Why is ‘Funny Games’ Still Relevant After 20 Years?

Today we're talking about the masterpiece out of Michael Haneke's catalog, Funny Games, and why we still remember it today

In this post you'll learn:

  • How it turned the Horror Film Genre on Its Head
  • How it kept it's relevance
  • Exploring why watching “Funny Games” is still meaningful
  • and many more.

Let's dive right in.


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Quick Overview

Director Michael Haneke delivers a cult classic in the 1997 film “Funny Games”, a horror classic that has stood the test of time, still remembered as one of the greatest horror films ever made.

The movie deconstructs conventional tropes from slasher movies and is shot with great skill, using long takes and minimal music to orchestrate a dreadful atmosphere.

It makes a statement, notably breaking the fourth wall as well as offers a commentary about the power dynamics between sadism and masochism, proposing difficult questions for viewers regarding violence on screen.

Its themes remain relevant today due to its exploration of violence in entertainment, through the depiction of sadistic exercise. The 2007 version highlights performances by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth which still makes an audience shudder.

Ultimately it stands out because of its blunt audience provocation making it a compelling, yet nerve-wracking viewing experience even after two decades.

If you haven’t yet watched it, read on.

Watching Funny Games a Family Hostage – Synopsis

“Funny Games” (1997) is at its core a family hostage film making it a brilliant psychological thriller.

It follows two men who stalk and torture an unsuspecting family and proceed to terrorize them in increasingly cruel and inventive ways, carrying out a nihilistic experiment.

The film offers a unique insight into the minds of the perpetrators, and their motivations, as the two young men carry out gruesome acts the motive of which remain unclear even after their cruelty has been exposed.

As the family’s ordeal worsens, it becomes harder to watch as viewers become complicit in the horror and start to question why these games are being played. Unsurprisingly, without being met with any reason.

A Thrilling Plotline

George and Ann Farber arrive at their lake house with their son Georgie and their dog Lucky. Fred, their next-door neighbor, is seen with two young men named Peter and Paul.  Fred and Paul came over to assist with getting the boat into the water. 

They notice Fred acting skittishly and erratically.  George and Georgie stay outdoors by the lake after they leave, caring their boat out. Georgie questions his father about Fred’s odd behavior.

As the family settles into their vacation home, Peter pays Ann a visit and requests to borrow eggs while she is cooking. Ann hands him the eggs, but Peter drops them.

Accidentally knocking her phone into the sink full of water. Irritated,  Ann offers Peter another four eggs and he goes away.  She soon hears Lucky, the family dog barking and discovers the young men, Peter and Paul inside the house, together.

Paul invites her to use one of the golf clubs outdoors, and she reluctantly accepts. George and Georgie are in the boat when they hear Lucky barking furiously. Ann grows irritated when Peter and Paul seek more eggs, as the previous batch breaks when Lucky jumps up on Peter. But George enters and attempts to force the guys to leave, hitting Paul.

In vengeance, Peter uses the golf club to break one of George’s legs. The young men then kidnap the family members. Paul asks George and Ann if they want to bet that they will be alive by 9:00 a.m., and adds that he and Peter are wagering that they will not be.

Despite its dark themes, strewn with violent images, especially for the couple’s son, “Funny Games” also leaves audiences with hope as they witness one character’s resilience and courage in taking a stand against their captors, albeit unsuccessfully. It’s the type of frightening uneasiness only a horror game can deliver.

Director Michael Haneke and The Lasting Legacy of “Funny Games”

“Funny Games” (1997), directed by Michael Haneke, is a horror film that has stood the test of time. It has been 20 years since its release, and the twisted masterpiece, “Funny Games.” endures.

It was remade, shot-for-shot in 2007 with Naomi Watts starring as Anna, the mother. For 2007’s American version, the character of Gerda was renamed “Betsy”, the second family to fall victim to Paul and Peter was given the surname “Farber” to their friend, and the third family was given the surname “Thompson”.

The film, like the original, gives an account of a middle-class family as they are kidnapped and tortured by two young criminals while on vacation to their lakeside holiday home. Principal photography took place on the east coast, specifically, Long Island was used for exterior filming.

With a release date set for October of 2007, it debut at the Sundance and British Film Festival by 14 March 2008, Warner Independent launched a limited distribution in the United States and Canada.  

On April 8, 2008, the film was released in additional cinemas. In April 2008, the film was screened at the Istanbul Film Festival. Despite the intense acting chops showcased by Naomi Watts, It did not get a significant theatrical release in the United States until it was released on DVD. The review of which was lukewarm.

If you’ve watched the film, you’ll recall that it is still remembered as one of the greatest horror films ever made, even though it wasn’t intended as such. Its themes have endured over time.

In this blog post, we will examine how “Funny Games” transformed our understanding of horror films, discuss the themes that have kept it relevant to modern audiences, and explore why it is still meaningful after two decades.

