Creepiest easter eggs hidden in movies

Easter eggs are usually fun—sidebar references, visual gags, or other assorted inside jokes that directors put in movies as a reward for eagle-eyed viewers. But some filmmakers use them as opportunities to startle—or outright frighten—audiences. These Easter eggs are so creepy, we wish we'd never found them at all.

Predator 2's Alien skull

You don't have to watch the Alien movies to know Xenomorphs are bad news—just seeing a picture is enough to make you thank the heavens those murderous monsters aren't real. So if something out there is tough enough to actually kill one of these things, they must be super hardcore. If that's the message the makers of Predator 2 wanted to get across regarding their titular villain, mission accomplished.

Just before the film's climactic battle against the Predators, Danny Glover's character, Lt. Mike Harrington, comes across a case filled with various skulls. It's clearly the Predator's' trophy room, and it holds several human skulls and even a Tyrannosaurus rex, among others. For about a second, the camera pans over what is clearly a Xenomorph skull, which is as much a proof as any that Predators are not to be messed with. If they can kill some of the most vicious aliens in the galaxy, steer clear.

This brief crossover predated the AvP franchise by over a decade, though the jury's forever out on whether that wait was worth it.

Evil Dead vs. Freddy vs. Evil Dead

Sam Raimi and Wes Craven really like to reference one another, as evidenced by the several macabre Easter eggs between them. The first came by way of A Nightmare on Elm Street, when Nancy's desperate to stay awake (since sleep means Freddy, and Freddy means sleeping forever and ever), so she watched Evil Dead. It barely works, and she soon shuts it off in favor of other methods of staying awake. Why she doesn't just run with a few triple shots of espresso, we'll never know.

In Evil Dead 2, Raimi returned the favor by including a brief shot of Freddy Krueger's glove. Apparently, this reference was so nice he had to do it twice—in the series Ash vs. Evil Dead, the glove appeared again. We're eagerly awaiting the next Freddy movie, if only to see if an Ash stand-in takes a snooze and finds himself gutted for it.

King Kong's Morse code

2005's King Kong contains an Easter egg that's unexpected in three ways: it's not in English, it's a comedic reference to a completely unrelated movie, and it's creepy foreshadowing that completely skipped past most viewers.

During a scene in which Jack Black's character, Carl, and company are sailing their way to Skull Island where, unbeknownst to them, a giant angry gorilla named Kong lives, they receive a message in Morse Code—one the film tells us is a warrant for Carl's arrest. In actuality, as pointed out by anyone who actually understands Morse Code can attest, the message says "show me the monkey."

This reference likely went over many people's heads, as Morse Code isn't exactly available on Rosetta Stone. But it's still good to see when movies try to be creepy, funny, and sneaky all at once.

Fight Club's Brad Pitt marquee

In the Fight Club universe, Tyler Durden doesn't actually exist. Although we certainly see him, he's just a figment of Ed Norton's unnamed character's imagination. But the movie managed to throw in an Easter egg that raises questions about just what inspired Norton to dream up his super-violent alter ego.

As pointed out by Chuck Palahniuk's own site, during a scene when Norton and his girlfriend are walking down the street, they pass a movie theater showing the Brad Pitt movie Seven Years In Tibet. That means Brad Pitt, the actor, exists within Fight Club, right? And yet, here he is as Tyler Durden, which suggests Norton's character is a huge Brad Pitt fan—so much so that he'd have Pitt in mind when dreaming up his creepy new BFF. Or hallucinating him, depending on how you look at things.

As for how in-movie Brad Pitt would react to knowing a guy with severe mental issues used him as an avatar when crafting a dude who turned people into soap, the movie never says. We're guessing not very well, though. That's not usually the kind of tribute celebrities want on their conscience.

Dark Tower's Pennywise statue

Stephen King loves to pepper his books with references to his other works. He's like Pixar, if every character was Sid, and this rich tradition is honored in 2017's Dark Tower film.

As Jake enters Mid-World, he walks through an abandoned carnival. At one point, he comes across a statue of a severed hand holding three balloons. And what creepy Stephen King character loves his balloons? Yep, that would be Pennywise, who can take any form It feels will scare a child enough to make them edible, but who largely prefers to be the scariest clown this side of the Joker. And just in case you weren't sure, above Jake stands a large, dark, crumbling sign that clearly says PENNYWISE. In addition to being pretty freaky, this egg actually makes narrative sense. Pennywise can be anything and, as an interdimensional entity, go anywhere. So why wouldn't he chill in Mid-World, looking for a meal or two? After all, they float over there too.

The Shining references in Toy Story

For a children's cartoon, Toy Story is pretty creepy to start with. The idea that toys are alive and watching their little owners at all times is a little unsettling—and the filmmakers made things even weirder by including references to The Shining.

In the first Toy Story, take a look at the carpet in Sid's house. If the pattern seems familiar, it's because it first appeared in the Overlook Hotel during Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel The Shining. And even freakier, the carpet is prominently featured in a scene when Danny plays with his toys. So not only is Sid a psychopathic toy torturer who probably belongs on a FBI watchlist, he also lives in the house-sized version of the Overlook. (No word yet about his psychic abilities.)

