Death Proof movie references guide

From The Quentin Tarantino Archives

The Ultimate Death Proof Movie References Guide is a community effort to list all films and other media that have directly or indirectly influenced Death Proof, and all films and other media that are referenced to in the film.

Film References


  • The original title for Death Proof that pops up for about a second in the opening credits is "Quentin Tarantino's Thunder Bolt". Why? Many Grindhouse era films had different titles when they were released. For example, the kung fu classic Master of the Flying Guillotine had two titles at the opening of the film (Master of The Flying Guillotine and One Armed Boxer Vs The Flying Guillotine). Projectionists would also use alternate black leader title cards (like the Death Proof one) when showing films. The title "Thunder Bolt" is patterned after the opening logo for the AIP hot rod movie Thunder Alley.

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  • Jungle Julia has a poster for the 1970 film Soldier Blue on the wall of her apartment and of Paranoia by Umberto Lenzi
  • Quentin Tarantino stated he came up with the idea of Death Proof when he was talking to a friend about buying a car. Tarantino wanted to buy a Volvo because he "didn't want to die in some auto accident like the one in "Pulp Fiction (1994)." In regards to the safety of the car, his friend had said, "Well, you could take any car and give it to a stunt team, and for $10,000 or $15,000, they can death-proof it for you." The "death proof" car concept stuck in QTs mind for years until he took that idea and used it for Death Proof. After hearing this story, Robert Rodriguez suggested he call the film "Death Proof".

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  • Stuntman Mike's death proof cars (70s Chevy Nova/70s Dodge Charger) feature a replica of the "Rubber Duck" icon hood ornament which was first used in the Sam Peckinpah action film Convoy (1978) on Rubber Duck's (Kris Kristofferson) truck.

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  • The license plate numbers on Stuntman Mike's cars (JJZ-109 and 938-DAN) are references to license plate numbers on the cars in the films Bullitt (1968) and Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974). Both films featured awesome car chases.

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  • Kim's yellow and black car (The Bride's iconic Kill Bill colors) in Death Proof is a Ford Mustang Mach I. The same model in Alexandre Aja's High Tension and as "Eleanor" in the original 1974 car film Gone in 60 Seconds which Kim makes a reference to in Death Proof during the diner scene. QT also referenced it in Kill Bill: Volume 1 (the sunglasses lined dashboard of Sheriff Earl McGraw's police car).

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  • Marcy is wearing a t-shirt that reads "L'ULTIMO BUSCADERO", this is the Italian title for the Sam Peckinpah film Junior Bonner (1972).

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  • Shanna is wearing an Alamo Drafthouse t-shirt featuring Tura Satana's character from "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!" with the words BADASS CINEMA underneath it. Zoe, Kim and Abernathy become a tough girl gang at the end of Death Proof. This was inspired by the original badass babe trio of Varla, Billie and Rosie from Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Russ Meyer is also one of the directors QT thanks in the end credits.

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  • In the beginning of Death Proof, Stuntman Mike is wearing an old fashioned satin racing jacket just like many real stuntmen would wear in the 70s and 80s. One of the advertisement patches sewed on his jacket is for ICY HOT, a pain relieving rub. He is also referred to as "ICY HOT" after Pam notices the logo on his jacket.

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  • Stuntman Mike is wearing the same wristwatch as Kowalski in Vanishing Point.
  • In Death Proof, Kurt Russell's character introduces himself as Stuntman Mike McKay. Dov and Omar insult Stuntman Mike by making a reference to BJ and the Bear a 70's TV show about a trucker with a monkey. BJ's last name in the show was McKay. Dov also sings a little of the theme from the Burt Reynolds film Smokey and The Bandit while making fun of Stuntman Mike.

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  • Stuntman Mike's methods of taking photos of the girls and collecting items they have touched before he kills them is inspired by the killers in giallo films. The sequence when Mike is snapping photos of Zoe & Co (and we see it through the camera lense) is a direct recreation of the opening sequence of Dario Argento's debut giallo classic The Bird With The Crystal Plumage. Music from that film also is playing over the scene.

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  • Tarantino makes more references to Burt Reynolds and his films. In the scene where Stuntman Mike is trying to get a lapdance from Arlene, Jungle Julia calls him "Stuntman Burt" until he corrects her. After the lapdance, Jungle Julia calls Stuntman Mike "Cannonball Run", another Burt Reynolds film. Later on in the hospital, Sheriff Earl McGraw calls Stuntman Mike, Hooper, which was a Burt Reynolds film where he starred as a stuntman.
  • The two waitresses that do shots with the group at the Texas Chili Parlor are Lonestar Roller Derby girls "Venis Envy" from the "Putas del Fuego", and "Punky Bruiser" from the Holy Rollers.

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  • Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) uses a John Wayne type drawl voice in one scene. This is a reference to his own character Jack Burton in the 1986 John Carpenter action-comedy film Big Trouble In Little China. Kurt Russell patterned Jack Burton after The Duke in the film. Another visual reference: Jack Burton's iconic Asian themed cut off T-shirt from Big Trouble In Little China is hanging on the wall in the Texas Chili Parlor above Jungle Julia's table.

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  • Pulling the lever to switch on the headlights is a similar tricks David Arquette's character employs in Robert Rodriguez' Roadracers. The car crash sequence is also similar to a scene in the 60s B-film "Hot Rods To Hell.


  • Abernathy makes more than one reference to director John Ford with calling Jasper, "Tom Joad" (from The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and the place there at Tobacco Road (1941), another John Ford film.


