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Metaphors from Movies - Groundhog Day

10 Underrated Metaphors in Mainstream Movies

Metaphors: used to express emotions, expressions, and images by combining and comparing various objects and situations. Though commonly found in poetry and prose, metaphors appear in several popular movies. Let’s review a few underrated metaphors in movies.

10 Most Underrated Metaphors in Movies - Mainstream

1. Avatar

Pandora, the setting for most of the Avatar movies, is a metaphor for the genocide of the Native Americans upon European settlement. Before the settlers, the land in which the Native Americans inhabited was free and had no colonial rule. Going alongside this metaphor, is another: the metaphor for the racial tension between the Native Americans and the Europeans.

2. No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men - Movie Metaphors
No Country for Old Men is a metaphor for retirement and life after the fact. The elderly people featured in the film are treated as if they are a disease that the world should be rid of, which is in line with the way many of today’s retired population feel about the lack of healthcare and housing provided by the government. An extended metaphor found in the film is that of a secret society and their desire to control the world’s food resources and population.

3. You’re Next

You're Next - metaphors in film
The home invasion thriller You’re Next is much more than just an entertaining film. It features a metaphor for family dysfunction. Digging deeper into the metaphor, it becomes clear to see that the main focus is that of alienation and the violent acts that can come from years of grudges and unhealed hurt.

4. Inside Out

Inside Out - Metaphors in Movies
This relatively cheery children’s movie is a metaphor for a much more serious topic: real life feelings and emotions. Inside Out, featuring a host of unique characters with specific feelings, is metaphorical in the way that the actions of the main character, Riley, depends on the emotions of Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness, much the way that our actions depend on our emotions.

5. Neverending Story

Neverending Story - Film Metaphors
The 1984 hit The Never Ending Story is a creative film showcasing one boy’s adventures in the fantastical world of Fantasia. Fantasia is a metaphor for the human imagination and thought process, while the dark force, which is called “Nothing,” is a metaphor for the lack of imagination and ignorant bliss.

6. Coraline

If you’ve seen this haunting children’s film, you’ll be quick to agree that the movie has a dark undercurrent. How dark, you ask? Well, the Other World in which Coraline finds herself attracted to and then stuck in is a metaphor for child abduction, as abductors lure their victims in with things they desire. In the film, Coraline is sucked into the Other World by her desire for attention from her parents.

7. Spirited Away

Spirited Away movie metaphor
Director Hayao Miyazaki is known for infusing his films with dark undertones. Spirited Away, centering around a girl undergoing various rights of passage has a glaringly obvious–although seemingly always missed– metaphor. The film is a metaphor for child prostitution; the central character is brought to the bath house which is the equivalent of a brothel, where she is made to “please” male clients including the wealthy man called “No Face” who has an inappropriate desire to “own” her.

8. Prometheus

Despite being marketed as a classic sci-fi, Prometheus has a deeper meaning that many of the film’s fans miss. There are a number of clues in the movie that point to it being a metaphor for Christianity. These include the sacrifice of humanoid engineers to kick start the circle of life, the landing of the spacecraft on Christmas Day, and the seemingly unnatural pregnancy of the only crew member aboard the ship who wears a cross from her neck. However, another subtle clue is the name of the main planet: LV-223, which may allude to Leviticus 22:3, a passage in which the bible speaks about punishing unclean beings who dare to approach beings of pure heart.

9. Groundhog Day

Metaphors from Movies - Groundhog Day

The entirety of the film Groundhog Day is a metaphor. The metaphor of the film is centered around Buddhism. The main character of the film is a questionable person who is stuck in a time loop, forced to relive the same day over and over again until he changes his ways, ultimately becoming a better person. The charitable acts featured in the film are symbolic of said Enlightenment, which is an important part of the Buddhist religion.

Read Groundhog Day’s entry in our rundown of the best philosophical movies.

10. E.T. The Extra Terrestrial

Another fantastic film by Spielberg, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was a box office success. Behind the seemingly basic premise, though, hides a deeper meaning; the movie appears to have a close analogy to the story of Jesus. King Harod pursued Jesus much like the scientists pursued E.T and, even more notably, Jesus gave a sermon atop a mountain where he basically told his disciples to be good in faith, while E.T’s very first words were “Be Good.” In addition, Jesus ascended to the kingdom of heaven. E.T ascended back into space.

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