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Single-Player

  • As early as the second trailer, Rockstar teased the inclusion of the JB700, which is based on the Aston Martin DB5 of James Bond fame.
    • The classic car is introduced in a mission wherein Franklin has to steal it off of a movie set for Devin Weston. Not only can Franklin steal an actor's tuxedo to reach the car easier, but the car itself possesses a caltrop launcher in the trunk and a set of machine guns on the hood. It even has a passenger eject button.
  • The cars in the franchise have always been "close" to some kind of real life vehicle, but this game takes the word "close" and "trademark infringement" to within a razor's edge. Almost every car can be easily recognized as a very specific real world car in both model and year with very minor adjustments having been done to stay away from trademark lawsuits.
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  • When Trevor and Wade are crashing at Floyd's place, you can randomly stumble upon Floyd wearing a pink onesie. Think about it for a sec. Floyd in a Pink onesie. Floyd. Pink.
  • There are Good Aids Pharmacy trucks driving along the city streets.
  • One man is seen walking the streets carrying a sign saying "Down With This Sort Of Thing!"
  • Blaine County local Cletus is certainly a slack-jawed yokel.
  • The weird way Lamar says "nigga" at the end of his "Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful" rant comes from Friday.
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  • Many of the street names are subtle references, such as Cholla Springs Ave. in Sandy Shores and Joad Lane in, appropriately enough, Grapeseed.
  • One of the highways (The one that passes the docks on the way to the airport) is called the Elysian Fields Freeway.
  • Trevor can buy a jacketnote  exclusive to him that heavily resembles The Driver's jacket, the only difference being that it has a crab emblem on the back instead of a scorpion.
  • One of the shirts available for Michael to buy is the infamous parrot-print aloha shirt from Max Payne 3.
  • Eagle-eyed American Girl doll fans might notice Molly Schultz as an obscure reference to Molly McIntire—on top of both Mollys being brunettes and wearing glasses, the mystery book Spy On The Home Front has Molly McIntire befriend a girl named Anna Schulz and her family, whose father Fritz worked at a garage in a town named Weston.
  • The heists are almost all inspired by famous movie heists:
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    • Blitz Play's entire premise is copied from the introduction of Heat, right down to the details: the protagonists wear masks and overalls; the target is a high security truck; the plan involves intercepting the truck by blocking its path before t-boning it; and they even blow the truck doors with charges, deafening a guard who curses them. When planning the mission, one of the gold requirements, "Cliché", requires choosing the hockey masks worn in the movie.
    • Michael can also be customized to have a goatee and haircut that looks very similar to that of Robert De Niro from the film.
    • Devon Weston looks like Michael Cheritto from Heat. Hell, he even calls Franklin "Slick" throughout the game.
    • The Paleto Score is heavily based on the bank robbery from the same film, complete with Michael and the hired gun dressing up in suits and ski masks like De Niro's crew and the robbery being followed by a massive, rolling shootout.
    • The Big Score has two possible routes:
      • Subtle route: The target? Gold. The means of acquisition? Armored cars and control of traffic patterns. The getaway vehicles? A customized fleet of distinctive automobiles, albeit Bravado Gauntlets rather than Mini Coopers. Also the cars are modified to handle the load. Yup, it's ''The Italian Job (1969). And since you can customise your cars, you can make them the appropriate colours for a bit of an extra reference (red, white and blue!)
      • The Obvious route's premise is copied line for line from the villains' plan in Die Hard with a Vengeance. Cause a distraction with some fake terrorism while drilling into the Union Repository's vault through the subway.
  • One of the random events that can be found out in the countryside is the aftermath of a shootout, with dead and dying bodies lying among a circle of cars, and a briefcase full of money. Taking the money can lead to being chased down by goons, though thankfully there's no Anton Chigurh to contend with.
  • You can buy a suppressor for the shotgun, and it has the exact same sound effect as it did in No Country for Old Men.
    • Furthermore, there is a random encounter involving the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong and a case full of money that is straight out of the movie, dead dogs and all.
  • Another Coen Brothers tribute - the foggy, snow-driven intro, especially the final shot, may be a reference to Fargo's similar scenes of frozen wasteland.
  • The mission where Jay Norris is assassinated by phone bomb is identical to one of the murders from Law Abiding Citizen.
