Audiences expect to be riveted, surprised, or simply astonished when a blockbuster film comes to theaters. But what about the stories, messages, and deeper meanings that being told below the surface? Most films are exactly what they seem to be, but every so often, a writer or director will craft a hit film that is much, much more than meets the eye.
Here is our list of 10 Amazing Hidden Messages in Popular Movies.
Jeff Bridges got the chance to show a darker side when cast as the villain of Iron Man, but the visual effects team made it clear which of the actor’s roles was their favorite. When Pepper Potts is secretly looking for evidence on his computer, the documents show weapons shipped on a vessel named “Lebowski” – a nod to Bridges’ role in The Big Lebowski released a decade earlier. His character’s name is also contained in a barcode for all to see, and exact quotes from the movie are easy to read in the fine print. Pepper and the viewers had just a fraction of a second to read all of the hidden messages, since she’s interrupted by none other than The Dude himself.
In Marvel’s version of World War II, it was HYDRA and Red Skull who posed the real threat to the Allies. The villain even shrugs off Adolf Hitler, claiming to be doing real research while the German leader wastes his time “digging for trinkets in the desert.” When audiences remember that Captain America director Joe Johnston worked in visual effects and art direction for Raiders of the Lost Ark, the real meaning of this line is clear. At the very least, it’s a nod to the plot of Indiana Jones’ first adventure, and at most, a playful hint that the archeologist existed in the Marvel Universe.
The idea that humanity’s idea of reality is decaying, or is already erased wasn’t a totally original thought when The Matrix hit theaters. Once Neo is removed from his artificial life, Morpheus shows him the world as it really is – welcoming him “to the desert of the real.” That line is taken word for word from “Simulacra and Simulation” by philosopher Jean Baudrillard, a book that can be seen in Neo’s apartment. Considering his search for meaning, it’s no coincidence that the book is opened to a chapter “On Nihilism” – the belief that… all beliefs are meaningless. Eventually, the philosophy changes, with Neo accepting that he is “The One,” and even being resurrected by the ‘Holy Trinity.’
Before the scientists of Jurassic Park had learned the dangers of growing dinosaurs firsthand, they developed a unique method to control breeding – grow only female dinosaurs. Ian Malcolm warned that the solution wouldn’t work forever, but Alan Grant had already proven the theory earlier in the film. During the group’s bumpy arrival on the island, Alan struggles with his helicopter seatbelt. Why? He’s trying to connect two female ends. Rather than swapping buckles or giving up, he fashions his own solution, just as mother nature would later in the movie. Grant, like Life “found a way.”
With the star of this near-future action film advertised as part man, part machine, it’s hard to see how Robocop could truly take inspiration from the Bible. But the events of the movie are a clear match: Alex Murphy is a hero in a corrupt city, who is killed, resurrected, and emerges as a robotic savior. Director Paul Verhoeven confirmed that a Biblical allegory was his goal, even including a scene of Murphy walking on water in the film’s third act. According to the Dutch filmmaker, an invincible hero who used bullets instead of forgiveness was his idea of “an American Jesus,” dishing out brutal justice in a world torn apart by violent crime.
Every Firefly fan knows that Joss Whedon’s canceled TV show was given a second life, and a conclusion on the big screen. But when Serenity was greenlit by Universal, the crew realized that Fox, believing the property to be dead, had destroyed the sets – meaning they had to be rebuilt from scratch. The film’s budget had to cover the new ship, but Whedon made light of the situation, stencilling storage containers with the words “REUSABLE CONTAINER: DO NOT DESTROY” in large letters. Let’s hope they took the message to heart.
Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
The story of two stoners in search of burgers made John Cho and Kal Penn overnight stars, but Cho previously turned heads in the movie Better Luck Tomorrow, director Justin Lin’s acclaimed story of over-achieving Asian American teens. Lin has confirmed the movie is a prequel story for Fast & Furious hero Han, but the same can’t be said for Cho’s character. Someone on the set of Harold & Kumar was clearly a fan, and found a clever way of working the title into the script (coming from the mouth of an “extreme” jerk).
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
When James Cameron’s sci-fi sequel Judgment Day hit theaters in 1991, it did so with a theme song: “You Could Be Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. But that wasn’t always the plan. James Cameron has never admitted he made the film with the band in mind, but there are some obvious clues. Not only is John Connor’s best friend wearing an L.A. Guns t-shirt – one of the two bands which would lead to GNR – but when the Terminator finally arrives to take on the T-1000 in a shopping mall, he reveals his gun hidden in a box of, you guessed it, roses. Arnold Schwarzenegger personally convinced the band to sign on, making sure the movie’s sales pitch was a successful one.
The Lost World: Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park was a hard adventure to beat, but director Steven Spielberg tackled the challenge anyway, removing dinosaurs from the island, and dropping them in San Diego. The added spectacle wasn’t a hit with every fan, but the director had gotten the chance to finally film many of the sequences and plot beats that he couldn’t fit in the first movie. The Lost World ended with the dinosaurs traveling back to Isla Sorna, and letting Spielberg finally take on the role of a fan – literally. Look closely at the TV reflection in the final scene, and the director can be seen with a bowl of popcorn in his lap, and a smile on his face.
The religious themes and imagery of Ridley Scott’s sort-of-prequel to Alien begin in the opening scene, with an alien Engineer sacrificing himself to seed Earth with life – an idea seen in Greek, Roman and Aztec religions. But it’s not the most obvious message. When the cast of Prometheus uncovers an ancient map to a distant moon, LV-223, the film’s Christian heroine sees it as an invitation to meet her creator in person. But instead of answers, the crew finds violent creatures and an Engineer determined to destroy all human life on Earth.
It may be unexpected, but apply the Bible to the story, and some answers are possible. The moon LV-223 is likely a reference to Leviticus 22:3, a warning from God that “…if any of your descendants is unclean, and yet comes near these sacred offerings…they shall perish before the Lord.” To make the twist on Christianity even clearer, Scott had planned to explain that an Engineer sent to save mankind 2,000 years ago was crucified instead, but decided that was a little too on the nose.
So what do you think of our list? Did we miss any of your favorite trivia or behind-the-scenes- details lines in your favorite movies? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos like this one!