The ‘Star Wars’ films are packed full of hidden in-jokes, references, and Easter Eggs. Look closely in ‘The Phantom Menace’ and spot a few E.T.’s whooping and hollering in the Galactic Senate, and the crate that held the Ark of the Covenant in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ can be spotted in ‘Empire Strikes Back’.
However, the list of in-jokes within ‘Star Wars’ is greatly outweighed by the Easter Eggs spotted in other films.
And it’s no surprise that one of George Lucas’ closest pals is a repeat offender.
‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (1977)
As George Lucas toiled away on ‘Star Wars’, his close friend Steven Spielberg was working on his sophomore feature ‘Close Encounters’. Legend has it that Lucas bet Spielberg that ‘Close Encounters’ would beat ’Star Wars’ at the box office, with a cut of the profits of the winning film as the stake. ‘Star Wars’ won and Lucas ended up paying his friend a estimated £24m. Ouch.
Another interesting fact is that Spielberg’s film featured the first ever ‘Star Wars’ Easter Egg. R2-D2 can be spotted clinging to the huge mothership UFO that appears at the film’s climax. The prop-builders also hid a VW van and a mailbox on the model, so Lucas shouldn’t feel too smug about the tribute.
'Raiders of The Lost Ark’ (1981)
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg teamed up to give Harrison Ford his second career-defining franchise in between the productions of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’. The crafty film-makers went to extra lengths to cram Indy’s first adventure with ‘Star Wars’ nods, with the first coming very early in proceedings.
Check out the plane the intrepid archaeologist makes his escape on. OB-CPO is clearly marked on the side in tribute to Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO.
The protocol droid gets a couple of other mentions too, both in the Well of Souls scene.
A huge carving of Princess Leia inputting her SOS into R2-D2 with Threepio watching can be seen in the background, and a much smaller hieroglyph featuring Artoo and Threepio can be seen when Indy uncovers the Ark.
'E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial’ (1982)
Spielberg again and this time it’s a pretty glaring nod. His sweet-natured coming of age drama features a walking Easter Egg in the shape of Yoda, the veteran Jedi. He can be spotted in the streets when the kids take the home-phoning alien trick-or-treating.
E.T. lurches for the kid in the Halloween costume moaning “home, home”, and the John Williams music plays a brief audio cue from the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ score. Nicely done.
Steven Spielberg was producing this PG-friendly horror film at the same time as making ‘E.T.’ with the films releasing weeks apart in the summer of 1982.
Rumours persist that he ghost-directed the film (no pun intended) after his chosen director Tobe Hooper struggled with the job.
Either way, Spielberg’s fingerprints are all over it, including his now-trademark ‘Star Wars’ nods hiding in plain sight in Robbie’s room.
‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’ (1984)
For the second Indiana Jones adventure, Lucas and Spielberg were much more blatant with their product placement. The pre-credit sequence, which introduces love interest Willie Scott and villain Lao Che, all takes place in Shangai restaurant-cum-nightclub named… Club Obi-Wan. The Force is strong with this reference.
'Star Trek: First Contact' (1996)
The age-old nerd litmus test used to be: “Are you ‘Star Trek’ or are you ‘Star Wars’?” You were one or the other. But actually, there’s been much more cross-pollination between the two brands than you may have thought. Before JJ Abrams crossed the streams, the 1996 ‘Star Trek’ film ‘First Contact’ featured a blink-and-you-miss-it nod to ‘Star Wars’.
ILM visual effects supervisor John Knoll, who worked on ‘First Contact’ and the ‘Star Wars’ Special Editions, inserted a shot of Han Solo’s ship the Millennium Falcon flying around in the middle of the Borg cube battle. It’s a tough one to spot.
It’s well known that the Pixar crew are big ‘Star Wars’ fans. After all, ‘Toy Story 2’ features a whole “I am your father” subplot between Buzz and Zurg, and the dogfight sequence in ‘Up’ has jokey references to “Grey Leader”.
Pete Docter’s melancholic odd-couple comedy has another ‘Star Wars’ reference in its end credits too.
As the titles roll, photos of the continuing adventures of Carl and Russell flash up on screen including one of the pair heading to the cinemas to see George Lucas’ space fantasy.
'Star Trek' (2009) /'Star Trek Into Darkness’ (2013)
Before JJ Abrams was handed the reins of ‘Star Wars’, he successfully rebooted Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi franchise for the big screen. His 2009 reimagining breathed life into the long-dormant series, generating huge box office numbers, and an equally successful sequel.
In a huge piece of foreshadowing, JJ squeezed in ‘Star Wars’ tributes in both films in the shape of R2-D2. The astrodroid can be spotted (if you’re quick with your DVD pause button) floating through space in both films.
Abrams even managed to squeeze in a nod in his 2011 teen fantasy film ‘Super 8’ with Artoo making a small cameo in one of the kids’ bedrooms.
Have you spotted any more ‘Star Wars’ references in other films? Let us know in the comments below. And no, ‘Spaceballs’ doesn’t count.