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Ready Player One Easter eggs you missed

When Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One came out in 2011, it was quickly dubbed the "holy grail of pop culture" thanks to the truck loads of pop culture references and Easter eggs stuffed inside its pages. The entire story is one big search for a literal Easter egg, so that should tell you something.

True to its roots, Steven Spielberg's film is also a basketful, to the point that licensing the rights for everything in the film became a headache in itself. In fact, Zak Penn, who adapted Ready Player One for the screen, went so far as to suggest that the supervisor who met with all the studios to negotiate these rights should be nominated for an Oscar. It was that hard.

And honestly, it shows. Ready Player One is so full of pop culture references that it'd be impossible to spot them all with ten viewings, let alone one. Here are all the Easter eggs we found in Ready Player One. Spoilers ahead, even if you've read the book.

Tomb of Horrors

The Ready Player One book made a big deal out of Dungeons & Dragons imagery. When Halliday tells the world about his Easter egg challenge, he does so by mimicking the cover of an old Advanced Dungeon Masters guidebook. Other references come into play here and there in the book's storyline, but the movie (perhaps wisely) decided to jettison most of those references.

That said, there is still one very visual Dungeons & Dragons reference in the movie, but you'd be forgiven for not noticing where it comes from. In the later stages of the film, Wade meets up with his OASIS buds Aech, Sho, and Daito in real life and spends the rest of the time in the back of Aech's converted mail van. On the back of the van is an image of a demon figure with two horns. It almost looks familiar…but not quite.

Turns out that's a picture from a Dungeons & Dragons module called "Tomb of Horrors." Hey, the more you know, right?

Sticker parade

With everything going on in each frame, you probably didn't find many moments to take in the little things. One method the filmmakers used several times to give nods to various pop culture properties was by putting them on stickers. It's a simple way to get more information into any given scene, and the motherload is concentrated right on Artemis' Akira motorcycle. Among others, Artemis' bike had stickers for Ms. Pac-Man, Wonder Woman, Atari, Sega, and Hello Kitty. You can see them during the race scenes early in the movie.

The OASIS visors are another repository for sticker shout-outs. Wade has a couple Batman and Space Invaders stickers, while Samantha's sports a pair of Pac-Man cherries and some Street Fighter characters. Hey, if there isn't enough room in the movie for an actual character, you could do worse than putting it on a sticker for zealous fans to pick out.

Serenity

Firefly is one of the cult heroes of sci-fi culture, a visionary show that was canceled way too early. Although it enjoyed a second life through the movie Serenity, the story never quite got the treatment it deserved. But now, at least, Ready Player One marks the second film appearance of the series' iconic ship, Serenity — or at least some kind of Firefly class spaceship.

Short of having Nathan Fillion show up to blast away Sixers, the easiest way to add a Firefly Easter egg is by sticking the ship in a couple scenes. It first appears outside The Distracted Globe, the dance club planet where Wade and Artemis meet, dance, and try to find the second key.

The second appearance of Serenity comes closer to the end of the film, when it soars out over the battle and then Daito leaps from its loading bay to join the war on Planet Doom. We still would have liked to see some Reavers show up, but what are you gonna do?

Star spotting

While the moment when Sorrento tries to bribe Wade with a Millennium Falcon was a big moment that nobody missed, the film still snuck in several more low-key Star Wars Easter eggs. Apparently, Spielberg actually toned down the Star Wars references (after spending years getting the rights) because he didn't want to walk all over an ongoing franchise, but that doesn't mean there weren't a few nods to the sci-fi juggernaut.

If you look carefully during the final battle scene, you can spot several stormtroopers in the midst of the mayhem. And there's apparently an R2-D2 toy on the floor in one scene. We didn't spot it, but our guess is that it appears when Halliday takes Wade to his boyhood room at the end of the film.

We can only guess how many Star Wars characters would have appeared in Ready Player One if Spielberg's pal George Lucas still controlled the franchise.

Funeral for a Spock

Star Wars and Star Trek are always at odds with each other, but here we finally have a place where both can get equal representation. While Star Wars got a few character nods, Star Trek got an entire scene recreation. Well…more or less.

The scene in question appears when Halliday's death is first announced and he releases his Easter egg video to the world. At the very beginning of that video, he's seen lying in a coffin reminiscent of Spock's coffin in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The Star Trek logo is even visible as a flower wreath during the scene.

Everything appears to be kosher, until Halliday rises up like a futuristic Count Dracula and begins giving his spiel about the game he's laid out for everyone in the OASIS. Hey, it's still better than the D&D deal the book gave us for this scene.

Sneaking it past Spielberg

Despite all the references to Spielberg's films in the book, the director was keen to leave those out of the Ready Player One movie because he didn't want the whole thing to become "too self-referential."

Yup, aside from some Back to the Future gags (which he produced) and the T-rex, there are no Spielberg-sanctioned Spielberg Easter eggs in the movie. But just because he didn't approve them doesn't mean they aren't there. The production design team had to get sneaky, and a few of their attempts were shot down, but they did manage to get a few past him.

Among the thousands of pop culture characters in the final OASIS battle, supposedly there's one little Gremlin fighting in the mix (Spielberg produced Gremlins and its sequel). In Wade's trailer in the Stacks, you can also apparently catch a glimpse of a dusty book entitled Schindler's Ark, the novel that inspired Spielberg's Oscar-winning Schindler's List. Entertainment Weekly spotted the book during a tour of the set, although we missed it during the film.

What didn't make the cut? A diner dedicated to the Fratelli brothers from The Goonies, for one. Unfortunately, we may never know what else the production team tried to sneak in, but they did get some more Back to the Future references into the film.

