movies that have become a part of pop culture?
April 28, 2013 3:45 AM   Subscribe

I'm 30 years old and I just saw Casablanca for the first time. All of a sudden I understand why so many people joke about "always having Paris." And all of those references to gin joints. Can you recommend some other movies to me that are equally important for understanding American pop culture?

This has happened to me before. I saw Karate Kid like ten years too late, but when I did, I suddenly realized why all of the kids on the playground kept playing, "Wax on, wax off; wax on, wax off." As a kid I'd always assumed they were actually talking about a car wax commercial that I'd never seen, because I didn't watch much television either. Since then I've become a bit more tv-literate, at least in the genres that interest me, but movies have always been a bit...intimidating to me.

So, can you recommend to me some more movies like Casablanca that have seeped into the general culture? I'm not looking for movies that are good but obscure; I'm looking for the movies that your average group of Americans would be appalled to hear I've never seen, and that are frequently referenced in pop culture. It makes me a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I'm really not interested in learning to appreciate film as an art form. I mostly just want to understand what everyone else is talking about. Assume no suggestion is too basic. All genres are welcome.
posted by colfax to Society & Culture (99 answers total) 108 users marked this as a favorite
 
Citizen Kane.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:49 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Godfather
posted by Area Man at 3:50 AM on April 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Animal House, Ghostbusters, Caddyshack
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:58 AM on April 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


Dirty Harry
posted by pont at 3:58 AM on April 28, 2013


Rocky
Monty Python's The Holy Grail
The Matrix
Star Wars (all six)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
posted by DWRoelands at 3:59 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Taxi Driver. (All around iconic, and most explicitly you'll understand the line "You talkin' to me?")
posted by third rail at 4:00 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Princess Bride
Pulp Fiction
Back to the Future
posted by saffry at 4:04 AM on April 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


This may be more specific to Americans of our generation, but the coming of age films of John Hughes (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Pretty in Pink, etc).
posted by bettafish at 4:05 AM on April 28, 2013 [14 favorites]


Gone with the Wind
It's A Wonderful Life
2001: A Space Odyssey
Apocalypse Now
Jaws
ET
Road House
Tootsie
The Breakfast Club
Airplane
Saturday Night Fever
The Terminator
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Raiders of the Lost Ark
posted by drlith at 4:08 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Wizard of Oz
posted by alms at 4:10 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pretty Woman.
Apocalypse Now
Fight Club
posted by mrfuga0 at 4:14 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anchorman
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:20 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Blues Brothers. (Then you'll know why so many people are on missions from god, and hate Illinois Nazis.)

Every Mel Brooks movie ever.

Oh and The Jerk, The Man with Two Brains, and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
posted by mimi at 4:21 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Deliverance
posted by Daily Alice at 4:21 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Graduate.
posted by mimi at 4:22 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Big Lebowski
posted by Francolin at 4:25 AM on April 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well, I just watched Sixth Sense for the first time and finally understood so very, very many pop culture references. Also, if you haven't seen Office Space, see that.
posted by Autumn at 4:26 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Groundhog Day.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:27 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sunset Boulevard
On The Waterfront
A Streetcar Named Desire
Psycho
The Usual Suspects
Jurassic Park
Blade Runner
The Shawshank Redemption
posted by illenion at 4:27 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Spinal Tap
It's a Wonderful Life
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 4:32 AM on April 28, 2013


Stripes
posted by gaspode at 4:41 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stand by Me
M.A.S.H.
All of the old monster movies.
There are also some TV shows that should be mentioned:
Leave it to Beaver
Ozzie and Harriet
Lucy
Gilligan's Island
The Andy Griffith Show
Lassie
The Lone Ranger
posted by HuronBob at 4:45 AM on April 28, 2013


The Sound of Music
Fiddler on the Roof
My Fair Lady
Mary Poppins


So many jokes will suddenly make sense.
posted by Alison at 4:51 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
posted by tamitang at 4:58 AM on April 28, 2013


Star Trek films, in particular, the Wrath of Khan. Also, certain iconic Hong Kong films staring Chow yun Fat. Hmmm, oh, Die Hard with Bruce Willis.

