The movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are always so busy referencing each other and throwing in Easter eggs that tease future sequels and storylines and character introductions that you wouldn’t think they’d have time to make reference to movies and TV shows outside the MCU.
And yet, they do! Tony Stark is responsible for most of the movie and TV references in the MCU. He’s given pretty much everyone a pop culture-inspired nickname: Hawkeye is “Legolas,” Thor is “Point Break,” Bucky is “Manchurian Candidate,” Peter Quill is “Flash Gordon,” Loki is “Rock of Ages” etc. Here are 10 References To Non-MCU Movies And Shows You Missed In The Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Director Jon Watts’ intention with the tone of Spider-Man: Homecoming was to craft an ‘80s coming-of-age high school movie in the style of John Hughes’ classics like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. In fact, he even screened all those movies for the cast to get them in the right mindset.
Watts makes one reference point clear when he has Spidey run through a bunch of backyards, talking to people as he whizzes past them, just like the title character does in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Having the actual movie playing on a TV pointed at the camera was a little on-the-nose, but other than that, this is a great movie reference.
In Avengers: Infinity War, when Spidey gets the idea to expel a villain into the depths of outer space by opening the airlock on him, he refers back to the movie he got the idea from.
However, he misattributes the idea to Aliens when it was, in fact, used in the first Alien movie. At the end, when Ripley faces the titular xenomorph alone, after it’s killed off the rest of the Nostromo crew, she ends up blowing it out into space via the airlock and then jetting off in an escape pod. In the second one, she defeated the mother of all xenomorphs with an exoskeleton suit.
The Russo brothers cut their teeth directing episodes of TV shows, specifically Arrested Development. They decided to honor their humble beginnings with a couple of Easter eggs in their MCU movies. In Captain America: Civil War, the Bluth Company stair car can be seen in the background during the airport battle scene.
In Avengers: Infinity War, Tobias Funkë can be seen trapped in a glass case in full Blue Man Group makeup and never-nude denim cutoffs in the Collector’s trashed study. The directors tried to get David Cross himself to appear, but he wasn’t available and they had to use a replica dummy instead.
The MCU likes to differentiate its movies by fitting them into different genre constructs. They’re all superhero movies, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a conspiracy thriller, and Ant-Man is a heist movie.
During the planning of the heist, Scott Lang tells the crew about the type of steel the safe they’re breaking into is made of: “It’s a Carbondale. It’s from 1910, made from the same steel as the Titanic...It doesn’t do so well with cold. You remember what that iceberg did, right?” And then the crew starts referencing the James Cameron movie. Luis says, “Yeah, it killed DiCaprio.” Kurt says, “Did not kill the old lady. She survives to throw jewel in ocean.”
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when we see Nick Fury’s fake grave, a familiar Biblical quote is engraved on the tombstone: “The path of the righteous man...” These are, of course, the opening lines of the Biblical passage that Samuel L. Jackson’s Pulp Fiction character Jules recites whenever he kills anyone (although the wording changes ever so slightly from scene to scene).
The gravestone doesn’t feature the whole passage, because it would have to be about 30 feet tall to fit it all on, but “The path of the righteous man...” is enough to jog any film buff’s memory.
There’s a moment in Captain America: Civil War’s incredible airport fight scene in which Spider-Man swings webs around Giant-Man’s legs to trip him over. The plan was reminiscent of the Hoth sequence in The Empire Strikes Back in which snowspeeders are used to trip over AT-ATs.
Lo and behold, being the nerd that he is, Spidey made that reference himself: “Hey, guys, you ever see that really old movie, Empire Strikes Back? You know that part where they’re on the snow planet with the walking thingies?” After Civil War was released, Tom Holland admitted that he’d never seen the original Star Wars trilogy, much to the dismay of fans across the world.
No one in the MCU makes more references to other movies and TV shows than Peter Quill, despite associating almost exclusively with aliens from distant planets who don’t know what movies or TV shows are.
Throughout the second Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Quill continually compares his relationship with Gamora to that of Sam and Diane in Cheers, the original “will they or won’t they?” sitcom couple. Gamora has no idea who Sam and Diane are, so he describes them as “a guy and a girl on TV who dig each other, but never say it.” Yeah, that’s pretty apt.
When Thor is offered a big wooden fork to use in the gladiatorial arena in Thor: Ragnarok, Korg tells him, “[It’s] not really useful unless you’re fighting off three vampires that were huddled together.” Ragnarok director Taika Watiti played Korg himself based on New Zealand bouncers he knew.
Watiti previously helmed the mockumentary horror comedy What We Do in the Shadows about a trio of vampire roommates. Korg’s vampire line was a little wink to anyone in the audience who had been following Watiti’s work. It also hinted at the existence of vampires in the Marvel universe – Morbius, anyone?
The old Tom Cruise comedy Risky Business is one of the funniest movies ever made. Unfortunately, despite its status as a classic and the fact that it’s basically O.G. Superbad, a lot of movie fans these days have overlooked it. But even people who haven’t seen it know the moment where Cruise slides into frame in his socks set to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll.”
In Spider-Man: Homecoming, during the montage where Aunt May is getting Peter ready for the titular homecoming dance, Tom Holland actually recreates the famous Risky Business moment as he slides into frame.
This one probably wasn’t missed by anyone, since it became the centerpiece of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. At first, Peter Quill uses Footloose as an example of an Earth legend to teach Gamora about dancing: “On my planet, there’s a legend about people like you. It’s called Footloose. And in it, a great hero, named Kevin Bacon, teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that dancing is the greatest thing there is.”
Inspired by the noble hero Kevin Bacon, Quill ended up saving the world from Ronan the Accuser with an epic dance-off (and a heartbreaking sacrifice by Groot).