Ever since Tony Stark was introduced to the sounds of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” telling a soldier not to share their photo on Myspace, pop culture references have been the MCU’s bread and butter. Marvel heroes like Stark, Peter Quill, and Spider-Man express themselves with nods to movies, TV shows, hit songs, and other staples of popular culture.
The MCU’s tradition of pop culture references continued into the franchise’s latest movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Not only does the movie reference the martial arts classics that inspired it; it also has nods to Aladdin, Dragon Ball, and the Eagles.
Early in the movie, Shang-Chi and Katy go out drinking with their friends. They determine that they’ve stayed out long enough and that they should go home and get some sleep before work the next day, then the movie cuts to the two friends staying up much later to sing a bunch of songs in a karaoke bar.
The songs they sing include Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” from Armageddon; “Old Town Road,” confirming Lil Nas X survived the snap; and “A Whole New World” from the beloved Disney animated musical Aladdin.
9 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s wuxia classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon caught audiences’ attention with its unique fight choreography. The movie’s martial artists float through trees during the action scenes, making each fight play more like a ballet than fisticuffs.
In addition to featuring Michelle Yeoh in a supporting role, Shang-Chi overtly references Crouching Tiger in the prologue’s fight choreography. When Wenwu fights Ying Li in the magical garden, they drift through the trees like the fighters of Crouching Tiger.
8 Rush Hour 2
The combination of all-out action and buddy comedy in Rush Hour and its sequels was a big influence on the tone of Shang-Chi, and particularly in Shang-Chi’s friendship with Katy.
During the scaffolding fight, there’s a specific reference to Rush Hour 2. Katy hangs from a pole that begins to snap just like Lee and Carter in the Rush Hour sequel.
7 Dragon Ball
Originating as a manga series, Dragon Ball has since gone on to become one of the most popular (and profitable) media franchises of all time. Katy makes a reference to Dragon Ball toward the end of Shang-Chi.
When Shang-Chi and Katy are telling their friends about how they used an ancient lake dragon to defeat an interdimensional demonic force, Katy mentions the “Kamehameha” energy wave as a nod to Dragon Ball.
6 The Godfather
When Shang-Chi’s civilian life in San Francisco is introduced, a handful of iconic movie posters can be seen hanging on his bedroom wall. One of them is The Godfather, the gangster epic that broke the record for the highest-grossing movie of all time in 1972.
The inclusion of imagery evoking the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece fits with Shang-Chi’s theme of the heir to a criminal empire trying to break the mold and lead a legitimate life despite his legacy.
5 Kung Fu Hustle
Another poster on Shang-Chi’s wall is Kung Fu Hustle, a brilliant action-comedy that was directed, produced, and co-written by Stephen Chow, who also played the lead role. Kung Fu Hustle is renowned for its visual effects, which give the movie the feel of a live-action cartoon.
Yuen Wah, a martial arts movie legend going back to the classics of Bruce Lee and the Shaw Brothers, gives an unforgettable supporting turn in Kung Fu Hustle. He gave a similarly scene-stealing performance as Guang Bo in Shang-Chi.
4 Hotel California
Before Shang-Chi reveals that he’s a master of martial arts, Katy offers up some advice on how to handle a fight. She explains that she used to yell the lyrics of the Eagles classic “Hotel California” to get high school bullies to back down from fights.
This bit is hilariously paid off later in the movie when she tries the same technique on a deadly Ten Rings assassin and it doesn’t faze them in the slightest.
3 Enter The Dragon
The final film that Bruce Lee completed before his untimely passing, Enter the Dragon, is widely regarded to be the greatest martial arts movie ever made. It kickstarted the trend of martial arts movies in the 1970s.
So, it was appropriate for Marvel’s first martial arts movie to pay homage to Enter the Dragon. In Shang-Chi, just like in Enter the Dragon, the hero infiltrates a fighting tournament to get to a ruthless crime lord.
2 Rumble In The Bronx
One of the most talked-about action sequences in Shang-Chi is the bus fight, in which Shang-Chi unexpectedly reveals his combat abilities on the way to work.
During the scuffle, Shang-Chi uses his jacket as a weapon against one of the Ten Rings mercenaries. This is a nod to a specific moment in Rumble in the Bronx in which Jackie Chan used a similar technique.
1 Planet Of The Apes
Trevor Slattery’s return was one of Shang-Chi’s most pleasant surprises. Following the Mandarin fake-out in Iron Man 3, Shang-Chi redeemed Trevor as a straightforward comedic character. Ben Kingsley nailed the deadpan deliveries of all of Trevor’s ridiculous dialogue.
A prime example is when he recounts that the moment he decided to become an actor was when he realized the talking apes in Planet of the Apes weren’t real apes, but rather human actors in ape costumes who used the power of acting to convince him they were real apes.
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