Jojo Rabbit marks Taika Waititi’s return to feature film directing following the thunderously well received Thor: Ragnarok, and finds a 10-year-old boy struggling to make sense of his surroundings in Nazi Germany. The boy’s life consists of book burning parties, ambush techniques and special school sessions on blowing stuff up.
The titular Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) becomes conflicted, however, when he discovers that his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) has been sheltering young Jewish girl Elsa (Thomas McKenzie) in their loft. Good job Jojo has an imaginary friend to guide him through these times of trouble.
It’s just a shame that the friend is one Adolf Hitler (portrayed with gleeful abandon by Waititi himself). Or, at least, how Jojo imagines him…
This acclaimed comedy-drama, loosely adapted from Christine Leunens’ novel Caging Skies, is infused with the writer-director’s trademark quirky sense of humour. As always though, tear-jerking moments promise to run alongside the massive laughs that are peppered throughout.
To celebrate the film’s release in January, we’ve decided to look back at some of our favourite imaginary friends on the big screen. Spoilers ahead.
1. Tony in The Shining (1980)
In Stanley Kubrick’s chilling screen adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Tony is the embodiment of Danny Torrance’s (Danny Lloyd) gift of ‘Shining’. This gift enables young Danny to experience glimpses of the future, see crimes from the past, and drop his voice an octave or so to beyond petrifying proportions.
As his link to the spirit world, Tony makes Danny a target in the isolated Overlook Hotel and he garners the attention of a whole host of malevolent forces. However, in the friend stakes, Tony does spend a fair amount of time trying to get Danny to leave the Overlook, helps him to contact fellow Shiner Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers) and coaches him whenever he’s confronted with something scary.
In the recently released Doctor Sleep, the older Danny (Ewan McGregor) must learn to come to terms with the psychic power he once dubbed 'Tony'.
2. Drop Dead Fred in Drop Dead Fred (1991)
Like most children, Lizzy has an imaginary friend. But also like most children, her parents offer a cold dose of reality and rid her of Drop Dead Fred. But when adult life turns ugly for Lizzy (Phoebe Cates), she once again happens across her old friend.
At first, Fred’s reappearance is a joy to behold, with their childhood friendship reignited in the face of a common enemy: the stern, disapproving mother. However, the eternally pre-adolescent Fred (the late, great Rik Mayall) is besotted with snot, thinks kissing is gross and causes chaos in the most inappropriate of ways. He’s anarchy incarnate, and makes Jim Carrey’s Mask persona seem placid in comparison.
Although Fred’s behaviour begins to cramp Lizzy’s style (especially on date night), he reawakens something long forgotten in her that means she is no longer afraid to stand up for herself, and kicks her no good fella to the kerb. Drop Dead Fred never really launched Rik Mayall to the heights of Hollywood as intended, although the character has since attained a cult following.
3. Elvis Presley in True Romance (1993)
In this Tony Scott-directed, Quentin Tarantino-scripted thriller, central character Clarence Worley’s conscience manifests via his man-crush, Elvis Presley (portrayed by an unrecognisable Val Kilmer).
Presley effortlessly gees up Clarence (Christian Slater), encouraging his more violent endeavours as he aims to settle the score with new beau Alabama’s (Patricia Arquette) former pimp. Clarence, eager for approval from his idol, offers very little in the way of resistance. One dead Drexl (Gary Oldman) and a suitcase full of narcotics later, and Clarence has a whole new heap of problems.
Murder is not Elvis’ only speciality, however: he’s also in possession of a keen business acumen, and offers an exclusive post-mortem on Clarence’s blossoming narcotics business after his meeting with movie producer, Lee Donowitz (Saul Rubinek).
That Presley manages all of this in between particularly bass-heavy renditions of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ is testament to his unofficial title, The King. Used sparingly, Kilmer’s character is a dark, delicious detail in a frenetic crime caper, which resounds with Tarantino’s signature wit. Thank you very much.
4. Tyler Durden in Fight Club (1999)
Come on, many of us have wished we were Brad Pitt at one stage or another – it just so happens that Edward Norton's unnamed narrator in Fight Club beat us to it.
Charming yet anarchic, decked out in thrift shop attire and full of the kind of nefarious knowledge you can only learn in the darkest corners of the internet, Pitt’s character Tyler Durden certainly makes a lasting first impression. It’s not long though before things begin to escalate.
What starts off as men roughing each other up in order to connect with their more primal selves, evolves into Project Mayhem. This near-militant organisation is hell-bent on destroying corporate art, denouncing consumerism and wiping out the global financial records.
With Tyler Durden as their leader, Project Mayhem seems to be near unstoppable, until the narrator realises that he and Tyler are one and the same. Imaginary friends soon become imaginary enemies, with the narrator once again beating himself to a pulp and putting a bullet through his cheek, all in a bid to exorcize his demon.
5. Frank the Bunny in Donnie Darko (2001)
Either an imaginary friend or a premonition of the future, Frank the Bunny predicts the end of the world, coerces tortured teen Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) into flooding his school, and gets him to set fire to a pervert’s house in order to expose his crimes. In fact, he’s quite high maintenance for an imaginary friend.
Radiating demonic omniscience and otherworldly views about different plains of existence, Frank can put a real downer on your evening. The fact that he looks like a bunny long-since diagnosed with myxomatosis adds to his general air of creepiness. Add to that the bullet hole which is hidden under his mask and we get the distinct impression that, as a movie, Donnie Darko won’t have a happy ending.
"Why are you wearing that stupid bunny suit?" Donnie asks when Frank interrupts his cinema date with Gretchen (Jena Malone). “Why do you wear that stupid man suit?” is Frank’s cryptic reply. Although Frank’s appearance has a logical connection to the events in Donnie’s life, like everything else in this nightmarish cult classic, it isn’t to be taken at face value.
Robb Sheppard is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.