For those of you who don’t know what an Easter egg is, we’re not talking bunnies and flowers or anything religious.
An Easter egg, in cinema, is something deliberately hidden in a movie as a treat, joke or reference for the viewer. It’s more likely that you’ll discover Easter eggs in superhero or science-fiction films, since the fan base, by nature, is more in-tune with the fine details of the story. A well-known example is comic creator Stan Lee appearing in each film based on one of his stories. Often, he’ll appear for a split-second or have one speaking line, but it nearly always elicits chuckles from the audience.
Obviously modelled on real-life Easter egg hunts, the little tidbits in movies are often hard to spot unless you’re familiar with the backstory or get the inside joke. In honour of the Easter holiday, here are 13 of the best Easter eggs you may have missed over the past few decades.
Jurassic World (2015)
There is nary a fandom like the one for the Jurassic movies, which have had a raptor-like, ravenous following since the 1993 original roared into theatres. So it’s no surprise, then, that the follow-up 22 years later is stuffed with Easter eggs.
Any Jurassic Park fan knows Ian Malcolm, played wonderfully by the one-and-only Jeff Goldblum. There were many rumours that Goldblum would pop up in Jurassic World, but alas he did not… at least in human form. Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed a book written by Malcolm, titled God Creates Dinosaurs, sitting on the desk of “tech guy” Lowery (Jake Johnson) and also in the hands of Bryce Dallas Howard’s character, Claire.
Back to the Future (1985)
No, we’re not going to reference when Marty (Michael J. Fox) goes back in time to 1955 and accidentally runs over one of Mr. Peabody’s pines, transforming Twin Pines Mall to Lone Pine Mall in the future — that’s a relatively well-known Easter egg.
While related, this one’s a bit tougher to piece together. Mr. Peabody, shown in Back to the Future brandishing a gun and shooting at Marty’s time-travelling DeLorean, has a son named Sherman. In other words, it’s a nod to Mr. Peabody & Sherman, the time-travelling twosome from 1960s TV show The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
This one’s more of a sight gag; all you have to do is spot imagery hidden in hieroglyphics. When Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) falls into the Egyptian snake pit, you can clearly see what appears to be drawings of Star Wars droids C-3PO and R2-D2 carved into the wall.
Clearly, clandestine studio and franchise crossovers weren’t unheard of, even in the early ’80s.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Then, 34 years later, the latest Star Wars film (at the time) referenced the Indiana Jones franchise. Everyone who’s seen Raiders is familiar with Indy’s run from the boulder, which has been spoofed and lampooned by countless other TV shows and movies.
If you’ve seen The Force Awakens, then you may recall the scene on the Millennium Falcon when Han Solo (also played by Harrison Ford, hence the joke) and Chewbacca are running from an escaped rathtar. It turns out the sound designer on-set for TFW, David Acord, deliberately inserted the “boulder roll” sound from Raiders.
Fight Club (1999)
This one’s more widely known, mostly because this movie has a dedicated cult following. In multiple interviews, Fight Club director David Fincher has revealed that a Starbucks coffee cup can be spotted in every single scene of his movie.
There are even blogs dedicated to finding all of the cups that litter the film. Now that’s fandom.
King Kong (2005)
Know your Morse code? Most people don’t, which is why this Easter egg flew under the radar for so long. As the S.S. Venture heads out to Skull Island, where King Kong lives, one of the crew members receives a Morse code message. In the film, the message was meant to be the warrant for the arrest of Jack Black’s character (Carl Denham). After being properly deciphered by Morse experts, they discovered that the message actually spells out “Show me the monkey.” Clever.
The Polar Express (2004)
Once you get past the horror of the early motion-capture technology used to animate the film, you can take time to catch the split-second Easter egg referencing the time-travel mechanism from Back to the Future.
Yes, it’s true! At one point, if you pause at the right moment, you can see that it is indeed the flux capacitor (that powers the DeLorean’s time travel) as part of the Polar Express’ locomotive.
The Mist (2007)
Originally a horror novella written by Stephen King, The Mist is a chilling horror film about a mysterious mist that encases the small town of Bridgton, Maine. A group of townspeople hole up in a supermarket and try to figure out how they’re going to survive.
Throughout the movie, there are numerous references to King and his previous horror works. At one point, a man runs into a spinning book shelf and as it turns, it’s clear that every book is written by King.
At the beginning of the movie, David (Thomas Jane) is seen painting a lone figure in front of a door. King fans will know that the painting is actually Roland Deschain of King’s The Dark Tower series.
The pharmacy in town is also called King’s Pharmacy, yet another nod to the horror author; try to see if you can spot them all (there are several others).
Toy Story (1995) & Toy Story 3 (2010)
Even cartoons and movies made for kids aren’t immune to the Easter egg infiltration (and weird Stephen King connection). Throughout Toy Story and Toy Story 3, there are nods to King’s horror story and Stanley Kubrick’s movie, The Shining.
Ever notice the carpet in Toy Story?
Or in Toy Story 3, the continual references to the number “237,” which also happens to be the room number of the Torrance family in The Shining? A garbage truck licence plate, a security camera and even an online chat partner (named “Velocistar237”) all feature the number.
Evil Dead II (1987)
True horror fans know there’s a connection between the Evil Dead and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. In the first NOES, the main character, Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), can be seen watching Evil Dead while she falls asleep.
You could say the two horror films share a reciprocal relationship. Some speculate that it’s a thank-you to NOES director Wes Craven for including Evil Dead in such a huge blockbuster mainstream horror film.
When Ash (Bruce Campbell) heads down into the cellar in Evil Dead II, Freddy Krueger’s bladed glove can clearly be seen hanging on the wall.
The Departed (2006)
Once you spot this one you can’t unsee it, kind of like the coffee cups in Fight Club. Every time someone is about to die, or as a forewarning to something bad happening, there is an “X” somewhere in the frame.
Definitely cool, but why? Turns out director Martin Scorsese wanted to tip his
hat glasses to original Scarface (1932) director Howard Hawks, who came up with this interesting visual trick.
Definitely the most random of the bunch, this Easter egg is totally unexpected. If you watch the trailer, below, and hit pause around 1:45-46, you should see a freeze-frame of director Mel Gibson, posing with actors dressed as ancient Mayans from the film. Gibson is at his finest, with what appears to be a cigarette in his teeth.
And if that’s not weird enough for you, then how about this? Waldo, of the famous Where’s Waldo books, is randomly inserted into a pile of dead bodies. Again, this is a single frame. The film’s protagonist, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood), stumbles into a mass grave and sure enough, there among the carnage is Waldo in his striped shirt.
Gibson, a notorious on-set prankster, must have thought this one was a hoot. Some found it offensive, so the scene was ultimately cut from the DVD release of the movie. (Some sources say it’s back in the Blu-ray version.)
Calling all The Simpsons fans! There’s a nod to Harry Shearer (who voices Principal Skinner on the animated series) and Nancy Cartwright (who voices Bart), who both have small roles in Godzilla.
In the scene where Dr. Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick) is fleeing through the streets of New York City in a cab, we see him throw the driver’s ID plate out of the window in order to get a soldier’s attention. If you pause and zoom in, you can see the name on the ID is “Armin Tamzarian,” a.k.a. the real name of Principal Skinner.