Plenty of filmmakers place jokes and little details in the background of their films for fans. For those that spot these details themselves, these tidbits are a reward for incredible patience and keen eyes. These details and jokes are almost always meant for people who are re-watching the movies because during the first watch-through, we’re supposed to be paying attention to the main action. While we can luck out and happen to clue in right away, it’s rare. Some little gags and details are easy to pick up. These are meant for everyone to enjoy. But there are those that require a little more knowledge in order to understand. These are the jokes and details that we’ve classified as “nerdy,” and these are what we’re interested in today.
Now, before anyone starts trembling with rage at the usage of the word “nerdy” or “jokes,” let us say that this was just an easy way for us to group all those background “things” that require a significant amount of prior knowledge to understand. The jokes and details on this list are only understood if you are intimately familiar with the film (e.g. a specific film franchise or film genre), well-read, and/or cultured. Should these types of people be called nerds? No, probably not, but these are the times we live in. If you know a lot about a subject, you are often considered a nerd. Hell, everyone wants to be a nerd now. We’ve seen people dress up as Link for Halloween and say crap like, Bae caught me dressin’ up as Zelda for Halloween. I’m such a nerd OMG. Lulz. Whatever. Let them have this one thing. It makes them feel good. Real nerds probably take offense to us allowing so many into their club, but they can chill. It wasn’t long ago that nerds were at the bottom of the socio-cultural totem pole. Look how far you’ve come. So, in the spirit of inclusiveness, here are 15 Nerdy In Jokes Found In The Background of Huge Films.
15. The Wizard Of Oz – Math Joke
The math joke at the end of The Wizard of Oz is perhaps the best known nerdy joke in film. We state that, but we also think this “joke” is often misinterpreted. For those of you who don’t know, we will set up the scene. When the Scarecrow asks the wizard for his brain, the wizard gives him a diploma and a spiel. With this in hand, the Scarecrow demonstrates how “smart” he is, saying, “The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.”
Now, some of us hear this and think, damn! This guy is smart! But really, the Scarecrow is misstating the Pythagorean Theorem. It should be “The sum of the squares (not “square roots”) of the shortest (not “any”) two sides of a right angle (not “an isosceles”) triangle is equal to the square (not “square root”) of the remaining side.” Some people suggest that this is a movie mistake (including the actor, Ray Bolger, simply because he wasn’t told it was intentional). But the film is making a point here. Getting a diploma didn’t magically make the Scarecrow look smart. He had already demonstrated that he was smart all along, just in a different way.
14. Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 – Snake Plissken
To call people who are intimately familiar with Escape from New York and L.A. nerds is a bit strange, but just bare with us here. Since comic books are for nerds and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is a comic book adaptation, only nerds watched this movie. Therefore, it could only have been nerds who watched this movie and also noticed that there was a little in-joke/reference to the character of Snake Plissken. This in-joke/reference came when Ego was regenerating his body and his left eye as the last to come in. It left him looking like he was wearing an eye patch which, of course, Snake wore in the films.
13. Star Wars: A New Hope – Hidden Fortress
Everyone remembers the scene in A New Hope where Darth Vader force chokes the crap out of that smart-mouthed General Motti. Not everyone, however, knows what or why Motti was about to say. We all know that Motti was smack-talking the Force. Speaking to Vader, Motti said that the Force “has not helped you conjure up the stolen data tapes or given you clairvoyance enough to find the rebel’s hidden fort…” It’s here that he is cut off and choked. So, looking at it now, we’re sure you can figure out that Motti was about to say, “hidden fortress.” This is a clever little reference to the film that greatly inspired George Lucas and Star Wars. If you knew this already, you’re probably a nerd.