I will be curious about what films the younger demographic of this site will state. Will it include Napoleon Dynamite?
posted by jadepearl at 5:11 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Catch-22. The entire idea of a "Catch" is deeply embedded in pop culture, and that's where it came from.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:22 AM on April 28, 2013


The Godfather

Cute story about The Godfather. About ten years ago or so, I worked with a twenty-something fellow at a software startup. Now, he liked films in-general (though he was a huge Disney freak, which skewed his exposure to films) but he had never seen The Godfather. I found this hard to imagine and suggested he give it shot.

So, one day he wanders in and said that he watched The Godfather and now all of the Brando jokes and impersonations and the whole "make him an offer he can't refuse" stuff made perfect sense. Up until then, his only relationship with the movie had been years and years of parody and pop culture memes built around it, but with no context for reference. It was pretty funny.

It was like he had lived his entire life knowing the punch line to a great joke, but never knew the joke itself.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:25 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some Like It Hot. Features Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag, and has Marilyn Monroe. MM has also had a profound impact on our culture.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:25 AM on April 28, 2013


Heathers
posted by Mizu at 5:29 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Silence of the Lambs.
posted by sundaydriver at 5:36 AM on April 28, 2013


Check out AFI's top 100 movie quotes, and it will tell you what movies the quotes are from.
posted by Melismata at 5:36 AM on April 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Airplane!
Star Wars
The Shining
Annie Hall
Network
posted by Room 641-A at 5:42 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Best Years of Our Lives, from 1946. When I first watched it in my American Film History class, it felt like a series of cliches strung together -- but that's because so many elements from the film were widely copied later on; they were references I never understood. This one is the original.
posted by Andrhia at 5:44 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Everything I wanted to list is already here with the exceptions of:

The Man who Knew Too Much
The Crying Game
Arsenic and Old Lace

(and, though not (only) movies:
The Simpsons & South Park & Family Guy)
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:47 AM on April 28, 2013


Forest Gump*
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
The Graduate
Say Anything
When Harry Met Sally
The Exorcist
Jaws*
Apollo 13
2001 A Space Odyssey*

* I haven't seen these (and a handful of those named above) and people are always referencing them.
posted by loveyallaround at 6:02 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Groundhog Day.
posted by flabdablet at 6:07 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Nutty Professor. Watch both the Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy versions and you will be covered for two generations.
posted by thetortoise at 6:26 AM on April 28, 2013


Oh, also Goodfellas.
posted by loveyallaround at 6:28 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Maltese Falcon
The Thin Man
It Happened One Night
Desk Set
Duck Soup/A Day at the Races/A Night at the Opera
Seven Days in May
The Manchurian Candidate
Three Days of the Condor
Altered States
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
posted by nicwolff at 6:34 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blazing Saddles.
posted by easily confused at 6:35 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I started "favoriting" some of the answers, then realized that I'll end up doing that to practically the entire list of responses. These are all wonderful and appropriate answers-- you can't go wrong with these choices. I am yet again awed and pleased by the Metafilter community.
posted by Neeuq Nus at 6:49 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like there's some animated movies missing. The lion king, nemo, and toy story maybe?
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:02 AM on April 28, 2013


The matrix
posted by almostwitty at 7:04 AM on April 28, 2013


Army of Darkness
posted by deanc at 7:08 AM on April 28, 2013


Scarface.
posted by ambient2 at 7:23 AM on April 28, 2013


Superbad
The Dark Knight
Kill Bill

SCARFACE
posted by citron at 7:23 AM on April 28, 2013


Dead Poets Society
Good Will Hunting
Good Morning Vietnam
Rain man
Top Gun
Ricky Business
The Outsiders
V for Vendetta
The Omen
Nightmare on Elm Street
posted by FlamingBore at 7:36 AM on April 28, 2013


