After satirizing zombie movies in Shaun of the Dead and lampooning “buddy cop” movies in Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost concluded their genre-riffing Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy by tackling paranoid science fiction stories like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
2013’s The World’s End tells a Body Snatchers-style sci-fi horror tale about alien invaders immersing themselves in civilization through the quintessentially British lens of a pub crawl. As with all of Edgar Wright’s funniest movies, The World’s End is riddled with references to existing classics.
8 The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
Robert Wise’s sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still, released at the height of the Cold War, tells the story of a humanoid alien visitor coming to Earth with a powerful robot named Gort. The movie has since been remade by Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson and features one of Keanu Reeves’ most iconic characters.
In The World’s End, the metal sculpture that the guys call “Modern Art,” which comes to life in the middle of the movie and shoots beams out of its face, looks an awful lot like Gort.
7 The Stepford Wives (1975)
Ira Levin’s seminal novel The Stepford Wives is a paranoid literary masterpiece, telling the story of a feminist who moves to a new neighborhood, begins to suspect that the town’s husbands have replaced their wives with subservient robots, and fears her own husband is planning to do the same to her.
When Gary gets into his first fight with a blank and ends up accidentally knocking its head off against a urinal, the shot of the severed blank head is a nod to the poster for the 1975 film adaptation of The Stepford Wives.
6 Star Wars (1977)
Since it transplants fairytales into an intergalactic setting and favors the aesthetic over realism, the Star Wars saga is much closer to the fantasy genre than hard science fiction. But anything with space battles and lasers counts as sci-fi, and there’s no denying that the interstellar antics of Luke Skywalker et al appeal to sci-fi fans.
The scene at the end of The World’s End in which Gary enters a pub with his robotic friends and the bartender refuses to serve them is a nod to the bartender at Mos Eisley Cantina refusing to serve everyone’s favorite droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO.
5 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)
The general plot of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a huge influence on The World’s End. Wright and Pegg’s script borrowed the movie’s premise of an alien invasion slowly taking over human civilization one body at a time, with the added twist that The World’s End’s “pod people” are robots.
Wright includes a specific homage to the 1978 adaptation of the movie and the way the blanks scream and point when they see humans is what the pod people do in Body Snatchers.
4 The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s The Thing, a claustrophobic chiller about a shapeshifting alien, bombed at the box office back in 1982 – as did Blade Runner – because their bleak worldview rubbed audiences on an E.T. high the wrong way. But like Blade Runner, The Thing has since been re-evaluated as a sci-fi cult classic.
There’s an iconic scene in The Thing in which all the survivors have to prove they’re not the alien in disguise. And there’s a similar scene in The World’s End, in which the guys all have to prove they haven’t been replaced by blanks.
3 Ghostbusters (1984)
Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters is one of the most beloved comedies ever made. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis star as three parapsychologists who go into business together ridding New York City of ghostly spirits. The far-fetched premise works because Reitman takes a surprisingly grounded approach to the material.
When Gary arrives to pick up his friends in “The Beast” in The World’s End, the long, unwieldy list of repairs the car needed is an almost word-for-word copy of the list that Aykroyd rattles off after buying the Ghostbusters’ car, Ecto-1. In its new context, this is one of the funniest quotes in The World’s End.
2 Aliens (1986)
James Cameron’s terrifying, action-packed masterpiece, Aliens, is one of the greatest sequels ever made. It switches the subgenre from horror to action (but still contains plenty of horror), and replaces the first Alien movie’s single xenomorph with a hive swarming with dozens of them.
The World’s End includes a reference to the knife game, also known as “pin finger” or “five-finger fillet,” originally made famous by the Sulaco’s resident android, Bishop, in Aliens.
1 Back To The Future Part II (1989)
While neither of the sequels to Back to the Future is as timeless or tightly structured as the original, Parts II and III of Robert Zemeckis’ time-traveling trilogy still have plenty to offer. The second movie sees Marty returning to 1955 to retrieve an almanac from Biff and prevent the existence of a very dark alternate 1985.
In the movie’s triumphant climactic sequence, when Marty has seized the almanac and outsmarted Biff, he grabs onto a flag rope hanging from the hovering DeLorean. There’s a nod to this in The World’s End when Steven descends into the Network’s lair on a similar flag rope.