This is an article on various film references appearing in the Westworld series.
For the series' references to older Westworld properties, please see References to 70s Westworld Franchise.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
In "The Bicameral Mind", Dolores' reassurance to her nemesis, the Man in Black, that a loved one from her past (William) will come to help her and punish the Man in Black - only to be informed by the Man in Black that he is William - is very similar in its execution to Darth Vader revealing the truth about his past to Luke Skywalker.
In The Empire Strikes Back, a cornered and wounded Luke is adamant to Vader that he already knows enough about his late father Anakin, including that Vader corrupted and killed him. Vader disagrees with Skywalker, and insists that Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't tell Luke the entire truth. He then admits to being Luke's father, the death being metaphorical, as he was "reborn" under a more sinister alter ego, as a member of the Sith and servant to the Emperor. Luke falls into a state of terrified shock, uttering an angry cry of disbelief.
The Man in Black's revelations about his past incite a similar state of complete shock in Dolores. However, her initial disbelief and the anger she exhibits afterwards is more tranquil than Skywalker's reaction in the film. William's personal corruption from a more idealistic figure to a borderline nihilist, who embraces his own darkness and dark alter ego, mirrors Vader's fall from grace. William admits to the worldview that the man he is now was "born in the park some thirty years ago" during a conversation with Lawrence early in the first season.
Both of these scenes, involving a major plot twist and character revelation, also include the two characters facing each other in a personal duel (Luke and Vader/Anakin swordfighting in Cloud City, Dolores and the Man in Black/William facing off at the churchyard in Escalante).
It should be worth noting that the Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker father/son secret/revelation was seen in the 1966 spaghetti western Texas, Adios, along with a number of other scenes and characters that are likely to have influenced George Lucas, including the cantina scene from Star Wars, albeit with fewer guests.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The reveal of The Man in Black's true identity in "The Bicameral Mind" involves a match cut (or a form of invisible cut) between the younger William and his older self. The transition between the two different locations and periods is carried out by way of a black cowboy hat. Young William lowers his head, donning the black hat in an extreme close-up, and once he raises his head, the rising black hat reveals the face of older William, "The Man in Black".
In the opening prologue of the third Indiana Jones film, the titular character (played by Harrison Ford) is seen in his younger years, fleeing from a group of grave robbers, attempting to carry archaeological artefacts they wanted to loot to safety. After a complicated chase, he ends up at his home, but the thieves eventually catch up with him and visit his house, accompanied by a local sheriff. The disappointed young Jones is forced to give them the rescued artefacts, but one of the thieves takes pity on him. He gifts him with his fedora, putting it on his head. The hat is too large for Jones' head, and he lowers his head in brief confusion. The scene then suddenly transitions into Jones raising his head again, the fedora now fitting well and revealing the face of an adult, middle-aged Jones. He's seen aboard a cargo vessel in a rainstorm, attempting to thwart a group of artefact smugglers which includes members of the gang that once chased him.
John Blane = John Wayne
The name of one of the two protagonists in the original Westworld film, park guest John Blane (played by James Brolin), is probably a nod to John Wayne, the American film star most iconic for many of his Western roles.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)
The 1960 American film was a Western-themed remake of Akira Kurosawa's period adventure film The Seven Samurai. Its main cast included Russian-American film actor Yul Brynner, who portrayed Cajun gunslinger and bounty hunter Chris Adams, known for his iconic black attire. Adams was patterned on the character Kambei from The Seven Samurai. More than a decade later, Brynner played a visual homage to the Adams character in the original Westworld film, when he portrayed its main antagonist, The Gunslinger.
One of the inspirations for the series' Shōgunworld theme park, with its Edo period Japan setting and focus on tropes seen in samurai films, were the cinematic works of Kurosawa. The presence of a "Samurai" park in addition to a "Cowboy" park is meant as an acknowledgement of the symbiotic relationship samurai films and Westerns had at the height of their cinematic popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. Back-and-forth remakes of the same basic stories, in either Japanese and American/European settings, occured several times during this surge in popularity, The Magnificent Seven / The Seven Samurai being the most famous example.
Red River (1948)
The name of the Odyssey on Red River long-form, persistent narrative, proposed unsuccessfully by Lee Sizemore to Dr. Ford, is probably a nod to the 1948 Western Red River, directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne.
