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30 Great Movie In-Jokes You Probably Didn’t Notice

06 July 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by David Zou

great movie in-jokes

Movie making has got to be an absolute blast. There’s no other explanation for how pretty much every movie you’ve ever seen has some kind of weird joke hidden inside it just as an easter egg for fans, obsessive compulsives or, in some cases, even the film-makers themselves. Below are all examples of actors, writers and directors all making references to their previous work.


30. The Evil Dead


The In-Joke: A tattered poster for The Hills Have Eyes can be spotted in the basement of the old cabin.

Why It’s Great: Legend has it that the torn poster is a jibe at Wes Craven, who included a torn Jaws poster in the aforementioned horror flick. Either way, it’s a cool reference.

If It Was Reversed: As mentioned before, Nancy attempts to watch The Evil Dead to keep herself awake in Nightmare On Elm Street. What can we read into the fact that she fails?


29. Casper


The In-Joke: Ray Stantz comes bursting out of the haunted house, looking distinctly shaken. “Who you gonna call?” he muses. “Someone else!”

Why It’s Great: It’s actually Dan Aykroyd, decked out in full Ghostbusters regalia, right down to the “Stantz” label on his chest. How’s that for a cameo?

If It Was Reversed: Poor little Casper gets blasted into oblivion by a cackling Peter Venkman.


28. Army Of Darkness


The In-Joke: Ash attempts to recover the Necronomicon using the sacred words Klaatu Barada Nikto. If they sound familiar, that’s probably because you’ve heard them elsewhere…

Why It’s Great: Those words, first spoken in The Day The Earth Stood Still, were the names of Jabba the Hutt’s henchmen in Return Of The Jedi and formed Michael Gambon’s war-cry in Toys. And yet Ash still can’t get them right!

If It Was Reversed: Peace-loving alien Klaatu suffers a brief loss of patience, shrieking, “I’ll swallow your soul,” at the top of his voice.


27. Iron Man 2


The In-Joke: A billboard can be seen featuring classic Iron Man nemesis Fin Fang Foom. He’s the one with the head like a dragon…

Why It’s Great: It’s unlikely Fin Fang Foom will ever make a full-blown movie appearance, so it’s nice to see him get a covert mention.

If It Was Reversed: It would have been remarkably prescient for an Iron Man comic to have included a billboard featuring RDJ!


26. Terminator 2: Judgment Day


The In-Joke: Arnie stalks the T-1000 through a shopping mall, producing a massive firearm from a box of roses…

Why It’s Great: A big gun in amongst some roses. Which hard-rock outfit performed the soundtrack again? Ohhhhhhh….

If It Was Reversed: GNR would return the favor by penning a song named Termite Hater.


25. Raising Arizona


The In-Joke: Nic Cage’s character can be seen wearing a set of overalls bearing the motif, “Hudsucker Industries.”

Why It’s Great: The Coens often have a stack of completed scripts ready and waiting at any one time, which means that sometimes references to future films can be found in their earlier works. Cool, huh?

If It Was Reversed: A reference is made in The Hudsucker Proxy to local football hero Nathan Arizona Jr.

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  • boodie185

    The house in Charlie’s Angels that Drew drops in on is the exact same house as the one in ET. Also, there’s Reese’s Pieces in the bowl on the floor. Ha!

  • Korabljenik

    It’s a good list, but the title is misleading.
    Many of the entries can hardly be classified as ”didn’t notice”, especially 6, 5 and 1, which are pretty obvious.

    • Eric R. Shelton

      Agreed. Most of these were actually pretty hard to miss.

    • Cliff Stephenson

      Yeah, there’s a difference between an “in-joke you might have missed” (the Temple of Doom reference and “the joke.” Tango calling Rambo a pussy isn’t an in-joke you might have missed… it’s “THE JOKE”- you’re supposed to notice it and understand it. Ditto with the Maverick joke and, really, most of this list. (How the Charlie’s Angels/ET reference is considered “spelling it out too broadly,” but the Last Action Hero/Stallone/T2 joke is so subtle you “probably didn’t notice” baffles me.)

      An in-joke you might have missed is something like Lethal Weapon… when they leave the bank (but before they go to the jumper) there’s a marquee behind them that says “Lost Boys – This Year’s Hit.” LW director Richard Donner was a producer on Lost Boys and at the time of Lethal Weapon’s release (March 6, 87) Lost Boys was still almost 5 months from even being released (July 31, 87). THAT’S an in-joke you might have missed. This list is “15 inside jokes you totally caught and about 5 you didn’t.”

  • Flemo86

    There’s also a line in Meet the Fockers where Ben Stillers’ father, played by Dustin Hoffman, refers to his son as a young Marlon Brando to Robert De Niro, who played a young Version of Marlon Brandos character in The Godfather Part 2

    • CalvinballPro

      Very good one!

