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) 68%

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) 83%

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) 11%

(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 (1988) 89%

(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:

Tag Cloud

ghosts Extras christmas movies Fall TV canceled TV shows mutant Star Trek true crime DGA crime drama versus 71st Emmy Awards Polls and Games batman vampires Superheroe Acorn TV HBO Max talk show Nat Geo historical drama PBS transformers VH1 Video Games cars Spike Winners Marvel Lionsgate Crackle Premiere Dates Classic Film toy story TV The CW TIFF Film Writers Guild of America First Look dragons Rocky discovery Comedy Central Watching Series hispanic Shudder Walt Disney Pictures crime FX Columbia Pictures series CNN dceu Interview mockumentary Nickelodeon Oscars YouTube Premium children's TV Box Office robots Podcast Opinion Marvel Television Countdown doctor who zombies USA Anna Paquin stand-up comedy Television Academy ABC Family binge Character Guide Hulu PaleyFest anthology Ovation Horror Amazon Prime Video Elton John Year in Review Dark Horse Comics Action YouTube elevated horror National Geographic NYCC Disney Plus Spring TV DC streaming service Amazon Musical Arrowverse Apple TV+ Amazon Prime latino Apple 21st Century Fox YouTube Red The Walking Dead anime DirecTV Chernobyl spinoff Schedule X-Men crime thriller Reality Emmys Mudbound supernatural Cannes Warner Bros. Holiday biography Women's History Month Winter TV OWN docudrama Binge Guide WGN BBC America RT21 Pirates Sony Pictures Food Network Cartoon Network cancelled TV shows Bravo Masterpiece Comedy Red Carpet Disney+ Disney Plus sequel Drama Rom-Com Rocketman casting joker video SDCC Summer CBS All Access Tumblr ESPN travel spy thriller slashers adaptation theme song Election Set visit TV renewals Captain marvel spanish language TLC IFC FOX romance zero dark thirty south america game of thrones SXSW natural history TBS FXX politics Syfy Tomatazos Country Calendar cancelled television A&E award winner USA Network cats 2020 war MSNBC comiccon streaming Stephen King indie Creative Arts Emmys Netflix Christmas movies El Rey zombie Black Mirror rotten movies we love TCM Pet Sematary serial killer Teen Logo Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 2016 screenings facebook See It Skip It diversity Mary Poppins Returns Netflix police drama political drama quibi Hallmark Christmas movies Esquire The Purge space Music Paramount Network Nominations unscripted MCU Trivia TNT The Arrangement game show Showtime BET witnail strong female leads Lucasfilm YA Freeform Disney Channel The Witch kids Trophy Talk Infographic MTV TCA cancelled TV series San Diego Comic-Con nature E3 Hallmark LGBT finale Mary Tyler Moore Sci-Fi adventure thriller AMC Turner Classic Movies Ellie Kemper Disney TruTV TV Land Certified Fresh Photos Musicals TCA 2017 History LGBTQ President romantic comedy Film Festival Martial Arts Christmas Family tv talk jamie lee curtis crossover Superheroes psychological thriller what to watch DC Universe singing competition harry potter Holidays foreign aliens period drama blockbuster Thanksgiving Reality Competition television Grammys Awards Tour Comics on TV WarnerMedia blaxploitation festivals GoT Best and Worst 2019 Lifetime disaster hist Valentine's Day Brie Larson halloween green book 45 Western independent cops IFC Films sitcom Universal werewolf Marathons Tarantino Quiz Sneak Peek richard e. Grant teaser Crunchyroll cults Biopics miniseries cancelled CMT Toys cinemax SundanceTV Paramount CW Seed VICE spider-man Kids & Family sports Fox News DC Comics Shondaland social media A24 Trailer Emmy Nominations canceled RT History HBO Pop CBS comics Heroines Adult Swim Apple TV Plus Star Wars Sundance American Society of Cinematographers Disney streaming service dc based on movie BBC Pixar 2015 Mystery animated Sundance Now Mindy Kaling Epix dramedy Super Bowl Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt medical drama Awards justice league Cosplay APB 24 frames Rock Fantasy golden globes GIFs 20th Century Fox ratings Song of Ice and Fire boxoffice Peacock 2017 2018 cartoon renewed TV shows psycho ABC cooking technology Vudu ITV Pride Month Starz Ghostbusters 007 free movies Lifetime Christmas movies movies comic Mary poppins Spectrum Originals Turner breaking bad composers First Reviews New York Comic Con NBC spain Animation Britbox Comic Book revenge E! Marvel Studios GLAAD book science fiction