Not content with just making creepy references in one movie, Pixar decided to load up Toy Story 3 with even more. In the control room of the daycare center, the intercom is an exact copy of the one in the Overlook manager's office. The number 237, the number of the haunted hotel room in The Shining, shows up three times, including on a security camera labeled OVERLOOK R237. Either the Pixar crew just wants to creep out kids subconsciously, or they're telling us which type of movie they want to make.

The Gyro Captain's Skull in Mad Max: Fury Road

Gyro Captain is one of the weirder characters in Mad Max: The Road Warrior. The unhinged gyrocopter pilot became the leader of the oil refinery tribe and led them north at the end of the movie, never to be heard from again.

At least until Fury Road. Nux's car has a skull on one of its pikes—and not just any skull, but the skull of a pilot with a flight helmet. As seen in closeup at 1:37 in the above clip, it looks creepily similar to the Gyro Captain's. The Mad Max movies are very loose with their canonical timeline (how else do you explain the "last" Interceptor getting blown up twice in the series?), but it looks like the Gyro Captain was caught by the Warboys.

If that really is the Gyro Captain's head, it makes Road Warrior's ending more bittersweet, and the Warboys that much more horrifying. We're speculating here, but most likely the Warboys caught up with the oil refinery tribe, killed their leaders and took them into the Citadel. Whatever happened to them then, it can't be pretty. The Gyro Captain was probably one of the lucky ones. Also, the Warboys use armored semi-trucks, just like the tribe did in Road Warrior. Is this where they got the idea? Did it cost the poor Gyro Captain his life?

The Silence of the Lamb's poster has a dark hidden message

Most people don't use a magnifying glass to look at movie posters, but it's actually worth it for Silence of the Lambs: the moth in the center of the poster is holding a dark secret. No, it's not that it has a skull on the back—that's actually what the real Deathhead's moth looks like. Look closer, however, and you'll see that the skull is made out of naked women.

This unsettling detail was based on an art photo taken by Philippe Halsman and Salvador Dali. Who knows why they decided to make a human skull out of naked women, but it's a striking image. On its own, it's creepy, but seeing it related to Silence of the Lambs, a story about a serial killer who preys on women and wears their skin like coats, just adds a whole new level of messed up.

Oddly, Silence of the Lambs isn't the only movie to use the image. The Descent also based its poster off the creepy Dali image, all though it's much more obvious than its predecessor. We have to admire the Lambs filmmakers for their dedication to creepy—to the point of making sure the poster had an unsettling Easter egg. Or maybe "admire" is the wrong word…

Apocalypto's Where's Waldo

On set, Mel Gibson is known for playing practical jokes and pranks. His favorite modus operandi is splicing gag frames into his movies. Usually they're innocuous, but in Apocalypto, he went straight for the unsettling and decided to hide the popular children's book character Waldo… in a pile of corpses.

It's in the scene when Jaguar Paw falls into a mass grave. To us, this seems like exactly the wrong time to make a joke, but Gibson filmed just one frame of a crew member dressed up like Waldo laying among the corpses with an arrow stuck in his head. Ha ha?

Once people found out what Mel had done and kinda freaked out about it, he cut the frame from the theatrical release, no doubt mumbling under his breath about never getting to have fun anymore—but when the movie came out on Blu-ray, he reportedly put it right back in.

Sunshine's jump frames

Remember the dark, extremely tense sequence during Danny Boyle's Sunshine when the crew of Icarus II is exploring the dark, derelict Icarus I? Boyle, excellent filmmaker he is, decided not to make a dumb jump scare, but instead put in random flashes of light to keep the audience off guard. Each is just one frame, and if you blink, you'll miss them. But sharp-eyed viewers realized that these weren't just white frames, they were pictures… of smiling, happy people.

What were they doing in the movie? In his commentary track for the home release, Boyle revealed that those are pictures of the Icarus I crew right before they left on the mission—images of the last happy moments they had. All of which makes the pictures sad enough, but Boyle had to make them even creepier.

The images flash on the screen as the Icarus II crew is walking around, stirring up dust in the derelict ship. When we learn that the Icarus I crew was charred to death in the viewing room, it becomes clear that the crew is literally wading through ash remains while Boyle flashes pictures of the victims wearing happy Hawaiian clothing. That's… unsettling.

Billy the Puppet keeps popping up in other horror movies

Creepy puppets are spine-tinglingly scary when they're done right. Although the Saw franchise has had its ups and downs over the years, Billy the Puppet remains consistently creepy—and he isn't content to spook us in just one franchise. He keeps showing up in others.

Take, for example, Dead Silence, a movie about killer dolls. If that name doesn't ring a bell, don't worry: it wasn't very good and few people saw it. But during a scene in which the main characters explore an abandoned theater, there's a brief shot showing Billy with the other paranormal dolls. We guess there's a creepy doll club where they just all hang out together, plotting their revenge on the human race—which makes that the creepiest theater in existence.

