10 Fictional Films within Actual Films That Deserve to Be Real

Films that feature snippets of fictional films within their in-world narrative aren’t exactly rare, but not all of these fake films are intriguing enough to make viewers wish they could watch the full thing. Some movies merely mention or show posters of fictional films: Marty McFly is swallowed by a holographic shark promoting Jaws 19 in Back to the Future Part II (1989), and a poster for Rocky XXXVIII (that’s 38 for anyone not familiar with Roman numerals) can be seen in Airplane II: The Sequel (1982).

But this list is going to focus on films that include actual footage of their in-world movies. Sometimes, these films play an integral role in the plot, and sometimes, they’re just included for laughs. Either way, it’s a shame that these 10 movies can’t be watched in their entirety.

Related: 10 Fan Theories That Are Better Than the Actual Movies

10 The Night the Reindeer Died from Scrooged (1988)

Richard Donner’s Scrooged stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a miserly IBC Television executive. The movie opens with a trailer for IBC’s Christmas lineup, including Robert Goulet’s Old Fashioned Cajun Christmas and a Father Loves Beaver Christmas special.

But the highlight is most definitely the Christmas action film The Night the Reindeer Died. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves are busy preparing for Christmas when Santa’s workshop is suddenly besieged by “psychos.” Thankfully, Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors (playing himself) shows up to save Santa, who tells the actor, “You’ve been a real good boy this year!”

Although intended as a joke, a few comedy action Christmas movies in this vein have hit screens in recent years. Fatman (2020) stars Mel Gibson as a badass Santa who takes on a hitman, while Violent Night (2022) offers up David Harbour as a weapon-wielding Santa.[1]

9 The Stab Franchise from the Scream Franchise

(Spoilers for the Scream franchise ahead.)

Stab first shows up in Scream 2 (1997), with the fictional film being based on The Woodsboro Murders, the book written by Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), which details the events of the first film. Stab is directed by Robert Rodriguez (not really, though) and stars Heather Graham as Casey Becker (played by Drew Barrymore in Scream), Tori Spelling as Sidney Prescott (originally Neve Campbell), and Luke Wilson as Billy Loomis (originally Skeet Ulrich).

Further footage from the Stab movies is seen in Scream 4 (2011), which opens with Sherrie (Lucy Hale) and Trudie (Shenae Grimes) being murdered. It’s then revealed that this is a scene from Stab 6, which is being watched by Rachel (Anna Paquin) and Chloe (Kristen Bell). Rachel complains about current horror movies lacking surprise and being too meta, only to be stabbed by Chloe. This is then revealed to be a scene from Stab 7, meaning that Stab 6 is a film-within-a-film-within-a-film.

A very short clip of the 2021 Stab reboot, directed by Rian Johnson (again, not really), appears in Scream (2022). A chrome-masked Ghostface is seen wielding a flamethrower and yelling, “That sh*t is lit.” This line is actually said by Matthew Lillard, one of the original Ghostfaces.[2]

8 Rick Dalton’s Films in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)

Throughout Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, we get glimpses of fictional actor Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) filmography. A few of these films are real but have Dalton added in, such as his appearance as Virgil Hilts in The Great Escape (1963), who was actually played by Steven McQueen.

But there are also a few movies that were created specifically for Dalton to star in, although they are based on real films. For instance, there’s Operazione Dyn-o-Mite, an Italian James Bond-style movie that uses footage from Sergio Corbucci’s Moving Target (aka Death on the Run) (1967).

There’s also The 14 Fists of McCluskey, which sees Dalton torch a room full of Nazis with a flamethrower à la Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009), a movie which also includes a fictional film within it: Nazi propaganda film Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride).[3]

7 Pineapple Express 2: Blood Red from This Is the End (2013)

After the success of Pineapple Express (2008), Seth Rogen, the film’s co-writer and co-star, had plans for a sequel, but it was shot down by Sony. In 2020, Rogen explained that “we probably wanted too much money.” With Pineapple Express 2 axed, the idea for the sequel was included as a film within the apocalyptic comedy film This Is the End. Rogen and Pineapple Express co-star James Franco are trapped in the same house together (and are playing themselves) and end up shooting the sequel in home movie style.

Pineapple Express 2: Blood Red starts with Red (Danny McBride) being the ruling drug lord, but his business is threatened by Woody Harrelson (played by Jonah Hill) wanting to legalize weed. Dale (Rogen) and Saul (Franco) are forced to assassinate Harrelson, or Red will assassinate them. The low production values—toy cars are used for the car chase scene, for instance—are what really make the movie.[4]

6 Batman vs. E.T. from Chip’ n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)

Chip’ n Dale: Rescue Rangers is full of cameos, easter eggs, and background jokes. While walking down the street in one scene, Chip sees posters for a variety of fake movies, including Mr. Doubtfire (with Meryl Streep in the gender-flipped lead role), Fast & Furious Babies (this one might only be a matter of time), and Batman vs. E.T., which he reckons “looks pretty good.”

