18 Movies That Did Meta Humor Better Than 'Deadpool'

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Vote up the meta movies that turn themselves into a classic punchline.

Deadpool likely introduced meta humor to many younger filmgoers, but a number of movies have done it even better than the wisecracking Marvel character. Whether self-aware, self-parodical, or self-referential, these meta movies bring the audience in on the jokes about the movie and the filmmaking process itself. Most films try and make the audience forget that what they're watching is fictional, but these movies embrace and exploit the medium, overtly manipulating it so the audience is aware. Meta movies intentionally expose the inner workings of the film form, often with hilarious and clever results.

Many of these movies openly acknowledge their own cinematic tropes, often using the fictional nature of the medium to take apart the genre or cinematic/storytelling conventions. Other times they exploit the audience’s awareness of the filmmaking and film viewing process. They may even break the fourth wall and speak to the audience directly. Rather than forgetting we are in a movie theater, we're reminded of this fact by these films, which are often more amusing for doing so.

Which meta-movie moments do you think are better, funnier, or more ingenious than Deadpool? Vote up your favorites below!

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    522 VOTES

    Meta Construct: Western parody Blazing Saddles is filled with intentional historical inaccuracies, including appearances and mentions of modern elements in the period setting. The film’s main villain is an attorney general named Hedley Lamarr, a clear reference to Golden Age actress Hedy Lamarr. 

    Memorable Moment: When Lamarr sends an army of thugs to take out the townspeople and their newly appointed sheriff (Cleavon Little), the brawl breaks the fourth wall of the movie set and into the nearby film set of a glamorous musical. This continues as the fight extends outside of the studio and into the streets of Burbank until ending up at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre premiere showing of... Blazing Saddles.

    Why It Works: The characters in the movie are unsurprised by the fact they exist in a movie, directly addressing it in the film’s climactic moments. As Lamarr attempts to escape the final fight, he jumps into a taxi and insists he be driven out of the picture. Similarly, the heroic sheriff protagonist and his sidekick dismount their horses to drive off in a limousine in the film’s final moments.

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  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
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    Meta Construct: The story is a parody of the legend of King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail, but much of the humor comes from the self-aware presentation of the narrative. Animation is blended with live-action, and the fourth wall is often broken, bringing the audience in on the jokes. The style of humor is adopted from Monty Python's Flying Circus, though the absurdity reached new levels in the feature film. 

    Memorable Moment: In one particularly memorable moment, a character suddenly turns to the camera and proclaims to the audience they think it is the best scene in the film. Suddenly, the scene cuts to a series of interviews with other characters from the film voicing their own opinions on the matter. Not only does this direct address acknowledge the audience, it also suggests all of the characters are aware they are in a movie.

    Why It Works: If the characters know they are in a fictional film, it removes all dramatic stakes from the narrative. This allows Monty Python to be as silly as they would like without any repercussions.

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    319 VOTES

    Meta Construct: Duck Amuck begins as a typical Merrie Melodies cartoon starring Daffy Duck as a musketeer... until the background animation suddenly vanishes. Daffy breaks the fourth wall to address the animator and continues to give him instructions throughout the remainder of the cartoon, all of which are ignored or purposefully misinterpreted.

    Memorable Moment: The final moment revealing Bugs Bunny to be the animator is a perfect twist to the already groundbreaking piece of meta cinema.

    Why It Works: The short acknowledges that nothing is concrete or inflexible in the world of animation, even changing the character design of Daffy himself. At one point the animator threatens to erase Daffy entirely. This approach continually reminds the audience what they are watching is entirely at the whim of the animator.

  • Meta Construct: When a young boy named Danny (Austin O'Brien) is given the opportunity to see an advanced screening of a new film in the popular Jack Slater action franchise, he inexplicably gets pulled into the world of the movie.

    Memorable Moment: The film’s villain escapes the film and comes up with a plan to terminate Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor who plays Jack Slater. Schwarzenegger as Slater then escapes the film to save Schwarzenegger the actor, who is attending the premiere of his latest film.

    Why It Works: Despite his intimidating size, Schwarzenegger plays himself as nothing more than a scared actor, in contrast to the hyper-masculine screen persona that saves his life.

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  • Meta Construct: What begins as a formulaic horror movie borrowing tropes from the slasher genre is revealed to be an elaborate construct intended to lure targets into a horror setting being monitored by a team of technicians in an underground facility. The victims are even manipulated to behave in a stereotypical fashion, fitting into the molds often found in horror movies.

    Memorable Moment: When two of the horror construct’s latest sacrifices find their way down into the underground facility, they discover a multitude of monsters held captive. Many are recognizable creatures from popular horror genres.

    Why It Works: The technicians watching via hidden cameras are essentially stand-ins for a film crew. This situation resembles a horror movie being made with real violence and without the cast made aware. There are also implications the horror films audiences watch in theaters were created in this manner.

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    Meta Construct: Horror legend Wes Craven created a self-referential slasher with Scream, establishing the rules of the horror genre before subverting them at every turn.

    Memorable Moment: When the character of Randy (played by Jamie Kennedy) is watching Halloween on TV, he yells at the film’s leading actor Jamie Lee Curtis to "look out." He repeatedly says her name, telling her to look out “behind you, Jamie!” At the same time, Ghostface sneaks up behind Randy. As Randy is telling the actor Curtis to look out for the killer behind her in Halloween, the audience might also be saying the same thing to the actor Jamie in Scream.

    Why It Works: Scream works as the very type of horror movie that it is simultaneously parodying. This tradition has continued throughout the series, including the 2022 installment.