When watching a movie, most viewers are going to judge things like the story, characterization, and narrative themes to determine whether or not they enjoyed it - but Easter Eggs can certainly add to the fun of seeing a film. Throughout history, filmmakers have hidden messages or references to other works as a little game eagle-eyed viewers can play to enhance the experience. Of course, Easter eggs can rarely overcome any shortcomings a movie might have, but their inclusion in a project can elevate a movie to “see it again” status as audiences scout every frame for a little in-joke or subtle nod to something they know.
With so many examples to sort through, everyone has their own favorites that they love to point out over and over again. As a starting point for newcomers, we’ve compiled our list of 10 Great Easter Eggs in Movies so the next time you watch one of these films, you have something else to look forward to besides the best scene or that one standout performance.
11 “This Never Happened to the Other Fellow”
Recasting an iconic film role is always a tricky proposition, but the James Bond franchise is one that has pulled it off time and time again. Since Dr. No launched the action series in 1962, six actors have donned the tuxedo for EON Productions, each leaving their own stamp on the character. More often than not, each Bond will exist in his own continuity, hardly (if ever) making reference to what came before. But that wasn’t the case in George Lazenby’s one and only appearance, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
After warding off two evil henchmen on a beach and saving Tracy (Diana Rigg) in the film’s opening sequence, the new 007 sees his potential love interest go speeding away in a car as opposed to staying with him. Bond simply quips, “This never happened to the other fellow,” making a sly reference to Sean Connery (who had played the spy in the previous five films). Not only was this a humorous nod to the franchise’s history, but it also lends credence to the popular “James Bond is a code name” fan theory (before Skyfall debunked it with Bond's childhood history).
10 X Marks Death
With a title like The Departed, one would expect there to be bloodshed in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning crime drama, a fact that ramps up the tension and suspense during several of its scenes. But instead of worrying about who was getting out alive, all one has to do is look for the letter “X,” which is used throughout the film to foreshadow which cops and mobsters are going to kick the bucket by the time it’s all over.
Instances of this include Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) overlooking the Boston skyline in his new apartment, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) during the movie’s opening moments, and Queenan (Martin Sheen) as he falls to his doom. Leonardo DiCaprio’s poor Billy Costigan is marked several times, such as when he makes a panicked phone call to his superiors in an airport and when he finally apprehends Sullivan and takes him to the elevator. The only main character to not be hit with an X is Mark Wahlberg’s Dignam, who not so coincidentally is the only character to live to tell the whole tale.
9 Mia Wallace is The Bride?
When Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) get together for a nice dinner, they don’t just talk about $5 shakes and uncomfortable silences. One of the most noteworthy passages of dialogue from this scene is when Mia describes her TV pilot, Fox Force Five, to Vincent. The show revolved around a “female hit squad” comprised of a blonde girl, a French girl, a black girl, a Japanese girl, and Mia’s character. Fast forward about a decade to Quentin Tarantino’s own Kill Bill films, and you have the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad with members Elle Driver, Sofie Fatale, Vernita Green, O-ren Ishii, and The Bride – all of whom match the descriptions of the Fox Force Five ladies.
Throw in the fact that Mia specifically states her character’s specialty was a knife (and the Bride was a master with her sword); it’s too much to be just a coincidence. In the “Tarantino Universe” model, Kill Bill is believed to be a movie within the movie universe (meaning Jules and Butch from Pulp Fiction could see Kill Bill in a theater), so the casting of Thurman in the lead role might actually be her reprising Mia as her Fox Force Five character. It’s a lot to get your head around, but it’s an interesting angle to consider for Tarantino enthusiasts.
8 Seven Years in Fight Club
In Fight Club, it’s revealed that the Narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) are actually the same person, with the latter representing a split personality that the former had created to escape his mundane existence. Durden even taunts the Narrator by saying he’s everything the Narrator is not, and one look at him, you can see why “Jack” would think of someone like Tyler for his new self. And while the movie never actually comes out and says why the Narrator chose this appearance, it’s implied in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail.
While the Narrator chases down Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) down the street, a marquee for a movie theater is visible. The film being advertised is Seven Years in Tibet, which coincidentally also starred Pitt. This implies that perhaps the Narrator modeled Durden after the famous actor. Yes, movies featuring Norton (The People vs. Larry Flynt) and Carter (The Wings of the Dove) are also plugged in Fight Club, but given how boring the Narrator’s life is, it’s not completely out of the question for him to just be a big Pitt fan and wish to live like him (which is something most men would want to do).
7 Add Tyler as a Friend?
It’s an old industry practice for filmmakers to make reference to their earlier works in their latest film (see: the numerous Star Wars references hidden in the Indiana Jones films), and that’s exactly what David Fincher did in his acclaimed drama, The Social Network. During the film, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) chooses to cheat on his art exam by creating a fake Facebook profile to post pictures of art and see various opinions on it in the comments. The name he chooses for his dummy page is none other than Tyler Durden.
