They say that the devil is in the details. I have absolutely no idea why they say that, but I feel like I’ve heard people say that before. Either way, the little details are important. In a film, the little details make the watching experience so much better. If you’re going to watch a movie multiple times, it’s the little details that would keep it interesting. That can be important. Catching something new on a watch-through makes it feel like it was worth all those wasted hours. Those details make the movie that much better. They make you better. Don’t they? Maybe this list is only for impressing friends or family—saying, “Hey. You see that? Heh, let’s rewind it. I know something you don’t.” It’s empowering. Use it.
These details, these tiny snippets of meaning, they give us a new appreciation for a film or a director as well. If the filmmakers spend that much time on little, seemingly insignificant details, they must really be awesome. They must care about us. These aren’t necessarily Easter eggs; we’re meant to spot them. Sometimes they’re merely fun pieces of trivia, but oftentimes these details are safety nets. They’re continuity details that explain why something else happened (or continuity details that acknowledge that something happened in the first place). All of the details on this list, most importantly, show us that certain filmmakers are paying attention, and loving what they do.
Once you know each of these, you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll be that guy who points out trivial things movies to your friends. Everyone loves that guy. Enough yacking. Let’s count them down, 15 tiny details you missed in movies that make them even better.
15. Remember The Spear Gun
In Alien, when Ripley is fighting off the Space Jockey, she shoots a spear gun at it. In a seemingly inconsequential moment, the gun gets pulled from her hands and sticks in the door. Well, when James Cameron took over from Ridley Scott for the sequel Aliens, this little detail was not lost on him. In Aliens, after Ripley’s shuttle is found, a robotic arm starts cutting through the door. The view from the inside of the shuttle shows the robot cutting through, but if you look below the door you will catch a glimpse of the same spear gun from the first film stuck in the door. Bravo Mr. Cameron. Turns out you’re pretty cool after all.
14. Twins In The Matrix
In The Matrix, when Morpheus is putting Neo through his first test for the Matrix, he uses the woman the in red dress to distract him from noticing the Agent Smith lurking behind ready to shoot him. This is all cool, until you notice that the woman in the red dress is also distracting the viewers—then it becomes even more cool, double cool. As Neo and Morpheus walk through the crowd, eagle-eyed viewers might recognize that most, if not all, of the people walking around in the background are twins. When the Matrix simulation is paused, we see exactly that. All of the people around have a double. I don’t know why, but it makes me sad. Nah, it doesn’t. But a good Samwise Gamgee quote never hurt anyone.
13. Number Of Exes In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Numerology plays a massive role in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. That’s not a secret, but just how big of a role might be… a secret, I mean. Every one of Ramona Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) exes has a corresponding number that features largely around them. There are countless numerical references throughout, but we won’t name them all here, just enough to give you an idea. Matthew Patel has one chevron on his sleeve. Lucas has a tattoo of the number two, a belt with two Xs on it, and he points at Scott with two fingers. Todd wears a shirt with the number three on it and is in a three-piece band. The fight with Roxy is in a bar called “4;” Roxy has four letters and her leggings have four rips. The twins have the numbers five and six on their cuffs, their dragons form the shapes of the number five and six, and the volume is turned up to 11 (5+6). And finally, Gideon’s seven guards attack Scott, they speak seven words to each other and “G” is the seventh letter in the alphabet. That’ll do.
12. Background Noise In Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead is seriously rammed full of little details, but there is one that is pretty hilarious, even if it’s not that secret. When Shaun is in the kitchen telling his mom that Philip touched him, you can hear a car in the background revving its engine and then crashing. When Shaun, his mother and Philip, come outside you see the smashed up car behind Ed. It’s really a toss up as to why this happened. On the one hand, Philip’s car is a beautiful Jaguar that Ed would definitely love to drive. On the other hand, the crashed car was Pete’s, Ed’s least favorite person. The scene is funny even without the noise prior to it, but hearing the lead up to the wreckage makes the second watch that much better.
11. Where’s The Mailbox From Royal Tenenbaums?
When Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) comes crashing through the mailbox in The Royal Tenenbaums, our focus is all on the family, the destruction and the chase afterward, but, if you pay attention to the background around the car, you will see that the destruction has an impact on someone else as well. There, behind the car, looking confused and a little angry, is a mailman coming to pick up the mail from the block’s mailbox. Now that Eli has destroyed it, the mail is scattered all about and the poor guy is going to have to pick it all up one by one. His flustered look and the fact that he’s to the far right of the camera wrap it up nicely.
10. Sid The Garbage Man In Toy Story 3
So Sid, the villain of the first Toy Story, was a bad guy that killed toys unnecessarily. But it’s possible he turned his life around and got a good job afterward. I guess we’ll never know. Well, not exactly. In Toy Story 3, when Woody is outside in the front yard, a garbage truck pulls up. Out pops a garbage man wearing the exact same skull shirt as Sid used to wear. He’s jamming to some sweet tunes and looks like he’s loving his life. There’s even a theory out there that suggests that Sid became a garbage man to save living toys from trash compactors. Remember, Sid now knows that toys are alive, so he might take it upon himself to protect them. Maybe… though he does seem to throw those bags into the truck without any care for what’s inside.
9. T1000’s Belly In Terminator 2: Judgement Day
When T1000 is flying in a helicopter chasing down Arnie and friends in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, something miraculous seems to be happening. It appears that T1000 is flying the copter while shooting and reloading his massive machine gun. We know this because the helicopter pilot committed suicide when T1000 told him to “get out,” so buddy just jumped like 10 stories. Either way, what a joke, right? How is this guy doing all these things at once? Well, go back and watch it closely. You will see that he has spouted another arm to help him out, one from his stomach to hold the steering wheel and two for the gun. James Cameron, you sly dog, you.