American Graffiti
Dog Day Afternoon
Yellow Submarine
The Wall
Raising Arizona
Get Shorty
posted by 445supermag at 7:40 AM on April 28, 2013


Chinatown
Top Gun
Animal House
Cool Hand Luke
posted by kimota at 7:41 AM on April 28, 2013


Dirty Dancing
posted by jacquilynne at 7:53 AM on April 28, 2013


Network (until I finally saw it, I did not realize how much I'd seen that film referenced and parodied)
North by Northwest
Dr. Strangelove
The Big Sleep
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:58 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shaft (the original)
posted by fuse theorem at 7:59 AM on April 28, 2013


Doctor Strangelove
From Here To Eternity (the source of every lovers-rolling-in-the-surf-scene onwards, including Airplane!)
Young Frankenstein
posted by McCoy Pauley at 7:59 AM on April 28, 2013


Clerks
Army of Darkness
History of the World Parts I and Ii (nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!)
Monty Python's the Holy Grail
posted by Leezie at 8:00 AM on April 28, 2013


Harvey
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:01 AM on April 28, 2013


I don't see yet:

To Have and Have Not: "You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and blow."

Midnight Cowboy
Five Easy Pieces (the sandwich scene)
The Seven Year Itch (Marilyn and the skirt)
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
posted by gudrun at 8:17 AM on April 28, 2013


SOYLENT GREEN
Apocalypse Now
Dirty Dancing
The Emperor's New Groove
Alien
Predator
The Fifth Element

I've sort of gone from "pop culture refs in the world at large" to "essential pop culture refs to better enjoy MeFi" but it's all good.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on April 28, 2013


Glengarry Glen Ross ("Third prize is you're fired", etc.)
posted by seemoreglass at 8:21 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Big
Fargo
Bull Durham
Alien
Ghostbusters
posted by FlamingBore at 8:22 AM on April 28, 2013


Fatal attraction
Planet of the Apes
Carrie
posted by FlamingBore at 8:25 AM on April 28, 2013


Home Alone
Edward Scissorhands
Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure
Mad Max
Lethal Weapon
posted by FlamingBore at 8:28 AM on April 28, 2013


I maintain that you can reconstruct the entire oeuvre of Western cinema through Simpsons references.
posted by zamboni at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess I think movies are pop culture, but here's a list of the most quoted movie lines. And AFI's 100 Movie Lines.
And recognizing Mickey Mouse, the Three Stooges, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Tom, Jerry and Jessica Rabbit is also helpful in understanding American culture.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:36 AM on April 28, 2013


Just want to reiterate ones that have been mentioned but are super important for pop culture references:

Glengarry Glen Ross
Network
Airplane!
Apocolypse Now
On the Waterfront (I coulda been a contender!)
All of the John Hughes movies
posted by triggerfinger at 9:04 AM on April 28, 2013


Seconding This Is Spinal Tap, especially if you spend any time hanging out with musicians.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard an offhand line from the movie immediately result in a barrage of other lines from absolutely everyone within earshot, often delivered in a horrible attempt at an "English accent", and I've just now realized how COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY BIZARRE this must sound to anyone who hasn't seen the film.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:09 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, re: Dirty Dancing - I just started watching Hemlock Grove last night and in one scene a teenage boy went up to a girl sitting alone at the edge of a room and said "Nobody puts Baby in a corner" and she had no idea wtf he was talking about. I was horrified. So definitely watch Dirty Dancing if you haven't already.

I could tell a similar story about telling a guy in his early 20s that I work with about how the girl's name Madison originated from Splash and him looking at me blankly and saying "What's Splash?" but I'll leave it for now.

posted by triggerfinger at 9:10 AM on April 28, 2013


Though it's a tv show and not a movie, I'm still surprised no one's suggested Seinfeld.

"No soup for you."

"Serenity Now"

"Not that there's anything wrong with that."

"My boys can swim."

"Hello Newman."

