Hollywood likes to pay tribute to itself. Just look at award ceremonies like the Oscars and Baftas in which the film community rewards its peers for their work. Many movies pay tribute to earlier films as well in scenes that either make reference to an earlier film or somehow pay tribute to it.
Here are five great movie scenes that pay homage to earlier films.
1. Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino has become one of the most famous directors of them all and is known for his trademark style. His style, though, has been influenced by previous directors including Stanley Kubrik and Ringo Lam. His film Reservoir Dogs launched him into the public eye in 1992 and earned him a lot of attention. As unique as the film seemed, though, it was hardly groundbreaking. Just watch the Lam’s 1987 film Lung fu fong wan, or City on Fire, starring a still-unknown-in-the-English-speaking-world Chow Yun-Fat. There are major similarities between the films, and some scenes are almost identical (like the scene with a triangle of men holding guns on each other). Tarantino has denied allegations of plagiarism, but has said this Reservoir Dogs contains homages to earlier films.
2. A Single Man
Starring the superb Colin Firth, A Single Man earned critical acclaim (even if it wasn’t exactly a blockbuster at the box office). This film was a piece of beautifully crafted cinema with a minimalist screenplay, dazzling cinematography, and a soundtrack and costuming that completely created the world of the film. Dealing sensitively and honestly with a middle aged man who has lost his partner, A Single Man manages to tackle universal issues in a new way. Yet the movie does pay tribute to earlier films as well (which seems fitting giving its setting several decades ago). In one notable scene, Professor George Falconer (played by Firth) meets a young man and shares a cigarette with him (Carlos, played by Jon Kortajarena). The boy is styled to look like a hispanic James Dean, and George comments on the resemblance. This movie is not Rebel Without a Cause, but there is a feeling that is reminiscent of this earlier film in the sense of beauty in life even when headed towards imminent disaster.
3. Benny & Joon
This offbeat 1993 romantic comedy starred Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson as quirky (and mentally ill) individuals who find friendship, love, and purpose together. Johnny Depp shines in this role, especially in his character’s efforts to copy Buster Keaton. I particularly love the scene in the park when Depp copies Keaton’s style of physical comedy and ‘walks’ over benches, chases his hat, etc. This is an obvious but brilliant tribute to Buster Keaton’s films and style.
4. The Imposters
Written and directed by Stanley Tucci, and starring Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt, The Imposters is a little-known piece of cinematic fun. It hearkens back to the age of silent films in story-line, acting, and filming. Tucci and Platt play actors who end up stowing away on a ship (naturally full of people out to get them). This whole movie can be seen as a kind of homage to many of the great silent comedies, but it is especially clear in the opening sequence. Watching this movie will make you want to find old Charlie Chaplin movies.
5. Chicken Run
Chicken Run looks like just a funny family film that your kids will like. Watch the movie with them, though, and you’ll experience major deja vu. Chicken Run is really an homage to the movie The Great Escape. Basically the whole movie mimics the original. A few include trying to tunnel out, using the slats from the beds to aid their escape efforts, and the Steve McQueen/Rocky Rooster character biking off.
A Single Man, dir. Tom Ford, 2009
Benny & Joon, dir. Jeremiah Chechik, 1993
Chicken Run, dir. Peter Lord and Nick Park, 2000
Reservoir Dogs, dir. Quentin Tarantino, 1992
Sciretta, Peter, “VOTD: Reservoir Dogs – Homage or Stealing?”, June 30th, 2010, Film
The Imposters, dir. Stanley Tucci, 1998