6 Sneaky References Embedded In Hit Movies And Shows

The folks who make the movies you love are usually giant nerds themselves-- which is probably why they went into filmmaking instead of athletics or international super-spydom. As fans, directors often pay tribute to the works that inspired them, either through subtle homages or blatant rip-offs.

SPOILERS for movies such as...

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6
Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodis Full of Subtle Burt Reynolds Jokes

It's no secret that Quentin Tarantino's screenplays are usually a Voltron-ed patchwork of obscure pop-culture references, and his latest film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is no exception. Specifically, it's full of allusions to one specific dude: movie star/ Pictionary champ Burt Reynolds. For starters, the central relationship between Rick Dalton and his stuntman Cliff Booth was inspired by the real-life friendship between Reynolds and his stunt-man Hal Needham.

Universal Pictures
Sony Pictures Releasing
We feel like that cowboy hat was a missed opportunity.
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Reynolds was originally supposed to have a role in the film, but sadly, he died shortly before filming began (though not before contributing a gag to the script). Even without his cameo, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is stacked with subtle shout-outs to Reynolds' career. That episode of The F.B.I. that Rick appears in? It was a real show, but it actually featured Reynolds.

Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Sony Pictures Releasing
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Sony Pictures Releasing
Which we think technically makes Tarantino's best movie in years ... technically fanfiction?

Similarly, an aging Rick Dalton stars in Nebraska Jim, directed by Sergio Corbucci. The real Corbucci made a movie called Navajo Joe with, you guessed it, Burt Reynolds.

Sony Pictures Releasing, C.B. Films
The world needs movie posters that look like this again.
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And Rick's flame-throwing role in The 14 Fists of McCluskey is likely a reference Reynold's character Gator McKlusky from White Lightning and, well, Gator. While Reynolds never brawled with the Manson Family, he did once get into a fistfight with Shakespeare. So there's that.

Related: 33 Brilliant References Hidden In Plain Sight In Movies

5
Knives Outis Chock-Full of Mystery Easter Eggs

Not unlike that cute little space yarn he made, Rian Johnson's wildly successful whodunnit Knives Out features a truly staggering number of cinematic references. In this case, shout-outs to classic mystery films. Right off the bat, cinephiles likely noticed a "Jolly Jack" puppet like the 1972 movie Sleuth -- while others wondered why Nick Nolte was dressed up like a sailor.

Lionsgate
20th Century Fox
He looks like an animatronic who got kicked out of the Chuck E. Cheese band for exposing himself onstage.
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Knives Out may actually take place inside a book inside the world of Sleuth; Daniel Craig's detective character Benoit Blanc has just solved a mystery involving a tennis player that sounds much like a novel being written by the Laurence Olivier character. The murder victim, Christopher Plummer's Harlan Thrombey, is obsessed with games, much the same as James Coburn's character in the '70s mystery The Last of Sheila. There's also a scene where Daniel Craig randomly listens to a song by Steven Sondheim, an "avowed mystery nut and puzzle nut" who co-wrote that film.

Lionsgate
Warner Bros. Pictures

Even the name "Thrombey" is a reference to an old whodunnit-- in this case, a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Bantam Books
Without having read it, we're gonna guess the evil Muppet from the bottom left, there.
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Though at no point is Benoit Blanc able to cheat and skip to the ending where he doesn't accidentally kill himself.

Related: 5 Pop Culture References Nobody Got In Movies And TV Shows

4
Avengers: EndgameSubtly Recreated a Back to the Future Scene


 

Avengers: Endgame was basically an epic remake of Back to the Future Part II, just with Infinity Stones instead of a sports almanac, and intergalactic genocide instead of a smalltown casino. At one point Ant-Man himself references Back to the Future, really poking the bear that is Michael J. Fox's legal team.

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The climax of Endgamealso featured a callback to the iconic time travel franchise, albeit a far, far subtler one. Remember when Marty travels to 2015 and gets freaked out by a giant promotional movie hologram-- you know, the kind we've all been accustomed to for five years now? Of course instead of being eaten alive, the chomping Jaws 19 hologram simply vanishes. In the climax of Endgame, Rocket is about to be eaten by a Chitauri Leviathan but is saved by Tony Stark's magical snap. Both moments play out almost identically.

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While it's clear they love Back to the Future, somehow the filmmakers resisted the urge to douse Thanos in manure or add awkward sexual energy to Thor's reunion with his mom.

