Over the years, “easter eggs” have become a common thing in movies. Producers enjoy throwing in little gags in the background, stuff that you can miss on first viewing but becomes bigger on second and even pausing. Disney goes wild with stuff (Zootopia has so many gags and bits you’d need a whole page to list them all) and others follow suit. The rise of comic book movies adds to it with various background notes that pay tribute to the source material. But other films love to throw in tiny bits that are better on second glance. Fight Club has Brad Pitt’s character popping in briefly. The Phantom Menace has the now famous bit where you can see E.T. among a Senate scene. Some scenes are worth pausing for the massive power of the scene and such. But other cases, a movie has secrets that can only be noticed on pause.
They come from animation, from blockbusters and even smaller movies, tiny bits that can stand out on another viewing. Sometimes it’s for fun, an inside-joke or reference that dedicated fans can get and enjoy. Other times, it’s a detail that makes the scene even better. For a few cases, it’s foreshadowing for a major twist missed the first time around. And a few times, it’s just so offbeat but enjoyable. There are slews around but here are 20 that stand out. 20 movies where you can pause to get a secret that makes it even better and why second viewings are needed.
SPOILER ALERT for some films
20 Iron Man 2: Setting Up The Universe
When the first Iron Man movie opened, there were actually doubts it would work. Thus, Marvel hedged their bets a bit before adding on the now-famed epilogue of Nick Fury. With the film a hit and plans underway, Marvel was able to use the sequel to set up their growing universe. The movie introduced Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov who poses as Tony Stark’s secretary. However, keep an eye during the party scene when War Machine and Tony go at it. Pepper is screaming but Natasha briefly drops her cover to move into a fighting stance. Also, during the lab scene, Tony is flipping through a book and passes a page showing what looks like the Tesseract from the first Avengers movie, indicating the Arc Reactor was based off research from the Cosmic Cube.
There’s also at the end when Fury is talking to Tony and a map is shown of various superhuman events SHIELD is monitoring. A few are notable for movies such as the American Southwest (Thor), New York (The Incredible Hulk) and the Arctic (Captain America). There are also two, one for Africa which seems to point to the Black Panther. Another looks at the Atlantic Ocean which some speculate meant the Sub-Mariner (rumored to be part of the MCU at the time). It shows the care the producers made to ensure this universe succeeded.
19 Watchmen: Alternate World
Fans can complain about the merits of the adaptation of the classic comic book. But Zack Snyder did manage to capture the feeling and did his best to bring it to life. That included throwing in slews of details, many of which are missed the first go-around but look great. First, whenever an American flag is shown, pause and count the stars. There are 51 because in this world, after it was defeated, Vietnam was annexed to become the 51st state. When Ozymandias is shown outside Studio 54, you can see versions of Mick Jagger and David Bowie (as Ziggy Stardust) behind him.
Another big one is when Ozymandias is shown looking at a hundred video monitors at once. Alongside various cartoons are movies The 300 Spartans, the Road Warrior, Altered States, Rambo, 1984, The Day The Earth Stood Still and Fail Safe. Also, there are the slews of Egyptian artifact in Ozymandias’ home and his costume. And Snyder couldn’t help citing his own work as the Comedian throws a mug which cracks so the number 3001 becomes “300.” Say what else about the movie but there are plenty of little bits that make a rewatch worth it.
18 Star Trek First Contact: The Falcon
After a first going with Generations, the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew got a much better big-screen showing. The Borg as a feared techno-organic race obsessed with assimilating other races. A Borg Cube attacks Earth but the Enterprise is ordered away as Picard was once assimilated and they’re worried of his loyalties. Hearing the battle going badly, Picard defies orders to go on the attack. The battle is impressive, a single Borg cube against a few dozen Federation ships and this lone cube is basically trashing them all. The smaller craft the Defiant flies through the wreckage of ships as the Cube blows up other craft. It’s a wild affair but even better is how the ILM guys had fun. Keep your eye on one corner of the screen as the Enterprise swoops in and one ship in the distance doesn’t match other Federation ships. It is, in fact, the Millennium Falcon. It’s brief but a fun tiny crossover of two classic sci-fi properties to highlight the scene.
