For most, the thought of an easter egg automatically brings to mind memories of delicious chocolate, creamy caramel, and a bagful of saccharine goodness. However, for the dedicated movie fans among us, there's a joy of a different sort to be had. There's a special thrill that comes from discovering cinematic easter eggs – those purposeful hidden gems and jokes – within the frames of your favourite films.
In celebration of Back to the Future's thirtieth anniversary, we threw together a list of our favourite easter eggs since the 80s. Be warned, however – while running through the "what"s and "why"s, there may be a spoiler or two!
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Okay, you guys! Let's check out those easter eggs, starting with Robert Zemeckis' 1985 classic.
Back to the Future (1985) - Time travel tip o' the hat
When our pal Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) crash-landed in 1955, you might remember that he had the misfortune of driving straight into the broadside of a barn. But it's not just any barn. This particular building belongs to an understandably irate farmer by the name of Peabody, who just happens to have a son named Sherman. Sound familiar? It should. Director Robert Zemeckis dropped in the subtle but cute reference as a nod to the popular time-traveling cartoon duo.
King Kong (2005) - Morse code monkeys
Never let it be said that director Peter Jackson makes his film's easter eggs easy to spot. One of his best and most clever inside jokes – found in his epic remake of King Kong – is actually an audio (rather than visual) gag. As the ship containing the opportunistic film crew approaches the always foreboding Skull Island, they receive a cable in morse code, which turns out to be a warrant for director Carl Denham's arrest. But for those in the know, code-wise, the message tells a different tale: "Show me the monkey!" Well played, Jackson.
Finding Nemo (2003) - Buzz hits Australia
The reigning champs of clever cinematic easter eggs, Pixar and Disney, are notorious for popping little in-jokes and character cameos into their films. From a glimpse of Toy Story's Hamm on a shelf in Wall-E to a brief Mickey Mouse cameo in Aladdin to a wood-carving of Sulley in Brave, there's no shortage of freeze-frame moments for eagle-eyed fans to enjoy. But perhaps our favourite of all the eggs comes courtesy of the above blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from everyone's favourite Star Command Space Ranger in Finding Nemo. We don't know how Buzz made it down to Oz, but we're hoping Pixar will find a way to tell us the story one day.
Apocalypto (2007) - There's Waldo!
This particular one wins the award for the craziest egg to ever easter in a film. So it should surprise no one that it comes to us courtesy of King Crazy himself, Mel Gibson. In his epic tale of the downfall of the Mayan civilization, Apocalypto, the director saw fit to include a singular frame of someone dressed as the perpetually-missing Waldo, deceased and draped on top of a mass grave. Unfortunately – or possibly thankfully – the frame in question has been removed from subsequent home video releases, but was quite definitely there for all to see in the theatrical version.
Toy Story (1995) - Redrum homage
We've already sung Pixar's praises above for their clever crossover cameos but the on-going Toy Story homage to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining may just be their crowning achievement. That's right, I said The Shining. Pixar's most heartwarming franchise contains a boatload of call-outs to the film where Jack Nicholson's Jack Torrance is driven insane by ghosts and tries to murder his entire family. Starting with the carpet from The Overlook Hotel making an appearance in Sid's house (above) to an Overlook intercom in the Sunnyside control room in Toy Story 3 to numerous inclusions of the number 237, the on-going tale of Woody and Buzz is littered with purposeful references to the unsettling horror classic.
The Departed (2006) - X marks the spot
Celebrated director Martin Scorsese also happens to be one of the biggest cinephiles ever to work in front of or behind a camera. In his Oscar-winning crime thriller, the auteur decided to pay a little homage to one of his favourite classic, Howard Hawks' original 1932 version of Scarface. In the film, Hawks used the motif of an "X" in certain scenes to denote an upcoming murder victim. Likewise in The Departed, Scorsese used Xs to imply certain characters weren't likely to make it to the end credits. Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen and Jack Nicholson all appear in scenes with the symbol not long before their characters meet their messy ends.
Fight Club (1999) - Starbucks bonanza
Easy to miss on a first or even fifth watch, David Fincher's mind-bending adaptation of Chuck Palahnuik's disenchanting look at encroaching consumerism has what might be the most clever easter egg of all. Some are harder to find than others but there is a Starbucks coffee cup in each and every scene of Fight Club. Carefully placed by the director and his team -- be it beside Ed Norton on his office desk or with an extra behind Helena Bonham Carter -- it's a clever nod to the ubiquitous nature of the Seattle-based brand. As an added bonus, the company was totally in on the joke and gave Fincher the okay to poke a little fun.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - Ancient Star Wars secrets
You'd be forgiven if, amongst all the action and excitement of Indiana Jones' first big screen adventure, you missed some less-than-ancient hieroglyphics next to Indy in the above scene. Amid all the ancient symbols and scribes two of Han Solo's pals have left their mark in the form of some self-portraits. That's right - on the post to our hero's left you'll find the likenesses of everyone's fave bickering robotic duo: R2-D2 and C-3P0. Seems like Harrison Ford can't quite escape Star Wars, no matter how hard he tries (if he's trying at all).