Conspiracy Films

A Tour of Dark Places in the American Conscious

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About the Book

For many years, conspiracy theories have been among the most popular story elements in Hollywood films. According to the “conspiracy culture,” Government, Big Business, the Church, even aliens—all of which, bundled together, comprise the ubiquitous “Them”—are concealing some of the biggest secrets in American and world history. From The Manchurian Candidate (1962) to JFK (1991), The Matrix (1999) to The Da Vinci Code (2006), this decade-by-decade history explores our fascination with paranoia. The work paints a vivid picture of several of the more prevalent conspiracy theories and the entertainment they have inspired, not only in theatrical films but also in such television series as The X-Files, Lost and V.

About the Author(s)

Barna William Donovan is a professor of communications and media studies at Saint Peter’s, the Jesuit College of New Jersey. His articles, columns, and reviews on film and popular culture have been published in academic journals such as Communication Annual and Men and Masculinities as well as various newspapers.

Bibliographic Details

Barna William Donovan
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 282
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3901-0
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8615-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1
Introduction: It’s All a Conspiracy … And We Love It!      3

1. The Art of Conspiracy: Defining a New Genre      13
2. Enemies Within: The Conspiracy Culture of the 1960s and ’70s      23
3. From Nuclear Apocalypse to Conspiracy: Conspiracy Films of the 1960s and ’70s      63
4. Everything Is Connected: The Conspiracy Theories of the 1980s      101
5. Aliens, Rugged Individualists, and Incompetent Conspirators: Conspiracy Films of the 1980s      121
6. Millennial Fears: Conspiracy Theories of the 1990s      144
7. Extreme Possibilities: Conspiracy Films of the 1990s      160
8. Retro and False-Flag Conspiracies: Conspiracy Theories of the 2000s      184
9. Conspiracies Never Die: Conspiracy Films of the 2000s      211
10. Conclusions: Conspiracy Theories—The Good and the Bad?      245

Chapter Notes      251
Bibliography      259
Index      265

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Offers a chronological investigation of conspiracy culture as presented on screen”–Communication Booknotes Quarterly
  • “Rather than just entertainment, conspiracy media content reflects larger social issues…details how such themes resonate with audiences across the political spectrum…Donovan makes a prediction about the future: that conspiracy-based entertainment is here to stay.  They are a natural byproduct of an ever more complex, bureaucratic, and often overwhelming modern world.”–Everyday Sociology