Six seasons and a movie. At this point, it’s less of a joke and more of a manifest destiny statement for Greendale and its hapless student body… or at least the fans who cling to their memory. Yes, the sixth season of Community came and went on Yahoo! and is now come again on Hulu, along with the rest of the series. Still, fans desperately want a Community movie to happen, and creator Dan Harmon and many cast members have not ruled it out even in 2019. Which in an abstract sense is perfectly sound: Community has been making movies from the very beginning (or at least parodies of them).
As originally a sitcom purportedly about folks from different walks of life going to school at a city college, Community has never been shy about mining pop culture, counter culture, and really just about any kind of culture for a gag. Initially, the focus was more on the sitcom tropes that showrunner Dan Harmon, executive producer Chris McKenna, and the rest of the Community writing staff were gleefully deconstructing and sending up. However, even from the very first episode, “Pilot,” there was a bit of a taste for poking fun at movie clichés long before Abed had even heard the word “paintball.”
Thus we have compiled a list of every movie reference (that we can think of or remember). As this is strictly in relation to movie references, this means we will be skipping over brilliant takedowns of Glee and the backhanded compliments to Law & Order. Also, we are compiling this list by naming only one episode per entry, even if it has multiple movie references, which we will still try to find all of therein.
Now it’s time to crank up the Dave and prepare to seize the day! Here are the 61 Movie References of Community.
Season 1: Pilot – The Breakfast Club
The first episode of Dan Harmon’s grand experiment at turning a network sitcom into a televised reddit forum focused mostly on the actual community college aspect at the beginning. This is the show NBC naively signed up for oh so many moons ago. But even then the earliest seeds of movie references were ready to sprout. Consider that Abed thinks that Jeff is going to be 1970s television’s Welcome Back, Kotter, but he quickly realizes that this is “getting much more like The Breakfast Club” with seven disparate personalities seemingly trapped together in a school library. Together, they’ll find intolerance and acceptance…
In retrospect, I wonder if Harmon and Jim Rash wish they had the Dean come in right then and start talking about messing with bulls and horns.
Season 1: Introduction to Film – Dead Poets Society
When Jeff continues to tinker at the art of blowing off courses, he drifts into the wrong kind of feel-good easy-A course: the type with a teacher who wishes to inspire. In the first minute of the episode, John Michael Higgins comes in as Professor Whitman and demands that his students throw away their textbooks to seize the day via “Carpe Diem;” this is anything but Jeff Winger’s ode to joy.
Season 1: Introduction to Statistics – The Dark Knight
Season 1: Environmental Science – An American Tail
“Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight.” – Abed and Troy singing to their biology rat.
Season 1: Romantic Expressionism – RoboCop (or at least the sequels)
When Pierce joins Troy, Abed, Shirley, and Chang to watch Kickpuncher, he had no way of realizing that they were watching the terrible ‘80s sci-fi flick with every intention of MST3K-ing it with callbacks for its entire running time. And that is because most of these ‘80s genre movies fail. Yet this is a paradox since the most obvious Kickpuncher influence is RoboCop, and RoboCop is awesome. So, I must assume that Kickpuncher was inspired by RoboCop 2 and everything that came after…
Season 1: Communication Studies – The Breakfast Club
It’s safe to say that the Community writers love John Hughes, and The Breakfast Club in particular, since Jeff takes his romantic advice from Abed—which apparently involves dancing like Ally Sheedy, Molly Ringwald, and the rest of those quirky high schoolers from the 1985 classic.
Season 1: Beginner Pottery – Ghost (and all Jeff Goldblum Movies)
When joining blow-off course Beginning Pottery, Jeff should have paid attention that the professor has only one rule: no “ghosting.” It makes sense that after 20 years of teaching pottery, he’d grown sick of watching people make fun of his evocation by reenacting the most famous scene from Ghost. Still, this doesn’t stop Jeff from doing the fabled “guy-on-guy” Ghost parody when he realizes that there’s someone better than him at making clay pots. As a result, Jeffrey is evicted from the class but not before serenading his professor with the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.” He also found time to descend into “Goldbluming” madness due to his obsession with Rich.
Season 1: The Science of Illusion – Lethal Weapon (or any Buddy Cop Movie)
The Dean makes Annie and Shirley his low-cost campus security, and Abed gets them both wanting to be the Mel Gibson of the pairing (except without the, you know, racism and anti-Semitism). Neither realizes that they’re both closer to Danny Glover.
