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50 Greatest Movie In-Jokes

Tango and Cash (1989)

The In-Joke: “Who do you think you are?” demands a local cop of Tango. “He thinks he’s Rambo,” chimes in another. “Rambo?” responds Tango. “Rambo’s a pussy.”

Why It’s Great:
Tango is played by Sly Stallone. Rambo is played by Sly Stallone. Geddit? DO YOU GET IT?

If It Was Reversed:
“He thinks he’s Tango!” etc. etc. Actually, that would be quite funny.

Raising Arizona (1987)

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.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

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 favour by penning a song named Termite Hater .

L.A. Story (1991)

The In-Joke: Steve Martin recites the first few lines of a poem that begins, “Oh pointy birds, oh pointy, pointy…”, the very same poem cited as his character’s favourite in The Man With Two Brains .

Why It’s Great: Wilfully daft, and yet an instantly recognisable link between the two films. Just as any good in-joke should be…

If It Was Reversed: Martin’s Two Brains character would be seen watching a weather forecast, and remarking what a fun job it looks.

Iron Man 2 (2009)

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!

Gremlins (1984)

The In-Joke: The Inventors Convention is chock-a-block with sci-fi in-jokes, including a glimpse of Robby The Robot using the telephone.

Why It’s Great: Joe Dante loves to show off his sci-fi chops doesn’t he? And his showbiz mates… that bearded inventor is none other than Steven Spielberg.

If It Was Reversed: Perhaps some of the Gremlins could crop up in Forbidden Planet to chew through Robby’s circuits.

Dogma (1999)

The In-Joke: Having turfed Loki and Bartleby off a moving train, Silent Bob realises an anxious passenger is looking at him agog. “No ticket,” quips the tubby hero.

Why It’s Great: It’s a great reference to one of the best one-liners of all time. Lovely stuff.

If It Was Reversed: Indy kicks a Nazi in the groin, muttering “Snoochie Boochies” to himself as he strides away.

Army Of Darkness (1992)

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

Casper (1995)

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. Yaaaaay!

Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

The In-Joke: Topper Harley heads upstream, running into Captain Willard coming the other way.

Why It’s Great: The father-son element only adds to the Apocalypse Now spoofery. “I loved you in Wall Street ” is the icing on the cake.

If It Was Reversed:
Surely one of the many director’s cuts of Apocalypse could make room for a Charlie Sheen cameo? Maybe Martin Sheen could have a “winning” tattoo digitally added in?

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.