This article contains more Ready Player One spoilers than a Nintendo Player’s Guide walkthrough.- Advertisement -
Ready Player One is now out on Blu-ray, and fans are basking in all of its easter egg glory. While Steven Spielberg was able to infuse a creative spark into the film that allowed it to stand on more than only pure nostalgia, there is no denying that the immediate hook of Ernest Cline’s novel and the subsequent Spielberg blockbuster is its cornucopia of movie references, video game easter eggs, and pop culture homages to all things ‘80s (and in the film’s case, ‘90s too). The film might be set in 2045, but it’s good to know that the future is just as obsessed with Gen-X and Millennial culture as we are today!
In that vein, we here at Den of Geek will attempt the fool’s errand of compiling every single nod, shoutout, and joyful wink to nerd culture that has been stuffed into the very seams of this unapologetically geeky movie (*NOTE: Movie and not the book). Granted it will be almost impossible to get them all in the first pass, so if you notice that we missed anything, let us know in the comments section below, or yell at me on Twitter, and we’ll course correct.
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Without further ado, onto the reference guide! Also, just a head’s up, given the sprawling nature of the film, we are compiling the easter eggs by mediums, characters, and other arbitrary separations that will lead to some overlap, but will hopefully make this easier for you to digest (especially if you’re looking for something in particular). Now get out your chocolate bunnies, because we’re about to have an easter egg hunt!
Ready Player One Movie References
– In the opening montage of what you can do in the OASIS, the first actual homage appears to be Batman climbing Mount Everest. But not just any Batman… it’s Michael Keaton’s Batman from the Tim Burton classic of 1989! (For more superhero movie references after this point, please scroll down to the superhero movie reference’s subsection. Your eyes will thank us later.)
– During the opening montage, among the avatars filling up the OASIS portal terminals Z traverses is the original RoboCop from 1987.
– Also during this sequence, commenter David Thiel spotted the Cyclops from Ray Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958).
– When we meet Aech on Planet Doom, he* is seen blasting Freedy Krueger into space buck coins. To be specific the Freddy Krueger first played by Robert Englund in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
*(We shall henceforth refer to Aech in the OASIS as “he,” and in the real world as “she,” as the character seems to want to be approached in both realities.)
– Also seen getting gutted on Planet Doom is a cameoing avatar as Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies.
– When James Halliday and Ogden Morrow are introduced via flashback in a press conference, the film’s soundtrack plays Tears for Fear’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” which was memorably used in the TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999), which for Apple cultists and computer lore junkies is the preferred biopic on Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Gates. This is unlikely to be a coincidence as a newspaper clipping in Wade’s van asks if Halliday is “Bigger Than Jobs?”
– More appropriately for the era this movie evokes, it was used prominently in 1985’s Real Genius starring Val Kilmer.
– Not only is Halliday’s virtual vision of his funeral in a Star Trek themed church, but his coffin is actually the exact same one (complete with torpedo markings) that Spock is jettisoned into oblivion in from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Although personally, we were sad the film did not recreate the novel’s version of this scene, in which Halliday presides over his own funeral (both as corpse and parishioner) from a digital recreation of the set of Heathers (1988). A young Winona Ryder and Christian Slater were also in attendance.
– Halliday’s OASIS alter-ego Anorak looks vaguely wizard-y, like Merlin or Gandalf. However, the way the film animates his flowing black robes in the film seems intentionally evocative of how Don Bluth drew such robes on Nicodemus in The Secret of NIMH (1982). It should be noted Bluth and Spielberg later partnered for An American Tail (1986) and The Land Before Time (1988).
– Parzival’s vehicle of choice is obviously Marty McFly’s DeLorean from Back to the Future, albeit it has been retrofitted to include the red-light grill scanner from Knight Rider (1982). In the book, it also has the Ghostbusters (1984) symbol spray-painted on the door, but alas Sony must not have wanted to contribute. This is also the sole BTTF reference in this section (just so you know we aren’t crazy!). For the rest, please scroll down to the Back to the Future subsection.
– Also spotted during this section is a jack-knifing truck, which eagle eyed Twitter user @Azrael2073 recognized as the one Kurt Russell drove in Big Trouble in Little China (1986).
– As if you needed to be told, that is the queen Tyrannosaurus Rex from Spielberg’s very own Jurassic Park tearing up the track.
– King Kong is also doing massive damage to the track, but while we appreciate this Spielbergian addition to one of his heroes, Merian C. Cooper (the half-crazed adventurer who produced the 1933 masterpiece), the Kong design walks on his knuckles and most resembles Peter Jackson’s Kong from the 2005 remake. Spielberg teamed with Jackson for 2011’s The Adventures of Tintin.
– Also on the race track is a neon, digitized silver cup, which is a replica of the silvercup used at the end of the original Highlander film from 1986. This was brought to our attention by commenter Chris Procter. Also fun fact, in the book, Art3mis’ favorite film is Highlander.
