Films have forever relied on other films for references and affectionate pats on the back. But every now and then, there’s a line or a moment which suggests that there’s a bit more going on under the surface. Whether it’s an expression of confidence in an upcoming blockbuster duel, or a dig at a film of yesteryear, there are one or two movies that choose to take a little bite at another film.
If the following examples prove anything, though, you need to be on sure ground to get away with it…
Took a potshot at: In Good Company
Ocean’s Twelve is, apparently, director Steven Sodebergh’s favourite of the trilogy, even if it doesn’t appear to be anyone else’s.
It doesn’t take long, either, for a dig at another movie to be worked in. It’s the scene where Topher Grace’s character says “I totally phoned in that Dennis Quaid movie”. The thing was, he was actually talking about a real film that hadn’t been released at this point.
The film in question was the really quite charming In Good Company, an underrated movie that saw Quaid and Grace (doesn’t that sound like a Eurovision act?) co-starring with Scarlett Johansson. It’s a film well worth digging out. Ocean’s Twelve, er, isn’t.
Took a potshot at: Armageddon
Sadly, this one never made the final cut, having been deleted when test audiences found the gag just a little too good. It’s a scene where President Morgan Freeman gives a speech to assure everyone that life will go on, and utters the line, “There will be no Armageddon”. Sadly, the joke worked too well at a dramatic part of the film, hence its removal.
What happened next? Well, the two were going head to head at the time, with Deep Impact out first. Truthfully, we like both movies, and both made enough cash to keep everyone happy.
Took a potshot at: Jurassic Park
Perhaps wisely, this was another moment that was cut from the final movie, although in the case of Godzilla, the scene in question had already had an extensive airing courtesy of a teaser trailer broadcast the year before.
The sequence, which cost a reported $600,000 to film (back when $600,000 was deemed quite a lot of money on a blockbuster movie), saw Godzilla’s foot crashing through the roof of a museum. In its path? The skeleton of a T-Rex (introduced by a relatively dull tour guide), which was duly smashed to smithereens. The message was clear: Godzilla was bigger than Jurassic Park. What could possible go wrong?
Lots went wrong. Godzilla proved not to be the blockbuster mega-success it was designed to be, requiring a hefty marketing spend to get it to $379m worldwide at the box office. It wasn’t a flop, but two planned sequels were scrapped in the wake of its critical and commercial response. Meanwhile, plans for Jurassic Park 4 are ongoing.
Last Action Hero
Took a potshot at: Jurassic Park
1993 was supposed to be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big year. He hadn’t made an action movie since Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the summer of 1991, and thus Last Action Hero was expected to be massive. At a time when films weren’t actively promoted so far in advance, it even had a specially-filmed teaser trailer running in 1992.
Originally, Last Action Hero was expected to be the big hit, with Steven Spielberg’s rival blockbuster Jurassic Park fighting for second place. Perhaps that’s some of the thinking that inspired the many screenwriters of Last Action Hero to insert a moment where Schwarzenegger’s Jack Slater is framed in the movie, pointing and laughing at a dinosaur. In hindsight, perhaps a bit of over-confidence. But then, we’ve always had a soft spot for Last Action Hero.
Spielberg’s Jurassic Park soared (and roared), Last Action Hero bombed, and CG took over blockbuster cinema…
Took a potshot at: Rambo III
This one’s more about Arnie and Stallone than a knock at a specific film (Stallone would return the favour in Demolition Man). In Twins, though, Schwarzenegger walks past a poster for Rambo III (although the film isn’t named), and takes a look at the muscle-eruption that was Stallone in the 80s. After a quick check of his own biceps, the Austrian Oak walks away, dismissing his rival with a casual flick of the hand.
Took a potshot at: Gone With The Wind
Is there just a little bit of a dig at Gone With The Wind in Billy Wilder’s 1950 movie, Sunset Boulevard? Nancy Olson’s Betty, William Holden’s Joe Gillis and Fred Clark’s Sheldrake are discussing movie material in the film, and it’s Betty that remarks, “I just think pictures should say a little something”.
“Oh you’re one of the message kids”, retorts Gillis. “Just a story won’t do. You’d have turned down Gone With The Wind“. “No, that was me”, offers Sheldrake. “I said, who wants to see a civil war picture?”
A slight, slight dig? Quite possibly…
What’s Up Doc?
Makes a dig at: Love Story
A fun in-joke, or was there something a little more to this one? Ryan O’Neal scored a Best Actor Oscar nomination for the massive 1970 hit Love Story, but by the time he appeared with Barbra Streisand in What’s Up Doc?, was his love of the film on the wane somewhat?
There’s an exchange in the movie where Streisand’s character says to O’Neal’s, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”, which is, of course, the iconic line from Love Story. O’Neal’s response? “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard”…
Took potshots at: Godzilla
We’ve already seen that Godzilla had a dig at the Jurassic Park films. But it wasn’t immune to being a target itself.
Michael Bay clearly wasn’t a fan of the idea of a big blockbuster based around a computer-generated character, if an early sequence in his loud-fest Armageddon is anything to go by. Just before he pummels the world with a few asteroids by way of warm up, he thoughtfully takes the time to present a scene where a small dog walks up to some Godzilla toys on the street, and attempts to rip them apart.