When we talk about movies that are connected, we play with a few different meanings. Sure, we could go through a director like Quentin Tarantino‘s resume and point out how they all intertwine, but we’ve done that before. Tim Burton films, the Coen Brothers movies, and the Pixar universe all have been discussed at length as well. Now, we could have also dredged up a list of films that are housed in the same universe or kept all the connections the same type of thing, but doing that leads to a list that simply repeats most of what you already know. Instead, we decided to cover several different types of connections here. Maybe that way, we can expand the conversation and discuss connections that might otherwise be overlooked.
So, what qualifies as a movie connection? Obviously, simple references are all over the place, so we tried to avoid them. While we have included some references and homages, we tried to ensure each example goes as deep as possible or at least that they are fun. We also decided to include some non-canonical connections to keep things fresh. No, these connections aren’t going to be printed in tomorrow’s textbooks, but they will give you something fun to consider for a couple of days. If nothing else, these might inspire you to make similar connections between films in the future. While you won’t be changing the course of filmmaking by doing this, you will be contributing to a larger discourse about how we think about films. That or just annoying people with your tinfoil hat theories. We’ve got them all—allusions, cameos, references, homages. It’s all connected. Here are 15 Seemingly Unrelated Movies You Never Realized Were Connected.
15. Encino Man – In The Army Now – Son In Law
It’s not often that Pauly Shore movies get discussed in any detail, but we decided to talk about a connection from three films here a little. Aside from Pauly Shore acting like a fool in all three films, they are each linked by cameos from Encino Man‘s Link (Brendan Fraser). In Son in Law, Shore sees Link at a party. Since Link is dressed as he was in Encino Man, the self-aware Shore says, “Great costume!” When Link takes a frog from his hat, tries to eat it, and walks away, Shore wonders to himself if that guy was the actual Link. The following year, in the film In the Army Now, Link again shows up and approaches Shore’s table. After Link says something and walks away, we can see Shore wondering if that was the real Link and how he got there. Yes, these are just fun little throwback cameos to Encino Man, but we’re willing to bet many of you forgot they existed at all.
14. Being John Malkovich – Get Out
Even though this started as a fan theory, both Jordan Peele (Get Out director) and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich director) have heard about it and enjoyed it enough to not debunk it. The theory suggests that Get Out takes place in the same universe as Being John Malkovich, 20 years later. Aside from the similarities in the story and the Catherine Keener connection, the theory posits that the baby that has trapped Craig at the end of BJM is Rose from Get Out and the fractured mind is part of the reason for her psychosis. The difference in methods used in the films is explained away by saying that after BJM, the John Malkovich portal was closed, and Keener needed to find a new way of transplanting. This is where the hypnosis and the dark place comes in from Get Out.
13. Life – Venom
Even before the Venom movie was announced, there were whispers on Reddit that the film Life was, in some way, connected to a future Venom project. The reasoning was simple. First, someone noticed that a footage from Spider-Man 3 was used in the trailer. Yes, this was only a crowd shot, and this type of things happens all the time, but it was an interesting catch. Then comes the alien organism, affectionately called Calvin, in Life. This thing seemed to act and react like a symbiote, the species that creates Venom. At the end of Life, we see the thing come to Earth, possibly leading to a Venom. Now, it’s different than the Spider-Man comics, but it’s not the craziest suggestion that these films might be or maybe should be connected in some way.
12. Alien Franchise – Death Race 2
Alright, we admit that this one is a silly and very weak connection, but it just goes to show you that any movie can be connected to a great franchise if they are given the rights to use a name like the Weyland Corporation. This is what happened for Death Race 2, when Paul W.S. Anderson, the producer on both Death Race 2 and Alien vs. Predator, was able to make the Weyland Corporation the owners of the private prisons in the Death Race sequel. Now and forever, the Alien franchise of films, one of the greatest sci-fi franchises of all time, is linked to Death Race 2.
11. Sullivan’s Travels – O Brother Where Art Thou
This is a connection that is obvious for those who are aware of it. But, if that describes you, then this isn’t for you, so shush it up. Yes, O Brother Where Art Thou? and Sullivan’s Travels, the 1941 Preston Sturges film, are very closely connected. In fact, Sullivan’s Travels is about a man who wishes to create a film adaptation of O Brother, Where Art Thou? The protagonist ends up taking up a journey to help him understand his characters more, a journey that somewhat resembles the journey of the prisoners in O Brother. Obviously, the Coen Brothers’ film also follows The Odyssey storyline closely as well, but really what’s happened is the Coen Brothers made the film that Sullivan intended to make back in 1941.
10. Doc Hollywood – Cars
There are many films that resemble each other in plot and structure, but few are so close as Cars and Doc Hollywood. It would be 15 years after Doc Hollywood was released that Cars would hit theaters. But, since the 1991 film starred Michael J. Fox, it still hung on the memories of some loyal fans. That meant that many were able to see the similarities between the two films when Cars came out. It was they that noticed the uncanny similarities. Both films feature a hotshot from the city travelling to California when they end up in a strange small town. Both protagonists cause damage in the town and are ordered to complete community service, get in a fight with the local “Doc,” learn to love the townsfolk, fall in love with the local girl, and end up moving to the small town. No, the story isn’t the most original in the first place, but this is just a light glossing. There are even more similarities. Maybe plagiarism is a better term than connected, but you get the picture.
