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The 7 subtlest Easter eggs in Ready Player One

From hidden Spielberg references to secret Star Wars nods, here are some of the less obvious callbacks you might miss on a first watch – contains spoilers

Published: Thursday, 29th March 2018 at 12:19 pm

It would be nigh-impossible to record every single Easter egg in Ready Player One, given that nearly every shot of Steven Spielberg’s new sci-fi adventure (based on Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name) is stuffed full of classic 1980s and 90s figures while the plot itself revolves around characters obsessed with obscure pop culture trivia.


Still, there were a few callbacks and hidden references that were just about subtle enough that you might have missed them on your first watch, so in honour of the film’s release we’ve collected a few of our favourite low-key Easter eggs from the new movie.


If you spotted all of these the first time round, consider yourself a world-class Gunter.

1. Star Trek funeral

The funeral of Oasis founder James Halliday (Mark Rylance) takes inspiration from sci-fi stalwart Star Trek, with the symbol of Starfleet represented in floral arrangements behind the coffin and the funeral in general looking very reminiscent of Spock’s in 1982 film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

2. Steven Spielberg references

Director Steven Spielberg tried to keep too many references to his own work out of the movie script, even removing a few Easter eggs from Ernest Cline’s original novel – but that didn’t stop his crew trying to sneak a few such callbacks past him.

“We had a sly Fratelli’s Diner [from The Goonies], but we got caught,” production designer Adam Stockhausen told EW. “He nixed it.”

Still, they managed to sneak in a reference to Spielberg’s Oscar-winning film Schindler’s list (the original non-fiction book version, Schindler’s Ark, can be spotted in Wade’s home) as well as one of the creatures from Gremlins, a movie Spielberg executive produced.

“I think a lot of the digital artists were trying to get some of their favorite ’80s cultural references in there, you know?” Spielberg said.

“And having seen every shot 30 times as we go through all the different steps from pre-viz to animatic to final, I started noticing little things. They snuck a gremlin in.”

Plus, of course, in the initial race there’s an attack from a giant T-Rex that would remind anyone of Spielberg’s own Jurassic Park…

3. Iron Terminator

During the final battle scene Aech (Lena Waithe) pilots an enormous Iron Giant robot that later succumbs to damage, sinking into the molten lava around Castle Anorak.

However, before it sinks entirely beneath the molten rock the Giant manages to give Wade/Parzival a thumbs up, paying tribute to a classic scene from 1991 movie Terminator 2 when Schwarzenegger’s reprogrammed war machine does the same while sinking into molten metal, having finally defeated the T-1000 robot and saved young John Connor.

It’s subtle, but worth spotting.

4. A little TIE-d up

The inclusion or exclusion of Star Wars references in Ready Player One has been a bit of a hot topic, with Spielberg initially appearing to suggest he couldn’t get the rights to Star Wars characters and vehicles for use in the film before walking back his comments to reveal that it was his own choice to feature the original trilogy less than Cline’s novel had.

In the end, a few Star Wars references make the film (including one rather meta joke) – but perhaps the most subtle is how the film includes an iconic spaceship from the series, with the trademark scream of an Imperial TIE Fighter in flight heard in the background of another scene.

5. Don’t Overlook this

To get their hands on the Jade key, Wade/Parzival and his friends have to re-enact Stanley Kubrick film The Shining, in one of Ready Player One’s most mind-bending sequences.

And the scene only gets better when you notice that the virtual “cinema” the gang walk into to activate the task is called The Overlook Theatre, paying tribute to The Shining’s Overlook Hotel.

6. The Penn is mightier than the sword

Spielberg wasn’t the only creative on the project to have their own work referenced in the film, with screenwriter Zak Penn (who co-wrote the script with novel author Cline) surprised to discover that a film he worked on was also included in Ready Player One.

The reference can actually be spotted in one of the trailers, and occurs when some of the players pass by a cinema during the opening “race” task for the Copper Key. Advertised on the sign outside the theatre is a film called Jack Slater III, a fictional production based on the lead character of 1993’s Last Action Hero – a film that Penn himself co-created, originating the story with Adam Leff.

"I never saw it until the first screening," Penn told io9. "That's completely Ernie [Cline]. He slipped it in there without asking me...

"I never noticed it, Steven didn't notice it, I had told him not to but when I saw it, I was like, 'Man, that's sweet'. But I was shocked when I saw the screen."

7. Jousted from the script

The Ready Player One film is quite different from the book (as we’ve gone into in more detail elsewhere), with the various tasks Wade and his friends try to complete to gain control of the virtual Oasis altered radically for the big-screen version of the story.

One such task in the book saw Wade gain an important advantage after winning at classic arcade stalwart Joust, and while this was cut in favour of a more cinematic car race in the film, Spielberg still found time to pay tribute to the 1982 videogame.

Watch closely during a scene towards the end when evil company IOI’s department of Oologists (that’s Easter egg experts, basically) decide which classic game they need to play to get their hands on the last key, and you’ll note Joust is among the rejected possibilities – a clear callback to its importance in the film.

Only Ready Player One could manage to include an Easter egg that’s basically just about itself.


Ready Player One is in cinemas now


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