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The Shrek Franchise’s 16 Best Pop Culture References

Shrek broke the mold by reversing a centuries-old trope: it gave agency to ogres, who have always been slandered in fairy tales, providing a happy ending for everyone (except the villains, of course). In the process, the Shrek franchise alluded to a vast number of films, TV shows, celebrities, and even commercials.

RELATED: 10 Continuity Errors In The Shrek Franchise

Almost nothing was spared by the writers of the film franchise: Ex-Lax, The Beatles, McDonald’s, NYC, Hollywood, Spider-Man, Indiana Jones, Justin Timberlake, even parodying various aspects of Disney movies.

Updated on August 26th, 2021 by Jessica Jalali: A major thing that made the original Shrek movie so ahead of its time was the use of pop culture references. It encouraged a trend in animated movies that can still be seen in the references and innuendos of animated films of the present.  Using more adult jokes and references has helped elevate the animation genre to not be seen as something kid-exclusive, but instead as a more inclusive genre that is enjoyable for people of all ages. The best pop culture references in the Shrek franchise all deserve a shoutout.


16 When Duloc Copies It’s A Small World

Split image of the dolls singing the Duloc song in Shrek next to dolls from the It's A Small World ride

When Shrek and Donkey arrive in Duloc in the first Shrek movie, they come to a welcome stand that unravels to show figurines singing an annoyingly catchy song in the style of Disney’s iconic “It’s a Small World” ride.

The sickly sweet musical display is a hilarious contrast to Shrek and Donkey’s sarcastic disposition and Shrek’s overall cynical outlook. The bewildered look on Shrek and Donkey’s faces at the end of the musical welcoming shows their disillusioned outlooks with Donkey’s enthusiastic exclamations at the end showing that, while Donkey is as disenchanted as Shrek at times, he’s actually quite the softie.

15 When The Magic Mirror Mimics The Dating Game

Split image of Shrek imitating The Dating Game next to female contestants on the show

When Lord Farquad is presented with his choices for a potential wife, the Magic Mirror presents the choices in the same fashion as the iconic game show The Dating Game.

The groovy background music of the show, distinctive backdrop, and the usage of The Dating Game‘s famous catchphrase, “Bachelorette #1, Bachelorette #2, or Bachelorette #3”, makes it a clear call back to the game show and a simple gag that both kids and adults can enjoy.

14 When Shrek Takes Part In A WWE-Style Wrestling Match

Split image of Shrek standing in the wrestling ring corner next to John Cena doing the same at WWE Raw

To determine who will be the knight sent on the quest to rescue Princess Fiona, a tournament is used as the test to see who is the bravest, until Shrek and Donkey show up. Then the rules of the game are changed so that whoever can kill Shrek will be the chosen knight.

RELATED: Shrek’s Enemies, Ranked By Power

What ensues is an all-out WWE wrestling-type brawl. Shrek pile drives, ankle locks, and tombstones someone based on the move by the iconic WWE wrestler The Undertaker. Shrek even uses a chair as a weapon, a well-known wrestling trope seen in the WWE and beyond.

13 When Shrek Referenced Babe

Split image of Shrek patting Donkey and referencing Babe next to Babe and Arthur Hoggett

Shrek borrows from the ridiculously cute and whimsical pig movie Babe (1995) when he references the film in the line “That’ll do, Donkey. That’ll do.” The famous line “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” comes from the kids classic.

Though it’s a movie reference, Shrek actually means it when he says it. He’d just coerced Donkey into conquering his fear of crossing the bridge over the lava around Fiona’s castle, and the statement has some genuine affection behind it, even if it’s a little sarcastic.

12 When Fiona Shows Off Her Bullet Time Martial Skills

Split image of Fiona from Shrek and Trinity from The Matrix doing the same kick move

In many ways, Fiona is like a real classic Disney princess in the original Shrek, waiting all alone in her tower for her prince to come and rescue her. The fact of the matter, however, is that Fiona can handle herself rather well.

When Monsieur Hood–a blatant satire of Robin Hood–drags Fiona away, she knocks him out with a single kick before proceeding to take out all his Merrymen with effortless grace. At one point in the fight, she pauses in mid-air, arms splayed out in a perfect mirroring of Trinity’s fight during the opening sequence of The Matrix (1999).

11 When Fiona Sang Like Snow White

Split image of Fiona singing in Shrek next to Snow White singing to a bird

Disney’s first animated full-length feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), is referenced in the original Shrek movie when Fiona is in the forest and sings to the animals and goes tit-for-tat with a bluebird.

The playful competition between Fiona and the bluebird goes too far though when the bird attempts to copy Fiona’s very high-pitched, long note, making itself explode. Shrek pokes fun at the Disney version of the Brothers Grimm princess by calling back to Snow White’s playful musical relationship with the animals and having Princess Fiona’s musical moment become morbidly humourous, cementing the sometimes dark wit of the movie.

10 When The Gingerbread Man looks and sounds like Tiny Tim

Split image of the Gingerbread Man with a candy cane crutch in Shrek and Tiny Tim from Dickensian

Complete with a crutch–albeit a candy cane one–Gingy is a playful homage to the innocent Tiny Tim of Charles Dickens’s holiday classic A Christmas Carol. This is shown most strongly at the end of the film when the Gingerbread Man says “God bless us, everyone.”

RELATED: 5 Characters From Shrek We’d Totally Hang Out With (& 5 Who Need To Get Out Of Our Swamp)

The line is one of the most famous associated with the iconic story and appears in just about every adaptation of A Christmas Carol. In Shrek, it hammers in just how lovable the fan-favorite character is.

