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The 12 Best Movies Within A Movie Ranked

There are many ways that filmmakers can help their movies feel like they are filled with real people and characters. One of the most popular, and perhaps most effective, is to have a movie within the movie. This involves having a fictional film that is actually meant to be part of the in-movie universe and gives the impression that the characters within the story have the ability to go and see this fake release. It's a trope that also extends to television shows and even video games.

Of course, these movies are not shown in full and viewers generally only get a few glimpses for a brief impression of what the fake film would actually be like. This could be in the form of a trailer, or just a small piece of footage that is shown during a scene when other events are taking place. Whatever the case, these movies within other movies can oftentimes steal the show and leave fans wanting to see more of that fictional film rather than the real one they are actually watching. Here are the very best examples of nested films that should almost certainly be made into full movies at some point.

12. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back - Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season

Meant to be a very different type of sequel to the Academy Award-winning "Good Will Hunting," this in-universe movie sees Ben Affleck and Matt Damon reprise their roles. The pair have a long association with Kevin Smith and have appeared in a number of his films over the years. This time around, they are playing fictional versions of themselves filming "Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season." Seemingly only taking part due to the paycheck being offered, they once again talk to Clark — with Scott William Winters reprising his role — in a bar as he tries to show off his newfound knowledge.

The scene quickly becomes far more explosive than the original ever did, with Clark seemingly gaining the upper hand. Will and Chuckie don't like this, and after a brief discussion, Damon's character spins around with a shotgun and unloads it on his opponent. Affleck then unleashes the incredible line, "Applesauce b***h," as Clark lies dead on the floor. Unlike the original film, this supposed sequel is far more comedy and action orientated, and would probably not appeal to fans of the Robin Williams drama. But it certainly fits in with Smith's slapstick humor and the surreal events as Jay and Silent Bob explore Hollywood in the final moments of the film.

11. True Romance - Coming Home in a Body Bag

There are certain things that happen in every Quentin Tarantino movie, and one of the most common tropes the filmmaker uses is the movie within a movie. While Tarantino didn't direct "True Romance," with those duties performed by Tony Scott, he was the person responsible for writing the screenplay — so it isn't a massive shock that it also contains a fictional film that is present in the story.

The fictional movie "Coming Home in a Body Bag" plays throughout the violent and tense finale, as all of the gangsters, drug dealers, and police are in the Ambassador Hotel suite as the major deal is about to go down. A Vietnam action film, it is reminiscent of "Platoon" and similar movies, but it's never shown properly as the footage is projected onto a wall in the back of the hotel room.

While the project seems interesting enough, what it really adds to the scene is the way in which it ratchets up the drama, as the constant drone of the helicopter blades builds up to the gunfire that is about to erupt and adds an extra layer of audio that just makes everything seem that little bit more chaotic.

10. Boogie Nights - Brock Landers: Angels Live in My Town

Paul Thomas Anderson's "Boogie Nights" was a critical and commercial success, winning numerous awards, and featured outstanding performances from a cast that included Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Don Cheadle, and Heather Graham. It charts pornographic actor Dirk Diggler's rise from a kitchen worker to a star in the world of sex films. As the industry goes through a period of growth, Diggler sees his fame reach new levels and even begins to produce his own movies before suffering a fall from grace as younger men enter the fray and he begins to heavily use drugs.

Partway through "Boogie Nights," viewers get the chance to see a glimpse of "Angels Live in My Town," one of the new films featuring Dirk Diggler and Reed Rothchild. Diggler plays Brock Landers, a detective who solves serious crimes with his partner Chest Rockwell, beating up criminals and having lots of sex in the process. It's a pornographic film that certainly appears to have more action and plot than many others, and would definitely have some appeal in real life.

9. Home Alone - Angels With Filthy Souls

Although it isn't a real film, "Angels With Filthy Souls" is memorable and will likely be instantly recognizable to many people of a certain age. In fact, anyone who has ever seen "Home Alone" or its immediate sequel will know exactly what "Angels With Filthy Souls" is upon hearing the main character speak, as he has one of the most memorable lines in "Home Alone" — even if they don't know the name of the fictional film itself.

Macaulay Culkin's character Kevin McCallister finds a tape of this old gangster movie while he is left in his house without the rest of his family. He later uses it to scare off a pizza delivery boy and the two burglars, portrayed by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, by playing select moments to make it seem like there are real-life gangsters in the house. The film features a mob boss called Johnny, who speaks with Snakes and threatens the other gangster. After a brief conversation, Johnny agrees to let the other man go, but shoots him while counting down from three and utters the line: "Keep the change, ya filthy animal!"

