"I'll be damned. Tatooine."
—Phil Coulson's only reaction to waking up on an alien planet in "Maveth".note
- Several to Harry Potter:
- In the pilot, while arguing about the effectiveness of Fitz's "Night-Night" gun, Simmons says that "I'm not Hermione! I can't create instant paralysis with that!" The latter part of the comment is a reference to the scene where Hermione went Petrificus Totalus on Neville. Mind you, Simmons' appearance seem to deliberately invoke the image of Hermione from the movies on a regular basis.
- Dr. Hall, the Villain of the Week in episode 3, is more or less an Actor Allusion to Ian Hart's role in the film adaptation as Professor Quirrell.
- In "Repairs", when Skye gets frustrated with FitzSimmons not letting her touch anything in their lab because she hasn't taken the required classes, she refers to the Academy as "your stupid S.H.I.E.L.D. Hogwarts" in retaliation.
- In "...Ye Who Enter Here", Skye refers to what the Obelisk can do as something out of Harry Potter.
- "Love in the Time of HYDRA" has Hunter refer to the "real" SHIELD as "Hufflepuff".
- "With great power comes..." Said long before Marvel Studios got to use Spider-Man in the setting.
- Skye compares May to the T-1000 in "Repairs".
- "Have you ever killed anyone?" "Yes, a few! ...High-risk targets, but they were all terrible people!"
- Fitz-Simmons' little robots are named after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- Mike's Motive Rant at the end of the pilot is basically Michael Douglas' speech from the end of Falling Down modified for a world with superheroes.
- Fitz-Simmons are apparently Minecraft players: Skye's ex-boyfriend Miles fails their personal test of character only when they learn he modded the game specifically to play as a Zombie Pigman.
- This being a Joss Whedon project, there's a few subtler ones to Firefly/Serenity:
- In "0-8-4", Ward uses a staff weapon that releases a head-high shock wave of energy when it's shoved into the ground; it's almost the exact same move and effect as the one Simon uses to rescue River in the opening of Serenity. It even has a component that launches into the air and produces the wave.
- "The Hub" ends with two of the heroes surrounded by bad guys, with no way to escape, and facing certain death. They're rescued by their ship appearing out of nowhere and hovering to pick them up.
- In "The Magical Place", pay attention to the logo on the security guards uniforms. It's the same as the logo of the private security firm from Serenity.
- In "T.R.A.C.K.S.", the team attempted to pull off "The Train Job".
- In "The Only Light in the Darkness", Fitz is given the desert island scenario question on the polygraph test (he's asked what he'd hope/expect to find if he was washed up on a desert island alone with a sealed crate). He answers "Simmons", recalling the iconic Girl in a Box reveal from the Firefly pilot episode.
- On the subject of the above, the fact that on both shows, the Adorkable Gadgeteer Genius of the crew has a desperately unrequited crush on The Medic, who is at best clueless about it, at worst often cold and distant.
- Additionally, there's the entire layout and design of The Bus. The design seems exactly like something you'd expect to evolve into a Firefly-class ship, with the thrusters the same, the bay the same, the whole idea of staircases in the bay the same, and generally, it's a far more fancy, but plane-y precursor to the Firefly-class ships of Firefly.
- A very easy-to-miss one. In his first appearance, Col. Glenn Talbot says "you and your men can be on your merry", a paraphrase of one of Mal's lines from "Serenity"
- Another subtle one to the Whedonverse: Simmons's crush on Mike Peterson only lasts an episode, but it serves as an oblique Shout Out to Angel: in both shows, a socially awkward genius (who happens to be a young, brunette woman) develops a crush on a character played by J. August Richards.
- A few references to Doctor Who:
- One scene in "The Hub" showing the interior of Fitz's bunk on the Bus reveals he's personalized it a bit with a miniature TARDIS. This wasn't a random shoutout either: the episode aired a couple weeks before the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and in fact this was also done on several British television programs in tribute, including an episode of Holby City that aired the same day as the SHIELD episode.
- When Simmons is put through a polygraph test in "The Only Light in the Darkness", one of the questions is what she'd hope to find if she was washed up alone on a desert island with only a single, sealed crate. Her answer, after a bit of thought, is the TARDIS.
