Ready Player One Easter Egg Watchlist: What To See Before Seeing Spielberg's Latest

Our spoiler-free, reference-rich guide to what to see before you check out Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One

by | March 26, 2018 | Comments

Ernest Cline‘s book Ready Player One is like one giant easter egg, filled with ever-smaller easter eggs — like a pop-culture nerd’s own little Russian nesting doll. The plot is about the search for an Easter Egg, and each stage of that search is an easter egg unto itself. And then, every paragraph is laden with easter eggs of its own, references to video games and anime films and, more than anything else, the ’80s.

Steven Spielberg‘s adaptation of Ready Player One, which hits theaters March 30, makes a lot of changes to Cline’s book — author-approved changes, mind you, as Cline co-wrote the screenplay — but the spirit of the novel remains intact. In particular, the film, like the book, includes a ton of easter eggs and references. So many, in fact, we think it would require Cline himself multiple viewings to pick them all up. (Spielberg admitted recently that the special effects artists were adding things even he didn’t even pick up on until he was making very final shot approvals).

We don’t want to spoil the movie for you — half the fun of Ready Player One is in its surprise pop-culture references. But we do want to help you get the most out of your viewing experience — so you’re ready to catch every little easter egg on offer. With that in mind, we’ve put together a spoiler-free guide to what you should watch before you join Parzival, Art3mis, and a whole bunch of ’80s-flavored easter eggs in the OASIS.

Spielberg’s Entire Oeuvre (OK, maybe not Schindler’s List)

(Photo by ©Universal)

And maybe not Munich, or Amistad or The Post. And definitely not War Horse. But there are tons of nods to and cameos from Spielberg’s big blockbuster hits, especially the one about the dinos. The Spielberg gems come thick and fast and pretty early in the pic — so eyes out. It all makes a bunch of sense, given that the filmmakers had to secure the rights for every easter egg they use here. And it has us imagining a Spielberg-directed Ready Player One sequel, full of easter eggs referencing the original Spielberg-directed Ready Player One: Our pop-culture–loving minds were just blown.

Child's Play (1988) 71%

Famous ’80s slashers abound in Ready Player One — if you’ve seen the trailer, you know Freddy and Jason are back for their first reunion since carving up a member of Destiny’s Child in Freddy vs. Jason. But it’s scene-stealing killer doll Chucky who gets the most love, and screen time, from Spielberg. We weren’t able to spot his Bride or his Seed anywhere, but maybe you will.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) 93%

Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1984 film The Terminator (Orion Pictures Corporation)

(Photo by © TriStar)

As if you needed a reason to revisit James Cameron’s genre-defining sci-fi action classic. We won’t say when, what or how T2 is referenced, but Steven Spielberg said during a South By Southwest Q&A that this is his favorite easter egg in the movie.

Back to the Future (1985) 96%

(Photo by (c)Universal)

There are blink-and-you’ll miss them references to Robert Zemeckis’s 1980s favorite throughout, and the director himself is called out by name. In fact, the whole movie feels undergirded by the spirit of Marty McFly and his journeys back and forth through time. So, it’s worth watching Back to the Future just to prep for the vibes. The most obvious allusion to the movie, though — and we’re not spoiling anything here if you’ve seen the trailers — is the DeLorean that Parzival drives when he is inside the OASIS.

The Iron Giant (1999) 96%

(Photo by ©Warner Bros. Pictures)

One of the most beloved animated movies of the 1990s — and one of the most critically adored, with 96% on the Tomatometer — is used to great effect in Ready Player One. The giant robot’s role has been amped up considerably in the transition from book to film, a decision that seems to have paid off. When Spielberg first revealed the big guy in footage shown at Comic-Con last year, fans went wild; expect similar reactions in your theater when the Giant gets his big moments.

Saturday Night Fever (1977) 82%

Fans of the book will be excited to hear that Parzival and Art3mis make it to virtual nightclub, the Distracted Globe. And once there, well, it’s Dance Dance Revolution by way of John Travolta.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) 91%

(Photo by Courtesy the Everett Collection)

Don’t expect to spot rogue Oompa Loompas in Ready Player One, or to spy a long-lost Augustus Gloop shooting through a random chocolatey tube somewhere in the background. Watch this wonderfully bizarre family classic to get a sense of the story beats. Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory is a world of pure imagination, just like the OASIS, and danger lurks in both.

Street Fighter (1994) 13%

(Photo by ©Universal)

OK, maybe skip the movie and bring a bucket full of coins to an arcade that still has Street Fighter 2. If you’ve seen the trailer, you know the battle scenes feature a cavalcade of your favorite kicking, punching and hadouken-ing SF2 fighters. And there is a moment near the end of the movie that will blow… no, nope, we’re not saying anything else. But while you’re in video game mode, do brush up on Halo, Overwatch, and all your N64 classics.

King Kong (1933) 98%

King Kong, 1933

New York City’s favorite furry menace is central to one of Parzival’s key challenges, and that’s all we will say. You could dangle us from the top of the Empire State Building and we still wouldn’t tell you which one.

Akira (2020) 90%

(Photo by Courtesy the Everett Collection)

Like Ernest Cline’s book, Steven Spielberg’s film is littered with anime references. The most-front-and-center anime easter egg, though, comes in the form of the bike Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) rides. Yes, that’s Kaneda’s famous red motorbike from Akira.

Say Anything... (1989) 98%

The references in Ready Player One the book are broad. It wasn’t just about Spielberg movies and comics and Atari and anime; there were dramas and interesting novels and, yes, romcoms. And so it is with the film. You probably don’t need to rewatch the whole movie to get the key reference — just do a Google images search of the title — but there are worse ways to spend your time than enjoying a 98% Fresh classic.

Mad Max (1979) 90%

(Photo by ©Warner Bros)

Spielberg told Rotten Tomatoes that there are strong narrative parallels between Parzival’s journey and Max Rockatansky’s. “It’s a journey, it’s a chase, it’s a race,” said Spielberg. “There’s a goal in all of them… Mad Max is evocative of what we did here.” (Also, look around in Halliday’s office.)

Check out Movieclips’ Reference Guide for Ready Player One:

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