He ends up watching this parody of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which ends with E.T. dying in Batman’s arms but saying, “E.T. forgive Bat,” to which the Dark Knight replies, “Fine.” While the line delivery is likely to get a laugh from most viewers, Chip sheds a tear for the dying alien and declares, “Yeah, right, like that would happen.”[5]

5 Jump Street Sequels from 22 Jump Street (2014)

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 22 Jump Street ends with Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) asking Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) to go undercover on another mission, which they decline. But this ending didn’t satisfy test audiences. “All they want at that point in the movie is to think that this goes on forever and ever and ever,” Lord told Buzzfeed. “And then, of course, we thought of a way to do that.”

So the end credits of the film offer a glimpse into some imaginary sequels, all while poking fun at franchises going off the rails. Some of these sequels only get posters, such as 38 Jump Street: Dance Academy and 43 Jump Street: Mariachi School. For others, though, they filmed short clips, some of which feature fun cameos. 27 Jump Street: Culinary School stars Bill Hader as the villain, while 29 Jump Street: Sunday School swaps out Jonah Hill for Seth Rogen, with assurances that no one will notice.[6]

4 Mant! from Matinee (1993)

Set in the early 1960s, Joe Dante’s Matinee revolves around Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman), a William Castle-esque filmmaker, promoting his new movie, Mant!. Given that clips from Mant! were to be played in the cinema throughout the movie, Dante shot Mant! first, and it amounted to a full 15-minute-long short film.

Mant! is a love letter to ’50s monster movies, taking inspiration from films such as Them! (1954) and The Fly (1958). Although comedic in tone, in a 2010 interview, Dante said, “I didn’t want to make fun of [those movies].” He says that “for the most part, the higher-end pictures had pretty good effects for the period,” so he told the effects team, “Don’t do deliberately cheesy effects. Do effects that are pretty much the way they would have been done at that time.”[7]

3 Numerous Films from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Toward the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the titular characters get onto the Miramax studio lot and make their way through the shooting of several films. There’s the then-fictional Scream 4 (the actual movie didn’t come out until 2011), starring Shannen Doherty and an orangutan as Ghostface. There’s also Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season, in which Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Scott William Winters (the ponytail jerk in the bar) reprise their roles from Good Will Hunting (1997). After verbally sparring, this time, Will pulls out a shotgun and blows the guy away.

Then, of course, there’s the film adaptation of Bluntman and Chronic, based on the in-world comic books that use their likeness. Jay and Silent Bob are mistaken for stunt doubles and wind up in the movie. They have to fight supervillain Cocknocker (played by Mark Hamill) in a Star Wars-esque battle, with Hamill even declaring “Don’t f*ck with the Jedi Master, son.”[8]

2 Hamlet from Last Action Hero (1993)

Meta comedy action movie Last Action Hero stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jack Slater, the main character of an action franchise beloved by Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien). The film opens on the climax of Jack Slater III, which sees Slater hilariously steamroll his way through the scene and even features Tina Turner in her last film role before she died. The movie properly kicks off when Danny goes to see Jack Slater IV in the cinema and is sucked into the film-within-a-film during a car chase.

But one of the best scenes in the movie occurs when Danny is in class watching Sir Lawrence Olivier in Hamlet (1948), and daydreams of Slater in the lead role. Rather than dithering like Shakespeare’s version of the character, Slater brazenly murders Claudius and everyone who stands in his way. “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and Hamlet is taking out the trash,” the narrator says. A feature-length film of Schwarzenegger as Hamlet definitely deserves to be made.[9]

1 Angels with Filthy Souls from Home Alone (1990)

If you grew up thinking that the black-and-white gangster movie in Home Alone was real, then let me reassure you that you weren’t alone—even Macaulay Culkin thought it was an actual movie! This film—which features the iconic line “Keep the change, ya filthy animal”—plays a crucial role in helping Kevin fight off the Wet Bandits (and also makes a brief appearance in the 2019 movie Detective Pikachu).

The film-within-the-film was shot in one day, right before principal photography began. At the time of shooting, it was untitled, with art director Dan Webster explaining, “I believe the title was decided upon only because we needed to create a label for the tape Kevin puts in the VHS player.” The name they picked, Angels with Filthy Souls, is a nod to the crime noir film Angels with Dirty Faces (1938).

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) then necessitated a sequel for Angels with Filthy Souls, this time titled Angels with Even Filthier Souls—once again starring Ralph Foody as the murderous Johnny. Foody was actually originally cast to play Snakes in the first film, but he swapped roles with Michael Guido because his recent knee-replacement surgery meant that he wouldn’t be able to fall when the character was shot.[10]

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