Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say, and some fans are really willing to put their time, energy and money where their mouth is. Because what unites fan films of all lengths, formats and levels of professionalism is the fact they are true labours of love. Here are five of my favourites. <3
#5. Hey Mario
One of my all time favourite bands, Patent Pending, rebranded themselves as 'Mario and the Brick Breakers' to release a whole album and accompanying mockumentary re-imagining Mario as a rock star. You can see the whole thing on YouTube, or the title track Hey Mario in the embed below.
"Mario, get your sh*t together bro;
You've got to know this princess isn't worth these extra lives;
Just let her go (go), Mario, you're a next level bro;
But the Peach been cheating and you know I ain't talking code."
#4. Mission to the Unknown
Dr. Who is the kind of franchise that was made for expanded universe and the sheer amount of content, both official and fan, created for it has to be seen to be believed. Even so, Mission to the Unknown, a BBC approved recreation of the original 1965 episode - now lost - by staff and students at the University of Central Lancashire is something special. The set and costumes are spot on, and Marco Simioni puts in a pitch perfect turn as a stoic 60s hero. YouTube has both the recreation and a documentary about its making.
#3. Darth Maul: Apprentice
Darth Maul: Apprentice is a short Star Wars fan film from 2016. The Maul make-up is amazing, the lightsaber choreography is awesome, and the whole thing is just incredibly well put together. It also succeeded in making me care more about a bunch of unnamed Jedi in 18 minutes than the new trilogy managed for, well, anyone across multiple hours I'll never get back. Watch it on YouTube.
#2. Joker vs Pennywise
Do music videos count as fan films? Well, they're gonna for the purpose of this list, okay! Because Epic Rap Battles of History churn out loads of great content, but their Joker vs Pennywise vid is just next level. Every second is perfection.
#1. Detroit Evolution
Detroit: Become Human is a 2018 video game from Quantic Dream which follows androids who break their programming to become 'deviant'. In one of the many (many) alternate endings the police android is replaced by an upgraded model - and fandom ran with that few seconds of game footage to create a ship featuring RK900 and one of the game's antagonists, Detective Gavin Reed.
That makes this 75 minute fan film notable in lots of ways - it's a crowdfunded gay romance cyberpunk thriller based on a relationship that has only ever existed in the collective fannish consciousness. For me it was equal parts wonderful and weird to watch; when I got into the fandom the 'go to' ship dynamics were a lot harsher and aggressive with RK900 being quite sadistic. That's so not my jam, and I was psyched that by the time I moved on it had changed to something much softer.
So in a strange way the film felt, I don't know, personal. I'd played my own little part in creating the tropes that were now being acted out so well on screen. How cool is that? But even if I hadn't, I'd still have enjoyed the movie. Sure, it's not perfect. The whodunnit aspect is obvious from the go but that was never a disadvantage to Columbo and it isn't to this either. The fight choreography isn't great, but then again it often isn't even in big budget stuff which takes months to film. The scripting, acting and editing are genuinely impressive, and the filming is super professional. It's everything you could want a big screen fanfic adaption to be, honestly.