One of the surest ways that the Marvel Cinematic Universe changed movies forever was popularizing the shared universe. In brief, this meant that seemingly separate movies and even TV shows were part of a larger world. These otherwise stand-alone movies were either set in the same place or time, and they shared characters.
While the MCU is undoubtedly the most famous shared universe, it’s not the first. This trend has arguably been going on for as long as movies were being made. Some shared universes may surprise fans because neither viewers nor the filmmakers realized that the films were part of something larger.
Updated by Angelo Delos Trinos on December 21, 2022: Whether intentional or a happy accident cinematic crossovers are a welcomed phenomenon by dedicated fans. These crossovers are more common than audiences might think. As a result, we’ve updated this list to include more in universe collaborations.
15/15 Lights Out And Shazam! Were United By The Same Social Worker
Despite its horror influences and director David F. Sandberg’s presence, Shazam! is the last movie anyone expects to exist in the same universe as Lights Out. However, this is very much the case thanks to Emma Glover: the social worker who helped Martin and Billy Batson in Lights Out and Shazam!, respectively.
Sandberg confirmed in a Tweet that Andi Osho portrayed Glover in both movies. Not only did this mean that the movies occurred in the same realm, but it somewhat explained everything about Diana from Lights Out. Diana coming back from the dead is more plausible in a world where magic and the Seven Deadly Sins exist.
When Topper Harley and his team ventured into Iraq to free prisoners in Hot Shots! Part Deux, they entered enemy territory in a boat. While Topper was busy thinking to himself, his inner monologue was interrupted by the captain of a passing patrol boat. This other captain was Benjamin L. Willard, Apocalypse Now’s protagonist.
In effect, this joke bridged the Vietnam War parodyto its nightmarish and straightforward counterpart. Additionally, the gag revealed that the characters know they’re actors. Topper (Charlie Sheen) and Willard (Martin Sheen) even complimented the other for a killer performance in Wall Street.
13/15 A Million Ways To Die In The West Took Place In The Same Era That Back To The Future III And Django Unchained Did
A Million Ways to Die in the West featured a bunch of gags set in the old West, but one of the most unexpected ones involved Doc Brown from Back to the Future. When Albert noticed some strange noises and sparks coming from a barn, he happened upon Doc Brown repairing the DeLorean time machine.
A Million Ways to Die in the West was also connected to Django Unchained. Django had a nameless cameo, but he was credited as “Django Freeman.” Since A Million Ways to Die in the West and Back to the Futuretook place between 1882 and 1885, it makes sense that Django would be a free man after his movie’s 1850s setting.
12/15 The Child’s Play Series Bridged Five Slasher Series In One Scene
The slasher icons of the ’80s are almost always lumped together in fan works or belated tie-in material, but few actually shared the screen together. A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday The 13th got the most well-known slasher crossover in Freddy Vs. Jason, but Child’s Play has the broadest crossover yet.
In Bride of Chucky, Chucky’s wife Tiffany bribed a cop to get the cursed Good Guy doll for her. Before the cop got Chucky, he passed by Freddy Kruger’s glove, Leatherface’s chainsaw, plus Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers’ masks in storage. This brief shout-out effectively tied Child’s Play to its four most iconic contemporaries.
11/15 Neil Blomkamp’s Movies Created A Singular Corporate Dystopia
Writer/director Neil Blomkamp may not have his own franchise, but his sci-fi movies were so interconnected that they formed a de facto shared universe. Chappie, District 9, and Elysium were connected by the Tetravaal conglomerate: the morally dubious company at the center of Chappie.
Chappie focused on Tetravaal’s robotics division. The logos for Tetravaal’s security divisions could be spotted in the found footage hit District 9. Elysium’s security robots were not too dissimilar from those in Chappie, though they could be more advanced models. The only concern now is determining these movies’ canonical order.
Given writer/director Kevin Smith’s love of comics, it shouldn’t be too surprising to know that he made his own multiverse. The View Askewniverse comprises Smith’s most personal movies. What few may know is that the world of Clerks and Dogma is also home to Woodsboro, California: the site of the Ghostface killings.
In Scream 3, Jay and Silent Bob toured Sunrise Studios before bumping into Gale Weathers. However, Scream isn’t just a part of The View Askewniverse, but a movie in it as well. During Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the duo crashed the set of a faux Scream 4 where Ghostface was revealed to be their missing monkey.
9/15 Abbott And Costello Bumbled Into The Universal Classic Monsters’ Shared Universe
The Universal Classic Monsters have one of the first shared cinematic universes in history. Their world was solidified through crossovers like Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man or House of Dracula. What few remember or even want to forget is this shared universe’s attempted shift to horror-comedy.
Near the series’ end, the comic duo Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein’s monster, the Invisible Man, and the Mummy in comedies that weren’t too different from their usual hits. Though these movies were stand-alone, it also meant that Abbott and Costello’s goofy movies just so happened to occur in the Universal Monsters’ world.
