List of fiction that breaks the fourth wall  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The following is a list of examples of fiction that breaks the fourth wall for dramatic or comedic effect.

Contents

Theatre

  • Bertolt Brecht's alienation, or Verfremdungseffekt, was intended to constantly remind the audience that they were watching a show, with the idea that their response would be more thoughtful. Similarly, Brecht's The Good Woman of Szechuan ends with one of the characters exhorting the audience to not be angry with the unpleasant conclusion to the story, and encouraging them to make a happy ending themselves. Brecht breaks the fourth wall at the end of The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) for similar reasons.
  • In Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, the fourth wall is not even there to be broken down. Some actors are getting ready for rehearsal when six characters whose author has died, leaving them incomplete, enter the room. The director decides to include the characters in the play they are rehearsing and soon all the lines between fiction and reality have disappeared.
  • Perhaps one of the most famous instances of breaking the fourth wall is Puck's narration at the end of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream where he states that if the audience were somehow offended, they should think it but a dream "and all shall be mended". At other times during A Midsummer Night's Dream, actors in the play break the fourth wall by explaining crucial details to the royalty watching their performance.
  • Yet another incident of the fourth wall being broken in Shakespearean plays is the last piece of dialogue in The Tempest where Prospero directly addresses the audience asking for applause to help him sail home. Some believe that this is actually the voice of Shakespeare himself saying goodbye to writing for theatre as "The Tempest" is his last known play.
  • The biblical characters in the English medieval mystery plays do not hesitate to address the audience when appropriate. For example in the Killing of Abel in the Towneley cycle, just after he has slain his brother, Cain says to the audience: if any of you think I did amiss, I shall amend it worse than it is ([1] line 331).
  • In Thornton Wilder's play Our Town, several characters (chiefly the Stage Manager) break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience.

