A river of words flowed between us.
One person can keep a secret, but not two.
In the year 2045, much of Earth's population centers have become slum-like cities due to overpopulation, pollution, corruption, and climate change. To escape their desolation, people engage in the virtual reality world of the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where they can engage in numerous activities for work, education, and entertainment.
Wade Watts (Sheridan) is a teenage Gunter (short for "egg hunter") from Columbus, Ohio who frequents the OASIS and attempts to win "Anorak's Quest," a game created by the deceased creator of the OASIS, James Halliday (Rylance), by finding the Easter Eggs. The winner is to be granted full ownership of the OASIS, among other things.
Wade, as his avatar Parzival, and Aech (Waithe), a tall muscular man who deflates the first-person-shooter competition and works as a virtual mechanic, frequently meet in-game to take part in the first of three trials in the Quest, each granting a key. The first trial is a street race through a constantly-shifting version of New York City that was discovered by a Gunter in 2040. The race is filled with hazards such as shifting roads, wrecking balls, spikes, the T-Rex from Jurassic Park and King Kong, and nobody has reached the finish line. In the latest race, Wade, driving the DeLorean from Back to the Future, reaches the home stretch before anyone else. Though still unable to cross the finish line at Central Park, he saves another famous player, Art3mis (Cooke) from being "zeroed out" aka dying in-game, at Kong's hands.
Later that night, Parzival heads to the virtual Halliday Archives, a library with 3D recordings of most of Halliday's life and work. Wade notices in the memory regarding the resignation of Ogden Morrow (Pegg), Halliday's former partner, where Halliday emphasizes wishing he could "go backwards" and take back the situation. Wade believes this to be a clue on how to beat the race, and while all the others drive forward, he reverses into the back of the race track, revealing a secret path that bypasses all the obstacles. He reaches the finish line as the avatar of Anorak congratulates him, handing over the Copper Key and a clue to the next trial.
Parzival becomes infamous overnight for appearing on the global scoreboard keeping track of the hunt, shortly being followed by Art3mis (who saw Wade reversing), Aech (whom Wade gave a hint to), and brothers Daito and Shoto. This group then become known as the "High Five." Art3mis accompanies Parzival to the virtual Archives again and they find a possible clue involving the mention of a woman named Kira, with Wade winning a bet he had placed with the Curator, who believed Kira’s name to have been completely wiped from the Archives by Halliday. Although they are not able to find a clue, Parzival begins talking more to Art3mis, eventually declaring his feelings for her when he reveals his name to her. This is overheard by i-R0k, a freelance bounty hunter for Innovative Online Industries, or IOI, an evil virtual reality equipment corporation that controls people's access to the OASIS, who informs Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of IOI, of their location as several IOI employees known as Sixers begin an assault on the club. Parcival and Art3mis escape by using a magic item, the Zemeckis Cube that reverses time for one minute. i-R0k uses Wade's name to discover his true identity and location, which Sorrento the uses to offer him an ultimatum of joining him or facing repercussions. When Wade refuses out of distrust, Sorrento sends his assistant F'Nale Zandor (John-Kamen) to destroy Wade's home, killing his aunt and her boyfriend.
Wade is saved by an associate of Art3mis', who brings him to a Gunter hideout in central Columbus where Art3mis reveals herself in person as Samantha. While talking to Wade, Samantha is able to understand what the 2nd clue meant. The High Five then ask the Curator to be allowed access to Halliday's memory of his date with Kira, which turns out to be the entrance to the second quest, where the group must survive the events of The Shining while trying to find Kira and dance with her. The film is part of the second clue, "the creator who hated his own creation", since it was based on a book by Stephen King, who hated the film. Each of the High Fives succeeds one by one, gaining the Jade Key from Anorak and the clue to the third and final quest. The four learn that the final quest is on Planet Doom, the most dangerous planet in the game and also the location of Castle Anorak.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Zandor locates the hideout, starting a raid and capturing Samantha. Wade is saved by the real world players of Daito, Sho, and Aech, who is actually a female lesbian that hid her identity after being kicked out by her homophobic family. They remain on the move in Aech's van, which has several OASIS rigs tethered in the back, which the group use as they move to Planet Doom. IOI also discover this, having traced the High Five's trip to the Archives. Sorrento has i-R0k activate the Orb, an icosahedron-shaped magic item that creates an impenetrable shield around the castle so IOI can attempt the third quest inside by themselves. Samantha is taken to an indentured servitude camp in IOI's main building, locked inside a box and OASIS rig and forced to work inside the shield. Sorrento apparently leaves OASIS to find Wade and Daito holding him at gunpoint, and Wade blackmails him into revealing Samantha's location and communication access code. Wade moves into a virtual room and unmasks himself as his avatar, revealing that he saw Sorrento's password and hacked his station to control his OASIS vision, making him believe he left and still be there. Through a holographic diagram of the rigs, Wade guides Samantha into freeing herself. Sorrento sees through the ruse and leaves his office to find Samantha, unintentionally allowing her into his station. She is able to deactivate the Orb while Wade sends out a message to every player in the OASIS, calling them to open war against IOI on Planet Doom and exposing IOI's true nature.