9 When Pinocchio Parodies Mission: Impossible

Split image of Pinocchio from Shrek and Ethan Hunt from Mission: Impossible hanging in the same position

When Shrek, Donkey, and Puss in Boots are trapped, it’s up to Pinocchio and Gingy to save them. Being a puppet, Pinocchio has the ability to let himself down to where the trapped characters are with his strings.

This scene is a recreation of an iconic scene starring Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible (1996), in which he does the Cable Drop using a set of wires, thereby avoiding the pressure-sensitive detectors on the floor.

8 When Shrek and Shrek 2 Both Referenced Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Split image of the bridge breaking in Shrek, Indiana Jones on the bridge in Temple of Doom and Puss in Shrek 2

The sequel to the quintessential adventure movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) may not be as adored as its predecessor but it still got a lot of things right. Temple of Doom has proven to be just as influential as the first film in the franchise. It’s alluded to in the first Shrek movie when the rope bridge around Fiona’s castle breaks during the escape.

The movie was referenced again in the sequel when Puss in Boots snatches his hat from underneath a closing door, mimicking the iconic move made by Indy in Temple of Doom.

7 When Puss In Boots Became A Chestburster

Split image of Puss from Shrek reenacting the chestburster scene from Alien next to the xenomorph baby

Puss in Boots, himself a tribute to Zorro and the fairy tale of the same name, is hired by King Harold to take care of the ogre problem “troubling” his daughter. At first sight, Shrek thinks he’s an adorable little kitty, beckoning him over. However, he soon realizes his mistake when Puss attacks him, claws extended, causing Shrek to scream and flail about.

RELATED: 10 Best Movie & TV Show References To Ridley Scott’s Alien

Puss then enters Shrek’s clothing, scrambling all over his body before bursting out of his tunic in a spectacular reference to the chestburster scene in Alien (1979) where a Xenomorph larva horrifically emerges from Kane’s rib cage, killing him in the process.

6 When Queen Lillian Accidentally Quotes Seinfeld

Split image of Queen Lillian from Shrek and Jerry and George from Seinfeld

During Shrek and Fiona’s first dinner with her parents, tensions are running high, with King Harold making snide remarks about Shrek’s heritage (“his type,” as he refers to it). He asks Shrek what kind of grandchildren he could expect from the latter’s union with Fiona, to which Shrek angrily responds, “Ogres! Yes!”

Queen Lillian decides to defuse the situation by adding “Not that there’s anything wrong with that”, which is a line used in Seinfeld by Jerry and George as a way to avoid being seen as homophobic, while still making it clear that they themselves aren’t gay. This line in both contexts is still ultimately problematic, though.

5 When Fiona Becomes Marilyn Monroe

Split image of Fiona from Shrek copying the Marilyn Monroe dress photo pictured next to it

The Fairy Godmother introduces herself to Fiona by barging into her room and charming her furniture to fly around while singing. In her bid to convince Fiona that she deserves a human prince, she forces her into a shiny gold dress, which she then causes to fly up above Fiona’s knees.

This is a reference to The Seven Year Itch (1955), where Marilyn Monroe’s dress flies up while standing over a subway grate, one of the most iconic Hollywood images ever.

4 When Puss In Boots Does A Move From Flashdance

Split image of Puss from Shrek recreating the water splash moment from Flashdance

Puss in Boots is a classic diva, given his penchant for theatrics. While singing a rendition of Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, he leans back in a chair and tugs on a chain, causing a shower of water to fall on him. Alex Owens executes the same move in Flashdance (1983) as part of her performance in the local cabaret.

This shot is so iconic that it has been parodied several times, for instance, in Deadpool 2 (2018), Deadpool has a shower of bullet casings being poured over him.

3 When Pinocchio Channels Michael Jackson

Split image of Pinocchio from Shrek copying michael Jackson doing the same dance move

Pinocchio may not actually be a real boy (to his constant chagrin), but he most certainly is a phenomenal dancer. During the “Livin’ La Vida Loca” number, Pinocchio shows everyone how to move like The King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.

He does the moonwalk, the crotch grab, and, if the volume is loud enough, one can hear a plaintive “Oooh” coming from his mouth, although it is mostly drowned out by the band.

2 When Fiona’s Wedding Ring Alluded To The One Ring

Split image of Fiona's glowing wedding ring from Shrek and the glowing Ring of Power from The Lord of the Rings

In Shrek 2, a gnome is shown removing a red-hot ring from the fire, carefully handing it to Shrek, so he can give it to Fiona. However, Shrek loses his grip over it, sending it flying into the air and consequently landing on Fiona’s finger as the audience is shown it from a topdown perspective.

This is an exact copy of the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) where Frodo stumbles over a stranger’s foot, with the One Ring landing on his finger. In fact, the parody continues further when Fiona’s ring glows with a warm “I Love You,” a sweet allusion to the Black Speech of Mordor engraved on the Ring.

1 When Shrek And Fiona Perform A Cinematic Hat-trick

Split image of Shrek kissing Fiona on the beach, Shrek kissing a Mermaid on the beach and shark in the water from Shrek

In one short scene, Shrek spoofs three movies. During the honeymoon sequence, Shrek and Fiona are seen kissing on the beach as a wave washes over them, a reference to From Here To Eternity (1955). When the wave ebbs, Fiona is gone and Shrek is making out with a mermaid who is a dead ringer for Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989).

In a rage, Fiona flings the mermaid back into the sea, where she is instantly eaten by two sharks, one of which bears a striking resemblance to the shark from the famous poster for Jaws (1975).

NEXT: Everything We Know About Shrek 5 So Far

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