His Girl Friday (1940)
The Meta Moment: “Listen,” begins Cary Grant, “the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat!”
Why It’s Great: Archie Leach is Cary Grant’s real name. So now you know!
The Cabin In The Woods (2012)
The Meta Moment: The introduction of a sinister local type at a rickety old gas station. “I can get you there,” he says of the titular cabin. “Getting back… that’s your concern.”
Why It’s Great: It’s a hoary old horror stereotype being dangled in front of the audience in order to make them think they’re watching a different kind of movie entirely. And it only gets more meta from here…
Raising Arizona (1987)
The Meta Moment: Nic Cage can be spotted wearing a set of overalls marked “Hudsucker Industries”.
Why It’s Great: A call-back is one thing but a call-forward? That’s what comes of sitting on a batch of completed movie scripts!
The Meta Moment: Jesse Eisenberg’s explanation of the rules is essentially a crash course to the art of the zombie film, and a nod to the genre-savvy audience.
Why It’s Great: His “always double tap” rule is the most satisfying, given how many times it is ignored in horror films in general.
Top Secret (1982)
The Meta Moment: “Listen to me Hillary,” begins Val Kilmer’s character, Nick Rivers. “I'm not the first guy who fell in love with a woman that he met at a restaurant who turned out to be the daughter of a kidnapped scientist only to lose her to her childhood lover who she last saw on a deserted island who then turned out fifteen years later to be the leader of the French underground.” “I know,” she replies. “It all sounds like the plot of some bad movie.”
Why It’s Great: The Zucker brothers never did take themselves too seriously, did they?
The Expendables 2 (2012)
The Moment: “You’ve been back enough,” growls Bruce Willis. “I’ll be back.” “Yippie-kay-ay!” is Arnie’s bemused response.
Why It’s Great: It might sound a little forced, but there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be had in watching these two old-stager hamming it up.
Wes Cravens New Nightmare (1994)
The Moment: The entire film, which follows Wes Craven and his team creating a new instalment of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, only to find the lines between fiction and reality becoming horribly blurred.
Why It’s Great: Because despite its ludicrously meta set-up, the whole thing kind of works, breathing new life into an increasingly tired series.
The Meta Moment: With the villains fruitlessly searching for the heroes, one bright spark suggests they put on a video of Spaceballs and fast forward to work out where they are.
Why It’s Great: In a movie that doesn’t even come close to taking itself seriously, it’s a pleasingly delirious plot device.
Coming To America (1988)
The Meta Moment: The Duke brothers from Trading Places make a meta-cameo, newly destitute and living on the streets. Prince Akeem (played by Eddie Murphy, their co-star in the earlier film) takes pity on them however, tossing them a bag of cash for their troubles.
Why It’s Great: The brothers acknowledge their sudden change in luck with a gleeful, “we’re back!” Lovely stuff.
24 Hour Party People (2002)
The Meta Moment: Steve Coogan breaks the fourth wall by pointing out every cameo by a real-life musician in the film so far. That bit of business taken care of, the action restarts again, audience safely clued up!
Why It’s Great: Coogan’s delivery is perfect. “I’m being postmodern,” he quips. “Before it was fashionable.”