Apparently, Tyler’s imaginary life of luxury is so enviable that even soon-to-be billionaires would rather live like him than go through another semester at Harvard. Either that, or the film Zuckerberg is just like several other male college students and has Fight Club on his list of favorite films of all-time. Whatever the case may be, it’s an amusing nod to what is arguably Fincher’s most famous film and something fun for his longtime fans to keep an eye out for.
6 Cracking Alien Skulls
Between Marvel Studios and Warner Bros./DC Entertainment, shared movie universes are all the rage in Hollywood these days, with a plethora of comic book movies set to come out over the next handful of years. However, they were hardly the first ones to explore the possibilities of mixing and matching various franchises. Nearly two decades before Iron Man, Fox beat the superhero studios to the punch by placing a not-so-subtle reference to the Alien franchise in Predator 2.
On the Predator’s ship, there is a trophy case showing off the skulls of various organisms the creature has slain over the years. One of the most prominent ones featured is that of the xenomorph, best known as the alien species from the Alien series. In a move that most likely sent fans into a frenzy, the studio confirmed that both brands existed in the same universe, teasing moviegoers with the possibility of a crossover one day. Unfortunately, this cool nod is arguably the most memorable instance of Alien and Predator crossing paths, as the two feature films produced were hardly a highlight for either property.
5 Woody and Buzz are ‘Shining’
Since 1995, Pixar has made a name for themselves crafting entertaining movies that viewers of all ages can enjoy, but their methods go beyond their film’s themes and rich characterizations. Always one to keep adults involved, the filmmakers scattered numerous references to Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film The Shining throughout the Toy Story trilogy, which will surely go over youngster’s heads, but give older cinephiles some things to keep an eye out for the next time they sit down to watch the adventures of Woody and Buzz with their children.
In the original movie, the carpet pattern in Sid’s house is identical to the flooring in the Overlook Hotel, and the nods to Jack Torrance’s place of employment don’t stop there. A self-proclaimed fan of the movie, Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich placed multiple references to the hotel’s infamous Room 237 – as everything from license plates to video surveillance cameras to online chat usernames are adorned with the number “237.” Given that the toys constantly find themselves in scenarios filled with dread at every turn, these Easter eggs may go beyond the typical fan service and actually be tools used to enhance the sense of unsettlement as Woody and the gang fight their way back to Andy’s.
4 Senator E.T.
One of the funniest moments in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. is during the trick-or-treat sequence, when the titular alien “recognizes” a kid in a Yoda costume as a sign from home. Since Spielberg is good friends with George Lucas, this can be seen as nothing more than a charming bit of comic relief, but Lucas took it one step further in The Phantom Menace and returned the favor by placing a couple of E.T. lookalikes in one of the film’s Coruscant Galactic Senate sequences.
Even though different studios distribute Star Wars and E.T., the move confirmed that Elliott’s friend actually does reside in the galaxy far, far away. If that’s the case, then it certainly explains why E.T. didn’t seem all that impressed with Elliott’s collection of Star Wars toys. He’s probably seen the conflict up close for real. While we don’t expect one of the upcoming Anthology films to revolve around E.T.’s species, it wouldn’t be a surprise for Spielberg admirer J.J. Abrams to find a place for him in The Force Awakens.
3 Close Encounters of the Shark Kind
Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind was noteworthy at its time of release in that it was an alien contact story in which the extraterrestrials didn’t come to Earth to invade it. They simply wanted to make peaceful contact with the humans and share their knowledge with us. Apparently, that includes consuming our pop culture, since the aliens in the mothership are familiar with the musical score from Jaws, another famous Spielberg/John Williams collaboration.
During the movie’s awe-inspiring finale where the two species communicate with each other via lights and sounds, part of the medley the alien ship plays is a snippet of the Jaws soundtrack, notes that convey a much more ominous message than the aliens’ intent. Jaws was omnipresent in 1970s pop culture, and apparently even found its way up to the stars. The aliens’ fascination with the film’s music may also explain why they were so interested in Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), as he has more than a passing resemblance to Jaws character Hooper.
2 I Am Jack's Coffee Cup
Despite its title, Fight Club isn't just about dudes punching each other in the face. David Fincher's film is also ripe with biting social commentary about the condition of the modern consumer and what it means to be a "man" at this point in time. This theme is mainly personified by Tyler Durden waxing philosophical about how you are not your khakis, but the director managed to find more subtle ways to poke jabs at commercialism in this day and age with a little help from a famous coffee company.
Fincher claims that he placed a Starbucks cup in nearly every shot in the finished film, and while it would take one eagle-eyed viewer to come up with a final count, it's clear that the coffee giant has a major presence throughout the movie, showing up on several occasions to poke fun on how we repeat ourselves on a daily basis. What makes this Easter egg even cooler is that Starbucks was aware of this aspect in the script and signed off on it, showing that even the major corporations can be a little self-depricating in the name of quality entertainment.
For as long as they make movies (no matter the genre), directors will keep sliding in Easter eggs to pay homage to some of their favorite films and ensure that fans are paying close attention to what’s happening on-screen. Again, these rarely (if ever) tie into the overall plot, but they’re still fun bits for moviegoers to check out.
Of course, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to share some of your favorite Easter eggs in the comments section below and let us know which ones to keep an eye out for the next time we watch a famous movie.