Sam and Dean Winchester in Supernatural are very familiar with pop culture, as the Shout-Out examples below should demonstrate. Actor Allusions are also listed. The massive amounts of shout outs is justified in-universe (though not explicitly). Their father, John Winchester, would often disappear for business, sometimes for weeks at a time, and in the wayward lifestyle they led as children, they don't have room for friends. So they sat in their motel rooms and watched TV.
Attempting to list every episode with a name that is a Shout-Out would be a very long and/or silly endeavor. Just assume that if it sounds like one, then it probably is.
See also the episode Recap page for more examples.
Trope Based Episodes | Tropes A to D | Tropes E to L | Tropes M to P | Tropes Q to Z | YMMV | Shout Outs
At the end of "The Usual Suspects," Dean wonders if Detective Ballard looks familiar to Sam, and adds that he's hungry and would like to eat some pea soup. Linda Blair, who plays Ballard in this episode, played Regan in The Exorcist (where special effects involved pea soup).
In "Hollywood Babylon," Sam does not want to tour the set of Gilmore Girls. Jared Padalecki played a regular character on that show.
In Season 1's "Shadow," Meg mentions that she went to California and met 'Chad Michael Something' (meaning Chad Michael Murray). Sam has no clue who she's talking about. Chad Michael Murray was another one of Jared Padalecki's co-stars in the aforementioned House of Wax (2005). They also starred together in Gilmore Girls.
And it happens again in the Season 7 episode "The Girl Next Door" where as Sam takes the keys to the Impala, a commercial for My Bloodiest Valentine "in hell-a-vision 3D" while Dean is sleeping on the couch.
Also in "The Girl Next Door" when Dean goes to the convenience store in search of clues as to where Sam went the cashier is wearing a Batman: Under the Red Hood t-shirt of which Jensen did a voice for.
Possibly unintentional, and although Misha Collins wasn't in it, there is a Season 5 episode called "Sam, Interrupted". Misha Collins played a small role in the movie Girl Interrupted.
Also in "Sam, Interrupted", and also possibly unintentional, there is a female orderly who is really a serial-killing Wraith named Karla. Misha Collins starred in a movie about a serial-killer called Karla.
In the episode "Unforgiven," Sam has a conversation with Brenna Dobbs where Sam is trying to explain to her that doesn't remember meeting her. She responds with "What is this, 'Days of Our Lives?'" Jensen Ackles was on this show for two years as the character Eric Brady.
In "Frontierland", Bobby Singer makes a reference to Deadwood. In the next episode, "The Man Who Would Be King", there is a demon counterpart to Bobby named Ellsworth. Bobby Singer is played by Jim Beaver, the same actor who played Whitney Ellsworth on Deadwood.
Bobby's lady friend Sherrif Mills shares a name with Jim Beaver's character from Harper's Island.
Matt Frewer in Season 5 portrayed the Horseman of the Apocalypse Pestilence, who was developing the Croatoan virus to cause an apocalyptic pandemic under the orders of Lucifer. Frewer had previously appeared in the TV Miniseries adaptation of The Stand, which was set in the aftermath of an apocalyptic pandemic, with Frewer portraying the "Trashcan Man" who was also a servant of a satanic figure and was also employed to help develop weapons.
In Season 5 Dean tells a pagan forest god, who is disguised as Paris Hilton, that he hasn't even seen House of Wax (2005). Dean then gets a side glance from Sam. Jared Padalecki, who plays Sam, had a supporting role in that movie.
In "LARP and the Real Girl", Charlie's second episode, when the brothers use a computer to look something up, the screen across from them is showing a scene from the Dragon Age 2 DLC "Mark of the Assassin", where Day voiced Talis, the titular assassin.
Dean refers to Castiel in 4x01 as a 'holy tax accountant'. Possibly accidental, but in 1999, Misha Collins acted in a tax video called 'No-brainers On Taxes'.
Usually Dean and usually a classic horror film, like The Shining. Most of their aliases are also shout outs to various rock musicians. In "The Usual Suspects", Sam has a hotel room booked under the name Jim Rockford. Dean also finds him in the Season 4 premiere by looking for "Wedge Antilles."
One episode has them use the fake names of Mr. Campbell and Mr. Raimi. The monster of the week eats souls. So, he'll swallow your soul!
And Mary's maiden name is Campbell.