– Also during the race, we glean that the OASIS’ New York movie theater is screening Jack Slater III, which is the action movie franchise-within-an-action-movie found inside Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The Last Action Hero (1993). Think of it like a misunderstood The Purple Rose of Cairo for teen boys and meatheads alike.
– When we are introduced to Aech’s workshop, we are given a geeky overload of references. And the movie stuff, alone, includes the Iron Giant (obviously); the U.S.S. Sulaco drop ship from James Cameron’s Aliens; the Eagle 5 space RV from Spaceballs (1987); an ED-209 from RoboCop; the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986); the Extravehicular Activity Pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); and the Valley Forge from Silent Running (1972).*
– Thanks to @Ritaseer for spotting this one.
– The XI suit commercials haunting Wade Watts in the Stacks feels like a subtler echo of the oppressive commercialization of Coke and Eastern marketing in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).
– As Twitter user @@Aaaaarrrrrgggh helpfully reminded us, Wade living in a trailer park is likely inspired by the main character of The Last Starfighter also living in a trailer park at the beginning of that 1984 classic. This is unlikely to be a coincidence considering that Ernest Cline is a huge fan of the film, which served as a more direct inspiration to the premise of his second book, Armada.
– Not really a reference, but Ralph Ineson is his very own easter egg for anyone who saw 2016’s masterful The Witch. Seriously, Hollywood hire this man more, and if you’ve seen The Witch, see it again!
– In Halliday’s digital recreation of a memory about himself and Og, he leaves a massive hint about going “backward as fast as you can, really put the pedal to the medal like Bill and Ted.” This is obviously a most gnarly reference to the timey-wimey Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989).
– Upon discovering the Copper Key, Anorak/Halliday refers to Z as “padawan.” This is a nod to how Jedi refer to apprentices in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. See George, at least Steven isn’t ignoring them!
– Shoto’s car, which he totals on his way to getting the Copper Key, is Burt Reynolds’ sweet ride from Smokey and the Bandit (1977). Thanks again to @Number_6 for spotting this one for us!
– The Holy Hand Grenade is first seeded for its amazing third act return when Z and Aech go shopping. This is obviously the weapon of choice for the most pious (and rabbit-infested) of knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).
– The first avatar to fawn over “rock star” Parzival is someone dressed as Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice circa 1988. Check out the video game section to discover some of the others.
– Art3mis* became the geek crush of everyone (of every gender) when she terrifies Z by having a chestburster from Alien (1979) destroy her Goro suit. She also must be a fan of that franchise, given her weapon of choice that is revealed later…
*(From this point on we’ll mostly refer to “Art3mis” as “Artemis,” because that number is ridiculous. And to be fair, Arty agrees in the Ready Player One novel.)
– The love of Halliday and Og’s lives, Karen Underwood, goes by Kira when she meets Halliday. This is her homage to a character in The Dark Crystal (1982).
– Z refers to Kira as Halliday’s “rosebud.” This is a reference a little outside the wheelhouse of Ernest Cline’s bowling alley arcade novel, but right in keeping with Spielberg who is calling back to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941).
– When Nolan Sorrento first approaches I-R0k, he steps out of a crashed martian ship from the classic War of the Worlds circa 1953. Thanks be to commenter Jon Sleeper for being eagle-eyed, there.
– I-R0k’s box in which he keeps the orb is the same box that Mogwai came to suburbia in during Gremlins (1984).
– Aech also has a poster from the original Mel Gibson-starring Mad Max (1979) in his garage as Z gets ready for his big date.
– Aech also has a sign that says “Cocktail & Dreams” in neon, just like the one in the horrible Tom Cruise movie, Cocktail (1988).
– Parzival’s outfit of choice is that of Peter Weller’s title character from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension, a totally bonkers 1984 film that also starred Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, John Lithgow, and Christopher Lloyd. If you haven’t seen it, do so. Depending on who you ask, it’s part of a shared universe with John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China.
*Also a fun fact our contributor Delia Harrington pointed out is that Ernest Cline’s first spec script (before he went on to write Fanboys) was an intended sequel to Buckaroo Banzai. It was read by Harry Knowles who helped champion Cline as a writer. (Knowles also is credited as someone who helped read early drafts of teh novel Ready Player One in the book.)
– During Z and Arty’s sweet (and visually stunning) dance, Wade goes the full movie geek and selects the song “Stayin’ Alive” from Saturday Night Fever (1977). And he completes the beautiful lameness of it with the rainbow disco dance floor that John Travolta once huffed across.
– Once IOI crashes the party, Arty reveals her weapon of choice that she uses throughout the film, an M41A Pulse Rifle that Sigourney Weaver made so badass in James Cameron’s Aliens (1986).
