- Structures or situations in which each individual element is plausible, but which become impossible when taken as a whole.
- Tessellations — that is, patterns which could extend over the entire plane if repeated indefinitely.
Many works will reference some of these constructions he invented or popularized — some common choices are Relativity, a room with various staircases and landings using different directions of gravity, Drawing Hands, in which two hands are each drawing the other into existence, and Ascending and Descending, a staircase which goes up or down forever (based on the Penrose Stairway).
(Escher also happens to be a close contemporary of Rene Magritte, whose works also mess with the viewers' heads, though not in the same way.)
A long list of Escher in popular culture can be found in this page.
- An episode of Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei concludes with a fake show-within-a-show involving the character Kaere as a Hot Teacher. Since she's teaching geometry, she's shown strolling through several famous Escher works.
- Labyrinth: The Goblin King's final chamber was clearly based on this, and Sarah has a print of Relativity in her room.
- Warehouse 13 has the "Escher Vault," which is a room constructed like Relativity, which is constantly changing at high speed. You need special equipment of one kind or another to get through it.
- The Haunted Mansion at Disney World now includes a "Relativity" room, complete with ghostly footprints appearing on the steps, usually at extreme angles to the direction of gravity.
- A choice adventure in the Kingdom of Loathing - more specifically, the Haunted Art Gallery - starts here, and all directions seem to be as if this work was providing directions (up, down, or sideways).
- In King's Quest VII, you have to get through a room shaped like this in Archduke Fifi's manor.
- In Tales of the Questor, parts of the Castle of Tir Na Nog in the Fae realm resembled this design. It becomes hilarious when a character subjected to it....promptly loses their lunch.
- Protectors of the Plot Continuum HQ has Escher Rooms where gravity is weird.
- One of the apartments Fry and Bender look at in the Futurama episode "I, Roommate". Bender fell down, up, and across the stairs while hunting for an apartment. They decided not to move in, as "paying for dimensions I'm not going to use" isn't really value for money.
- Briefly seen in The Simpsons Movie during Homer's dream quest, with the stairs shaped like the inside of Homer's head. One of the show's Couch Gags uses it too.
- Family Guy referenced it twice. Once Stewie obtained a copy while posing as Brian's college roommate; on another occasion Peter referenced "that rap video by MC Escher", prompting a cut to Escher dressed as MC Hammer doing an incredibly bad rap song and dancing on the stairs.
Stewie: I think it's called... Crazy Stairs...
- In "The Doof Side of the Moon" of Phineas and Ferb, the same coaster goes through such a room on four different tracks at the same time, as Phineas explains that it's 'the M.C. Escher Floor!'
- Even earlier, in "Gaming the System", they made a section of their video game based on Relativity.
- A version appears in Jackie Chan Adventures, in the Lotus Temple.
- In the second episode of Drawn Together, Toots convinces Clara she's pregnant after her Les Yay kiss with Foxxy, just so she can push her down a flight of stairs for laughs. When Clara "still smells pregnant," they next try the "MC Escher room," where Clara falls down the iconic set of circling stairs for like three minutes to kill her non-existent baby. Yes, it was that kind of show.
To other works
- Inception has two sets of Ascending and Descending (and hence Penrose stairs)-inspired stairs: Arthur shows a fairly large one to Ariadne during her training and later makes good with an ass-kicking use of a second one in the second dream level's hotel.
- Escher's work Eye is seen in Donnie Darko, on Donnie's wall as a poster.
- In the Discworld novel Moving Pictures, the layout of the Library of Unseen University is described as "a topographical nightmare, [...] that would make M. C. Escher go for a good lie down, or possibly sideways." In Guards! Guards!, old-fashioned bookshops are said to be looking like "as though they were designed by M.C. Escher on a bad day".
- Godel Escher Bach includes (along with many other references to Escher, as one might infer from the title) a dialogue in which the characters find themselves inside "Convex and Concave" and "Reptiles".
- The animated short Hallucii features Penrose stairs in an urban environment.
- Dantes Inferno has a room evocative of "Other World".
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess features the Oocca, which resemble the human-bird... things in Another World.
- In Adventure Quest Worlds, the town of Mobius is the victim of the First Lord of Chaos: Escherion. The entire quest chain to confront him is filled with M.C. Escher references, fitting of a Lord of Chaos.
- In Chrono Cross, a sojourn through a place that appears to be outside reality, or something, features a tower with an endless staircase like that in Ascending and Descending.
- The SCP Foundation references the Penrose staircase of Ascending And Descending when a living drawing is asked to walk it. She thinks it's neat, and asks why more stairways aren't like this.
- In the Furcadia contest dream "Puzzle Mansion", the stairway works like this.