  • MertWarson

    What about the trick-or-treating scene in “E.T.” where E.T. encounters the kid dressed as Yoda and seems to recognize him?

    • Andy Sayburn

      E.T. & Yoda are from the same galaxy :)

      • Jason Siegel

        And, in Star Wars, Episode I, just after Padme calls for the “vote of no confidence” in the Senate, look carefully, there’s a “seat” with 2 E.T.’s in it. I always say they come from planet Spielbergia.

    • Fernando Lara

      30 great movie in-jokes you probably DIDNT NOTICE. you need to be blind to NOT NOTICE that ete appears in star wars the phantom menace!

      • Michael Weiss

        that’s not hat he was referencing tho…

  • Dennis Robison

    Funny that #14 is coming true. Including the Super/Bat logo.

  • Gatsby75

    I loved that in Reservoir Dogs, Lawrence Tierney asks Harvey Keitel about Alabama, to which Keitel’s Mr. White comments that she’s a good little thief, a reference to True Romance, written by Tarantino and hitting theaters a year later.

  • Guest

    #16 should be “Dead Alive”. Not “Braindead”.

    • Adrian Barron

      It was released as Braindead in New Zealand where it was filmed.

  • Bizzle Dizzle

    #16 should be a reference to Mr. Jackson’s “Dead Alive”.

    • Adrian Barron

      The original title was Braindead, the name only changed when it was released in the US.

      • Bizzle Dizzle

        Well, don’t I have egg on my face. I did not catch that. It’s even in the link I posted. Good call.

  • CalvinballPro

    The inclusion of “Franklin Richards” in X2 really raises some interesting questions, especially since 20th Century Fox has announced intentions to bring the Fantastic Four into the same universe. Considering FR is Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s son, looks like Fox already screwed up their timelines. (Unless the reboot features a post-marriage-and-childbirth version of the couple.)

  • Chuck U Farley

    #5 could also relate back to Demolition Man starring Sly in which Arnold
    was President of the USA when Sly was unfrozen from prison..

  • Ellen Ellis

    In Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character points to his breastplate and says “These are my horses . . .Argento & Scatto”
    Argento and Scatto are Latin for “Silver” and “Trigger”

  • Ellen Ellis

    In “LA. Story” the characters dine at “L’Idiot” (French for ‘the idiot’) and stay at a motel called “El Pollo Del Mar” (The chicken of the sea)

    • Shane Fromaggio

      “L’Idiot” is French for “the idiot?” You don’t say…

      Nice catch.

  • Kevin Wendland

    How about in 50 First Dates when Adam Sandler is visiting the hospital for the brain damaged people. Dan Akroyd is the head doctor there and says they are funded by Callaghan Auto Parts, the same company he tried to buy out in Tommy Boy.

  • Ron S

    Yet no mention of the best Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indy & Sollah are lifting the ark out of the crypt, look very carefully in the hieroglyphics. You will notice R2D2 & C-3PO etched in the stone…also in the same film, when Indy escapes on the water plane, the call signs read OB1 CPO.

  • Ron S

    Look carefully in the background in Blade Runner and you can catch the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars.. Lucas returned the favor years later when in Ep II: Attack of the Clone, you can spot the Blade Runner vehicle flying around (as well as a vintage Tie Fighter “following” a vintage X-Wing fighter)

  • Ron S

    In the original Toy Story, look carefully at Andys books in his bedroom…they are the titles to all of the Pixar animated shorts the preceded Toy Story.

  • Tony Scott

    Mr. & Mrs. Smith (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie)

    The kid Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt interrogate is wearing a ‘Fight Club’ t-shirt.

  • OzoneTom

    In Blade Runner, when Ford’s character goes to a sidewalk scanning-electron-microscope cart to check the snake scale, there was a view that looked like cannabis trichomes.

    I saw it in a theater when it first came out and that is my recollection. But no one that I have ever mentioned it to had ever noticed it.

    Don’t know if it might be a in-joke but thought that I would mention it.

  • @AsalamaTweetum

    In the X-Files film, Mulder pees on an ID4 movie poster

  • Joe Mama

    Some of these were pretty blatant, particularly the Stalone as The Terminator display in Last Action Hero. They discus the display in the movie so it’s hard to miss. On the other side of the coin, in Demolition Man they make mention of President Schwarzenegger.

  • Mike Smith

    Sean Connery is Welsh, not Scottish. He was born and grew up in Wales.

  • MisterManReturns

    “The Lost World” – isn’t that Robin Williams in the other poster? Can’t see the name of the film…….

  • Asinus

    Isn’t the gun in the box of flowers more of a nod to the Godfather?

  • Ahmed Sajjad Zaidi

    “searches the desert for trinkets”. How is LOTR and Sauron’s search for the ring not a more obvious reference? Hugo Weaving played Elrond and according to some fan theories, the war of the ring is an allegory of WWII.

    • Robert Tucker

      Because he specifically said Hitler searches for trinkets..not sauron.

