Movies That Tricked Audiences Into Thinking They Were Real – Were You Fooled?

  • Movies were always about faking reality. These films succeeded.
  • It's amazing how easily audiences can be tricked through skillful visual imagery.
  • Special effects have fooled audiences from the beginning. But today's CGI and Deep Fake tech opens up a whole new realm of hoaxing possibilities.

Believe it or not, web surfers have actually turned to Google to ask if certain movies are real or not. It’s not unusual that some naive (or clueless) movie goers were convinced that what they saw on the screen were either “lost scenes” or illegally produced footage of real crimes, up to and including murder. But, we are usually let in on the joke. Here are a bunch of movies in which their creators intentionally fooled the audience into thinking the action was real – and it worked.

Orson Welles himself would be proud…

Snuff: In 1975, director Allan Shackleton took a terrible GP-Rated slasher movie called Slaughter, tacked what looked like footage of the bloody murder of a production assistant on to the end, and repackaged it for X-Rated distribution as a movie called Snuff. Then he went into hiding. An unsuspecting public took the movie as real and thus the legend of snuff films was born. Of course, it was all faked, but the movie’s real crime? Forcing us to watch Slaughter from beginning to end, waiting for the soft porno parts to kick in…

Another way to fool audiences is the “False Protagonist” trick. That’s when the main character gets bumped off early. It started with Psycho and is becoming more and more a plot device we have come to expect. Meaning, it’s kinda getting old…

A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin: The outrage over gory bloody deaths that looked real to Italian movie goers in 1971 was distinctive for one reason: the victims were dogs. It wasn’t until cinematographer Lucio Fulci demonstrated his animatronic techniques in court that the furor died down. However, to this day, the dogs remain unadopted…

Cannibal Holocaust: The original lost/found footage of a movie crew filming ritualistic murder and cannibalization in 1980 was so real-looking for its time, it had everybody fooled. And, the fact that the actors volunteered to “disappear” without a trace gave the movie even more credibility. Until the cast turned up, alive and well, at a press conference a month after the movie’s release. And millions of dollars in ticket sales…

Guinea Pig 2: When Charlie Sheen called police in a panic, describing a gory murder scene, they first thought the actor was talking about a crime committed in his own hotel room. It turns out, he was watching an old B-movie on VHS he was convinced was real. It wasn’t. It was just Guinea Pig 2: Flower Of Flesh And Blood, perhaps the bloodiest movie ever made. In Sheen’s defense, the director later revealed he used Tiger’s Blood instead of the cheaper Karo syrup…

Tricky twists are not always confined to the movies themselves. Sometimes the hoax is set up in the preview trailer. Take Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) in Iron Man 3. From the trailer we thought he was a powerful villain capable of taking Iron Man down. But, in the movie, he turns out to be a wimpy pawn of corrupt insiders, blackmailed into playing a role way beyond his powers. “We (don’t) have a Hulk!”

Irreversible: The trick that fooled terrified audiences into believing this movie was real was staging the bloody murder scene at the beginning of the film. At least that spared horrified patrons (who ran out of the theater and straight to the cops) the torture of sitting through the rest of this unbelievably awful flick…

Faces Of Death: This movie achieved its goal of fooling the public by framing all the fake stuff (people eating live monkey brains and a ritualistic human sacrifice) around real footage of car accidents, suicides, murders and actual deaths caught on film. It bombed in theaters, but is still a bestseller on, first, VHS, DVD and, now, streaming over the web.

Without Warning: This movie took the Orson Welles War Of The Worlds radio play gag and tried it on television. Throw in the real-looking news reports and a well-known news anchorman, and the airing of this 1994 made-for-TV movie had frantic viewers dialing 911 in the millions. April Fools!

New Terminal Hotel: Only cops were hoodwinked into thinking this movie was real, when they stumbled on to the blood-splattered movie set, investigating a fire in an adjoining hotel room. It took a team of crime scene investigator geniuses 12 hours (of time-and-a-half OT) to finally realize that the only crime which had occurred was the death of a doomed Corey Haim’s movie career…

And, finally…

The Blair Witch Project: The movie that spawned web-driven hysteria in 1999 and gave rise to a whole new cottage industry of pranksters using the Internet to spread false rumors for massive, free publicity. It was a brilliant PR move, propelling the cheaply made film onto a 100 million dollar-plus payday.

Unfortunately, in real life, the movie itself totally sucked…

Do you know of any other movies you or others thought was real but turned out to be faked?

Please let us know, with a comment below!

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Reid Moore

Reid Moore is a Freelance Blogger retired from the USAF who lives in Riverside, California. Reid Moore has been writing online since 1996 on a wide variety of topics including News, Sports, Politics, Tech, Gaming, Autos, Popular Culture, Science, Music, Poetry, Art, Literature, the Paranormal, the Outdoors, Travel, Nature, Pets, Animals and Wildlife. So, naturally, in his spare time, Reid Moore can be found taking a well deserved nap...
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