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6 Hidden Messages in Popular Movies

There’s more than one way to go hunting for Easter eggs. When it comes to movies, you can find them all over the place — and not just on a specific day of the year. Filmmakers have been hiding subtle hints, messages, and references in their movies for almost as long as they’ve been making movies at all, often as a wink-wink allusion to other movies they themselves love. You usually have to look carefully to notice them, but once seen they can’t be unseen. Here are six of them.

2023: A Barbie Odyssey

Some Easter eggs are subtle, while others are… less so. Greta Gerwig’s massively popular Barbie, which is all but certain to become the highest-grossing film of the year at the time of writing, opens with one of the not-so-subtle variety. As little girls play with old-fashioned dolls in a barren landscape, the narrator (Helen Mirren) intones about how things will soon change with the arrival of a new doll: Barbie (Margot Robbie), who appears out of the etheras Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” plays. It’s a direct callback to the opening credits and first sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which likewise heralds the dawn of a historical event with massive implications for the future of humanity as that famous piece of music reaches its crescendo.

The "Pulp Fiction" Epitaph in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

Among the many quotable scenes in Pulp Fiction, one has proved especially popular over the years: Samuel L. Jackson’s recitation of Ezekiel 25:17. Jackson plays a hitman who quotes the Bible before doing his victims in, using the passage as a kind of calling card:

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

The sequence is so iconic, in fact, that the makers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier decided to reference it when Nick Fury, also played by Jackson, fakes his death. As the ruse requires a tombstone, the epitaph reads, “Col. Nicholas J. Fury: ‘The path of the righteous man…’ —Ezekiel 25:17.” Given how fond Pulp Fiction writer-director Quentin Tarantino is of alluding to other movies, it only makes sense for other filmmakers to reference his work.

Into the Tarantino-Verse

Speaking of Tarantino, it isn’t just other filmmakers whose work he references — it’s also his own. Many of the Oscar-winning writer-director’s works take place in a shared universe, with brands like Big Kahuna Burger and Red Apple cigarettes popping up in several of his films. There’s also the fact that Michael Madsen’s character in Reservoir Dogs and John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction are brothers: Vic and Vincent Vega, respectively, about whom Tarantino was at one point developing a spinoff.

Perhaps the deepest connection is between Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, as the TV pilot that Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) starred in, Fox Force Five, in the former bears a striking resemblance to the female assassins in the latter. “There was a blond one, Somerset O’Neil, she was the leader,” Mia says of the show. “The Japanese fox was a kung fu master. The Black girl was a demolition expert. The French fox’s speciality was sex… according to the show, [my character] was the deadliest woman in the world with a knife.” These archetypes align strongly with the women of Kill Bill, a connection made even stronger by the fact that The Bride (also played by Thurman) titles her hit list “Death List Five.”

The Starbucks Cups in "Fight Club"

The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: When breaking the first rule, be sure to point out that almost every shot in Fight Club features a Starbucks cup. David Fincher’s cult classic, an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s counterculture novel of the same name, has become an anti-establishment rallying call since it first hit theaters in 1999. Few companies symbolize the kind of corporate ubiquity the film satirizes quite like the coffee behemoth, leading Fincher to feature their instantly recognizable cups throughout. Somewhat surprisingly, Starbucks approved of this: “They read the script, they knew what we were doing, and they were kind of ready to poke a little fun at themselves,” Fincher said.

He’s Off to See the Wizard

You might love The Wizard of Oz, but you probably don’t love it as much as David Lynch. The revered filmmaker behind favorites such as Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and Mulholland Drive, who has earned four Oscar nominations throughout his storied career, has sprinkled references to the Judy Garland classic in several of his films. The most overt comes in Wild at Heart, when an effervescent figure bearing a strong resemblance to Glinda the Good Witch descends from the sky, but it’s far from the only Easter egg. Lynch also has a habit of naming characters Judy and featuring red shoes in his movies, even once admitting, “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about The Wizard of Oz.” The connection is so strong that it recently became the subject of a documentary, the appropriately named Lynch/Oz.

These Are the Droids You’re Looking For

Raiders of the Lost Ark was directed by Steven Spielberg, but it was dreamt up by George Lucas shortly after he finished American Graffiti in 1973. The blockbuster starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones was eventually produced by Lucasfilm, with the production company’s namesake receiving a story credit, so it makes sense that the final product would contain a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it allusion to his best-known work: Star Wars. When Indy finally finds the Ark of the Covenant near the end of the film, a set of hieroglyphics can be seen to his right that depict R2-D3 and C3PO. It isn’t the only Star Wars Easter egg in the series, as the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom takes place in Club Obi Wan.

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