17 Under The Skin: Alien Foreshadowing
Scarlett Johansson may be well known as the Black Widow but she gained massive acclaim for this 2013 drama. It got attention for her breathtaking nude scenes but also its great story and her performance. She plays a mysterious woman who goes around having various hook-ups, her behavior odd and seems more interested in how sexuality works. She also leaves behind a trail of bodies. It seems at first the movie is playing with her as a serial killer until the finale when one victim fights back. Her skin peels off to show a formless black body, revealing she’s an alien come to Earth before destroyed.
If you had been looking closely, the clues were actually there. In an early scene, Johansson is shown walking around Glasgow and passing a series of shops. In order, we see a shop selling leather; a poster of a Space Invaders game; an ad with the slogan “You. Me. Something Else.”; and a poster for a performance of a play of Beauty and the Beast. Topping it all off is a bus advertisement with the line “it’s possible.” It’s a great bit of foreshadowing that makes the movie stand out.
16 Die Another Day: Bond’s legacy.
Pierce Brosnan's final go-around as 007 may not be the best. Many cite the rough story and terrible CGI work as well as Madonna’s cameo. But as the 20th Bond film, it did have a nice tribute to the past in one scene. After a year in captivity, Bond finally gets back with MI-6, undergoing training to get back in shape. He’s led around the lab of Q (John Cleese) who gives him a tour and Bond getting in a shot on “this is where they keep all the old relics.” As it turns out, he’s right as the place is packed with items from past Bond adventures: The shoe with a poison tip (From Russia With Love), the jet-pack from Thunderball with Bond causes to fire a bit; the crocodile “sub” and mini-jet from Octopussy and Q gives Bond a laser watch with “your 20th, I believe.”
Those aren’t the only references to the past. Q quotes his predecessor from Goldfinger on how “I never joke about my work.” Halle Berry’s entrance is exactly like Ursula Andress from Dr. No. Also, when Madonna shows up, the soundtrack briefly becomes “Nobody Does It Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me. The movie may be disliked but it’s also a good tribute to the past of this superspy.
15 Predator 2: The Skull
The sequel to the sci-fi action hit wasn’t as successful but still had good stuff. The idea was sound as it moved the action to an urban jungle of a future Los Angeles mired in heat and gang wars. Danny Glover is a cop hunting a brutal killer, unaware of how deadly it really is. In one scene, he meets with King Willie, a brutal drug lord and voodoo nut who’s the only one realizing this killer is not of Earth. When he senses something behind him, Willie lets out a yell. The camera then cuts to his face frozen in terror as the Predator takes his severed head to its ship.
There, the Predator melts off the skin in order to put the skull with his other trophies. We see his wall, marked with skulls of various alien creatures. One is a long and curved skull that seems to have two jaws. Any sci-fi movie fan will instantly recognize it as a Xenomoprh from the Alien films. As it happens, the movie’s release coincided with the first Alien vs Predator comic book series and fans hoped it would be a precursor to a movie showdown. That didn’t happen for 14 years but the confirmation the two properties existed in the same universe elevated this sequel up more.
14 Ex Machina: The Names
This 2015 film was hailed as a sci-fi classic as soon as it was released. It focuses on Caleb, a young man brought to a millionaire inventor named Nathan who claims to have created an android that thinks and acts like a human named Ava. This was the breakout role for Alicia Vikander who won massive critical acclaim for the part. Indeed, many speculate that when Vikander won the Oscar, voters were rewarding her for this film as much as The Danish Girl. Things get dark as Caleb finds that Nathan’s assistant, Kyoko is also an android.
The big scene is Caleb finding a “closet” packed with various nude female robots, all of them previous models that Caleb built, used and then discarded. It’s shocking at first viewing but as it turns out, the filmmakers had already hinted at it. When Caleb is checking on Nathan’s computer for clues, we see a split second of his folders. Pause and you’ll see labels for Ava, Koyko, Jade, Jasmine, Katya, Lily and Amber. All of them are the “women” Caleb finds below. Also is a program called “Deus Ex Machina,” a reference to the entire project as Ava uses the remains of the past models to craft a fully human body to escape. It’s one of the many great touches that made this a gripping tale.
13 Tron: Pac-Man
Truly ahead of its time, this 1982 film was the first to extensively use computer animation for a fantastic world. Flynn (Jeff Bridges) is an arcade owner/hacker trying to find the evidence of how a corrupt CEO stole the video games he created. An intelligent computer program called the MCP uses a digital laser to send Flynn into the world of electronics. There, Flynn teams up with a program called Tron to play real-life versions of video games like discs and light cycles.
