In the world of filmmaking, storytelling is an art form that relies on a wide range of literary devices and techniques to convey emotions, ideas, and themes. They don't always sync perfectly with filmmaking, but their concepts help us become better at imagining the world and help us dig into characters.

One such device is the oxymoron. It's not obvious how it's used in film and TV, but it has a place, and you should know it.

In this article, we'll delve into the definition of an oxymoron and explore how it is employed in film through some compelling examples.

Let's get started.

What is an oxymoron? Definition and 20 funny examples!

Oxymoron Definition

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that combines two seemingly contradictory or opposite words or concepts to create a paradoxical effect.

The juxtaposition of these conflicting elements often serves to highlight the complexities of a situation, add depth to character development, or provoke thought and emotion in the audience.

Examples of Oxymorons in Writing

What Is an Oxymoron? (Definition and Examples)Nic Cage in 'Adaptation'

Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

In literature and other forms of writing, oxymorons show up all the time. They're used as little contradictions or add depth to a scene or phrase. Sometimes they're just colloquialisms as well.

Check out the list below:

  1. Bittersweet
  2. Deafening silence
  3. Living dead
  4. Act naturally
  5. Same difference
  6. Open secret
  7. Seriously funny
  8. Small crowd
  9. Original copy
  10. Alone together
  11. Awfully good
  12. Virtual reality
  13. Plastic glasses
  14. Passive-aggressive
  15. Pretty ugly
  16. Old news
  17. Jumbo Shrimp
  18. Controlled chaos
  19. Clearly confused
  20. Growing smaller
  21. Found missing
  22. Sweet sorrow
  23. Minor crisis
  24. Tight slacks
  25. Original replica
  26. Random order
  27. True myth
  28. Freezer burn
  29. Free love
  30. Free speech

Why Do Filmmakers Use Oxymorons? 

We looked at how they get used in literature, but I figured we should check out a few reasons why filmmakers would be interested in this kind of language.

  1. Emphasizing Complexity: Oxymorons allow filmmakers to highlight the complexity of a situation, character, or theme. By juxtaposing contradictory elements, they draw attention to the multifaceted nature of the subject matter. This complexity can make the storytelling more engaging and thought-provoking for the audience.
  2. Adding Depth to Characters: Characters in films are often more relatable when they exhibit conflicting traits or emotions. Oxymorons can be used in character development to showcase inner conflicts or the duality of a character's personality, making them more three-dimensional and relatable.
  3. Exploring Themes: Oxymorons are a powerful way to explore central themes in a film. They can serve as a lens through which the audience can examine ideas such as love and loss, freedom and captivity, or truth and deception. By using oxymorons, filmmakers can invite viewers to ponder these themes more deeply.
  4. Setting Tone and Atmosphere: Filmmakers often use oxymorons to establish the tone or atmosphere of a film. A well-placed oxymoron can convey a sense of ambiguity, tension, or irony that sets the mood for the story.
  5. Creating Symbolism: Oxymorons can be used symbolically to represent broader ideas or conflicts within the narrative. For example, the oxymoron "bittersweet" might symbolize the mixed emotions of a character or the ups and downs of a relationship.

Oxymoron Examples

These are not perfect examples of oxymorons but do show how and when they occur in films.

  1. Jumbo Shrimp: In the iconic film Forrest Gump, the titular character famously listens to a list of shrimp from his friend Bubba, with "jumbo shrimp" in the mix. By combining the words "jumbo" and "shrimp."
  2. Act Naturally: The classic Beatles film A Hard Day's Night features a song with the line "They're gonna put me in the movies, and all I have to do is act naturally." This oxymoron humorously emphasizes the idea that acting naturally can be a challenging task in the world of entertainment, where performers often play roles that are far from their true selves.
  3. Adaptation vs Original: The film Adaptation explores the challenges of adapting a non-fiction book into a screenplay - and the character instead creates something wholly original. The title itself, Adaptation, is an oxymoron, as it suggests the paradoxical nature of trying to create something original while staying faithful to the source material.

By juxtaposing contradictory elements, oxymorons can create memorable moments, add depth to characters, and provoke thought and emotion in the audience.

So, the next time you watch a film, keep an eye out for these clever linguistic tricks that add depth and meaning to the cinematic experience.

Let me know what you think in the comments.