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Irony in Film – Running Counter to the Action




Irony in Film Running Counter to the Action

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I’m a big fan of irony, so I was surprised to read about how many people don’t like it. It’s true: many people find it confusing, irritating or even offensive. But if you’re trying to write scripts that are rich in character and meaning—and if you want your characters to be fully realized—then learning the ins and outs of verbal irony is an essential skill.

There are several ways to add irony to a film. One common way is by running a counterpoint to the action in the film. In some cases, this may also be done through the use of sarcasm, which is a form of irony. In some cases, the irony is used to criticize a subject. For example, in satire, irony is sarcastic and approves of things the satirists would like to criticize.

The Verbal Definition

Verbal irony is when a character says something that is blatantly opposed to what they really mean. For example, if a character says they’re hungry while sitting down to eat a delicious meal, this would be verbal irony (the audience knows that the character doesn’t mean what they’re saying).

Verbal irony can be used in the film in two ways:

  1. to establish a character’s personality or
  2. for situational comedy relief.

To illustrate these two uses of verbal irony, let’s look at some examples from popular films that contain both dramatic and verbal ironies:

-There is a scene in The Lion King where Simba and Nala are talking about Mufasa and how he was murdered by his evil Uncle Scar. Simba says, “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” Nala replies, “Simba, there’s no need to go back to the past when we have each other right now!”

The audience realizes that Simba does, in fact, need to go back to the past because it was his father’s death that led him to run away from Pride Rock and leave his home. This is an example of dramatic irony because the audience knows something that one or more characters do not know.

The Dramatic Definition

Dramatic irony is a literary device in which the audience knows something about the story or characters that is not known by the characters themselves. You’ve probably seen it in action in films like Casablanca, where Bogart’s character doesn’t realize that his love interest (played by Ingrid Bergman) is his wife and therefore destined to leave him at any moment.

Examples of Dramatic Irony in Film:

  • Casablanca (1942).
  • The Usual Suspects (1995).
  • The Sixth Sense (1999).
  • The Breakfast Club (1985).
  • The Lion King (1994).
  • A Few Good Men (1992).

The Sixth Sense is a good example of dramatic irony because the audience knows that Bruce Willis’ character can see dead people, but his wife does not.

In The Usual Suspects, the audience knows that Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) is Keyser Söze, but this information is withheld from his colleagues who think he’s dead.

Irony as a Literary Element in Film

In the film, irony can create suspense and tension that is not present in the same way when reading a work of literature.

The main difference comes from the mediums themselves—what you see and hear with your eyes and ears creates an experience for viewers that can be more immersive than just reading about it on paper. There are fewer barriers between the fictional world being presented and the viewer; it’s easier for them to become wrapped up in what they’re watching because there’s no need to visualize anything themselves.

A good example would be watching an intense scene where a villain is chasing someone through dark streets at night: if this were just written out as text, it wouldn’t have nearly as much impact as seeing it happen on screen!

This also opens up space for filmmakers who want their audience members to think critically about what they’re watching without being able to predict what happens next simply because they’ve read similar stories before (which may have had very different outcomes).

Verbal Irony in Film

Verbal irony occurs when a character says something opposite to what they mean. When characters say something in a way that contradicts their true feelings about a situation or another person, this is known as verbal irony. For example, if you’re being sarcastic about how beautiful the weather is but it’s raining cats and dogs outside, this would be verbal irony (you might not know what “cats and dogs” mean yet!).

The difference between verbal irony and sarcasm is that with sarcasm, there’s usually an intention to hurt someone. In contrast, with verbal irony, there could be genuine feelings behind the words spoken.

Verbal Irony Examples in Film

There are many examples of verbal irony in the film:

  • In Jackie Brown, when Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) tells Ordell Robbie (Samuel L Jackson) “I don’t trust nobody” after he asks her to assist him in some illegal activities because she knows he’ll eventually use her as an alibi if things go wrong with his plan; however later on in the movie she does trust him completely! This shows us how unreliable our perceptions can be when we’re trying understand other people’s intentions toward us!

Verbal Irony as an Important Dramatic Device

You may have heard of verbal irony, as it’s a famous dramatic device. Verbal irony uses words to mean the opposite of what they usually mean. It can be used to show that someone is being sarcastic or humorous. It’s also often used when someone is being rude.

Irony Can Be an Effective Dramatic Device

The irony is a literary device used to create effective drama in the film. The word “ironic” means contrary to what was expected or the opposite of what you might expect. This can be accomplished in film by having the audience see something that doesn’t make sense at first glance, but then they realize later on why it’s ironic (or why it happened). It can also work as a plot twist, a surprise ending revealing important information about your characters or story.


There’s this guy who’s really nervous about flying because he thinks he’ll die in a plane crash (he even has nightmares about it). On top of his fear, he gets stuck next to an obnoxious businessman who won’t stop talking about how much more successful he is than everyone else on the flight. Later in the movie, both planes have crashed into mountainsides and are plummeting toward earth at breakneck speed—you guessed it!—the two end up seated next to each other again!

This time however their fate isn’t so grim since they were able to use their parachutes before impact…. Now they’re stranded together with no way out but death by freezing temperatures and avalanches unless someone comes along soon enough with supplies so we’ll never find out if those two crazy guys ever get along after all these years; this suspenseful moment would’ve been perfect for one last joke between them before going off-screen forever.”

The Irony Is Militant in Satire

A common way of supplying irony in film satire is by running counter to the action. In the classic example of the bank robbery scene in The Godfather, the man who is the central figure has the final word. In another example, the man’s wife is introduced as a feminist activist but is a submissive, obedient woman.

Irony Is a Form of Sarcasm

In the film, sarcasm takes on many forms. Sometimes it involves verbal irony. This occurs when characters say things that are inherently different from what they mean. Sometimes it is an insult aimed at a specific person or group. In either case, sarcasm is meant to mock, but it can also be funny. Regardless of the form, irony in film is a great way to add humor to any movie.

Another example of satire in the film is how a character is portrayed as a villain. In the film Die Hard, the villain is known for his subtle insults and sarcastic personality. Richard is the film’s villain, and his sarcasm serves as a way to hide his insecurity. Richard grew up differently than Tommy, and has a long-held grudge against him.


This post showed examples of how to use irony in film. As we have seen, it can effectively show that characters are not always what they seem or that their actions don’t match up with their words. The examples here also demonstrate the difference between dramatic irony and verbal irony – which one do you prefer using?

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