"Spongeworthy"

"These pretzels are making me thirsty."

"Are you Master of your Domain?"

Not to mention Festivus
posted by marsha56 at 9:33 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wayne's World
posted by Room 641-A at 9:33 AM on April 28, 2013


How could I forget Aliens? I use and hear, "nuke it from orbit" plenty of times. SciFi flicks are common pints of reference amongst my group but then again we use THACO in describing people.
posted by jadepearl at 10:38 AM on April 28, 2013


For portrayals of "urban" youth:
Do The Right Thing
Stand and Deliver


For portrayals of childhood:
My Girl
To Kill a Mockingbird
(though like Catch 22, you could just read the book)

Nthing the John Hughes catalog and The Princess Bride. They're more Gen X then Gen Y but still percolated down to younger siblings.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:11 AM on April 28, 2013


The Goonies.
Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Groundhog Day.
Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club.
Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope).
Labrynth.
Say Anything.
Back to the Future.
OVER THE TOP.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 12:17 PM on April 28, 2013


If you spend time with geek people, Real Genius.

I showed it to a friend a few years ago, and her face kept getting this 'oh wow' expression as all these jokes and references suddenly had this lock. It's one of those movies where now, people just know some of the jokes. (One of the best known: "I am reminded at this time of the words of Socrates when he said.... 'I drank what?'")
posted by mephron at 12:23 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Goldfinger and Thunderball will cover James Bond parodies pretty well.


Some of the examples here are mostly about one scene, like Big is mostly about the piano scene.

FlamingBore suggested Mad Max, but I think most of what has permeated the culture is from the sequels, so from that perspective Road Warriors is probably most important.
posted by RobotHero at 12:44 PM on April 28, 2013


Though, you can make a case for Beyond Thunderdome, since without it we would have no Thunderdome and we wouldn't know who runs Bartertown.
posted by RobotHero at 12:59 PM on April 28, 2013


Repo Man. "let's go do some crimes" "it's too late, you already are" and countless more
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:14 PM on April 28, 2013


Both versions of Little Caesar.
posted by brujita at 2:21 PM on April 28, 2013


I'm surprised no one's yet mentioned "Singin' in the Rain" or "All About Eve".
I notice references to these two a lot. Also "Mommie Dearest".
posted by mdrew at 2:45 PM on April 28, 2013


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
posted by Lorin at 2:48 PM on April 28, 2013


1. Thank you all SO much for your answers! They are exactly the sorts of suggestions I was looking for. And to all of the people quoting the relevant bits of the movies they're suggesting: I've heard a lot of those things a million times! Never had any clue what most of them were about though.

2. Wait, there's an actual specific Thunderdome? It's not just an idea that Metafilter came up with? Man, I have a lot of catching up to do.
posted by colfax at 3:55 PM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Really one could go one forever, but I'm not sure if I saw these above:

Rebel Without a Cause
West Side Story

Field of Dreams
Fight Club
Batman (Keaton/Nicholson)
Tombstone
A Few Good Men
My Cousin Vinny
Moonlighting
Stand By Me
Deliverance
Easy Rider
Body Heat
Big
Rain Man
Die Hard
Beverly Hills Cop
Silence of the Lambs

Star Wars & Star Trek

The Longest Day
D-Day
Patton
The Green Berets
Bridge Over River Kwai
Platoon
Apocalypse Now
Paths of Glory

Dr Stranglove
Wargames
Three Days of the Condor
The Hunt for Red October

Most/many Hitchcock films...

Disney animated classics and other animated blockbusters
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:56 PM on April 28, 2013


Also Tarantino's films, for pure quotability.

And many many comedies I can't recall at the moment.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:00 PM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Rear Window
The Great Dictator
posted by John Cohen at 10:18 PM on April 28, 2013


I know you asked for movies, but one of the most singular influences on American culture other than all the movies listed here is The Twilight Zone.