How “Funny Games” Changed Horror Films Forever

At its core, “Funny Games” is a deconstruction of the horror genre. It takes classic tropes from slasher movies (like the masked killer and helpless victim) and flips them on their head. Haneke uses the story to challenge the audience with philosophical questions about our relationship with violence. He also uses minimal music to create a feeling of dread that is often more effective than traditional jump scares.

The Sadistic and Masochistic Stay Forever Intertwined

In “Funny Games,” the message is about the power dynamics between sadism and masochism. He posits that when watching this film, you are essentially trapped in the “Skinner box” of a movie theater, like someone performing an experiment with no choice from the viewers but to observe.

Haneke’s control is masterful, every audience member is captivated, unnerved but unable to look away, anxious for Anna, her son, and her husband as well as their house, and must accept what is presented to you, no matter how uncomfortable or graphic it may be.

This idea of being powerless against the forces of evil is one of the primary themes explored by Haneke throughout his work.

The movie proposes a difficult question for viewers: Are we more inclined towards sadism or masochism? Do we embrace the violence on the screen or do we reject it?

And is there any extricating ourselves from it, whether that be in entertainment or in general as we move through life.

Ultimately, Haneke leaves it up to us as individuals to make our own choices – after all, as he says himself, “the person leaving cinema doesn’t need the movie”.

Themes at Play that Keep it Relevant To Modern Audiences

Despite being 20 years old, “Funny Games” remains a relevant watch because a home invasion stokes current anxieties. Its exploration of violence as entertainment continues to resonate in today’s media landscape, especially given the rise in popularity of video games like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto.

And, the rise of true crime podcasts, interviews, and accounts. The film also touches upon issues like privilege and power dynamics; two topics that are at the forefront of conversations around social justice today.

Often with no plausible answer, shown in how nonchalantly Peter and Paul place a bet to see whether their victims will live to see tomorrow. The irony of the biblical names also draws a satirical metaphor.

Additionally, the 2007 version of “Funny Games” highlights the performance of Naomi Watts and Tim Roth in a way that resonates with modern audiences.

Their portrayal of a family terrorized by their vacation neighbors is both captivating and terrifying, making the film particularly powerful to viewers who can relate to their onscreen plight.

Furthermore, Haneke’s use of slow-motion shots and freeze frames creates an atmosphere of tension and dread that keeps audiences engaged even after all these years.

Why Is It Still Meaningful After Two Decades?

Finally, “Funny Games” stands out because it is an unflinching look at humanity’s capacity for evil. By exploring these dark aspects within us all, in that our propensity to inflict and witness it is endless. Haneke forces us to confront whilst offering us a glimmer of hope in the form of redemption through suffering and understanding.

Frequently Asked Questions: Funny Games

Is Funny Games 1997 scary?

It is debatable if “Funny Games” (1997) is a “horror” film. Jump scares and fancy effects are typical in the horror genre, but this film takes a more psychological approach. It’s full of suspense, tension, and moral ambiguity, making it more disturbing than standard horror. Furthermore, the film avoids standard horror cliches like otherworldly creatures in favor of focusing on real-world situations that many viewers can identify with. Overall, the film has its disturbing moments, but it is ultimately up to the spectator to decide whether it is actually frightening.

Is Funny Games Based on a true story?

No, “Funny Games” (1997) is not based on a true story. It was written and directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke and is a reflection of his own personal style and views about violence in media. Although the movie does contain elements reminiscent of infamous true crime stories such as the Petit family murders, it is entirely fictional. Haneke himself has stated that the film was intended to be an exploration into the nature of violence in cinema and not necessarily a recreation of real-life events.

Is Funny Games 2007 an exact remake?

Yes, “Funny Games” (2007) is an exact shot-for-shot remake of the 1997 film of the same name. Although the two films are very similar in plot and concept, there are some differences between them. Most notably, the 2007 American version stars Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, while the original film featured a German-speaking cast. The basic premise remains largely unchanged, however, with both films telling a story about a family terrorized by their vacation neighbors.

Why remake Funny Games?

Michael Haneke, the director of “Funny Games,” has said that he remade his movie as a way to explore different cinematic approaches to depict violence and its effects on audiences. By encouraging audiences to become complicit victims in a story of destruction and mayhem, and short glimpses of hope, it remains a cultural critique. By remaking the film in 2007, Haneke wanted to observe how audiences would respond to the same story filmed with updated technology and presented in English. He also used the remake as an opportunity to broaden his audience internationally, allowing viewers from more countries to view his work.


It’s no surprise that “Funny Games” has stood the test of time; it transcends traditional horror conventions by blending nonchalance with terror in a way that few other films can match.

What makes it truly special is its ability to capture our darkest impulses while simultaneously inspiring us toward greater empathy and understanding.

As always, we love to hear from you so sound off in the comments below, have you watched this movie, and what’s your idea of a horror movie? Let us know!

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