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50 Greatest Movie In-Jokes

Star Trek (2009)

The In-Joke: Kirk refers to Spock as a “pointy-eared Bastard” only for McCoy to retort, “I kinda like him.”

Why It’s Great: It’s a subtle reversal of the traditional TV dynamic, in which Kirk would forever be defending Spock to an increasingly frustrated McCoy. Nice switcheroo.

If It Was Reversed: McCoy would hate Spock, subverting the subversion of their initial dynamic. Put simply, nothing would change!

Toy Story (1995)

The In-Joke: The appearance of the Pizza Planet truck, which goes on to appear in every single film released by Pixar.

Why It’s Great:
The pizza truck offers fans a neat game of eye-spy to pursue throughout the Pixar canon. Have you found them all?

If It Was Reversed: One day we’ll get a Pizza Planet movie, featuring appearances by every one of Pixar’s characters to date. Maybe…

Up (2009)

The In-Joke: Lotso the bear can be spotted in a child’s bedroom, presumably before he found his way to the daycare centre…

Why It’s Great:
Pixar movies are groaning with in-jokes, but this one actually feeds into the plot of Toy Story 3 , giving us a look at Lotso’s former life.

If It Was Reversed:
Unsurprisingly, there’s already a reference to Up in Toy Story 3 , with a postcard from Carl and Ellie pinned to Andy’s notice board.

The Evil Dead (1981)

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?

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory #1 (2005)

The In-Joke: During Wonka’s childhood flashback a trio of children are spotted wearing Halloween outfits. They are replicas of the costumes worn by Lock, Shock and Barrel in The Nightmare Before Christmas .

Why It’s Great:
References to cult films are always pleasing, especially when they’re on the subtle side as this one is.

If It Was Reversed: There would be a Wonkabar poking out of one of the children’s stockings.

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory #2 (2005)

The In-Joke: The group walk past a room full of pink sheep, to which Wonka snaps, “I don’t want to talk about it.” It’s a reference to his character in Ed Wood , a cross-dresser with a predilection for pink woollen sweaters.

Why It’s Great:
It would have flown way over the heads of the younger audience, but is a nice reference for the movie-savvy parents in the cinema.

If It Was Reversed:
Ed is seen to be keeping an orange midget locked in a cupboard.

Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008)

The In-Joke: In the midst of Indy’s escape from the Russians, a jeep hits a crate, revealing the Ark of the Covenant for a split-second.

Why It’s Great: It recaptures the spirit of the original trilogy, something the rest of the film singularly fails to do.

If It Was Reversed:
Indy would mention the existence of bizarre, large-skulled aliens before pissing himself laughing.

Honey, I Blew Up The Kid (1991)

The In-Joke: The Ark of the Covenant makes another appearance, this time in a secret government warehouse full of interesting artefacts…

Why It’s Great: A scene like this basically gives the makers free reign to cram in as many movie references as they can. Rosebud the sled is in there too!

If It Was Reversed: A filler story about a man shrinking his child is spotted in an inside column of a newspaper Indy is reading.

Jason Goes To Hell (1993)

The In-Joke: The Necronomicon is spotted in the Voorhees household, as is a crate marked Arctic Expedition Julia Carpenter Horlicks University, previously seen in Creepshow .

Why It’s Great: The Voorhees home is the perfect setting to crowbar in a whole host of horror references. Creepy stuff.

If It Was Reversed: We wouldn’t be surprised to see a hockey mask hanging in the toolshed alongside Freddy’s glove.

Superman Returns (2006)

The In-Joke: Perry shows Clark an image of Superman lifting a car over his head, a scene that apes the cover art of the edition of Action Comics in which Superman appears for the first time.

Why It’s Great: Every self-respecting Superman fan would recognise that reference. Good work, Mr. Singer.

If It Was Reversed: Superman’s latest adventure would see him save a couple of honeymooners named Brandon and Ruth.

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.