The battle begins as the High Five and other players use every weapon and item at their disposal to kill IOI's sixers. Parzival's DeLorean is damaged, but he rescues Art3mis, and Aech uses the Iron Giant she has created as well as Daito's Gundam to damage Sorrento's Mechagodzilla before Daito is zeroed out. Art3mis zereos Sorrento out by throwing a bomb into Mechagodzilla's controls, destroying the robotic dinosaur; Sorrento immediately realises that she's in the war room. Sho incapacitates i-R0k by cutting his arm off with a shuriken, and Aech sacrifices the Iron Giant to help the others cross a river of lava. Wade zeroes Art3mis to allow Samantha to escape IOI in reality, and locates the Sixers under the castle partway through the third quest, in the midst of their attempts to find and complete the correct Atari 2600 game from Halliday's childhood library. Playing an incorrect game causes the player to fall through the ice and zero out after 60 seconds. The IOI find the correct game, a copy of Adventure, however winning the game still zeroes out the sixer playing it.
Wade immediately realises that the key to winning the third quest is not to win Adventure, but to find its own Easter Egg, the first of its kind. Seeing that IOI is losing the battle and that Wade has made it to the Atari room, Sorrento confronts him in a final attempt to convince him to join IOI. When Wade refuses again, Sorrento, despite being subdued by Wade, detonates the Cataclyst, a magic bomb that zeroes out every player on Planet Doom, including Sho, i-R0k, and Sorrento himself. Everyone is stunned however when Parzival regenerates, the result of the quarter he won in the bet with the Curator. With the quest now being broadcast, per a system implemented by Halliday, Wade succeeds in finding Adventure's egg and meets Anorak yet again, who gives him the Crystal Key.
Wade inserts the three keys into a gate, despite coming under attack from Zandor in reality, revealing a room where Anorak offers him a contract to sign, completing the quest. Wade refuses, however, recognizing the contract as the same as Morrow's when he left the company, correctly believing it to be a test. Anorak says he had to be sure, as he changes form into Halliday, who offers that - that moment was his biggest regret in life. Halliday shows Wade the Big Red Button, which he can use to permanently delete the OASIS should he feel like it is the right decision. Wade almost accidentally hits it when he comes under attack from Sorrento, who stops the truck at the stacks. An enraged mob confronts Sorrento, but he pulls a gun to force them to let him reach Wade. Halliday then finally hands Wade the golden Easter Egg itself, granting Wade full control over the OASIS. Sorrento reaches them afterwards, but he and Zandor are then arrested, revealing that Aech had sent the police a recording of Wade and Sorrento's conversation that resulted in the bombing.
Wade decides to split his win between the High Five, stating that working together is the best option for the OASIS moving forward in order to avoid repeating history. Ogden Morrow soon joins them as a consultant, with a salary of one quarter, revealing himself to have been the Curator. The group ban loyalty centres, including IOI's indentured servitude division, drastically restructuring the company, as well as closing the OASIS on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that people spend more time in the real world. Wade and Samantha start a relationship in the real world, getting an apartment together.
