An allegory is a work that's designed to be a metaphor for something else. Just about every character is meant to be a representation of some group or concept, and their interactions in the work are meant to convey ideas about how these groups/concepts affect each other in real life. The story may say "Alice and Bob had tea together", but in actuality, Alice represents Capitalism, Bob represents Communism, and the "tea" is actually a meeting of the UN. Expect Rule of Symbolism to come into play in these stories.
Perhaps the most famous example is Pilgrim's Progress, a Christian allegory in which the protagonist (named Christian) leaves his old life to go on a journey to the Celestial City, overcoming many obstacles along the way. Not all allegories are this Anvilicious, however. Some are very subtle, to the point where you don't even realize the story is an allegory until someone points it out to you. This is why so many readers get to thinking that Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory.
World of Symbolism is a Sub-Trope in which the Allegory only makes sense on the metaphorical level and not the literal one. Allegory Adventure is a Sub-Trope in which the plot is an allegory for another work of fiction. Beast Fable is another common form: just use various animals as an allegory for segments of human society. Allegorical Character is the character-specific Sub-Trope, where the character represents something.
Compare Does This Remind You of Anything?. Contrast Applicability, which is when a story has meanings beyond what the author intended. Likewise, Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory is when the audience sees meanings that aren't really there, and Death of the Author is for those who reject allegory within fiction altogether. See Also Metaphorgotten, when the story (or reader) loses track of what it was talking about.
- Raphael's four paintings in the Signatura room of the Papal Palace represent the four greatest human pursuits:
- Disputation of the Holy Sacrament represents the science of theology by showing the greatest Hebrew and Christian saints fondly regarding the clergy of the time debating around the Holy Eucharist.
- The School of Athens represents philosophy by putting Plato, Aristotle, and every other pagan philosopher in a huge dialogue in an imagined academy of wisdom.
- The Parnassus represents the pursuit of beauty with a concert by Greek god Apollo attended by the Nine Muses and every great poet from Homer to Raphael's contemporary, Ludovico Ariosto.
- Cardinal and Theological Virtues represents the pursuit of goodness with Anthropomorphic Personifications of the four cardinal and three theological virtues resting above two great law-makers, Emperor Justinian and The Pope Gregory IX.
- Tales Of The Black Freighter, the Story Within A Story in Watchmen: a tragic little pirate story about a man who gets so paranoid about pirates attacking his home town, that he goes crazy and ends up killing everyone himself, interesting in its own right, and then you realize that It's a metaphor for the villain's plan to "save the world" by murdering thousands, and further hints that his plan is totally in vain.
- Scott Pilgrim is one big allegory for growing up, taking responsibility for your mistakes, and learning something from them instead of pretending they never happened.
- The 1954 film Gojira was made as an allegory about the horrors of the atomic bomb.
- Much of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, especially Revenge of the Sith, is an allegory for the Nazi rise to power, Chancellor Palpatine being Hitler and Obi-Wan and Anakin the Goerring brothers, with the latter also representing all Germans. Senator Amidala was representative of democracy, and possibly the extermination of Jews, though the actress' family history is probably a coincidence. There is also the Stormtroopers being, in both cases, first brought in by the Chancellor for the Republic and then used as his personal army. The Separatists may also be representative of the Real Life Spartacists. This is one of many evidence articles on the internet for this.
- It's also been suggested that the entire Star Wars series is an allegorical history of the 20th century. The first three films represent the first half - Episode I represents the First World War, Episodes II and III the Second World War, and the Original Trilogy the Cold War. The Jedi and the Empire/Republic represent the Americans and Russians, though which way round they are depends on your point of view.
- George Lucas has stated another influence is the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire under Augustus, which also occurred after a crisis and was very popular with the common people (however, in reality that change really wasn't so formal, and they never "officially" dissolved the Republic).
- The Ascent, about two Russian soldiers during World War II who get captured by the Germans, turns into an allegory about Christ and Judas. One of the soldiers dies nobly, sacrificing himself on the gallows as a beatific light shines down on him. The other elects to join Those Wacky Nazis and ends the film a hollow wreck of a man. This is made overt when the collaborator is even called "Judas" by the villagers after he helped lead his old friend to execution.
- Hypocrites is a film about, well, hypocrisy, and how easy it is to be a hypocrite and ignore the truth, as shown by a pastor attempting to lead his flock to Truth. The "narrow way" to Truth is an actual narrow way that leads up a very steep mountain, while the "broad road" that leads away from Truth is, yes, an actual broad road. One parishioner is too greedy to find the way to Truth, which is shown by him carrying a bag of gold coins that bursts open. After nobody makes it up to the mountain with the pastor, he liberates a figure called the Naked Truth—played by a nude actress—to bring the Truth to them.
- Some Star Trek movies are allegorical of contemporary sociopolitical issues:
- Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is about religion, specifically televangelism, which was a hot issue in the US at the time it was filmed.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country begins with an ecological catastrophe that destabilizes the Klingon Empire, forcing them to make peace with the Federation in a manner reminiscent of the Chernobyl disaster and glasnost (it unintentionally also predicted the Cold War ending, which happened shortly after the film's release).