Radio and television

  • In almost every episode of TV program The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950-1958) George would explain the situation to the audience and then go upstairs and watch the rest of the program on TV. In an interview, Burns claims that the first time this was contemplated, the sponsors objected and threatened to pull sponsorship of the show. They went ahead anyway and the episode was wildly successful.
  • The TV series The Twilight Zone had host Rod Serling directly facing the camera and talking to the television audience at the beginning of every episode to open the program. In most of the episodes there would be a comment by Serling at the end about the show, but the characters in the show are unaware of Serling's existence. This practice of him appearing on camera started with the last episode of the first season, "A World of His Own", where Gregory West, a writer, is able to create people at whim simply by recording their descriptions on tape, and could destroy them by simply throwing the tape (which was in an envelope with their name on it) into the blazing fire in his fireplace. At the end of the episode, Rod Serling is describing to the audience how this is purely a work of fiction, when the protagonist of that episode, able to hear him, interrupts him by saying, "Rod! You shouldn't!" West then removes an envelope from his safe bearing the name "Rod Serling" on it, and while continuing to denegrate Serling's choice of words, throws it into the fire. Serling then says, "Well, that's the way it goes," and disappears, same as other characters the protagonist had created who were later destroyed.
  • Every episode of the 60's series The Saint had Simon Templar (Roger Moore) address the audience directly during the pre-credits sequence. In the later episodes it was on voice-over. Frequently the character engaged in 'invisible dialogue' with the audience (as in "You don't believe me? Watch...") These invariably had very little to do with the action which followed it, but allowed the character to look directly at the camera (under a halo) when the words "So you are the famous Simon Templar" were spoken.
  • The Pirandello play was parodied in a Goon Show episode entitled "Six Charlies in Search of an Author", in which the characters seize the typewriter from one another to write in miraculous escapes, suddenly acquired weapons, descriptions of their own bravery, and the like. All of the Goon Show plots alternated between honouring the fourth wall and breaking it.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus broke the fourth many times, often as a deus ex machina — namely, a character would point out something about the nature of the ongoing scene, only for the story to abruptly proceed from there.
  • The television series Up Pompeii, as well as three spin-off films, has lead character Lurcio—played by Frankie Howerd—narrate scene commentary and introduce characters to the audience throughout. He rarely finished these to-camera pieces before being interrupted by something happening in-scene.
  • Pokémon often breaks the fourth wall, mostly through Team Rocket, such as in one episode, Meowth states that the cartoonists never gave him a nose, and in another episode, when James asks why they didn't use a plan in the first place, Jesse states that they had to fill a half-hour show. On a some occassions, they also address the audience directly. Ironically, Team Rocket seems to be the only ones aware of being in a cartoon.
  • In an episode of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, while trying to figure out who was scaring the TV station out of business, Fred blames it on Red Herring, but is then told that he is not in that episode.
  • Moonlighting regularly broke the fourth wall, often including dialogue that made direct reference to the scriptwriters, the audience, the network or the series itself. Sometimes, but not always, a character directly faced or pointed to the camera when breaking the wall. In the show's final episode, the lead characters returned to their office to find a network executive who told them they'd been cancelled as the sets were dismantled by studio crews.
  • Garry Shandling's It's Garry Shandling's Show on Showtime regularly broke the fourth wall. The studio audience of the show was treated as part of the cast and many times played a significant role in the plot development. Many times other cast members were also aware of the audience and participated in the exchange between Shandling and the audience.
  • A number of police and detective series broke the fourth wall briefly in order to better involve the audience in the episodes. Examples include early seasons of the 1962-1969 series, The Saint, Decoy and the mid-1970s series, Ellery Queen. In the case of Ellery Queen, the fourth wall was broken to allow the titular character to directly invite the audience to help solve the mystery (a gimmick held over from the radio version of the series).
  • Another show that has a habit for breaking the fourth wall is the BBC1 kids/adults sitcom Basil Brush. There has been more than one occasion. Notable comments include, "That's more than I get for the whole show" (Basil), "The end of the series, Basil" (Mr Stephen), and, "Basil Brush off the air!", and many more.
  • Similarly, the Zack Morris character on Saved by the Bell would often declare a "time out", which would cause the characters present to "freeze". Once in a while he breaks continuity and uses the "time out" to escape a dangerous or embarrassing situation. Morris frequently addresses the audience in virtually every episode, especially in the High School and College years.
  • The character Stanley Roper, played by Norman Fell, would occasionally smirk at the camera for comedic effect after making a wisecrack in the sitcoms Three's Company and The Ropers.
  • The 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon often broke the fourth wall, mostly through Raphael or the bad guys. Examples:
    • At the beginning of "Super Rocksteady and Mighty Bebop", Shredder explains that he shouldn't be near Krang's Mezmerizer when Bebop and Rocksteady set it off. Krang says that Shredder doesn't have to explain it to him, since he (Krang) invented it. "I wasn't explaining it to you." Shredder states, pointing at the screen (and therefore, the viewers). "I was explaining it to them."
    • In the episode "April's Fool", the turtles are hanging on to a helicopter as it flies over the city. Raphael then turns to the camera and says "Remember, kids, we're professionals". Rocksteady also says a similar line after he and Bebop leap off a subway train in "Casey Jones, Outlaw Hero".
    • In "Once Upon a Time Machine", Donatello points out they have fourteen minutes to get back to their own time. Raphael then asks if that includes the commercials.
    • When Donatello was fantasizing about a place where the Turtles could be accepted for who they were in "Planet of the Turtleoids", Raphael tells the viewers, "If he starts singing, I advise you to switch over to another channel."
  • At the end of the Family Guy episode "Lethal Weapons", Peter complains about television networks. Lois tells him it's not a good idea to talk about the network, to which Peter replies, "What are they gonna do, cut our budget?" He then leaves the room in a purposely poorly done walk. Later, in "8 Simple Rules For Buying My Teenage Daughter", right before the first commercial break, Peter says to the viewers, "Stick around; more Family Guy coming up." Then at the end, he gives them a teaser for the next episode (although, ironically, what he says is not what happens then).
