One of my bad movie-watching habits is that I tend to claim that everything is a reference to other scenes. For example, any time someone rides a motorcycle through a stained-glass window (which happens more often than you'd expect, really), I like to pretend it's a reference to that scene in The Great Muppet Caper where Miss Piggy does it. I freely admit that I might be allowing myself to be unduly influenced by the fact that I used to have this glass:
Good times. Anyway, it turns out that this tendency is perfectly appropriate for watching Quentin Tarantino movies. For example, I thought I was reaching a bit when I saw a line in Kill Bill, Vol. 2 that seemed to echo His Girl Friday (the Cary Grant version of the line is "I'm kind of particular who my wife marries"), but the Internet seems to agree with me. And I'm positive about the Phantasm reference -- as far as I'm concerned, when you see a spinning ball with whirling blades coming out of it, and it's flying at the camera, that means only one thing.
So as I suggested in the previous paragraph, I just watched Kill Bill. I hated Volume 1 when I first watched it. I mean, I hated it a lot. I hated it more than League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I even saw it a second time, just to make sure. And that second time was at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, so I'm pretty sure the problem wasn't that I watched it at a bad place. I just really disliked it. It seemed like every scene involved Uma Thurman getting almost killed, writhing around on the ground covered in blood, and then staggering to her feet and killing her assailant. There was too much of Uma being beat up for my taste; for a proper Foxy Brown-style revenge movie, I want to see her at least once kick the door in, kill everyone in the room, and stalk away. It felt like I could hear Tarantino behind the camera giggling and saying, "Yeah! Beat her up more! More blood! Yeah!"
Anyway, I eventually decided I owed it a second, er, third chance, so I watched a whole bunch of the movies it references. The idea is that instead of sitting back and saying "Yes, I understand that's the outfit worn by Mr. Bruce Lee, what-what!" I'd have just seen Game of Death and thus get a properly visceral reaction.
So, at last, we come to my point. Here are some movies that I think are basic reference points for Kill Bill. It makes a pretty good list of homework, if you have a free weekend.
Game of Death - Well, there's the issue of the yellow jumpsuit and the riding a motorcycle to your bloody revenge. But it's also a big-time kung fu flick, and if you haven't seen at least one Bruce Lee movie it should be -- well, it should obviously be Enter the Dragon. But then this one, I guess.
The Street Fighter - Sonny Chiba is a total bad ass. You know that, of course, but you might know it just because people in Quentin Tarantino scripts are always going on about him. This is the movie that made him a star, and the DVD probably has the sequel on it, so you get two movies at once. This way, when Chiba shows up in Kill Bill, you can think of all the bad-ass stuff the character used to do.
The Long Riders - David Carradine has done a million movies, but judging from his diaries, he's very fond of this one, in which he and his brothers play the Youngers while a bunch of other families of actors supply the other character families. Carradine has a great knife fight with James Remar, who also appeared in director Walter Hill's The Warriors as Ajax. This is key for seeing Bill as someone who was an extremely tough cowboy when he was young.
Circle of Iron - This is really "The Silent Flute" everywhere but the DVD box. It's interesting for two reasons: it's one of the movies where Carradine gets to spout eastern mysticism (also an aspect of Bill) and the flute he uses is actually in Kill Bill, in the campfire scene. Also it stars a guy who's kind of a low-rent Miles O'Keefe, if that's the sort of thing you enjoy. And I do!