    • And the keynote he's giving up the point where he's assassinated bears far more than a passing resembling to the "Stevenotes" that Steve Jobs was famous for, except with the smugness and condescending superiority turned Up to Eleven
  • Michael pulls a house off a cliffside by hooking up the support beams to a pickup truck, much like Riggs in Lethal Weapon 2.
  • Trevor opts to hide the Chinese drug dealer, Cheng, Jr., and his interpreter in an ice box when his meth-cooking lab comes under attack.
  • The closing line of the game? In Ending C, Michael notes "Tell you what, T... I'm getting too old for this nonsense..."
  • In order to get 100% on the mission “Derailed”, you must land on top of a train using the first jump. Said requirement is called "Better Than CJ", in reference to the infamous “All we had to do was follow the damn train, CJ!” line from the "Wrong Side Of The Tracks" mission in San Andreas.
  • In Sandy Shores, there's a piece of graffiti that says Beam Me Up.
  • In the garage were you deliver the stolen cars for Weston, is a wall that has a list of target cars written on it that only shows up under UV light like in Gone In 60 Seconds.
  • When talking about their first score in the Paleto Score, Michael mentions that his first score was in Carcer City.
  • The Playboy Mansion can be found in-game in Rockford Hills northwest of Michael's house. If you go to the backyard pool area (which also contains the famous grotto) during the nighttime you will find a bunch of people having a party which includes several topless women. If you use your character's cell phone camera to take pictures of the topless women they will call you a creep and their boyfriends will attack you.
  • On West Coast Talk Radio's "Chakra Attack", the host rants about a a sensor that can detect aliens in the ceiling and let you know if they're going to drop down and whoop some human ass".
    • The aliens within the game (both the suited actors found in Vinewood and the real aliens seen in Michael's hallucinations) resemble the Xenomorphs.
  • One of the checkmarks needed for getting a gold medal on "Did Someone Say Yoga" is called "Praise the Sun." One of the poses you have to strike when doing yoga in turn matches the Sunlight Warriors' trademark gesture.
  • A Strangers and Freaks mission requires Franklin to jump off a dam to get a gold medal. The checkmark for doing it is called "Leap of Faith".
  • One of the clothing options for Trevor includes a red jacket over a dark flannel shirt. The jacket is called the Overlooked Red Blouson. You could also find an axe lodged in a door inside of Floyd's apartment! And in the Updated Re-release, you can buy and wield an axe, completing the look.
  • In one of the random encounters, the player give a ride to a lady escaping from a forced wedding. The groom begins pursuing them, and she shouts "I'm done!" at him. He responds with "You're done when I say you're done!"
  • One of the areas in Los Santos is called Cypress Flats.
  • In Del Perro Pier, you can find an area with four jet-skis. In order, they are colored red, white, black, and yellow.
  • The game tip involving changing your brightness settings asks if you are suffering from Eternal Darkness.
  • In "Scouting the Port" Trevor, who looks a lot like Jack Nicholson, wears a black beanie and sunglasses similar to Randle McMurphy's.
  • A multi-homage case with a "returning player exclusive" vehicle added to the Next-Gen versions of the game, named the Duke O'Death. It's reinforced appearance is akin to the vehicles from Death Race, but looks more like the Pursuit Special. The Random Encounter where you first find the car is named after Duel, with the encounter playing out exactly like the movie. And the name of the car apparently comes from the fictional book The Duke of Death from the Clint Eastwood movie Unforgiven.
  • A random encounter in Raton Canyon features two police cars and a helicopter behind a Tornado with two women driving. When a police officer approaches the car, it speeds off the cliff and explodes in the canyon, mirroring the ending scene of Thelma & Louise to a T, though the movie didn't show the car crash, or explode.
  • One of Trevor's side missions involves him taking some tainted weed from a pro-legalization advocate, causing him to go on a colorful drug trip where he is tasked to kill waves of demented clowns. The reference is made clear due to a specific Danny Elfman piece that plays in the background during the trip.
  • Sometimes, you'll switch to Trevor and find him in his tighty-whitey briefs and shoes. Meth-cooking sociopath in his briefs and shoes? Where have we seen that before?
    • The meth your online character has the option of making is blue!
  • Of the hockey mask designs available to players, one is clearly based on Jason Voorhees. Right after you're introduced to the masks, you need to buy boiler suits.
    • In the Updated Rerelease, the mask has changed, but still looks cool.
  • Trevor's mission to steal the Merryweather jet filled with weapons involves the pilot shouting "Get off my plane!" Not that it helps him.