8/15 Looney Tunes: Back In Action Shared Its Reality With Campy Sci-Fi Classics
Looney Tunes: Back in Action‘s most well-known joke was that Warner Brothers’ cartoon characters were “actors” working at the studio. This meant that Scooby-Doo and Shaggy were real people who disliked their live-action “biopic.” However, many viewers overlooked the movie’s connection to campy sci-fi gems.
In Area 52, the heroes were attacked by the likes of Doctor Who‘s Daleks, Forbidden Planet’s Robby the Robot, the titular Robot Monster, and more. A monochrome Dr. Bennell from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers even had a cameo. These campy movies were actual events in Back in Action’s reality.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers was hyped up as Who Framed Roger Rabbit‘s successor, but this legacy meant more than just Roger’s cameo or a reference to The Dip. In Chip ‘n Dale’s reality, cartoon characters were actors who starred in their respective shows. This industry included characters from inside and outside Disney’s canon.
Some non-Disney “actors” who were shown included B.O.B. from Monsters vs. Aliens, He-Man and Skeletor, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic‘s mane six, the scrapped Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog, and more. Countless more characters like PAW Patrol‘s first responders were mentioned, but not shown.
6/15 Some Of Quentin Tarantino’s Movies Formed An Alternate History
Minus Jackie Brown, all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies shared a universe. Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds created a more aggressive and media-obsessed history. This explained the realities of Reservoir Dogs and Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood. The latter even reenacted Basterd’s fiery ending in The 14 Fists of McCluskey.
Though their links weren’t explicit, Tarantino confirmed that some characters descended from the bloodlines of his historical movies’ casts. For example, Lee Donowitz from True Romance (which Tarantino wrote but didn’t direct) was directly related to Sgt. Donny Donowtiz (aka The Bear Jew) from Inglourious Basterds.
Another layer to Tarantino’s shared universe was that his more bombastic movies like Death Proof and Kill Bill were movies that the characters of Pulp Fiction either watched or made. For example, Kill Bill was basically the cinematic adaptation of “Fox Force Five;” the failed TV pilot Mia Wallace described in Pulp Fiction.
What’s more, Tarantino’s in-universe movies had their own reality that included Robert Rodriguez’s films. Their main link was Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, who appeared in From Dusk till Dawn, both parts of Grindhouse, and Kill Bill. Tarantino also confirmed that Rodriguez’s works premiered in his movies’ reality.
4/15 Freaky Is Set In The Same World Of The Happy Death Day Movies
Besides their morbid senses of humor and some thematic overlaps, Freaky and the Happy Death Day dulogy have little in common. But according to writer/director Christopher Landon, these movies are set in the same universe. As far as he’s concerned, Freaky’s Millie and Happy Death Day’s Tree are bound for a crossover.
Freaky and Happy Death Day never referenced or foreshadowed the other, but Landon believed that their worlds were set in the “same spiritual universe.” There are currently no sequels planned for either Freaky or Happy Death Day, but Landon expressed his openness to the possibility of making the crossover a reality.
3/15 John Hughes Confirmed That His Movies Were All Set In Shermer, Illinois
John Hughes’ iconic teen movies like The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Sixteen Candles have overlapping styles and themes, but they never crossed over. Their most overt connection was the town of Shermer, Illinois, but this was often dismissed as coincidence. However, Hughes canonized this as fact.
In a 1999 interview with Premiere, Hughes confirmed that he made his movies in one world, though he never got around to exploring it. Some links include: the teenagers all went to Shermer High School, Del Griffith of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was the neighbor of John Bender from The Breakfast Club, and more.
At first glance, The Lego Batman Movie was a parody of Batman and his long legacy. In truth, the movie may very well be the ultimate Batman story. In brief, every previous Batman movie happened beforehand because they were actual life events that the Lego characters experienced.
For example, Joker’s boat dilemma from The Dark Knightreally happened, and Alfred described the Batman movies’ habitual reboots as Bruce Wayne’s “phases.” More importantly, Batman and Joker’s lovers’ spat could only happen with decades of history between them. Their clashes across countless media informed theiremotional climax.
1/15 Happy Madison’s Comedies Formed An Adam Sandler Cinematic Universe
Adam Sandler almost always works with the same actors. It isn’t too surprising to see the same cast headline Happy Madison’s comedies. However, regular Sandler co-stars like Chris Rock, Kevin James, and Rob Schneider didn’t just have cameos. They reprised certain roles and unified the studio’s comedies in the process.
For example, Chubbs died in Happy Gilmore and then appeared in Heaven during Little Nicky. Bit players like The Townie and Ten Second Tom appeared across movies. Families like the Lamensoffs and O’Doyles were either mentioned, or had a member in the cast. A SandlerVerse exists, and it’s still going strong.