5 Brilliant Clues Hidden in the Background of Movies

#2. Back to the Future: Doc Brown's Thought-Reading Machine Works

Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures

One of the running themes in Back to the Future (aside from how Marty stole the Civil Rights movement from black people) is the juxtaposition between how the characters behave in 1985 versus how they were in the '50s: Marty's conservative mother used to be a sex fiend, the aloof mayor of Hill Valley used to be a friendly janitor, and Marty's loser dad was ... well, a slightly younger loser.

And when Marty meets the younger Doc Brown, he sees that the Doc wasn't always a genius -- he's a rambling lunatic who wastes his time building ridiculous inventions that cannot possibly work. For example, the instant young Doc meets Marty, he tries to read Marty's thoughts using a Mind Helmet that looks like it was built from a shoebox full of old K'Nex he bought at a yard sale connected to a suction cup.

Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures
Marty appears to be taking it much better than the Jehovah's Witnesses who stopped by earlier.

After Doc sticks the suction cup to Marty's head, he makes three guesses, which are as follows: "You've come here from a great distance," "You want me to buy a subscription to the Saturday Evening Post," and "Donations! You want me to make a donation ... to the Coast Guard Youth Auxiliary!"

The Foreshadowing:

Actually, Doc's mind-reading helmet totally works, which is the film's subtle way of telling us that he is, in fact, a genius -- he just doesn't realize it yet.

Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures
"I mean, just look at this thing."

If you give that thought-reading machine a little flexibility and some loose interpretation, then everything the Doc said is true. Marty really has come a great distance -- the dude just got chased 30 years into the past by terrorists in a microbus. That's one. And what day of the week did Marty arrive in 1955? On a Saturday, which we see when he checks the date on a newspaper:

Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures

Boom, that's two. Finally, every person Marty speaks to keeps asking him if he's in the Coast Guard, mistaking his vest for a life jacket, which is fair because Marty himself has mistaken a down vest for something that people are supposed to just casually wear.

One could argue that Doc is simply making the same error and letting it influence his guesses, but if that's the case, prepare to have your naysaying mind blown -- Doc senses that Marty is there about a donation, right? Well, later on in the same scene, Marty hands Doc the love letter his girlfriend wrote, which is on the back of a donation flier for the Hill Valley clock tower from 1985. The only reason Marty and Doc know when and where the bolt of lightning necessary to fling the DeLorean back into the Reagan administration is going to strike is because of this flier.

Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures
"Marty, what exactly does she mean by 'pegging'?"

Doc couldn't have been aware of any of this -- he's literally only known Marty for 10 seconds when he rattles off his mind-reading guesses. And it stands to reason that those three things would be at the front of Marty's mind -- his time-traveling journey, the shocking discovery of what date he'd arrived in, and the love letter from the girlfriend he's trying to get back to. The movie is using this scene of apparent bumbling pseudo-science dumbassery to tell us that everything the Doc builds does actually work -- just not necessarily in a way that makes any kind of sense.

#1. The Avengers: An Offhanded Joke Sets Up the Finale

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, The Avengers is chock-full of nerd-culture references to appeal to the fans. The best (or, at least, the Internet's favorite) is Tony Stark's Galaga line. When Tony first arrives on the bridge of the Helicarrier after his backwoods punchfest with Thor, he runs through a few sailboat jokes to demonstrate his irreverent wackiness, then points off screen at one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s numerous deck hands to say, "That man is playing Galaga! He thought we wouldn't notice, but we did."

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures
And you didn't think we'd notice your absurd facial hair, Tony. But we did. We did.

Captain America looks around like everyone in the room just farted six times:

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures
"Whoa, did you guys ... did you hear that? It was from way over there, though. Not here."

But other than that, no one really reacts. The scene continues, and we get a nice little button at the end of it showing us the unseen crew member who was, in fact, playing Galaga:

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures

It's a fun throwaway joke that, incidentally, gives away the film's climactic final sequence.

The Foreshadowing:

In case you're not a student of video game history, Galaga is a shooter game wherein you play as a single space fighter defending the Earth from seemingly endless waves of alien invaders that pour down from the top of the screen. You can play it right here.

Don't give us that look. If you were trying to be productive at work, you wouldn't be on Cracked in the first place.

Now, if you remember the movie at all (which, if you are reading this website, chances are you probably do), you know that it ends exactly the same way: Seemingly endless waves of alien invaders pour down from the top of the screen, and Iron Man zips around blowing them up.

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures
Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures
Meanwhile, Cap, Hawkeye, and Black Widow stand around and try to pretend like they're contributing.

In the end, Tony Stark even flies directly into space to face the oncoming swarm alone, effectively becoming the heroic little ship from Galaga:

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Pictures
"With my dying breath, I enter my initials into the high scores ... A ... S ... S ..."

When Tony drops the initial joke, we have no idea what Loki's plan is yet. We know he's going to do ... something. With aliens. But the seemingly innocuous video game reference was actually priming our brains for the movie's finale. If only the aliens had themselves gotten hold of a copy of Galaga, they would have realized that aimlessly flying around in formation and waiting to get shot is actually a terrible invasion strategy.

J.F. Sargent has been dropping hints about you following him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook throughout the whole article. Dennis Fulton is now dropping an obvious hint for you to check out his friend's Web series.

For more things you completely missed in films, check out 7 Movies That Put Insane Work Into Details You Didn't Notice and 7 Insane Easter Eggs Hidden in Movies and TV Shows.

If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Amazing Details of the Most Embarrassing Spy Scandal Ever.

And stop by LinkSTORM to see how the ending of Cracked is discretely hidden in Ross Wolinsky's columns.

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