The Best Urban Legends About Movies

Clarisse Loughrey

It's alright, guys. This is not a Top 10 of the Urban Legend franchise, of which the original of course starred both Jared Leto and Tara Reid. That would be silly because there's only three of those movies and none of them deserve to be put anywhere near the word "top". No, we're talking about the real thing, the kind of stories which can only be whispered around a campfire with a torch lighting up your face or forwarded as part of a really, really retro email chain. So, my brother's friend's uncle once swore that...

1. There's a ghost in 3 Men and a Baby (1987).

Possibly one of the most well-known and revered urban legends, about one of the least well-known and least revered movies (does anyone ever actually refer to 3 Men and a Baby anymore outside of the whole ghost caught on tape thing?). The full version of the legend also includes the shot you can see slightly earlier on in this clip, where you can briefly see something that looks a little bit like a shotgun in the same place the figure of a boy is later seen standing behind the curtains. The story goes that a 9-year-old boy shot himself in the house they used in the film, with the grieving family moving away and leaving the lot vacant. Which is an interesting theory considering the movie was shot on a soundstage in Toronto. And the little boy is actually a cardboard cut-out of Jack (Ted Danson) which featured in a cut storyline where he stars in a dog food commercial. But sure, ghosts.

2. Where's Wally appears for one frame in Apocalypto (2006).

This one sounds totally insane, I know. If I was going to pick one of these urban legends that was least likely to be true I would go for this one. I would easier believe that the devil had put a curse on a film than someone thought that it was appropriate to put a single frame of Where's Waldo sitting on a mass grave. Well. I've learnt an important life lesson today: you must never, absolutely never, underestimate Mel Gibson. Because this urban legend is 100 per cent true and there is indeed a single frame of Where's Waldo sitting on a mass grave in Apocalypto. Don't go rushing to your DVD copy though (I assume we all totally have a DVD copy of this, riiiight?) as the frame was unfortunately edited out of the DVD version. However, you can see a single frame of Mel Gibson looking crazy (as usual) and smoking in one of the trailers for the movie, right at 1.38.

3. Kubrick helped fake the moon landings and gave away clues in The Shining (1980).

Anyone who's seen the insane/brilliant Room 237 will be very familiar with this movie urban legend and the imagery Kubrick uses in The Shining (the pattern in the rug, Danny's rocket jumper). However, this theory actually has its beginnings in a mockumentary made in 2002 by French filmmaker William Karel called Dark Side of the Moon, that was actually made with the permission of Kubrick's family and NASA personnel (who even appear in the mockumentary themselves). However, conspiracy theorists took the whole thing literally and started shopping the theory around as if it was genuine, adding The Shining imagery to bulk their evidence up.

4. A munchkin hung himself on-screen in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

This is one of those unfortunate incidences of a fun urban legend from people's youths – one that started roughly around 1989, around the 50th anniversary VHS re-release – turning into a crappy Internet hoax thanks to some 13-year-old boy. When the rumour first started, people were of course watching this on smaller, lower quality screens, making something indistinct moving in the background of a scene a breeding ground for these kinds of theories. However, once the cleaned-up DVD version was released, everyone realised that the swinging thing in the background was, in fact, a crane. So then instead of just laying the whole theory to rest, someone decided to warp the minds of people too young to have ever seen the original VHS version and make this crappy altered footage of the original VHS and thus ruin all the fun of the '80s for everyone. Boo on you, Internet child.

5. A stuntman was killed during the making of Ben-Hur (1959)

This urban legend is actually pretty much the biggest compliment you could give to the special effects team behind this film. The specially weighted dummies used during Ben-Hur's famous chariot race were so convincing that people began to believe someone had actually been killed during its making. In fact, the only injury – from what was admittedly a dangerous series of stunts – was suffered by the stunt choreographer's own son. Joe Cannutt (son of Yakima) fell out of his chariot and had to receive four stitches on his chin. Hard to make a scandal out of that one; more of a major boo-boo than a grievous injury. The rumour, however, may also have unfortunately sprung out of the fact that a stuntman did die during the filming of the earlier 1925 silent Ben-Hur, which also sadly claimed several equine lives over the course of its filming.

