Movies that promote conspiracy theories!

Did the moon landings ever happen? Not according to this movie!

Since the first feature films were made by Hollywood in the early 20th century – they have been peddling conspiracy theories. All social media has done is amplify this stuff to an unparalleled degree. Whether it’s faked moon landings or clones of Hitler being created in Latin America – there’s a movie for every conspiracy theory you can imagine!

How about the moon landings never happened? Ever since Neil Armstrong made a giant leap for mankind by stepping to the surface of the moon – there’s been endless speculation that it never happened. One conspiracy theory is that fake filmed footage to fool the public was overseen by Stanley Kubrick who had just directed 2001: A Space Odyssey which included scenes on the moon.

In 1978, James Brolin and O. J. Simpson played astronauts in the conspiracy theory movie Capricorn One. The plot involves a manned mission to Mars that goes wrong due to technical faults with the space module. To avoid embarrassment, the government creates a Mars-like environment in a studio and the astronauts pretend to have landed on the red planet. But in order to keep things totally secret, the astronauts have to be killed. This played to lingering widespread suspicions that nobody had ever been to the moon.

Since the end of the Second World War, there’s been a great deal of speculation about how many of Hitler’s top Nazis secretly fled Germany to Latin America. Was the Vatican involved? Did fascist and military dictators in Latin American countries shelter some of the most evil people in the 20th century? The 1978 movie The Boys from Brazil certainly thought so.

This has to be one of the most absurd conspiracy theory plots ever concocted. Veteran Hollywood actor Gregory Peck (who must have needed the money) plays Dr Josef Mengele, a real-life Nazi doctor who conducted unspeakable experiments in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The movie had him in Brazil decades later developing Hitler clones. The intention was that these little boys would grow up to be Fuhrers and take over the world.

The assassination of President Kennedy in 1963 has been blamed on the CIA, the mafia and of course Lee Harvey Oswald. In 1991, director Oliver Stone brought us JFK – a conspiracy theory laden feast of conjecture and inference. Most controversially, it pointed an accusing finger at Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s immediate successor as President of the United States. Stone came in for a mountain of criticism but the movie was a box office smash.

The JFK conspiracy theory movie

In 1962, The Manchurian Candidate gave us the story of a US President secretly in the grip of the Soviet Union. The champion of the free world was actually a Communist agent. I know what some of you are thinking – replace the Soviet Union with Russia and we have a Manchurian Candidate in the White House today! In 2004, the film was remade with a president under the control of a multinational corporation. Time for another update then?

FIND OUT MORE: Movies about the Nazis

Forward to 1990 and we have the release of Godfather III – the third of the Godfather gangster trilogy directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s arguably the weakest of the three films. The conspiracy theory plot features the murder of a recently elected pope and financial skullduggery within the Vatican. These are heavy references to the real-life scandal at the Vatican controlled Banco Ambrosiano at the end of the 1970s and the sudden death of Pope John Paul I only a month after his election in 1978.

The theme of a murdered pope continues with Angels and Demons – a movie based on the novel by Dan Brown.

Are there any movies you’ve enjoyed that promote crazy or feasible conspiracy theories?

The Shroud of Turin – genuine or fake?

For centuries the debate has raged – is The Shroud of Turin the real burial cloth in which the crucified body of Jesus was wrapped or is it a forgery?

What is the Turin Shroud?

In the cathedral church of Saint John the Baptist in the Italian city of Turin, you’ll find a long linen cloth with the imprint of a dead man. His hands and feet bear signs of having been nailed to a cross and there are blood stains along the folds of the cloth. The body has a ghostly appearance with a mournful bearded face that any Christian would identify as Jesus. This is the Turin Shroud.

But is it Christ? Science and faith have been at loggerheads over this in recent years.

Just when you think the Turin Shroud has been carbon dated and definitely proven to be a medieval fake, along comes another scientist or expert of some description to claim it could still be the real deal. Though I must say at this point that the overwhelming majority of scientists would be on the fake side of the argument – but not 100% of them.

Let’s start by taking a good look at the Turin Shroud – and by all means pull up the many images you can Google to see it in more detail. Remember, the view of those who believe is that this imprint was somehow made on the linen after Jesus had died on the cross.

A 3D image of Jesus as he may have looked like has even been produced using the Turin Shroud as this YouTube video shows. We’ll look at the evidence further below.

The Catholic church has always sat on the fence a bit when it comes to the shroud. You may have got the impression that the Vatican is totally on board with its authenticity as a literal representation of Jesus. But you’d be wrong. Read the small print. The church has authorised it as a devotional item – but not a bona fide relic of Jesus Christ.

The historian Charles Freeman thinks the Catholic church has boxed itself in over a piece of cloth that nobody believed was truly the shroud of Jesus when it was most likely created in the 14th century – a thousand years after the crucifixion. Freeman thinks the Turin Shroud was used as a theatrical prop in religious plays put on for simple folk at Easter time.

