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Movie Easter Eggs Discovered Years Later

There's a special bond between filmmakers and the audience, and it's reflected in all sorts of fun and interesting ways. Some directors, for example, love to throw all kinds of extra treats into their movies for eagle-eyed fans. Nicknamed "Easter eggs" because they're just barely hidden and fun to find, these little gems — inside jokes, visual gags, pop culture references, or even foreshadowing of yet-to-unfold plot points — can add another level of enjoyment to the viewing experience. Many of these little treats are discovered in the days and weeks after a movie's release, but others are a little too well-hidden, and can linger unnoticed for far longer. Take these Easter eggs, for example: years went by before anybody noticed them.

Frisky wizards in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The end credits of the third Harry Potter movie involve the Marauder's Map detailing the comings and goings of all Hogwarts personnel in the form of footprints. Amidst all the steps going to and fro, there's a brief bit in the corner depicting two pairs of footprints very close together — and facing each other. Yep: Those were a couple of teenage wizards makin' some real magic with each other. The credit sequence is apparently loaded with hidden messages and Easter eggs, some of which are still yet to be discovered. This one was evidently not noticed until 2011, seven years after the film's theatrical release.

Where's Waldo? He's in a mass grave in Apocalypto

Mel Gibson's directorial followup to the all-Aramaic, all-the-time The Passion of the Christ was 2006's Apocalypto, another movie in an obscure, ancient language — this one a drama about the very violent fall of the Mayan empire. One of the most striking and haunting images of the film is a mass grave of fallen Mayans, a veritable sea of the dead. For some reason, Gibson inserted a single frame of an actor dressed in a red-and-white hat, sweater, and thick glasses. Yep, that's Waldo. The Easter egg was only present in the theatrical release of the movie and not the home video version, which meant this bizarre extra wasn't discovered until bootlegs of the original cut surfaced nearly two years later.

Jack Skellington in Beetlejuice

This reference to a Tim Burton movie in another Tim Burton movie wasn't identified for at least five years...because nobody knew what it was at the time. During the Beetlejuice scene in which the ghost with the most rises out of the town model, his head spinning, there's a creepy little doll on top of his head. We obviously had no way of knowing it at the time, but that doll sports the prototype head for Jack Skellington, the main character in Burton's 1993 stop-motion animated movie The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Cameron's jersey in Ferris Bueller's Day Off

John Hughes' classic 1986 teen comedy sees the snarky but lovable Ferris (Matthew Broderick) adventure his way through Chicago with his girlfriend Sloan (Mia Sara) and sad-sack best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck). But if it takes place in the Windy City (the trio takes in a Cubs game and Ferris pretends to be "Abe Frohman, the Sausage King of Chicago"), why would Cameron walk around all day in a Detroit Red Wings hockey jersey? That team's fiercest and oldest rival is the Chicago Blackhawks. It wasn't until Ruck did interviews for the 30th anniversary of the film in 2016 that the truth was revealed: Cameron's attire hints at the untold backstory of his fraught relationship with his father. According to Ruck, "[Hughes] had decided that Cameron had a horrible relationship with his father, but a great relationship with his grandfather, who lived in Detroit and would take Cameron to Red Wings games. That's all it was, and it was never explained in the movie."

Biblical references in Guardians of the Galaxy

In late 2015, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn revealed a cut image from the movie on his Facebook page in which Groot presided over a table full of characters arranged just like Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper depicting the final meal of Jesus Christ before his crucifixion. After one fan joked that Groot could "be his own cross" because he's a tree, and thusly made of wood, Gunn mentioned that the fan wasn't far off, and that there was a similarly Christ-themed Easter egg that fans had yet to notice. Then someone found it: As the ship is about to crash, Groot stretches his arms out in a shape resembling Christ on the cross, shielding the other Guardians. Peter Quill holds the body of Rocket Raccoon and Gamora weeps over the body of Drax. Groot sacrifices himself for the good of the crew, which is a pretty Christ-like gesture.

Hannibal's coded message

Hannibal Lecter has definitely had his share of memorable moments over the years. Arguably the most memorable of all came in Silence of the Lambs, when he told Clarice Starling about murdering a census-taker and eating the poor guy's liver "with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." The quote perfectly sums up Hannibal: he's a high-class individual who also happens to be a homicidal cannibal. But that isn't the only reason the line works — it turns out that it might also be a coded message for Starling.