  • The cartoon Ed, Edd n Eddy has broken the fourth wall on a few occasions, such as Eddy asking if they won an Emmy for a certain episode, Edd stating that Eddy's "25 days in the pokey" line was from the wrong cartoon, and Ed, remembering something "as though it were only second season." The show also grazed the threshold in an episode when, while attempting to 'achieve wisdom,' the cartoon world began to make its inner workings visible for a short time (perspective, etc), without the characters acknowledging being in a cartoon, just before reality completely fell apart. A joke that could be considered 'running' is Edd's reference to scene transitions, which are made on two separate occasions.
  • Throughout the American Dad! episode "Bullocks to Stan", Klaus the Talking Fish continually acts as though he is aware of being in a cartoon. Then at the end of the episode, his voice is heard talking over the sequence. He explains that he is in fact pretending his life is a DVD and he's providing director commentary ("It's something I do while I'm waiting to die of fin rot").
  • The premise of Mystery Science Theater 3000, a TV series that mocks B-movies, includes both a science-fiction storyline and direct communication with the audience, and the two elements frequently come into conflict with each other. The resulting potential for confusion is humorously dismissed in the theme song's own Brechtian moment: "Just repeat to yourself, it's just a show / I should really just relax."
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will often smiles or looks toward the audience, at one time prompting Uncle Phil to ask, "What are you looking at?" The characters also pointed out the fact that they had a new actress playing the mom, and that the baby Nicky aged five years between two seasons. Also, in the beginning of one episode, Will's cousins are talking about how rich they are. When they leave the room, Will says "If we're so rich, how come we ain't got a ceiling?" The camera then pans up to show the studio lights. Another episode has Will and the Banks family visiting Philadelphia only to find that Will has been labeled a "chicken" since he left. It turns out people believe he left for Bel-Air because of a fight that prompted Will's mother to send his son away. When Carlton asks who these guys are, Will responds to the effect "It's the guys that beat me up at the beginning of every episode."
  • Characters from Cartoon Network's The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy often demonstrate their existence in a cartoon, with the extreme being an episode where Mandy gets fed up and "gets out of this cartoon".
  • In Butch Hartman's The Fairly Oddparents, there is an entire separate world, referred to as the comic book world, which is visited regularly. Some inhabitants of the comic book world, notably the Crimson Chin voiced by Jay Leno, have been allowed to know that their world is actually fictional, and often go between the world of the cartoon and the comic book world. The comic book world is characterized by posterized style animation and halftone pattern backgrounds.
  • In an episode of Stella, the trio decides to solve a conundrum by crawling up to the camera and asking the viewers for a solution.
  • Other shows where characters specifically adressing the audience are an important characteristic include the British series Lovejoy, the British con artist drama Hustle and American drama Once and Again — where characters would, in a dark room in black and white, address the camera in moments of confidence and commentary on ongoing events.
  • When alone, the individual members of the family in the BBC children's sitcom The Wild House routinely talked to the audience about whatever they were thinking about that episode, or whatever had just happened in the preceding scene.
  • On the Toon Disney show The Weekenders, Tino turns to the camera and addresses the audience during the beginning and ending of every episode. Sometimes, other characters take Tino's place or do it with him.
  • On The Flintstones, animals being used as household objects spoke to the viewers when complaining about their jobs. Sometimes, the main characters also complain to the audience.
  • Excel Saga constantly broke the fourth wall, to the point where the show's crew, especialy the director, Nabeshin, as well as the original manga's creator, Rikdo Koshi, often appear. Excel Excel (the main character) is killed in the first episode, and as this would leave little of a plot left, the Great Will of the Macrocosm does not allow it to be and revives Excel and resets the story as a result. Its spinoff, Puni Puni Poemy (Puni Puni Poemi), continues this even further, with the main character believing herself to be a voice actress, and that her father is the director, even referring to herself by her voice actress's name.
  • In the second season of Northern Exposure, during the episode "War and Peace" when two characters are about to engage in an old-fashioned showdown, Dr Fleischman calls a halt to the scene, suggesting that the audience knows that neither character is going to shoot the other dead. Ruth-Anne, a bystander, suggests they go with the fifth revision of the scene but that outcome is considered trite. Fleischman and O'Connell discuss the breaking of the fourth wall in the following scene
  • In the DuckTales episode "The Duck Who Knew Too Much", when Fenton Crackshell is climbing under a train, he turns to the camera and says, "Kids, don't try this at home!"
  • Dangermouse broke the fourth wall as a cliffhanger when he and Penfold ran through a door that led off the right-hand side of the "film" that they are in. Fortunately he had a spare inflatable car that he was able to use to drive back on to the film.
  • In Power Rangers: Ninja Storm, the characters (especially the humorous villain Lothor) broke the fourth wall a number of times parodying the campy events potrayed in the series.
  • Powerpuff Girls frequently features a narrator whose voice can sometimes be heard by the characters of the show. In one episode, Mojo Jojo kidnaps him and narrates the episode instead, controlling the actions of the Powerpuff Girls.
  • The final episode of the 1960s TV series The Avengers ended with the character of "Mother" turning to the camera and saying of John Steed and his assistant, Tara King (who have just accidentally launched themselves into orbit aboard a rocket), "Don't worry - they'll be back!"
  • In The Bernie Mac Show, oftentimes during the show, Bernie, while still in character, breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience, discussing what he's going through as a parent. He consistently addresses the audience as "America" (which, by the way, didn't prevent the show from being aired by foreign stations).
  • The BBC children's television series Maid Marian and Her Merry Men regularly broke the fourth wall, featuring musical numbers and narration performed straight to camera, as well as heavy irony, anachronism and a general awareness of structure. In one episode, the lead character Maid Marian bets Robin Hood that he can't keep his new white suit clean "until the end of the episode".
  • A recent episode of Will and Grace contained a scene where Will stared at another man and displayed interest, to which his friend Jack commented "America doesn't like to think of you as sexual."

