SPOILERS are ahead for The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Proceed with caution!
Cinephiles, boy were we fed with the adorable release of The Mitchells vs. the Machines over on Netflix following the Sony Animation film being sold to streaming early this year. Having a major movie fan as the family movie’s main character was a treat because it allowed the animators to sprinkle in all sorts of references throughout the road trip adventure turned robot apocalypse.
Sure, Abbi Jacobson’s Katie Mitchell talks about Dawn of the Dead, Ghostbusters and Mad Max during the film, but there’s some more subtle references throughout The Mitchells vs. the Machines you may not have caught on a first watch. Time to point them out!
Dial B For Burger - Dial M For Murder
At the beginning of the movie when Katie Mitchell is being introduced to us, we learn that she’s been making short films her entire life. A whopping 84 to be exact. The one she shows to her elementary school class is titled Dial B For Burger, which is a reference to the 1954 Hitchcock film Dial M For Murder about infidelity and revenge. As an adult, when we see all of Katie’s short films you may also see one referencing Perks of Being a Wallflower called Perks Of Having Only One Friend among Katie’s impressive filmography.
Katie’s Director Mt. Rushmore - Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
While we’re getting to know Katie, she also shares her Mount Rushmore of favorite filmmakers in the background of her college application video and it shows a lot of love for Portrait of a Lady On Fire director Céline Sciamma. The French filmmaker sits aside Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig and Harold and Maude’s Hal Ashby on her Rushmore. Katie also made a tribute to the award winner called Portrait of an Idiot On Fire. Katie is a queer teen and filmmaker, it’s simply perfect that the arthouse movie about a female relationship would be important to her.
Katie’s Socks - The Shining
If you look closely, you’ll also be able to deduce Katie Mitchell is a fan of Stanley Kubrick films with a couple of visual cues. For one, she is wearing socks that have the same pattern as the Overlook Hotel’s carpet in The Shining. The red chevron pattern has become an iconic element of the 1980 Stephen King adaptation for some time and her Overlook socks are the perfect wink that she’s a horror fan too.
Hi There! Pin - Dr. Strangelove
Another Kubrick reference is present on Katie’s outfit with a black pin in the shape of a bomb that says “Hi There” pinned to her red jacket. The pin is a reference to 1964’s Dr. Strangelove since the same words are etched on the bomb that Slim Pickens’ Kong ends up riding out of a plane toward the end of the movie. Katie knows her classics, that’s for sure.
PAL - 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Mitchells vs. the Machines third Stanley Kubrick reference comes in the form of the movie’s villain PAL, which is reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL. In the 1968 movie, HAL is an intelligence on the spaceship that goes rogue and similarly has a red dot. Their names rhyme and Olivia Colman’s PAL has somewhat of a comparable journey to HALs. Who would've thought Sony Animation would go for three Stanley Kubrick references? The late filmmaker is definitely said to be one of the greatest of all time, so it fits!
Lawn Wranglers Pin - Bottle Rocket
A second of Katie’s pins placed on the right side of her backpack straps says “Lawn Wranglers”. This is a reference to Wes Anderson’s first film ever, 1996’s Bottle Rocket. As we look through these visual references on Katie it’s clear that directors are really important to her and she actually goes back and watches their early work rather than going as deep as Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Jade’s Room Poster - Taxi Driver
When Katie is facetiming her soon-to-be college friends at the beginning of the movie, in the background of Jade’s room, you may have noticed a Taxi Driver poster on the left side of the screen. There again, here’s another tribute to one of the most celebrated filmmakers in cinema, Martin Scorsese. And again, this is one of his earlier films. Goes to show why Jade and the other students are Katie’s “people.”
Get To The Bridge If You Want To Live! - Arnold Movies
During the Mitchells road trip before the robot apocalypse, they go on a few excursions, including a dangerous donkey ride through a mountain. During the sequence, Katie’s dad makes a 3-in-1 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie reference when he says “get to the bridge if you want to live!” to his family. It’s presumably a hybrid of his famous quotes "get to the chopper" from Predator, "the bridge is out" from True Lies and “come with me if you want to live” from Terminator 2. Rick Mitchell must be a mega Arnold fan! It’s also perfect that T2 would find a place in this movie because robots taking over the world is also the premise of that movie.
Stormtrooper Rescue - Star Wars: A New Hope
In the third act of the animated movie, the family crafts a plan to dress up in white and black suits and storm PALs headquarters in order to stop the intelligence from taking over the world. It seems to be a reference from Star Wars: A New Hope when Han and Luke disguise themselves as Stormtroopers to rescue Leia from Darth Vader and stop the villain from destroying more planets with the Death Star.
Mom Does The Five Point Palm Technique - Kill Bill
Lastly, you may have missed Maya Rudolph’s mom character going full Kill Bill at the end of the film with her fighting moves, including using Uma Thurman’s 5 point palm exploding heart technique while fighting off some robots. Right before that, when she sees that her son has been captured the Ironside siren noise from Kill Bill can also be briefly heard. The movie also actually employs the use of two music cues famously known in Kill Bill, with “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” also coming on when the family are leaving a burning scene.
Did you catch all of these? It’s a good excuse to replay The Mitchells vs. the Machines on Netflix or check out what else is coming to streaming with upcoming 2021 Netflix movies.