Author Thomas Harris published the novel the movie is based on in 1988, when psychiatric patients were commonly treated with antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors. When someone is taking MAOIs, consuming certain foods and drinks can lead to potentially fatal increases in blood pressure. It was such a big problem that it is one of the reasons MAOIs are not commonly used anymore. Hannibal, who was a psychiatrist himself, would certainly have known of their dangerous side effects.

What are some foods and drinks you can't ingest while taking MAOIs? Well, three of them are liver, fava beans, and red wine.

Sure, this could be a complete coincidence, but Hannibal loved playing games, and almost all the clues he gave Starling while she was interviewing him about the Buffalo Bill case were riddles. This suggests that in his own Hannibalesque way, Lecter was telling Clarice he wasn't taking his medication. Had Clarice figured out the coded message, she might have thwarted Hannibal's escape at the end of the film.

The Potato Strikes Back

The Star Wars franchise might just be the most watched in history. Needless to say, over the years keen eyes have spotted occasional gaffes and mistakes... and an in-joke or two.

The making of The Empire Strikes Back pushed the cast and crew to their limits. George Lucas, wanting a break from directing and daunted by the pressure of following up Star Wars, handed the reins for his self-financed sequel to producer Gary Kurtz and director Irvin Kershner. But even if he wasn't in the director's chair, Lucas took a hands-on approach during the difficult production. He proved a stern taskmaster, especially when it came to the special effects. The famed asteroid chase became a particular sticking point for Lucas, who reportedly ordered the effects crew to redo it several times. Bored, frustrated, and inspired by a passing comment remarking that the asteroids looked like potatoes, the effects team decided to hide an actual potato in an asteroid field during a chase scene.

Lucas apparently didn't notice the prank until years later. Audiences took their time too, until the days of video and laserdisc allowed viewers to freeze-frame the scene and play spot the spud.

An Onward reference hid in a movie that came out before Onward

The films of Pixar Animation boast a universe of Easter eggs unto itself. The Pizza Planet truck from the first Pixar film, Toy Story, traditionally makes a subtle appearance in every subsequent movie from the studio, as does the code "A113," a reference to the number of a classroom at CalArts where many Pixar animators trained. Some other Easter eggs are a bit harder to spot, recognize, or even fully understand for a good long while. For example, there's a visual nod to the 2020 Pixar fantasy buddy-brother movie Onward buried deep inside of Toy Story 4... a movie that hit theaters in June 2019, nearly a year before Onward's release. Near the end of Toy Story 4, Buzz Lightyear goes searching for the missing Woody at a large carnival. There's a wide shot of the whole fair at the end of the movie, featuring a bouncy castle. Atop that structure is a pegasus — the mythical horse-like creature. It's the same one painted on the side of the van Ian and Barley use to go adventuring in Onward.

It's Groundhog Day for Doctor Strange

Bizarre supernatural phenomena are a given in Marvel Cinematic Universe films, but the 2016 entry Doctor Strange fully embraces the weirdness. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the title character, an actual emergency room doctor who stumbles into a world of magic, sorcery, mysticism, and sentient capes. It's a whole different world lurking just past mundane reality, and that's also the premise of the classic 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray plays a narcissistic weatherman caught in a punishing time loop where February 2 repeats over and over until he becomes a better person. 

A fundamental philosophy isn't the only thing linking the otherwise disparate Doctor Strange and Groundhog Day — there's an Easter egg in the former that references the latter. On February 2, 2018 (actually Groundhog Day), Twitter user TimDLydon noted that the car accident that sets off Doctor Strange on his new adventure in Dr. Strange occurs on February 2, if one were to pause the movie and examine the calendar function on the character's broken watch. Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson weighed in, congratulating the viewer on the discovery. "I've waited two years for somebody to notice this," he tweeted (via ScreenRant).

Spider-Man's origin is right there in Spider-Man 3

Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe made superhero movies a regular thing, Sam Raimi whetted appetites for comic book-based fare with his Spider-Man trilogy in the 2000s. The first installment, 2002's Spider-Man, told the origin story of how nerdy photographer teen Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) came to do whatever a spider does when he's bitten by a radioactive arachnid, giving him unbelievable powers which he uses to fight super villains bent on mass destruction. By 2007's Spider-Man 3, Peter is struggling with his dual identity and the pressures of being Spider-Man, and he even has a little goth phase as a result. But there's a tiny Easter egg in the movie that throws it all back to the beginning of the trilogy. A Reddit user named Yozwo posted a screenshot of the Easter egg in a forum dedicated to Spider-Man series director Raimi. Sure enough, in a brief closeup of Peter Parker's right hand, just barely uncovered by a shirt cuff, is a bumpy indentation surrounded by pink inflammation — the telltale sign of a spider bite (or a radioactive spider bite, as it were).