  • BuckDat

    I stopped reading after your sneaky jab at Evil Dead

  • Eric Adams

    Left out two Star Trek – Star Wars in jokes. In Star Trek First Contact the Millennium Falcon is one of the ships fighting the Borg Cube and in Star Trek Into Darkness R2D2 gets sucked into space during the battle with the USS Vengeance. All four movies special effects were done by Industrial Light and Magic

  • Jason Siegel

    RE: Sean Connery:
    He also had starred with Costner, just 5 years before, in DePalma’s great version of THE UNTOUCHABLES. He donated his $250,000 earnings for that one scene to charity…..

  • Jason Siegel

    Here’s one, also from that same “BTTF 2″ scene……when Marty is almost eaten by the holo-shark, he says, “Shark STILL looks fake…..”

  • Porst

    The “if it was reversed” jokes in this are painful. The article’s interesting enough without them, why would you ruin it like that?

  • Mark Krijgsman

    is the box of roses not also featured in that bank robbers movie with al pachino dog day afternoon or something , could it be an homage to that ?

  • Anthony

    You are wrong about the Red Skull scene. The “searching the desert for Trinkets” scene was talking about Thor’s hammer in the future.

    • Jacob A

      and why would Hitler be searching for Thor’s Hammer? You’re an idiot.

      • Anthony

        Try reading the comics, retard.

        • Jacob A

          I have, I can read. You obviously have trouble with it. It’s the 1940s and while he gets the tesseract, he makes the comment that Hitler is too busy searching the desert for trinkets to find the tesseract a real item of power. Thor’s hammer isn’t in the desert for decades yet. So yeah, learn to comprehend.

          Since the director has already stated it was an inside nod to his working on Raiders of the Lost Ark, that only confirms you’re an idiot.

          • Anthony

            Once again, read the comics. You are referencing the movies, not the comics. Everything you just said did NOT happen in ANY line of comics that wasn’t influenced by the movies (i.e. the Marvel Now series).

            Thor’s hammer, in the comic series, had been on Earth for CENTURIES.

            Hitler was actually obsessed with Thor’s Hammer (in real life) to the point where he named one of his most famous weapon plans after it.

            So, once again, stop fooling yourself. Bye bye.

  • Dbakeca Italia

    great movies ended

  • Erik Baran

    Stakeout, with Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevese (sp?). They play cops on….a stakeout. To pass the time they play a game of one giving a movie quote, the other naming the movie.
    Esteves: “this was no boating accident.”
    Dreyfus: uuummmmm…..
    Dreyfuss uttered that line in Jaws.

    And the tool box that holds Buzz Lightyear captive under the milk crate in Syd’s room is a Binford tool box. Tim Allen, who voiced Buzz, was Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor on Home Improvement and his cable show in the show was sponsored by Binford Tools.

  • Christopher Binder

    Tyler Durden would not have been able to go in and leave his mark in The Social Network because it was shot and projected digitally.

  • Jarek Draven

    re: #17– The assumed reference may be correct… however, i feel the need to point out that in REAL LIFE, Hitler did have men searching various parts of the globe for both information, AND artifacts, pertaining to both “Aryan” history, as well as religion / spirituality.

    So any such mention, in ANY movie could just as easily be a reference to actual history, as much as to an Indiana Jones film… which itself, was based on this part of ACTUAL history. (If you followed all that)

  • SenorApplesauce

    I don’t know if anyone mentioned this, or if it was even meant as an ‘in joke’, but Sean Connery also starred in the movie “The Man Who Would Be King.”


    I have been stuck on this site for 90 minutes, and I don’t regret a second of it.

  • Mike Sodl

    Here’s one you missed. It should be #1 all time. In “Twilite Zone-the movie”, John Landis directed the Vic Morrow as a racist segment where he found himself in Viet Nam at night as part of a group of obviously scared American soldiers when one of them says “I told you we shouldn’t of shot Liutenant Neidemeyer” , which was a reference to the “Animal House” wrap up scene that posted Neidemeyer’s fate as :Killed by his own troops in Vietnam”. In a packed but quiet movie theater, I burst out laughing when I heard this and nobody else had a clue why.

    • David

      I did the eaxt thing! Got some funny looks but I couldn’t help it!!

  • tati

    Fight Club reference in the 2007 French film ’99 Francs’, directed by Jan Kounen :)

  • Mark Penrice

    Er, so, we wouldn’t have noticed the T2 homage in Wayne’s World? A movie I last saw probably when I was a teenager (or in other words, in a different millennium) but I can still see that scene from it play out in my minds eye… the dopey “yes officer?”, the question, the look of realisation, the screaming, the burnout takeoff? It wasn’t exactly subtle…

  • Johnny Prothero

    If you look at the X-men 2 image it also says Franlin Richards who is the son of Reed Richards and Sue Storme aka Fantastic Four.