- The Who references obliquely count as additional Marvel references, too, as Marvel published a Doctor Who comic strip in the UK for many years and the Whoniverse even has its own official Marvel Universe number (Earth 5556).
- In "The Things We Bury", Skye runs down the code names for Coulson, Triplett, and Fitz during their mission. One of them (almost certainly Fitz) has apparently chosen "Time Lord".
- In "4,722 Hours", the video Simmons plays on her phone of team Coulson celebrating her birthday shows a cake in the shape of a TARDIS.
- Come the Agents of HYDRA leg of Season 4, a villain in the service of HYDRA is unsettlingly referred to as "the Doctor", who turns out to be Fitz, now a Torture Technician and Soft-Spoken Sadist. Personality-wise, the HYDRA-universe Fitz probably has more in common with either the Master or the Valeyard.
- In Coulson's dream-flashback to Tahiti in "The Well", he and his masseuse have an exchange reminiscent of Dollhouse:
Coulson: Did I fall asleep?
Masseuse: For a little while...
- S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy's top computer science ace is "Cally Hannigan", presumably an appreciative nod to Alyson (Aly) Hannigan, who played computer nerd extraordinaire Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course.
- In "The End of the Beginning", FitzSimmons have a friendly disagreement as to who gets to be Holmes and who's stuck being Watson. (They both see themselves as Holmes, naturally.)
- At one point, Skye compares Captain America to "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski, and becomes frustrated when no one else gets it.
- The warehouse scene in "Shadows" has many parallels to the warehouse from the Indiana Jones franchise. At the beginning of the episode, the crates the Howling Commandos seized from HYDRA have the "palm tree and swastika" seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark, though the location given is far from the tropics.
- Lance mentions a line from Star Wars in "Shadows" when he asks whether Garrett went to the "dark side", except Coulson added that he went nuts as well.
Coulson: Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi! You're my only hope!
- Also referenced in "Eye Spy" when Coulson sounds a lot like Obi-Wan talking about how he lost Vader to the Dark Side. The music even sounds close. Skye references it directly in case you missed the not very subtle reference.
- Bobbi is later seen in a Star Wars t-shirt.
- And Billy Koening has a closet full of Star Wars clothing.
- Then you have Cal. Evil for much of the second season and utterly, blindly loyal to the person who turns out to be the real Big Bad. In the end, to save his child, grabs said Big Bad and lifts them just like Vader did to the Emperor. Not to toss them into a shaft, though; to give them a broken spine.
- In "Ascension," Coulson fulfills another one of his geeky fantasies by quoting Princess Leia via hologram:
- Coulson's classic Corvette "Lola" turns out to have machine guns hidden behind the headlights, much like a certain other spy's Aston Martin DB 5.
- Even HYDRA's getting in on it - in "Making Friends and Influencing People", when Agent 33 is being brainwashed:
Mr. Whitehall: Mr. Bakshi, let's go again.
Mr. Bakshi: Where do we start?
Mr. Whitehall: At the beginning! Like the song says - a very good place to start.
- This one is doubly funny once we learn Whitehall was an actual World War II German Nazi, so it's ironic that he would enjoy that play.
- In "A Hen in the Wolf House" Skye realises that Hunter has been drinking fairly heavily during the mission. When he argues that he had to do so in order to maintain his persona, she snarks that he must be undercover as Ron Burgundy.
- Skye attempts to insult Hunter's British accent by nicknaming him Trainspotting. (Hunter immediately shoots this down by exasperatedly pointing out that Trainspotting is Scottish, whereas he's English.)
- Kyle MacLachlan portraying a man who lost his wife, forced to abandon his children, and was thrown into a one-man obsessive mission? Not unlike the eventual fate of Dune's Paul Atreides, whom he portrayed in the David Lynch adaptation.
- To Star Trek:
- In "The Things we Bury", the bus decloaks when landing in Hawaii, using the same sound effect of Klingon and Romulan cloaking devices in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- The Kree monolith aboard Agent Gonzales' aircraft carrier, the Iliad, is behind door 47.
- The Framework that features prominently in the fourth season is essentially the series' equivalent to Star Trek's Mirror Universe.
- In "One of Us" Coulson is heard talking to Agent Broyles, sharing a name with a character from Fringe, another show featuring strange science, alternate worlds, and people with "gifts".
