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A four-panel image featuring screenshots from films including The Big Lebowski, Napoleon Dynamite, The Truman Show, and Black Dynamite. Graphic: James Bareham/Polygon | Source images: Universal Pictures; 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment; Paramount Pictures; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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They Cloned Tyrone director Juel Taylor says watch these movies next

The director dishes on the films that inspired his genre-busting debut

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Toussaint Egan is an associate curation editor, out to highlight the best movies, TV, anime, comics, and games. He has been writing professionally for over 8 years.

They Cloned Tyrone, the directorial debut of writer-director Juel Taylor starring John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, and Jamie Foxx, has made its mark this summer as not only one of the best new movies on Netflix, but one of the best new releases of the year. The sci-fi/comedy/mystery genre mashup follows a trio of oddball characters: Fontaine, a stoic and brusque drug dealer (Boyega); Yo-Yo, a savvy sex worker with dreams of escaping her hometown (Parris); and Slick Charles, a hilarious pimp (Foxx). They stumble upon a hidden government research facility below their neighborhood devoted to a variety of nefarious projects. With the combined power of their respective talents and the help of their community, the group takes on the forces aligned against them in order to expose the truth and take charge of their own destinies.

Polygon had the opportunity to speak to the director over the phone about the various influences that went into the creation of the film. Breaking down the inspirations behind the movie’s eccentric tone, world-building ethos, and genre-blending storyline, here are the movies that inspired They Cloned Tyrone during production.

The Big Lebowski

Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski sitting at the bar of a bowling alley in The Big Lebowski. Image: Universal Pictures

Genre: Crime comedy
Run time: 1h 57m
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore

The Coen brothers’ 1998 neo-noir crime comedy is easily one of the most iconic films the fraternal duo has ever directed. The cult favorite has even been enshrined in the Library of Congress for its cultural significance, with its irreverent charm and laidback comedy at the expense of the tropes of pulp fiction writers like Brett Halliday and Raymond Chandler. That characteristic irreverence is certainly felt in They Cloned Tyrone, especially in the clashing personalities between Fontaine, Slick Charles, and Yo-Yo. Taylor cites The Big Lebowski as one of the principal inspirations behind They Cloned Tyrone’s tone, particularly for the film’s goal to toe the line between varying genres while retaining its own unique sense of humor.

The Big Lebowski is available to rent on Amazon, Apple and Vudu.

Jackie Brown

wearing a blue flight attendant’s jacket, Jackie (Pam Grier) sits behind the wheel of a car in Jackie Brown Photo: Darren Michaels/Miramax Films

Genre: Crime drama
Run time: 2h 40m
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster

Jackie Brown is without a doubt one of Quentin Tarantino’s most underrated films. Which is a damn shame, because it’s a stone-cold classic. Adapted from Elmore Leonard’s 1992 novel Rum Punch, Jackie Brown stars Pam Grier as a flight attendant who is caught smuggling contraband for a ruthless arms dealer (Samuel L. Jackson). Presented with the choice of either serving hard time or helping bring her former employer to justice, Jackie hatches a plane with an unlikely ally — a bail bondsman named Max Cherry (Robert Forster) — to make off scot-free with $550,000 and stay out of prison. An unabashed homage to the Blaxploitation films of the ’70s like Coffy and Foxy Brown, it’s only logical that Taylor and co-writer Tony Rettenmaier would look to Tarantino’s film as inspiration for their own Blaxploitation-inflected spoof.

Jackie Brown is available to stream on Prime Video and available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Boogie Nights

Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) working in the back of a restaurant with Roller Girl (Heather Graham) in Boogie Nights. Image: New Line Cinema/Warner Home Video

Genre: Period comedy-drama
Run time: 2h 35m
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds

Paul Thomas Anderson’s sophomore breakout period comedy about the so-called Golden Age of Porn was yet another inspiration for Taylor in establishing the specific tone and humor of They Cloned Tyrone. The film follows the rise and fall of Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a high school dropout who rises to unlikely fame as a pornographic film star by the name of Dirk Diggler. Irreverently raunchy, grounded with strong characters, and a savvy examination of the cultural excesses and idiosyncrasies of the ’70s and ’80s, Boogie Nights is a clear a tonal inspiration for Taylor’s directorial debut.

