10 Classic '80s and '90s Movies That Influence 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon in Spider-Man: Homecoming (Photo: Sony Pictures)
Warning: This post contains spoilers for key scenes and plot points of Spider-Man: Homecoming.

If you’re a Marvel Comics fan, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a veritable gold mine of Easter eggs from the wall-crawler’s 55-year-and-counting career of catching thieves just like flies. At the same time, it’s equally rich with homages to popular teen movies from the ’80s and ’90s. Even before the film went into production, Marvel Studios chief, Kevin Feige, made a point of describing it as a “John Hughes movie,” directly name-checking the writer and director responsible for so many of that era’s high school classics.

In separate interviews with Yahoo Movies, star Tom Holland explained that director Jon Watts gave the young cast a must-watch list of classic movies to watch before shooting began, while Homecoming  co-writer John Francis Daley elaborated on the Spidey-Hughes connection. “What John Hughes was best at was finding the funny in the relatable… and to keep Peter as a truly normal, grounded, relatable person I think is really set him apart from all the other versions of Spider-Man that people have seen.” Homecoming‘s cinematic influences do extend beyond Hughes, though. Here’s a list of 10 teen favorites that are overtly, or subtly, referenced by Spider-Man and his amazing friends.

Matthew Broderick in ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (Photo: Everett Collection)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
This one is kind of a gimme; while in hot pursuit of the Vulture’s henchmen, poor Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has to forego his usual web-slinging action due to the fact that he’s in that dreaded low-rise territory known as suburbia. Crashing through backyard after backyard, he passes a pool party where Matthew Broderick’s own climactic backyard chase from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is playing out on a TV screen. “Great movie,” Peter calls out as he continues on to the next yard. (Wonder if he considers Ferris Bueller to be as ancient a film as The Empire Strikes Back?) “That scene is a perfect example of our challenge to take Spider-Man out of a world where he’s comfortable,” director Watts told Yahoo Movies. “If you put him in the suburbs where there’s nothing tall to swing from, what does he do? It was a great opportunity to put him in an awkward situation.”

Judd Nelson and Ally Sheedy in ‘The Breakfast Club’ (Photo: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

The Breakfast Club (1985)
At a press conference in June, Zendaya revealed that Ally Sheedy’s proto-Goth girl, Allison Reynolds, is a direct ancestor of her Homecoming character, Michelle “M.J.” Jones. And the two do have a lot in common, including a quiet manner that masks a caustic wit, as well as a flair for epic side-eye and eye-rolls. In fact, Michelle is glimpsed sitting in detention alongside Peter — the Anthony Michael Hall of her school — in one memorable Homecoming scene, despite the fact that she’s not even supposed to be there. Speaking with the press, Zendaya made it clear that she hopes modern teens take away the same lesson from Michelle that their parents learned from Allison, namely that: “It’s OK to be weird. If you make things awkward and uncomfortable, that’s cool. I love that Michelle’s outspoken and says what everyone’s thinking, but she just doesn’t care.”

William Zabka and Ralph Macchio in ‘The Karate Kid’ (Photo: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection)

The Karate Kid (1984)
He may not pledge allegiance to Cobra Kai, but Flash Thompson (Tony Revolori) is totally the Johnny Lawrence to Peter’s Daniel LaRusso. Whether calling him “Penis Parker” (itself an indirect shout-out to another ’80s classic, E.T.) or engaging in some decidedly unsportsmanlike trash talk during Academic Decathlon training sessions, Flash is always eager to humiliate his rival on the most public stage possible. But Peter, like LaRusso before him, scores the final knockout, hijacking Flash’s car and leaving him by the side of the road with his homecoming date. Revolori, who previously played the hero of Wes Anderson’s acclaimed 2014 film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, has said that he enjoyed breaking bad in Homecoming, especially since the movie doesn’t make an issue about his race. “The fact that there’s not a single line of exposition to explain why I look the way I look. I’m just in the movie. It’s not about being a certain race, and I think that’s the kind of diversity we need in Hollywood right now.”