Intriguingly, some images of the Turin Shroud from five hundred years ago shows that the cloth had a lot more blood and gore on it. There was apparently quite a fashion for blood-splattered religious relics from the 14th century onwards. Pilgrims liked to see the Messiah had suffered – I dare say Mel Gibson would approve having watched his horrific depiction of Christ’s death.

Scientists testing small samples from the cloth have dated it to the 14th century. However, there was one high-profile dissenting voice from one of the scientific investigations conducted in the 1970s. Barrie Schwortz was the official photographer on the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) in 1978. In his own words, even though he is Jewish – he’s convinced to this day that the shroud he photographed is the genuine article.

A fascinating Bloodstain Pattern Analysis was conducted on the shroud by two scientists in 2018 – Matteo Borrini and Luigi Garlaschelli – concluding that the flow of blood on the front of the body didn’t match the flow of blood on the back. More bluntly, the rivulets of blood on the front of the arms suggested a crucifixion at an angle of 80 to 100 degrees – so arms raised very high. While on the back it pointed to a 45 degree angle. In other words, the front and back of the shroud don’t agree with each other.

Bloodstains on the back and front of the Turin Shroud do not match

Another scientist is more optimistic about the veracity of the shroud. Stephen Mattingly at the University of Texas thinks the image was caused by decaying bacteria from the body of a man who had died very slowly. Or how about the theory that a kind of thermo-nuclear flash caused by the Resurrection of Jesus burnt his image into the shroud.

Others trying to prove its authenticity have argued that the weave of the material corresponds to cloth from the biblical period while pollen on the Turin Shroud has been traced to the Middle East.

Then we go to the really far out theories. I’ve heard it claimed that the Turin Shroud is actually the face of Jacques de Molay – the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. Or a more popular assertion is that Leonardo da Vinci had a hand in its creation. Possible he used primitive photographic techniques to capture a human image.

Were the lunar landings really faked?

It’s the conspiracy theory you can whack over the head multiple times but it will not die. The idea that the lunar landings were faked is firmly believed by a significant percentage of the American public. In fact, I suspect that percentage has increased since the dawn of social media.

From wonder to faked lunar landings

Growing up as a child in the 60s and early 70s, the Apollo missions to the moon captured my imagination – and that of millions of kids. Watching the rockets heave out of their launch pads then ditch their component parts leaving the module to soar through space was thrilling. It was a triumph of the human spirit and modern technology.

While the Americans were sending astronauts into orbit, the Soviet Union was launching its cosmonauts. Two years ago, I visited an exhibition at London’s Science Museum on the Soviet space missions and marvelled at how these incredibly brave cosmonauts returned to Earth in a small metal ball with less technology than you have in your iPhone.

On occasions, they were killed on impact. In one grim instance, the cosmonaut’s final scream could be heard as he knew this was his end. In 1967, all the Apollo 1 astronauts were incinerated on the launch pad at Cape Kennedy during a training exercise. Space travel came at a high human cost.

But…what if this was all faked?

How did the faked lunar landings theory begin?

Well, that’s been a persistent conspiracy theory since the space missions. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, our childhood heroes, never set foot on the moon.

The whole thing was done on a Hollywood studio set. Or maybe at the infamous Area 51. Some conspiracy theorists have even suggested that the late movie director Stanley Kubrick was involved because….he directed 2001: A Space Odyssey. That proves it!

There’s an array of bizarre arguments put forward. A hardy perennial is that the US flag is seen to be fluttering on the moon – inconsistent with the moon having no atmosphere.

Answer: There’s a wire running along the top of the flag so it sticks out and the flapping is the what the astronauts were doing as they tried to get the flagpole stuck in the ground.

Why are there no stars in the sky behind the astronauts?

Answer: The light bouncing off the surface of the moon blanks them out. You’d have to be on the dark side to see the stars.

But why would NASA and the US administration have gone to such curious lengths to stage a moon landing? The conspiracy guys believe they have the answer. It was to fool the Soviets.

The Soviet Union forced the United States into faked lunar landings

The US didn’t have enough money or resources to get to the moon. So they faked it. The Americans had been embarrassed by Soviet success in the so-called “space race” between the superpowers and needed a success story for the American public and to demoralise the Russians. After all, communism had to be defeated here on planet Earth and in outer space.

The faked lunar landing theories took off at the same time as the Apollo missions. Maybe it just seemed too fantastical that we had sent men – and they were all men – on to the surface of the moon. I would suggest that those who doubt the veracity of the moon landings suffer from a serious lack of imagination and grasp of what science can achieve.

1970s – faked lunar landings make it to Hollywood!

In 1978, Hollywood cashed in on the paranoia with a movie called Capricorn One. The plot brought the nutty theory to life. Only this time, it was a faked mission to Mars. The whole thing was done on a movie set and afterwards, the astronauts had to be killed.

One of the astronauts in the movie was none other than OJ Simpson..subsequently jailed in real life. And yes, there are those online who link the movie to Simpson’s trial. I’m not going there – Google it for yourself.

Here’s the 1978 trailer for Capricorn One.