- Tye Sheridan as Wade Owen Watts, a Gunter who lived with his Aunt who is searching for the Egg, Art3mis/Samantha's love interest
- Olivia Cooke as Samantha Evelyn Cook, a popular Gunter, and blogger and the main love interest of Wade
- Ben Mendelsohn as Nolan Sorrento, the corrupt CEO of IOI intend on killing Wade and his friends when the latter refuses an offer to join the company on the hunt for Halliday's Easter Egg
- T.J Miller as "i-R0k," a mysterious blogger
- Simon Pegg as Ogden "Og" Morrow, the co-founder of the OASIS
- Mark Rylance as James Donovan Halliday, the billionaire founder of the OASIS
- Win Morisaki as Toshiro Yoshiaki, Wade's friend
- Lena Waithe as Helen Harris, Wade's best friend
- Hannah John-Kamen as F'Nale Zandor, the leader of the Sixers
- Philip Zhao as Akihide Karatsu, Wade's friend
- Ralph Ineson as Rick, Aunt Alice's boyfriend
- Letitia Wright as Reb
- Mckenna Grace as an OASIS civilian
- Lulu Wilson as an OASIS civilian
- Simone Kirby as Loretta
- Mark Rylance as Anorak
- Simon Pegg as the Great and Powerful Og, Ogden's OASIS avatar
- Tye Sheridan as Parzival, Wade's OASIS avatar
- Olivia Cooke as Art3mis, Samantha's OASIS avatar
- Ben Mendelsohn as IOI-655321, Nolan's OASIS avatar
- Win Morisaki as Daito, Toshiro's OASIS avatar
In June 2010, the same day Cline finalized his publishing deal with Random House, the film rights to this film were purchased by Warner Bros. Donald De Line signed on to produce with Cline adapting his own novel into a screenplay (Eric Eason and Zak Penn assisted Cline with rewrites), and in March 2015 Steven Spielberg signed on to direct.
In September 2015, the first cast member, Olivia Cooke, was announced to be joining as Art3mis. January 9, 2016, the second cast member, Ben Mendelsohn, was announced to be joining as Nolan Sorrento, February 24, 2016, the third cast member, Tye Sheridan, was announced to be joining as Wade Owen Watts. March 17, 2016, the fourth cast member, Simon Pegg, was announced to be joining as Ogden Morrow but is cast as Simon Pegg currently. April 13, 2016, the fifth cast member, Mark Rylance, was announced to be joining as James Donovan Halliday. June 1, 2016, the sixth cast member, T.J Miller, was announced to be joining as iR0-k. June 5, 2016, the seventh cast member, Win Morisaki was announced to be joining as Toshiro Yoshiaki. July 29, 2016, the eighth cast member, Philip Zhao was announced to be joining as Akihide Karatsu.
Production was slated to begin July 2016. Screenwriter Zak Penn tweeted on July 1, 2016, that the first week of filming was completed. Filming took place early September 2016 in the Jewellery Quarter and Digbeth areas of Birmingham, England with the setting in grungy dystopian Ohio.
List of References
- Adventure: Playing Adventure and finding Warren Robbinet’s name is the task for the final challenge.
- Asteroids: James Halliday wears an Asteroids t-shirt. Asteroids are one of the games IOI attempt to play as part of the third challenge, but fail.
- Atari 2600: The game console is hanging on a wire in Wade's hideout van. An Atari sticker is on the front of Art3mis's bike.
- Batman: Arkham Series: The Arkham Knight is briefly seen exiting Halliday Journals then later watching Parzival’s broadcast and finally appearing during the final battle. Man-Bat is shot by Aech during the PvP fight. Harley Quinn can be seen in the Distracted Globe numerous times. The variant of Batgirl that appears in this film is also taken from the series.
- Battleborn: Attikus can be seen walking in the Oasis. El Dragon first appears walking past Parzival when he is heading for the Copper Key race and later appears in the second row of OASIS players during the final battle. Ambra first appears as one of the players bombarding Parzival inside Halliday Journals and later during the final battle in Tracer’s clan. Orendi can be seen stepping out of an entry portal in the OASIS. Miko can be seen exiting Halliday Journals and later at the Distracted Globe. Benedict can be seen walking behind Parzival on Incipio. Attikus, El Dragòn, and Toby are seen in the final battle.
- Battletoads: Zitz, Rash, and Pimple are seen in the crowd of Oasis civilians during the final battle. A battletoad can earlier be seen entering the OASIS and later in the distracted globe nightclub.
- Berzerk: One of the games that the Sixers play while attempting to complete the third challenge.
- BioShock: A Big Daddy is shown waiting for a portal. Another one appears in the final battle, being attacked by Ryu from Street Fighter.
- BloodRayne: Rayne is briefly seen during the final battle in Tracer's clan.
