The Marvel Cinematic Universe loves referencing classic movies, particularly when it comes to the 80s and 90s (especially when Peter Quill or Peter Parker is involved), so with Captain Marvel taking place in the 1990s, which films from that decade should it homage?
Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Captain Marvel will be the 21st film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but will only be the MCU's second period film. Captain America: The First Avenger took place entirely in the 1940s, with an end-credits scene showing Steve Rogers reawakening in 2012, just in time to join The Avengers. Other MCU films have shown past events as well; for instance, Ant-Man opened with a scene at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Triskelion set in 1989. Also, one of the most pivotal events of the MCU was the assassination of Howard and Maria Stark by the Winter Soldier as seen in Captain America: Civil War, which took place on December 16, 1991. However, Marvel Studios' first solo female-led film, starring Oscar winner Brie Larson as the titular superhero, is expected to be set entirely in the last decade of the twentieth century.
One of the ways Marvel has kept the MCU fresh and vibrant is by experimenting with different genres: Spider-Man: Homecoming was a John Hughes-style high school comedy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a 1970s-style spy thriller, and Thor: Ragnarok was a 1980s-influenced outer space road trip and buddy comedy. With all of the 1990s to play with as its setting, Captain Marvel has a golden opportunity to weave in homages to some of the most popular and influential films of that decade - but do it in the inimitable Marvel style.
With the popularizing of independent films and indie-darling auteur directors thanks to the rise of Miramax to huge blockbusters that epitomized the excesses of Hollywood, the 1990s has no lack of defining films that Captain Marvel could reference. This isn't to suggest Captain Marvel should reference all of these films listed below, but if they are going to offer nods to popular films of the decade, here are some musts:
- This Page: 1990s Independent Films To Homage
- Next Page: 1990s Superhero Films and Blockbusters Captain Marvel Should Homage
Pulp Fiction is a no-brainer considering the presence of Samuel L. Jackson as S.H.I.E.L.D. superspy Nick Fury in Captain Marvel. This era's younger Fury has both eyes working, and could easily drop references to one of his most famous roles, Pulp Fiction's noble but fiery-tempered killer Jules Winnfield. Widely considered the seminal film of writer-director Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction was nominated for multiple Academy Awards in 1994 (winning Best Original Screenplay), and not only put Tarantino but also its studio Miramax on the map as a major force in Hollywood. Pulp Fiction was widely imitated for Tarantino's brazen dialogue and unique non-linear story structure, as well as its popular soundtrack.
Carol Danvers will reportedly be the first superhero Fury meets, but Jackson-as-Fury visually resembling his iconic role as the Bible-verse quoting assassin and maybe even working in one of this many infamous lines of dialogue would be an easy and fun nod to Pulp Fiction. It should be noted, however, that the MCU has already homaged Pulp Fiction: at the very end of The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury's tombstone is inscribed with the words from Ezekiel 25:17 - "the path of the righteous man..." - which was Jules Winnfield's signature quote. But nothing is stopping Captain Marvel from adding its own fun homages.
Another writer-director Miramax put on the map in the 1990s, comic book uber-geek Kevin Smith burst onto the scene with his mega-low budget but hilarious black and white indie Clerks. A very-1990s tale of two foul-mouthed slackers who work in a convenience store and adjacent video store in a New Jersey strip mall, Clerks showcased Smith's deep love of superheroes, Star Wars, and pop culture, while his characters, despite lacking career ambitions, pondered their lives and asked existential questions. The film also introduced Smith's signature characters, Jay and Silent Bob, who would go onto star in many of Smith's later films and other works (even recently popping up on CW's The Flash).
Captain Marvel is about Air Force pilot Carol Danvers, who gains superpowers and becomes an intergalactic superhero, so there's not much to relate to a story about pop culture-obsessed slackers, but perhaps somehow homaging one of Clerks' most iconic lines - "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" - would be a welcome nod to Kevin Smith (who would no doubt love it).