The episode "Scarecrow" has a character calmly inform her niece that "The good of the many outweighs the good of the one", a phrase any fan of Star Trek would instantly recognize.
Fresh Blood gives us a vampire played by Mercedes McNab, who's best known role is a Vampire. Seriously, it had to be intentional. Although, she manages to be the exact opposite of Harmony and you actually feel bad when she dies (not a spoiler, she's dead less than 10 minutes after she pops up). In fact, she's the second person from Buffy to play a vampire (but the first one who was a vampire on both), the other was Amber Benson (Tara). So, Supernatural writers or casters, who's the fans?
Also, one of her victims describes her strength as "super PCP strength". Gangs on PCP was the standard Sunnydale excuse for vampires. Looks like that's one point for the writers.
Also, more Star Wars goodness includes Dean introducing himself as "agent Ford", while naming Sam "agent Hamill". Supposedly, he thinks Han Solo is so much more macho than Luke.
Even worse, in the very same episode, there's a kid named Lucas.
There's a ton for the fans too, with the immortal "Playthings" line "You're bossy. And short." and "No Rest For The Wicked" being filled with them, from the boys being called pretty to somebody falling on pie to a Television Without Pity shout-out with a fairy-tale about a dragon..
Explanation for the non-obsessed: Falling on pie became a common fan term for death around the end of Season 2. For example: "Sam didn't die, he just fell on pie!" In the final episode of Season 3, Lilith kills a kindly old guy who promptly falls face first into some delicious pie. Yum.
In "Death Takes a Holiday", Sam and Dean tell a ghost (a boy, about 12 years old) that he's dead. The ghost quips "Thanks, Haley Joel. I know I'm dead."
In "The End", Cas's harem setup seems remarkably similar to Gaius Baltar's.
That whole episode is one giant Shout-Out to 28 Days Later: Present Dean is Jim, Future Dean is Major Henry West, Castiel was Naomie Harris's character (though at first he seemed like Brendan Gleeson's), which must make Chuck the Prophet Hannah.
In "The Song Remains the Same", rogue angel Anna travels back to the 1970s to kill John and Mary Winchester. In one scene she kills John's boss and impersonates his voice on the phone to get John alone, much like another movie about an assassin sent back through time.
Word of God: Castiel doesn't just happen to dress like John Constantine, he was supposed to be John Constantine. Unfortunately adding him into the show's Verse was too complicated.
There are numerous shout-outs to Back to the Future in several episodes involving time travel. From "In The Beginning", a season four episode: Dean asks Castiel if angels have DeLoreans, and Dean and John both turn when someone calls "Hey, Winchester!". There were also some more subtle references, such as Azazel posing as a doctor named Brown.
"The Song Remains the Same", from season five, was originally supposed to be called "Back to the Future II." It seems to have been changed because they had issues acquiring the rights to use the title. This didn't stop Dean from saying Castiel was like a DeLorean without any plutonium.
Also, in "Time After Time", Dean is accidentally hurled back into the past and has one of the happiest moments of his life getting to meet and work with one of his idols, Eliot Ness of The Untouchables. In order to get out of it and give Sam the information he needs to take down the episode's villain, Chronos, he gets blissfully happy when he realizes he can "pull a Back To The Future II", Write Back to the Future and plant a letter in a floorboard of the house he knows Sam is staying in, alerting him to its existence by scrawling Sam's name on the baseboard it's hidden in.
"The French Mistake" is a Blazing Saddles reference. The title itself is a multi-level reference, initally suggesting the Mel Brooks joke of his Wild West universe utterly decimating the Fourth Wall. The second level of the title gag is specific to the fight spilling onto the real movie studio's lot, interrupting the filming of several other movies. One being a Busby Berkely-type 1930's musical filming a song called "The French Mistake", which is not even a slightly-veiled ode to guy-on-guy sex. Many fans of the show are of a younger demographic that have not seen Blazing Saddles, and therefore didn't get all the levels and the reference to the long-running Mistaken for Gay gag hidden the episode's title.
In season 4, there were two more Television Without Pity shout-outs; the psychic Pam had the same name as TWOP Barnes (the usual mod on the Supernatural forum) and there was also a demon-possessed nurse called Cindy, named after a substitute recapper on the site. But, this show being slightly twisted, both got put through hell and winded up dead. As of 5.09, there's a man called "Demian". He and his partner Barnes make it out alive.
