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10 Common Phallic Symbols in Cinema

Phallic symbolism as a subconscious association of an object with masculinity, dominance and power, has had a long history in film interpretation. Whether or not specific instances are consciously intended by the director is certainly open to debate, but no doubt it sometimes is. The use of phallic symbols has become so rooted in the film culture that cinematic spoofs exploit the most trite ones to advantage.

  1. Guns

    Bullets, guns, torpedoes, bombs and the like are quintessential icons of masculinity and power. James Bond flicks and gangster films are rife with them. One of the most memorable scenes in all of filmdom is Major T. J. “King” Kong bronco busting a bomb in “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

  2. Rockets

    Missiles and rockets blasting off into space are phallic symbols with driving purpose. No one misses the significance of an explosion of fireworks at the culmination of a romantic scene.

  3. Spears

    Weapons are often used to represent power, but in the case of piercing instruments, the phallic embodiment is unmistakable. Spears, swords, stakes, knives, spikes and arrows are all prime examples.

  4. Trains

    Trains, especially aerodynamic bullet trains, have become so entrenched as phallic symbols in films, they have lost all semblance of subtlety.Is there any doubt as to the meaning of a train rushing full speed ahead into a tunnel? Anyone over the age of sixteen probably “gets it” loud and clear.

  5. Cigars

    The use of cigars to convey male prowess has taken on a new sensibility since the Monica Lewinsky affair. The general public is too savvy now to ever let a cigar scene go unnoticed. In fact, sexual innuendo is likely to be suspected even when it isn’t meant at all.

  6. Fountains

    Going beyond simple phallic symbolism, fountains, gushing oil wells, shower heads, and spewing water hoses all represent male domination. The shower scene in “Pyscho” is a classic example.

  7. Staffs

    Kings, popes, and emperors all carry scepters as unmistakable symbols of their power. Wands, canes, clubs, bobbysticks, whips and poles all fall into the same category and serve the same iconic purpose.

  8. Monoliths

    Large imposing structures, such as the Empire State Building in “King Kong” or the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey” are associated with strength and permanence. The Washington Monument, smokestacks, towers, steeples, chimneys, columns, siloes, and pillars have all found their way into films as phallic symbols.

  9. Serpents

    Since biblical times, and probably before that, snakes have symbolized masculinity at its darkest. It is no coincidence that evil aliens are characteristically phallus shaped. Darth Vader and the storm troopers in the “Star Wars” films and the chestburster in “Alien,” are blatant examples.

  10. Miscellany

    Some phallic symbols don’t seem to fall into any obvious category, yet are so extensively used they deserve mentioning. Pens, candles, men’s ties, bones, men’s hats, and door knobs are some that come readily to mind.

This list is by no means a complete accounting of all cinematic phallic symbols. If you feel I’ve missed something major, please leave a comment.

One more thing, just because a movie has a water fountain or a club doesn’t necessarily mean it’s intended to be phallic. Even Sigmund Freud recognized that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

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  1. Rana Sinha
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Very interesting and well written.

  2. Chris
    Posted May 16, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    I like how you talk about penises.

  3. Sheven
    Posted June 9, 2009 at 3:23 am

    i think boats should be a phallic symbol…if you know what i mean

  4. Tik
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 11:58 am

    lol so funny

  5. Michael Ortiz-Benz
    Posted November 5, 2009 at 1:08 am

    seconded to the boats comments, seriously though, read the poem meeting at night, you’ll get the idea.

  6. qwerty
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 9:37 am

    So basically everything looks like a penis to you, which means men are pervs and women are being oppressed.

    It’s they who are wrong, not you! Something must be done!!!11one

  7. Posted December 28, 2010 at 3:27 am

    I don’t think that he is only talking about penis’s the post was rather informative.

  8. Bob
    Posted January 16, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    “It is no coincidence that evil aliens are characteristically phallus shaped. Darth Vader and the storm troopers in the “Star Wars” films and the chestburster in “Alien,” are blatant examples”

    Anyone who looks at Vader or a friggin’ stromtrooper and sees wangs needs to re-examine their priorities.

  9. Chris Litherland
    Posted February 20, 2011 at 4:19 am

    This was a very informative article and explains why we needed to see so much of that showerhead after she gets killed in Psycho.

  10. bob
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    I think a waship sould be included as a phallic symbol

  11. bob
    Posted April 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    I think a warship sould be included as a phallic symbol

  12. Tom
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Hahaha you are clearly seeing too many dicks my friend.

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