#3. Apocalypse Now -- The Ride of the Valkyries Entrance Is from The Birth of a Nation (1915)
If you asked us to pick the most iconic scene from Apocalypse Now, we'd ... have a hell of a time, because there's like 900 of them. Seriously, that's a long-ass movie. Still, probably the first iconic scene is the Ride of the Valkyries bit near the beginning, where Charlie Sheen's dad and the lawyer from The Godfather charge into a Vietnamese village while blasting German opera from their helicopters.
If you're not sure what song we're talking about, just picture U.S. helicopters bombing the shit out of a village and it will automatically start playing in your head (even if you've never seen the movie). You know the one: da-da-ra-DA-da, da-da-ra-DA-da ...
Before being used in Apocalypse Now, Ride of the Valkyries wasn't yet known as a dramatic military number ... because it hadn't yet been used in Apocalypse Now. For most people, the tune was most commonly associated with killing wabbits.
And confused eroticism.
Unless, of course, you were a German opera buff. Or a racist ...
Who Did It First:
D.W. Griffith's 1915 film The Birth of a Nation used the same song in a similar scene, with one small difference: Instead of the U.S. Army flying into a village, it was the Ku Klux Klan galloping to the rescue.
You know, the old "The KKK swoops in and saves everyone in the third act" cliche.
The Birth of a Nation takes place during a version of the Civil War where North and South end up joining forces against the real enemy: black people. At the end of the movie, the heroic Ku Klux Klan rides into South Carolina, which has been taken over by ... a bunch of white dudes in blackface, apparently.
All the bad guys are blackface actors, so in a way, this is the most anti-racist movie ever.
Despite Birth's blatant glorification of the KKK and depiction of black Americans as wild animals, this movie still ... nope, we're not finishing that sentence. On one hand, it pioneered concepts like actually moving the cameras and using rapid cuts, and you're probably still seeing its influence in movies today. On the other hand, everything else about it.
Still, considering that Apocalypse Now isn't exactly pro-Vietnam War, it's likely that Francis Ford Coppola intentionally wanted to draw a subtle parallel between the Klan painting themselves as heroes in the Reconstruction-era South and the U.S. forces doing the same thing during 'Nam.
The surfing scene is clearly a reference to ... carpetbagging?
#2. The Untouchables -- The Stairway Scene Is from Battleship Potemkin (1925)
It's one of the tensest moments in cop movie history: Kevin Costner and his team of badass Untouchables are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Al Capone's bookie at a train station when Costner kindly helps a woman take her baby carriage up the stairs. As soon as the bad guys show up, though, Costner instantly forgets about the baby and pushes the carriage down the stairs as he begins shooting people all around it and the mother.
Serve and protect, but only when there's nothing to shoot.
After what seems like an eternity, Costner realizes some asshole pushed a freaking baby down the stairs, stands there doing nothing for a while and finally rushes down to save it ... while still shooting everyone around him, of course.
"I know I'm a gangster, Kevin Costner, but can we take a time-out and get that baby out of -- ARRGH!"
Who Did It First:
The scene is nearly identical to a sequence from the silent Russian film Battleship Potemkin, the longest 70 minutes of communist propaganda every first year film school student will ever be forced to watch.
This might be the origin of the idea that communists hate babies.
In both movies, the carriage is surrounded by bullets: Battleship Potemkin shows the ruthless tsarist army brutally massacring innocent people in pre-Soviet Revolution Russia. So the main difference, in terms of this scene, is that in Battleship Potemkin the baby actually gets stabbed to death by a soldier.
It's all Kevin Costner's fault in that movie, too.
The Naked Gun 33 1/3:
The most fantastic part here is that O.J. Simpson saves the babies.
And even Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith:
Yes, George Lucas appears for the second time on this list for borrowing imagery from an old-timey film. Also, Lucas totally based the pod race in The Phantom Menace on a chariot race from an old movie where actual horses were killed.
#1. The Shining -- Jack Hacking Down the Door Is from a Silent Horror Film
No single moment in The Shining captures the themes of this movie more perfectly than the scene where Jack Nicholson hacks down the door to murder his family (except, perhaps, the one with the guy in the rabbit costume getting a blow job). Jack's axe represents all the repressed rage we've seen him build up through the movie, and Shelley Duvall being trapped in a room with an axe-wielding maniac shouting at her is a perfect metaphor for working with Stanley Kubrick.
Actually, we're not even sure it's a metaphor.
In fact, this is such an iconic scene that it is now nearly impossible to see a man's face peeking from a hole in the door he just hacked open without hearing the words "Heeeere's Johnny" every time.
Who Did It First:
The Shining lifts almost every ingredient of this scene from a 1921 Swedish film called The Phantom Carriage. Even the setup is the same: Both protagonists are alcoholic fathers under the influence of supernatural forces whose wives lock themselves away to protect their respective children. However, there's more than one way to open a door.
That door is goddamn staying open.
In The Phantom Carriage, the couple actually has two little girls ... one of whom coincidentally appears to be sporting the exact same hairstyle as the kid in The Shining.
Finally, we know the back story of those creepy twins.
And before you say anything: Nope, this exact same scene isn't in the Stephen King novel. In the book, Jack's weapon of choice is a croquet mallet, because apparently he couldn't find a tennis racket. To our knowledge, Kubrick never admitted knowing about this film, but considering that he was trying to figure out how a man would act when driven crazy by isolation and snow, we wouldn't be surprised if he decided to look to Sweden for inspiration.
For more famous things you didn't know were stolen, check out 6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip-Offs and The 5 Most Famous Musicians Who Are Thieving Bastards.
And stop by LinkSTORM because doctors prescribe it for the Mondays.
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