Conspiracy Theory in Cinema

Hollywood has long offered audiences examples of JFK conspiracy theories, both in oblique references to the assassination as well as explicit ones.

Annie Hall (1977) Directed by Woody Allen

In this film, Woody Allen’s character uses his obsession with the Kennedy assassination and his inability to accept the Warren Commission’s single bullet theory as an excuse to avoid a physical relationship with his wife.

Slacker  (1991) Directed by Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater’s watershed independent film Slacker depicts a JFK conspiracy theorist explaining to a bookstore patron the various books on the assassination which challenge the official story.

Salt (2010) Directed by Philip Noyce

Salt plays off an old theory in conspiracy theory literature that the man who assassinated President Kennedy was not actually Lee Harvey Oswald but a double named “Alec” who had replaced him during his time in the Soviet Union. Alec was Marina’s nickname for Oswald.

Shooter (2007) Directed by Antoine Fuqua

The protagonist of Shooter, Bob Lee Swagger, is accused of an assassination attempt on the President and is forced into hiding where he meets an rifle expert who jokingly (?) implies he has knowledge of the plot to kill Kennedy.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2003) Directed by by Don Coscarelli

According to the film Bubba Ho-Tep, Elvis and JFK are still alive and living together in a retirement home. Also, JFK has been dyed black by the conspirators who faked his death. “Jack” as he is known, lives in a room decorated with mug shots of Claw Shaw, Dave Ferrie, Lee Oswald, a portrait of Mrs. Kennedy and a scale model of the murder scene, replete with small figures depicting the various individuals involved in the shooting. Later in the film, we also see that Jack’s room has a small “sea shell” alcove similar to those seen in the Oval Office.

Greetings! (1968) Directed by Brian DePalma

This early DePalma picture portrays an individual obsessed with JFK conspiracy theories related to finding hidden images in the amateur photographs of the assassination. It is perhaps the earliest portrayal of a JFK conspiracy theorist in mainstream film.

Winter Kills (1979)by William Richert

Winter Kills is a black comedy based on the Richard Condon novel of the same name. A response to the notion that his earlier novel The Manchurian Candidate was some sort of prophecy regarding the Kennedy assassination, Condon slyly pokes fun at the various theories, in this wry, satirical story. The plot follows the half brother of a slain President who hears a deathbed confession from a man claiming to be the second shooter in the assassination, challenging the findings of the “Pickering Commission” that Willie Arnold acted alone in the assassination of President Keagan.

Parallax View (1974) Directed by Alan J. Pakula

Building on the paranoia of the 1970s, Parallax View depicts a conspiracy theory that eerily resembles the Kennedy assassination theories. It begins with a stunning set piece assassination atop the Space Needle in Seattle that seems to mirror the assassination of Robert Kennedy.

The climax of the film depicts the assassination of Senator Charles Carol during the rehearsal of a political campaign event.

The film wraps up with scene portraying a government commission similar to the Warren Commission that covers up the circumstances of the crime, claiming now conspiracy and pinning the murder solely on the hero of the film. Click on the image below for a link to the clip.


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