Pop Quiz! Match These Movies With Their Author References

Greg Zimmerman

Staff Writer

Greg Zimmerman blogs about contemporary literary fiction at The New Dork Review of Books and holds down a full-time gig as a trade magazine editor. Follow him on Twitter: @NewDorkReview.

One of the great joys of being a reader is finding literary references in unexpected places. See if you can match up these movies to the authors whose work appears in them…in one form or another.

Answers are below. Scroll down when you’ve finished the quiz.

A. American Pie 1. Alexandre Dumas
B. The Devil’s Advocate 2. Tom Robbins
C. 50 First Dates 3. Nathaniel Hawthorne
D. The Shawshank Redemption 4. Howard Zinn
E. Can’t Hardly Wait 5. Shakespeare
F. Good Will Hunting 6. Leo Tolstoy
G. Easy A 7. John Milton
H. Dan In Real Life 8. Kurt Vonnegut







Here are the answers:

A. American Pie —> 5. Shakespeare. In a scene near the end, the boys’ high school English teacher is delivering a lecture about Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 2 — telling them that they’re going through a right of passage, like Hal is.

B. The Devil’s Advocate —> 7. John Milton. This is an easy one if you’ve seen the film. Al Pacino’s character — who is literally the devil — is named John Milton. But the more obscure, better reference to Milton is late in the film when Keanu Reeves’ character quotes (paraphrases?) Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

C. 50 First Dates —> 2. Tom Robbins — This is one of my favorite, most unexpected literary movie references of all time! Drew Barrymore’s character reads a copy of Robbins’ Still Life With Woodpecker each morning in the diner before Adam Sandler’s character tries to pick her up. If you haven’t read that novel, do. It’s awesome.

D. The Shawshank Redemption —> 1. Alexandre Dumas. As the inmates are cataloging the new books that have arrived for the prison library, Heywood finds The Count of Monte Cristo, and tries to pronounce Dumas’ last name: “Alexandre…uh, dumb ass? Dumb ass!” he says. High comedy. “You’d like it. It’s about a prison break,” says Andy.

E. Can’t Hardly Wait —> 8. Kurt Vonnegut. At the very end of the movie, Preston is leaving for Boston when Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character Amanda intercepts him to tell him she’s read his love letter. He tells her he has a workshop with Vonnegut, who is his hero. 

F. Good Will Hunting –> 4. Howard Zinn. Historian Zinn was actually Matt Damon’s neighbor growing up, so it’s no surprise that the script has Damon’s character recommending that Robin Williams’ character Sean read The People’s History of the United States. “That book’ll f$&^ing knock you on your ass,” he says.

G. Easy A —> 3. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Duh, right? Even if you haven’t seen this very underrated movie (with a fantastic performance by Emma Stone), you could have probably parsed the allusion to The Scarlett Letter.

H. Dan In Real Life —> 6. Leo Tolstoy. Steve Carrell’s character Dan recommends Anna Karenina, as well as Emily Dickinson and some other stuff, when he first meets Marie in a bookstore. Also, he suggests Everyone Poops. 

How many did you get?