Last week, Jordan Peele’s Get Out passed the $100 million mark at the box office, making Peele the first African-American director to earn $100 million on his debut film, according to The Wrap. The movie has earned widespread praise for its effective blend of horror and comedy and its sharp, biting social critique towards racism in American society (it currently has a 99 percent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes).
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Peele acknowledged that the title of his movie, “Get Out,” was inspired by an Eddie Murphy joke. In a stand-up comedy special in 1983, Murphy talks about how white and black people react differently when they’re in haunted houses and how in horror movies, white people refuse to “get out” despite all the warning signs.
But what other sources of inspiration did first-time director Jordan Peele draw upon for his work Get Out? Here are a few movies that Peele have talked about in his interviews.
The Stepford Wives (1975)
Peele has frequently referenced this 1975 film as an inspiration to his thriller-social satire. In an interview with Terry Gross for NPR’s Fresh Air, Peele describes Get Out as more of a “social thriller” in the spirit of films like The Stepford Wives than a horror film.
“It’s closer to a psychological thriller (than a horror film). But because it’s not about the psychology to me as much as it is about society, I call it a social thriller. It’s in the same vein to me as The Stepford Wives.”
The Stepford Wives is about a woman who moves into a seemingly idyllic neighborhood in Connecticut, a community where all the wives are eerily submissive to their husbands because they have been turned into robots. While the 1975 version ended with the protagonist herself being turned into a robot, the 2004 remake, starring Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler, ended on a less bleak note, with the women being able to turn the tables on the men.
But it was the 1975 version that Peele had in mind when he made Get Out, a movie that has incisively tapped into the racial tensions of America’s modern society. Much like the issue of race in Get Out, The Stepford Wives grappled with matters of social friction of its time, namely, the clash between feminism and the dominant patriarchal system in a post women’s liberation movement era.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)
Despite the differences in genre – Get Out being a thriller, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? a comedy-drama – it’s easy to read Get Out as a modern retelling of the 1967 film that starred Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy. The two films share a similar premise, focusing on the collision of values that comes from a white girl bringing an African-American man home to meet her parents.
In his interview with Fresh Air, Peele talks about why he chose to make the setting of Get Out be about meeting a girlfriend’s parents and how he was inspired by the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?.
“At some point, I realized that the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? was really the perfect starting point for this film. I think one of the reasons that film resonated so powerfully is that it’s an universal situation. Take race out of it, and we can all relate to the fears of meeting our potential in-laws for the first time and the feeling that we might not be what was expected.”
While the story unfolds in very different ways for Get Out and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, both movies examine attitudes towards race relations, especially in relation to white, liberal values. The two films also share the commonality of being very open conversations about race during times when issues of violence and racial discrimination permeated the lives of their viewers. For the audience of Get Out, the police brutality cases against African-Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement are matters that are likely to come to mind when they are watching the film. And notably, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? was filmed the same year when the United States Supreme Court invalidated anti-miscegenation laws in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
In terms of the movie’s tenor, one of the films that Peele often cites as inspiration along with The Stepford Wives is Rosemary’s Baby.
Like The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby is a thriller that delves into the protagonist’s heightening sense of foreboding towards the threats looming around her. Along with Get Out, all three films derive tension from the uncertainties the protagonists experience in situations that seem “off” to them and yet which others summarily dismiss as paranoia.
Peele himself has described Rosemary’s Baby as perhaps one of his favorite horror films in his interview with Forbes.
“When I was younger, it [Rosemary’s Baby] was actually a little too close to home, so it really kind of it freaked me out more than I could appreciate it. It’s grown into possibly my favorite horror movie. I definitely looked at Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives as tonal [inspirations] for Get Out, especially because as those movies are developing we reveal more and more about this sort of awful direction it’s heading.”
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The lineage between the 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead and Get Out has always been clearly drawn for Peele, who, as reported by Variety, described his film as a horror-thriller that explored social fears surrounding race.
“Like comedy, horror has an ability to provoke thought and further the conversation on real social issues in a very powerful way. Get Out takes on the task of exploring race in America, something that hasn’t really been done within the genre since Night of the Living Dead 47 years ago. It’s long overdue.”
If Peele had chosen another much darker ending he originally had envisioned for the film, as indicated by Vanity Fair, Get Out would have echoed the racial commentary of Night of the Living Dead even more strongly, since in the latter the hero of the film, an African-American man named Ben, manages to fend off attacks from the “living dead” monsters throughout the movie only to be shot in the head at the end when the living mistake him for a zombie.
[Featured Image by Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures]