A cinematic Easter egg is hardly an essential element for a good movie; in fact, several mediocre films contain great ones. Yet it does represent that fun factor which lends a film production some extra points.
Whether it be a blatant joke, a sly reference, or a hint some secret connective tissue between filmic universes, they’re always worth mentioning and discussing amongst movie buffs. So let’s examine some of the more out there examples from fairly well-known movies…
15. Pac-Man – Tron (1982)
When “Tron” arrived on cinema screens the concept of a ‘video game movie’ was unheard of, and whilst not a direct video game adaptation, the cult hit was a celebration of that neon era’s arcade smorgasbord that helped the young platform reach its early footing. Well, what better way to give a direct and loving nod to the game world then by featuring its most iconic (at the time) mascot in a blink-or-miss-it cameo?
Whilst villainous David Warner stares ominously at a monitor scanning the whereabouts of the stories heroes, one can briefly see Mr. Pac-Man prodding along said screen on his endless quest to eat every pixelated dot in his vicinity. It’s one of the earliest examples of a movie Easter egg and also a great thumbs up to one of gaming’s first iconic figures.
14. Batman v Superman – I Am Legend (2007)
Close to a decade before Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) arrived to mixed audience reactions, we briefly glimpsed its poster in this Will Smith post-apocalyptic thriller. How did this come to be? Well, a variation of that movie’s concept of Bats and Super throwing down had already been worked on in the early 2000s by screenwriter Akiva Goldsmith, with Wolfgang Petersen in line to direct. The project eventually fell apart and was scrapped in favour of Christopher Nolan’s rebooted take on Batman.
Goldsmith also ended up being involved in the production of this Smith movie (both set up at Warner Brothers), and in the script stage, the writer along with director Francis Lawrence brainstormed about what film should be advertised at the cinema as the protagonist takes a tense stroll through a rundown New York. Goldsmith immediately wanted to pay homage to his failed project in a fun little wink to the concept, and ironically enough, Warner Brothers picked up the concept yet again and released the movie, making this initially amusing Easter egg into a bewildering omen like prophecy.
13. Weyland Tyrell Corporation- Prometheus (2012)
This one is an odd yet fascinating example of an Easter egg; it’s not actually found in the actual film in subject (Ridley Scott’s polarising ‘really-but-not-really’ prequel to his classic “Alien”), nor is it in the lengthy viral promotion videos that hyped that film’s release, but rather hidden deep in its meaty disk of Blu-ray bonus features.
In all honesty, it wouldn’t have even been worth mentioning if it didn’t imply a crazy connective tissue between two of the most iconic sci-fi films ever made – the aforementioned original as well as Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982). The tidbit was also added at the behest of the director himself (although anyone else has yet to acknowledge it as officially canon).
The bonus feature in question would be a transcript from Guy Pearce’s loopy tycoon Peter Weyland, whose deluded quest for eternal youth literally has ‘mind-blowing’ results in said movie, and whose name would also lend itself to the main ‘Alien’ franchise’s nefarious company the ‘Weyland-Yutani Corporation’.
The transcript has Weyland speaking of an affluent mentor character he refuses to name, but makes blatant and direct references to Eldon Tyrell, the creator of the Replicant androids in “Blade Runner”, who ended up on the brutal end of Rutger Hauer in a seriously sour mood. This all implies that regardless of the 70-year time gap between “Prometheus” and “Blade Runner” that the two universes very much co-exist. Regardless of whether this is all just a cute bit of fan service, or a juicy nod to more thorough references to come, is still unknown at this point.
12. “See You Next Wednesday” – several films by John Landis
Director Landis loves his inside jokes; just look at the insane amount of director cameos featured in every single film he’s made. Yet his most prominent trademark is the line “See you next Wednesday,” a random piece of dialogue spoken in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” for which the director somehow grew an obsessive affinity. He’s snuck the expression into the majority of feature films he’s made (16 times to be precise), not to mention music videos and TV episodes he’s also directed.
The truth behind the story is that it’s the title from a screenplay Landis wrote at 16 that the director considered unfilmable, yet whenever he rips a gag or concept from the script, he gives it a direct credit inside the movie in question. The most blatantly apparent time it occurred would be its featuring in “An American Werewolf in London” (1981), where it’s used as the title for the porn movie playing in the seedy movie theatre during the film’s gory finale.
11. Starbucks – Fight Club (1999)
There are plenty of things that jump into the mind’s eye when thinking of David Fincher’s late 90’s landmark movie – and surprisingly, Starbucks coffee would be one of those details that comes up. What’s this odd connection between the America’s most famous coffee shop and the seminal pitch-black satire? Well, Fincher has gone on record claiming a Starbucks coffee cup features in absolutely every scene throughout the movie – and dedicated, eagle-eyed bloggers have since gone to prove that Fincher was hardly telling pork pies and the statement is indeed true.
Having Starbucks feature in the film was never meant as a scathing commentary, but rather more of a playful jest. Fincher was a fan of the brand but felt the corporation had reached a stage of overexposure and needed a little fun poked at it, and the company happily agreed to play along and provide the necessary props for the film. Yet the moment where Tyler Durden’s ‘Space Monkeys’ vandalise a popular coffee brand franchise and Meat Loaf’s well-endowed character dies in the process, the company felt it was a step too far and that direct reference was removed.
10. Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo – Rango (2011)
Gore Verbinski’s quirky and underrated animated movie was a reunion with his “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Johnny Depp, who takes on the role of a bug-eyed chameleon who’s stranded out in the Mojave desert. In the midst of a highway scuffle, Depp’s lizard ends up on the windshield of a speeding Cadillac Eldorado, and inside are quite clearly the infamous duo of Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, the drug-crazed pair from Depp’s adaptation of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998).
Duke’s brief appearance is also voiced by Depp making the entire experience incredibly meta, yet also a fun yet brief reference to yet another cult classic in the actor’s backlog.
9. R2D2 and C-3PO – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Indiana Jones, as most people know, was the collaborative brainchild of two young filmmakers who had literally changed the entire industry by the end of the 70s by inventing the ‘blockbuster’. Since then, they’ve always held a close friendship with constant cheeky nods to each other throughout both of their careers (look down the list for a later example), so why wouldn’t the first (and best) installment of the Indy franchise not contain a cute little Easter egg?
Well, we don’t have to answer that question because it actually does just that, with one of their cleverest and most difficult-to-spot nods. As Indy enters the excavation site to unearth the Lost Ark (e.g. “Snakes…why did it have to be snakes?”), eagle-eyed viewers have spotted a image of R2D2 and C-3PO inscribed as Egyptian hieroglyphics. It appears the ancient civilisation were actually “Star Wars” fans after all.