– Nolan Sorrento’s first pot-sweetener to bring Wade Watts to IOI is the promise he’d get to fly Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon.
– Nolan next pledges to turn all the schools on Ludus (the OASIS’ educational planet that plays a major role in the book) into replicas of the high schools from John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. However, Z tries to slip Nolan up by naming the high school from Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and the college in Animal House (1978).
– When looking at the films James Halliday might’ve put on to “seduce” Kira, wrong choices include The Fly (1986) and Say Anything (1989). So presumably these were VHS tapes in the ‘90s given the differing years?
– The right choice is of course, amazingly, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). See Ready Player One and The Shining subsection below for a complete deconstruction of this sequence in the film.
– Also among the movie posters of other films Halliday watched that week is Firestarter (1984), which starred Spielberg darling Drew Barrymore. It also must’ve meant Halliday was on a Stephen King kick that week. Thanks to @thegeekflux for spotting this one!
– The Overlook Theater inside the OASIS also has a Return of the Jedi (1983) poster, so it’s not all Kubrickian down there…
– The magic spell cast on the orb controlled by Sorrento and I-R0k is actually the exact same spell Merlin used to transform Uther into the visage of his enemy in John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981). It was called “Charm of Making” in that movie, and it allowed Uther to take his foe’s wife and in the process father the child who would become King Arthur. Given that Z’s name is a giant love letter to that film (chech out the Parzival section for more), that makes this extra cool. Also, thanks to commenters Wil Dalphin and Tom Stephens for bringing this to our attention.
– During the final third of the film, we discover the fate of the OASIS depends on your dexterity with an Atari 2600. If you pick the wrong game, into the ice you go, which feels like it could be a nod to the “banishment” seen in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), as Spielberg is a vocal admirer of Christopher Nolan and those Batman movies. In that vein…
– While IOI fools are taking repeated chilly splashes, Parzival and Daito hold Nolan hostage in a simulation-within-a-simulation. And Daito’s all-black suit and silencer-adorned gun seems intentionally reminiscent of the dream-within-a-dream iconography of Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010).
– Similarly, when Wade leaves Sorrento’s faux-office, he rips off his face to reveal he’s really Parzival in a visual intentionally evocative of Mission: Impossible (1996) and its many sequels.
– Faux-Daito also seems to give a clue he is not really, well real, given a glowing amber sheen in his eyes, which seems like a sly nod to the telltale sign of replicants in the original Blade Runner.
– Upon the entire OASIS turning on Sorrento, the scene-stealing I-R0k quotes It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) at the exact wrong time to someone who is clearly a Mr. Potter type: “No man is a failure who has friends.”
– When Z leads his avatars into actual battle, he goes the full John Cusack and holds a boombox above his head, although with a much more metal song than the sweetly annoying “In Your Eyes” that Cusack plays to win his ex back at the end of Say Anything. (The movie that Halliday maybe also should have put on for Kira, instead of The Shining.)
– During the third act uber-video game battle the entire movie is stolen by “IT’S FUCKING CHUCKY!” And if you need me to explain that evil, ginger-haired bastard doll is from Child’s Play (1988), like what are you even doing here?
– Movie shoutouts during that battle include the return of Arty’s pulse rifle; Aech going the full Iron Giant (who has a much bigger role in the movie than the book); the Caterpillar P-5000 Work Loader from Aliens; some ED-209s; and the movie designs from the recent Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (Alas 1990’s TMNT live-action designs would have been way cooler and more fitting). We’ve also heard Spielberg lament a Gremlin got into a frame courtesy of ILM, so we imagine they’re in here somewhere. Check out the Games and Misc. section for more cameos.
– Someone also at the end here is rocking a Glaive from Krull (1983), a five-sided star that also acts like a boomarang upon occasion.
– Nolan Sorrento pulls the ultimate dick move and turns into Mechagodzilla from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). Even cooler, it features Akira Ifukube’s “Godzilla March” theme from Godzilla (1954).
– Daito answers by going Gundam in return (see Misc. for more), but his arrival is heralded by the amazing cameo of Mal Reynolds’ Serenity, a Firefly-class vessel from Joss Whedon’s all-too brief Firefly (2002) TV series and later 2005 film, Serenity.
– When Iron Giant goes down, he dies like a champ, a la Arnie’s T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991).
– Monty Python’s Holy Hand Grenade does its God-given duty!
– Halliday’s contractual fake-out with Parzival feels, unintentionally or not, like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Spielberg’s third Indy adventure where you had to choose wisely between real grails and fake ones.
– The treasure and faux-egg atop its pedestal in this fakeout room is also reminiscent of the treasure trove in the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin (1992), complete with a ruby-shaped egg that beckons the monkey Abu to his almost-doom. But as Disney didn’t seem to play ball with WB on this, it is vague.
– Among baby Halliday’s decorations are statues of Godzilla and Robby the Robot, the latter being from the influential Forbidden Planet (1956), which is a film that had a profound effect on Spielberg.
