Spinning tops have been around for ages and are one of the oldest recognizable toys in cultures throughout the world. They have been used for much more than children’s play, including games, gambling, education, and even prophecy. They’ve been used to symbolize life, death, fertility, and reality.
So, it’s no surprise that spinning tops make their way into entertainment media from time to time. Here are five movies in which spinning tops make an appearance.
A spinning top is prominently featured in the science fiction movie Inception (2010) as both a prop and symbolism. The main character – a professional thief – steals information from people’s minds by inducing a shared dream-state. He uses a spinning top (which he calls a totem) to distinguish reality from dreams. If the top wobbles, he’s back to reality.
Inception has an ending that leaves you thinking, rather than feeling satisfied. As the moving ends, the protagonist is spinning his top. The scene cuts out and the movie ends while the top is still spinning, leaving viewers to wonder if he’s in reality after just getting home and giving his kids a hug.
Though Titanic (1997) has been criticized as being historically flawed, director James Cameron put significant effort into delivering history accurately when possible within financial and technical limitations. There are certain historical facts and attention to detail that really are impressive. One of these has to do with a spinning top!
The last known photo taken on the deck of the real Titanic ship is known to be of a boy spinning a top. Though it’s a minor scene in the film, the boy playing with a spinning top is one of the closest to a true snapshot of Titanic’s history throughout the movie. The location, characters, mood, and type of spinning top are all consistent with the historical picture.
My Summer Story
A Christmas Story is one of the most popular Christmas movies, but most people haven’t heard of its sequel – My Summer Story (1994) – which was originally released in theaters as It Runs in the Family. This movie follows the beloved Parker family during the summer season, and they make it no less festive than Christmas!
This sequel begins just as Ralphie is getting out of school for summer vacation. Instead of the BB gun being the object of Ralphie’s quest throughout the plot, it’s a top. Ralphie spends his summer break in search of the perfect spinning top to challenge his old rival and bully, Scut Farkus.
The Secret of Crickley Hall
The tragic deaths of several children in the 1940’s intersect with the abduction of a boy in the present day when a family moves into a haunted orphanage. That’s the brief storyline of The Secret of Crickley Hall (2012). It’s a supernatural thriller based on James Herbert’s 2006 novel with the same name.
This movie is both scary and saddening, with themes of sadness, loss, and suffering. One of the heartbreaking moments is when the movie shows an abused orphan spinning a top while he waits to be rescued, though the audience knows the rescue isn’t coming.
Anemic Cinema (1926) is more of a piece of art than a feature film. Artist Marcel Duchamp made the film by rotating cardboard disks with spirals drawn on them and ten rotating disks inscribed with words and phrases. The disks alternate onscreen and turn in different directions and at varying speeds. The disks with spirals seem to pulse in and out, as if they were three-dimensional, while those with inscriptions need to be read by the viewer.
It’s the spinning of simple objects that create the desired affects in this movie. Though not strictly spinning tops, the rotary motion of the disks is used for the same mesmerizing effect that we get when watching a top spin.
Watch a movie, spin a top
I hope you enjoyed reading briefly about several movies that have used spinning tops to tell a story, create symbolism, and keep the audience engaged! You can get a high quality spinning top to use as you create your own life’s script in the Scovie Precision Turning top shop.