Joe Dante is one of the kings of 80s pop culture, with many of his movies still beloved by nerds everywhere. From 1984’s Gremlins, to Explorers, Innerspace, and The Burbs – many of his 80s movies remain popular classics to this day.
Before the days of shared universes dominating movies, many directors would still slip in sly references and nods to other films, especially if they were made by their friends. Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future famously has a Jaws reference, in a nod to Steven Spielberg. And Spielberg himself hid two hieroglyphs of R2-D2 and C3-P0 in Indiana Jones.
Well, we’re sure that Joe Dante has many friends in Hollywood (including Spielberg, of course), but in his 1989 Tom Hanks comedy movie The Burbs, he actually referenced one of his own movies. In a kitchen scene featuring Ray Peterson (Hanks) and his wife Carol Peterson (Carrie Fisher, who is a walking Easter egg herself) – a box of Gremlins cereal can be seen. This was noticed by an eagle-eyed Reddit user.
Dante continued making offbeat, oddball films, including the 90s movies Matinee (starring John Goodman) and Small Soldiers (starring Kirsten Dunst).
The Burbs features Hanks as a man who becomes convinced that his neighbours are part of a Satanic cult. This was something of a theme for Hanks in this era, as cults, pagan rituals, and human sacrifices were also featured in two more of his movies – 1987’s Dragnet and 1990’s Joe vs the Volcano.
The 80s were the era of the ‘Satanic Panic,’ which makes some sense of why there were so many of these movies. The Satanic Panic led to the ‘video nasty’ era, the rise of Mary Whitehouse in the UK, and many now-acclaimed 70s movies such as A Clockwork Orange and The Exorcist being banned on VHS. It also affected the public’s attitude to video games.
Check out our guide to the best Steven Spielberg movies and the best Tom Hanks movies.