As any good pop culture fan knows, the best Easter Eggs aren’t always made of chocolate – which is why this year we’re pulling together some of the biggest and best secret references, in-jokes and callbacks hidden inside your favourite TV shows and movies for a very different sort of Easter Egg hunt (follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #RadioTimesEasterEgg).
Today, we’re delving into the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take a look at some of the best Easter Eggs featured in films about the Avengers and their friends. Check out one of our favourite Marvel Easter Eggs below, followed by some of our in-depth Marvel Easter Egg content from the last few years.
Our top Easter Egg pick – a farewell to arms
Considering how many deep-cut comic-book references there are in the Marvel movies, you might expect us to pull some of those out as our top example (and to be fair, Beta Ray Bill’s statue in Thor: Ragnarok almost cut it).
But we couldn’t resist instead showcasing an Easter Egg that has appeared in the most Marvel movies – because what’s the MCU about if not linking loads of different superhero films together? – while also referring to another Disney property.
Here’s the salient question: have you ever noticed how many Marvel characters get their arms or hands cut off? During the MCU’s “Phase Two” of movies (which began after the 2012 Avengers movie with Iron Man 3 and lasts until Ant-Man) fans came to realise that every single film saw a character rather brutally disarmed.
Later, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige confirmed that these were intentional references, and were specifically riffing on one of his favourite movies: 1981’s Star Wars: The Empire Strike Back, which famously saw Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) injured in a similar way (since then, characters have tended to lose an arm in most Star Wars movies).
“So I’m obsessed with Star Wars – and it didn’t start out as intentional, but it became intentional,” Feige told Cinemablend. “It sort of happens in every Star Wars movie, but I was sort of looking at it, ‘Okay, is Phase Two our ‘Empire Strikes Back’?’ Not really, but tonally things are a little different.
“Somebody gets their arm cut off in every Phase Two movie,” he concluded. “Every single one.”
In Iron Man 3 it’s villain Aldritch Killian (Guy Pearce) who has his arm cut off, while in Thor: The Dark World (also released in 2013) Chris Hemsworth’s God of Thunder has a hand amputated during an illusion.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) loses an arm in a flashback and returns as the titular assassin with a prosthetic, while Guardians of the Galaxy features living tree Groot (Vin Diesel) having both his arms temporarily cut off in a battle.
Following that, Avengers: Age of Ultron sees an actual Star Wars actor (Andy Serkis, who later lost an arm in The Last Jedi) fall victim to the curse when sentient robot Ultron (James Spader) maims arms dealer (ahem) Ulysses Klaw, while Ant-Man baddie Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll) ended the 2015 film when one arm shrunk off his body before the rest of him followed.
And the farewell to arms even slipped into the recently-concluded Phase Three when Bucky/The Winter Soldier had his robot arm severed by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) in Captain America: Civil War. Clearly these heroes really were risking life and limb the whole time…
Want more Marvel Easter Egg goodness? Check out a few of our favourites from the past few years below.
The 21 best Spider-Man: Homecoming Easter eggs, references and callbacks
Tom Holland’s first solo entry as Peter Parker/Spider-Man was chock-full of comic-book references, cool costume nods and cameos from the likes of Chris Evans and Mark Ruffalo. Did you spot them all?
The 11 best Black Panther Easter eggs, cameos and comic-book callbacks
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther was hailed as a fresh new take on the superhero genre, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t include plenty of nods, callbacks and Easter Eggs. From Stan Lee’s obligatory cameo and plenty of classic Black Panther costuming, all the way to modern memes, this movie has it all. Check out our favourites now.
Did you spot this brilliant Groundhog Day Easter Egg in Doctor Strange?
A quick one but a good one – if you get the chance to rewatch Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sorceror Supreme in action, be sure to “clock” the time and date on his wristwatch for a nod to a Bill Murray classic.
Ant-Man and the Wasp’s biggest Easter eggs, hidden references and comic-book secrets
Paul Rudd teamed up with Evangeline Lilly in this Ant-Man follow-up, but he also had other company – a whole host of references and Easter Eggs, including cameos from some classic comic-book foes, nods to The Matrix and some intriguing mysteries of the Quantum Realm.
17 of the best Spider-Man: Far From Home Easter eggs and hidden references
Just like Spider-Man: Homecoming, sequel Far From Home was absolutely stuffed with fun secrets for fans to pick out, with some callbacks even stretching right back to characters from the original 2008 Iron Man movie. Also, did anyone notice those other hidden Spider-Man suits??
19 incredibly subtle Avengers: Infinity War Easter eggs and callbacks
We spoke to directors Joe and Anthony Russo about their favourite Easter Eggs from the first of their two-part superhero throwdown, featuring a mysterious blue man, Kevin Bacon, a few familiar comic-book weapons and costumes and that Captain Marvel tease.
The 13 best Easter Eggs, callbacks and hidden references in Thor: Ragnarok
We promised you Beta Ray Bill, and we will deliver – though the giant statue of the fan-favourite character (who may now appear in upcoming sequel Love and Thunder) is just one of many great Easter Eggs in Taika Waititi’s peerless Thor movie.
The 11 best Easter eggs in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Beyond its killer soundtrack, the Guardians of the Galaxy series has always delivered some seriously cool references and Easter Eggs, from familiar planet names (hello, Contraxia) and monsters to, er, Howard the Duck.
Want more? Check out our social feeds and look out for the #RadioTimesEasterEgg hashtag on Twitter to see our favourites and let us know your own most prized pop culture in-jokes and callbacks.
Or check out our guide to watching the Marvel movies in order.