At one point in the film Pennywise is sitting on Paul Bunyan’s shoulder holding bunch of his trademark red balloons. This is a subtle nod to the foot condition, bunion, a homonym of Bunyan. By using this sophisticated linguistic slight-of-hand, filmmaker Andy Muschietti reinforces how horrible Pennywise is because It can move around, causing pain in areas other than one’s feets.
When John Wick travels to the Casablanca Continental, all the people in the background are clearly human. This is a subtle nod that Parabellum takes place on contemporary Earth, not a long time ago in the Mos Eisley Continental. Therefore, the titular war Wick is preparing for is a regular one, not Star Wars.
Tilda Swinton being turned into a samurai Scotswoman is a subtle nod that the Blancmange invasion from planet Skyron of the Andromeda Galaxy was not, in fact, thwarted by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Brainsample back on 30 November 1969!
Thor and Valkyrie find jobs as blues brothers, or Reservoir Dogs cosplay characters, or penguin stunt doubles, or something. My confusion is a subtle nod to my nodding off at the start of the film.
In Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Eleven reaches out to pet Mothra, the giant moth larva monster, forgetting that in this film she’s Madison Russell, normal human being with no super powers to protect her what so ever. This is a subtle nod that children are stupid and should never be allowed to play with kaiju. Ever.