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5 Sneaky Shout-Outs In Famous Movies That Nobody Got

Throwing stealth references to your favorite films, books, or TV shows into your movie is a little bit like a game of reverse charades. The only way to feel smarter than everyone and win is to make sure that nobody has any idea of what you’re communicating. Still, to make it interesting, filmmakers have to leave SOME clues that point to a shout-out in their work, like a flirty hot cousin announcing that she hid a handkerchief somewhere under her dress and telling you to go look for it. Before you get weirded out, know that this analogy is actually a secret reference to one of my favorite movies, Barry Lyndon.

Other (less icky) examples of movie shout-outs that slipped right past audiences include …

5

Nearly Everything In The Dark Knight Rises Is A Nod To A Tale Of Two Cities

The Dark Knight Rises might not have been the perfect ending to Nolan’s Batman trilogy that everyone expected, but it will always create tingling feeling in my brain’s bathing suit area because it finally gave us a badass live-action Bane. Sure, the movie made the character its own, but the comic book inspirations were still there. The movie Bane was still a cunning revolutionary strategist, a vicious fighter, and even a fatherly figure to the daughter of another villain. But did you know that there was also a hint of a murderous knitting granny to him?

See, Christopher Nolan never hid the fact that he based parts of TDKR on A Tale Of Two Cities. That was a story about how murdering aristocrats during the Reign of Terror was kind of a (Charles) dick(ens) move, though it’s not like they didn’t have it coming. Now, the main villain of AT 2 The C is Madame Defarge, a little old lady who loves the French Revolution so much that if she could PHYSICALLY make love to it, she would happily die of exhaustion underneath it. She’s an influential leader who helps organize kangaroo court trials for the blue bloods while she sits in the back and knits (presumably sweaters with “Eat THIS cake, bitch” and little pictures of a guillotine on them.)

And, well, did you noticed that Bane also knitted in The Dark Knight Rises?

Yup. After Bane takes over Batman’s turf and pits the downtrodden lower classes against the ruling elite (so, like, an almost word-for-word summary of Double Town Story), he lets Scarecrow hold trials/executions of Gotham’s rich people … while secretly controlling the whole thing and playing with yarn. Just like Madame Defarge. But it goes much deeper than that.

2 Cities, 1 Tale is really all about how easy and horrible it is to get caught up in a murderous cycle of revenge, which fits perfectly into the movie, in which Talia al Ghul goes after Bruce as revenge for him killing her father. Speaking of which, in the chapter “Darkness” (as in “The DARK Knight”), we discover that the Madame had a secret personal connection to the main hero of the story, ALSO JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE, where, near the end, Bane turns out to have been Talia’s surrogate father. Hell, even Bane’s catchphrase, “The fire rises,” seems to be lifted directly from one of the novel’s chapters, titled “Fire Rises,” essentially making The Dark Knight Rises elaborate Charles Dickens fanfiction starring people in paramilitary Halloween costumes. And it didn’t win ALL the Oscars because …?

4

Some Of The Humor In Frozen Comes From … Arrested Development? What?

On the surface, the movie Frozen and the sitcom Arrested Development could not seem more different. One is a story of a dysfunctional family dealing with betrayal, people psychologically damaged by their parents, and some really weird sibling dynamics, while the other is … Arrested Development. Huh, you know, maybe the two are more similar than we give them credit for? I mean, I haven’t even gotten to the part how Olaf the snowman is basically just George Michael without the incest fetish (thank God). Then, of course, there are the two jokes the movie straight-up lifted from the TV show.

The songs in Frozen were written by the husband and wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. During the song “Love Is An Open Door” …

… Princess Anna proclaims her love for Hans, a psychopath prince she just met (following the great tradition of most Disney classics, especially Prince “I Go Around Kissing Dead Girls In The Forest” from Snow White). It includes the following exchange:

Hans: We finish each other’s …

Anna: Sandwiches!