The movie came at the first push of the video game age and used its popularity well. Naturally, the FX guys had to put in some nods to the genre. When bad guy Sark looks at a grid to figure out where Flynn and Tron have escaped to, you can see the iconic image of Pac-Man going through the various “corridors.” They even have the “waka-waka-waka” sound effect blurred into the background noise. Also, when Tron’s Solar Sailer takes off, one of the landscapes it passes over bears a suspicious resemblance to a famous pair of mouse ears, making this an early case of the “Hidden Mickey” Disney nuts love to look for. Another reason this film is a cult classic.
12 Kill Bill Vol 1: The Bride’s Name
Quentin Tarantino’s two-part opus of blood and action is one of his best efforts ever. Uma Thurman is the Bride, one-time member of an elite hit squad who decided to retire and get married. Her former boss, Bill, didn’t take well and massacred the entire wedding party. The Bride was shot and spent years in a coma before awakening. She immediately goes on a quest for revenge by killing her former teammates, saving Bill for last.
A major part of the movie was one of Tarantino’s wild touches. Whenever the Bride’s name is mentioned, it’s bleeped out. It starts when she takes on Black Mamba and later O-Ren, each time bleeped and it’s a nutty bit. That would lead to the final revelation in the second film of her name being Beatrix Kiddo. But eagle-eyed viewers would already have known this. When the Bride is getting a plane ticket to Japan, pause and look at the ticket stamp and the name “Beatrix Kiddo” is clearly written on the stub. So while Tarantino meant for it to be a surprise, he basically gave it away himself.
11 Disney Cameos
It began as a lark but has now become a tradition that almost every Disney animated movie contains some sort of brief cameo by a character from another film. It started in Aladdin when the Genie talks about making a crab meal and pulls out Sebastian from The Little Mermaid while the Beast is a figurine. Since then, animators have had a grand time fitting in these brief looks. A gargoyle in The Hunchback of Notre Dame is clearly Pumbaa. Hercules wears a fur that looks like Scar from The Lion King. In Tarzan, the gorillas play with a tea set that matches Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast. Lilo & Stitch has a poster from Mulan. A shadow demon in The Princess and the Frog is Jack Skeleton
A big one is Rapunzel and Flynn from Tangled among the guests in Frozen (leading to the wild fan theory connecting the two movies). One of the wanted posters in Big Hero 6 is of Frozen baddie Hans. The latest is in Moana as during the “You’re Welcome” number, you see Flounder from The Little Mermaid among various fish and those are just the most famous. It means you have to do a lot of pausing while watching Disney flicks to get the full details of these great appearances.
10 Beauty And The Beast: Death Eyes
Disney animators love to throw in tiny cameos but this was something else entirely. The genius of the 1991 classic is how it spins the “hero/monster” motif around. The huge and ugly Beast is actually the noble hero while handsome Gaston is an egotistical brute. It comes down to Belle’s line to him on “you’re the real Beast, Gaston” as he leads villagers to attack the Beast’s castle. He and the Beast battle it out and it’s when Belle is in danger that the Beast goes to town on Gaston. He has him hanging over a ledge but Belle begs him not to become a monster for real. The Beast pauses and growls “get out” at the hunter.
The Beast goes to Belle but Gaston, completely unable to get the hint, stabs him in the back. The Beast roars, Gaston grinning only to lose his grip in the rain. He then falls to his well-deserved death. As he falls, a genius dark touch comes in as a zoom in on his eyes reveal that Gaston’s pupils have now turned into tiny skulls. Someone in the animation department had a twisted sense of humor putting that in and shows how dark Disney can get.
9 Raiders Of The Lost Ark: Two Famous Droids
Had the Internet existed in 1981, fans would have gone crazy over this. The creator of Star Wars and the director of Jaws teaming up was a major thing and the payoff was one of the biggest hits of all time. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had been friends for years and bonded more as they came up with Indiana Jones, the adventurer whose quest for the Ark of the Covenant kicks off an epic adventure. Naturally, the two men couldn’t resist putting in some nods to their past films into the work. When Indy is running from the natives in the opening scene, he gets onto a plane with OB-CPO.