- Borderlands: A Borderlands stall can be seen in the Oasis mall.
- Centipede: A centipede Arcade cabinet can be seen in Aech's basement. A Sixer tries playing Centipede on the Atari 2600 but fails.
- Colecovision: When Wade is transported to Halliday's childhood bedroom, he sees a young Halliday playing Colecovision (as evidenced by the controller).
- Commodore 64: In Wade's hideout in the stacks, he hangs his OASIS visor on a Commodore 64 joystick.
- Defender: While trying to bribe Wade, Sorrento asks him if he wants the ship from Defender. Later, it is suggested that a Sixer should play the game on the Atari 2600, however, the idea instantly gets dismissed.
- Donkey Kong Jr.: A poster of the game appears in the bedroom of a little girl who controls one of the PVP battle characters.
- Duke Nukem: Duke Nukem is one of the Oasis civilians taken out by Aech during the PvP fight.
- Galaga: A Galaga poster appears on the wall in Halliday and Morrow's office.
- Gameboy: A Gameboy can be seen in Wade’s hideout van.
- Gears of War: Art3mis uses a Mark 2 Lancer Assault Rifle during the final battle.
- GoldenEye 007: While Parzival and Art3mis test each other's knowledge in Aech's garage, they mention that this was Halliday's favorite shooter game and that Oddjob was his favorite character to play as.
- Gorf: The game young Halliday is playing in the end scene where his grown version gives Parzival the Egg. As indicated by the system's controller he is playing the Colecovision version.
- Halo: Master Chief, a group of Spartans, Arbiters and an Elite are seen in the final battle. When Aech is in the PVP zone, he uses an M8080b Assault Riffle. Art3mis uses a Magnum Pistol during the shootout in The Distracted Globe. During the final battle, Parzival is seen summoning an SPNKR Rocket Launcher from the first three games. In the Oasis Mall, a Halo stall can be seen.
- Haunted House: One of the games that the Sixers play while attempting to complete the third challenge.
- Injustice: Gods Among Us: The variants of Supergirl, Blue Beetle, Flash, Deadshot, Nightwing and Aquaman are from this game.
- Joust: The knight on the ostrich is seen in the crowd of Oasis civilians during the final battle. In Aech's basement, there is an Arcade cabinet of Joust. A poster of Joust can be seen in James Halliday’s bedroom. A sticker of the logo of Joust can be seen as a sticker on Wade’s OASIS Visor. One of the pop-culture experts working for IOI suggests they should play Joust for the final challenge.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Hyrule Castle is listed on a Halliday Scholar's whiteboard as a possible location for the final challenge. A piece of artwork from the video game's manual is a poster on the wall of Jim Halliday's childhood bedroom.
- Mario Kart: Aech mentions Mario Kart while talking to Wade.
- Mayhem Mansion: The zombies are seen in the flicksync for "The Shining".
- Mass Effect: The male and female versions of Commander Shepard are seen at The Distracted Globe and later during the final battle.
- Minecraft: One of the many locations introduced in the OASIS is a Minecraft planet.
- Mortal Kombat: Art3mis disguises herself as Goro (along with a Chestbuster from Alien which pops out of her) while at Holliday Journals. Raiden, Cassie Cage, Kitana, and Scorpion are seen in the crowd of Oasis civilians during the final battle. Sub-Zero and Johnny Cage are seen walking on the Oasis racetrack. Liu Kang can be seen being killed by Aech during the PvP fight. A dragon pin is on the collar of Toshiro's shirt. The dragons on either side of Halliday's Easter Egg are an inverted version of the dragons from the Mortal Kombat logo, Raiden, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion appear as statues cavities in the shrine wall.
- Motocross: One of the games that the Sixers play while attempting to complete the third challenge.
- Nintendo Power: The original issue of the magazine can be seen on top of a stack of magazines in Aech's workshop when Parzival is picking an outfit to meet Art3mis at the Distracted Globe.
- Nintendo Zapper: One is hanging on the wall behind Wade as he straps on his visor in his hideout.
- Overwatch: Tracer is seen during the final battle in the Oasis and can also be seen briefly in the Oasis zooming into a portal. In the Oasis Mall, an Overwatch stall can be seen and Reaper shows interest in the dance zone when Wade puts on the Bee Gee's 'Staying Alive.'