9. Animal House – Twilight Zone The Movie
Call it a small reference to another John Landis film all you want, but we think this is important information for all movie fans to have. Of course, we all know Animal House. Well, at the end of that film, we learn that Nedilmeyer joined the army and was shot by his own men. Most people think the joke starts and ends there, but Landis would revisit it when he took part in directing Twilight Zone the Movie. In the “Time Out” section, the one famous for the death of Vic Morrow and the two children actors, the racist Bill Connor finds himself in the Vietnamese jungle during the war. As some troops run toward him, we overhear one say, “I told you guys we should have never shot Lt. Nedilmeyer.”
8. Step Brothers – Elf
Maybe it’s just one more silly, albeit harmless, fan theory, but these are the kinds of interesting discussions that we enjoy reading about. One fan (or several) came up with the idea that Elf is actually the prequel to Step Brothers. This would explain why Brennan is so childlike and can sing like a goddamn angel. To get here, however, we need to accept that Mary Steenburgen‘s character divorced James Caan and adopted Buddy after Elf, changing his name to Brennan. Both younger brothers in film match up as normal in comparison. He changed his name too, like the rest of the family, possibly to hide from the borderline abusive Caan. The brother seems to have got all jacked, maybe because he was bullied as a child. It makes sense if you let it.
7. Transformers – Friday The 13th
We’ve discussed this theory in the past and although it is one of those director/producer self-references, in this case Michael Bay, we decided to include it. In Transformers, we meet the resident douche. His name is Trent DeMarco and he’s played by Travis Van Winkle. In the Friday the 13thremake, the resident douche is also named Trent DeMarco, and he’s also played by Travis Van Winkle. These characters are far too similar to be a coincidence. So, if you were ever wondering what happened to our good pal Trent, now you know. He died. Brutally.
6. Boyz N The Hood – Stand By Me
Many films use the audience’s knowledge of one movie to create an effect in another. Boyz n the Hood does this in a very subtle but effective way with Stand by Me. First of all, showing a group of young men walking to see a dead body and using the train tracks is a clear way to connect a film to the iconic setting in Stand by Me. The important connection here is the size and length of the trip. In Stand by Me, the kids go on an entire journey to get there, crossing town and walking for miles. In comparison, the kids in Boyz n the Hood walk for about one block. It draws a very distinct line between the two worlds.
5. Oldboy – The Count Of Monte Cristo
Maybe because the story of The Count of Monte Cristo is being unfairly neglected or forgotten, but many overlook the obvious connections between it and Oldboy. The manga on which the Oldboy film is based is very blatantly based on the Alexander Dumas story (there’s also the Kevin Reynolds film). Both stories involve a man imprisoned by an acquaintance for apparently no real reason. Both stories follow the man’s escape and his revenge plot. Both stories involve a child that the main character is unfamiliar with that comes into play later. The connections are really endless and the Oldboy film directly points to The Count of Monte Cristo on more than one occasion. In many ways, understanding that these two stories are connected empowers Oldboy.
4. 8 ½ – Birdman
Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ is considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made, so it is to be expected that many filmmakers are inspired by it. When Birdman came out, however, despite it’s very clear connections to 8 ½, many didn’t grasp the similarities. Both films look at a once-great and admired artist trying to recapture or hold on to their former glory. Aside from many subtle references, Birdman uses many of the same devices, such as being overwhelmed by the paparazzi, escaping via sudden flying, visits from various women and seductresses, and finishing with suicide. Both films also end with the almost-magical overcoming of suicide or second chances being granted. Birdman is kind of a modern adaptation of this great Fellini film.
3. The Big Lebowski – North By Northwest
While this one is nothing more than a small reference to a great film, we needed to include this for posterity’s sake. In The Big Lebowski, the Dude watches a man suspiciously writing something on a notepad. After he finishes, he tears the note off and leaves. This is when we’re meant to recall a similar scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. In that film, Cary Grant watches the femme fatale take a note in a similar way. When she leaves, he shades over the next page on the notepad with a pencil and reveals what she wrote down. The Dude, using this same trick, shades over the next page in the notebook. Except, rather than reveal some big secret, the Dude reveals a crude drawing of a naked man, proving that the guy was simply doodling old school nudes.
2. Battleship Potemkin – Brazil
The Odessa Steps Scene in the 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin has become, if only by homage and reference, one of the most famous scenes in movie history. Though many of you will argue that this, by no means, connects these movies, we say it does. Each of these movies use the audience’s knowledge of Battleship Potemkin and the Odessa Steps scene to advance their story. Some are for expectations and surprise, others use humor. This sequence has been directly referenced in Brazil, The Godfather, The Untouchables, Naked Gun 33 1/3, The Trotsky, and many more films. We’re big fans of the Brazil homage when, instead of baby carriage rolling down the steps, it’s a vacuum cleaner.
1. Psycho – Pulp Fiction
There are so many scenes created by Alfred Hitchcock that other directors have made homages to that it is hard to single out only one (or two), but the Psycho-related scene in Pulp Fiction is one of those that we’ve all seen. However, few ever stop and think about what’s happening. In Psycho, we see Marion Crane approaching a crosswalk. As people are crossing in front of her car, Marion, who has all that stolen money in the car, looks on. She is then spooked when her boss crosses in front of her. This same scene happens in Pulp Fiction, except that it’s Marcellus Wallace who passes in front of Butch’s car. We are expected to clue in and it is the change in the scene that carries weight. In Psycho, Marion drives off hurriedly but safely. In Pulp Fiction, Butch slams on the gas and drives right through Wallace as he stands in the middle of the intersection.