– Speaking of Spielberg, he slyly allowed his production team to put a Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) poster on young Halliday’s wall.
– Robby the Robot shows up again as a life-sized statue in Wade and Samantha’s flat at the end of the movie.
– I believe young Halliday’s computer is an IMSAI 8080, which is the computer Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy use to almost start a thermonuclear war in the underrated WarGames (1983), a movie which played a much larger role in the book.
Ready Player One and The Shining References
Yes, this gets its own subsection. And if you want more detail about the importance of The Shining and Kubrick to Spielberg (as well as why King hates the movie), you can click over here to read it for yourself.
-Before they even enter the Overlook Hotel, our dear High Five is made to dread the horrors to come thanks to Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s unforgettably eerie score.
– Spielberg meticulously recreates the set of the Overlook Hotel’s grand lobby, complete with a typewriter that repeats verbatim, “All Work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” However, it takes on the shape of a key, a Jade Key to be specific, as opposed to the odd shapes in the film.
– Aech is lured to his seeming doom by a bouncing ball, which belongs to the Grady twins, ghostly girls that beckon foolish children to come play with them.
– This also leads Aech to almost be enveloped in the river of blood that pours from the elevator, as Shelly Duvall also discovered the hard way in The Shining’s climax.
– The portrait that Aech tears of the Overlook Hotel with Halliday and Kira at the center is the ghostly photo that is the final shot of The Shining, which despite its inexplicable then-modern setting of 1980, it still features Jack Nicholson’s protagonist partying with the dead in 1921 (where Halliday and Kira are standing).
– Room 237 features a ghost that attacked young Danny Torrance, and like with Aech, it also seduces his father as a comely young woman before turning into a haggard old woman (although she does not try to kill him with an axe). Also credit for the film noting that Aech likes women, as most mass-marketed blockbusters shy away from LGBTQ characters.
– Aech is attacked by an axe to the door, but before he gets a “Here’s Johnny” (or Jack Nicholson), he is then dropped inside the snowy maze that Jack Torrance dies chasing Danny in. He escapes through the freezer that is also where Danny and Wendy tie up a deranged Jack earlier in the film.
– When Aech comes out of the freezer, you can also see Danny’s iconic tricycle in the background.
Ready Player One and Back to the Future References
As previously mentioned, there is so much love for this Robert Zemeckis film, which was executive produced by Steven Spielberg, that we felt it worthy of its own subsection.
– Again Parzival’s vehicle of choice is the DeLorean from Back to the Future with a KITT upgrade. It also comes complete with a non-functioning flux capacitor.
– As Parzival and Aech are discussing Halliday, I believe I spotted an avatar dressed as futuristic Doc Brown from the final scene of Back to the Future (1985).
– Before Wade Watts first enters the OASIS onscreen, we witness some questionable product placement of a drone delivering Pizza Hut to a Stacks neighbor. As shameless as this is, we also suspect it could be a sly nod to similar sci-fi commercialism in Back to the Future Part II (1989), in which Marty McFly’s family in the far-flung future of 2015 dines on small packets of grow-able Pizza Hut pies.
– Before Artemis signs out of Aech’s garage during her first meeting with Z, she calls our hero “McFly” in reference to his sweet, timey-wimey ride. It’s an adorable sign of affection and deserved condescension all at once.
– In the same shopping scene, the “Zemeckis Cube” captures Parzival’s eye, which is a nod to Spielberg’s buddy, Robert Zemeckis, the director of Back to the Future (Spielberg produced it). Combined with the Rubik’s Cube this artifact has an awesome feature Doc Brown would approve of.
– When Parzival uses the Zemeckis Cube to reverse OASIS time by 60 seconds, composer Alan Silvestri is able to break out some of his timeless Back to the Future theme.
– When Z puts down the pen, Halliday takes him to his past in a recreation of his childhood bedroom, which is given a musical stinger by Silvestri, who uses his synthesizer echo from Back to the Future.
– When Samantha interupts her near-kiss with Wade to shout, “Oh shit!,” as well as when F-Nara punches Nolan in the face, Silvesteri uses the same musical stinger to denote a moment of shock or bewilderment that he uses in all the Back to the Future films.
– As Parzival is getting ready for his date with Artemis, he’s chilling in Aech’s digital den, which comes with an awesome poster of “Re-elect Mayor ‘Goldie’ Wilson” from Back to the Future. Hell yeah, we smiled at this one!
Ready Player One Video Game References
Still with us? Good. Because we’re just getting to the meat and potatoes of a movie about a giant interactive video game world…
– The first branded IP we see in the film, beyond Pizza Hut, we believe is an entire OASIS world dedicated to recreating Minecraft the game that has taken Generation Z by storm.