6. The Superman franchise is cursed.


Apparently the devil was just as keen that a Superman franchise never got made. There have been a number of unfortunate incidences that have occured to actors who have played the superhero in his various outings. Original actor George Reeves tragically died of a gunshot wound which, although ruled as suicide, some still consider him a victim of foul play. Christopher Reeves was famously paralysed after being thrown from a horse and Lee Quigley, who played Superman as a baby in the 1978 film, died aged 14 from solvent abuse. Can someone just ring Brandon Routh, Dean Cain, and Henry Cavill real quick and check up on them?

7. An alternate ending to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) was cut because of fear of causing offense.

Alternative endings to classic movies are nothing new, and we all love to ponder on what might have been if Duckie had ended up with Andie in Pretty in Pink or Scott Pilgrim had ended up with Knives. However, what is weird is an alternate ending that doesn't actually exist. The urban legend consists of an "Australian version" of the movie meant to show the U.S. Army Logo getting burned off the crate containing the Ark, in the same way a German Army emblem burnt off earlier in the film. The point being that this is God's property and ain't nobody gonna mess with it. This was supposedly cut out of the U.S. release in fear of offending freedom-loving American sensibilities. Shame it's all lies then and there's absolutely no evidence of it anywhere. No footage, no script notes, no nothing. Try again, people trying to diss America.

8. Walt Disney's last written words were "Kurt Russell".


It's worth noting here that Kurt Russelll was around in those days, and Mr. Disney hadn't psychically predicted Escape from New York. Russell was a child actor who had done a Disney film called Follow Me, Boys! in 1966, about a Boy Scout troop being predictably wholesome and lovely. It happened to be the last movie Disney directly worked on before his death. Now, the actor himself has lent validity to this urban legend by claiming he was taken into Disney's office, which remained exactly as it was at his death, and show the piece of paper in which his name was written. However, while it may have been the last thing Disney wrote in his office, he died a whole two months after his last visit to the studio. And if we're getting really technical, he actually wrote Kirt Russell. So if there's a Kirt Russell out there, you've just earned your claim to fame, dude.

9. The Omen (1976) is cursed. 

It's the movie the devil didn't want to get made. Supposedly. The curse rumour began to spread after a series of disturbing events took place: flights taken by both Gregory Peck and producer Mace Neufeld were hit by lightning, and another producer, Harvey Bernhard, barely missed getting hit by a lightning bolt in Rome. Most chilling of all, special effects artist John Richardson was involved in a car accident that decapitated his girlfriend in a similar way to one of the deaths in the movie. This urban legend does sound pretty chilling, until you realise the exact same thing is being claimed about The Exorcist AND Poltergeist. Which essentially boils it down to this for any horror filmmakers out there: make a crap horror film and you're a disappointment to your parents. Make a good one and you die in a horrible, mysterious accident.

10. Back to the Future II (1989) predicted the outcome of the 1997 World Series.

I know it really breaks your heart to face the daily reality that Marty McFly is a fictional character, but this is a depressing world we live in. Back to the Future II isn't a truthful representation of future events and we're going to have to wait longer than two years for hoverboards. Perhaps, then, a naive hopefulness was the reason behind people misremebering the scene in which Marty watches a holographic sports news broadcast stating the Chicago Cubs beat a Miami team with a gator mascot to win the World Series. Never is the year 1997 or the Florida Marlins winning any kind of World Series ever mentioned, or any other similar victory happening before 2015. The only thing Back to the Future did predict was that Miami would get a team (although their mascot is a marlin and not a gator), which it didn't have back in 1989, but that was only a logical guess considering it was one of the largest metropolitan areas not to have a team at the time. That said, if the Chicago Cubs do beat the Florida Marlins in 2015 we are all officially allowed to freak out.

So there you have it. Nine Hollywood un-truths and one very true truth. But what are your own cinematic urban legends? Are there some you're still unsure as to their truthfulness or not? Let's join together, buy a Mystery Machine, and figure this all out!

Unconventional by Tradition

Discover how urban creatives helped us design our new packaging.

Read more