Just about every group of friends has that one guy who still quotes Pulp Fiction like it just hit theaters last week. Heading out for burgers? He’ll have the Royale with Cheese. Trip over your own words? “English, mother*cker! Do you speak it?” Respond, “What?” to one of his dumb questions and you’re bound to hear, “Say what again!” Did one of your friends have a disagreement with his significant other? “Does he look like a bitch?” Oh that guy, you’re everywhere in this world and you’re never going away, but we don’t really mind, because 20 years later, we all still love Pulp Fiction a lot. Need proof? Just turn on your damn TV.
Ever since Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece was released in theaters on this day 20 years ago, there has been no shortage of tributes to Pulp Fiction in popular culture. While the movie had an undeniable influence on at least a decade’s worth of Dawson Leerys, who would go on to write many of the sitcoms and movies we love and loathe today, the impact of Pulp Fiction was immediate. If anything, it changed the way that writers tried to tell their stories, with any movie that was presented “out of order” after 1994 was immediately compared to and critiqued against Pulp Fiction, whether it was inspired by Tarantino’s work or not. But most of all, Pulp Fiction gave us a variety of characters, scenes and lines that could forever be celebrated and worked in to everything from children’s comedies to CBS’s hit procedural dramas.
The legacy of Pulp Fiction has been so incredible that its stars have even made references to their roles or other seemingly obscure lines in other films and TV series. For example, when we weren’t laughing at his ridiculous bald head and goatee combo in the 2010 film From Paris with Love, we were mildly groaning when John Travolta’s super badass spy treated Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ mild and by-the-books operative to the thing that he claimed would eventually kill him – the Royale with Cheese.
Travolta isn’t alone with the shameless nostalgia plugging by a longshot. For example, Ving Rhames might have busted out a subtle nod to Fabienne’s choice of breakfast in The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard when Jibby said that “blueberry pancakes” is his safe word. Coincidence? Possibly. But instead of thinking long and hard about a Jeremy Piven movie, let’s just shine the light on Mr. Pulp Fiction reference himself – Samuel L. Jackson. Some people think that the diner that Vincent and Jules had breakfast at after their tense visit to Jimmy is the same diner that Agent Gibbons (Jackson) took Xander Cage to in xXx. After all, the Hawthorne Grill:
… certainly looks a lot like this:
Unfortunately, despite the great storytelling of the Internet, it’s not. Pulp Fiction’s classic robbery-turned-epiphany scene was filmed in the since-demolished Hawthorne Grill, while xXx’s fake diner scene was filmed at Pann’s Restaurant, which has become a go-to place for old-timey scenery. Nitpickery and debunking aside, Jackson did recreate his iconic “SAY WHAT AGAIN!” speech in a 2005 episode of The Boondocks.
For the 2013 animated feature Turbo, Jackson voiced Whiplash, the leader of a fast-talking gang of snails, and he delivered a much more PG-rated version of his “SAY WHAT AGAIN!” routine while inspiring Ryan Reynolds’ titular super-powered snail. Most recently, Jackson and directors Anthony and Joe Russo paid tribute to Pulp Fiction with Nick Fury’s tombstone at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier…
This is more about inspiration and less about self-high-fives and Easter eggs, though, so let’s focus on the times that Pulp Fiction references were dropped in popular TV series and movies. One of my personal favorite references came in the 1996 classic Space Jam, as one of the Monstars got his big, ugly hands on Wile E. Coyote and Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam suited up to get medieval on his ass.
The 16th episode of Season 3 of Veronica Mars, “Un-American Graffiti,” featured the titular detective uncovering one punk’s “self-hate crime.” While nobody delivers that “SAY WHAT AGAIN!” routine like Jackson, Kristen Bell sure could make it seem way more adorable.