A sequel, titled "Angels with Even Filthier Souls," appears in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," and follows essentially the same story as its predecessor. This time around, though, Johnny takes umbrage with a female character known as Carlotta and again kills her as she tries to make her escape. Kevin uses the fictional film to get away from the staff at the Plaza Hotel.

8. Scream - Stab

In many ways, "Scream" helped revitalize horror movies, introducing comedy and introspection to a genre that is filled with clichés and tropes. Following the success of the first film, a sequel was quickly commissioned, bringing back some of the main cast alongside the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Timothy Olyphant. "Scream 2," which came to cinemas in 1997, featured the first mention of the "Stab" franchise, a movie universe within the world of "Scream."

The original "Stab" is confusingly based on the events of "Scream." According to Bloody Disgusting, "Stab" is an adaptation of Gale Weather's in-movie book "The Woodsboro Murders." Only a few brief scenes are shown, with the action depicting a more dramatized version of the murders that took place in "Scream," mirroring the action in more outlandish ways.

Subsequent "Scream" movies featured a variety of other entries in the "Stab" series, most of them based on additional books by journalist Weathers. In fact, there's a total of eight "Stab" films over the course of the various "Scream" movies, although only a few of them have any actual footage, as the rest are only mentioned or shown to exist via posters. They ultimately play an important role in the story and lead to many of the events that actually take place throughout the "Scream" franchise.

7. This is the End - Pineapple Express 2: Blood Red

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have had success writing some of the most notable comedy films of the last two decades. Having collaborated on the likes of "Superbad" and "The Interview," one of their other major hits is "Pineapple Express," starring Rogen and James Franco as a serial drug user and a dim-witted dealer who become unwillingly involved with an underground crime group.

The pair later collaborated on 2013's "This Is the End," a meta-movie that stars many famous actors and celebrities playing fictionalized versions of themselves. After an apocalyptic event that causes mass devastation and death, the surviving gang — made up of the likes of Jonah Hill, Franco, Rogen, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson — try to keep sane by filming a crude sequel to "Pineapple Express" using what little material they have available to them.

The end result was "Pineapple Express 2: Blood Red," a bizarre second movie where Red is now a drug lord, following the death of former antagonist Ted Jones. However, when Woody Harrelson's plans to get marijuana legalized threaten Red's business, he forces Dale and Saul to set off on a mission to assassinate the actor.

6. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut - Asses of Fire

Having been successful as a television series, Trey Parker and Matt Stone decided to take the animated show "South Park" to the cinema with "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." The film, which holds the Guinness World Record for most swear words in an animated movie, largely revolves around the familiar gang of Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny trying to see a film by Canadian comedians Terrance and Phillip, and then attempting to free the pair following their arrest. Guest-starring George Clooney among many others, it became a critical and financial success.

The Terrance and Phillip movie in question was "Asses of Fire." Like many other movies within a movie in this article, viewers never get a chance to see the entirety of the release. However, various scenes are shown throughout "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" and it contains the duo's signature crude humor and fart jokes, including a song called "Uncle F**ka."

The offensive nature of "Asses of Fire" leads to an outcry from concerned parents, and eventually the American-Canadian War, which is the major focus of the entire plot. The little viewers get to see of the Terrance and Phillip film is certainly memorable and will have provided a good few laughs to everyone watching in the audience.

5. Tropic Thunder - The Fatties, Satan's Alley, and Simple Jack

"Tropic Thunder" is a 2008 satirical film that stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Steve Coogan, and Tom Cruise. The entire film is actually a movie within a movie, as the cast plays fictional actors who are trying to shoot a war film and get caught up in a drug gang's conflict. Due to the fact that real-life actors are playing actors, the filmmakers had the chance to have some extra fun by including a number of fake trailers for fabricated movies.

The actual movie opens with a series of trailers for films that the made-up cast is part of. There's a "Nutty Professor" spoof starring Jack Black's Jeff Portnoy called "The Fatties: Fart 2," along with gay romance "Satan's Alley" from Robert Downey Jr.'s Kirk Lazarus and Tobey Maguire. Another example is the controversial "Simple Jack," a movie about a man with learning difficulties who can speak with animals, played by Ben Stiller's character Tugg Speedman and also starring Christine Taylor.

