5 Hidden Cinematic Shout-Outs To Other Movies
Great filmmakers often reference other movies in their work. Steven Spielberg frequently alludes to the adventure pictures he grew up on, J.J. Abrams alludes to Spielberg’s allusions, and we’re pretty sure Quentin Tarantino is just a stack of obscure VHS tapes in an overcoat masquerading as a human being. But while some cinematic shout-outs are more obvious, others are pretty subtle, to the point you may not have even noticed them, such as how …
The Villain From Jungle Cruise is Totally Doing Werner Herzog
Paving the way for an eventual Men’s Bathroom Next to Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters: The Movie, Disney continues to exhaust its roster of theme park attractions for big-budget movie ideas -- the latest of which is Jungle Cruise, starring Emily Blunt and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the pun-loving Skipper who, unlike in the ride, is handsome bodybuilder not an awkward 22-year-old theatre school grad.
Jungle Cruise seems to drop several references to the true king of the ill-fated jungle boat trip movie: Werner Herzog. For example, The Rock’s warning to tourists that “everything you see wants to kill you — and can” recalls Herzog’s famous monologue about how the jungle has a “harmony of overwhelming and collective murder” while he was shooting Fitzcarraldo.
Then there’s the villain, a German Prince played by Jesse Plemons, who appears to be doing a Herzog impression. His mustache could even be a nod to early ‘80s Herzog.
And this observation isn’t totally incidental; the reason behind the Herzog homage is likely because the plot of Jungle Cruise involves a zombified Lope de Aguirre, the explorer who was the focus of one of Herzog’s best-known films: Aguirre, The Wrath of God.
Sadly Disney didn’t pony up the dough to create a CGI Klaus Kinski for fake-Herzog to try and kill.
Pixar Just Can’t Stop Referencing The Shining
As we’ve mentioned before, Pixar movies have a tendency to include hidden references to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. These range from the more obvious, like how in the first Toy Story, Sid has the same carpeting as the Overlook Hotel, to the downright sneaky, like how the daycare in Toy Story 3 uses the same 1970s-era intercom as the Overlook -- which isn’t exactly a great indication of a quality childcare operation.
More recently, Toy Story 4 used the song “Midnight, the Stars, and You” -- which at one point was probably just a nice old-timey love ballad, but now just makes us think about alcohol-fueled ghost soirees.
Then there’s Coco -- despite the fact that the story of a young Mexican boy befriending a musical skeleton has little to do with a murder-filled horror flick (though admittedly there is some murder), it was directed by Lee Unkrich, a self-described Shining obsessive who even runs a website devoted to the film. Unkrich was able to insert some extremely subtle Shining references into Coco, such as how, in the background of one shot, we see Jack Nicholson’s iconic ax next to… a red drum. As in Redrum.
And when Miguel runs through an art studio, you can just barely see a painting of the Grady sisters, AKA the creepiest twins who don’t have their own home renovation show.
Although it should be said that this scene takes place in the Land of the Dead, and from the deceased’s perspective, presumably The Shining is just the simple story of an elegant party ruined by a boorish family of tourists.
Baby Driver Features Several Tiny Back to the Future Call-Backs
It’s not uncommon for Back to the Future references to pop-up in blockbuster movies from time to time. Shuri jokes about self-lacing sneakers in Black Panther, young Han Solo mentions Marty McFly’s (apparently alien) buddy Needles in Solo, and of course, the iconic DeLorean time machine was prominently featured in Ready Player One, to the enjoyment of everyone who wished Michael J. Fox was a CGI Gap mannequin.
One popular movie was absolutely full of Back to the Future references -- but most of us probably never noticed them. Never one to shy away from cramming his work full of minute pop-culture references, director Edgar Wright loaded Baby Driver with subtle call-backs to everyone’s favorite time travel-based comedy trilogy. For starters, since the movie was released too early for Wright to replace him with Christopher Plummer, Kevin Spacey plays a character named Doc -- who, not unlike Doc Brown, also becomes an unlikely friend to a young man and enjoys illustrating his plans on chalkboards.
Or sometimes he uses toy cars and crude models …
It’s not just Doc; several of the other Baby Driver crooks also seemingly correspond to Back to the Future characters. The thug who picks on Baby is named “Griff”-- who you might remember is the name of Biff’s cybernetically-tweaked grandson.
And the Baby Driver cast even includes Flea -- and, really, you can’t put Flea in a pickup truck without conjuring memories of Needles, a friend of Marty and (sigh) Han Solo.
Who knows, maybe all of Baby Driver’s weird Oedipal undercurrents were also just a tribute to Marty McFly’s brush with incest.
The Green Knight Slyly Recreated a Scene From Willow
The Green Knight is an impressively weird medieval fantasy; it has giants, headless ghosts, and most importantly, the main character relies on the powers of a magical girdle, à la William Shatner. But despite its highbrow, arthouse status, director David Lowery took inspiration from some extremely silly places, like another Arthurian tale that was made for little money: Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This probably explains why both films have that “broken smoke machine in the woods” aesthetic.
But one of the primary inspirations for the movie, surprisingly, was Ron Howard’s Willow. It turns out that Lowery got the idea to make The Green Knight after rediscovering his old Willow action figures and deciding that “it would be fun to make a fantasy film like Willow.” Rather than shy away from the fact that his movie was inspired by the forgotten toy line for a goofy ‘80s fantasy movie, Lowery included a specific shout-out to Willow in The Green Knight. As he sets off on his adventure, Sir Gawain encounters a hanging cage with a skeleton in it, distinctly like the cage where Willow first meets Madmartigan ...
Imagine what movie we would have gotten if, instead of those Willow toys, the director found a bunch of old Food Fighters.
Disney’s Star Wars Movies Are Full of Nods to Classic Films
While Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ primary cinematic influence seemed to be … well, Star Wars, the next entry, The Last Jedi, was chock full of references to other movies ranging from janky ‘70s parodies to some of the greatest films of all time. That extended shot in the casino is a direct reference to Wings, the first movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and Rose’s covert Resistance ring is an overt nod to Casablanca -- hence why we inexplicably never see or hear about those things ever again.
There are other, more subtle ones too; Yoda’s Thor-like lightning powers call to mind the face-melting God laser from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
And remember how Diane Keaton gets shut out at the end of The Godfather?
If the same scene involved telepathy and took place on a Corellian freighter, it might look something like this …
This trend continued with Solo, which took inspiration from the Robert Altman western McCabe and Mrs. Miller, specifically the look of the village where Han meets Lando and the giant fur coats.
Then The Rise of Skywalker paid tribute to that classic of cinema … er, The Goonies?
At least we were spared a scene where Palpatine pulls up his robe and does the truffle shuffle.
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