Easter egg hunt: The best pop culture references in ‘Ready Player One’
Based on Ernest Cline’s bestselling book of the same name, the film is set in 2045 in a world on the brink of chaos and collapse. However, the nation has found salvation in the Oasis – an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the Oasis, sparking a contest that grips the entire world.
While the characters of the film are challenged with finding an Easter egg, audiences are treated to dozens of hidden messages and references throughout the film, and while we don’t have access to the Oasis or Halliday’s keys, we can show you some of the eggy delights served up in the movie. Here goes:
Fans of the book will know Parzival (Tye Sheridan) drives the epicly 80s DeLorean model from Back to the Future which is modified with even more epicly 80s features such as KITT lights from Knight Rider. In addition to its car-shaped nod to the sci-fi comedy by Robert Zemeckis, Parzival even buys a Rubik’s cube called a Zemeckis cube – a badass tool capable of reversing time by one minute. You couldn’t get more 80s than that if you tried.
While many superfans quibble over Spielberg’s changes to the book, we think one of the most awesome ones is the use of Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining instead of WarGames as the challenge for the jade key. Iconic references include the “all work and no play” pages, room 237 and that creepy bathtub lady, and a chase through the hotel’s never-ending maze. Nicely done.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Within the most reference-filled scenes in the whole film – the final battle – a character pops up that looks suspiciously like one of those pizza-loving shelled green beasts. Ninja kick!
You know the famous thumbs up as it descended into molten metal at the end of Terminator 2? It’s basically the best gif ever and it’s also referenced in Ready Player One when the Iron Giant dies in a river of lava. What a way to go.
In another egg-laden scene, Parzival tries on outfits for his date with Arty3mis (Olivia Cooke), including Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” costume, Prince’s “Purple Rain” outfit, and a look that can only be described as Duran Duran-esque. A wild boy indeed.
The Dark Side of the Moon
While many of the movie’s Easter eggs are based on movies, TV shows, and games, there are several music references too. One of the best ones comes from Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) – head of IOI’s Oology Division and the main antagonist in the movie. When I-R0k has some important information about Parzival to pass on to Sorrento, the IOI boss asks Parzival (or in this case “Wade”) to meet up. However, to do so he must wear his goggles and “touch the prism”, which refracts light in a rainbow and makes the allusion to the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” complete.
Harley Quinn and the Joker
Harley Quinn makes not one but two cameo appearances: she can be seen in the Distracted Globe booth and she’s found on the dance non-floor when Parzival & Arty3mis have a spin. The design for Harley is ripped right from Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Knight video game.
Beetlejuice – or Betelgeuse as he’s known in the film – makes a cameo, although it’s a quick one so you’ll have to keep a keen eye out for him. Screenrant calls it “the most uncanny Avatar in the Oasis,” looking more like an actual Beetlejuice humanoid than a CGI rendition of the Tim Burton character.
What with Ready Player One being every nerd’s fantasy (us included) it’s no surprise there are some Star Wars references in the film, the most notable being a Rebel X-Wing that can be seen travelling in the same convoy of spaceships the Serenity slides into on the way to the Distracted Globe.