I was recently introducing the show to a daughter of a friend and she didn't really take to it, but then immediately after the show was over we caught an episode of Falling Skies, and one character threatened to send another "To the cornfield." A direct reference to the episode "It's a Good Life." I turned to her and said, "See?"
posted by CarlRossi at 10:23 PM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


You and I are the same age, so here's what I can think of that our contemporaries referenced endlessly growing up and now:

Jem (TV)
Full House (TV) (I remember finding it painfully corny even in 2nd grade, so maybe just find some YouTube footage of catchphrases like "You got it dude" and "How rude", etc.)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TV)
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
The John Hughes oeuvre mentioned above (particularly Ferris Bueller)
The Adventures of Pete and Pete (TV)(and any old school Nickolodeon really)
Ace Ventura Pet Detective
Wayne's World
Terminator 2
My So-Called Life (TV)
Clueless
In Living Color (TV)
Jerry Maguire
Titanic
Austin Powers
The Italian Job
Fight Club
Mean Girls
Anchorman
Hot Rod
posted by lily_bart at 10:27 PM on April 28, 2013


Can't emphasize Mean Girls enough, if you plan to interact with anyone under 25. Sometimes my Facebook feed has upwards of a dozen Mean Girls quotes.
posted by Starmie at 11:12 PM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


2nding Spinal Tap and Pee-wee's Big Adventure. I'm surprised Airplane got mentions but not The Naked Gun. "Must... kill... the queen."

Also, most of Arnold's 80s (give or take) action films... Terminator, Predator, Total Recall, Commando... Kindergarten Cop? Although, when you hear someone quote a line from his movies, usually it's fairly obvious enough to narrow it down to an Arnold movie.

Never seen Monty Python's stuff but I'm sure I'd suddenly get a lot more jokes if I saw them.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:34 AM on April 29, 2013


The Bad Seed( I think Peggy's "here's your basket of kisses" line in Mad Men's " Babylon" episode is a reference to it).
posted by brujita at 2:27 AM on April 29, 2013


If you interact with nerds/geeks at all -- for instance, if you read Reddit -- then Office Space. It's so much a part of the cultural inheritance that stills from it are used as image-macros, lines are quoted with the assumption that you'll know the context, etc.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:44 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thelma and Louise
Metropolis
The Fly ("Be afraid. Be very afraid.")
posted by John Cohen at 5:19 AM on April 29, 2013


Just as a bonus, becoming familiar with these popular films unlocks so many jokes in The Simpsons that might have previously went over your head.
posted by laptolain at 6:58 AM on April 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Groundhog Day.
posted by flabdablet at 7:51 AM on April 29, 2013


Westerns (a.k.a. cowboy movies), especially those featuring John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 9:13 AM on April 29, 2013


You might have heard some variation on "You're gonna need a bigger boat" from Jaws. My SO and I use "Mostly" from Aliens a lot. And Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory gave us "The snozzberries taste like snozzberries." That line was also in the opening scene of Super Troopers, which has a ton of often quoted scenes (litre 'o cola, shenanigans, the cat game). You should watch Super Troopers right meow.
posted by youngergirl44 at 11:15 AM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dazed and Confused
posted by rosswald at 1:50 PM on April 29, 2013


Can't emphasize Mean Girls enough, if you plan to interact with anyone under 25. Sometimes my Facebook feed has upwards of a dozen Mean Girls quotes.

Seconded. I AM under 25 and the Mean Girls references still sail overhead.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2013


Jerry Maguire! It spawned SO many popular quotes -

"You complete me"
"You had me at hello"
"Show me the money"
"Help me help you"
"Who's coming with me?"
posted by yawper at 7:16 PM on April 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coming back to add

The Searchers
Red River
Public Enemy (the grapefruit scene)
posted by gudrun at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2013


Thanks again for all of the suggestions!
posted by colfax at 1:35 PM on April 30, 2013


Idiocracy. Not as popular as Office Space but essential for the misanthrope set.

It's got electrolytes!
posted by benzenedream at 11:58 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


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