Star Trek Guide

10 Best Star Trek References In Pop Culture

It isn't hyperbole to say that Star Trekis one of the most influential science fiction series of all time. Nine television series, thirteen movies, multiple video games, and an entire expanded universe of novels and comics mean there's something for everyone in this franchise. The influence it's had on media as a whole cannot be understated.

With many fans working in the entertainment industry as well as in the general population, it's inevitable that many works will have nods to the iconic series. Here are 10 of the best of them, from minor shout-outs to full-blown parodies.

10 Airplane II

Airplane! is a master class in the art of comedy. Brilliant visual gags, wince-inducing slapstick, and truly absurd non-sequiturs make it one of the best comedies of all time. Its sequel, Airplane II was serviceable, but couldn't hold a candle to its predecessor. But, its outer space setting does allow for some good Trek gags.

The most obvious is the casting of William Shatner himself as Commander Buck Murdock, played like a less stable Kirk. Probably the best reference is when Murdock looks through his periscope to see the actual Starship Enterprise, cruising through space, much to his confusion.


The Marvel Cinematic Universe has forever changed the way movies in a franchise interact with each other. It proved that a shared universe could work, and is still the best example in a market full of imitators. Still, it isn't afraid to give a few nods to one of the first shared universes out there.

Take for example in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when we get a glimpse of Cap's notebook of things he missed during his hibernation and see that Star Trek is on it. When discussing theories on time travel in Endgame the cast brings up Trek's time travel antics. A complete list of references in the MCU would comprise an entire list of its own, but there are plenty to find.

8 Galaxy Quest

Parody can be a tricky business. Ideally, the goal is to poke fun at the source material, but not in a way that comes off as mean spirited toward it and its fans. Galaxy Quest is one of the best parodies of all time because it manages to strike this balance perfectly.

Tim Allen plays a washed-up actor from a Trek-like series living off his past glories. He and his crew find themselves reprising their roles for real to help an alien species avoid extinction at the hands of a genocidal warlord. While quick to point out the series' flaws, it does so in a gentle way. It also makes a point of showing the fans' love for their favorite series in a positive light.

7 Godzilla (1998)

Godzilla is another pop culture icon that came about around the same time as the original Star Trek. The 1998 American remake was looked upon with scorn for many years but has since undergone something of a reassessment. It's by no means a perfect movie, but if one can manage to leave their preconceptions about what a Godzilla flick is supposed to be, it can be enjoyable in its own right.

The film even starts out on the right foot when the titular lizard attacks a Japanese fishing vessel. The boat is called the Kobayashi Maru, which fans will recognize as the unwinnable test scenario introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. 

6 John Wick

Most people probably wouldn't expect John Wickof all things, to pay homage to Trek. After all, the film is all about violent gunfights and bloody vengeance instead of exploration and diplomacy. But one of the key visual aspects of the film is actually a major nod to the sci-fi staple.

If we look closely, most of the bad guys are wearing red of some kind. This is a reference to the infamous, "Red Shirts," who would always die on the planet of the week. Here the color helps differentiate Wick from the bad guys during visually busy sequences.

5 Black Mirror

Black Mirror is a dystopian science fiction anthology that posits that we're all going killed/enslaved by our technology if we aren't careful. As one might imagine, it tends to be pretty bleak. Despite this, it still manages to have a Trek-themed episode that isn't entirely depressing.

The episode takes place in an advanced video game, aboard the USS Calister. Both the ship and everything else is deliberately styled to pay homage to Star Trek. While the episode is mainly an allegory about cyberbullying, it still manages to be lighter than most episodes of the show.

4 Boston Legal

Okay, it should probably be established that just casting William Shatner is not enough to be counted as a Trek reference. If that were an acceptable criteria, this list would just be a partial filmography of the storied actor. But when the show and the man himself constantly go out of their way to remind viewers of his previous work, that's enough.

The most prominent reference is Shatner's character, who continually makes comments about being the captain of his own spaceship, and having been to outer space and met aliens. He even uses a communicator in one episode.

3 Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad, like the above Black Mirror entry is probably not the kind of series that one would expect a deep discussion of Star Trek fromIn the season five episode, "Blood Money," however, we get exactly that. While stoned out of their minds, Skinny Pete and Badger start by having an in-depth discussion of the transporters on the show.

This eventually leads to a discussion about an idea Badger had for an episode of the original series. It starts out fairly innocuous with a pie-eating contest, then takes a dark turn to end with a crew member having their organs beamed into space.

2 The IT Crowd

A show about what most people assume is Trek's primary demographic, nerds, The IT Crowd of course features a reference to Star Trek. Also mentioned are Star Trek-based porn parodies.

In the episode, "Reynholm V Reynholm" the character Douglas Reynholm finds himself in court, where a Trek-themed pornographic movie is played. Naturally, Reynholm fills the role of Captain Kirk, while all the other characters are played by young women. Awkward doesn't even begin to describe it.


For a relatively serious show about military police solving gruesome murders, NCIS has had quite a few references to Star Trek over the years. From DiNozzo giving a Vulcan salute to Mcgee, to Gibbs lamenting that it isn't easy to read a Klingon's facial features, there's plenty for discerning fans to find.

It should be noted that the show's spin-off series, NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans, also get in on the fun quite a bit. Sure seems like the writers are fans. doesn't it?