– Among the characters on Planet Doom seen during Aech’s introduction is someone in a skin of James Raynor, a character from the Starcraft games. Thank you to @JoelStrout for pointing this out to us.
– On the racetrack for the first key, the Street Fighter character Ryu makes the first of several cameos.
– When Artemis quizzes Z about what Halliday’s favorite shooter was, he is quick to name-check GoldenEye, the 1997 Nintendo 64 video game that is the staple of many a Millennial’s childhood. Also special points to both avatars for knowing his favorite multiplayer character was Oddjob while playing in “Slaps Only” mode (no weapons).
– Parzival also reveals that Halliday’s favorite racing game was Turbo, a 1981 arcade entry by Sega.
– Also in Aech’s garage, via @thegeekflux, is the cocktail cabinet version of Pac-Man.
– Rick (douchey boyfriend of the aunt played by Ralph Ineson) has modeled his avatar after Jim Raynor from StarCraft (1998), as per Twitter user @FeanorToro.
– In the first digital flashback to Halliday and Og, Halliday is wearing his patented Space Invaders t-shirt, a nod to the legendary 1978 arcade game.
– Halliday also tells Og in this scene that one thing that is perfect is Asteroids, a 1981 arcade game.
– There is a poster of arcade game Galaga (1979) in Halliday and Og’s breakroom.
– Among the “accessories” at the OASIS shop that Z and Aech peruse is a Street Fighter store where Ryu turns up again.
– There is also a Halo add-on that lets you become Master Chief from the classic 2001 video game.
– After the “Beetlejuice” avatar spots Parzival in his rock star moment, Jill Valentine in her ridiculous tube top outfit from 1999’s Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (perfect for fighting virus-carrying zombies) shows up to also gawk.
– As Arty and Z are meeting at the archives, the original video game Lara Croft of Tomb Raider glory walks by, as per Paulo Bastos.
– Luckily, Z is saved by Arty, albeit in that exact moment she appears to be Goro, the four-armed warrior from Mortal Kombat (1992). And Goro seems to be having a case of indigestion.
– Among Z’s costume changes before his big date with Artemis, there is a sbutle nod to Donkey Kong as the punk outfit he tries on has a “DK” logo on the back.
– When Nolan is trying to seduce Wade, among other things he claims he likes to play Robotron, a multidirectional-shooter for Atari 2600 from 1982.
– Among the Atari 2600 games name-dropped by IOI as incompatible with Halliday’s final challenge are Centipede, Pitfall, and “all three” Swordquests. Other key ones include Berzerk, notable for its innovative maze design and the home of gaming’s most notorious sentient smiley face, Evil Otto, and Defender, which had one of the coolest spaceship designs in early gaming.
– In real-life, Daito’s OASIS rig comes with a Mortal Kombat pin.
– Among the cameoing avatars in the final battle, we also spotted iconic game characters like Big Daddy from BioShock (2007), Chun-Li from Street Fighter II (1991), characters from the new popular next-gen first-person shooter, Overwatch (2016), and a squadron of Halo ass-kickers.
– Also commenter Niko Sama picked up Chocobo from Final Fantasy II (1991) and StarCraft marines from StarCraft (1998).
– At one point it looks like not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but the Battletoads are leading a charge. Battletoads sure may seem like a TMNT ripoff, but they were mainly known as the protagonists of an extraordinarily difficult 1991 NES game. We wrote more about them here.
– Also among all this craziness, Twitter user @therealmcKay22 noticed that Artemis uses a lancer from Gears of War (2006).
– Similarly, @HikariDesTIny spotted Battleborn from 2K games in this battle royale.
– Similarly, @misterredpants spotted that Parzival used the rail gun from Quake (1996) in this scene.
– During Parzival and Nolan Sorrento’s epic throwdown, Z totally drops a “hadouken” on him. Ryu would be proud.
– Before Sorrento blasts I-R0k’s ten years of upgrades to hell, he calls using the cataclyst “a camper move.” Which in gamer terminology is akin to saying, “bad sport,” since it refers to newbies who play online shooters and just camp out in a hard-to-reach spot near respawning ammo or weapons.
– During the final chase, Aech jokes she is “practicing my Mario Kart” when IOI scum begin trying to run her van off the road. This is a reference, to well, the true greatest racer franchise of all-time, no?
– As the movie highlights to a sentimental degree, the first video game easter egg was in Adventure (1979), an Atari 2600 entry designed by Warren Robinett, who included a literal egg far away from the game’s central quest. If you discovered it though, you’d be greeted by Warren Robinett’s actual name, (which the Atari publisher refused to credit in the game at the time).
– Young James Halliday appears to be playing a Colecovision system in his room. Anyone know what game he’s playing, though? Well according to commenter Paul Imboden, we now know it is a game called Gorf (1981).
– Inside Halliday’s bedroom is also an old school poster for the original Pac-Man game.
