We've now had three movies that include the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of Pater Parker, aka your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Though we've gotten some solid depictions of this character in the past (Spider-Man 2 remains very good), Tom Holland's iteration has cemented itself as the most delightful, as well as the truest to the character's comic book persona.
Holland's Parker is a kid. Where previous portrayals had Peter in High School for part of a movie (or most of a movie), they quickly age him out of it. The MCU version of Parker has to constantly juggle his web-slinging with being a regular teenager, and that has paid off in all kinds of wonderful ways.
With his most recent appearance in Avengers: Infinity War, Holland's Spidey has proven himself to be an integral part of the team. This is noteworthy because he is, by far, the youngest of them. He's the only hero in the MCU (on film) that could be classified as a part of Generation Z (or a Millennial), so he brings a unique perspective to the proceedings. He also brings a host of references to pop culture, and almost all of them are viewed through the filter of the character's age.
Here is a round-up of the biggest pop culture references that have been made by our youngest hero.
**Spoiler Alert: Spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War below**
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Reference: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Spidey's first appearance in the MCU came with a lot of excitement and one huge pop culture reference. In the middle of stealing the show during the airport battle (no easy feat), he proposes an idea about how to take down the suddenly gigantic Ant-Man.
His plan is the same as Luke Skywalker's plan to take out the AT-AT walkers in The Empire Strikes Back: go for the legs. It isn't so much the plan itself that's interesting, as much as how he brings it up. He calls Empire a "really old movie," and honestly wonders if any of the others have seen it.
For one thing, they're all far older than he is, so of course they've seen it. For another, the young Mr. Parker would have grown up with the Star Wars prequel films, yet he references something from the original trilogy. He talks about the film as if it was a secret that only he has discovered, as if in uncovering the original Star Wars movies, he has stumbled upon some forgotten relics that nobody really knew about.
The plan kind of works, though Peter's words probably gave all of the Avengers (and most of the audience) some kind of mortality crisis. Peter's love for this "really old" trilogy of films would surface again in his next appearance.
Reference: The LEGO Death Star
It seems that Peter's love for the original Star Wars films is shared by his best friend Ned, who enthusiastically asks him to help build his enormous Death Star LEGO set early in the film. Ned even does an impression of Emperor Palpatine using the character's LEGO minifig.
Since the Emperor comes with the set they are building (and becomes the final piece on the top later in the film), we can assume that this is the Death Star II, and therefore it is from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Who saw these "really old" movies first? Did Peter discover them, and then show them to Ned, or was it the other way around? The next entry may provide a clue.
Reference: Star Wars toys
The LEGO Death Star II is not the only Star Wars toy in the film; Peter's room is full of vintage toys from the galaxy far, far away, and they're all out of their boxes. One of the many toys that can be seen is an AT-AT walker, which is a fun nod to Peter's own reference in his previous appearance. All of the toys on display are from the original films, with no Gungans, Amidalas, or Qui-Gons in sight. Peter Parker is definitely an original trilogy type of kid.
If Star Wars exists in the world of the MCU, then Lucasfilm must exist. If Lucasfilm exists, did they still get bought up by Disney? Does the MCU not have the Star Wars sequels and spin-off films? Seeing a giant poster of Kylo Ren in Peter's room would be way too on-the-nose, so it's probably for the best that these specifics are not addressed.
Reference: The New York Mets
Just because the kid likes Star Wars and science, it doesn't mean that he can't enjoy a sport or two. A New York Mets pennant can be seen in Peter's room, which cements the comic's tradition of having the Queens-based Parker being a fan of the team. We can definitely picture Peter and Aunt May sitting in the nosebleeds, wolfing down hot dogs. Maybe Mr. Stark can get them seasonal box seats should they all survive the next Avengers film.
Reference (not made): Back to the Future Part II
Peter's Stark-enhanced suit can shrink to fit his body, and it can also warm him up and dry him off when the occasion calls for it. It instantly makes us think of the futuristic jacket worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II...but Peter does not make the reference. Either he doesn't think of it, or he hasn't gotten around to discovering that particular "really old" movie yet. We're thinking it's the latter— if he had seen it, he'd never miss an opportunity to quip. No quip shall be left behind!
Reference: Risky Business
Another presumably "really old" movie that Peter has likely seen is Risky Business. During the montage of him getting ready for the Homecoming dance, Peter pulls the classic Tom Cruise move of sliding across the floor in his socks and ending up perfectly framed by a doorway.
This puts it over the top— this kid's life seems to be way more informed by older things than by the modern. It's part of what makes Peter Parker a dork, which is a big part of why we love him.
Where Justice League had one of Barry Allen's televisions playing Rick and Morty, Peter Parker would likely be playing Animaniacs, The Simpsons, or, um, "Steamboat Willie." The next film could feature him being wowed by a series of ragtime-era silhouettes.
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
Welcome back to Peter Parker's "really old" film club! This week, he's referencing Aliens. This is a reference he gets wrong; in the film, his plan involves kicking the Thanos crony Ebony Maw out of an airlock. That particular move happens in the first Alien, but Peter most definitely references the "really old movie" called Aliens, plural. Is this a fault in the film's writing, or did they have Parker intentionally get it wrong? We hope they had him screw it up on purpose— the "really old" movie bit is starting to sting, and he's not the kind of the '80s. Even so, Tony celebrates the fact that "the kid's seen more movies" than the rest of them.
A side note here: If Alien/Aliens exists in the MCU, then Alien: Resurrection likely exists as well. If that is true, then Joss Whedon exists, because he wrote that entry. Following this thread for no reason other fun, if Whedon exists, then the films have created an insanity loop — someone who exists in the MCU actually directed and wrote two MCU movies. We'll offer even money that this is what Avengers 4 is about, and also why they are still keeping the title a secret. Avengers: Whedon's War is gonna be epic.
The other big pop culture enthusiast in the MCU is Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. His love for all things '80s makes a bit more sense, as that's when he left Earth. He's been gone a while, though, and when he checks up on one of his faves with Peter Parker, Quill gets a rude awakening.
Quill mentions his "dance battle saving the galaxy" bit from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Parker immediately riffs on this, saying that it was just like the movie Footloose. Quill, amazed that someone finally gets one of his references, is enthusiastic at first, and asks if it is still the greatest movie of all time. Peter informs him that it is not, and, just the drive the knife in further, tells him that it never was.
Peter Quill goes through some rough stuff in this film, but this is possibly the moment that hurts him the most. The way Parker swiftly dispatches and destroys the thing that Quill loves is almost savage, and though the cocky Star-Lord had it coming, it's a harsh move from our youngest Avenger.
We can gather that Parker saw Footloose at some point, but does not have the holy reverence for it that Quill has. It's for the best that Quill doesn't ask about David Hasselhoff.
Reference: Doctor Who
This one hurts. Whether it is intentional or not, Peter Parker's final lines to Tony (before being dusted out of existence) include the line, "I don't want to go."
It's the same line that Doctor Who's 10th Doctor (played by David Tennant) delivers right before he regenerates into the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith. Tennant even referenced his famous final line when he appeared in the 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor.
Was the quote from Parker intentional? We could go either way. For one thing, he is being blown out of existence by the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, so perhaps making references is not his top priority. However, he may have said it without realizing it...let's face it, the MCU Peter Parker absolutely watches Doctor Who. He's obsessed with science, heroics, loves the old Star Wars movies, and has Martin Starr as a math teacher — it would be insanely weird if he didn't watch it.
We guarantee you that Peter and Ned look forward to every episode, with Aunt May shaking her head and looking forward to their next Mets game.
Believe us, Peter...we didn't want you to go either. You stole our hearts, and then you just go dusting off in the wind? Not cool, MCU.
Thankfully, a sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming is already in the works, and will kick off the new phase of MCU films post-Avengers 4. It would be fairly difficult to make this film without, you know, Spider-Man— so here's hoping that Captain Marvel, the Soul Stone, Justin Hammer, or quite literally anyone else has a plan to bring the dust back from the wind.
Did we miss any references? Which one is your favorite? Do you want Avengers 4: Whedon's War to feature Peter Parker making a crack about trade negotiations on Naboo? Let us know in the comments!