It’s a cute little joke that, honestly, the writers could easily have come up with on their own, because of how basic and general it is. (Unlike that penis mouse episode of South Park, which was 1,000 percent based on an episode of Red Dwarf.) But the Lopezes have been open about the fact that, consciously or not, they took the joke word for word from the Arrested Development episode “Family Ties.”

In light of that, it makes sense that another scene from Frozen was also taken directly from the show, even if it was never confirmed. Early on in the movie, Anna shares a dance with a duke from another kingdom, during which he does an impression of a chicken that looks more like the death spasms of a circus acrobat being fatally beaten over the head by a clown with a crowbar. (Once again, this analogy was actually a secret reference to another one of my favorite movies: Under The Red Hood.)

And would you look at that? In the Arrested Development episode “Ready, Aim, Marry Me,” the character Lindsay does that EXACT SAME weird-ass “chicken” dance, a whole eight years before Frozen ever came out. And if you think that this technically qualifies as plagiarism … dude, it’s Disney. You can’t win with them, so just let it go and you’ll be all right, OK?

3

A LOT Of Marvel Movies/TV Shows Reference The Empire Strikes Back In the WEIRDEST Way Imaginable

References to Star Wars in pop culture are a lot like the sexual conquests of a time-traveling alien bounty hunter: numerous and kind of par for the course. Interestingly, that analogy was NOT a reference to a movie I like, but tell me you wouldn’t pay good money to see it. Anyway, if someone told you that there were nods to the original Star Wars trilogy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’d probably think: “Yeah, probably. I haven’t noticed any, but now that you mention it, I suppose the Iron Man armor is a bit like Darth Vader’s wearable iron lung getup, and … Thor’s hammer is SOMEWHAT similar to a lightsaber … wait, no, that’s dumb. Where exactly are there Star Wars shout-outs in Marvel flicks?”

The answer: in the last place you’d expect.

In 2015, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige went on record and confirmed that most of the movies in Marvel’s Phase Two line-up (Iron Man 3 to Ant-Man) reference The Empire Strikes Back via moments in which various characters get their hands cut off. Yes, whenever you see a Marvel superhero get literally disarmed, it’s apparently an homage to Luke Skywalker getting crippled by his dad at the end of Empire.

In Iron Man 3, Tony cuts off Guy Pearce’s arm when he’s tripping balls on his lava super soldier serum. In Thor: The Dark World, Natalie Portman proves that she brings bad luck to her boyfriends’ limbs when Loki cuts off Thor’s arm (fortunately, unlike with Anakin, this time it was just an illusion). Then you have Bucky losing his arm and having it replaced by a cybernetic prosthesis in Winter Soldier, Andy Serkis getting a bloody handjob from Ultron in Age Of Ultron, and the bad guy from Ant-Man getting his hand disintegrated. Hell, in Guardians Of The Galaxy, you get a twofer with Nebula, who was forced to cut off her own arm by Thanos, and Gamora cutting up Groot’s grabbers like they’re freaking kindling.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

And if it ended there, I could accept that it was a joke that got slightly out of hand (thank you, thank you) and think no more of it. But the amputation references went beyond Marvel’s movies and straight into disturbing fetish territory.

That’s the only way I can explain Agent Coulson getting his hand chopped off on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., or Stick and Misty Knight drastically having their masturbation options limited on The Defenders. Even Deadpool, a movie made wholly without involvement from Marvel Studios, had the character cutting off his own hand. This was presumably after Kevin Feige, all naked and touching himself, pulled every favor possible to make Tim Miller include his disturbing Star Wars wank material in his movie.

2

The Name Of One Character In The Warriors References The Story’s Ancient Greek Roots

When it comes to accurately depicting organized street-level crime, 1979’s The Warriors ranks somewhere between West Side Story and Seinfeld. Fortunately, a movie about shirtless, ethnically diverse gang members having to fight their way through groups of Double Dragon rejects to get back to their turf is like watching a massive Native American take out an armored Marine convoy with a bow and arrow — it doesn’t have to make sense for it to kick total ass. Once again, the previous weird analogy was actually a shout-out to something I love: the brilliant TV show Banshee.

