“I'm posting images from films that inspired / influenced The Wolverine,” tweeted James Mangold. And with that came another example of the often awkward gap between artists and their professed models. Key to Wolverine’s Tokyo-based shout-howling? None other than Yasujiro Ozu and his thrash metal-scored eco-thriller Floating Weeds.

But Mangold is far from the only director to spiff up a blockbuster with name-checks, and the results can be Dada-esque.

Last Picture Show


Signs and The Last Picture Show

 “You know, it’s funny, I see a bunch of stuff from Signs in here that I must have ripped off. I also did a thing with a dolly shot where it seems like it stops and the shot is done, then it’s not. I loved that. I’m such a thief!”—M. Night Shyamalan

This cut-up technique of creative parentage exists in all art forms (perhaps most visibly with band fliers and Craigslist postings). International Art English, a fantastic piece of empirical research, chronicles the vacuous, delocalized language used in contemporary art press releases, wall plaques, and reviews. Likewise, filmmakers know which directors or films can be used as a shorthand for quality and ambition. When they go on to work on blockbusters, they can cite the classics to give their bland art by committee some pedigree.


Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher and Notorious

“We talked a lot. That's one of the things I loved about the film—the collaborative element of it . . . In the relationship between Tom and Rosamund Pike, we referenced Notorious, North by Northwest. There's a little bit of All the President's Men in there. We talked about the tone, the look, the films from the Seventies.”—David Oyelowo

The Searchers

Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens and The Searchers / The Magnificent Seven / The Professionals

“We looked at films like The Professionals and Magnificent Seven. But the first meeting I had, along with Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof and with Steven [Spielberg]—he screened The Searchers for us. So I definitely watched and went through the whole John Ford, you know, all the John Ford films I could get my hands on. And also some Leone.” —Jon Favreau

Then there are those claimed influences where you can faintly make out a connection, mangled by someone who really missed the point. Cameron Crowe interviewed Billy Wilder over several years and wrote a book about him, an experience that Crowe felt “was almost like film school for me.” (He also said that the process, in a Cameron-esque turn, brought him closer to his deceased father.) So maybe the manic pixie dreamgirl of Elizabethtown really is a crappier version of Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment or Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.

Pirates steward Gore Verbinski’s chosen spiritual cousin at least matches his own shameless showmanship: “That thing [El Topo] is a trip. A mystical, spiritual allegory of Western spiritualization, all of that. I think it says that you can have allegory and metaphor and things like that in a Western. Alejandro, in that movie, did so much more for the Western.” Sure, El Topo pillages from a variety of religious, filmic, and academic sources in the interest of shock value, but he’s still talking about Rango.

And the beat goes on:


The Watch

The Watch and Ghostbusters

“And although there's nothing specific that references Ghostbusters, it's more of the overall philosophy of Ghostbusters—where (at the time) the ghosts look really good . . . But the movie genuinely told its story and the characters were very grounded.” —Akiva Schaffer


Southland Tales

Southland Tales and Brazil/Dr. Strangelove/Pulp Fiction

“Hopefully I can take what I did in Darko, and it’s been several years now and I’ve matured, and try to take my ability to the next level, really. I guess it comes more out of my fondness for Quentin’s work and me just trying to be like him [laughing]. I could also say that it’s my Brazil. I could say that it’s my Dr. Strangelove. But listen, if I could ever make a film that’s even anywhere near as great as any of those films, I would be a lucky guy. Those are the three biggest influences on Southland Tales: Pulp Fiction, Brazil, and Dr. Strangelove. It’s a tall order and it’s pretty ambitious. I could fail miserably and end up with Ishtar [laughing].”—Richard Kelly

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman and Nicolas Roeg

“I definitely borrowed a shot from Nic Roeg of blood on slides, I did this thing with Ravenna when she falls to the floor, she [knocks] over this thing of black ink which kind of pours over a map of the kingdom, and that was definitely inspired by Roeg, but you just don’t know quite what goes into that brain or where it’s going to come from.” —Rupert Sanders

Indeed you don't.