- The restaurant holdup at the start of "Love in the Time of HYDRA" sort of resembles Pulp Fiction.
- In "One Door Closes", Skye notes that she regrets having watched Paranormal Activity before she was placed in an isolated cabin at night.
- The Bus's flight number was "SHIELD 616". 616 happens to be the multiversal number of the mainstream Marvel Comics universe.
- Genius Bonus: The bus gets destroyed in "The Dirty Half-Dozen", just before the same thing happens to the continuity of the same number.
- Skye refers to Raina's prickly appearance by snarking "I thought [your superpower] was spinning really fast to collect gold rings".
- Said appearance seems to be inspired by the similar prickly monster girl Shuna Sassi from Nightbreed.
- It's hard not to look at this Oner action sequence with Skye and not think the fighting style was directly influenced by John Wick.
- When Cal finally takes his serum, he falls ill and drops behind a table, popping back up onscreen having fully changed into a deformed monster. This is a shout out to the classic trick used to obscure Jekyll's transformation in the old Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movies - a double reference, as Cal's supervillain identity in the comics is Mr. Hyde.
- After a Speak of the Devil moment in "The Dirty-Half Dozen", Skye likens Ward to Candyman
- In "Devils We Know", Mack compares Lash to a great white shark.
Mac: It's like a great white shark. Built to eat, sleep—
Daisy: And kill.
Mac: I was going to say "make little baby sharks", but then Jaws was probably twenty years before you were born.note
- In "4,722 Hours" Will's astronaut crew are all named after other fictional astronauts: Austin for Col. Steve Austin in The Six Million Dollar Man, Brubaker for Col. Brubaker in Capricorn One and Taylor for Col. Taylor in Planet of the Apes.
- The year they were sent to the mysterious planet might not be a 2001: A Space Odyssey reference by itself, but combined with the portal artifact that leads there being called the Monolith, it's got to be deliberate.
- Season 3's Advanced Threat Containment Unit (ATCU) sure sounds similar, at least in name if not in function, to the Asset Containment Unit.
- In "Many Heads, One Tale,":
- Hunter's hoodie and attitude while pretending to be a Boxed Crook hacker makes him very similar to Elliot Alderson in Mr. Robot.
- The telekinetic Inhuman, R. Giyera, first demonstrates his powers to Bobbi and Hunter by levitating two discarded guns in the air, and firing them without ever touching them.
- In "Closure", Ward tells a captured Simmons that her more bold and Action Survivor mentality gives him a "Furiosa-vibe".
- Mack proves he still has the nicknaming down when he dubs the Inhuman team the 'Power Rangers' in their Storming the Castle moment in Maveth.
- Coulson notes that the alien planet resembles Tatooine, complete with two moons.
- In "Spacetime", Fitz uses an analogy of 2D beings on a series of sheets of paper to explain that time is fixed. Earlier, there was a minor character named Edwin Abbot, after the author of Flatland.
- Coulson refers to The Terminator's Stable Time Loop when trying to get his head round the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. And then he declares Lincoln is off the team for not having seen the film.
- Dwight Frye is the name of the actor who played The Renfield in Universal's Dracula.
- In "The Ghost," a car enthusiast tells Daisy that Dodge Chargers are hard to find these days because so many of them were wrecked during the filming of The Dukes of Hazzard and The Fast and the Furious.
- In "Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire," there are several very deliberate Overwatch references, confirmed by the writer to have been very intentional.
- Specifically, James quotes Junkrat, while Jemma more subtly channels Tracer.
- In "The Laws of Inferno Dynamics", Coulson wonders if Aida dreams of electric sheep.
- "Broken Promises" reveals that Mack and Elena are both fans of the Killer Robot genre:
- In the climax of "Self Control", LMD May says she's "all phantom limbs, but that doesn't make the pain less real". Bonus points for actually being a doppleganger.
- In "Identity and Change":
- Framework Fitz murders an innocent (albeit someone he didn't know) woman in cold blood to prove his loyalty to the dark side, and an onlooking Simmons reacts with a Big "NO!". Sound familiar?
- Ophelia's visiting Radcliffe mirrors Director Krennic's visiting Galen Erso. It even ends with the death of Radcliffe's girlfriend, as it did Galen's wife.