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50 Greatest Movie In-Jokes

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

The In-Joke: Freddy Krueger’s clawed glove can be seen mounted above the door of the toolshed.

Why It’s Great: Sam Raimi reportedly included the glove as a tip of the hat to Wes Craven, who had Nancy attempt to keep herself awake in A Nightmare On Elm Street by watching The Evil Dead .

If It Was Reversed: See above. It’s a right old love-in!

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977)

The In-Joke: A tiny replica of R2-D2 can be seen welded to the back of the mothership.

Why It’s Great: Whilst some have claimed to see Bruce the shark hanging from the ship’s hull, this one is just unobtrusive enough to work.

If It Was Reversed: We might hear R2 bleeping and blooping his way through the Close Encounters theme.

Scream (1997)

The In-Joke: Wes Craven pops up as a Fedora-sporting, striped jumper-wearing caretaker named Fred. Remind you of anyone?

Why It’s Great: Scream is arguably one long in-joke, but this one is so OTT it particularly warrants inclusion!

If It Was Reversed: Neve Campbell could be dispatched in the opening scene of any forthcoming Nightmare movies…

Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom (1984)

The In-Joke: Temple of Doom kicks off in a Japanese nightclub named Club Obi Wan.

Why It’s Great: It’s nice to see a Lucas in-joke that doesn’t involve the old THX 1138 routine.

If It Was Reversed: Han watches an Imperial swordsman throw some shapes before casually reaching for his blaster.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

The In-Joke: Having emerged from a gruelling endeavour to rescue Diana Rigg, George Lazenby turns to camera and quips, “this never happened to the other fella”.

Why It’s Great: Props must go to Lazenby for maintaining a straight face through such a shameless piece of mugging. Full marks for bravado.

If It Was Reversed: Connery signs off his final film with, “I wouldn’t want to try and follow that!”

I Am Legend (2007)

The In-Joke: Amid the deserted ruins of New York, a movie poster can be spotted featuring an amalgamation of the Superman logo and the Bat-symbol.

Why It’s Great: Producer Akiva Goldsman was once involved in a mooted Supes-Bats crossover project, and couldn’t resist messing with the fanboys. There was even a release date (15 March 2010) to make it seem more realistic!

If It Was Reversed: A poster for I Am Legend 2 crops up in downtown Gotham.

The Social Network (2010)

The In-Joke: In The Facebook’s early stages, Jesse Eisenberg’s character establishes a fake account under an assumed name. Tyler Durden, to be precise.

Why It’s Great: In Fight Club , Tyler makes it his business to make his mark on the films he screens in his job as projectionist. It’s nice to see him doing it again here.

If It Was Reversed: Facebook is pretty much the embodiment of everything Tyler is fighting against. With hindsight, much of his MO could already be read as an in-joke concerning The Social Network !

King Kong (2006)

The In-Joke: A crate in the ship’s hold is marked “Sumatran Rat Monkey”, a callback to Jackson’s splatter classic Braindead .

Why It’s Great: It’s a nice nod to the fans who were familiar with Jackson’s work before he answered the call of the ring.

If It Was Reversed: A passing reference is made to “the beast of Skull Island”. We know who that is, don’t we?

The Hunt For Red October (1990)

The In-Joke: The final scene shows Alec Baldwin dozing off on board an aeroplane, clutching a stuffed teddy bear as he does so… the very same bear Bruce Willis is carrying in the opening scene of Die Hard .

Why It’s Great: Talk about continuity. If you suspect you’re watching a John McTiernan movie, don’t bother checking on IMDB… just watch out for teddy bears!

If It Was Reversed: The references already go both ways. All we need now is to catch Baldwin whistling Flowers On The Wall

Captain America #1 (2011)

The In-Joke: Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull makes a seemingly throwaway comment about how Hitler, “searches the desert for trinkets”…

Why It’s Great: We could be wrong, but this is surely a reference to Raiders Of The Lost Ark , a theory leant credence by the fact director Joe Johnston worked on that film as a special effects supervisor.

If It Was Reversed: The Nazis quiz Indy as to his knowledge of another supernatural relic, known only as “the tesseract”.

George Wales
George is GR's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it.