Movies have the ability to take us to different worlds, filling our minds with fantasy, action, romance and so many other genres and types. Normally, a movie likes to take us to these worlds in a way that melts the edges between fiction and reality; typically a movie wants you to get sucked into the characters, setting, plot and storyline. These kind of movies steal you away to far off places, keeping you glued to the screen without any sort of interruption for hours at a time. On the top of our heads we can think of several movies that do this for their audiences: The Lion King, Black Panther, The Harry Potter Movies, etc.
However, not all movies intend to accomplish its goal of blurring the line between fiction and reality. In fact, there are a lot of movies that span the entire gamut of genre that intend to not only acknowledge this line, but to cross back and forth over this line without care. These movies like to call attention to themselves as clearly as possible. They delight in jarring the members of audience from their seats, forcing them away from the world of fiction and fantasy. These movies are often called self-reflexive movies.
A self-reflexive movie is defined as a movie that wants the audience to be aware of the film-making process. A lot of people have scene self-reflexive techniques in practice with the frequent use of fourth wall breaks or manipulation of special effects. Self-reflexive media has been around for decades and to this day has become a popular source of entertainment; movies that we have adored and found highly amusing in the past often utilize self-reflexive aspects throughout the film.
One popular example of a self-reflexive film comes from the 2016 film Deadpool. This film that focuses on the sharp witted and crude character of the same name uses self-reflexive techniques all throughout its runtime to make comments on the filming process and on the superhero genre itself. For example, throughout the movie Deadpool will take the time and either look directly at the camera or just flat out speak to the audience. This tears away the blinders audience members wear throughout a film, the blinders that assure them that the story they are watching is not self aware and is instead stuck in its own universe. However, Deadpool's manipulation of reality does not just end with snappy dialogue and an occasional glance at the camera, he moves beyond these techniques by directly moving the camera in order to make the audience look away and even manipulating the fabric of time through rewinds and fast forwards; he brings the film process and narrative techniques directly into his reality and thus right to us.
Other popular movies continue this trend. For example, one has the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail where incidents of self-reflectiveness are copious and played up for humor. The instances include moments where characters comment the fakeness of the film's setting and where the narrator refers to certain members of the crew like the animators. All these moments are used for comedic purposes and we cannot help but laugh along; for the audience, the humor can often come from the absurdity of breaking the fourth wall itself.
Self-reflexive movies are prevalent, but what exactly makes them relevant or popular? What exactly makes them interesting or even hilarious to watch. Perhaps its the inside joke quality these films create; the audience and the film both know the film is just a film so it becomes a secret or a joke just between the two groups. We like to feel included and these movies invite us to do just that; we become a part of a greater image, a part of a greater film.