Warning: This list may contain traces of spoilers, and may have come into contact with spoilers from other movies.
Last night I watched a movie that was the subject of one of Robin’s Underrated Gems columns a while back: Cloak & Dagger, a movie about the boy from E.T. and his imaginary secret agent friend Jack Flack (played by Dabney Coleman) who accidentally comes into possession of an Atari cartridge containing secret government plans for an “invisible jet”. The movie itself was pretty silly, but it got me to thinking about some of the more memorable imaginary friends from the world of cinema. The imaginary friend film isn’t a frequent occurence, and thus the few movies about imaginary friends that have been made have a tendency to stick in our minds. What follows is a list of my top 5 favourite big-screen imaginary friends.
5. Jack Flack, Cloak and Dagger
We’ll start with the aforementioned Jack Flack. As far as imaginary friends go, Jack is actually pretty useless. He gets David Osbourne (Henry Thomas) into loads of trouble, instructs him not to tell adults important information, convinces him to steal from the games store where his friend Morris works, and even coaxes David into shooting someone! Aside from the opening scene, which features Jack Flack infiltrating an enemy base, Jack does nothing but create problems for David, resulting in everyone (even David’s father) thinking that David has totally flipped his lid. The only reason he makes this list at all is that he’s nothing but a bad influence, the little devil on David’s shoulder, even though he’s supposed to be the kid’s hero!
4. Ninja Ninja, Afro Samurai
Ninja Ninja is Afro Samurai’s jive-talking, hyperactive, comedic counterpart, and he exists entirely in Afro Samurai’s head. The character of Ninja Ninja is used to illustrate the two sides of Afro’s personality. On the outside, Afro is silent, menacing and cool, but on the inside he’s full of energy and humour, and it all comes pouring out in the form of Ninja Ninja. Ninja Ninja is also in black and white, whereas Afro Samurai is in colour, again demonstrating that Ninja Ninja is the yin to Afro’s yang. The fact that he’s voiced by Samuel L. Jackson makes him all the cooler, too, of course.
3. Drop Dead Fred, Drop Dead Fred
Drop Dead Fred is a pretty strange movie, in that it constantly bounces between being the kind of movie that kids would like and a movie that deals with adult concepts such as adultery, divorce and sex. What makes it awesome, though, is definitely Rik Mayall’s portrayal of Lizzy’s (Phoebe Cates) insane imaginary friend Drop Dead Fred. He’s the embodiment of immaturity, smashing dishes, flicking snot, and wiping dog crap on the newly shampooed carpet. It’s worth noting that Drop Dead Fred also contains a scene wherein Fred encounters a bunch of other childrens’ imaginary friends in the waiting room of a psychiatrist’s office, and it’s one of the highlights of the movie. Apparently a remake of Drop Dead Fred is in the works with Russell Brand set to star. Hey, it could work.
2. Frank, Donnie Darko
Now, we could split hairs about whether Frank is imaginary or is, in fact, an apparition from the future sent back in time to warn Donnie about the end of the world…but I’m pretty sure Frank is all in Donnie’s troubled head. Frank, played by James Duval, usually appears wearing a strange demonic-looking rabbit suit and warns Donnie of the imminent destruction of the world. It’s never totally clear what Frank’s intentions are except as a harbinger of doom, but we do eventually learn that he’s Donnie’s sister’s boyfriend, an artist, and that the creepy bunny suit was made as a Halloween costume. Donnie also shoots him in the eye. It’s all pretty confusing. He ranks this high on the list just because I love his outfit. Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?
1. Tyler Durden, Fight Club
You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake! Tyler Durden had to take the top spot on this list, because if he didn’t, he’d probably initiate Project Mayhem on my ass. He lives in an abandoned house, he always appears dirty and dishevelled, he loves to get his ass kicked, he makes soap from lipsuctioned fat…and he manages to make it all look stylish. He’s so cool that people follow him unquestioningly, but because he’s also completely insane, it means that if you’re the Narrator (whose name might be Jack, played by Edward Norton), your life will descend into chaos and anarchy at an alarming rate. In between acts of mayhem, though, Tyler always finds time to speak philosophically about the nature of violence, society and humanity, and y’know…he’s actually a really smart guy, and part of the brilliance of Fight Club is that, by the film’s conclusion, you find yourself wondering whether you’d follow Tyler too.
BONUS: Hobbes, Calvin and Hobbes
I know, I know, he’s not from any movies, but I would feel terrible if I wrote a list of the most memorable imaginary friends and didn’t include Hobbes on it. Hobbes the tiger is one of the most three-dimensional two-dimensional characters ever created. He’s more real than most real people. He’s sardonic, witty, intelligent and charismatic. And frankly, he’s the best friend a guy could ever have. Plus, he’s taller than Calvin, which means he always got to make up the passwords for people to be let into the treehouse. There is no greater friend, real or imagined, than Hobbes.
Tony, The Shining
Charles, A Beautiful Mind
Maurice, Little Monsters
Captain Howdy, The Exorcist
Harvey the Rabbit, Harvey
Elvis, True Romance