It can take years for a film director to see his or her idea move from script to screen. So who can begrudge them the chance to give themselves a little pat on the back by working in nods to their earlier movies for passionate fans to spot? From Star Wars to Straight Outta Compton, here are 10 examples of directors doing just that.
1. FRIDAY GETS MULTIPLE NODS IN STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON.
F. Gary Gray works several references to his 1995 stoner comedy Friday into his latest feature, Straight Outta Compton. A brief clip of the earlier film can be seen in Compton’s closing credits, which breezes through biopic subject N.W.A.’s post-movie exploits. Earlier, Ice Cube can be seen writing Friday’s script (he co-wrote and co-starred; Gray directed). For an extra layer of meta: in the film, Ice Cube is played by O’Shea Jackson Jr.—who is real-life Ice Cube’s son. And, of course, Gray works in a “Bye Felicia,” referencing Friday’s most famous line when Ice Cube dismisses a groupie with an unhappy boyfriend. Gray has said that the scene isn’t intended to be a “Bye Felicia” origin story; rather, it’s just “a fun moment, a wink and a nod to the original Friday.”
2. GEORGE LUCAS HIDES HIS FIRST FILM IN
STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE.
Every millisecond of every Star Wars film has been picked over ad nauseam by enthusiastic fans, so George Lucas’ little nod to his first film, THX 1138—the feature version of a short he made while a student at USC—didn’t remain unnoticed for long. Specifically, “1138” can be seen on the back of a battle droid that Jar Jar Binks knocks over. The number appears in other Lucas films, too: in A New Hope, Luke—dressed as a Stormtrooper—says he’s transferring Chewbacca from cell block 1138, and in American Graffiti the license plate of John’s (Paul Le Mat) car is THX 138.
3. DOM TORETTO WATCHES DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY IN THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS.
Rob Cohen snuck a reference to Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story into his most famous film to date, The Fast and the Furious; the former film can be seen playing on the TV at Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) house during one scene. Cohen worked a more blatant reference—albeit to a film he produced, not directed—into The Boy Next Door, in which a bully taunts Jennifer Lopez’s son, nicknamed “The Wiz” for a childhood pants-wetting incident, by noting “Your movie was on Turner Classics last night. The Wiz. It’s like the black version of The Wizard of Oz.”
4. THE CAR FROM
THE EVIL DEAD
SHOWS UP IN MOST SAM RAIMI MOVIES.
The car that takes Sam Raimi’s group of ill-fated travelers to the cabin in the woods in The Evil Dead—a yellow 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88—can be see in most of the director’s subsequent films. In Raimi’s Spider-Man, for example, it’s the car that poor Uncle Ben was driving when he was carjacked and shot. In Drag Me to Hell, Alison Lohman’s character drives it, and in The Gift it’s Cate Blanchett behind the wheel. The list goes on.
5. JACK SKELLINGTON CAMEOS IN CORALINE AND JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.
The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick (no, that wasn’t Tim Burton—though he did produce the film and come up with the story) worked his most iconic character into subsequent films James and the Giant Peach (that’s Jack as a pirate captain) and Coraline (his head is … inside an egg yolk?). Speaking of Burton…
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
’S MR. BUCKET WORKS FOR
In Burton’s 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie’s father Mr. Bucket works at the Smilex toothpaste company. Smilex, of course, is the line of products in Burton’s Batman that the Joker uses to try and turn all of Gotham City into smiling weirdos.
7. DAVID FINCHER FACEBOOK STALKS TYLER DURDEN IN
THE SOCIAL NETWORK.
It turns out Mark Zuckerberg is a Fight Club fan … or at least his The Social Network incarnation is. At one point, the Facebook creator (Jesse Eisenberg) creates a fake Facebook account to cheat on his art history final. Look in the top left corner of the screen, and you can see that the name of the faux Facebook user is Tyler Durden.
8. QUENTIN TARANTINO REFERENCES A PULP FICTION CHARACTER IN DJANGO UNCHAINED.
An eagle-eyed Redditor spotted this blink-and-you’ll-miss it reference to Christopher Walken’s Pulp Fiction character—or, one assumes, an ancestor of his—in the antebellum South-set Django Unchained. Getting self-referential is a hobby of Tarantino’s; it’s well-known by fans, for example, that Vincent Vega (John Travolta) from Pulp Fiction and Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) from Reservoir Dogs are twin brothers. At one point Tarantino planned a movie about the Vega brothers, though he has since admitted that it’s unlikely to get made.
9. A MINOR
The Pixar crew is a big fan of Easter Eggs, so of course there are cases of the studio’s directors referencing their earlier films. The Incredibles’ punnily named supervillain Bomb Voyage pops up twice in Brad Bird’s Ratatouille: first, he’s a street mime during a scene where Linguini and Colette go roller skating. Later, his name appears in a newspaper headline.
10. THE MONSTERS FROM
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
Indie stalwart James Gunn got his big break when Marvel tapped him to direct Guardians of the Galaxy. But Gunn brought a little of his lo-fi past with him in the form of the tentacle slug aliens from his feature directorial debut Slither, which can be seen briefly in The Collector's (Benicio Del Toro) lair. (They can be seen most clearly in this behind the scenes featurette.)