There are literal eggs in Twilight

Twilight, the first film based on the extremely popular teen vampire romance books by Stephenie Meyer, hit movie theaters in 2008. Robert Pattinson starred as sensitive and romantic bloodsucker Edward Cullen, part of a makeshift family of other ageless vampires which also included the athletic Emmet Cullen (as played by Kellen Lutz). All those millions of obsessive young Twilight fans who watched their Twilight DVD on repeat back in the day apparently never noticed that Emmet can be seen in at least two shots carrying around a large plastic bag, which, when set down on a table in a high school cafeteria, is revealed to be full of hard-boiled eggs. (Twitter user porchluck brought attention to the issue in July 2020, which TikTok user sassimoosed explored in great detail, because it takes a teen fad of the 2020s to uncover this very odd and unnoticed element of a teen fad of a decade prior.) But why does Emmet, or Lutz, pack so much embryonic chicken protein anyway? The character is a vampire, so he doesn't even eat human food. It's merely a weird and funny choice from the Twilight production.

Marvel changed its logo in a snap

It was the snap heard 'round the world, the most shocking cliffhanger since Luke Skywalker found out Darth Vader was his father at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. In Avengers: Infinity War, the extraterrestrial villain Thanos collects all of the powerful Infinity Stones from around the universe and uses them to kill, or more precisely, wipe from existence, a solid half of all living things. That's the heartbreaking end (at least until Avengers: Endgame) for Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Winter Soldier, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, and all the Guardians of the Galaxy except for Rocket, among others, and not counting Loki, Gamora, Vision, and all the characters who died earlier in the film.

While the onscreen deaths were shocking and tragic, few Avengers fans thought all those iconic heroes would stay dead, and indeed, many croakings were reversed in Avengers: Endgame. But Marvel wasn't ready to show its cards quite yet. The rapid-fire Marvel Studios logo that starts each MCU film, and which features the images of numerous Marvel characters, was altered for Avengers: Endgame — all the heroes who lost their lives to Thanos in Infinity War were excised. It flew by on movie screens so quickly that fans didn't fully notice until Endgame was released on home video and streaming months after its theatrical run.

They dropped some Shakespeare into a forgotten spot in the middle of Hamilton

Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop-based Broadway musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton, became an unlikely Broadway smash in 2015 and a cultural phenomenon. In 2020, Hamilton hit big again, after a filmed production of the show hit Disney+ to popularity and critical acclaim. With millions finally able to see Hamilton, unnoticed details about the show were finally made clear, and only because it had been recorded for posterity.

There's an old theatrical superstition that says it's bad luck to say "Macbeth" in a theater, even for actors starring in a production of Shakespeare's spooky, Scottish royal tragedy. Supposedly, a coven of real-life witches didn't approve of the witch characters and cursed the play forever, leading to production problems, actor injuries, and other spells of bad luck to all who evoke the word in the theater. Actors call it "The Scottish Play" to circumvent the curse. In act two of Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, a man of Scottish origin, compares his problems to those of Macbeth by quoting Macbeth: "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day." He then quips, "I trust you'll understand the reference to another Scottish tragedy without my having to name the play." After that, Hamilton remarks of detractors, "They think me Macbeth and ambition my folly." Miranda flouted convention and boldly said Macbeth right there in a theater — which worked out better for him than it did for Hamilton.

Spider-Verse's so-so Easter egg

Whether they're films, television shows, or video games, media aimed at kids have been used as a launchpad for merchandising tie-ins for decades, and your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is no exception — in fact, long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe took over theaters around the world, the wall-crawler spawned all sorts of non-comics products, and some of them were infamously bad. Case in point: the Spider-Man popsicle that invaded frozen dessert aisles decades ago... and looked nothing like the familiar Spidey face depicted on the packaging, instead offering kids a misshapen Spider-head with cheap gumball eyes.

Of course, disappointment plus time often equals nostalgia, and when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse debuted in 2018, it mined Spidey memories of decades past in all sorts of ways, ones that were both obvious and easy to miss. One of the less overt Easter eggs occurs in a one-frame gag during Spider-Man's fight with Doc Ock — after a throwaway gag about Spidey's "so-so popsicle," he's slammed against the wall, and for a single frame, his face looks a lot like one of those infamously misshapen treats.