Boogie Nights is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

They Live

An alien peering up at a television in a bar in They Live (1988) Image: Universal Pictures

Genre: Sci-fi horror action
Run time: 1h 34m
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster

Taylor name-dropped this classic as one of the principal inspirations behind the story of They Cloned Tyrone. It’s not hard to see why: Carpenter’s scathing portrayal of Reagan-era politics, unrestrained capitalism, and the inherent amorality of yuppie culture feels cut from the same satirical cloth as Taylor’s own commentary on institutional neglect and the myriad identity crises of contemporary Black existence. It’s also fitting, given that Taylor revealed that the original working title for They Cloned Tyrone was “Reagan Era.” Like They Live, Taylor’s film also culminates with its own kick-ass take on the concept of the protagonists storming the compound of their adversaries and exposing their globe-spanning conspiracy to the world.

They Live is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

The Truman Show

Truman (Jim Carrey) looking in his bathroom mirror camera in Truman Show Image: Paramount Pictures

Genre: Psychological dramedy
Run time: 1h 42m
Director: Peter Weir
Cast: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich

The Truman Show centers on Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), an ordinary insurance salesman living a humdrum suburban life who stumbles across a dark truth: His entire life has been the subject of a reality television show set inside a massive dome in which everyone he has ever known and loved has been a paid actor. The similarities in They Cloned Tyrone, a film about a drug dealer who discovers his entire neighborhood has been the subject of an elaborate and insidious government cloning project, are plain to see even at a glance, and even more apparent upon closer inspection.

The Truman Show is available to stream on Prime Video and to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Napoleon Dynamite

(L-R) Pedro (Efren Ramirez), Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder), and Deborah Bradshaw (Tina Majorino) standing in a high school hallway in Napoleon Dynamite. Image: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Genre: Coming-of-age teen comedy
Run time: 1h 36m
Director: Jared Hess
Cast: Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino

Jared Hess’ independent comedy exists in a universe entirely its own. Jon Heder plays the namesake protagonist: an awkward nerdy high school student navigating the mundanity of his hometown of Preston, Ohio; the quirks of his eccentric family; and the typical challenges of being a teenager. Taylor cited Napoleon Dynamite as a surprising inspiration in the process of writing The Glen, the setting of They Cloned Tyrone.

Napoleon Dynamite is available to stream on Max.

It Follows

It Follows - Jay Height (Maika Monroe) in swimming pool Image: Radius-TWC

Genre: Horror
Run time: 1h 41m
Director: David Robert Mitchell
Cast: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

At first glance, It Follows might not appear to share anything in common with They Cloned Tyrone, but looks can be deceiving. According to Taylor, the disorienting and surreal nature of Detroit seen in It Follows, a world that feels uncannily out of step with reality and stuck in the past, had a direct influence on the world-building ethos of They Cloned Tyrone through the film’s depiction of The Glen, the fictional Southern neighborhood where the protagonist Fontaine has lived all his life.

It Follows is available to rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Black Dynamite

Black Dynamite posing with a pistol and nunchucks. Image: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Genre: Blaxploitation action comedy
Run time: 1h 25m
Director: Scott Sanders
Cast: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Arsenio Hall

Michael Jai White is a former CIA officer turned crime-fighting karate master in this cult classic lauded for its inventive and hilarious riff on Blaxploitation genre tropes of the ’70s. As Taylor mentions in a behind-the-scenes video on the making of They Cloned Tyrone, the film features a stealthy nod to Black Dynamite by featuring Anaconda malt liquor, the same fictional brand of alcohol seen in that movie. “Shoutout to Michael Jai White,” Taylor told Polygon. “He’s so nice, I just called him up on the phone and he graciously gave us permission to use that reference.”

Black Dynamite is available to stream on Hulu.

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