Top 10 Movie References in Ready Player One

Spielberg’s Ready Player One is an adventure-filled delight for pop culture lovers! It isn’t perfect, but it’s a strong adaption of a reference-heavy book, filled to the brim with 80’s nostalgia. It rewards us for for our endlessly useless trivia knowledge, and we loved every second!

This film references everything. Video games, comics, cartoons, TV shows, movies, really anything you can imagine. That being said, we’re focusing this list specifically on our favorite movie references. Maybe we'll do a video game or TV reference list later, who knows? For now, let’s enjoy the endless intertextuality of this movie.


10. Batman (1966)


In an early car race that feels like Hot Wheels meets Mad Max, we see many vehicles from a plethora of pop culture icons, including our favorite: the 1966 Batmobile. It’s about as iconic as a car can get. It’s unmistakable and we love it! Even if it does meet an unfortunate demise. (Mild spoiler warning, I guess)


9.  Say Anything


In an epic battle near the end of the film, our main character helps “rally the troops” by playing music from his boombox held over his head. Paired with a direct verbal reference to John Hughes earlier in the film, this moment recreates the iconic boombox moment in a unique way. Nothing is coincidental in this movie.


8. Jurassic Park


A surprise for some was the lack of Spielberg references in this movie. When Spielberg signed on to adapt this 80’s love letter into a film, he was very clear that he did not want to reference his own past works. Very few iconic Spielberg characters and moments made it into this film. One that did, however, was the distinct T-Rex from the original Jurassic Park. Maybe it’s just any old T-Rex, but it does bear a striking resemblance to the famous dino.


7. Purple Rain

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Whether a reference to Purple Rain or just the performer Prince, we don’t care! As Wade prepares for a date, he tries on many different outfits; including Michael Jackson’s iconic red leather jacket, and (our favorite) a long, purple jacket with the incredible white shirt and scarf combo that we all love! We will have to forgive Wade for not sticking with it…


6. The Iron Giant


Probably one of the largest references in the film (see what we did there?). The Iron Giant is not only seen and referenced at the beginning of the film but we get to see him in action later! The Iron Giant as an underrated classic, and it was great to see the big man get some proper recognition.


5. Terminator 2


Speaking in vague terms (in case you haven't seen the movie), one of the characters of Ready Player One meets their demise by falling into lava. As they slowly submerge into hot magma, the last thing we see is their hand forming a thumbs up. A quick reference to T2 that hits us right in the feels.


4. Gremlins


One of the more subtle references that only a true movie buff could catch. We learn quickly in the film that our villain has hired some muscle (a gamer) to do some heavy lifting and bring back some useful goods. One of those useful items is delivered at the beginning of the film inside a box of some kind. If you look closely at that box you will see a striking resemblance the one above...


3. Star Wars

This was a cool one. To our surprise, the Star Wars references were limited - or so we thought. Actually, there was one right in front of us all along! Our hero wears a very specific outfit while in “The Oasis”. If you look closely, you will see that the holster around his waist (the one with the Thundercats buckle) is the same one that Han Solo wears throughout the Star Wars original trilogy.


2. The Shining


This reference plays as a fun plot point and one of the more interesting sequences in the film. It includes everything from the ax busting through the door to the iconic carpet in The Overlook hotel. It was also nice to have a horror sequence in this pop culture homage.


1. The Zemekis Cube

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Another fun reference that true movie buffs would recognize, but might have slipped past the casual movie fan. While in a pickle, Wade uses a device called the “Zemekis Cube”. If you know your directors, you know Robert Zemekis directed the Back To The Future trilogy. Knowing that, it’s only fitting that activating the cube turns back time 60 seconds. As an additional treat, the original Back To The Future score kicks in for a moment when the cube is in use. Overall, a very well-crafted homage.


Well, there you have it! Those are our top 10 favorite movie references in Ready Player One. Did we miss your favorite? Are we completely out of touch with what movie fans really love? Let us know!


Cj Lindsey