Can’t Hardly Wait (1998)
If only Peter had re-watched this nostalgic ’90s favorite before heading over to Liz Allan’s shindig, he would have realized that a high school house party is the absolute worst place to try and impress the girl you’ve been crushing on for years. Sure enough, his plan to swing in and make a big splash as Spider-Man is thwarted by an unplanned side mission involving the Shocker. Can’t Hardly Wait‘s Preston (Ethan Embry) is similarly unable to persuade his dream girl, Amanda (Jennifer Love Hewitt), of his affection due to a series of increasingly crazy circumstances. According to Daley, an early version of the storyline involved Peter hosting the party instead of Liz, but is similarly prevented from joining the festivities in costume. “All the cool kids from school burst into his bedroom while he’s gone and just start going through all his s—t, like all the toys he still kept.” Adds Daley’s co-writer, Jonathan Goldstein: “That’s very Hughes-ian, like the characters Anthony Michael Hall used to play. The kid who’s too old to still be doing this stuff.”

Anthony Michael Hall, Kelly LeBrock, Ilan Mitchell-Smith in ‘Weird Science’ (Photo: Universal Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Weird Science (1985)
We should probably be glad that geek buddies Peter and Ned (Jacob Batalon) are only applying their serious science and tech skills to making web fluid and hacking Tony Stark-designed super-suits. Otherwise, they might go and do something really weird…like building a cyber-girlfriend who steps out of the computer and into reality. Here’s another fun connection between Weird Science and Homecoming: Robert Downey Jr. is a big ol’ spoilsport in both. Back in ’85, he dropped a red Icee on dorks Gary and Wyatt, and 32 years later, he drops a bomb on Peter by taking away the teen’s Spider-Man suit after his Staten Island Ferry mishap.

Jon Cryer and Molly Ringwald in ‘Pretty in Pink’ (Photo: Paramount / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

Pretty in Pink (1986)
High school law eschews the designated dork from taking the pretty girl to the big school dance. But Hughes went and upset the natural order of things by having Duckie (Jon Cryer) swoop in and rescue his best friend and longtime crush object, Andie (Molly Ringwald) from being stood up at the prom by status-conscious Blane (Andrew McCarthy). Truthfully, it was a bridge too far for audiences at the time, who demanded that the ending be reshot with the pretty girls and the popular guy walking off into a happily ever after. For a brief moment, though, Duckie got to be the hero who gets the girl, a geek dream that Peter gets to live out when he asks the significantly more popular Liz to the homecoming dance and she says yes. For better or for worse, he ultimately loses the girl to her villainous dad rather than a petty prepster.

Michael J. Fox in ‘Back to the Future’ (Photo: Universal/courtesy Everett Collection)

Back to the Future (1985)
No sooner has he gotten to Hill Valley High’s “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance than Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has to ditch his date — and future Mom — Lorraine (Lea Thompson) in order to take care of some pressing time travel business. Peter isn’t able to bust a move at his school’s homecoming soiree either, regretfully abandoning Liz on the dance floor in order to thwart her Vulture father’s plot to raid Tony Stark’s airborne storage locker. At least Marty gets to invent rock and roll during his time brief time at the Hill Valley dance; Peter has to bail before he can show off how he can out-Rihanna Rihanna.

Jennifer Connelly and Frank Whaley skate the night away in Career Opportunities (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Career Opportunities (1991)
Peter Parker isn’t the only nerd lucky enough to spend a night locked in a facility with Jennifer Connelly. This John Hughes-scripted comedy traps awkward outcast Jim (Frank Whaley) and knockout Josie (Connelly) in a Target store after closing time, where they have to contend with their wildly different backgrounds, as well as a pair of bungling burglars. Midway through Homecoming, Spider-Man’s attempt to foil a Vulture robbery lands him in deep storage inside the U.S. Department of Damage Control, with only his “suit lady,” a.k.a. his in-suit A.I. K.A.R.E.N. (voiced by the Beautiful Mind Oscar winner), for company. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether Target for the Damage Control storage locker has better toys.


Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Not a teen movie, you say? Perhaps that’s true, but Tim Burton’s feature filmmaking debut is nevertheless an ’80s classic for young kids and teenagers alike. Besides, it can’t be accidental that Spider-Man’s first big victory in Homecoming involves stopping a bicycle thief. And he doesn’t even have to leave Queens to do it! Poor Pee-wee Herman has to travel all the way to Texas to recover his beloved two-wheeled ride. Here’s an eye-popping face-off we want to see in the Homecoming sequel: Spider-Man vs. Large Marge.

 Watch: Tom Holland Wants His Peter Parker to Be This Generation’s Marty McFly:

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