  • Zoe, Kim, Abernathy and Lee mention the 1986 John Hughes teen dramedy Pretty In Pink. They also mention the original and remake of Gone in 60 Seconds (that Angelina Jolie bullshit).


  • Jungle Julia calls Stuntman Mike Zatoichi (the blind Japanese Samurai film character) when he doesnt see the huge Jungle Julia billboard right in front of him.
  • When Kim, Zoe and Abby are in the Dodge Challenger, ready to go on their "test drive", they pull up by Lee and Abby says, "Hey good looking, we'll be back later for YOU!" This was a line in a commercial for a cheesy Ronco product, Mr. Microphone, in the '70s.
  • In the uncut version of Death Proof, Abernathy's cell phone ring is Bernard Herrmann's theme from the film Twisted Nerve (1968). This is also a reference to Kill Bill: Volume 1. The scene also has Abernathy buying the Allure Magazine with Lee in it which will later be used in the scene where they convince Jasper to let them test drive the Challenger.
  • One of the television shows Stuntman Mike mentions as working on was The Virginian. Kurt Russell appeared twice on the show as a kid.
  • In the Uncut Version of Death Proof, Kim says she has to pee while at a liquor store. Lee and Abernathy respond "Thats a little more information then we needed to know." This is a reference back to Pulp Fiction (1994) where Mia Wallace says this to Vincent Vega.
  • In the uncut version of Death Proof, there is a scene where Stuntman Mike feels Abernathy's feet while she is asleep in the car and Lee isn't paying attention. When she wakes up from it, he pretends he just touched them by accident as he was walking by going to his car. Later when he attacks the girls driving the challenger, this explains how Abernathy is the only person who recognizes him from earlier.
  • Abernathy mentions she had a thing for a director named Cecil Evans. Cecil Evans is the name of a transportation coordinator for films in Austin, Texas.

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  • Stuntman Mike crashes through a sign for the films Wolf Creek and Scary Movie 4.


  • The final freeze frame shot with fanfare in Death Proof is inspired by many old school Shaw Brothers kung fu films which would end in a similar manner.
  • Towards the end of Death Proof the girls smash through a boat during their pursuit of Stuntman Mike - this also happens during the epic car chase at the end of Gone in 60 Seconds (the original obviously)

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  • When Stuntman Mike is in the hospital, Sheriff Earl McGraw refers to him as 'Frankenstein' - this is a reference to David Carradine's character in Death Race 2000 , which features people in souped up cars deliberately killing pedestrians to earn points in a bloodthirsty futuristic competition. Death Proof's screenplay is dedicated to Charles B. Griffith, the screenwriter of Death Race 2000.
  • TV actors referenced: Gary Clarke, Robert Urich, Lee Majors. TV Shows: The Virginian, High Chapparal, Vega$, Gavilan.
  • Some of the car chase scenes look inspired by The Man from Hong Kong, a 1975 Ozploitation-Hong Kong action film with Jimmy Wang Yu and George Lazenby

References to Rodriguez/Tarantino films

  • Kill Bill: Kim's car's colors (yellow and black stripes) are also a reference to the Game Of Death tracksuit The Bride wears in Kill Bill Vol 1.
  • Tarantino's traditional trunk shot is replaced by one looking up from under the hood.

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  • Kill Bill The team name that appears on Lee's cheerleader uniform is Vipers
  • The name LUCAI (as in Jungle Julia Lucai) is actually the name of QT's former personal assistant Victoria Lucai (who appears in Full Tilt Boogie).


  • The actor (Michael Bacall) who played a mailman in the Tarantino directed double episode "Grave Danger" of CSI has a small role, Omar, in the bar scene.

Music References

  • Check out the complete track listing on Warren's jukebox "Amy": HERE
  • Music/musicians referenced in the film: Stax, Redbird, Decca record labels, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, Pete Townshend, The Who.
  • "The Last Race" by Jack Nitzsche is from the the 1965 science fiction film Village of The Giants in which teens eat a substance and grow to be 30 feet tall. If you look closely during the opening credits of Death Proof, Jungle Julia almost appears to be a giant as she looks out the window when Arlene and Shanna arrive at her apartment.
  • "Paranoia Prima" is from the 1971 Italian giallo-thriller The Cat O' Nine Tails, directed by Dario Argento.


  • "Sally and Jack" by Pino Donaggio is from the 1981 thriller Blow Out, Directed by Brian DePalma. This is one of Tarantino's Top 3 favorite films.
  • A cover "Staggolee" can be heard in Death Proof. The band performing it, Pacific Gas & Electric, has this song and others featured in 1970's Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon, directed by Otto Preminger.
  • In the film, Jungle Julia requests the 60's song "Hold Tight" by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. In a (likely deliberate) error, she mispronounces Mick as Mitch.
  • "It's So Easy" by Willy DeVille was first featured in the controversial 1980 film Cruising starring Al Pacino. The film revolves around an undercover cop who goes inside NYCs gay bar scene to find a killer. This track was not featured in the theatrical release of Death Proof but appears in the full cut on the DVD.
  • In the Texas Chili Parlor in the film, there is a sign that says "CASH ONLY" with the famous photo of Johnny Cash giving the finger. There are also a poster of Johnny Cash is in the bar and a Johnny Cash action figure/bobblehead at the store.
  • Riot in Thunder Alley by Eddie Beram was first featured in the 1967 AIP teen hot rod film Thunder Alley.
  • "Chick Habit" by April March was first featured in the 1999 film But I'm A Cheerleader. In Death Proof, Lee is dressed in a cheerleader uniform.

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  • Stuntman Mike's car is black with a skull and crossbones on it. The same logo is used by a rockband called "Death by Stereo".