Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies With Connections To 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2'

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what's in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.)

Cue the Electric Light Orchestra, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters this week. That means Star-Lord (who?), Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Baby Edition Groot are back for a new neon-tinged adventure. When the first installment of the franchise-within-a-giant-franchise landed, it breathed new life into the MCU by re-engaging with its sarcastic, hero may care roots.

It also walked in the footsteps of some of the biggest nostalgia targets of this generation. Namely, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. It was a space opera in the midst of Iron Man and Captain America, complete with a banging '70s soundtrack. A black sheep in its family, there was a time people were absolutely convinced it would tank the Marvel brand name. Now, it's essentially its second pillar upon which James Gunn gets to goof off and throw a dance party.

While the first was about abandoned child Peter Quill forming an unusual family, Vol. 2 is about keeping that family together after reuniting with the father you've been searching for your whole life.

ranking star wars

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

As usual, let's get the obvious out of the way first. The inspiration and parallels are obvious here. Both are epic sci-fi sequels attempting to deepen the emotional mythology established in the first entry. Both deal directly with daddy issues and training new abilities. Both see their groups grow by splitting them up. Gunn is straightforward about the influence. "The Empire Strikes Back was in my mind a lot as a model," he told Uproxx recently, adding, "simply because, honestly, there's not that many sequels that build strongly upon their predecessor." Naturally, he also looked to The Godfather Part II, another sequel improvement that confronts family, abandonment, and father figures with life and death on the line.

follow me boys

Follow Me, Boys!

This story of a traveling jazz man who settles down to lead a Boy Scout troop anchored by the town troublemaker is an odd Disney relic. It came in Fred MacMurray's career resurgence (known only by me as the MacMurraissance) where he applied his film noir skills to family films like The Absent-Minded Professor which were built on charming premises and silly gags. Playing the town troublemaker, it's also one of Kurt Russell's earliest movies. In Follow Me, Boys!, Russell is "Whitey," a juvenile delinquent who's eventually thrown in a futuristic maximum security prison that encompasses all of Manhattan. No, wait. I'm getting two movies confused.

In this harmless Disney mess-around, Russell's Whitey joins the Boy Scouts in earnest after his alcoholic father dies and he's adopted by MacMurray's scoutmaster, offering him stability and access to the superpower known as knot tying. If you're looking for another glimpse into Russell as a child star, you could also check out Guns of Diablo, which sees him hanging onto a veteran trailhand played by none other than Charles Bronson.

the fifth element

The Fifth Element

I like to think that Guardians and The Fifth Element take place in the same universe, where a planet-sized ball of pure evil or a magic stone everyone's chasing after could threaten all life at a moment's notice. Like the predecessor's before it that set the formula down in clay, The Fifth Element sees a scruffy, likable bastard with no morals to speak of thrust into the position of joining a ragtag gang tasked with protecting the galaxy. Watching both back-to-back would also be an interesting test to see which one is weirder, but the starkest difference is in their stylistic sheen. While Guardians is CGI-glossy, The Fifth Element looks like its held together by rust and crossed fingers.

the apple

The Apple

Speaking of weird, this high camp electric boogaloo is a glittery assault on every sense. Its cult status is well-earned.

Set in the far off future of 1994, The Apple is a sci-fi rock opera morality play where totally normal characters dress like Guardians of the Galaxy villains. In it, Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart) and Alphie (George Gilmour) lose an international singing contest, but are nonetheless asked to sign onto a nefarious record label. The burgeoning stardom shows them the dark side of fame, an exploitative industry, and the danger of silver eye shadow. It's like Meatloaf was asked to direct a city-set rip-off of Rocky Horror with a cameo by God in a Rolls Royce, and I hope James Gunn falls asleep to it every night.

invaders from mars

Invaders From Mars

It's super weird how Tobe Hooper's '80s remake didn't earn full cult status. It always seems a few inches away from lists it should be on and conversations it should be in, which is a shame because it's a genuinely scary movie that honors the '50s original. Like that Red Scare classic, Hooper's remake focuses on a young kid named David Gardner (Hunter Carson) who witnesses the flashing lights of an alien invasion in the sand quarry behind his house. Unfortunately for him, the aliens infest his town by brainwashing all the people (including his parents), leaving him increasingly exasperated and alone.

It's other Guardians connection? It's one of the first movies from Russell Bobbitt, who's become Marvel's go-to prop master since the days of Iron Man. He is now, of course, best pals with Baby Groot.

stalag 17

Stalag 17

This is, hands down, one of the best mission movies of all time. Co-written and directed by Billy Wilder, it's got William Holden, Otto Preminger, Peter Graves and a slew of talented character actors trying to survive in a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. Essentially, it's the tense, feature-length version of the jail break from the first Guardians (complete with someone's fake leg playing a prominent role). A shoddy, mismatched group of fighters tasked with exposing a traitor and trying to escape, they share witty quips, distrust each other, and shoulder the psychological burdens of total war.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 TV Spots

The Mix

One of the fantastic things about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is its mixture of genres and styles: sci-fi epic, Weird West, musical, Team on a Mission, superhero, revenge. It plucks notes from all of them to create a harmony that's thrilling and fun. Yes, it will still be interesting to see how the team fits into the larger Marvel universe in Infinity War, but it's still entertaining to see them stumble around in their own corner of space, particularly because of the storytelling traditions that Gunn and company draw upon and the opportunity that gives us to explore some of the stranger flavors of cinematic history.