Season 1: Contemporary American Poultry – Goodfellas, The Godfather, and Sixteen Candles
In what is one of the most streets ahead movie parodies Community has ever done, Abed realizes that for as long as can remember, he’s always wanted to be in a gangster movie. And he gets to be when the Greendale Seven discover that Star-Burns has cornered the market on the cafeteria’s one good food: chicken fingers. As Troy says, if God was edible, he’d be one of those chicken fingers.
So, the group enlists Abed to talk his way into working in the kitchen and give them the chicken fingers. What follows is Martin Scorsese styled madness with Abed pursuing a life of chicken crime, and becoming both the Ray Liotta and Paul Sorvino of this Goodfellas parody, much to Jeff’s misplaced horror. Luckily, after all the “Layla” and gliding steadicam homages are played out, they share one more bowl of chicken fingers like at the end of Sixteen Candles.
Season 1: The Art of Discourse – Animal House
Honestly, this is one of the weaker episodes of Community’s first season, but it still has a few gems that come in the form of parodies. Long before the rest of the cast realizes they’re in a college movie, Troy and Abed are already dressing in togas and are ready to have a good time. But then at the end of the episode, there is a food fight that is freeze framed for every character with a caption for what they’ll end up doing 30 years (or 30 minutes) later.
Season 1: Modern Warfare – The Warriors…and 28 Days Later…and The Terminator…and John Woo films…and Die Hard…and…
There are Community episodes, and then there are moments of pure television brilliance that transcend the sitcom medium to become something… legendary. “Modern Warefare” is the latter. As directed by Justin Lin, this is the first true surrender on the part of Harmon and the writers into the world of a surrealistic comedy wonderland, one where Jeff can wake up like he’s Cillian Murphy in a great (if slightly smug) Danny Boyle zombie movie, only to be saved from paintball villainy by Abed at his most Kyle Reese-y.
Reuniting with the rest of the study group, Jeff leads them through a Warriors-esque dystopia where monsters and worse—the Glee Club—rule the campus. Jeff will have to go the full John McClane if he hopes to win this awful, glorious day.
Season 1: English as a Second Language – Good Will Hunting
It’s small but it’s to the point. Any person (or film) that says, “The favorite part of my day is hoping you won’t be there” is a bad friend. Or script. Ouch.
Season 2: Anthropology 101 – The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
What’s the worse that can happen if you let Chang into the study group? You’d be faced with his rapidly deteriorating split personality disorder, which looks a lot like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Season 2: The Psychology of Letting Go – Inception
It is hard to imagine something more entertaining than Christopher Nolan’s mission statement about storytelling via lucid dream technology… but Betty White speaking French to natives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s jungle about the plot of Inception and when Tom Berenger became Tom Hardy in disguise comes pretty damn close.
Season 2: Basic Rocket Science – Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff
Houston, we have a problem. Our not-KFC space flight simulator van has been stolen, and it is now up to Pierce to settle beef with his dad if he is going to save the study group and prove that he has the right stuff. Not the best episode, but still a few fun ideas.
Season 2: Epidemiology – Night of the Living Dead and Aliens
In one of my personal favorite Community episodes, the Halloween Party from Hell gets even more hellacious. It’s hard to imagine what could be worse than a college library party scored to the Dean’s personal playlist (all ABBA songs and his audio memos). But the Dean found a way when the hamburger meat he got on sale from the salvation army turned out to be spoiled with chemical warfare, turning the entire student body into mindless, biting zombies.
With nothing but his wit and an Ellen Ripley Halloween costume (from the James Cameron one), Troy is going to have to save the day before the zombie apocalypse and ABBA music become eternal at Greendale.
Season 2: Aerodynamics of Gender – The Secret Garden and The Terminator
Technically a literary reference, there has still been plenty of Secret Garden movies. Besides, it is a wonderful contrast from the previous nerdy Comic-Con overload episode. The American Beauty styled score only increases the otherworldly paradise created by trampoline bounces. It’s so beautiful that you wish Pierce didn’t ruin it for Jeff and Troy, even with the whole neo-Nazi thing going on beneath the surface…
Oh, and Abed becomes the Terminator of Mean Girl insults.
Season 2: Conspiracy Theories and Interior Designs – Eyes Wide Shut
While this entire episode acts an amusing homage to the subgenre of “conspiracy” films, and not just one in particular (think Marathon Man, Enemy of the State, Conspiracy Theory), it still has one overt allusion that is all together separate. When Jeff and Annie pursue “Professor Professerson” through Abed and Troy’s blanket town, they stumble upon a seedy Kubrickian sex club cut off from the rest of the pillow paradise. Britta is seen there alongside strangely masked and clothed men. It’s short, it’s bizarre, and it’s hilarious.