  • During "The Paleto Score", the Sherrif is named Kirkman, while the eager Deputy is named Grimes.
  • The picture of the wolf on the banner in Trevor's trailer strongly resembles Courage Wolf.
  • If the player tells a taxi driver to hurry up, he will sometimes say, "Hold on to your butt."
  • There appears to be a big blockbuster movie based on the Republican Space Rangers cartoon being held at one of the movie theatres in the game, complete with a guy in costume. Said costume bears more than a passing resemblance to the Master Chief's powered armour, especially when seen from the back.
  • One of Solomon Richards' films is a Space Opera titled "The Shoulder of Orion" - a reference to Roy Batty's famous monologue in Blade Runner.
  • One of Peter Dreyfuss' films is titled "Bury Me" and there's a synopsys of it the in-game Classic Vinehood website, which pretty much sounds like a Jacob's Ladder parody.
  • A Private Taxi Fare for the Downtown Cab Co. references the plot of Collateral. Franklin is asked to go to the airport and pick up a Sharp-Dressed Man, who spouts some Ubermensch-like philosophy before asking Franklin to be his getaway driver on a crime he's about to commit. Unlike the film, however, the passenger is an incompetent jewel thief who immediately blows his cover and relies on Franklin's quick thinking to escape.
  • One of the custom rim types you can purchase for your car is titled Fujiwara. They look identical to the rims found on Takumi Fujiwara's AE86 in Initial D.
  • Around the city you'll find billboards for Rehab Island which show a palm tree on a blue background. Hmmm...
  • During one of Michael's peyote trips, he turns into a seagull and during the narcotics-fueled rambling that ensues comments that "(seagulls) don't do jokes! We do theatre."

Online

  • In the Grand Theft Auto Online missions titled "Meth'd Up" and "Crank Up The Volume", you have to steal a recreational vehicle that is being used as a mobile meth lab. Truth in Television, by the way; mobile meth labs are a popular method of avoiding the cops.
  • When creating your character, you have the option to choose what your parents and grandparents from both sides look like, which deter on your own looks. You can even choose to have a special dad, instead of a customized dad. And who is that dad? John Marston from Red Dead Redemption.
  • One of the suits from the Valentine's Day Massacre DLC looks a lot like the "Golden Boy" suit from L.A. Noire.
  • A rare mask that was only available from October 3rd to October 5th, as well as for a day during the Festive Surprise if you got a Special Crate, is the mask that the Smilies wore in Man Hunt.
  • In one of the Humane Raid heist setup missions, the players board an aircraft carrier to steal a old VTOL fighter jet equipped with an EMP as well as some regular Lazer fighters to fight off incoming enemy jets. After knocking out the bandits and taking air superiority, "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins plays.
  • The layout of the yacht in Series A Funding's first setup mission is eerily similar to the one from Max Payne 3.
  • The Freemode Events Update give us The Beast, which looks a lot like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf.
  • One of the Business Battles added in the After Hours Update is to pick up a lime green Issi Classic with a black hood.
    • Another Business Battle event added in the same update requires the player to pick up a Vapid Ellie, which has been modified to resemble Memphis Raines's Eleanor Mustang in Gone in 60 Seconds (2000), down to the license plate reading "RA1NE".
  • The Phantom Wedge added with the Import/Export update is a nod to MythBusters. While similar ideas have been used in the media for a while, the Phantom Wedge uses the same design as the one Adam and Jamie built for the finale.
  • The Doomsday Heist update:
    • The Avenger tiltrotor VTOL aircraft from. While it's visibly based on the V-22 Osprey, in practice it serves as an airborne version of the Mobile Operations Center, complete with vehicle and weapons bays and a gun turret. In other words, it's a helicarrier, just like in... The Avengers (2012).
    • The Deluxo is back! And it's still based on the DeLorean. But this time, it has hover and flight capabilities, just like Doc Brown's time machine. Just swap out the time travel system for a small arsenal.
      • On the Doomsday Heist setup, when you reach the Deluxos a blue-and-white Surfer van will drive past. This is a nod to the Libyans who attack Doc and Marty at the mall, as they drive a similar vehicle with the same color scheme. They're also the only civilian vehicle in the mission that homing missiles will lock onto.
      • Based on the markings on the Railgun, it has an energy capacity of 1.21 Gigawatts.