Zemeckis cube

Spielberg may have tightened the clamp on references to his main films, but Back to the Future sure got a ton of nods in Ready Player One. The DeLorean that Wade drives in the OASIS is the most obvious example, and Artemis calls him "McFly" at one point, but there were several more obscure BTTF Easter eggs hidden throughout the film.

Inside Aech's OASIS workshop, to offer one example, eagle-eyed viewers can spot a hoverboard from Back to the Future 2. But the best one has to go to the Zemeckis Cube, the Rubix Cube-like magical artifact Wade/Parzival buys in the mall after finding the first key. The name, of course, is a reference to Robert Zemeckis — who directed all three Back to the Future films — but this Easter egg went another layer deeper when it turned out that the Zemeckis Cube had the power to turn back time.

Jack Slater III

According to a theater marquee the cars pass in the big race scene at the beginning of the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger is starring in in a movie called Jack Slater III. If that name sounds vaguely familiar, there's a reason it does.

In the 1993 movie Last Action Hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as Jack Slater, a character in a cheesy action film franchise that exists within the movie. When a kid named Danny magically gets transported into the newest Jack Slater movie, he tries to convince Slater that he's only a character being played by some actor named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, it's pretty meta.

At the beginning of The Last Action Hero, Danny's watching the latest Jack Slater movie, which is — you guessed it — Jack Slater III. In other words, this is an Easter egg in a movie about Easter eggs referencing a movie that's about other movies. Nailed it.

And speaking of Schwarzenegger films…

Meltdown

The Iron Giant was a fantastic addition to Ready Player One, and the story behind his appearance (he isn't in the book) boils down to those rights issues again. Apparently, Spielberg couldn't get the rights to Ultraman (who is in the book) because the character is in the middle of a lawsuit. Who knew? But calling the appearance of the Iron Giant an Easter egg would be like saying swords are Easter eggs in Braveheart. They're just part of the story.

However, the Iron Giant did get one good Easter egg in. As the main crew fights their way into Castle Anorak, the Iron Giant  — being controlled by Aech — lays down over a fissure to make a bridge for the rest of his friends. After everyone crosses, the Iron Giant falls down and sinks into a pool of lava…but just before he's gone for good, he gives them all a thumbs up.

It's an exact recreation of the scene in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, where Arnie's T-800 shoots John and Sarah Connor a thumbs up as he sinks into a vat of molten metal. If you didn't fight back tears at that scene, you may not have a soul.

Madballs

If you spent any amount of time alive in the '80s, you probably had a Madball. Or if your parents were too cheap to get the real thing, you may have had a Bonkers! Ugly Ball (but we won't tell).

For everyone still waiting to be conceived in the '80s, Madballs were these rubber balls with monster faces. That was about it. So don't worry — you didn't miss out on much. But the fact that Madballs got more screen time than Simon Pegg in Ready Player One says a lot about someone involved in the movie.

The big Madball moment came when Artemis grabbed a living Madball and used it as a grenade in the final battle, but they were actually all over the movie. There's a detailed Madball painted on one of the trailers in the Stacks, and this behind-the-scenes article from Entertainment Weekly shows another one painted on the walls of Artemis' rebellion headquarters.

It makes you wonder: If those were all the Madballs Easter eggs we saw, how many did we miss?

Weapon cameos

Speaking of grenades used in the final battle, the crew at Monty Python got a pretty sweet shout-out (although a less-than-sweet countdown). Another one of the items that Wade/Parzival picks up in the OASIS mall is the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, which you may recognize from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He later uses the Holy Hand Grenade during the battle, although — plot hole! — he doesn't count to three before throwing it.

There were plenty of other weapon cameos as well. For an instant, you can see a Star Trek Bat'leth in one scene. And in the ending battle, Wade whips out a Halo SPNKr rocket launcher, which he fires at the Sixer army from his speeding DeLorean. Talk about cross-franchise references.

There were probably a dozen other pop culture weapons thrown in the mix, but we'd need to freeze-frame the movie to catch them all.

Femme fatales

Calling out every single character cameo in Ready Player One would be like climbing Mt. Everest with Batman — it's hard, and it'd probably leave us all in a bad mood. But we do have to give a shout out to the ladies on the screen. In particular, in the moments leading up to the massive battle outside Castle Anorak you can see several leading ladies charging into the fray. Chun-Li from Street Fighter can be seen running right beside Tracer from Overwatch, and behind them you can just make out Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.

Other heroine appearances include Ellen Ripley from Alien as well as Samus from the Metroid series, who shows up as one of the dancers in The Distracted Globe. Even Zelda shows up during the final battle, fighting right alongside her savior Link and the evil Ganondorf. Who would have thought we'd ever see that happening?

Deadite party

When it comes to the battle scenes in Ready Player One, Army of Darkness's Deadites are kind of like the legendary Starbucks cups in Fight Club — that is, they're in just about every scene. In the scene with Chun-Li and Tracer from the previous slide, you can spot a handful of Deadites just to the right of them. This clip of Halo Spartans charging into battle? Yup, Deadites there, too. And that just covers scenes from the trailers.

They're probably there for a few simple reasons: Someone in the design team likes Evil Dead, and they're likely an easy model to use for filling out those massive battle shots. Just repeat some sword-wielding skeletons a few dozen times, and you have yourself an army.

But in the movie universe, you have to wonder why there would be so many Deadites. Remember, each of those characters is ostensibly a real person who chose that form to play in the OASIS. The only explanation is that people in the future really love them some Ash. Groovy.