- Pac-Man: A Pac-Man tabletop can be seen in Aech’s hangout. A High School student wears a Pac-Man T-Shirt. The Cherries from the game can be seen as a sticker on Samantha‘s OASIS visor. A Ms. Pac-Man sticker can be seen on Art3mis’s Akira bike. A Pac-Man poster appears in Halliday's childhood bedroom.
- Pitfall: One of the pop-culture nerds working for IOI suggests they should play Pitfall on the Atari 2600 but instantly gets dismissed.
- Pole Position: Two race cars from the game can be seen on the copper key racetrack.
- Q*bert: A Q*bert sticker can be seen in Wade's hideout van.
- Resident Evil: Jill Valentine swarms Parzival when he enters Halliday Journals after collecting the copper key.
- Revenge From Mars: An arcade cabinet appears in Wade and Samantha's apartment.
- Robotron: Sorrento tells Wade that he likes to relax by playing the video game.
- Sega: A Sega sticker can be seen on Art3mis's Akira bike during the race.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: The titular character can be seen both waiting for an OASIS portal and attacking a Sixer during the final battle. Tails briefly appears alongside Sonic when the army first appears in response to Parzival's call.
- Space Invaders: A graffiti of multiple invaders are on a brick wall in Ohio. James Halliday wears a Space Invaders t-shirt. On Wade's OASIS visor there is a sticker of the logo from Space Invaders.
- Starcraft: Jim Raynor appears as Rick's avatar in the PVP Zone. A Protoss is briefly seen walking behind Hello Kitty and her friends.
- Street Fighter: Ryu is seen on walking the Oasis racetrack. Blanka and Chun Li are seen in The Distracted Globe. Both Chun-Li and Sagat are seen in the crowd of Oasis civilians during the final battle. The Street Fighter logo is seen as a sticker on Samantha's Oasis visor. Ryu appears again during the final battle, punching Sixers and attacking a Big Daddy, while Cammy is part of a group that gets zeroed out by The Cataclyst. E. Honda can be seen during a PvP fight climbing the Gregarious 120 Mountain and later during the final battle. Chun Li can be seen during the PvP fight swinging on a rope. The OASIS Mall contains a Street Fighter store. Wade uses a Hoduken during his fight against Sorrento's avatar.
- Super Mario Bros.: The 1-Up sound effect is played when Art3mis asks Parzival out and returns his extra life coin to him.
- Swordquest: It is suggested that a Sixer should play Swordquest on the Atari 2600 but instantly gets dismissed.
- Taito: A sticker of the company logo is visible on Art3mis' bike at the racetrack.
- Tempest: An arcade cabinet of the game appears behind the Curator's desk in Halliday Journals.
- Tetris: One of the arcade cabinets behind the Currator's desk is of Tetris.
- Tomb Raider: Lara Croft appears in The Distracted Globe, as part of the swarm that surrounds Parzival at Halliday Journals, and during the final battle.
- Ultrabots: A scorpion can be seen taking out the knight on the ostrich and carrying its rider in the Comic-Con trailer and a scorpion is among the mechs used in the final battle
- Warcraft: An orc can be seen behind Parzival when he's first seen.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey: The Space Pod can be seen in Aech's garage.
- The 7th Voyage of Sinbad: The Cyclops can be seen during the final battle and can also be seen walking around the Oasis.
- Akira: Art3mis drives Shotaro Kaneda's motorcycle.
- Aliens: Ellen Ripley in her yellow mech suit can first be seen in a PvP fight and later during the final battle with a Xenomorph. Wade shows Art3mis a replica of the USS Sulaco in Aech's garage. Later, Art3mis (Disguised as Goro) pulls a prank on Wade and makes a Chestbuster pop out of her. Art3mis also uses Ellen Ripley‘s M41A Pulse Rifle during the shootout at The Distracted Globe, and Ripley's Grenade Launcher to zero Sixers during the final battle.
- Animal House: Wade references Faber College while testing Sorrento's pop culture knowledge.
- Army of Darkness : The Deadites are seen in the Oasis battlefield.
- Avatar: One of the stores at OASIS Mall is called Avatar Outfitters, the sign's font matches that of the film's logo.
