17 Imaginary Friends In Movies Who Make A Real Impact On The Plot

List Rules
Vote up the imaginary characters who feel the most real.

Film is a visual medium, and often finds tangible ways to convey the inner worlds of a character’s thoughts. One way this is accomplished is with an imaginary friend, creating a tangible representation of the internal dialogue we all often carry out with ourselves. A physical representation of this internal creation is accomplished by casting an actual actor to play that role of imagined companion. Young children may use an imaginary friend to develop social skills, while adults may revive them to cope with a difficult period. These are healthy representations of the concept, which are also often used to convey mental instability. And then there are the films with imaginary friends who may be real, implying a supernatural element to their existence.

Whether a healthy part of childhood, a coping mechanism for struggling adults, or an indication of the supernatural, what is important in these films about imaginary friends is the impact they have on the narrative. Real or not, they have license in the power of influence held over the protagonist. Either by motivating the main character’s action or by directly interacting with the physical world, these “imagined” characters have a tangible impact on the plot.

Which of these imaginary characters feel the most real? Vote up your favorite fabricated friend!

Warning: Some spoilers ahead!

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    10 VOTES

    Drop Dead Fred In 'Drop Dead Fred'

    The Imaginary Friend: As a child, Elizabeth Cronin (Ashley Peldon) has a mischievous imaginary friend named Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall), but he becomes trapped in a jack-in-the-box by her overbearing mother (Marsha Mason). When Elizabeth discovers the toy after being forced to move back in with her mother as an adult (Phoebe Cates), she inadvertently unleashes the imaginary childhood friend back into the world.

    His Impact: Despite his best intentions, Fred’s immature presence initially only brings chaos to Elizabeth's life. Eventually, he also proves helpful to her efforts to find independence from her unfaithful husband (Tim Matheson), alerting her about his continuing affair with another woman. Once Fred has achieved this, he moves on to be the imaginary friend of another child.

  • The Imaginary Friend: When the unnamed Narrator (Edward Norton) of Fight Club suffers from insomnia due to general dissatisfaction with his job and life, it results in the creation of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). For much of the runtime, the Narrator believes Tyler is a living person others can see, unaware he is only a manifestation of his own repressed thoughts and desires. The two become fast friends, despite having opposite personalities, forming an underground fight ring together.  

    His Impact: Influenced by the lifestyle and belief systems of Tyler Durden, the Narrator drastically alters his own approach to existence. He gives up his modern apartment to move into Tyler's rundown home and begins to give in to base impulses. Not only does he have conversations with Tyler that impact his decisions, but his charismatic imaginary friend also completely takes control of his body when he's asleep (or believes he's asleep). Although the Narrator seems content with the fight club, Tyler is determined to escalate the mayhem.

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    13 VOTES

    Frank The Rabbit In 'Donnie Darko'

    The Imaginary Friend: Woken up by an inhuman voice late one night, Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is called outside his home where he discovers Frank, a man dressed in a monstrous rabbit costume. While existing as an imaginary friend that only Donnie can see, Frank also exists in the real world as his sister’s boyfriend, Frank Anderson (James Duval). In the future, Anderson dies on Halloween while wearing the rabbit costume, and his spirit travels back from the future to guide Donnie as Frank the Rabbit.

    His Impact: Frank first reveals himself to tell Donnie that the world will end in “28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.” He then appears throughout the film to give instructions to Donnie, directing him to vandalize the high school and burn down the house of a local motivational speaker (Patrick Swayze) who has a deeply troubling secret. There is evidence that Frank is guiding Donnie to certain events so that he will eventually travel back in time to alter a defining moment in the narrative.

  • The Imaginary Friend: Growing up in Germany during the final years of WWII, 10-year-old Johannes "Jojo" Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis) creates an imaginary friend in the form of an amiable version of Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) to build confidence and cope with being a loner.

    His Impact: Adolf’s influence on Jojo is apparent early in the narrative when he convinces the young boy to throw a live hand grenade while attending a training camp for the junior section of the Hitler Youth organization. This incident leaves Jojo injured, but not at all deterred from taking the advice of his imaginary friend. It isn’t until the young boy is exposed to the inhumanity of the regime that he begins to push back against Adolf’s beliefs.

  • The Imaginary Friend: When film critic Allan Felix (Woody Allen) reenters the world of dating following a divorce, he manifests Humphrey Bogart’s character of Rick Blaine (played by Jerry Lacy) from the film Casablanca to give him advice. Only Felix is aware of Bogart’s presence, donning the iconic hat and trench coat.

    His Impact: Bogart’s ghostly appearance aids Felix in gaining confidence to date again, just as the plot of Casablanca motivates a sacrificial decision from the critic after he falls in love with his best friend’s wife (Diane Keaton). Ultimately, it takes attempting to be Bogart for Felix to learn the importance of being himself, especially once he has fulfilled the dream of acting out the final moment of his favorite film.

  • The Imaginary Friend: Harvey is the invisible best friend of the good-natured Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart), a man who enjoys socializing and introducing people to the companion only he can see. Despite others being unable to see him, Dowd describes Harvey as a 6-foot white rabbit, believing him to be a mythical creature known as a "pooka." According to Dowd, the two met during a heavy night of drinking at a local bar.

    His Impact: Dowd’s insistence upon Harvey’s existence results in his sister (Josephine Hull) attempting to have him committed to a sanatorium. When a treatment is formulated to remove Dowd’s ability to see his invisible friend, it is implied that Harvey intervenes, so it gets stopped in time. Harvey’s ability to befriend one of the institution’s psychiatrists is another indicator that he may exist beyond the mind of Dowd.