– Halliday’s final words to Wade of “thank you for playing my game” are a valued tradition among game-makers. It was most popularized by Super Mario 64 (1996) when Mario himself says, “Thank you a-so much for playing my game” at the end of the closing credits. Too bad Halliday didn’t offer Z some cake!
– In the final scene with a rich and happy Wade and Samantha, you can see a Revenge from Mars (1999) pinball game behind them. Why they would include Revenge from Mars and not its infinitely superior 1995 predecessor, Attack From Mars, will have to remain a mystery.
Ready Player One Superhero and Comic Book References
– As aforementioned the first avatar we see as a pre-existing IP is Batman… Michael Keaton’s Batman from 1989 to be specific.
– That is also Adam West’s classic Lincoln Futura (1955) as the Batmobile convertible during the film’s opening race. He drove it in the late 1960s camp classic TV series and 1966’s Batman: The Movie.
– Twitter user @Number_6 has pointed out that Artemis’ bike has the logo for The Greatest American Hero, a short-lived superhero television series, which ran on ABC from 1981 to 1983.
– When Artemis and Parzival are testing each other on geeky Halliday trivia knowledge, Z drops that the late Halliday’s favorite quote was from Superman: The Movie (1978). And to be fair, it is an amazing nugget of comic wisdom, compliments of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor: “Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story; others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.”
– Wade Watts reveals his father gave him an alliterative name to mimic superheroes like Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and Bruce Banner (the Hulk). Fun fact: actor Tye Sheridan also plays Scott Summers, aka the mutant superhero Cyclops, in the current X-Men movies.
– When Arty gives Z Clark Kent glasses, they’re not just any generic Superman reference, but one specifically taken from Christopher Reeve’s frames in Superman: The Movie. As are the questionable plaid, ‘70s suit clothes options she offers for him to peruse, and that particular slicked down hairstyle.
– At the Distracted Globe dance party, a couple’s avatars are cloyingly modeled after the Joker and Harley Quinn.
– In the real world, 11-year-old Shoto is sporting a varsity jacket that looks a lot like the ones found in Smallville in Superman III (1983).
– Somewhere in the Stacks, there is a tagger who is a big fan of Teen Titans since one of the urban artworks is of the DC character Raven.
– During Parzial’s call to action, we totally see the back profiles of avatars dressed as Catwoman and a capeless Batman. However, @dickson_edwards suggests the capeless Batman is in fact the Arkham Knight from the PS4/Xbox One video game, Batman: Arkham Knight. We aren’t sure, but it seems very plausible.
– During the epic final act throwdown, Spawn is definitely present for the fireworks.
– Someone came ready for the war by dressing as Batgirl too, albeit we only see her briefly before the flash of the cataclyst incinerates everyone in sight.
-The IOI researcher offices include back issues of DC Comics Presents.
Ready Player One Misc. References
– The film defiantly begins to the sounds of Van Halen’s “Jump” before the cold open even fades onto an image.
– At the beginning of the film, near the time we see RoboCop, another avatar runs by dressed as Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes.
– Also in this sequence is an avatar dressed as Hello Kitty! (Thanks to commenter Erin Grady Brown for pointing this one out!)
– Aech is introduced getting points by being a badass on Planet Doom, which is a reference to a dead rock in the Drule Empire on the Voltron cartoon series (1984-1985).
– It feels like much of James Halliday is also somewhat based on Dana Carvey’s Garth from iconic early ’90s SNL sketch and unlikely blockbuster, Wayne’s World. You know, by way of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (with a sprinkling of Willy Wonka).
– Halliday is often seen wearing a Simon pin. Simon was a Milton Bradley electronic memory game, a multi-colored, lights-and-sounds “Simon says” that was a surprising amount of fun, and as much an icon of the 1980s as the Rubik’s Cube.
– The blue Bigfoot truck that Aech drives is the original monster truck, and one that was replicated on countless pieces of 1980s merchandise at the height of that bizarre craze.
– Among the race cars is again the Mach Five from the Japanese anime Speed Racer (1966-1968).
– Parzival’s DeLorean has KITT’s red-eyed grill scanner from the David Hasselhoff cheese-classic, Knight Rider (1982-1986).
– Commenters Erin Grady Brown also caught Stephen King’s Christine in this scene. Also Erin and Twitter user @Number_6 caught the van from The A-Team is also in this scene.
– And of course Artemis’ bike is the one from Akira (1988), a reference we should have remembered but forgot about until commenter Liam Crewe helpfully reminded us.
– In the lead-up to the race Joan Jett’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You” rocks on.
– While listing a few of James Halliday’s favorite things, Z reveals his favorite snack food is Hot Pockets, and his favorite restaurant is Chuck E. Cheese. Which considering he was a grown man is… interesting.
– Also here is a bonus about Chuck E. Cheese, compliments of @HBEaker. The restaurant franchise was founded by Nolan Bushnell in 1977 after he co-founded Atari in 1972.