- Back to the Future: Parzival is seen driving a DeLorean time machine, complete with flux capacitor. In Aech's Basement, there is a replica of the Hoverboard from Back to the Future: Part 2. When Art3mis is about to exit Aech's garage Art3mis refers to Parzival as Marty McFly and does the helmet pose before exiting. Doc. Brown with his back to the Future: Part 2 clothes and helmet can briefly be seen wandering around the OASIS while Wade is walking to Halliday Journals. A Mayor Goldie Wilson election poster can be seen while Wade is choosing his party outfit. Wade purchases a Zemeckis Cube, named after the director of the film series, Robert Zemeckis.
- Batman: The Batman logo can be seen as a sticker on Wade's Oasis visor. Samantha has a smaller version of the same sticker on her own visor. A Batman sticker is featured several times again as a sticker on Akihide's shirt, on the walls in Aech’s basement and in Helen’s truck. The Batmobile featured in the film is in Aech's garage. When Wade is introducing the OASIS he shows us players climbing Mount Everest with Batman. A Batarang can be seen spinning around in a weapon selection room. Catwoman an first be seen watching Wade’s broadcast and later during the final battle. The Joker alongside a gremlin can be seen during the final battle, and both he and Harley Quinn appear in The Distracted Globe. Ace chemicals can be seen as a sign on a building in the copper key racetrack.
- Beetlejuice: Beetlejuice appears in Haliday Journals being a fan of Parzival.
- Big: In Wade's real world hideout, a list of movies on his wall includes Big.
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: While talking to Morrow, Halliday says that he wishes he could go back in time putting the "pedal to the metal" like Bill and Ted.
- The Breakfast Club: John Bender can be seen walking in the Oasis next to Nightwing. In Halliday Journals the tables in the building are exactly the same color and setup of the Detention room at the High School. One of the Halliday scholars mentions Shermer High School to Sorrento, who in turn mentions the film to Wade.
- Buckaroo Banzai: Parzival dresses up in Buckaroo's suit at the Distracted Globe.
- The Cannonball Run: Big: In Wade's real world hideout, a list of movies on his wall includes (The) Cannonball Run.
- Chappie: The titular character can be seen during the final battle jumping off an icy hill.
- Child's Play: Chucky is an artifact seen during the final battle. Helen tosses him to Wade, who then unleashes the doll on a group of Sixers.
- Christine: The titular car can be seen amongst other famous vehicles in the Oasis racetrack.
- Citizen Kane: Wade refers to Kira, and later, Morrow, as being the "Rosebud" at the center of the mystery of Halliday's contest.
- Cocktail: The Cocktails and Dreams neon sign from the movie appears on a wall in Aech's garage.
- Conan the Barbarian: The titular character is briefly seen in The Distracted Globe And later during the final battle.
- The Dark Crystal: When Halliday is telling Morrow about his date with Karen, he comments that her gamer name is "Kira" like the character in The Dark Crystal. The movie's title is also listed among several others films in Wade's notebook.
- Dracula: Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" plays as Holliday rises from his coffin during his will and testament video, mimicing one of the title character's famous scenes.
- Eraser: Aech picks up an EM-1 Rail Gun during the PVP fight.
- Escape From New York: In Wade's real world hideout, a list of 80's movies on his wall includes the film. The map from the film also appears on a TV screen during the first appearance of the Holliday scholars.
- Excalibur: The spell that i-R0k uses to activiate the Orb of Osuvox (and that Art3mis later uses to de-activate it) is taken from the movie.
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High: Wade mentions the school while testing Sorrento's pop culture knowledge.
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off: The red Ferrari can be seen in Aech's garage. A Save Ferris t-shirt can be seen in James Halliday‘s room. When Wade asks Sorrento "Ridgemont or Faber?" a Halliday scholar tells him that the correct answer is Faber, which is the fictional high school which both Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club attend. Both films were written and directed by John Hughes.
- Firestarter: The film appears among a gallery of those that were playing on the weekend that Halliday took Karen on their date.
- The Fly (1986): It's mentioned that this film was playing on the weekend that Halliday took Karen on their date.
- The Forbidden Planet: A Robbie The Robot toy appears in Holliday's childhood bedroom. A much larger model of Robbie appears in Wade and Samantha's apartment.
- Friday the 13th: Jason Voorhees is seen in the crowd of Oasis civilians during the final battle Being wiped out by the catalyst. Jason Vorhees can briefly be seen earlier fighting Daito and Shoto during the PvP fight.
- Ghostbusters: In Wade's hideout a list of movies on his wall includes Ghostbusters.