Season 2: Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas – Rankin/Bass Productions
When Abed has a mental breakdown just in time for season 2’s Christmas episode, he imagines everyone is made of sculpted dolls or clay, because of course he does. It’s pretty self-explanatory. So if you have ever watched those old CBS vintage classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, that pretty much is the tone of the entire episode.
Season 2: Asian Population Studies – When Harry Met Sally
This is so overused that it probably could apply to countless romantic comedies, yet the most iconic in my mind is Rob Reiner’s classic When Harry Met Sally. When Jeff is given some love advice by Andre (Shirley’s ex who is having a second go at marriage with her), he sprints off through the rain in a scene that is edited to imply that he is running to find Annie. The rain is not actually in Harry Met Sally but it’s another rom-com staple (maybe Breakfast at Tiffany’s?).
Jeff gets to what appears to be Annie’s door and has his whole Billy Crystal speech given in one take before we realize that he came to profess his admiration for Rich–not Annie. It’s a fake out that gets a grin every time.
Season 2: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
As one of the crown jewels of Community, “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” is a beautifully absurd episode that is almost entirely told around the study group’s table with only sound effects and acting to conjure the “magic” of role-playing. But the actual affectation for how seriously they take it, including a Cate Blanchett-esque sounding opening narrator and Ludwig Göransson’s Howard Shore reminiscent scoring, is totally Lord of the Rings of the Peter Jackson bombastic variety.
Also, a special ironic note: each character is given a magical avatar in the opening titles, and Alison Brie’s is a unicorn, which is even more fitting now that she is also known as Uni-Kitty from The Lego Movie.
Season 2: Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking – Roots
Including this episode is a bit of a cheat since it primarily works as a parody of The Office, Parks and Rec, Modern Family, and the other mockumentary television tropes. But the cameo by LeVar Burton provides an excuse for a great self-deprecating line. When he realizes he can get rid of star-struck Troy by singing “Reading Rainbow,” LeVar then helps himself to Troy’s salmon saying, “More fish for Kunta.” More, indeed. Set phasers to love me.
Season 2: Critical Film Studies – My Dinner with Andre and Pulp Fiction
Not many folks ever think about lumping together Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory’s tête-à-tête about the nature of theatre, life, and theatrical life with the Quentin Tarantino movie that mainstreamed the sex term gimp. But that is what makes “Critical Film Studies” so subversively enjoyable. The more geek and mainstream friendly Pulp Fiction is blatantly homaged in the marketing and the set-up since all the characters are dressing as their favorite QT characters from that 1994 film while twiddling their thumbs in a pseudo-racist diner.
However, the real thrust of the episode is about Jeff and Abed sharing a My Dinner with Andre conversation taken straight from the Louis Malle film that likely many Community viewers were as oblivious to as Jeff Winger himself. Intentionally squandering their “Pulp Fiction episode” on a 20-minute My Dinner with Andre love letter is the best kind of joke.
Season 2: Applied Anthropology Culinary Arts – Indecent Proposal
Pierce offers to pay $1,000 to Troy and Abed to learn their secret handshake. It’s a most indecent proposal.
Season 2: A Fistful of Paintballs – Every Spaghetti Western Ever and Blazing Saddles
Revisiting the greatness of “Modern Warfare” was an interesting choice on the part of Harmon and company. And while I do not think either half of this two-part season 2 finale is quite as good, these Russo Brother-directed gems still are just that: bright, shiny, and a whole lot of fun to be around.
In the first part, Community goes very Spaghetti western with the concept, and most especially with a focus on Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). Abed dresses like Clint Eastwood’s classic Man with No Name anti-hero, and the music channels Ennio Morricone. They even use For a Few Dollars More’s wordless, bell-themed flashbacks. Yet the nicest touch that didn’t demand much attention was Troy dressed like Sheriff Bart from Blazing Saddles. Yippee ki-yay.
Season 2: For a Few Paintballs More – Star Wars
As Abed blatantly states in the episode, we have left the Western motif of the previous episode in favor of a Star Wars theme. The aesthetic is rather generic overall, but the villainous city college participants are dressed in all white like stormtroopers, and Abed is now attired like Han Solo. Even better, Abed is doing a Harrison Ford impersonation while hitting on Annie, who doesn’t stand a chance.