But back to The Warriors. It’s a pretty entertaining movie, despite its insistence that a dude apparently orgasming from fingering a few glass bottles is scary. But it is very much a product of the ’70s, when people were sure that shirtless minorities were going to be the end of the world. Interestingly, though, it’s also a product of much earlier times. The 4th century BCE, to be exact.

The Warriors was actually based on a book of the same name by Sol Yurick, which in turn was based on Anabasis, a seven-tome story written by the Greek philosopher/soldier Xenophon 370 years before the birth of Christ. Anabasis tells the story of an army of Greek mercenaries hired by the general Cyrus the Younger to take over Persia. Pulling a reverse 300, the Greeks get their asses handed to them by the Persians and become stranded thousands of miles away from home. After losing their leader “by treachery,” they find themselves having to fight their way through armies which, if baseball had been invented back then, would probably have come at them in Yankee uniforms with baseball bats in hand.

Paramount Pictures

The whole bit about the Greek mercenaries losing their leader due to treachery is actually directly referenced in the movie, as the leader of the titular Warriors gang is framed for the murder of the super boss of another gang. This doesn’t happen in the novel, where the super boss is killed via a mere murderous misunderstanding. Also, in the book, the super boss’ name is Ismael, while in the movie it’s, wait for it, Cyrus. As in Cyrus the Younger, who led a bunch of Greek soldiers of fortune away from their feta cheese and into Lighvan territory — all of which has been referenced through just one name change.

It feels wrong typing it out loud, but The Warriors is, in a way, a pretty insightful lesson in how Western culture has told our stories for centuries: With a focus on underdogs overcoming impossible odds through sheer will and cunning, mixed with a healthy dose of distrust for foreigners. Yeah, sounds about right.

1

Most Of Blazing Saddles Is A Really Obvious “Fuck You” To Atlas Shrugged

Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, a comedy Western about a black man becoming sheriff of a racist frontier town, is truly one of those films that could not be made today. Not just because of its use of the N-word, but mainly because it takes a massive piss on the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Rand finalized her belief system known as Objectivism with the publication of Atlas Shrugged in 1957. The whole thing essentially boils down to the notion that if you’re good at your job (especially if it has something to do with trains), then you get to be as much of an asshole as you want. And, well, doesn’t that really explain the world as we know it today?

From House to Rick & Morty, we’re slowly but surely pushing the idea that superhumans exist among us, and that no one, especially not the government, has the right to tell them what to do or how to act. It’s a thoroughly cynical belief which a lot of people seem to have internalized nowadays, despite it going against the spirit of cooperation that made it possible for our species to survive this far. And it’s this popular philosophy that’s been cleverly and thoroughly skewered by Blazing Saddles.

In the movie, the villain is a guy who wants to clear out a frontier town so that a railroad can be built through it, earning him millions. Already we see a lot of similarities between the film and Atlas Shrugged, which was clearly written while Rand was touching herself with the help of a raunchy train conductor calendar. Next, the main flunky of the villain is called “Taggart,” which is also the surname of the main character of Rand’s capitalistic railroad porn, and already we’ve journeyed way beyond the realm of mere coincidence, elevating these obvious “shout-outs” to ear-splitting “scream-outs.”

To seal the deal, we need to look more closely at the movie’s plot, which concludes with the black sheriff stopping Taggart with a fake toll booth and convincing white, black, and Chinese people to work together for the common good. If Rand had ever seen the movie, chances are she would have furiously puked her guts out during those scenes. See, Rand believed that cooperation and working together was for sissies, and that truly great people got shit done all on their own, without any help, meaning that she probably and hopefully performed all of her own colonoscopies.

Rand also HATED government taking your money, so a character named Taggart being stopped by a toll booth operated by a government employee makes Blazing Saddles one of the biggest movie “FUCK YOUs” to cynicism — just like another one of my favorite movies, Joyeux Noel. Yeah, I know this reference wasn’t very stealthy, but when you get down to it, neither were the Atlas Shrugged digs in Blazing Saddles.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.

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