Literature

  • The Illuminatus! Trilogy: The first book contains a capsule review of itself; also, at the end, the supercomputer FUCKUP determines that the events are all part of a book.
  • Many comic-strips (especially Garfield) have a habit of breaking the fourth wall to tell the readers what's happening or to complete a joke.
  • Grant Morrison's comic series The Invisibles has a story arc devoted one of the characters, the possibly time-travelling Ragged Robin, writing herself into the Invisibles story from the future through the use of sensory deprivation and dissociative drugs. At another point, one character directly addresses the reader. Morrison's other works, like Animal Man and The Filth make heavy use of similar meta-textualities.
  • P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves series occasionally break the fourth wall, with the narrator, Bertie Wooster, temporarily halting the story to directly describe how difficult it is to know where to begin, for example, or to ponder whether the reader would want a full description of a particular scene, or just a brief summary of the action. He generally refers to the readers as 'customers' (thus further reinforcing the effect of breaking the fourth wall), and often directly addresses these 'customers', e.g. "I don't know how you feel about London in August".
  • J.D. Salinger's character Holden Caulfield breaks the fourth wall in the novel The Catcher in the Rye, acknowledging the reader as a participant in the story and asking he or she to empathise with the situations that arise. The novel's first sentence engages the reader with this device: "If you really want to hear about it..." and then continues in a similar vein for the entirety.
  • Michael Ende's novel The Neverending Story is initially about a boy reading a fantasy novel, also called The Neverending Story. The characters in the inner novel gradually learn about their fictional nature and about the identity of the reader in the framing story, who himself becomes an active participant in the fantasy world.
  • In Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder, the fourth wall is broken in a way when the events and narrative contained in the first part of the story are revealed just to be part of a book written by a mysterious character, Major Albert Knag, for his equally mysterious daughter Hilde. Later it is broken inside this story as well, when a copy of Knag's book is found in a bookshop which exists only in the said book.
  • Manga author Osamu Tezuka is quite famous for interrupting his narratives with much the same intended purpose as Brecht. Usually this involves the appearance of a strange gourd-like creature with a pig-face which is based off Tezuka's sister's childhood doodles. Also famously the mysterious long-nosed figure who will enter panels saying "Here ta meet ya" at moments in a story to keep them from becoming maudlin, or melodramatic.
  • The Marvel Comics graphic novel character She-Hulk has in certain stories had the ability to know that she is a comic book character, allowing her to perform such oddities as tearing through the page and running over a page of advertisements in order to reach the otherwise inaccessible control centre of an enemy. At one time, she was even arguing with the author of her comic, John Byrne.
  • On the cover of one issue of Spider-Man the hero says "Bye Todd" in reference to it being the last issue by illustrator Todd McFarlane.
  • Another Marvel character, Deadpool, has occasionally broken the Fourth Wall in a similar comedic vein.
  • The webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del occasionally has the comic's author Tim Buckley appearing in the strip. The first time this happens, Buckley is shot with a crossbow by the strip's main character Ethan, who is apparently after revenge for the times in which he has randomly been hit with arrows himself - apparently the author's doing.
  • The webcomic Real Life by Greg Dean started breaking the fourth wall since the beginning of the strip by interacting with readers and creating a character, who is the cartoonist (who made a couple of appearences on the strip) with the power of god. The characters are very much aware that they are in a comic strip, but still try to follow their own lives.
  • The webcomic 1/0 breaks the fourth wall in almost every strip, with the exception of a few strips presented during a "Fourth Wall Week" (ironically requested by one of the characters of the comic). 1/0 examines the concept of the fourth wall extensively in various strips, ranging from the nature of the influence of the author over the comic world to the use of the presence or absence of the fourth wall (and thus the acknowlegement of an omnipotent "author") as a metaphor for religion.
  • Eric W. Schwartz, creator of the webcomic Sabrina Online, sometimes draws himself in the comic, as a bespectaled squirrel. In the strip, he appears as an overworked, not very social man, who doesn't always get respect from his characters.
  • The webcomic Bob and George breaks the fourth wall with alarming frequency and abandon. The author keeps popping in and out, and in one instance, his in-comic character gets killed, and the strip "fades away". This, however, was very early in the comic's history, and only a segue to some failed hand-drawn comics. A running gag involving fourth-wall breaking was the cast's constant disappointment with "the sound guy" and the sound effects he apparently supplies. Another is the fact that whenever a storyline arcs into another, the background changes. One scene depicts the character George running in panic when the background changes from blue to red, highly aware that the storyline was changing.
  • Stephen King's Dark Tower series breaks the fourth wall several times in the later books. Characters and settings from previous King novels play a major part in the plotline; some books even mentioned by name or used as major plot points. At one point, the main characters learn they are characters in a book. Further on, the characters travel to Maine to prevent Mr. King's death so he can finish writing the story.
  • The characters Viivi and Wagner in the Finnish comic Viivi & Wagner are usually aware that they live in a comic strip. Sometimes they complain about the strip's creator, Juba being too lazy to draw properly, or "selling out" to market powers. Once, Wagner got tired of Viivi's too short hair, and gave her more hair by drawing directly on the comic strip page.
  • The whole point of Choose Your Own Adventure books is to break the fourth wall, due to the fact that the reader has to choose his/her own path to a happy ending.