12. Fright Night – Fruit Bats
In the original movie Fright Night, the main vampire, Jerry Dandridge (played by Chris Sarandon), was often seen on screen eating fruits, like apples, for example. The remake also included an apple-eating scene as an homage to this, showing Colin Farrell‘s Jerry munching on the tasty fruit. The reason for this is because Sarandon wanted to include a small character secret. Since bats are so intimately entwined with vampire lore, he decided that “Jerry had a lot of Fruit Bat in his DNA.” This was basically his subtle way of showing that to the fans.
11. Aladdin – Apple Throwing
There’s a good chance that when you watch Aladdin, specifically the magic carpet ride and “A Whole New World” scene, you think Jasmine is just a big fan of apples. You would think this because during the carpet ride, Aladdin plucks an apple and tosses it to Jasmine, and she looks at it like she just got handed a 10-carat diamond ring. Well, in a way, she did. At least, that’s how a nerd who knows about Greek mythology and Ancient Greek customs would see it. You see, the learned dorks might have read about how a thrown apple was once akin to a marriage proposal or declaration of love. So, these well-read geeks watch this scene and understand what’s happening, while the rest of us sit there guffawing about how there’s no way those two could have stayed on the carpet when it was flying upside down.
10. Dodgeball – Deus Ex Machina
While this one isn’t necessarily hidden or “in the background,” only a true nerd could ever know what a “Deus Ex Machina” is, right? Well, that’s what we’re going with here. While this treasure chest of money is not really even a deus ex machina, it’s close enough to be funny. The characters are faced with a problem (losing their gym), but this chest solves it all. Without us really knowing it, the protagonist, Peter, made a long-shot bet on the Average Joes dodgeball team. So, when they won the match, Peter had enough money to save their gym and buy Globo Gym at the same time. Problems solved.
9. Zootopia - Biology Jokes
The attention to detail in Zootopia is astounding. There are so many little things in the film that will blow you away if you spot them. For the purposes of this list, we decided to highlight two little biological jokes that were pointed out by some eagle-eyed Reddit users. We ask you to allow us to call them jokes, though really, these are just great details. The first detail is quite large but often overlooked. Throughout the film, the devices that animals use are catered to their specific species. Take the cameras for example. In the photo above, you can see that each camera is picked so the animal using it can snap a photo (based on their hands/digits) and see through the viewfinder.
The second joke is just an ad that a Redditor spotted in Little Rodentia. The ad is for a cab company called Thigmo-Taxis. This is a play on the word thigmotaxis, which describes the inclination in mice to remain close to walls or objects in an open area. Later in the film, during the chase through Little Rodentia, we can even spot many of the mice following this compulsion and running close to the walls.
8. Pirates Of The Caribbean – Unmoving Dog
In Pirates of the Caribbean, there’s a scene in the prison that references the ride after which the film took its name. Many of us, even some who have never been on the ride at Disneyland or Disney World, understood that this scene was similar to the ride. But there’s a joke here that only people who know and remember how the ride works really get. It comes when prisoners are trying to bribe the prison dog holding the key with a bone. They, like the imprisoned pirates on the ride, are reaching out of the bars holding the bone. It’s here that Captain Jack Sparrow says, “You can keep doing that forever. That dog is never going to move.” This is a joke pointing at the fact that while many of the characters on the ride were animatronic and moved, the dog never did.
7. Spider-Man: Homecoming – The Book
It used to be that only nerds read books. Now, nerds play video games and watch movies, and almost no one reads books. In films, the people that read books are the loners and outcasts. This pretty much describes Michelle/MJ in Spider-Man: Homecoming, but we’ll call her a nerd for convenience purposes. While Peter’s class sits on the gym bleachers, we can see MJ reading a large book called Of Human Bondage. For the uninitiated, this book may seem to be about some kinky stuff, but this book is actually just a nerdy little reference to Peter Parker’s situation. MJ is caught being interested in Peter in different ways throughout the film, and her reading a book about an orphan who is sent to live with her aunt and uncle for a week is just another example of this.