– When Z and Arty are testing each other on geeky Halliday knowledge, Parzival says Halliday’s favorite song was the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” (there’s no accounting for taste, eh?) and his favorite music video was aha’s “Take On Me.” And in the latter’s case, he has a point…
– Aech’s garage includes laser guns and spaceships from Battlestar: Galactica (1978-1979). There is more of that in Aech’s own subsection.
– It appears that all of the Doritos bags in the movie use the vintage 1980s logo and bag design.
– Also a really nice touch is the casting of Hannah John-Kamen as F’Nale in the film. Introduced early as the IOI executive in charge of the “loyalty centers,” F’Nale’s job is to round up poor souls and welcome them into glorified slavery as corporations’ new take on indentured servitude, which honestly doesn’t feel that far off from our world. While that is grim, John-Kamen’s casting feels like a subtle nod to Black Mirror, in which she appeared in the second episode ever in “Fifteen Million Merits.” That is the episode where a future dystopia keeps people trapped as glorified slaves in little glass and plastic cubes while they watch reality television. Sound familiar?
– I-R0k attempts to “compliment” Nolan Sorrento by saying “you never lick;” he just bites down to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Like that commercial. You know THAT commercial…
– As Aech taunts Z for daydreaming about Arty, the Temptation’s “Just My Imagination” softly plays in the background.
– I-R0k is introduced doing a “Poor Yorick” routine with a Steam Punk Pirate’s skull, which is a slightly more high-brow reference to Act V of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
– Speaking of Hamlet, the nightclub that Arty invites Z to is called “the Distracted Globe,” a subtler nod to the first act of the Bard’s masterwork. This is the term the eponymous Danish prince uses to sneer at his court and surroundings, implying they are distracted with crass entertainment while matters of importance, like justice for his father’s murdered ghost, go ignored.
– While getting ready to party at the Distracted Globe, Parzival tries on a series of costumes that he and Aech rightly reject, like Michael Jackson’s red “Thriller” outfit, Prince’s “Purple Rain” get-up*, a generic-looking punk Mohawk, and a white Duran Duran get-up that someone else will have to precisely identify.
* Thanks to commenter Janne Nyyssonen for pointing out this one!
– As Z enters the Distracted Globe New Order’s “Blue Monday” adds some disaffected style. Later, when we meet Arty in the real world, she’s wearing a Joy Division shirt. Joy Division is the band that eventually morphed into New Order.
– At the Distracted Globe, all the robotic bartenders are wearing the ridiculous hats from Devo’s awful “Whip It” music video.
– Nolan’s deal with the Devil offer includes the claim he enjoys drinking Tab. Just right there, Z should’ve known Nolan wasn’t on the level, because Tab is disgusting.
– When Aech has his/her fancy tickled by a ghostly girl, she asks “am I being punked?” This reference the awful Ashton Kutcher/MTV series, Punk’d (2003-2007).
– Among IOI’s research materials is a copy of the book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978).
– Nolan Sorrento’s private rig includes the complete Nancy Drew mystery book series. Don’t judge.
– Inside Sorrento and I-R0k’s orb of power is a D-20 dice. Dungeons & Dragons fans know what’s up with that, including our dear commenter Tom Stephens who brought it to our attention.
– During Parzival’s big speech across the OASIS, his drone-camera is what appears to be a literally magical Magic 8-Ball. You know those silly toys that “could tell the future” and kids used to love before smartphones?
– Z’s final call to arms is Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Hell yeah!
– During the final battle, commenter Erin Grady Brown helpfully spotted He-Man! Now the struggle on Planet Doom can truly be legendary!
– To battle Mechagodzilla, Daito assumes the mobile suited body of an RX-78-2 Gundam from the iconic Japanese anime Mobile Suit Gundam (1979). However, I personally would have recommended he’d selected Heero Yuy’s Wing Zero from Gundam Wing (1996) if he wanted to truly wreck Mechagodzilla.
– When Artemis puts down Nolan Sorrento (for a minute) and Mechagodzilla (for the count), she does so with a Madball. These were briefly popular grossout toys for young boys in the mid-’80s, which like all fads of that decade spawned a video game and shortly lived Saturday morning cartoon series. I believe the Madball used was “Dust Brain,” but please correct me if I’m wrong.
– Both Aech in real-life and a poster in Halliday’s digital childhood bedroom includes Rush’s 2112 album cover. 2112 side one is a bizarre, futuristic/dystopian sci-fi rock epic. You can see why these characters are fans.
– Clearly visible in young James’ room is a vintage Dungeons & Dragons poster. That, along with the Rush 2112 poster, were standard issue for edgy ’80s nerds.
– Also visible on the back wall of Halliday’s bedroom is the album cover of Devo’s Freedom of Choice. Thanks be to Peter J. Daley Jr. for bringing that to our attention!