Film

metafilm
  • In the movie series, Neverending Story, particularly in the first one it could be seen that the fourth wall is not technically broken, instead the movie is itself about the concept of the breaking of a "fourth wall" in a book, blurring the lines between reality and fiction, and ultimately (albeit subtly) challenging the viewer to question his own fourth wall.
  • Looney Tunes were known to break the fourth wall to talk to the audience or letting you know of a film break. It was used most famously in Chuck Jones's landmark cartoon Duck Amuck (1953) where a "mysterious artist" tries to ruin Daffy Duck's cartoon.
  • Some movie characters make confused or amazed gestures at the audience. For example, in the movie Aladdin, Rajah the tiger looks at the viewers and says "Huh?"
  • In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the characters break the fourth wall frequently throughout the film. For example, King Arthur talks about a man at the bridge of eternal torment who was also in "scene 24". At another point, the Knights escape an animated monster due to a freak heart attack suffered by the cartoonist.
  • Some of the first popularized breaking of the fourth wall in cinema was courtesy of Groucho Marx, of the Marx Brothers, in films such as the 1929 film The Cocoanuts and the 1930 film Animal Crackers. In The Big Store, during a song, Groucho comments to the audience that a dress is red although the film cannot show it the because 'Technicolor is so expensive'. In Horse Feathers, At the beginning of a musical number, Groucho looks towards the camera and says "I have to stay here, but there's no reason the rest of you folks shouldn't go out into the lobby until this blows over"
  • In the movie Fat Albert, the characters state that they have lines to say, they are cartoons, and that somebody has to write a script for them to do things, early in the movie.
  • The 1966 movie Alfie has the main character (played by Michael Caine) talk to the audience often, and from the very first scene. The 2004 remake, starring Jude Law, also uses this technique.
  • The fourth wall is broken several times in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. One example is when Jay and Silent Bob talk with Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), and McNeil comments "... a Jay and Silent Bob movie? Who'd pay to see that?" and then the three of them glance at the camera, and out at the audience, with Silent Bob poorly suppressing a giggle.
  • In George of the Jungle, the narrator corrects a crowd ("They reacted with awe." "Awwww..." "I said, 'Awe.' 'A-W-E.'" "Oooh" "That's much better"), discusses with George, and during the sequence where the two hunters are hopelessly lost, they get into a fight with the narrator. Also, in its sequel, Lyle has a fight with the narrator and gets pulled out of the movie. And after Lyle falls in elephant poop, a Swahili says: "Bad guy falls in poop: Classic element of physical comedy. Now comes the part where we throw our heads back and laugh. Ready?", and the Swahili laugh.
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco stops the movie to tell the audience that he is the star of the film, and later, Kuzco in the movie has a fight with Kuzco as the narrator, who kept telling the audience what was happening from his point of view.
  • French director Jean-Luc Godard constantly reminded his audience that they were watching films, breaking the fourth wall through character asides, onscreen dialogue concerning story development, and the use of loud, bold text. His films include Week End, Masculin, féminin, and A Woman Is a Woman.
  • In Tom Arden's The Banned and Banished pentet, we are told in the prologue of each book to remember that 'the author is a liar', and that just reading the text without the correct tuition is a hanging offense. Finally, we are told that the reason it is all so dangerous is because the whole story was true.
  • In the movie Spaceballs, there are several instances where the actors know they're making a movie, such as Dark Helmet using a copy of the Spaceballs videotape to find the heroes, accidentally killing a camera man during a lightsaber scene, crashing into a camera during a close-up, etc. At one point, after a lengthy, obvious piece of plot exposition by Colonel Sandurz, Helmet turns to the camera (audience) and says "Everybody got that?". Also, during the diner scene, the man from the movie Alien says "Oh no, not again", due to the fact that this has happened in his movie. The video collection in which Spaceballs was found included many other Mel Brooks films. Brooks had broken the fourth wall earlier in his film Blazing Saddles, most notably when Harvey Korman is questioning exactly how he will pull off his evil plan before looking into the camera and saying "Why am I asking you?".
  • In The Lion King, while Pumbaa is singing, he sings "And I got down-hearted, every time that I.." and at this point, Timon stops him and, looking at the camera, says "Pumbaa, not in front of the kids." Similarly, in The Lion King 1 1/2, at one point, Rafiki looks at the camera and says "My work here is done."
  • In Top Secret!, Nick Rivers spews out an absurd summary of the plot of the movie thus far. Hillary Flammond replies "I know. It all sounds like some bad movie" at which point there is a long pause, followed by both actors looking directly at the camera (the audience).
  • In Funny Man - Due to the low budget the film has feeling off more than a documentry than an actually film, so it seems to come as no suprise that, there are at times during the movie when the Funny Man Speaks directly at the camera or at times just looks in it's direction as if he's antics are to make those watching sit up and take notice. In one instance he gives a frustrated look after failing to shoot a lady with a blunderbus, as she keeps unknowingly moving out of his firing line. During the closing credits a song called "Funny man" is played, during which The Funny Man suddenly starts talking over the top of this song telling the audiance to amongst other things, sing along. After the last of the credits have finished, we see Funny Man standing in a garden. He suddenly glares directly into the camera and says along the lines of, "How many times do I have to tell you? There's, NO rest for the wicked!" he then walks off camera.
  • Like in Top Secret!Reposessed - has ocassions when the forth wall is broken for comic affect, such as when Nancy Aglet, (Linda Blair) is first introduced, gothic music plays prompting her to freeze and look around to see where it's coming from. One most memorable scene has the possessed Nancy being challenged to display her powers, goaded on she growls "Well how about I?...", then suddenly looks directly at the camera, with an wicked ugly grin and snarls "...Break the film?" Prompting the film projector reel to suddenly stop and the current frame of the film, to burn up to the sound of tormented moaning.
  • In Space Jam, Bill Murray at the last half of the game says that the producer was a friend of his and that's how he got into the movie, in fact, the whole movie features the T.V and real life worlds clashing.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) arrive back in 1955, the same day as the events of the first film. Whilst reminding Marty that there are two Martys (the one from the first film, plus the one from the second film) and 2 Docs (the "native" 1955 Doc, plus the 1985 Doc who has come back to 1955) on this date, Doc says, "There are 2 of me here, plus there are 2 of you here!". While he says "2 of you here", he looks at the camera, as if acknowledging the fact that the audience have already been to November 12, 1955 in the first film.
  • Pokémon: The Movie 2000 had a part of the ending where Team Rocket (Jessie, James, and Meowth) complained that they did something genuinely heroic and nobody saw it. At that point, Slowking points to the audience and says something about how the audience paid witness.
  • In many animated cartoons, the cartoon characters will suddenly start talking directly to the audience, or encountering a break or tear in the film that the cartoon is being projected upon, or many other ways to remind the audience that they are watching an animated cartoon. Animation director Tex Avery was a pioneer of breaking the fourth wall, and in one of his cartoons, Big Heel Watha, the main character proclaims at one point "In a cartoon, you can do anything!"
  • Ingmar Bergman's film Persona is bookended by two shots of a projector turning on and off; halfway through the film, the camera turns around and shows the director and his crew.
  • The Winnie the Pooh featurettes often had the characters being aware of being in a book. For example, in Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, Tigger bounces all the way to the top of a tree, declaring that he "almost bounced clear out of the book!" Then the narrator converses with Tigger as he helps him down from the tree. Also, in Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore, the narrator offers to help settle a dispute between Tigger and Eeyore.
  • In Sling Blade the character of Karl Childers, as played by Billy Bob Thornton, breaks the fourth wall very early in the film by turning his head and gazing directly into the camera while walking down a street. Parts of Karl's monologue are also directed towards the camera. When asked about these techniques on Inside the Actor's Studio, Thornton said that he was simply attempting to connect with the audience and that he did not understand why some film purists criticize the breaking of the fourth wall.
  • The Austin Powers film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me has the titular character and his superior, Basil Exposition, trying to explain the workings of time travel to each other before Austin says "I've gone cross-eyed." Basil replies that it's best not to think too much about how it all works, and turns to the camera and says to the audience, "That goes for you all, too" as Austin grins sheepishly at the camera.
  • At the very end of the Charlie Brown special I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown, Charlie remarks "Sometimes I lay awake at night and ask myself when it all ends. Then a voice comes and tells me 'after the credits'."
  • The entire concept of The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse is built around breaking the fourth wall. After characters in Royston Vasey discover that they are fictional and the fate of their world is under threat due to the writers planning to abandon the series, they find a way into the real world to confront them. One character even takes over the life of the actor who portrays him.
  • Anguish (film) - Somewhat is similar to the Neverending Story as it could not be seen as technically, breaking the "fourth wall", but does feature around a complex plot in which the first storyline is shown about a third of the way turning out to be a motion picture being observed by a number of onlookers in a movie theater. When the film ends, we suddenly see the credits scrolling up on a completely different movie screen, together with another completely different cinema audience onlookers observing it before getting up and leaving. Implying that the real storyline was also yet another film within film.
  • Funny Games - Features a character Paul (Arno Frisch) who unlike the rest of the cast is completely and fully aware he is in a movie as most notably, Paul actually rewinds the film at one point, after Anna (Susanne Lothar) seizes the rifle and shoots Peter (Frank Giering), Paul screams and swears "Where's the f***ing remote" and frantically begins searching for the VCR remote control. Upon locating it he then right before our eyes rewinds the scene back to the point before Anna made her move. So in the second time round, Paul does not let Anna touch the gun. He is also knows he's being watched as he often does facial gestures whilst looking directly into the camera, and thereby us. Such as winking prior to Anna finding the dead family dog or at story's conclusion with Paul (ready to kill another home owner), looking directly at the camera with a cruel evil smile crossing his face, in fact the movie just suddenly stops at that moment on his frozen expression. Paul also speaks directly too the viewers, such as after he and Peter have taken the family hostage. Occuring while he's stating their chances of surviving are nil, he suddenly looks at us, the viewers and bluntly states, "You're on their side so who will you bet with?"
  • A similar occurence happens in Kuffs as throughout the film, whenever main character George Kuffs (Christian Slater) is alone, he looks directly at the camera and speaks to the audience, bemoaning the current situations he's gotten into (with the exception of the final scene where he speaks whilst cradling his baby daughter). The film in fact ends with George waving goodbye and saying "SEE YA" as he walks out of the camera vewing.
  • Sometimes the forth wall is only broken once or twice like in the opening ofConfidence when Jake Vig (Edward Burns) the main protagonist looks directly at the audience in two seperate opening scenes as he explains, the rules of Confidence tricks and the slang words used behind them.

