Searching for Easter eggs in famous movies has become almost a sport these days, but the tendency for filmmakers to plant hidden nuggets is nothing new. There are clever hidden references in classic films going back decades.
From nods to contemporary events to referencing other movies or providing clues about the plot of the films itself, many movie Easter eggs pass so fast that they go unnoticed on the first watch. This is when re-watching a movie becomes so rewarding. A subreddit is currently rounding up a host of such treats from cinematic history, and there are dozens that I had never noticed. Below are some of the best.
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01. The Goya painting in Dr No
In the first James Bond film, released in 1962, 007 glances at a painting in No's lair. Viewers today may not think anything of it, but the painting is a copy of Goya's Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, a masterpiece that had been stolen from London's National Gallery a year previous. The suggestion is that No was responsible for the theft. In the real work, the painting was recovered in 1965, but curiously the prop, painted by Ken Adam, was itself stolen while on display to promote the film.
02. Disappearing water in Shutter Island
One of the things that made Scorsese's Shutter Island so clever is that throughout the film plenty of hints are dropped to suggest that DiCaprio is a unreliable narrator. But while the clues are hidden in plain sight, some are easy to miss on an initial viewing.
One such moment is when the inmate Bridget Kearns is offered a glass of water. She takes the glass to drink from it, but pay attention when it cuts to a frame from the point of view of DiCaprio's Daniels, and her hand is empty. Many viewers report not having noticed on the first watch because their mind expects there to be a glass.
03. The xenomorph skull in Predator 2
Lots of nice movie Easter eggs become possible when you're a studio that owns several major franchises. The presence of xenomorph skull in the trophy cabinet in Predator 2 is a fairly well known Easter egg now, although I don't remember noticing it at the time. The idea may have been trigged by the comic books, but the subtle detail also paved the way for the much later Alien vs Predator franchise by firmly establishing that the two species inhabit the same universse.
04. Gloomy London in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Some Easter eggs are buried in the end credits, never to be seen by those who get up and leave the cinema before they've finished. In Gloomy London in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the end credits feature some fun animation that includes before and after shots of the various places that were destroyed by the food. Everywhere looks sunnier and more colouful in the 'after' shot, apart from London which looks just as foggy and gloomy as before.
05. Almost everything in Back to the Future
Back to the Future is full of references to its effects of its own time travelling plot device. Some of them are made obvious and are central to the story, but there are plenty of smaller details that you might not have picked up on first time around. The name of the Twin Pine Mall, for example, which becomes Lone Pine Mall because of Marty running over one of said pines with the Delorean. There are a whole bunch of cultural references too, including the names of the farmer and his son at Pine Tree farm: Mr Peabody and Sherman, a reference to time-travelling characters in a segment of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.
06. ET exists in the Star Wars universe
When someone passes by dressed as Yoda from Star Wars, ET reacts as if he's just seen a familiar face. 'Home' he says, as composer John Williams slips in a segment of Yoda’s Theme from The Empire Strikes Back. Some 17 years later we discover why, when George Lucas returns the reference by showing a glimpse of ET's species present in the Senate in Phantom Menace. But you have to look closely to see them, they only appear briefly in the far left of the frame.
07. Tarantino's brands
Many directors and producers have created their own brands of products that span through several movies. The reason is to avoid using real-world brands, but the traditional also helps to create a cinematic universe that links the films. There are several examples in Tarantino films, but Red Apple cigarettes have become almost a star in their own right, cropping up in everything from Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill and Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion (Mira Sorvino was dating Tarantino at the time). In Hateful 8, Bob is said to be enjoying a 'Manzana Roja, Spanish for 'Red Apple' in what feels like a send up of Hollywood product placement.
08. The Callahan-funded clinic in 50 First Dates
It turns out there's an Adam Sandler cinematic universe that you might not have picked up on too, and it includes a bunch of references to films starring the late Chris Farley. In 50 First Dates, Dan Akroyd plays Lucy's doctor at a clinic funded by auto parts tycoon TB Callahan, AKA Tommy Boy in the film of the same name in which Aykroyd plays rival Ray Zalinsky.
09. The original Marvin appears in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie
Finally, in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie, there's a celebrity appearance by none other than one of the stars of the 1981 BBC TV series. The paranoid android appears in the scene where the 'heroes' are queuing to get Trillian released on the Vogsphere.