This reference feels less defined than the Western vibe of the previous episode or “Modern Warfare,” making it the weakest of the three paintball episodes. But even so, it is still pretty entertaining if for nothing more than the grand finale where Troy, Annie, and Abed make it rain orange paint in the library right as Troy has the most epic paintball death in the storied annals of the prestigious sport.
(Also how ironic is it that Donald Glover was standing next to Abed’s Han Solo, which was better than the Han Solo we got in Glover’s Solo movie seven years later?!)
Season 3: Biology 101 – 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining
When Jeff breathes in too much asbestos, he inhales deeply and faces his worst fears: that he’ll grow old alone in a hotel suite where the object that controls the fate of all of mankind (the study group’s library table) presides over him with the judging stare of an alien god! It is a spiritual experience that leads to Jeff coming out of the air ducts with a single purpose… and an axe.
(Also fun note: Donald Glover wears a Spider-Man T-shirt in this episode, which is a wink to his wanting to play Peter Parker in the first 2012 reboot. This partially led to the creation of Miles Morales. Glover would then go on to appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming while Miles starred in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.)
Season 3: Geography of Global Conflict – Spartacus
After Annie’s Model UN is ruined by Jeff pooting in front of a whole audience, he eventually owns up to his flatulence by saying, “I farted.” And then so does Pierce, Troy, Shirley, and Abed. “No guys, I wasn’t doing the Spartacus thing.” Too late Jeff. Too late.
Season 3: Remedial Chaos Theory – Run Lola Run
I think there is little arguing that this is probably Community‘sfinest hour (or at least 22 minutes). It’s a perfectly constructed game of high-concept weirdness and finely tuned character moments amongst its seven leads. In general, it pulls loosely from the idea of films like Rashomon, but so sparingly that it is only on this list for one reason: the shot of the dice flying through the air is taken straight from the soccer ball opening of the German cult classic, Run Lola Run.
Season 3: Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps – Hammer Horror Movies, ‘80s Slashers, The Human Centipede, and Beetlejuice
Unsurprising that the Halloween episode intended to be an anthology mixes in a lot of tropes. Most of them are vague enough to not call out a specific film—other than the rather grotesque nod to The Human Centipede when Troy imagines that he and Abed are sewn together for eternity (which actually turns out to be kind of awesome)—but they certainly are all evoking a horror movie classic. Annie imagines herself as a buxom ingénue who will be fed upon by a Hammer Horror like Jeff and his damned concubine (Britta); Britta and Abed meanwhile both create the mood of classic 1980s slasher films with trips to secluded cabins and masked killers in the kind of burlap sack that Jason wore in Friday the 13th Part 2.
Other small nods included Pierce’s racist fantasy, which dressed Troy as Marlon Wayans from Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, and a tip of the hat for erstwhile Community director Justin Lin when Jeff dresses as “one of the Fast and Furious guys” for Halloween (though don’t ask him which since he doesn’t actually watch that “shallow crap”).
Sidebar: In perhaps one of the most brilliant movie references that took an incredible amount of patience, Community also completed their Beetlejuice nod and salute that was two years in the making. With off-the-cuff Beetlejuice references cropping up in both season 1 and season 2, it is in this episode that Annie mentions Beetlejuice for the third time, and someone dressed as Beetlejuice for Halloween appears behind her on his way to a party—or an exorcism.
Season 3: Studies in Modern Movement – Batman Forever
While singing “Kiss From a Rose” in and of itself may not qualify as a Batman Forever parody or reference, it’s just too hilarious of a Jeff-Dean sequence not to mention.
Season 3: Documentary Filmmaking Redux – Hearts of Darkness (way better than Apocalypse Now)
In another cheeky episode of self-aware filmmaking, Abed rejects the Modern Family aesthetic in favor of emulating Eleanor Coppola, who documented her husband’s descent into filmmaking pretension and madness during the production of Apocalypse Now with her own film, Hearts of Darkness. And as Abed posits, “Have you seen Hearts of Darkness? Way better than Apocalypse Now.”
So, as Dean Pelton goes two weeks over schedule and tens of thousands of dollars over budget in order to shoot a cheesy community college commercial, Abed is a fly on the wall witnessing the Dean transform into the complete Francis Ford by tearing down his actors and driving the student population to the edge of insanity.
Season 3: Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism – The Dark Knight
It’s official from the man himself: “Abed is Batman now.” – Christian Bale
Season 3: Regional Holiday Music – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Ah, another one that barely qualifies as this is the infamous Glee episode. Often a wink or a nod from Community is a form of flattery or admiration. But not this time. “Regional Holiday Music” comes from a place of extreme hate and disdain on the part of Dan Harmon for all things Glee, and it really is an infectious joy to behold.