– We hear of “the gold mines of Gygax.” Gary Gygax was the inventor of Dungeons & Dragons.
– At one point, Ghost Halliday also briefly holds a toy (don’t ask us the year or model) of the Robot from Lost in Space (1965-1968). He was kind of like Robby’s knockoff, but much more cuddily, cousin. (Thanks to commenter Eric Sharpe for reminding us of this!)
– There’s a killer Masters of the Universe tin lunchbox in Wade’s hideout, too.
– Also Twitter user @Yeedi_Dinsuar makes an interesting point that Halliday’s egg is a nod to the golden seed (or egg) in the anime Sword Art Online. While I’m not sure myself, judge for yourself by looking at the egg here.
– Also during the very end, commenter Erin Grady Brown spotted the Star Trek weapon Bat’leth near the aforementioned Robby the Robot in Wade and Samantha’s nerd nirvana home.
– While we’re on the subject of toys, Aech keeps lots of them in his lair. There are models of the original Battlestar Galactica, the Nostromo from Alien, Cygnus (from Disney’s The Black Hole) and they mention (but we do not see) the Harkonnen Drop Ship a toy that was advertised by LJN as part of their bizarre Dune line, but which never actually came out.
We also thought it might be worthy deconstructing each character and what they bring to the table, in case the above references can seem dizzying or daunting.
– Again, “Art3mis” should be called “Artemis” because, at least per the book where Samantha only conceded putting the numeral “3” in her avatar’s name, because “Artemis” was already taken when she created her avatar.
– Artemis as a name is in reference to Greek mythology where Artemis is Goddess of the Hunt. Further, fans of Wonder Woman might like to know that Artemis was conflated with “Diana” as one goddess in Roman mythology.
– Arty’s weapon of choice throughout the film is an M41A Pulse Rifle from James Cameron’s Aliens (1986).
– In the real world, Samantha’s visor has a Batman sticker on it.
– There’s some graffiti in Samantha’s HQ that looks like a nod to seminal 1980s graffiti artist, Keith Haring.
– A perfectly good place is to start with Parzival himself. As we’ll detail more later, his name is obviously a play on Percival, the member of King Arthur’s round tabled knights who, according to some versions of the myth, is the one who found the Holy Grail. However, this version is most popularized in nerd culture by John Boorman’s 1981, heavy metal cult classic, Excalibur. Which for the record has a design for its titular sword that looks identical to the blade embroidered into the back of Z’s clothes in the OASIS.
-His empty gun holster also looks suspiciously like what Han Solo wore in the original Star Wars trilogy.
– Z’s entire aesthetic is typical mid-‘80s, heavy metal fan.
– There is a Thundercats symbol on Z’s belt buckle, while his gun holster/belt combo are reminiscent of Han Solo.
– Parzival’s final visor at the end has a sticker for The Greatest American Hero TV show. But we’re not sure if this is really Z’s style or Aech, since it is her van… (Thanks to Twitter user @Number_6 for finding this!)
– In the real world, she’s Helen, but she prefers to be just a “he” and Aech while logged into the OASIS.
– In the real-world, Aech has a lot of different vintage pins on her jacket. We could not catch them all, but among the ones we spotted were a classic Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) pin and a vintage ’70s Wonder Woman badge of honor. Also thanks to commenter Peter J. Daley Jr., we also now know that one more of the pins for the band Dead Kennedys.
– Aech totally also has a Batman poster in the back of her truck.
– Also thanks to commenter Erin Grady Brown, we also know the graffiti on the back of Aech’s truck is actually from the Dungeons & Dragons module, “Tomb of Horrors,” which was a pivotal plot point in the book.
– And now, all in one place, everything we spotted in Aech’s garage and den:
The Iron Giant; laser blaster from the original Battlestar: Galactica; the U.S.S. Sulaco drop ship from Aliens*; the Eagle 5 space RV from Spaceballs; the Colonial Viper spaceship from Battlestar: Galactica; an ED-209 from RoboCop; the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; the Extravehicular Activity Pod from 2001: A Space Odyssey; the Valley Forge from Silent Running; an exo-skeleton robot from the animated series Exosquad; a Thunderfighter from the TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century; and a Swordfish II spaceship from the anime Cowboy Beebop (1998-1999); the Cocktails & Dreams sign from Cocktail; a Mad Max poster; and an awesome “Re-Elect Mayor ‘Goldie’ Wilson” poster from Back to the Future.
– Also some more we missed, but commenter Erin Grady Brown picked up: Pee-wee Herman’s bike from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985); the TARDIS from Doctor Who; a stuffed Kermit the Frog; and a political poster for Wil Wheaton.
*Thank you to commenter Raul Martinez-Orozco for pointing this out.
Numb from your sugar overload yet? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Let us know what we missed or chew me out on Twitter here.