6. Lego Movies – Benny And The Riddler
We decided to include little jokes from both The Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie. The first comes from The Lego Movie and is more a great Lego detail than a joke, but whatever. It’s seen in the character of Benny, the spaceman Lego character with the cracked helmet. This extra detail was added in as an homage to the real 1980’s-style spaceman Lego, which had non-sturdy plastic chinstrap that was prone to cracking.
The next little joke comes from the Riddler in The Lego Batman Movie. This one is more accurately a riddle, but it can be missed, and it’s never really answered. Near the start of the movie, the Riddler creates a roadblock with a giant question mark. At the top of it reads, “When is a sleeping child also a crime?” This causes the scientist to stop his car. The Riddler then jumps out to “Kidnap” him. Heh.
5. Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Painted Nails
Alright, so the intention behind this detail is not meant to be funny, but Peeta’s painting abilities in the films were a long-running joke. Largely because of this joke, people latched onto the fact that Peeta had painted his nails at the Capitol party in Hunger Games: Catching Fire. But then, it became known what he was doing, and it turned from a joke to a pretty sweet detail. You’ll remember that at this point, Peeta was thought to be deep in the game, falling for the allure of the Capitol. But look at his fingers. He only painted three of his nails black, leaving out his pinky nail. This is a low-key and bad-a*s way of showing his solidarity to the cause, giving the three-finger Mockingjay salute.
4. Watchmen – Four-legged Chicken
Joke or Easter egg, call it what you want to call it. The inclusion of the “four-legged chicken” in Watchmen is one of the cooler subtleties of the film for fans of the graphic novel. The scene in question is the one that has Laurie Jupiter and Dan Dreiberg meeting for dinner. This scene takes place in the graphic novel as well. In the famous panel, a four-legged chicken is shown being delivered to another table. In the graphic novel, this is a reference to the genetic engineering that is going on, thanks to Ozymandias. While the movie doesn’t touch on that element directly, we do hear a woman allude to it during this scene. In the background, a woman’s voice can be heard saying, “I’m really glad I ordered the four-legged chicken.”
3. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory – Left Shoulders
In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, we see a bunch of kids who all appear to have the same chance of taking over Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. In the end, we know that Charlie demonstrates that he has what it takes to rule, but were the other kids really given a fair shake? Apparently not. At least, that’s what we’re told by people much nerdier than us. Take a look at Slugworth or Mr. Wilkinson or whatever you want to call him. With each child, Slugsworth whispers his proposition. He leans over their left shoulder and whispers into their left ear, which is the devil’s side, the dishonest side. With Charlie, however, things are different. Slugsworth looks at him head on and delivers his proposition. It was never fair.
2. The Fellowship Of The Ring – Three Hairs
There are two interpretations of the Galadriel hair scene in The Fellowship of the Ring. Both interpretations make sense, but only one is nerdy and only one is correct. In the scene, we hear that Gimli asked for a single hair from Galadriel’s “golden head.” Now, when people hear that she gave him three, they take it as the ultimate compliment, and it is, but not really for the reasons you think. Galadriel giving Gimli three strands of hair is a symbolic and spiteful move. Feanor, one of the greatest elves in the history of Tolkien’s world, asked Galadriel for a single hair three different times. Each time, she denied him. So, when Gimli, a dwarf, asked for one hair, Galadriel showed her great respect for him and stuck it to Feanor one final time by giving him three.
1. The Truman Show – Vitamin D
Over the years, The Truman Show has gained a lot of fans because of how intelligent and seemingly prophetic the film is. While there are several little in-jokes and details scattered throughout the film, there is one that we see as the nerdiest, if only because you need some intelligence to understand what’s in the shot and why. It comes near the beginning of the film, before we’ve become aware of the entirety of the illusion. We see a shot of the kitchen in the Truman home and on the table is a large bottle of Vitamin D pills. Now, knowing that Truman doesn’t get any exposure to actual sunlight and understanding that we draw Vitamin D from the sun, we clue in why these supplements are on the table.
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