However, this episode does have a brief movie reference that comes from a place of sincere affection. After each member of the study group is absorbed into the Glee Club cult by hypnotically singing and dancing showtune numbers, Britta is the last person standing when Jeff comes for her like Donald Sutherland at the end of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake.
Season 3: Contemporary Impressionists – Patton
In an episode full of impressionists dressed as everyone from Robin Williams to Fat Burt Reynolds, it’s hard to say any movie is really fully referenced for more than just the concept of impressions—though there is a terrific ode to The Incredible Hulk TV show when Jeff’s ego explodes and he walks shirtless along the side of the road to sad piano music. Still, the episode ends with a very clear nod to something more concrete than catchphrases: Chang stands like the famed U.S. general in front of a sea of children, ready to enforce his tyranny onto Greendale campus.
Season 3: Urban Matrimony and Sandwich Arts – Wall Street
Pierce dresses like Gordon Gekko. A much older and less successful version of Gordon Gekko.
Season 3: Pillows and Blankets – Ken Burns Documentaries (and Inglourious Basterds)
I am not sure if this should be included since Burns’ documentaries are often miniseries that air on PBS, but I’m going to allow it because this is just too perfect at capturing the rhythm of a Burns passion project, particularly The Civil War. However, this is now about the equally tragic struggle of wills between Troy and Abed. Also, there are Chang’s Changlorious Basterds.
Season 3: Origins of Vampire Mythology – When Harry Met Sally
A bit cliché to use at this point, Community tosses in the now bumper sticker famous “I’ll have what she’s having.” At least when it happens here, the joke is done while Annie’s eyes are soaking in a shirtless Jeff, causing Annie to shoot back, “Hey, grow up lady.” Yeah, Annie, that will show her you’re just friends!
Season 3: Virtual Systems Analysis – Die Hard and Inception
“Virtual Systems Analysis” is primarily an Abed character study by way of elaborate Doctor Who parody, but there are a few movie references thrown in too. For starters, Abed is not allowed at everyone’s favorite Mexican restaurant because one of the waiters hates Die Hard, which can rile Abed up for a warpath.
Later it is revealed via Abed’s impersonations of Troy that in addition to having a man crush on Clive Owen, Troy does not understand Inception. The narrative layers are just so much that they, like everything else, can bring Troy Barnes to tears at the drop of a hat.
Season 3: Curriculum Unavailable – Pulp Fiction and Minority Report
In another fake “clips episode” where all of the clips are of events not seen in the entire series, “Curriculum Unavailable” plays with the fun idea that everyone is crazy and that Greendale is actually a psychiatric ward. The only real negative comment I could have for that idea is that since they used it as a joke here, this means that it cannot be the ending revelation of the Community movie.
But in the meantime, the episode does reveal that first Chang likes snorting his snackfood and quoting Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction (“Hot damn!”) and that Chang also thinks Garrett is a pre-cog, hence putting him in a large pool to read the future.
Season 3: The First Chang Dynasty – Ocean’s 11 and Lost in Translation
In the penultimate episode of season 3, the study group has its revenge on Chang when they Ocean 11 his Greendale tyranny with an elaborate heist planned to free the real kidnapped Dean. It has moustaches, mildly offensive and wholly hilarious Italian stereotype accents from Troy and Abed, Jeff’s newly waxed abs, and Britta as a goth dream girl. They even have the requisite fake out of getting caught, but then not really. However, they then do get promptly captured afterwards.
The episode also ends on a wonderfully smartass note when Troy is forced to arbitrarily abandon his friends in order to accept his place in the sacred order of air conditioning repairmen. In his parting words to Abed, he gently whispers a secret befit for Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. When the rest of the study group asks Abed what Troy said, he replies, “He said ‘I know you hate it when people do this in movies.’” Even Sofia Coppola fans should be able to chuckle at that.
Season 3: Introduction to Finality – RoboCop 2 and Back to the Future Part III
Evil Spock Abed: “Do you know what kind of person becomes a psychiatrist, Britta? A person that wishes deep down that everyone more special than them is sick, because healthy sounds so much more exciting than boring. You’re average, Britta Perry. You’re every kid on the playground that didn’t get picked on. You’re business casual, a potted plant, a human white sale. You’re VH1, RoboCop 2 and Back to the Future III. You’re the center slice of a square cheese pizza. Actually that sounds delicious. I’m the center slice of a square cheese pizza; you’re Jim Belushi.”
