1. The Crying Indian Commercial
Wayne's World 2
Original: This Commercial from Earth Day, 1971:
For years, pop culture made me vaguely aware that at some point in a movie or a tv show or whatever else people used to have (Radio serials? Those wooden hoops & sticks?), there was once an Indian who saw garbage dropped at his feet and teared up. Some decades later, Youtube allowed me to watch the original (and patently absurd) 1971 'Keep America Beautiful' ad that inspired these parodies, allowing me to agree in retrospect, "oh, that's what that was. Well, everyone was correct to have made fun of that."
That dude in the car throws SO MUCH garbage out the window! Like, a cartoonishly hilarious amount. I don't care what ANYONE says, I am AGAINST people doing that! #TeamEarth
And for good measure, the actor playing the Indian wasn't an actual Native American. Just an all-round great job.
2. "Keep Calm And Carry On" Posters
Parodied By: Everyone. Basically, every possible combination of English words has been made into one of these:
Original: This poster from pre-World War II England:
I'm pretty sure I saw every possible iteration of the "Keep Calm And [Nerdy Reference / Pun / Literally Anything Else Regardless of Whether or Not It Actually Makes Sense or Has Anything To Do With The Aforementioned Calmness]" meme long before I realized it began as an actual poster in the U.K. in 1939 urging citizens to remain calm in the face of impending potential war.
So basically, it makes total sense that this thing continues to inspi zinged in t-shirt form seventy years after it actually existed.
3. The "Risky Business" Underwear Scene
Heidi Klum Guitar Hero Ad
ALF, nailing it as always
Original: Risky Business, 1983:
Not to date myself here, but one of my earliest tv memories is seeing ALF singing along to "Old Time Rock n' Roll" and thinking it was the funniest thing I'd ever seen (besides the part in The Naked Gun when Frank Drebbin grabs onto the statue's penis), somehow oblivious to the fact that ALF was merely mimicking a spoiled Tom Cruise character who filled his vapid rich-boy existence by nailing a high-priced prostitute a bunch of times. As ALF was known to do, from time to time.
4. "Rosebud" from Citizen Kane
The Critic - ad for "Rosebud Frozen Peas"
Original: Citizen Kane, 1941:
As a child, despite not being a conosseuir of classic 40s cinema, I did manage to piece together that a film called "Citizen Kane" involved a sled named "Rosebud," thanks to 47 or so arcane references in my favorite animated shows. When I eventually watched the landmark film, I was simultaneously irked and amused that for all those years, I was unknowingly having the greatest movie of all time completely spoiled for me by various animated characters.
Is it too unreasonable to ask that we give people 60-70 years to see a movie before ruining it, instead of just a mere half century? Thanks a lot, jerks.
5. "2001: A Space Odyssey" Music
Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1
Original: "2001: A Space Odyssey" opening scene:
Richard Strauss' classical piece 'Also sprach Zarathustra' was always just a stock-reference for "WHATEVER'S HAPPENING HERE IS EPIC" long before I realized it was specifically made famous by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Needless to say, this revelation shocked me nearly as much as the time I learned that some classical music actually PREDATES Looney Tunes. Go figure!
7. Every Scene In The Godfather
Original: The Godfather, 1972:
Even as a stupid child, I was aware of The Godfather and realized that it was often being referenced in tv shows I liked (Anamaniacs' "The Godpigeon" character isn't the subtlelest reference to pick up), but only when I finally ended up watching The Godfather beginning-to-end in 8th Grade did I realized that I'd seen every single scene in the movie parodied in some form, often multiple times, without even realizing it.
I'm pretty sure at this point that even, like, the MPAA Logo in the closing-credits scroll has been parodied 58,000 times. The Godfather truly was the "Wrecking Ball" video of yesteryear.
8. WAY Too Many Weird Al Songs
"Weird" Al Songs I heard long before I even knew they were parodies: "I Lost On Jeopardy" (parody of "Jeopardy" by Greg Kihn), "I Think I'm A Clone Now" (parody of "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tiffany), "Jurassic Park" (parody of "Macarthur Park" by Richard Harris), and probably a dozen more.
And my favorite example (and "Weird" Al song in general), "Six Words Long":
Original: George Harrison's "Got My Mind Set On You" (technically a cover, but this is the version being parodied):
Ahh, "Weird" Al songs: the ultimate example of becoming familiar with something as a kid, then years later hearing the original version and realizing that the thing you used to sing along to was actually a parody that whole time. How... "strange"!
Honorable Mentions: The end of Casablanca, "Ride of the Valkyries" from Apocalypse Now, Gone With The Wind, the Psycho shower scene, any Marx Brothers impression, "Where's The Beef", "That's a Spicy Meatball", "Who Shot J.R.?"
Other times where you knew the parody long before you knew the original? Leave 'em in the comments!