Most of the time, Easter eggs—the kind you find in a video game or Marvel movie, not the ones painted in dainty pastels—are just a diversion. In Ready Player One, they’re the main event. The new movie from Steven Spielberg, adapted from Ernest Cline’s award-winning 2011 novel, takes place in 2045, when a decreasingly habitable real world has driven its inhabitants to spend much of their time in a virtual reality alternative called the OASIS. After his death, its creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) leaves a message that whoever finds the Easter egg he’s hidden inside this vast simulated world will inherit the keys to his kingdom. Cue the efforts of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and friends, whose quest to find the egg before an evil corporate competitor (Ben Mendelsohn) propels the movie’s action.
Ready Player One isn’t just about an Easter egg, though — it’s full of them. So many, in fact, that it would require pausing the movie at every frame with a 1980s nerd-culture savant on your shoulder to find them all. (Once it’s streaming, we don’t doubt that many will try.) Some, like the gargantuan King Kong that leaps from the OASIS’ Empire State Building, are easy enough to spot. Others require an eagle eye and perhaps a refresher of that old VHS collection.
Below, find a guide to some of the most notable references and Easter Eggs in Ready Player One.
Superman, Batman, Joker, Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman
Batman is the first of the DC Comics superheroes seen in Ready Player One, when Wade is giving the audience a tour of the limitless possibilities inside the OASIS. One of them: climb Mt. Everest with Batman. Superman is invoked several times, once when Wade and Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) quote Lex Luthor, and again when Wade puts on Clark Kent glasses to hide his identity. The Joker and Harley Quinn can be spotted among the many crowds of avatars the populate the OASIS. And Wade’s best friend Aech (Lena Waithe), known as Helen in the real world, has a Wonder Woman patch on her jacket.
According to Screenrant, these rights were likely among the easiest to secure, since Warner Bros., which distributed Ready Player One, owns DC Entertainment.
Back to the Future
Inside the OASIS, Wade’s avatar Parzival drives a DeLorean, just like the one used to travel back to the future in the 1985 Robert Zemeckis film (which Spielberg executive produced). Later, Art3mis teases Parzival, calling him McFly, a reference to Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly. In a pivotal scene, Parzival uses a “Zemeckis cube,” which looks like a Rubik’s Cube but can be used to turn back time 60 seconds.
During the race for the first of Halliday’s three keys, Wade and the other competing avatars must dodge a number of obstacles. The worst of them is a fierce King Kong, swinging from the Empire State Building and making the challenge nearly impossible. (This one’s hard to miss, no matter your literacy in nerd culture.)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Spielberg has said that he didn’t want the movie to be full of references to his own filmography, but a few made it in. At the end of the movie, we get a glimpse into Halliday’s childhood bedroom. On the wall is a poster for the 1981 Indiana Jones movie (along with posters for Rush and Pacman). There’s also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gremlin in the final battle (Spielberg executive-produced that movie) and a giant T-rex in the race scene, which doesn’t appear to be directly out of Jurassic Park—but it does conjure thoughts of that movie.
The Iron Giant
Aech’s workshop is replete with references, many of which are barely visible to the naked eye. The most glaring of them is a model of the Iron Giant, from the 1999 Warner Bros.-produced movie of the same name. (The friendly robot also makes a pivotal appearance during Ready Player One‘s climax.) In a conversation with production designer Adam Stockhausen, Entertainment Weekly identified a plethora of other Easter Eggs in this scene, including: the Winnebago from Spaceballs, a device from the animated series Exosquad, a starfighter from Battlestar Galactica, a droid from RoboCop, the Ferrari from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a Thunderfighter from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, the Swordfish II from the show Cowboy Bebop and the EVA pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
While preparing for a date with Art3mis in the OASIS, Parzival tries on several outfits, settling on a tribute to Buckaroo Banzai, the protagonist of the 1984 sci-fi film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Banzai, a brain surgeon-slash-rock star who fights alien invaders, turns out to be a good choice to impress Art3mis. Aech’s bedroom, where Parzival is trying on outfits, has posters from the 1980s movies Mad Max and The Beastmaster, and Parzival does the dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video while getting dressed.
Halliday wears a t-shirt that pays tribute to Space Invaders, the arcade game released in 1978. It’s one of many video games made for Atari (the 1980 version was made for Atari 2600) that are referenced in the film. Others include Swordquest, Atari Adventure and Centipede.
Last Action Hero
In the race sequence early in the film, the words “Jack Slater” appear on a marquis. Slater is the name of the fictional character played by Arnold Schwarznegger in the 1993 action-comedy Last Action Hero, directed by John McTiernan. Later, when the characters are trying to get Halliday’s second key, there are several other movies playing at a movie theater: Say Anything, The Fly remake, and The Shining.
In search of the second key, Parzival, Art3mis and company enter into a replica of the world of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of The Shining, complete with Room 237, a tennis ball and those creepy twins. They figure out that this corner of the OASIS contains the key based on a clue about a “creator who hates his creation.” Stephen King, who wrote the novel, has famously spoken out about his distaste for the movie. Another King reference: during the race scene, one avatar is driving the Plymouth from his 1983 novel Christine.
There are many food and drink references in Ready Player One, including a joke, made by I-R0K (T.J. Miller) about the owl in the commercial for the Tootsie Pop, which debuted in the 1960s, before most of the other references in the film. At one point, Sorrento, the villain played by Mendelsohn, makes a reference to drinking Tab soda in order to appear down with retro pop-culture references. The opening scene shows drones delivering Pizza Hut, and Hot Pockets, a classic ’80s snack, are also mentioned.
Odds and Ends
Music: The soundtrack includes many classics of the late 1970s and 1980s, including: Van Halen’s “Jump,” Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” There are also references to Duran Duran, “Take on Me” by a-ha and the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” and a Billy Idol CD can be spotted in Halliday’s old office.
Games: The OASIS has within it many popular video and arcade games including Street Fighter, Halo, Minecraft, Dungeons and Dragons and Borderlands. Robotron and Dark Crystal are also referenced.
Toys: In addition to the Rubik’s-like Zemeckis cube, Parzival uses a Magic 8-Ball to broadcast a message across the OASIS. In the race scene, Aech drives a Bigfoot Monster Truck, which was made into a Hot Wheels toy.
Star Wars: At one point, Wade is offered a deal that involves use of a Millennium Falcon in the OASIS. A Leia avatar is also visible among the crowds in the OASIS.
Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Halliday references the Keanu Reeves/Alex Winter comedy while hatching a plan that involves traveling backwards in time.
The Princess Bride: When following orders from Sorrento, I-R0K says, “As you wish,” a phrase Westley repeats to Princess Buttercup throughout The Princess Bride.
Citizen Kane: At the end of the movie, Wade refers to another character as “the Rosebud,” a reference to Orson Welles’ dying words in the 1941 classic.
Also Spotted: Marvin the Martian, Hello Kitty and Beetlejuice walking around inside the OASIS; Chucky, the creepy villain from the Child’s Play horror movies; Mechagodzilla, from the 1974 movie Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, during the final battle; and an alien like the one that bursts out of John Hurt’s chest in Alien (1979).
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