Season 4: History 101 – The Hunger Games
And here we are: the gas leak year. The fourth season of Community is also notorious as the one where Sony and NBC removed Dan Harmon from the series as showrunner. And even with the entire cast still present (unlike seasons 5 and 6), this felt the most unlike what made people love the show in the first place. In short, it’s a rather boring and banal sitcom season.
As part of that insipid formula encroachment, the very first episode of this new format featured an on-the-nose and dull reference to one of the most popular movies that came out the year this was written and filmed: The Hunger Games. To prepare his students for a new year, Dean Pelton ushers in the “Hunger Deans,” because… it’s a popular movie? That’s about it.
Season 4: Paranormal Parentage – Paranormal Activity and Do the Right Thing
Mostly an attempt to infuse a Scooby-Doo mystery vibe to Community, which has been toyed with in previous fake “clips” episodes during seasons 2 and 3, there are still a few movie nods in “Paranormal Parentage.” The first is the most obvious given the title: Pierce’s mansion has security cameras that allows Jeff and Britta to watch other study group members be “haunted” by Pierce’s spooky home.
The other homage, which plays much better, is Abed realizing that Pierce’s panic room was installed on the same day that Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing opened in 1989. And to be fair, this is a nifty little wink since Giancarlo Esposito returns as Pierce’s long lost half-brother in this episode, and Esposito got his first break by appearing in a small role in Do the Right Thing.
Season 4: Cooperative Escapism in Familial Relations – The Shawshank Redemption and Twins
When forced to go to Shirley’s awkward family Thanksgiving, most of the study group ends up hiding in the garage and Abed compares it to the prison drama The Shawshank Redemption by narrating their predicament in a pseudo-Morgan Freeman voice. Heh. Meanwhile, Jeff and Britta meet Jeff’s father Willy and half-brother Willy Jr. for Thanksgiving. Willy Jr. compares meeting Jeff to it being like Twins. Double heh.
Season 4: Advanced Documentary Filmmaking – Alfred Hitchcock Films
Alfred Hitchcock famously called the inconsequential item that drives all characters’ motivations due to its purported significance in a story “the MacGuffin.” It can be something of great importance in a narrative (The Maltese Falcon or Hitchcock’s own Notorious) or just a plot placeholder (the majority of Marvel Studios’ scripts). So it was when a group financing Chang’s rehabilitation due to having supposed amnesia (or “Changnesia”) is said to be “the MacGuffin Group.”
Also, Chang’s psychosis is visualized with the high anxiety of Vertigo.
Season 4: Intro to Felt Surrogacy – Muppets Movies
Generally, I actually enjoy this episode. I know it is controversial since it is one of the more on-the-nose moments of the “gas leak year,” but I will admit that it did capture the good-hearted earnestness of Jim Henson’s tone and style. It may not be great Community, but it was a pleasant homage to the Muppets, films or otherwise. Plus, I liked Sara Bareilles and Jason Alexander’s Muppets movie styled cameos.
Season 4: Intro to Knots – Suicide Kings and Rope
In typical Chang fashion, he kidnaps Professor Cornwallis by tying him up with rope, and the study group must then convince Cornwallis not to fail them from History 101 (or press criminal charges). It’s the same setup of Suicide Kings when a bunch of teenagers kidnap a wealthy mobster played by Christopher Walken to work out an unlikely deal. It also was supposed to be an homage to Rope, which was shot to create the illusion of a single tracking shot (yes, Hitchcock did it before Birdman). But due to the limitations of television budgeting and schedules, the idea was scrapped. It still has the basic concept of taking place at a party where a college professor is invited, much like the premise of Rope.
Season 4: Basic Human Anatomy – Freaky Friday
Troy and Abed imagine that they’ve switched bodies like in Freaky Friday. Yeah. Moving on…
Season 4: Advanced Introduction to Finality – The Terminator
When Evil Jeff and Evil Annie arrive from the darkest timeline into our own, Jeff arrives kneeling and basically nude, save for his underwear—just like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the numerous Terminator franchise films.
Season 5: Repilot – The Social Network
With Harmon back at the helm of the writers room, the references get a little less mundane: Troy says he has spent his post-college life waiting for Abed to create a billion-dollar app. So he can sue him.
Season 5: Introduction to Teaching – Nicolas Cage Movies
Nicolas Cage: Good or bad? It is an unsolvable question.