Insidious is on Billy's list of cameos, too. Early in the movie, behind Josh in his classroom, a rough sketch of Billy shows up on his blackboard. Since James Wan directed both Insidious and Saw, it makes sense he'd include the Easter egg, even if it creeps the audience out by implying that Billy is following them into this movie. We just can't escape that sadistic toy.

Rogue One's Dr. Evazan cameo

When Jyn bumped into Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba on Jedha, it seemed like a fun little nod to A New Hope. We knew that within a week Dr. Evazan would be threatening Luke Skywalker in Mos Eisley, and Ponda Baba would be short one arm. For some reason, though, the production team couldn't let this little moment stand—they had to create one of the more disturbing Easter eggs in Star Wars history.

In A New Hope, Dr. Evazan tells Luke that he has a death sentence in 12 systems, but we never really find out why. Rogue One fills in the gaps. Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that a few background citizens on Jedha were missing heads or had their heads cut in half. These poor people are the "Decraniated."

A mysterious doctor named Roofoo created them, promising to give injured people life-saving surgeries and instead destroying their brains and making them his slaves. According to Jedha lore, some of the "Decraniated" were slaves sold to Roofoo, who stripped them of their individuality to make them 100 percent subservient.

Even more disturbing? The official Star Wars website confirmed that Roofoo is an alias for Dr. Evazan, turning a fun little Easter egg into a part of a full-blown horror story. Now we're even happier that Obi-Wan dealt with those creeps before they could mess with Luke's brain.

The Norweigans in The Thing

In the opening scene of the The Thing, American researchers discover a Norwegian crew trying to kill a dog. One terrified member of the party is screaming something at the Americans, but there aren't any subtitles, so for all English-speaking audiences can tell, he's just yelling gibberish brought on by madness. If you speak Norwegian, however, the movie immediately becomes even more terrifying.

The researcher isn't just yelling nonsense, he's trying to warn the Americans of the threat. As translated, he's yelling: "Get the hell away! It's not a dog! It's a thing! It's imitating a dog! It's not real! Get away, idiots!" But being, you know, not fluent in Norwegian, none of the Americans understand. And we know what happens next.

It's a creepy little Easter egg that totally changes the story, turning it into an ironic tragedy instead of a science fiction mystery horror movie. We also feel terrible for that researcher who watched his warnings fall on deaf ears. If only the researchers had brushed up on their languages, they might have survived.

The Departed has characters marked for death

From the start of The Departed, it's obvious that most of these characters won't make it out of the movie alive. Looking back, it's obvious that director Martin Scorsese wanted to give us some hints about who was going to bite the dust, and marked every character for death… literally. Every character who dies appears with an X nearby at some point.

Some are very obvious, others not so much. Frank Costello is marked early in the movie, with the crossbeams of his tire garage forming an X overhead. Matt Damon's character has Xs behind him all throughout the movie, but doesn't bite the bullet until the final act.

Dedication to this Easter egg reaches almost comical proportions near the end of the movie in the elevator scene, when Costigan stands right next to a giant tape X. Even less subtle are the Xs foretelling Captain Queenan's death—they show up in the windows of the building that he's falling from. Scorsese's little inside joke turns a cool gangster movie into a disturbing reflection on the inevitability of death.

Black Swan swan's skeleton

Darren Aronofsky's Black Sawn is filled with background imagery, from morphing faces showing true identities to weird mirror tricks. Watching the movie again and knowing all of the visual tricks makes the whole story deeper and more unsettling, but the creepiest Easter egg is found in the ballet director's office.

Pay attention when Nina goes and asks for her part. Right next to the director's desk is a model of swan skeleton—an insanely creepy decoration to just have around in the office, but also an unsettling foreshadowing of Nina's eventual collapse. Also notice that it's sitting in front of a mirror, which puts Nina's face behind the dead swan.

All throughout the movie Aronofsky uses mirrors to represent Nina's fractured personality, so this little detail could easily be interpreted as a sign of her fragile mental state. Aronofsky loves his complex visual storytelling, but this is one of the most unsettling cues he's used, because it's just so casual—like it's totally normal to have a swan's skeleton in your office.

Norman Bates' messed-up face

As if Psycho didn't have enough terrifying visuals in it, Alfred Hitchcock made sure to sneak in one more, just for good measure. Not content with scaring the audience consciously, he also wanted to get under their skin.

Pay attention to the above clip at about 1:30. Right as the scene fades, Norman Bates' face looks weird and distorted for a split second. If it's not obvious at first, pay attention to the mouth, which suddenly grows exposed teeth in a lopsided grin.

The visual is really unsettling, and for good reason: it's actually one frame of Norman's face merged with the corpse of his mother. Not only is it terrifying, it shows that Norman's mother is now in complete control of his persona. Hitchcock didn't want any subtlety about how Norman turns out, and this frame was his way of showing one last time how messed up the character is. Director Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot 1998 remake repeated the trick—with less-than-terrifying results.