Much better is when Indy is in the Well of Souls, opening up the large box containing the Ark. Pause and look quite closely and on one of the pillars is carved likeness of R2-D2 and C-3PO. Better than that is when Indy and Sallah are about to remove the Ark, you see a wide shot of a wall behind Indy. Among the carvings is an image of Leia putting the Death Star plans into Artoo. Over the years, each man has put references to the other’s work in their movies to show the bond well.
8 X2: Stryker’s Files
The rare sequel even better than the first film, this expanded on the mythology of the mutant heroes and a great action flick in its own right. In one scene, shape-shifting Mystique enters the offices of William Stryker looking for information on his plans. She checks over his computer and the screen shot of the folders is a treasure trove for fans of the comic. Victor Creed (Wolverine’s arch-enemy Sabretooth); Remy LeBeau (Gambit); Elizabeth Braddock (Psylocke); Omega Red (a Soviet super-soldier and foe to Wolverine); Project: Wideawake (the massive robotic Sentinels); Franklin Richards (mutant son of the Fantastic Four); Allison Blaire (Dazzler); the Guthries (Cannonball and Husk); Fenris (mutant twins of HYDRA leader Baron Von Strucker); Department H (the Canadian group that oversees super-team Alpha Flight); Morlocks (a group of outcast mutants living underneath New York City) and slews more. Notably is a folder on “Maximoff,” referencing Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, the children of Magneto in the comics. While many of these references were never realized, others ended up appearing in future films and a genius look at this universe.
7 Godzilla 2014: The Redacted Names
The reboot of the classic monster franchise was a huge hit and also paved the way for Kong: Skull Island and an entire “universe” of monsters. The movie showcases how Godzilla appeared in the 1950s and the government tried to bomb him to keep it quiet. Thus, the opening credits are like a secret file with words covered in black to showcase the production names. Freeze-frame and you’ll witness some true gems such as: “WARNER BROS PICTURES AND LEGENDARY PICTURES PRESENT a terrifying tale of disaster and woe.” Elizabeth Olsen’s name is followed by noting the existence of monsters beneath the ocean. A wild bit is the line “some species have been there for 4 million years” is right before Juliette Binoche’s name. Another fun line is “Evidence show that it is likely the creatures will come back WITH DAVID STRATHAIRN's head.”
The “costume design” credits are preceded with talk on whether these creatures are real while there is talk of monsters existing in the Bible and “monster communicates” right before the music credits. Other clever bits are “creatures explained by” right before the screenwriter and topped off by “monsters” after Gareth Edwards’ name. It’s a delightful bit as entertaining as the movie and a reason to watch the credits in slo-mo.
6 Batman Begins: The Joker’s First Appearance
After being considered dead, the movie version of the Caped Crusader roared back to life thanks to Christopher Nolan. With Christian Bale's fantastic performance and a realistic approach, Batman was back in top form and the movie won over critics and audiences alike. The ending was a major bit as Gordon meets with Batman, talking of how things might get “escalated” thanks to him. He brings up a series of thefts by someone “taste for the theatrical like you” and how he even leaves behind a calling card. He hands a small evidence bag over with a card that Batman flips over to reveal…a Joker.
Audiences went wild at the set-up of the Dark Knight’s greatest foe coming back. However, Nolan added another genius detail. Pause and look close and you’ll see than on the line of “recovered by” the name is “J. Kerr.” So it looks like the Joker was already playing games by posing as a cop to deliver his message and set up a glorious sequel.
5 Star Trek Beyond: The Crew
While most were wary of this third entry in the reboot of the classic property, it turned into a fantastic success. It plays out well as an alien calling herself Kalara tells of her ship and crew lost on a distant planet. The Enterprise investigates only to be attacked and crashed on the planet themselves. It turns out Kalara is actually working for Krall, who leads a horde of aliens alongside aide Manas. Their plan is to use the Enterprise’s reactor to fuel a deadly weapon to attack the Federation.