Season 5: Basic Intergluteal Numismatics – Zodiac, David Fincher, and Jaws
While a bit of an homage to the entire David Fincher filmography, “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics” is most especially a painstaking beat-by-beat recreation of Fincher’s serial killer procedural instincts encapsulated by Zodiac. It is also the first truly brilliant episode of season 5 and the first time in over a year Community felt like it was firing on all cylinders.
In this episode, a fiend that is never apprehended is able to sneakily place coins of various sizes into unsuspecting students’ buttocks. Nothing seems to stop him, including eerie children’s choral arrangements of Radiohead’s “Creep,” a la The Social Network trailer. Annie and Jeff try to figure out who the ass crack bandit is with all the obsession of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt in Seven. But alas, like the Zodiac killer, no amounts of desaturated green filters and ensemble detective work in perpetual rainfall will result in the threat’s apprehension.
Oh, and a victimized Troy confronts the falsely accused Star-Burns, and slaps him harder than Amity Beach Chief Brody.
Season 5: Cooperative Polygraphy – Catfish and The Grey
In another strong performance from the first half of Community season 5, the group essentially has a “bottle episode” by agreeing to be polygraphed by the late Pierce Hawthorne’s legal attorney. And during all the lie detection, it comes out that Abed “catfished” Annie for months on Facebook so that she would happily make her roommates more pancakes.
Sidebar: “Stop giving The Grey four stars.” / “I like Liam Neeson!” / “Then send him a message about the movies he makes.”
Season 5: Geothermal Escapism – Waterworld and Return of the Jedi
For Donald Glover’s final episode of Community, and one the last great ones, Abed throws Troy a going away party in the vein of paintball: Hot Lava (also known as: The Floor is Lava). As a result, Greendale turns into a post-apocalyptic world like Mad Max or, more acutely, the Mad Max clone, Waterworld. While Greendale takes on a fiery imaginary hellscape, as opposed to an aquatic one, the idea that there is a sanctuary island in the middle that all fight for or trade with via lava (or water) gliding vehicles is very similar.
Also, on “Shirley Island,” the surviving Hot Lava players learn of the “before lava” days with the cooing and awing sound of Ewoks in Return of the Jedi.
Community Season 5: Cork-Based Networking – Leon: The Professional
As Annie borrows from Gary Oldman, “Bring me everyone. EVVVVERRRRRYYYYONNNNNEEEE!” *Chang also did this in “Cooperative Polygraphy.”
Community Season 5: Bondage and Beta Male Sexuality – The Sixth Sense
Chang is tricked into believing he has been dead all along and is a ghost like Bruce Willis in that famed twist ending.
Community Season 5: App Development and Condiments – Zardoz, Logan’s Run, Van Wilder, and More
And Community returned to dystopian parodies in a quick way with “App Development and Condiments” where the entire school once again falls into a crazy game/fad, this time by ranking themselves with the status points of a new social media app. (Yep, they did it before Black Mirror.) Hipster Britta, who procrastinates in getting the app, and the usually cool Jeff are left begging at the bottom rung of society, much like how Zardoz develops a hilariously costumed future divided by a status ranking of five levels and pure apathy. Star-Burns even wears Sean Connery’s infamously terrible costume from that movie. Some of the costumes also seem inspired by Logan’s Run.
Sidebar: Other references include the “Fives” of Greendale (those with the highest ranking) dressing like Kryptonians from Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie; fours dress like they’re from Logan’s Run; and threes and twos dress like the literal meat and cattle of Soylent Green.
Also, while likely based on general French Revolution iconography to a degree (as well as Che Guevara), Britta’s kangaroo “People’s Court” also is reminiscent of the French Revolution inspired Scarecrow set from The Dark Knight Rises. Finally, cool aging student Coogler is obviously a riff on the titular Ryan Reynolds character in Van Wilder.
Community Season 5: VCR Maitenance and Educational Publishing – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Before she was an Oscar winning movie star and superhero, Brie Larson was an indie darling with major cred… and the occasional guest star on Community. In her last appearance as Rachel, the sullen introvert who becomes Abed’s romantic interest, Abed wins her back after a fight by making a proclamation of love while having another student pour “rain” onti his head inside the school walls. This could reference a thousand movies and TV shows, so we’ll just shout out to our favorite, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Season 5: Advanced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – Die Hard and Looper
Abed has never been very good at creating names for a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Take Sir Joseph Gordon Die Hard, a clear reference to Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a young Bruce Willis (of Die Hard) in Looper.