8. Aragorn’s Vambraces In The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Peter Jackson is the king of minor details in The Lord of the Rings. The production was such a massive event that no expense was spared in creating realistic props and sets, but there was some top notch thought put into the trilogy as well. Perhaps the coolest single detail has to do with Boromir’s vambraces, his swag little forearm guards. When Boromir gets shot up, Aragorn jacks the prized possessions from the big Gondorian. I mean, technically he put them on in Boromir’s honor, speaking of minor details. From then on out, for the rest of the trilogy, whenever the camera is on Aragorn, you will notice that he is still sporting his new vambraces. This is just one more thing that makes the entire journey feel authentic, like you were there with them.
7. Milk Ticket In Home Alone
Yes, it is well known by now, but it’s just too good not to mention in here. Besides that, kids aren’t the most observant people and, if it’s been a while since you’ve seen Home Alone, it’s possible that you’ve forgotten this little nugget of awesome. During the great commotion in the kitchen during the pizza scene—you know the one that Buzz is pretending to barf up Kevin’s plain cheese pizza that he ate—there’s a small detail that you may have missed. When Kevin pushes Buzz, he knocks over a glass of milk. That milk spills on some of the plane tickets, which get pulled away, all of them except for one. Why is this important? Well if the parents had one extra ticket at the airport, they would have been reminded that someone is missing. With the ticket ruined, they get zero reminders, they already miscounted, everyone has a ticket, so they can board the plane in peace and without that little rascal.
6. Twin Pines Mall To Lone Pine Mall In Back to the Future
When Marty McFly first goes back in time in Back to the Future, he lands out of control in the 50s, driving through Old man Peabody’s farm. When he crashes through the Peabody’s fence, pay attention to the fact that he drives over one of the two trees standing there. We soon learn that the farm is called Twin Pines Ranch—Marty has killed one of the twins. When Marty eventually goes back to the future, heh, he doesn’t notice anything different, but we do. We’re smarter. We notice that the name of the mall has changed; it’s now called Lone Pine Mall. This is a harmless little butterfly effect moment that everyone loves. You will too.
5. Looking Ahead In Children of Men
There are a few moments in Children of Men that really add to the accuracy of the futuristic setting. Set in 2027, the filmmakers add some neat details that make them look like psychics. The most obvious one is Clive Owen‘s sweatshirt, a faded London 2012 Olympics sweater. The cool part here is that the film was released in 2006, six years before the Olympics took place. It’s a simple play, but a clever one. The even better one? In certain shots of the London skyline, you can make out the Shard skyscraper. The Shard construction didn’t begin until 2009 and wasn’t completed until 2012. They placed a digital model of the building in the spot that it was projected to be in on the skyline. Now that’s called looking ahead.
4. The Coffee Shop In Pulp Fiction
Tarantino is another one of those directors who goes crazy for the little things. In his smash hit Pulp Fiction, there are many little hidden details scattered throughout, but one has made movie fans really happy since they first noticed it. While the robbery in the restaurant is taking place, the coffee shop guy tries to explain to the robbers exactly who is, but he’s rudely interrupted. All he gets to blurt out is, “I’m not a hero. I’m just a coffee shop-” Now Tarantino liked this little line so much that he decided to play to it in the credits, giving that actor, Robert Ruth, the character name of “Coffee Shop.” Not too bad.
3. Don’t Blink In A.I. Artificial Intelligence
In the commentary for Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron mentions that the Terminator doesn’t blink anywhere in the film. Almost, but not entirely true. The Terminator blinks on the motorcycle and the T1000 also blinks once. How embarrassing. There was also a long-running rumor that Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) doesn’t blink at all in The Silence of the Lambs. Again, not true. Man, people are stupid. You know who actually doesn’t blink, though? David (Haley Joel Osment) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, not even once in the two-and-a-half-hour movie does this kid blink. Plus, he dominates the screen time as well. Incredibly impressive.
2. Frozen Floor In Jurassic Park
Stick with me here. Remember the scene in Jurassic Park when Dr. Hammond (Richard Attenborough) is eating like five tubs of ice cream at the table and Ellie (Laura Dern) comes and sits down? Hammond says, “it was all melting.” Ok, so we know that the power has been out for a while. Keep that in mind. Later there’s the scene with the kids climbing down the electric fence, the power gets turned back on and little Tim gets blasted off. After that, the kids are running away from the raptors in the kitchen. Just as Tim is about to be snatched up by the raptor, they both slip on ice that is mysteriously on the ground… where’d that come from you ask? Well, all the freezers melted remember? They’ve been dripping water all over the ground when the power was off. Then, when it got turned back on, the freezer room froze all that water on the ground. Even more interesting is the importance of that open freezer door that the kids just narrowly escaped through before closing it on that raptor. That was open for a reason. That door was open because Hammond had been in there to pig out on those tubs of ice cream.
1. Arm Numbness In The Big Lebowski
A lot has been made about Donny (Steve Buscemi) hitting strikes on every bowl throughout The Big Lebowski, except for his final shot. After that shot, Donny looks confused and later, once they leave the alley, the big fight happens outside and Donny dies of a heart attack. Now most people interpret this as a sign that Donny’s one missed shot foreshadows his death, but it’s most definitely something else. Watch closely after Donny misses. He isn’t confused about missing; he’s confused about the feeling he has afterward. He sits back down and starts rubbing his arm/hand, seemingly recognizing the early signs of a heart attack. The real issue here is that his friends were too self-absorbed to notice it.