In the Season 4 episode "Wishful Thinking," a little boy named Todd wishes on a cursed coin for super-strength, allowing him to beat up the bullies who pick on him. The bullies hide in an SUV and the little boy tips the SUV over, then throws back his head and bellows, "KNEEL BEFORE TODD!"
In at least one episode, the boys investigate supernatural goings on in the town of Rock Ridge, which was the setting of Mel Brooks western spoof Blazing Saddles.
"The Real Ghosthunters" had the two brothers attending a Supernatural Convention, and meeting some of the crazy fanbase. The episode title is, of course, a Shout-Out to The Real Ghostbusters.
...the episode title is "The Real Ghostbusters". Which is still a Shout-Out.
There is a whole episode in season 5, "Changing Channels" that is a giant Shout Out to the various TV shows, like Grey's Anatomy or CSI: Miami. In short: they are Trapped in TV Land by the Trickster and they're forced to live inside the various shows.
Dean: And there's Johnny Drake. But he's not even alive, he's a ghost in the mind of her.
Sam: So this show has ghosts? Why?
"Johnny Drake" is the copy of Grey's Anatomy character Denny Duquette, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the actor who also played John Winchester (Sam and Dean's father).
In Season 2, a bank guard tells the brothers that his friend didn't rob a bank, it was a Cyberman. He even holds up a magazine cover with a Cyberman on it to illustrate his point.
The Season 7 episode "The Girl Next Door" has a monster using the alias "Amy Pond".
The Season 7 episode, The Mentalists have Dean & Sam investigating a town full of "psychics" complete with a Miss Cleo clone and someone who looks REMARKABLY like the main character of another tv series
"Slash Fiction" features a scene where Sam and Dean doppelgangers have a Quentin Tarantino-esque chat and shoot up a diner a la Pulp Fiction. Bobby even calls them "Pumpkin" and "Honey Bunny".
In Season 7, James Marsters plays a near-immortal who went through European history and now lives in the Americas in a Slap-Slap-Kiss relationship with a woman who is his equal (although, played by Charisma Carpenter) who he is in complete and total love with. Meanwhile, in the same episode, Charisma Carpenter plays a bitchy woman who is willing to go to extreme methods to get what she wants, including revenge, and is quite focused on how she looks to the public. Sound familiar?
"Live Free or Twihard" has plenty of these to popular vampire fiction. The vampires meet at a bar called the Black Rose
In "Reading is Fundamental" there is a rather subtle reference to Alanis Morissette's portayal of God in the movie Dogma, when Castiel eccentrically tweaks Kevin's nose in reply to the question of whether he's an Angel.
The episode titles are often of song titles, album titles, movie titles, etc. - or slightly modified variants thereof.
In "Crossroad Blues" when the demon is describing hell to Dean she makes a reference to the movie Event Horizon: "Hell is just a word, the reality is so much worse."
There are many shout-outs to Good Omens - the demon Crowley, who's snarky and appreciates the fine things in life and has the original Mona Lisa. The entire episode with the Antichrist Jesse reads like a super-condensed GO summary, with the most striking similarity being the way the Antichrist's belief influences reality. And of course, Season 8 Sam naming the dog "Dog".
The season 8 episode Hunteri Heroici, which centers around animation, has a scene where an angel and a powerful (but mentally broken) person sit still while Ode to Joy plays.
The brothers meet Prometheus, the titan cursed to die every single day and resurrect the next.
Crowley just wants to be loved but warps it into greed? Sounds like Greedling from Fullmetal Alchemist.
In the Season 7 episode "Party On, Garth", Dean and Sam are hunting a shojo (with the assistance of a younger hunter by the name of Garth). In one scene, Garth orders one of the shojo's targets to "come with me if you want to live!" (And on a related note, the title of the episode is itself a shout out to Wayne's World.)
Sam's nightmare in Season 1's "Wendigo" is identical to Sue Snell's nightmare at the end of Carrie, with Sam leaving flowers at Jess grave and Jess' hand reaching out to grab him.
Of course a demon named Lola can only be a reference to one thing.
Meg's pet name for Castiel is Clarence. This goes ignored until season nine when Sam straight up explains the reference. Apparently the explanation was needed, though, because he seemed to be the only member of the main cast who got the joke.
Dean once tells Lucifer to "can that sympathy for the Devil crap", a reference to the Rolling Stones song.