19 Movies Inspired By Internet Sensations

These ideas dominated the web before they hit the big screen.

Hollywood has always tried to find different sources of inspiration over the years, whether it be books, graphic novels, video games, or even viral videos on the internet.


With the release of A24’s brand new film, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, I’ve decided to assemble 19 movies whose road to theaters began on the world wide web.


Marcel the Shell with Shoes On


Based on two short films from the early 2010s that racked up more than 43 million views combined, this 2022 A24 release brings back SNL alumni Jenny Slate as the voice of the titular crustacean.



A24 / Alamy

This provocative 2021 drama starring Riley Keough and Taylour Paige was adapted from an unpredictable 2015 Twitter thread (from @_zolarmoon) that spread like wildfire.



Universal Pictures / Alamy

Andres Muschietti’s short film, Mama, was a festival favorite in the late ’00s, but the film connected with audiences online with director Guillermo del Toro offering his seal of approval before fostering the feature adaptation with Universal.


The Death of Dick Long


Though it would be criminally spoilerific to reveal what viral video this pitch-black comedy is based on, if you’ve got the stomach to go on this bonkers ride from Daniel Scheinert (of Daniels, the directorial duo behind Everything Everywhere All At Once), it’s highly recommended that you do so.


Slender Man

Screen Gems / Alamy

The official adaptation of the wildly iconic creepypasta story, this snakebit production was a commercial and critical disappointment upon its release in 2018.


Bad Ass

20th Century Studios / Alamy

This direct-to-video action flick starring Danny Trejo notably took inspiration from the 2010 AC Transit Bus Fight video that blew up on YouTube, though the movie eventually had more legs with two sequels that co-starred Danny Glover dropping soon thereafter.



20th Century Studios / Alamy

Deadpool was a fan-favorite Marvel character for many years and even appeared in a bastardized format in X-Men Origins: Wolverine before Fox gambled on his solo outing, a decision which was greatly motivated by the internet’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to leaked test footage of an ultraviolent chase sequence.


Light’s Out

Warner Bros. Pctures / Alamy

David F. Sandberg’s 2013 horror short won the Best Director Award as a part of the Bloody Cuts Horror Challenge before blowing up to a million views on YouTube a few months later, grabbing the attention of modern horror maestro, James Wan. Of course, the rest is history, with Wan producing a 2016 hit adaptation of the short before inviting Sandberg to follow him into the Conjuring Universe with the sequel to Annabelle and the DCEU with the Shazam! films.



A24 / Alamy

It all started with a podcast, as Kevin Smith and producing partner, Scott Mosier, discussed a bizarre viral Gumtree article about a man offering free rent to a lodger that would dress up like a walrus. Smith would obviously drive the concept into darker territory, and with the hashtag #walrusyes, he would manifest this cult body horror film starring Justin Long, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez, and Johnny Depp.


We’re All Going to the World’s Fair

Utopia / Alamy

The culture of scary viral videos, TikTok challenges, and creepypasta permeates every frame of Jane Schoenbrun’s horror film about a lonely teenage girl who participates in the allegedly deadly “world’s fair” challenge.


Safety Not Guaranteed

FilmDistrict / Alamy

It took 15 years for the legend of a joke ad in Backwoods Home Magazine to circulate and grow on the internet before becoming the basis of Colin Trevorrow’s acclaimed romantic comedy.



Lionsgate / Alamy

Horror fans have searched high and low for any truth behind the reportedly real Thai “murder vacation” website on the dark web that inspired Eli Roth’s massively successful (and controversial) sophomore feature. 


The Pizzagate Massacre


Originally named “Duncan” before its distributor opted for a more exploitative title, this dark satire has been greatly inspired by myriad conspiracy theories spread online by QAnon, including sex cults and lizard people, which led to the all-too-real “Pizzagate” incident at Comet Ping Pong in late 2016.


Always Watching: A Marble Hornets Story

Gravitas Ventures / Alamy

Inspired by the Slender Man mythos, this critically panned horror flick from YouTube ARG channel, Marble Hornets, starred Freddy vs. Jason‘s Chris Marquette, Hellboy‘s Doug Jones, and American Horror Story‘s Alexandra Breckinridge.


Mystery Team

Roadside Attractions / Alamy

Parlaying their momentum from their viral sketch comedy channel on YouTube, Derrick Comedy independently produced this 2009 comedy, which provided the troupe’s breakout star Donald Glover with his first leading film role.


Winnebago Man

Kino Lorber

The viral fascination with Jack Rebney’s profane outtakes for his Winnebago sales outlet began with VHS tape trading in the 1990s before exploding worldwide on YouTube, which ultimately inspired director Ben Steinbauer to track down the so-called “Angriest Man in the World” for this 2009 documentary.


Karen (2021)

Quiver Distribution

Taryn Manning stars in Coke Daniels’ schlocky 2021 thriller born out of the wave of “Karen” videos that swept the internet in recent years depicting the gross overreactions of racist and entitled white women toward people of color in public situations.


District 9

TriStar Pictures / Alamy

Neill Blomkamp was supposed to debut with a film adaptation of the globally popular Halo video game series but in the wake of its dissolution, he turned to his hit short film, Alive in Joburg, which connected with sci-fi fans on YouTube in a big way and served as the blueprint for his hit first film, District 9.


I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

Rudius Films

Questionably ethical party bro, Tucker Max, garnered much online attention in the early ’00s with his egocentric stories of collegiate debauchery, which he later compiled into a best-selling book and adapted to a lackluster film of the same name.

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