Spaghetti Westerns (or Italo Westerns) were a popular subgenre of European film Westerns, produced by Italian film-makers, from the 1960s to roughly the 1980s. The most famous Spaghetti Western works were created by Sergio Leone during the 1960s and continue to have an influence on the tropes and stylistics of the Western genre not only in cinema, but also other popular media.
Westworld includes numerous minor references to the stylistics and characters of Leone's Westerns, particularly to those seen in "The Dollars Trilogy" (A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) and Once Upon A Time in the West.
The theme heard in the opening titles of the series includes some homages to the memorable musical scores of Leone's films, composed by Ennio Morricone. The opening tones are very reminescent of the opening of "Ecstasy of Gold", a theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (albeit the Westworld homage is at a slower tempo). The abrupt ending of the opening titles (around 1:28), where the music switches from piano to a grittier, more sluggish and sinister ambience, resembling that of a slow harmonica melody, is in turn reminescent of the theme "Man With a Harmonica" from Once Upon A Time in the West.
The strained and pragmatic friendship between William/The Man in Black and the host outlaw Lawrence is reminescent of the strained and pragmatic friendship between The Man With No Name (played by Clint Eastwood) and the outlaw Tuco (played by Eli Wallach) from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Both character duos venture out on a wild goose chase for a fabled treasure (Leone's duo for a stash of gold, the series' duo for the secret of The Maze) and there are moments when these unlikely friends turn the tables on each other. The Man With No Name outsmarts and tricks Tuco numerous times. Tuco in turn punishes the Man With No Name by forcing him to cross a desert with no water. Throughout Season One, the Man in Black forces Lawrence to follow him on his determined quest for The Maze, often "keeping him on a leash" with a rope and noose. In Season Two, Lawrence eventually retalliates against The Man in Black for all the past mistreatment, when Maeve convinces Lawrence to enact some vengeance on the MiB during the standoff at The Homestead.
As part of their scheme to earn money for themselves, The Man With No Name has Tuco repeatedly arrested by local authorities in various towns, and once payed the reward money for the outlaw, rescues Tuco from a public hanging at the last moment. The Man in Black repeatedly rescues Lawrence from public hangings or other executions. Though neither of the two contemplate earning any money by tricking the authorities, Lawrence does play the role of a decoy while the Man in Black infiltrates Los Diablos Prison to rescue Hector.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is chronologically a prequel to the first two films of The Dollars Trilogy, and is set in the western theatre of the American Civil War, during its later stages. Much like the Man With No Name and Tuco in Leone's film, the Man in Black/William and Lawrence, as well as the Man in Black and Teddy, have several run-ins with Confederate and Union forces that get them into serious trouble.
After William rebels against Logan's previous bullying and forces him to accompany him in search of Dolores, William's more quiet, stoic, and practical-minded demeanour is similar to the typical behaviour of Eastwood's character, The Man With No Name.
Dolores' arduous search for the lost town of Escalante, and for the hidden treasure in the town's graveyard (a toy with the symbol of The Maze), is very similar to the arduous search conducted by Tuco and the Man With No Name in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, for a stash of looted gold hidden in a rural graveyard. Their hunt for the secret wartime treasure is the main driving motivation of the film's plot, similarly to how the hunt for the secret of the Maze symbol is the main driving motivation of the series' first season.
The Man With No Name from The Dollars Trilogy is portrayed mainly as a drifter antihero who mostly looks after himself and his own interests. However, in A Fistful of Dollars, he decides to go against his typical instincts, helping and protecting a family of Hispanic settlers (Júlio, Marisol and their son Jesús) beset by a local gang of ruthless bandits. Similarly, the Man in Black is mostly concerned with his own interests and sees others as means to an end. However, in "The Riddle of the Sphinx", his guilty conscience provokes him into protecting a family of Hispanic settlers (Lawrence, his wife, and their daughter) from major Craddock and his band of ruthless ex-soldiers.
"The Man With No Name" and "The Man in Black" are monikers for two male characters with a mysterious past, though these nicknames are only used by the audience and creators, and are never heard "in-universe", in the works themselves. The real name of Eastwood's drifter in The Dollars Trilogy is never revealed, but he's variously nicknamed "Joe" (in A Fistful of Dollars), "Manco" (in For A Few Dollars More) and "Blondie" (in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly). The Man in Black is eventually revealed to be an older William. Curiously, William's full name still remains something of an enigma, as he's the only major human character whose surname is never revealed.
The hub town of Westworld, Sweetwater, shares its name with a contested land property near the town of Flagstone, from Once Upon A Time in the West.