It's also hard to see how Captain Marvel could relate to a group of heroin-addicted friends in 1996 Edinborough, Scotland, but Trainspotting is about as 1990s as films get. Arguably director Danny Boyle's most beloved film, Trainspotting helped launch the career of Ewan McGregor and showcased Boyle's incendiary, propulsive filmmaking, which was backed by an unforgettable soundtrack featuring Underworld and Iggy Pop.
In terms of homages, Captain Marvel probably can't borrow too much from Trainspotting besides nods to its music and visual style. However, Carol Danvers does go to outer space, so maybe she could come upon the Worst Toilet in the Kree Homeworld.
Captain America 1990
This would be a bizarre but also a potentially hilarious opportunity for the MCU to wink at how in the 1990s, Marvel movies weren't global blockbusters - or even any good at all. The 1990s saw the release of Captain America, a godawful feature film starring Matt Salinger as the star-spangled hero (whose mask sported rubber ears). The film was so bad it never got its intended 1990 theatrical run and was shelved for two years before being released straight-to-home video.
How could this work in Captain Marvel? Well, in the MCU, Steve Rogers was still frozen in ice, unbeknownst to the general public. However, Captain America's legend from World War II was still kept alive - S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Phil Coulson, who will also appear in Captain Marvel and once more portrayed by Clark Gregg, grew up idolizing Cap and collecting his trading cards. It stands to reason there was a very bad attempt at making a Captain America movie in the MCU as well - it could be this very camp classic, in fact!
If Captain Marvel is indeed about a hero traveling to outer space and saving the world, homaging arguably the most bombastic 1990s movie about heroes traveling to outer space and saving the world is a must. 1998 saw the release of Armageddon; fresh off the success of his Nicolas Cage/Sean Connery action classic The Rock, Bay returned with another blockbuster starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck as oil drillers drafted to save the Earth from an incoming meteor - by drilling into it. There was plenty of global destruction in the early part of Armageddon as smaller meteorites smashed into locales around the world, but what fans most remember is Bruce Willis making a noble sacrifice as the film cranked up Aerosmith's ubiquitous hit "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing".
Captain Marvel could have some fun winking at the overblown, frantic drama of Armageddon, though it would be best if there was no homage to Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler's cringe-inducing romantic moment involving animal crackers.
Joel Schumacher's Batman
Marvel rules the superhero movie roost today, but in the 1990s, the biggest superhero name was unquestionably Batman. Following Tim Burton's 1989 mega-success Batman and his idiosyncratic 1992 follow up Batman Returns, director Joel Schumacher took over the Bat-reigns and, for better or worse, defined the superhero movie in the 1990s. Schumacher's campfests Batman Forever and Batman & Robin infamously introduced nipples on the Batsuits and cranked up the day-glo absurdity, with some of the era's biggest A-list stars like Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying hyperbolic villains. Meanwhile, the Batcowl was passed from Val Kilmer to George Clooney.
The fact that Batman isn't a Marvel property could be an issue here, but it'd be a major missed opportunity if Captain Marvel didn't find a way to reference the Batman films of the '90s, even if it's merely a crack about how Carol Danvers' Kree uniform definitely doesn't need nipples.
Related: Is Captain Marvel Worthy?
Independence Day is the most popular alien invasion blockbuster of the 1990s - and possibly ever. Roland Emmerich's film remains beloved by fans. It cemented Will Smith as a movie star as well as showcased the nerdy talents of Jeff Goldblum. While Captain Marvel's plot details are being kept secret, the film probably doesn't involve city-sized spaceships laying waste to the most famous landmarks of America like the White House and Empire State Building. After all, the people of the MCU would doubtlessly remember a full-scale alien invasion if one happened in the 1990s.
But there's plenty about Independence Day that Captain Marvel could homage, specifically some of its memorable dialogue, like the President played by Bill Pullman's quotable speech. Since Captain Marvel reportedly involves aliens like the Kree and the Skrulls, the film would be remiss if it didn't include a nod to Will Smith's most famous quip: "Welcome to Earth!"