Season 5: G.I. Jeff – The Shawshank Redemption
For an episode about a foolishly near suicidal Jeff regressing into childhood delusion about animated 1980s toy commercials, they were still able to sneak in a subtle nod to an R-rated prison drama like The Shawshank Redemption. In this case, it is because a rejected G.I. Joe chef who has been imprisoned by the Joes for decades has been digging a hole out of his cell–conveniently hidden behind a Smash Mouth poster.
Season 5: Basic Sandwich – Aliens
In the most obscure and nerdy reference possible, the blueprints reveal that the vault with supposed buried treasure at Greendale is located in “Sub-Level 3.” Sub-Level 3 is also the name of the facility that the space marines in James Cameron’s Aliens locate via blueprints, only to discover the titular xenomorphs are hiding there in a nest.
Season 6: Lawnmower Maitenance and Postnatal Care
So this episode obviously references the terrible The Lawnmower Man. Pretty subtly too with that title. To be fair, having the Dean gain a God Complex by playing ugly, rudimentary VR from the early ’90s is a good joke that might just be dragged on too long.
Season 6: Modern Espionage – Captain America: The Winter Soldier, True Lies, and The Man with the Golden Gun
The third (and mixed bag) paintball episode is modeled after a variety of spy movies, but the moment fans likely most jumped with excitement at is an homage to the Russo Brothers’ then-recent success directing Marvel Studios’ Captain America: The Winter Soldier. When Dean Pelton goes inside of an elevator and is surrounded by hired guns working for a mysterious assassin, the incremental menace of them boarding the same small space as him humorously alludes to one of the most famous Marvel scenes. It is then subverted when they all shoot each other, but not the Dean.
The episode more broadly also homages the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun. In that movie, Christopher Lee’s villain uses the eponymous weapon with special bullets. The assassin in this episode uses silver paintballs, and at the end, Jeff and the Dean corner the fiend in the Custodian Museum that includes maniquin replicas of the custodial staff, a la how 007 ends up tricking his foe at the bizzare end of this lesser Bond movie by standing in for the manquin version of himself.
Also Abed and Annie dancing a psuedo-waltz while spying on their surroundings is right out of James Cameron’s Bond-inspired True Lies.
Season 6: Wedding Videography – RoboCop, Etc.
In the episode that confirms Abed has stealthily transformed Annie into the new Troy–dissuading her desire to pursue her own interests and throwing her into a world of pop culture minutiae –we are introduced to the two roommates as they film “Annie’s Lost Lover” video message. This is for if she ever dies or is put in a coma and her lover (or Abed?) can remember her with absurdly rose-colored glasses wherein “she is full of love almost to the point of being stupid.” Think RoboCop and a million other bad revenge movies, and a few good ones too like The Fugitive.
Season 6: Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television – Marvel Movies
Season 6 was honestly a mixed bag. While both Keith David and Paget Brewster wound up being superb additions to the cast, the magic really did leave as the original cast fractured. Some episodes of season 6 were solid and others disappointing, but it just all wasn’t the same. Yet the finale found a surprising grace note where Harmon and Jeff Winger allow themselves to let go of what Community and life had comfortably become and face the unknown of moving on.
… But not without taking a few potshots at those flavorless Marvel movies on the way out!
Curiously despite the Russo Brothers having graduated to the Marvel Studios conveyer belt in a big way by 2015–and soon enough Community alum like Donald Glover and Brie Larson would as well–Harmon took valuable screen time out of Jeff and Annie’s heartfelt goodbye to stick the knife into the homogeneity of the MCU output. And it’s hilarious. More a scathing critique than a loving homage, here is what Jeff and Annie have to say about Marvel while contrasting the virtues of being young versus middle aged.
“I want to have an opinion about those boring ass Marvel movies,” Jeff laments mid emotional outpuring. Annie then gives her own measured thoughts about aging before adding in a low whisper, “[I don’t want to be] a slave to what’s in front of me, especially these flavoress, unremarkable Marvel Movies.” What relieves the anxiety of uncertainty is a shared certainty of how unimpressive the MCU is to both of them!
It is a succinct and vivid summation of many Marvel critics’ frustration with how same-y Marvel movies can be, and it also breaks the fourth wall in a way that no non-Abed character has done before when Annie (but really Alison Brie) concedes she can’t speak her opinion about Marvel Studios loudly lest she wants to “screw myself” out of being in a Marvel movie. And given how Ms. Brie has criticized the parts she’s auditioned for inside the MCU since, it makes this scene all the better. Hence why we are including the chance to watch it above!
So there you have it! The 61 Movie References in Community. Again, as a mere mortal, please let me know of any that I missed! Also, you can tell me about which are your favorites in the comment section below!