10 best movie in-jokes of 2016

Have you been paying attention at the cinema this year? The filmmakers behind 2016’s biggest movies have been sneaking cool in-jokes and easter eggs into their movies, so let’s celebrate 10 of the better efforts…

‘Deadpool’ – The Avengers connection

Look familiar? Credit: 20th Century Fox/Disney

It’s a running joke throughout the none-more-meta superhero comedy that budget and contracts prevent Deadpool from interacting with his more A-list Marvel stablemates – Deadpool himself frequently references X-Men that Fox didn’t allow us to see. However, there is a connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that you might have missed, and it isn’t a person.

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The final action sequence between Deadpool and Ajax isn’t just taking place in some random shipyard – it’s taking place on a Helicarrier. Yes, the same turbine-powered mobile aircraft carrier as used by the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D.. Fox weren’t allowed to reference the carrier by name, and the design had to be tweaked a little, but ‘Deadpool’ visual artist Emmanuel Shiu confirmed the connection.

‘Ghostbusters’ – Long live Egon

Cameos from the surviving Ghostbusters are not subtle in the 2016 she-make. Bill Murray is the most obvious, playing new character Dr. Martin Heiss, while Dan Aykroyd plays a New York cabbie and Ernie Hudson plays Patty’s Uncle Bill, the latter two only afforded one or two lines each.


Tragically, Harold Ramis passed in 2014 – perhaps it was best he never saw the horrendous misogyny that dogged the remake from its announcement – but director Paul Feig still found a way to pay homage to the dearly departed Ghostbusters icon. Outside the office of Erin Gilbert at Columbia University is a bronze bust of Ramis/Spengler, on which the camera can’t help but linger.

‘Moana’ – Mad Max on the high seas

The kakamora… Fury on the high seas – Credit: Disney

Disney’s animated ocean epic wears its heart on its sleeve tattoo – it’s hugely inspired from Polynesian culture, from the body art to the music to the myths and legends. One inspiration, however, comes from somewhere quite different to the South Pacific. The Kakamora, the coconut-clad pirates who set upon Moana and demigod Maui, bear more than a little resemblance to the marauding War Boys from George Miller’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ – complete with war paint and giant ‘big rigs’.

The war boys on the rampage in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ – Credit: Warner Bros.

Co-director John Musker admitted: “This sequence got storyboarded after ‘Fury Road’ came out, so you know, we were inspired. It’s a bit of an homage to [Mad Max].”

‘Doctor Strange’ – War Machine shout-out?

Stephen Strange is taking a call when his car crashes off the road – Credit: Disney

Nothing happens by accident in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that’s for sure. So when extraordinary surgeon Stephen Strange is told of a case featuring a 35-year-old marine colonel who “crushed his lower spine in some kind of experimental armour”, it’s natural to assume there’s some connection to the wider Marvel world. The most obvious candidate would seem to be War Machine, who suffered a devastating spinal injury in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ – this, however, asks you to believe that Rhodey is 20 years younger than Don Cheadle. So maybe it’s the poor sap hired by Justin Hammer in ‘Iron Man 2’, who we see twisted painfully at the waist in his experimental exo-armour? Either way, Marvel aren’t in the business of throwing out non-sequiturs: each easter egg brings the MCU closer together.

‘Zootropolis’ – Tundratown by way of Arendelle

Familiar costumes – Credit: Disney

Disney’s billion-dollar animal animation is bursting at the seams with in-jokes and easter eggs – given the scale of the city and the variety of the population, we’ll probably still be finding fun surprises in five years’ time. One neat nod we can tell you about right now is an in-joke regarding Anna and Elsa of ‘Frozen’ fame. As we pan through the Siberian climate of Tundratown, you might just see two young elephants on the ice, each dressed in the iconic costumes of the ‘Frozen’ princesses. For another ‘Frozen’ in-joke, look no further than Alan Tudyk’s character, Duke Weaselton, a not-so-subtle alteration on his ‘Frozen’ character, the Duke of Weselton.

‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ – Randy’s return

Independence Day tribute – Credit: 20th Century Fox

When director Roland Emmerich tweeted “Ha-ha-ha! Hello, boys! I’m BAAAAAACK!” in 2014, it seemed like Randy Quaid’s heroic pilot character Russell was in the frame for an unlikely return for sequel ‘Resurgence’ – unlikely given he definitively died in the first movie’s climax. If you’ve been following the misadventures of Randy Quaid in recent years, you would have known that a Hollywood comeback was unlikely: the heavily-bearded Trump supporter has had flirtations with the law and had to self-exile to Canada after allegedly running out on unpaid bills. His character, however, does make an appearance in ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’, in the form of a single brick in a war memorial seen at the beginning of the movie: look closely and you’ll see the name ‘Russell Casse’ among the many brave souls who perished to bring us such awesome entertainment.

‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ – Say hello the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the obvious Easter eggs – Credit: Warner Bros.

Although JK Rowling seemed keen to keep the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ storyline separate from the ‘Harry Potter’ timelines – they’re separated by a distance of 70 years no less – there are ties that bind them together, some of which are more obvious than others. One nice little touch is the pendant that Colin Farrell’s baddie Percival Graves gives to Ezra Miller’s Credence, which bears the mark of the Deathly Hallows – it’s actually the same pendant worn by Zenophilious Lovegood in the first Deathly Hallows movie. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that it’s a neat way of foreshadowing Graves’ real, sinister motives.

‘Suicide Squad’ – Harley’s past

Was Harley there when Robin died? – Credit: Warner Bros.

You might have missed it in the jumbled mess that was ‘Suicide Squad’, but there’s actually a pertinent piece of information hidden away in the bio of Margot Robbie’s villainess Harley Quinn that flashes on screen for a few seconds. According to the brief blurb, Quinn – real name Harleen Quinzel – was an accomplice in the death of Batman’s sidekick Robin. That’s not to say she actually did kill Robin; think back to ‘Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice’ and Robin’s defaced costume bearing the words ‘HA HA HA JOKE’S ON YOU BATMAN’, and it would be a fair assumption that Joker was the one who really did the deed. However, it was Harley who copped to it, perhaps an insight into their twisted relationship.

‘Star Trek Beyond’ – The big green hand

Star Trek Beyond’s classic nod – Credit: Paramount

‘Star Trek’ has 50 years of material to tap into so it’s no surprise there are dozens of easter eggs and in-jokes in ‘Star Trek Beyond’ that only hardcore fans will understand. Our favourite was Scotty talking about the disappearance of the USS Franklin, when he references a “giant green space hand”. This is a callback to an episode of the classic television series, ‘Who Mourns for Adonais?’, in which the crew of the Enterprise are indeed terrorised by an energy field in the shape of a giant green hand, who claims to be the Greek god Apollo. The hand itself can actually be seen briefly in ‘Star Trek Beyond”s end credits, just after the cast’s names are listed.

‘Moana’ – Director cameos

John Musker and Ron Clements at the ‘Moana’ press conference in Hawaii – Credit: Image.net/Disney

Another great in-joke from Disney’s ‘Moana’, but it’s a cracker. You may be familiar with directors John Musker and Ron Clements – they’re behind the true greats of the Disney Renaissance like ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Aladdin’. Musker (tall and thin, moustache) and Clements (short and round, also moustache) always include animated versions of themselves in their movies: Musker/Clements stand-ins can be seen in Aladdin, Hercules and more. However, in ‘Moana’, the sidekick animals are directly modelled on the co-directors: skinny rooster Hei Hei is modelled on Musker and tubby pig Pua is an animal version of Clements – the pair even claim the animals’ personalities match their own.

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