- Parable is a short film in which the ministry and suffering of Jesus is symbolized by a clown arriving at a circus.
- The Garage: A Russian film in which a meeting of a parking garage co-operative dissolves into anger, backstabbing, and chaos after it's revealed that four of the members of the co-op will lose their parking spaces in the garage. The whole thing is an obvious satirical metaphor for the malaise of the Soviet Union in the late communist era. A high-handed and undemocratic government (the co-op board), corruption, nepotism, backstabbing, selfishness.
- Animal Farm - Animals oust the human farmer and take over the running of the farm, as an allegory for the rise and corruption of Communism in the USSR. The book is often used by high schools to teach students how allegory works.
- Battle Royale is considered an allegory about humans (not just teens) and what they're willing to do in order to survive.
- The Chronicles of Narnia is widely known as heavy-handed Christian allegory, but it's actually averted - Aslan is not an allegory for Jesus, He literally is Jesus.
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe re-enacts the crucifixion story with Jadis the White Witch as Satan, Aslan as Jesus (of course), and Edmund as the unsaved sinner in need of redemption. Lucy and Susan also fill in for the Marys who attend Christ's death and burial.
- In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace's transformation back from a dragon, and subsequent reform of character, is an allegory for the conversion of St. Paul.
- The Last Battle is an almost 1:1 retelling of the Second Coming, complete with a false Aslan and his "prophet", a massive war, and everyone going to heaven at the end.
- The more proper allegory written by C. S. Lewis is The Pilgrim's Regress, dramatizing his intellectual conversion to Christianity and an Author Tract for his love for Romanticism. An obvious allusion to Bunyan in the title.
- Book XIII of Augustine's Confessions rereads the Book of Genesis as a figurative tellingnote of how God saved man from the abyss of sin through His light.
- The Divine Comedy's trip through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven is also a trip through a life of sin, repentance, and joy.
- Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene is an allegory of virtues. It also has an interwoven political allegory.
- Lord of the Flies for war and its causes, the island acting as a microcosm for the World at the time.
- Hinds Feet On High Places - For the process of converting to Christianity
- Pilgrim's Progress - For the process of converting to Christianity
- Dr. Seuss is on record for saying that his story "The Sneetches" is an allegory for antisemitism.
- In The Adventures of Caterpillar Jones, C.J.'s quest to become a butterfly and the characters he encounters, particularly the Great Owl and E. Phil Snake, are meant as a religious allegory.
- Star Trek: The Original Series started the franchise's tradition of using its Science Fiction setting to examine contentious real-world issues through allegory in a way other shows could not. One of the most famous (and obvious) examples is Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, about the destructive Fantastic Racism between two alien races, both alike apart from a superficial difference in skin pattern. As this episode came at a time when the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, it's not hard to guess what viewpoint it is meant to censure.
- The major arcana in a Tarot deck are said to represent the development of an unenlightened seeker through enlightenment until fulfillment.
- Hyperdimesnion Neptunia is an allegory for the Console Wars, with the consoles personified as Moe Anthropomorphisms, and one of the villains representing Digital Piracy Is Evil. A non-canon bad ending of Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2 is a metaphor of the effects of a monopoly effects on the videogame industry and how it would eventually lead it to crumble, and the back-story of one of the characters in Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory is an allegory for The Great Video Game Crash of 1983. Most of the time it can be taken as a comedy with loads of references and in jokes related to gaming.
- In Season 2 of Within the Wires, which deals with the analysis of fictional art, this is Discussed In-Universe. Claudia Atieno's painting "Still Life with Orchid" was meant to communicate the unknowable, cyclical nature of existence through Life/Death Juxtaposition: a living orchid with dead leaves and oranges with subtly rotting undersides. But much to her displeasure, most viewers read it as a fatalistic commentary on death's inevitability.
- Balance is about five men precariously perched on a platform that is balanced precariously at the center. It's an obvious message about the need for cooperation and the danger of selfishness.
- Bear Story is about a bear who is forcibly kidnapped from his family and enslaved to a circus. The whole cartoon is an allegory for how families were separated from each other by the kidnappings and disappearances perpetrated in Chile by the dictatorial regime of Augusto Pinochet. The bear is inspired by the story of the director's grandfather, who was snatched away from his family and eventually exiled.
- Igra uses two children drawing pictures that animate and fight each other as an allegory for an Escalating War that ends in nuclear holocaust. It ends with the boy drawing a missile that launches and detonates over the girl's drawing of a house, after which the boy accidentally knocks over an ink bottle. The ink spills over the drawings, symbolizing the end of the world.
- This video argues that Blue Sky Studios' Robots might be an allegory for the transition from traditional animation to computer animation in the late 90s-early 2000s, and how said transition affected many animators during the time period.