The 10 best ‘Film Theory’ videos on YouTube

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Screengrab via YouTube/Film Theory

Hello, internet! Welcome to We Got This Covered, where today we pay tribute to one of the most engaging and thought-provoking entertainment channels on YouTube, Film Theory

Beginning as an offshoot of the team’s earlier project, The Game Theorists, Film Theory took aim at movies and television, and it has come into its own over the channel’s seven-year history. Co-created by host Matthew Patrick, affectionately known as MatPat, and Tommy Cook, the YouTube channel has amassed some 11.2 million subscribers. While you may scoff at that since a guy like Mr. Beast has 100 million followers, try starting a YouTube channel from scratch and see how long it takes you to get to a thousand. Trust me, you’ll be begging grandma and your distant cousin Ralph to “hit/smash/slap/punch that ‘Like’ button.” 

YouTube is a hub for speculation across all branches of fandoms. What sets Film Theory apart is the diligent research that goes into each theory. They dive deep into the lore and leave no stone unturned on the path to some of the most intelligent and thought-provoking content YouTube has to offer. In fact, it’s deceptively educational, which is what drew me to the channel in the first place. 

Back in my public education days, I taught middle-grade English and reading for 15 years. One of the toughest lessons to teach was formulating a logical, structured argument. The Film Theorists channel was a godsend. MatPat poses a question, gives a thesis statement with an introduction, makes valid points with evidence from the text (which in this case amounts to the videos), and closes with a reasonable conclusion. Better yet, it’s interesting enough to keep a room full of teenagers engaged. Just don’t tell them it’s educational.

Not sure where to start? Check out the 10 most popular Film Theories straight from your kids’ favorite form of entertainment, YouTube.

10. “What is the Bird Box Monster?”

Uploaded on: Feb. 5, 2019

Views: 17,543,553

Today’s list starts with a little video that only roped in 17.5 million views on YouTube. It’s easy to forget that in 2019, Bird Box was a big deal. Then came the pandemic of 2020, a 12-month period that somehow lasted, what, at least six years? If you lost track of Sandra Bullock’s Netflix spin on A Quiet Place, don’t feel bad. By that logic, 2019 was almost a decade ago, which is ancient history in today’s plethora of streaming content. 

9. “The HIDDEN LORE of Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared!”

Uploaded on: July 28, 2016

Views: 18,332,491

One thing that keeps The Film Theorists topical is their propensity for knowing what the audience wants. That means keeping up with the popular trends, and Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared was a YouTube sensation in 2016.

The very British DHMIS is a play on low-budget kids’ shows like Teletubbies , Thomas the Train/Thomas the Tank Engine, and, to some degree, Mister Rogers, complete with a cast made mostly of puppets with a few humans in costume. As you watch the episodes, it’s clear that something is amiss; you’re just not sure what. The thing about the show is that it is purposely mysterious. It’s never stated what is actually happening in the weird episodes. That makes it fertile ground for the Theorists.

8. “Disney Moana’s SECRET Identity REVEALED!”

Uploaded on: April 11, 2017

Views: 18,414,823

Like all YouTube channels, not every Film Theory is certified gold. While this Moana-themed video is of the same high caliber we have come to expect from MatPat and the crew, the question of whether or not Moana is actually dead throughout the movie is not as entertaining as other theories. Maybe I am in the minority since this gem has over 18 million views over the past five years. 

7. “We FOUND The SIMPSONS!”

Uploaded on: Feb. 18, 2016

Views: 18,464,719

Never relying on deepening mysteries that span seasons, The Simpsons doesn’t have much in the way of unsettled theories. However, there is one lingering question that dates back to the first episode: where is Springfield? While Matt Groening and The Simpsons’ writers have teased fans with numerous conflicting references to different states, MatPat is sure he’s pinpointed Springfield. 

6. “Gravity Falls ISN’T OVER! (Bill Cipher LIVES)”

Uploaded on: Dec. 16, 2017

Views: 18,965,484

It would be a fair assumption that a show like Gravity Falls is what helped inspire The Film Theorists channel in the first place. One one hand, it’s a lighthearted comedy about two quirky kids spending the summer with their morally ambiguous great uncle, Gruncle Stan. Underneath the cartoon exterior is a world of lore and mystery that is masterfully crafted into a kids’ version of The X-Files. While the show officially ended after only two seasons, MatPat predicted five years ago that a larger mystery still loomed. Of course, we haven’t gotten that third season, but we’re still holding out hope.

