Movies are an illusion. For a short period of time, we are supposed to buy into their fictional worlds and believe that the people we watch are not really just actors in front of a camera. Well, most of the time, anyway. Movies that actually acknowledge that they are movies are collectively referred to as "metacinema" (meta meaning something that is self-referential). Meta movies can acknowledge themselves in a variety of ways, ranging from the super silly to the painfully heady. Sometimes they break the fourth wall and directly address the audience. Other times, the effect is more subtle, with films using tongue-in-cheek moments and other cues to reference their stories, comment on their genres, and take aim at their tropes. But why would a filmmaker choose to make a meta movie? Isn't part of the joy of cinema getting lost in a fictional world? Meta movies usually have something to say, a commentary deeper than what the basic plot offers. Often, they have something to say not just about stories, genres, and tropes, but also about us.

For more on how films find creative ways to tell their stories, check out Fandor’s videos about the meta flashback, the use of voiceover, minimal editing, and abrupt endings. And check out our series on the suspension fo disbelief, I'll Believe It When I See It.