A wild chase ensues and the climax has the shocking truth revealed: Krall is actually Balthazar Edison, a former soldier who was basically cashiered out of a job when the Federation was formed. He and his crew crashed on that planet a century earlier and used machines to lengthen their life-spans and mutate their bodies, Krall now wanting revenge on the Federation for abandoning him. He is defeated and the finale involves a file showing photos of the crew of his ship. It may seem odd for Krall to be followed by a handsome man and pretty woman. But then you realize that they are actually Kalara and Manas before they were mutated, still loyal to their captain. It’s a genius touch showing how smart this entry in the Trek verse was.
4 Cabin In The Woods: The Blackboard
Leave it to Joss Whedon to wonderfully play with classic horror movie tropes. The set-up is clear: Five high schoolers find themselves in the title cabin when odd things happen. But the twist soon becomes clear: They are part of a ceremony conducted every year around the world. By engaging in a trope specific to each part (such as slasher flicks for the U.S.), ancient beings are kept in slumber. However, thanks to horror movies, modern kids are more wary of these tricks and more kids are surviving. It turns out that if any of the kids in this cabin live, then the Ancient Ones awaken to bring about the end of the world.
It’s a great idea and Whedon has fun showing the guys in the bunker going about their jobs. At one point, there’s a meeting with a man standing before a whiteboard packed with the names of the monsters they use in these rituals. It’s a treasure trove for horror fans to pause and read: Alien queen, demonic trees, zombies, clowns, Yeti and more. Many are inspired by classic horror films and best yet is when they’re all set free for a brutal massacre at the end. It shows the love Whedon has for these films and helped make this a hit.
3 Jurassic World: Jimmy Buffett
The long-awaited sequel to the smash hit imagines Jurassic World as a full-fledged theme park. Indeed, much of it seems based on Universal’s own Studio theme parks. That includes a long shopping/dining area that replicates the CityWalk of their Orlando parks. Among the establishments is a Margaretville, the popular chain of restaurant/bars owned by iconic singer/songwriter/author Jimmy Buffett.
When the dinos get loose and winged figures go on the attack, the place naturally goes nuts. During the chaos, folks are running out of the restaurants with shots such as a chef falling on a grill and caught on fire. Watch closely and you can see one guy taking the time to carry both of his drinks with him as he runs. It’s funny but what makes it better is that it’s none other than Jimmy Buffett himself. It makes perfect sense the man would care more for his drinks than his life and a fun bit for his legions of “Parrot-heads” to enjoy.
2 The Empire Strikes Back: Pilot Bailout
The genius of Star Wars is in the details and how well-crafted it all is. It’s more impressive given how the original movies boasted model work that puts today’s CGI to shame. A key example is in Empire as the Millennium Falcon escapes Hoth with the Imperials in pursuit. With the hyperdrive down, Han is forced to take them into an asteroid field despite how Leia and even Threepio think it’s insane. They’re followed by a quartet of TIE fighters whose pilots probably think asteroids are a lot safer than reporting failure to Darth Vader.
It’s a thrilling sequence and impresses by how it was all done with models and not computers. It’s also a testament to Han’s skills as a pilot as he manages to avoid so many deadly chunks of rock. The TIEs aren’t as lucky as one by one, they end up crushed by the asteroids. One TIE is seemingly lunging toward the camera when it’s hit dead center and erupts into flames. As you look close, you can see clearly the shape of the unfortunate pilot flying out into space. Someone actually went to the trouble of creating a tiny model figurine for that and managing to make it fly out, yet another detail that makes these movies a hit.
1 Back To The Future II: Nixon Reigns
The sequel to the time-travelling hit has plenty hidden away. In the segment in 2015, when Marty looks at a newspaper headline, you see a story on “Queen Diana to visit U.S.” (which is a bit harsher today). Bigger is when Marty and Doc return to 1985 only to discover it’s transformed into a hellish world where Biff is now the richest man in America. Going over newspapers, they figure out the elder Biff in 2015 stole the time machine, went back and gave his younger self a sports almanac which Biff used to make his fortune. It also shows how George McFly was murdered and Biff now married to Lorraine.
Doc shows Marty that things are just as bad by flashing a headline revealing that in 1983, Doc was committed to a mental institution. It’s bad but if you look closely, you’ll see it’s even worse. A secondary headline states “Nixon to run for Fifth term, vows to end Vietnam War by 1985.” Thus, in this world, Watergate never happened (no doubt thanks to Biff), Richard Nixon remains President and Vietnam has raged for another decade. It’s small but a chilling view of how terrible this reality is.