Related: 6 Nerdy References Hidden In Your Favorite Movies And Shows

3
Us-- Even Jordan Peele's Press Tour Was an Homage to The Shining

When director Jordan Peele wasn't busy cramming Us with hidden messages and elaborate foreshadowing he somehow found time to slyly honor to one of his all-time favorite horror movies: The Shining. Us opens with young Adelaide wandering into a "Vision Quest" maze-- mazes and the tacky appropriation of Native American culture being key components of The Shining's Overlook Hotel. If that wasn't enough, Adelaide's terrified expression meeting her double is awfully similar to Danny Torrence's as he gazes into room 237.

Universal Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures
It's also possible that they both got a shine of the future career opportunities for child horror actors.
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After that prologue, we see an overhead shot of the Wilson family's car, not dissimilar from the helicopter shots of the Torrance's car en route to The Overlook.

Universal Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures

And those creepy twin girls in the neighboring cottage? After they get bumped off by the Tethered, their corpses are painstakingly posed just like those of the creepy Grady twins.

Universal Pictures
Warner Bros. Pictures
Albeit without a direct shot from the Stanley Kubrick blood cannon.

If all that wasn't enough, Peele's love for The Shining even influenced his promotion of the movie, as evidenced by the fact that he dressed like Jack Torrance while giving interviews.

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Thankfully he stopped short of holding press junkets in the haunted bathroom of a blood-soaked hotel.

Related: 5 Genius Easter Eggs Lurking Within Famous Horror Movies

2
Watchmenis a Lot Like Twin Peaks: The Return

While there are no masked vigilantes or radioactive blue genitals in the town of Twin Peaks, David Lynch's recent season of the beloved surreal mystery series shares a lot in common with HBO's Watchmen sequel. As Watchmen's writer (and Twin Peaks superfan) Jeff Jensen pointed out, their writers' room initially gathered during the summer of 2017, which happened to be when Twin Peaks: The Return aired. As a result, the Watchmen team were "under the influence of Twin Peaks" while writing the series -- and it totally shows.

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Some of the similarities are super-specific; after all, how many TV shows feature creepy boxes used for trapping supernatural beings?

HBO
Showtime
We wanna say just these two and ... Murphy Brown, maybe? It's been a while.

Both shows hid their iconic characters under aliases in suburban families; Dr. Manhattan is secretly masquerading as Cal Abar, while Agent Dale Cooper body swaps with his insurance salesman doppelganger Dougie Jones.

HBO
Showtime
Spoiler warning for about 4 seconds ago.

And while Twin Peaks' crazy black and white origin story episode that came midway through the season, Watchmen had... a crazy black and white origin story episode that came midway through the season.

HBO
Showtime
Maybe they were just trying to continue Watchmen's grand tradition of borderline plagiarism.
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Even Ozymandius' baffling scenes felt similar to Audrey Horne's confusing storyline -- though hers was never actually explained. Come to think of it, Audrey chilling on Europa with a bunch of magic clones is as good an explanation as any.

Related: 5 Sneaky Shout-Outs In Famous Movies That Nobody Got

1
The MandalorianBorrowed its Ending From Terminator 2: Judgement Day

A lot of Disney's Star Wars series The Mandalorian felt like a Terminator movie, probably because it featured an anti-hero on the run protecting a child whose life was at risk -- plus Mando's helmet and Arnold Schwarzenegger's face are about tied when it comes to emoting. Then in the first season's finale they really went full T2, albeit without the black leather and Guns N' Roses tunes. While Taika Waiti had described his droid character IG-11 as Terminator-like in interviews, in the "Chapter 8" he actually re-enacts the Terminator's iconic death scene.

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After being reprogrammed to be less murdery (like the T-800) IG-11 decides to heroically sacrifice himself in order to save Baby Yoda, and by extension, Disney's entire merchandising department.

Walt Disney Studios
TriStar Pictures

He bids goodbye to the young savior--

Walt Disney Studios
TriStar Pictures

Then hops into a lava lake, not unlike the molten steel the T-800 lowers himself into.

Walt Disney Studios
TriStar Pictures
You missed the thumbs-up, Disney. That's a key part of it.

IG-11 blows himself up to take out a squad of Stormtroopers, while the T-100 destroyed the last piece of Skynet tech, thus saving the future... until his sacrifice was completely undermined by both T3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Dark Fate. Hopefully, season two of The Mandalorian won't feature a bounty hunter droid settling down with a wife and kid on the set of a beer commercial.

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