Video games

  • Many modern video games include in-game information on how to play during the initial portions of the game; this advice often takes the form of a character breaking the fourth wall, such as by telling the player to press particular buttons on the game controller.
  • Many games also bend the fourth wall slightly by having the main character act impatient towards the player when they don't move the character for a while. For example, in the Sonic the Hedgehog games, Sonic will glare at the player and tap his foot if not moved for a few seconds. If this happens in Sonic CD for a long time, the game quits itself.
  • One of the more famous accounts of impatient video game characters is Mario's actions during Super Mario 64. If the player didn't move him for a while, he fell asleep. This seemed to be such a funny little easter egg that it found continuity by making its way into Super Mario Sunshine.
  • Similarly, in Ape Escape, Spike practices swinging his weapon if unmoved for a certain amount of time.
  • Other modern video games will scold you for looking at the credits or beating the game with cheat codes.
  • The game Battalion Wars has the entire cast refer to you as "Commander" the entire time.
  • More direct references to the player as someone in the game can be found in both Mechassault games. You are referred to as "Captain", and it is assumed you are male. As such, female gamers would either be confused or amused by some of the dialogue.
  • In Animal Crossing, when the game is reset, a mole named Resetti comes out of the ground to yell at the player for pressing the reset button. His actions and tone suggest the player and the character are one entity, telling the character not to press the reset button, and at one point pretends to delete the memory card and reset the system.
  • The game Banjo Kazooie and its sequel Banjo Tooie break the fourth wall quite often; all the characters demonstrate through their dialogue that they are well aware of being in a video game, such as Mumbo Jumbo's comment "Me best shaman in whole game.". Both games include a character who provides information about the controls and how to play the game (Bottles the mole in the first game, and his brother Sgt. Jam Jars in the sequel). In the ending of Banjo Kazooie, the characters openly discuss the development of the sequel.
  • In Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, the main character, Kalas, occasionally turns toward the screen and asks the player explicitly to make a decision. The game tries to explain this as "casting" the player as a disembodied seventh member of the party (Kalas' guardian spirit).
  • In Black Dahlia, it was possible to get the main character to yell at the player.
  • In the original (Amiga) version of Cannon Fodder, when a save disk was formatted, the "Please Wait" messages would eventually develop into the Amiga telling the player that they have time to make a cup of coffee and "pour it into my vents" (this is not recommended).
  • In Conker: Live and Reloaded, a remake of Conker's Bad Fur Day, Conker the squirrel mentions having talked to the producers, and being told that it was just a port of the old game. This is done when something in the remake isn't the same as it may have been in the original. Conker also talks "directly" to the producers after such things occur. Another case of references to the company itself and the production process is Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, where the Dragon Hawk Rider says "Tell Blizzard I'd make a great action figure." - Blizzard being the company that developed Warcraft 3 - as well as saying "I'm hoping for a bigger role in the expansion." - which he did.
  • Also in Conker's Bad Fur Day, during the ending android battle, when Conker's about to get killed, the game freezes and Conker goes to the producer saying that that wasn't how games were supposed to be made, plus, at one point of the game, some exciting music comes on and Conker says "I don't like the sound of that music."
  • In Destroy All Humans!, if you just leave the curser on a location in the main menu on the mothership without selecting a mission, Orthopox (voiced by Richard Horvitz) will eventually begin yelling at you for not playing the game. Some of the things he says include, "Oh don't mind me, I'm only a fictional character in a simulated universe, after all. I have nothing better to do, really. I'm just made up of a bunch of electrons floating around your console, and a few hundred kilobytes of data stored on your DHS disk... Don't pay any attention to meeee!", and later he says, "Well, it's your electric bill. You could have thought to turn the console off. Haven't you ever heard of global warming?". He also says things along the lines of "Didn't anyone tell you? The game is called 'Destroy all Humans' not 'Screw around in the Mothership!'" and "You know, this isn't very fun for me. But you didn't think of that, did you? No, you just walk away from the TV and leave me sitting here talking to myself like some pathetic loser while you eat your chips and dip!"
  • In EarthBound, the player is asked several times throughout the game for his or her real name, for use in the battle with the final boss.
  • In the Extra Stage of Embodiment of Scarlet Devil, if playing as Marisa Kirisame, the boss Flandre Scarlet informs the player that they can't continue (in the arcade game sense; continuing after losing all one's lives) prior to the battle.
  • In Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, when the player's sanity meter drops or becomes emtpy, effects such as the game pretending to erase the save files or appearing to turn off the television screen occur to illustrate the character's state.
  • In the text adventure Jinxter, examining the table at your home gives the explanation: "Were this a different game, you would probably be able to play snooker on it, but it isn't and you aren't."
  • At the end of the intro sequence of Lemmings 2: The Tribes, the young Lemming asks his father who will save all the Lemmings on Lemming Island. The father answers "The same force that saved us before", and they both turn to look directly at the player.
  • In Max Payne, at the second Valkyr drugging, the player is given the cutscene with the titular character hallucinating that he is both in a computer game and also a graphic novel. This is doubly effective given the fact that Max Payne, and the sequel, both assume a film noir/comic book style of narrative, with cutscenes in framed comic layout.
  • In The Matrix: Path of Neo, just before the final boss, the Wachowski Brothers, creators of the series, address the player directly to explain that they have changed the events of the ending to be "more suitable for a video game", although many players took that new ending as an insult to those who loathed The Matrix Revolutions' ending.
