Brigsby Bear

James is forced to live in an underground bunker with his parents Ted and April Mitchum. While Ted tells James that the outside world is dangerous, he often is seen by James leaving the bunker with a gas mask on. James is fascinated with an educational children’s show titled Brigsby Bear, centered around the title bear helping characters escape from trouble, because it is the only show he owns and is allowed to watch. One night, he sneaks out only to see several police cars approach the home. As the police raid the bunker, James is taken away from Ted and April, who are arrested.

James is brought to the police station and meets Detective Vogel, who tells James that Ted and April are not his real parents and that he has been held captive since he was a baby. Vogel then introduces James to his real parents, Greg and Louise Pope, and their teenage daughter, Aubrey. Having trouble adapting to his new life, James visits a psychologist named Emily, who informs James that Brigsby Bear is not real and was made by Ted, a former artist and designer, who disappeared with his wife in 1987. Emily explains that the police tracked Ted from the studio where the show was made after he was spotted by a passerby days prior. Realizing that no one else will continue the story, James comes up with the idea to make a movie based on the character to close the series.

One night, Aubrey takes James to a party. He meets Aubrey’s friend Spencer and later starts talking about Brigsby Bear to his new friends. He starts production after Vogel, who sympathizes with James through Vogel’s own early acting dreams, lends James some props from the show, and Spencer, being a filmmaker, agrees to make the movie with him. Spencer also advertises the movie by uploading episodes of Brigsby Bear to YouTube, where it gains popularity and a new audience. Greg and Louise do not approve of James’ activities because they fear it hinders his chances of living a normal life.

While filming in a forest, James uses an explosive he made for a scene that detonates, surprising Spencer. The group is arrested, but James takes the blame for it. The police release him but confiscate the Brigsby Bear props once again. James takes his parents’ car out one night to steal the costumes and props. He takes a detour first to his old underground home, now abandoned and cordoned off with yellow tape. James stops by a diner and discovers Whitney, an actress he recognizes from Brigsby Bear. She tells him that she never knew the true circumstances behind the side acting job, having been told by Ted that it was for Canadian public access. As the police arrive outside, James asks Whitney to reprise her role for his film and admits he has had a longtime crush on her.

James is placed in a mental institution. Meanwhile, Aubrey shows her parents parts of the movie, where the two realize that making the movie allowed him to spend time with his friends. One night, James breaks out of the institution to grab his belongings, but discovers his family, along with Spencer and Vogel, building a Brigsby Bear set in their garage. The family tells him that they had agreed to help out after seeing how happy he was behind the scenes.

James finishes the movie, with Vogel and Whitney in lead roles, and visits an incarcerated Ted, who apologizes for abducting him. James tells Ted about the movie and states that they are having trouble getting the voices right. Ted helps him out by recording the voice-overs for Brigsby and other characters.

On premiere night, the show is sold out and James is worried no one will like it, so he stays out of the theater while the movie plays. After it concludes, James walks into the theater and is met with a standing ovation. While being embraced by his family, James notices a real-life Brigsby on stage. The pair nod at each other and Brigsby disappears.