It’s easy to come up with an absurd movie concept on paper. After all, that’s where your imagination can run as wild as possible. Pulling it off once everything’s written down? That’s where it becomes very, very, very hard. Yet, throughout the history of films, those dreamers have actually done it.
Here’s our list of ten crazy movie concepts that actually worked out:
STAR WARS – When you think about it, this is the ultimate “Huh, this concept actually worked?” idea. Think of all the absurd concepts throughout just the original series. A talking golden robot, a mysterious “force” that flows through people, giant space slugs just chilling on asteroids, a slimy, blobby desert monster-gangster, laser swords made out of pure energy; it’s as bizarre as it gets, but it worked … and we’re all the more entertained for it.
COLOSSAL – Nacho Vigalondo’s superb and very creative recent release follows a drunken mess of a woman (Anne Hathaway) who finds out that her behavior is somehow controlling a gigantic sea creature that’s crushing Seoul. It’s completely off the wall, but Vigalondo turns it into both an entertaining monster film and an insightful look at destructive relationships.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN – Let’s step back a minute or two from all that massive franchise success and think about how these movies came to be. This is an adaptation of a Walt Disney World ride. Not a dusty old story or fairy tale, an actual ride. We’ve all spent money – lots of money – on a franchise that was adapted from a ride at a theme park. When you take a moment to ponder it, that’s absolutely stunning.
BLUE VELVET – The whole movie could be made up of David Lynch. However, this film is his most famous – and the craziest. A whole movie whipped up from a severed ear being found in a field, with an incredibly insane, gas-sniffing Dennis Hopper, a torch-singing Dean Stockwell, and an unforgettable ode to PBR? How on Earth did this movie ever become such a hit?
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH – What a weird, wild concept for a feature – a puppeteer being trapped in the mind of John Malkovich. Yet, the inventive screenplay from Charlie Kaufman and the imagination of Spike Jonze (a combination that could certainly fill up this list) pull it off superbly, turning the film into a strikingly original adventure.
PREDATOR – The story about how this movie was created is legendary. Predator literally grew out of a Hollywood joke. After the latest Rocky movie was released, as the story goes, two screenwriters heard a witticism about how Rocky would have to go fight an alien for a sequel, and decided to pen a movie with that premise. The movie, of course, replaced Sly with Arnold, and gave us one of the greatest sci-fi action films of all time, with another sequel set for next year.
DONNIE DARKO – Any movie that inserts a giant rabbit so seamlessly into its plot deserves a spot on this list. Richard Kelly’s bizarre adventure has grown into a cult favorite, made a star out of Jake Gyllenhaal, and brought Tears for Fears back into the public consciousness. What a smash!
CRASH – Nope, not the 2004 Best Picture winner. This is the 1996 film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s bonkers novel from David Cronenberg, detailing the lives of a group of people who got off better by getting in car crashes. The craziest thing is that the movie actually works well, bolstered by a great cast (Holly Hunter, James Spader, Rosanna Arquette).
BARTON FINK – A movie about writer’s block? It’s a good thing the genius of the Coen brothers was behind this one. They wrote this movie out of frustration while being blocked as they penned Miller’s Crossing, and the result, while not commercially successful, picked up the Palm D’Or at that year’s Cannes film festival.
I’M NOT THERE – How could you possibly tell the story of Bob Dylan’s importance to American culture in one film? Give credit to director Todd Haynes and co-writer Oren Moverman – they found a way to do it, somehow. The two tell the lives of Dylan through a series of career-spanning avatars, played – alternately – by actors including Cate Blanchett (Oscar-nominated), Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw and Christian Bale. It’s a fantastically out-there concept, but it sure works.