The Surprising Connection Between ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs’

Breaking Bad is insanely good at surface level. The AMC drama documents mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White transforming into a ruthless, murderous drug kingpin who only cares about making money and gaining prestige.

The story of a man corrupted by power is captivating. But some fans may not realize that most references on Breaking Bad come from other popular shows and movies. For example, the two main characters have a not-so-subtle connection to the 1992 crime drama Reservoir Dogs.

‘Breaking Bad’ is based on a partnership

Walter White and Jesse Pinkman
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) | Gregory Peters/AMC

While the story of Breaking Bad mostly focusing on Walter White becoming Heisenberg, none of it would have happened without Jesse Pinkman. Walt first gets the idea to start cooking meth for money after accompanying his wife’s brother-in-law DEA Agent Hank Schrader on a ride along. When Walt notices one of his former students sneaking away from the scene, it plants the seed of his idea.

And Walt only succeeds because of Jesse’s street smarts and willingness to trust Walt. At various points, Walt becomes a mentor, a father figure, and a mortal enemy to Jesse. But they are inevitably linked thanks to their shared experience of being in the drug game together.

Walt and Jesse’s names from ‘Reservoir Dogs’

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Posted by Reservoir Dogs on Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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Quentin Tarantino broke onto the scene with his feature-length debut Reservoir Dogs in 1992. The movie is considered a cult classic about a group of men who commit a diamond heist. These criminals go by aliases, including “Mr. Pink” and “Mr. White.”

Those names are obviously referenced with Jesse Pinkman and Walter White. But the connection goes deeper than surface level. When Jesse finds out Walt was the one who really poisoned Brock, he turns a gun on him in a scene that’s composed exactly like Reservoir Dogs. But Walt manipulates Jesse — again — claiming it was Gus Fring who set the whole thing up.

The scene is reminiscent of a standoff scene in Reservoir Dogs between Mr. White and Mr. Orange when the former feels betrayed. Plus, at the end of the movie Mr. White dies while Mr. Pink escapes, just like at the end of Breaking Bad, one Reddit user discovered.

Considering that series creator Vince Gilligan is such a movie lover, there’s a good chance he included these references on purpose.

Other movie influences on ‘Breaking Bad’

Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad cast | AMC

Reservoir Dogs is only one of several movies that echo in Breaking Bad.

Gilligan admitted that the overall narrative between Jesse and Walt was inspired by the John Wayne movie The Searchers. “John Wayne is chasing after Natalie Wood’s character; she’s been taken by the Comanches, and he keeps saying, ‘When I find her, I’m gonna kill her.’ When he finds her, he sweeps her up and says, ‘Let’s go home,’” Gilligan said.

“We stole from the best,” he continued.

Fans have also found similarities to other classic movies including Pulp Fiction, True Romance, and the 1993 action movie Falling Down. The number of cultural references and Easter eggs throughout the series are almost too numerous to count. It’s all part of what makes Breaking Bad one of the most intentional, thoughtful shows ever created.