  • Hideo Kojima's Metal Gear Solid breaks the fourth wall on several occasions, namely as the character Psycho Mantis is able to "read your mind" by reading the input of the player's controller and also making comments about other Konami games saved on the memory card. He also demonstrates his telekinesis by making the player's controller vibrate and appears to switch off the television screen at crucial points during the battle with him. Also, one character tells the main character, Solid Snake to look at the back of the game's CD case to find a certain character's radio frequency.
  • The entire game of Metal Gear Solid 2 is one giant attempt at breaking the fourth wall. A conversation early in the game between Pliskin and Raiden makes references to VR training and "war as a video game". Near the end, when GW begins to break down and the actual game mechanics become affected by that, it becomes clear that the fictional Selection For Societal Sanity is an allegory for the game itself. You are told by the game what to do, where to go, how to achieve your mission, and it even manipulates your input and emotions, just like the in-game S3 Plan does.
  • The Monkey Island series breaks the fourth wall regularly. A number of times, Guybrush will turn and address the player. A number of other characters, including Lechuck in the third game, gain the ability to do this as well.
  • The entire premise of the computer game Omikron is to break the fourth wall. According to the game, the player character is actually the player himself or herself, whose soul has been sucked into the game world by the game, where it exists as a ghost-like entity capable of possessing the game's characters. Defeat in the game world means losing your soul in the real world (although, in reality, you can always reload from a saved game).
  • In the video games The Simpsons: Hit and Run and The Simpsons: Road Rage, the characters occasionally spout sentences that break the fourth wall. For example, Homer says "This video game SU-UHKS!" when he loses, and Marge says "Where to next, video game?" when she completes a mission or delivers a passenger.
  • In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, a few characters intentionally break the fourth wall. For example, Professor Frankly, at one point, yells "You, in front of the TV!", referring to the person playing the game, and tells the player to listen carefully to his explanation. After this, Mario's companion, who is confused, and is not aware of the player, asks Frankly who he is talking to, to add some humor to the game. There is a similar instance in which Lord Crump, disguised as Four-Eyes, tells "the guy in front of the TV" not to tell Mario that he is in fact Lord Crump. Whichever of Mario's partners is out at the moment comments on this action to be weird and pointless.
  • In the Extra Stage of the PC game Perfect Cherry Blossom, the character Reimu Hakurei mentions that the enemy character Chen wasn't anything special, because "she's still a Stage 2 boss after all", when talking to Chen's master. Chen appears as a boss character in Stage 2 of the regular game, and is the midboss of the Extra Stage.
  • In the Pokemon video games for the Game Boy, there is a building that can be accessed in Celadon City where the game programmers live. If you go there after you have caught all pokemon, you get a certificate.
  • In Shadow Hearts Covenant, there are several game elements that break the fourth wall. The player characters sometimes encounter an entity called the "Ring Spirit". In the dialogue with the Ring Spirit, the characters sometimes make references about events outside the game. In the 100 level "Tower of the Holy Ring" dungeon, the characters skip from level 26 to level 89 and are aware that something fishy has occurred. A recurring gag in the Shadow Hearts series is the ability to input a name for Roger Bacon, only to have the philosopher yell at and scold the player.
  • In the adventure game Simon the Sorcerer, Simon has to make a group of men confess that they are wizards. The game offers several choices for Simon to say, but the only one that works is "But whenever I move the cursor over you, it says 'wizards'."
  • In the beginning of the Sly Cooper series of games, a character (usually Bentley) will tell the main character how to overcome an obstacle by pressing certain series of buttons while speaking as though engaging in a normal conversation.
  • At the end of the game Spider-Man, the hero says that the game is over and to go outside and play, in fact, the whole game was just a story being told by Spider-Man to the players, as the game begins with Spider-Man saying "This is how my story begins...". Also, the tutorial features a sarcastic trainer talking to Spider-Man.
  • All through Burnout 3, you are advised by a radio DJ called Stryker who views you the player and the player character as one. At the outset of each event in the Burnout 3 World Tour, he chimes in with a description of the event, info about the locale you are in, and other things. Since there are no actual player characters in the Burnout series (unless you count the cars as characters), it is assumed that you are actually the driver.
  • In True Crime: Streets of LA, if the player is driving furiously throughout the game and is crashing through walls and running over pedestrians, Nick Kang will say "Hey, relax! It's only a video game".
  • In Twisted Metal 2, the driver information for Roadkill says "I know the truth you freak! You sit back in your living room with your little video game console and play, play, play! But I know what's happening, I can see you! They think I'm crazy but you'll find out that I'm the only one who's sane!". In his ending the driver, Marcus Kane, asks to be in the real world for his prize.
  • At the end of 'The Lost Vikings, the three titular Viking brothers pose an existential question about if they were somehow being controlled by some other entity than themselves. One of the vikings points to the player, the other two follow suit, scream like little girls, and run off in panic.
  • In one of the z-skits in Tales of Symphonia, Lloyd, the main character, complains to Raine about the fact that he has to climb up so many stairs, and asks why the game designers can't offer them a "quick-jump option."
  • In the first scene of Tak and the Power of Juju, Jibolba addresses the player, thinking that he or she is a Juju spirit whom he has managed to summon. He cites the television screen as "the box you watch him on" and the controller as "a stick of power" that you hold as if it is "very dear to your heart."
  • The You Don't Know Jack series of computer trivia games is supposed to take place in a television game show studio, complete with cameras, podiums, a band, and an audience (as referenced in the backstage sequence before every game). However, both the backstage crew and the hosts will break the fourth wall in their own ways. The producer (be it Raul,

