The Gods Must Be Crazy

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
What the...?

A classic low budget film from South Africa from the 1980s.

Once upon a time, not long ago, there was a tribe of Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert who lived in harmony with each other and with the harsh environment. Then, one day, an empty Coca-Cola bottle (the classic heavy glass style) falls from the sky. We, the viewers, can see it came from an airplane, but as far as the tribe is concerned, it came from the gods.

The Coca-Cola bottle is very useful. However, there is only one, which inevitably leads to conflict; and since it is harder than anything that can naturally be found in the Kalahari Desert, someone gets hurt. For the sake of the harmony of the tribe, one of their number, Xi, is tasked with dropping it off the edge of the earth.

We cut to a modern South African city to establish some "tribal" habits of the "civilized" people in the film. (Translation Convention is not necessary as most South Africans can speak English while Xi and the other bushmen are unfamiliar with the language.) A couple of these city-inhabitants set out on their own quests, and they inevitably cross paths with Xi. Hilarity (genuinely) Ensues.

There were three sequels, the second film was more or less as good as the first, if a bit too similar.

A spin off made in Hong Kong featured the Xi helping some Chinese people who were transporting a Chinese zombie when their plane crashed. It ends with the Chinese Zombie fighting an African voodoo zombie. Let's just say that these films were quite different from the original ones.

Tropes used in The Gods Must Be Crazy include:
  • The Ace: Jack Hind to Steyn. He's got his own Cool Car!
  • African Terrorists: Sam Boga and his men.
  • The Alleged Car: The Land Rover in the first film, which is such a troublesome vehicle that the characters actually nickname it "The Antichrist". The plane in the second film becomes its spiritual successor.
  • Animal Reaction Shot
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The filmmakers didn't seem to care what Nǃxau actually said during his scenes, since the audience wouldn't understand him anyway. The narrator always explains what Xi is supposed to be saying. Nǃxau said whatever he wanted, which often wasn't in character.
  • Banana Peel: One guerrilla manages to slip on an entire bunch.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Nǃxau was never given anything specific to say, so he made up his own lines, often mocking the artificiality of the scene he's in. The documentary N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman shows the final homecoming scene with subtitles for Nǃxau's words. Although the scene is supposed to play out like a triumphant return, Nǃxau is chastising the tribe for not rushing out to greet him immediately, as they would normally do if the scene were real.
  • Bulungi: Burani, the country whose cabinet gets shot up by Sam Boga's men. It apparently borders Botswana.
  • Catch Phrase
    • I-yi-yi...
    • I noticed.
    • I don't want to talk about it.
    • Yes, boss?
  • Cool Car: The car camouflaged as a bush in the second movie.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Steyn, who cannot talk to a woman even if his life depended on it. But during the climax he takes care of two guerilla soldiers by 1) shooting at a branch holding a snake and dropping it on one and 2) shooting a plant with a sap that irritates the skin onto another.
  • Culture Clash: One of the central themes of the movie. A lot of situations both comedic and serious happen to Xi because of this.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Steyn, after Hind takes the credit for rescuing the schoolchildren.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: Quite a few examples.
  • Genius Ditz: Andrew Steyn.
  • Had the Silly Thing In Reverse: During the climax, Xi attempts to drive the Land Rover, but, due to inexperience, winds up putting it in reverse. Rather than attempt to correct his mistake, he simply stands on the hood and steers it backwards.
  • High Altitude Interrogation: The fake helicopter drop variation is seen, leaving the prisoner thrashing on the ground, screaming his head off.
  • Hilarity Ensues
  • I Call It Vera: The Antichrist, a most temperamental offroad vehicle. Subverted in that it's not good affections that earned it the name.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: Andrew Steyn becomes quite a Badass as he helps save Kate and the village children.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Andrew Steyn is the ultimate embodiment of the trope. 80% of the comedy when he is on scene is due to his literally diminished cognitive abilities while in Kate's presence.
  • MacGuffin: The Coke bottle. The trope is inverted, because Xi receives the MacGuffin at the beginning and must go on a quest to get rid of it.
  • Mad God: The view that the Bushmen take after the Coke bottle from the sky causes so much trouble.
  • Meaningful Name: Jack Hind, Steyn's "jackass" friend, who constantly mocks Steyn at the presence of a third person, thinks of nothing but saving his own hide at the first sign of danger, and takes credit for Steyn's brave actions at the end.
  • Narrator: Done very properly in that only the scenes which focus on Xi have narration. It, of course, adds to the hilarity.
  • National Geographic Nudity: The Bushmen wear very little clothing (naturally, as they don't need it) and Xi is surprised when he sees a woman wearing a dress for the first time. He even points out how impractical it is in the African climate.
  • Noble Savage
  • No Man Should Have This Power: The conclusion the Bushmen draw about the Coke bottle. It's extremely useful, but also one-of-a-kind. Eventually people start fighting over it, which confuses the Bushmen, who have no concept of ownership.
  • Noodle Incident: An in-universe example, as the audience sees what happens with the rhinoceros, but neither of the characters involved tell the whole story to anyone else.
  • Oh Crap: One of the catch phrases is said when something is about to break loose.
  • Of the People
  • One-Dimensional Thinking: When Ann is being chased by the rhino, she runs in a straight line until she hits a tree and climb it.
  • Panty Shot: Ann Taylor's skirt gets pulled over her head twice in the first sequel.
  • Pet the Dog: The head guerrilla eventually admitted that he made a mistake in expecting the children he took for hostages to go without enough rest or food. He told a kid to tell the military to drop food more often and to make sure they knew that he had made a mistake.
  • Product Placement: One has to wonder whether Coca-Cola received any money to have their product so prominently displayed, yet as a representation of Western culture's negative impact on indigenous people.
  • Rhino Rampage: Although he's just doing his civic duty.
  • Running Gag: The two guys playing cards in the guerrillas's gang.
  • Thank Your Prey
  • The Quest: Find the end of the world, throw the bottle off of it. Ultimately, Xi finds himself on a cliff far higher than he's probably ever stood in his life, above the clouds. Understandably, he decides he's there, chucks the bottle off and goes home.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Soft Glass: Incredibly averted. To the Bushmen, the glass bottle is the hardest material they've ever discovered.
  • Straight Man: Mpudi. Also serves as the bridge of communication between Xi and modern culture.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The honey badger in the second film.
  • Tranquillizer Dart: A Lampshaded subversion explicitly explains that tranquilizer darts don't take effect immediately. That's why they are rigged to be so easily removed that the victim doesn't know they've been tranqed (they feel only the sting, that can be attributed to insects).
  • Under Crank: The film's slapstick comedy makes thorough use of the technique, especially seen when the truck accidentally takes two young kids.
  • The Unpronounceable: The Bushmen's language, with its use of various clicks, is virtually unpronounceable to anyone else.
  • Values Dissonance: Invoked. The heroine, attractive by Western standards, is considered the "ugliest woman [Xi] has ever seen."