What makes a movie or TV show worthwhile is its ability to suspend our disbelief – even if it’s just for a little while. We can empathize with the characters and even picture ourselves in their shoes. This really does help us forget the realities of everyday life and lose ourselves in the plot on the screen in front of us. The effect is easy to produce, and great directors work tireless hours to get things just right. But because they’re so good at their job they create the illusion that it was all quite easy. They bring in moments that remind us of our own lives, and in many cases this includes every day props that we might even use ourselves. Here are some memorable moments from films that used typical, mundane items to enhance the plot.
Good Old Wilson
There are so many examples of great props enhancing a movie’s credibility that it’s hard to remember them all, and some are certainly more memorable than others. For example, I remember a great scene focusing on a robot using a pressure washer to clean the streets in a futuristic earth, but for the life of me I can’t remember what movie the scene was from. I thought of this the other day while visiting the Wash Wisely pressure washer website and it’s been bothering me ever since. One great use of a prop that I do remember was the use of the volleyball named Wilson in Castaway. As Tom Hanks struggled to survive on a desert island, Wilson became his best and only friend. It really made the whole movie that much more powerful; all thanks to the use of a regular old volleyball.
Going a little further back in the history of film serves to illustrate how long we’ve been using simple everyday items as props in movies. In the 1920s, Charlie Chaplin was probably the world’s most famous on-screen comedian, and he also happened to be a great lover of props. In one of his most famous scenes from a movie called The Gold Rush he’s forced to eat his own shoe, and that moment became one of the most iconic scenes in the early history of film.
Laurel and Hardy’s Spaghetti Dinner
Eventually, silent movies were replaced by movies and shows with sound. When that happened, Laurel and Hardy early-on became one of the most popular comedy duets on the big screen. They loved to use props to create some great laughs for their audiences. One of my all-time favorites involved a scene in which Laurel and Hardy were working on a ship and were tasked with making a meal for the captain. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any food to cook so they made do by using the rope from a mop to create an interesting simulated spaghetti meal. Needless to say, the meal didn’t go over too well and the resulting hijinks created some of the most memorable comedy scenes on film.
Watch out for Johnny!
In the early 80s Jack Nicholson was one of the biggest stars on film, and his portrayal of a down on his luck ski resort winter caretaker in The Shining only served to enhance his reputation. Jack moves his family into the resort and is tasked with watching over it for the winter while it’s pretty much deserted. Essentially, the family’s looking for a fresh start, but it’s not to be. He soon descends into madness and, in one of the greatest scenes of any horror movie, he uses a standard ax to terrorize his wife and child. It was simple and effective, and made the audience empathize with their ordeal.