Of course, there's also Speedman's signature franchise "Scorcher," a satirical take on blockbuster summer action films and an entire franchise within the world of "Tropic Thunder." All of these fictional movies look like they'd be worth watching and provide an extra layer of entertainment to an already very good film.

4. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - The 14 Fists of McCluskey

Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is a comedy-drama featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie in starring roles. Like many of the director's movies, it features multiple stories taking place at the same time that intersect with each other. These include the lives of actor Rick Dalton and his stunt double Cliff Booth as they come to terms with a changing Hollywood landscape and actress Sharon Tate as she lives next door to Dalton.

The fact that DiCaprio plays an actor and the film is focused on Hollywood means Tarantino had plenty of opportunity to include a movie within the movie. He did just that in the form of "The 14 Fists of McCluskey." The two-minute scene from the movie shows Dalton playing a sergeant in the army who uses a flamethrower to fight against Nazis. This is one of the films that made Dalton a force in the movie industry and contains the line, "Anybody order fried sauerkraut?"

3. Austin Powers in Goldmember - Austinpussy

The third and, at least so far, final entry in the "Austin Powers" franchise is "Austin Powers in Goldmember," a film that also stars Beyoncé Knowles and Michael Caine as part of the main cast. This time around, a new villain is introduced as Austin battles against Dr. Evil and Goldmember, with the help of his father and Foxxy Cleopatra.

In the same way that "Austin Powers" was a spoof of the "James Bond" series and other spy movies, this third film opens with a self-parody that suggests that the story of the fictional British spy is being turned into a film directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. In fact, Mike Myers' character even speaks to Spielberg and is excited about the prospect of seeing these famous stars portray him and his colleagues in a groovy movie.

Titled "Austinpussy" in reference to the Bond film "Octopussy," it stars Tom Cruise as Austin Powers and Gwyneth Paltrow as a character known only as Dixie Normous. Meanwhile, Kevin Spacey, Danny Devito, and John Travolta round out the fake cast as Dr. Evil, Mini-Me, and Goldmember, respectively. Until at least a few minutes into the action, it isn't clear exactly what is happening for first-time viewers, giving the impression that "Austinpussy" is actually "Austin Powers in Goldmember," until Cruise's face is revealed after he destroys a helicopter.

2. Last Action Hero - Hamlet

Unlike most of Arnold Schwarzenegger's library of action films, "Last Action Hero" stands out as a comedy that parodies many of the elements of the genre. The film features a fictional movie franchise where Schwarzenegger plays a police detective known as Jack Slater. Charles Dance co-stars as Mr. Benedict, merciless killer and villain of the "Jack Slater" universe, who manages to escape to the real world, where Austin O'Brien's young character Danny lives. As the plot revolves around the idea of having a film inside another film, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that "Last Action Hero" has one of the best examples of a nesting movie.

Before Danny is magically transported into Slater's movie world, he is in a school classroom, bored by Shakespeare's play, "Hamlet." He instead reimagines the production with Schwarzenegger playing the main character. This version of "Hamlet" takes advantage of the actor's impressive physique, as he battles through various bad guys in ancient Denmark, throwing one man through a stained glass window and mowing down others with a gun. The scene ends with Schwarzenegger smoking a cigar and walking away from the castle as an explosion rings out in the background.

1. Grindhouse - Don't

When Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez teamed up to release their two films, "Death Proof" and "Planet Terror," as a double feature, fans got to experience "Grindhouse" in cinemas. The unique experience saw the likes of Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, and Rosario Dawson all be part of a single theatrical release. Partway through production, the two had the idea to have fake trailers before each of the two films and eventually had other directors ask if they could also contribute. Ultimately, Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, Eli Roth, Rodriguez, and Tarantino all had trailers for fake movies included as part of "Grindhouse" (via Wizard Magazine).

These included "Machete" featuring Danny Trejo, a Nazi movie called "Werewolf Women of the SS," and the slasher "Thanksgiving" by Roth. However, perhaps the most exciting of these was "Don't," Wright's contribution and a spoof of 1970s British horrors. He even went to the extreme of scratching the final film and purposely damaging it to give it a dated look (via the Los Angeles Times). Despite lasting a little over a minute, it has plenty of compelling footage and an impressive cast that includes Jason Isaacs, Matthew Macfadyen, Mark Gatiss, Simon Pegg, and Peter Serafinowicz.