I think it’s neat when movies make reference or pay homage to other movies, and Gremlins does this quite a bit. Here are some cool ways in which the makers of Gremlins snuck in references to other films:
- That poor theater. In 1984 it is blown up by gremlins. It got fixed, but one year later Marty McFly runs into it with a Delorean in Back to the Future (1985). In fact, the set for Kingston Falls was the same one used for Hill Valley.
- Speaking of McFly, Frances Lee McCain who plays Peltzer’s mom in this movie also plays Lorraine’s 1955 mom in Back to the Future.
- Stripe attacks Billy with a chainsaw, an intentional homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
- Near the beginning of the movie you can see a local cinema is showing A Boy’s Life and Watch the Skies. You may not think you’ve seen these, but you probably have. They are the working titles (or secret names to keep people from knowing what they are) of E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind respectively.
- Speaking of E.T., a stuffed toy of the alien can be found in this movie. Also, there is a gremlin who utters the words, “Phone home.”
- In Billy’s home you can see a rolled up movie poster for Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
- The time machine prop from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen in the background of a scene.
- There is a bar scene where some Gremlins are playing a Star Wars arcade game.
- Chris Columbus wrote the script for this movie as well as for Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. All three movies have clips from It’s a Wonderful Life in them.
- Director Joe Dante made a nod to his 1981 movie The Howling with a smiley face on the family’s refrigerator door.
- When Billy falls asleep after feeding the Mogwai after midnight you can see poster for The Road Warrior (1981) on the wall.
- …and in the same scene, before he feeds them he is seen watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).
- In one scene at a science convention you can see a robot talking on the phone in the background. That robot is from Forbidden Planet (1956).
- When the Gremlins are in the theater they are watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was a movie released in December. This movie was actually released in June (on the very same day as Ghostbusters) even though it is set at Christmas time.
- You may also remember that while the classic movie is playing, one of the gremlins is wearing Mickey ears.
Congratulations Gremlins. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actor: Danny DeVito as the Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot) in Batman Returns.
Best Quote: “I don’t make things complicated. That’s the way they get, all by themselves.” — Mel Gibson as Riggs in Lethal Weapon.
It is also interesting to note that it was this movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—both 1984 summer blockbusters—that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating.