhere

CRACKED The sister of Dani (Florence Pugh) kills herself at the beginning of Midsommar, and her face is shown multiple times, incredibly briefly or semi-transparently blending into the background. You're not sure what you've seen, but know you need a hug.


‘Psycho’ (1960) Wants to Give You One Last Scare

CRACKED Psycho ends with Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) staring at you unsettlingly. But right as it fades to black, it somehow feels even more unsettling - Bates' dead, decomposing mother's face is briefly superimposed over his. liiiiit's disgusting!


‘The Ring’ (2002) Is Fucking Full of Rings

CRACKED Several times throughout the U.S. remake of The Ring, single-frame circles appear, including during the DreamWorks logo that opens the movie.


‘Antichrist’ (2009) Is Crawling with Fleeting Horror

CRACKED Antichrist is a horrible, horrible film. During one sequence looking out of a train window at trees, brief but incredibly creepy images appear - a screaming woman, a naked corpse and more, a whole cavalcade of subliminal horror. Don't watch it.


‘Cruising’ (1980) Equates Gay Sex with Death

CRACKED During a brutal murder scene in William Friedkin's Cruising, frames from a gay porn film are seen - seemingly equating gay sex with violence and doing the film no favors in the eyes of those who saw it as irredeemably homophobic.


‘Spellbound’ (1945) Is Black and White and Red All Over

CRACKED Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound is entirely in black and white, not unusual for the time. However, when a gun fires at the end, two red frames fill the screen - brief enough to disorient the viewer without them realizing how or why.


‘Dawn of the Dead’ (2004) Wants You to Go Home Horny

CRACKED SECURITY The closing credits of Dawn of the Dead features split-second glimpses of two women making out. There's an in-story reason for it - the contents of one character's video camera - but maybe Zack Snyder wanted people leaving slightly mysteriously turned on.

Source / IMDB 

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