5. “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared DECODED!”

Uploaded on: July 12, 2016

Views: 19,192,541

When a web series has as many mysteries as Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, it makes for great theory content. Intentionally, DHMIS is ambiguous with no clear resolution. For that matter, it’s not clear what is happening throughout the series, either. That’s where MatPat is here to give you answers. Well, as close to an answer as you can get from the weirdness of DHMIS.

4. “The Cars in The Cars Movie AREN’T CARS!”

Uploaded on: March 14, 2017

Views: 19,384,473

This is perhaps my personal favorite Film Theory. Even better, “The Cars in The Cars Movie AREN’T CARS!” is as entertaining as it is educational while clearly hitting all the right cues for an English language arts classroom. Whether or not you’ve ever taught, this is a wild theory that will leave you wondering if those creepy talking Cars are actually highly evolved insects. 

3. “Zootopia’s DARK Conspiracy!”

Uploaded on: April 5, 2016

Views: 19, 573,366

Sometimes, the Film Theorists crew crafts a theory so intriguing and insightful that it makes you view the movie in a different light, and “Zootopia’s DARK Conspiracy!” is a prime example. 

According to the theory, Zootopia is making a serious social commentary that is veiled behind a little humor and a lot of cuteness. Like so many Disney cartoons, its cast is made of huggable, fuzzy, anthropomorphic animals with predators and prey living in harmony. Well, maybe not because here’s where things get serious. MatPat theorizes that Zootopia is an allegory for how society has traditionally behaved toward minorities. The predators — Film Theory argues — play the part of the minorities. What about the “Night Howlers” toxic flower that causes animals to lose all sensibilities? MatPat says that’s a kid-friendly metaphor for crack cocaine. 

2. “Disney’s FROZEN – Anna and Elsa Are NOT SISTERS?!”

Uploaded on: Dec. 21, 2015

Views: 24,027,500

Frozen created an entire subset of Disney fandom. No, we’re not referring to those countless renditions of “Let It Go,” a song that we only wish would finally die. The massively successful animated movie planted numerous Easter eggs for the Disney-faithful. Eagle-eyed fans spotted Rapunzel and Flynn in a crowd scene, but the fate of Anna and Elsa’s parents sparked a bigger theory speculating that Tarzan is their long-lost brother.

With Disney fans heading to YouTube for deeper dives into the Frozen theories, it led them straight to MatPat and Film Theory. They didn’t disappoint with a great hypothesis: Anna and Elsa are not really sisters. It changes the entire audience perspective on the characters and the film’s plot. Insert “Let It Go” joke here _______.

1. “How to KILL DEADPOOL”

Uploaded on: Feb. 25, 2016

Views: 24,270,486

At the top of the heap is MatPat’s rationale on the ways you could actually kill Deadpool. This video dropped 13 days after the first Deadpool hit theaters, so it was perfectly timed. No doubt, that played a significant part in wracking up all those views as mainstream fans couldn’t get enough of the “Merc with a Mouth.”

In the world of comic books, superheroes with a “healing factor” that basically makes them immortal is all too common. There’s a Marvel Comics story in which Wolverine actually regrows his entire body from a single drop of blood. Deadpool has virtually the same healing power, so the idea is that nothing can possibly kill him. Or can it? Once you hear MatPat’s take on getting around that pesky mutant healing, you just might be convinced that Deadpool may be tough to kill, but it’s not impossible.

Honorable mention

“Disney’s Secret Archive of Dead Actors”

Uploaded on: April 19, 2022

Views: 2,355,898

MatPat and the crew are still going strong seven years after Film Theory’s YouTube premiere. This one was uploaded this past spring, and it’s already nearing the 2.5 million view mark, so not bad. Since it’s not one of their most popular theories, it’s easy to get overlooked in the grand scheme of the YouTube algorithm. 

The title alone should have your attention. Disney seems intent on adding every spec of the entertainment industry to its massive multimedia empire. It makes for plenty of Disney conspiracies, but here’s one you may not have heard. The Film Theory is that the House of Mouse is quietly buying the rights to deceased performers with a plan to keep their likenesses in the public spotlight at Disney’s behest for basically eternity. Frankly, that does sound like a Disney kind of move. The Film Theorists did their due diligence on research here, and their findings are startling, especially the part about whether or not you actually own the rights to your own digital photos.