    • The Stromberg is a sports car that can transform into a submarine. Both the concept and the name are references to The Spy Who Loved Me. The Ardent, another Esprit-based car introduced two updates earlier, also referenced the Wet Nellie in its description on Warstock Carry and Cache website.
      "[...] lose your pursuers, pop the dual machine guns, gun down the survivors, drop a pithy remark, open the champagne, have a quickie, drive into the sea, realize you've made a terrible mistake, and swiftly drown."
  • The Vigilante appears to be an amalgamation of the Batmobile's design as it appears on Batman (1989), and the Tumbler from Batman Begins.
  • The Scramjet, introduced in the After Hours update, is a clear reference to the Mach 5 from Speed Racer, complete with hopping and rocket boost capabilities.
  • Import/Export update:
    • The Imponte Ruiner 2000 is GTA's own version of K.I.T.T., minus the snarky AI and plus machine guns and heat-seeking rockets.
    • Another of the vehicles that released with the update, the Technical Aqua, bears a strong resemblance to the Toyboata.
    • Putting the correct modifications on the Comet Retro Custom will make it resemble the Blackbird from Wangan Midnight.
    • Two other vehicles, the Wastelander and the Ramp Buggy, took inspiration from vehicles in The Fast and the Furious films. (Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6 specifically.)
  • Speaking of Fast and the Furious, a handful of vehicles have liveries referencing the ones used for their real life counterparts in the movies. For example, the Elegy Retro Custom (itself is an amalgation of various pre-R35 Nissan Skyline designs) has the liveries "Midnight Racer" and "Not Today Pizzaboy", with the former based on Brian O' Connor's famous Skyline R34 from 2 Fast 2 Furious and the latter based on the custom R32 that appeared in the afromentioned The Fast and the Furious, with the name further referencing the line "Street's closed, pizza boy" spoken in the movie.
  • The Vespucci Job Adversary Mode is a nod to The Italian Job (1969), where police vehicles chase an Issi Classic (the in-universe equivalent of the Mini Cooper) throughout the streets of Los Santos.
    • Additionally, should Karim Denz is chosen as the getaway driver for the Diamond Casino Heist, one of few possible getaway vehicles he'll request to retrieve and provide will be a pair of Issi Classics, modified to resemble the Mini Coopers used in the film, painted red and blue.
  • The Arena War update:
  • The Diamond Casino & Resort update:
    • The Obey 8F Drafter, introduced in this update, has a livery named "Racing the Edge" which is a reference to the famous BMW M3 GTR (E46) from the Need for Speed series.
    • Two of the horses featured in the Inside Track minigame are Hennigan's Steed and Scrawny Nag, both nods to Red Dead Redemption (a deliberate misspelling of the town Hennigan's Stead and the donkey players start with online, respectively).
    • Invade and Persuade II, an arcade cabinet players can buy for their penthouse's bar, features a controllable tank that looks and controls like a Metal Slug tank. The game also responds to the Konami Code, which gives the player 99 lives like it originally did in Contra.
  • The Diamond Casino Heist update:
    • One of the games the player can buy for their arcade is a fortune telling machine modelled after Madam Nazar, an NPC in Red Dead Online that handles everything related to the Collector profession.
    • Continuing the trend set by the previous update, the various video arcade cabinets the player can buy are clearly inspired by games from The '80s and The '90s.
      • Defender of the Faith is basically Defender with Atari 2600-like graphics.
      • Penetrator is an extremely simplistic version of Tempest.
      • The Race'n'Chase line of cabinets are inspired by Hang-On and OutRun. The games even emulate the high-speed sprite scaling faux 3D the originals did. The title is also a reference to the working title DMA used for GTA when they were first conceptualising the game in the mid-'90s.
      • Space Monkey 3: Bananas Gone Bad is a homage to the Shmup genre, although the relatively simple enemy and bullet patterns are more reminiscent of Galaga.
      • The Wizard's Ruin takes after Golden Axe and/or Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara. Also, powering up Thog is depicted as him getting more and more muscular, taking after a similar mechanic in Altered Beast (although, in true Rockstar parody fashion, Thog's final level has him comically muscular from the waist up).
  • The Cayo Perico Heist's main antagonist, Juan "El Rubio" Stickler, is a Francisco Scaramanga Expy time-shifted to modern times. He even has his own version of the eponymous golden gun that fires a single One-Hit Kill golden bullet, albeit with a pearl Luger grip. El Rubio's office also looks similar to a room in the film where Scaramanga first fires the gun.

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