Cookie, or Sandy) will congratulate you on successfully installing the game when you first start it up. The host will also break the fourth wall by referring to previous editions of the game, introducing real-life game staffers (You Don't Know Jack: The Ride introduced Jellyvision employee Brian Chard as part of a Jack Attack question), and giving instructions to use the keyboard.

  • In the video game Viewtiful Joe, characters are constantly breaking the fourth wall, due to the fact that they are "making" a movie.
  • In the MMORPG RuneScape, when you ask a certain NPC for help, they reply that they don't want to make the game too easy.
  • In the online RPG game AdventureQuest, the characters sometimes break the fourth wall, most notably when a moglin says that he will not turn into a monster because the AQ staff dosn't have time for that.
  • In Metroid Fusion, the computer Adam and the Galactic Federation head (?) are aware they are in a video game, by the phrase in the Shinespark Sequence Break "How many players do you think will see this message?"
  • In one X-Men video game, the player must stop a virus being emitted on Mojo's level. Once Mojo is defeated, the player must reset the computer for the Danger Room. However, there are no switches for doing so. Resetting the computer is meant to be literal, in that you have to press the reset button on the Sega Genesis console.

Fiction that restores the fourth wall

The popularity of breaking the fourth wall in modern fiction allows it to serve as a vehicle for irony.

  • The cartoon The Simpsons parodied breaking the fourth wall at the very end of the first part of the episode Who Shot Mr. Burns?. When the people from Springfield are gathered around Mr. Burns's body, Doctor Julius Hibbert points directly at the camera and says: "Well, I sure can't solve this mystery. Can you?" After a few seconds, the camera turns around, showing that Hibbert was really pointing at Chief Wiggum, who replies "Sure, heh, it's my job, right? Right?"
  • The computer game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time begins with the protagonist narrating the story, apparently to the player, a framing device common in the medium. The game maintains this appearance by casting interruptions to gameplay as breaks in the narrative. When the player pauses the game, the Prince asks, "Shall I go on?" Likewise, when the character on screen dies, the narrator insists, "That's not how it happened." Shortly before the end of the game, it is revealed that the Prince has been telling the story to another character.

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "List of fiction that breaks the fourth wall" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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