- Godzilla: Mechagodzilla is piloted by Sorrento in the final battle. A toy model of Godzilla can be seen in James Halliday’s bedroom.
- The Goonies: The Goonies logo is printed on a James Halliday Newspaper Article. Sloth can be seen during the final battle. An IOI pop-culture nerd can be seen watching a Goonies scene with Mikey on his computer.
- Gremlins: Multiple Gremlins are briefly seen in the crowd of Oasis civilians during the final battle. A poster of a Mogwai (most likely Gizmo) can be seen on the set of the film. A sticker of a Gremlin is seen in Wade's hideout van. The box that stored Gizmo is what stores Sorrento’s Orb. During the final battle, Stripe can be seen as part of Spawn's clan and later running with Freddy Krueger.
- Groucho Marx: Halliday quotes the actor to Parzival when he mentions that reality's the only place to get a decent meal.
- The Haunted Mansion (2003): The Ballroom scene was used in this film, but with dancing zombies replacing the dancing ghosts.
- Highlander: Among the notes in Wade's notebook are "I Am Juan Sanchez Villa Lobos Ramirez."
- The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy: The clue to the third challenge mentions the ultimate number, which is 42 (as it is in the book). Shortly afterward, the movie's title appears among several others in Wade's notebook.
- Indiana Jones: The titular character is seen during the final battle. A replica of the golden idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark on a shelf in Aech's basement. A poster for "Raiders of the Lost Ark can be seen in Halliday's bedroom.
- Innerspace: A VHS copy of the movie sits on a shelf in Halliday's childhood bedroom.
- The Iron Giant: The Iron Giant can be seen in Aech's workshop and is later used as an avatar by Aech during the final battle.
- IT (1990): A poster of the film can be seen in Aech’s basement. Pennywise can be seen during the final battle.
- It's A Wonderful Life: i-R0k quotes the Angel Clarence's note to George Bailey that "No man is a failure who has friends."
- Jason and the Argonauts: The Living Skeletons can be seen during the final battle.
- Jurassic Park: Rexy the Tyrannosaurus Rex can be seen as one of the obstacle hazards on the Oasis racetrack, chasing Aech's monster truck. The Space Invaders arcade cabinet in Aech's basement has a huge Jurassic Park logo sticker on to it.
- King Kong: King Kong is seen as one of the stage hazards in the Oasis racetrack. The movie's title also appears in a list of film's on the wall of Wade's hideout in The Stacks.
- Krull: After learning the clue to the third challenge, a page of Wade's open notebook includes the names of several films including Krull. During the final battle, Sho uses the Glaive from Krull to cut off i-R0k's arm.
- Labyrinth: There is a poster of the film in Wade's hideout van.
- Ladyhawke (1985): A poster of the film can be seen in Halliday's childhood bedroom.
- Last Action Hero: Jack Slater III is showing at the theatre in New York during the race.
- Mad Max: The Interceptor car is seen as one of the vehicles in the Oasis racetrack. A Mad Max poster can be seen in Aech‘s basement when wade is choosing his party outfit.
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Parzival purchases The Holy Hand Grenade at the Oasis Mall, then uses it during final battle to take out a group of Sixers.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street: Freddy Krueger is one of the Oasis civilians taken out by Aech in the PVP fight and can later be seen during the final battle running with Stripe. A poster of the film can be seen in Wade's hideout van.
- Pee-Wee's Big Adventure: Pee-Wee's bicycle can be seen in Aech's garage.
- Robocop (1987): The ED-209 can be seen in Aech's garage. The titular character is briefly seen entering the Oasis. A Delta City billboard appears at the racetrack.
- Rocky Horror Picture Show: The biting lip logo is among the many patches on Helen's jacket.
- Saturday Night Fever: There are multiple mini-dance floors based on the film in The Distracted Globe.
- Say Anything...: Art3mis also mentions that the movie was playing on the weekend that Halliday and Karen went on their single date. Parzival is seen holding the boombox from the film, causing it to play music during the battle.
- Scream (1996): Ghostface is seen in the final battle, Sydney Prescott is seen entering the OASIS
- See No Evil: Wade's hideout in The Stacks has a list of movie's on one wall that includes the 70's horror film.
- The Shining: A Flicksync based on the movie acts as one the three key challenges, which includes numerous shot for shot recreations from the film. To initiate the challenge, the High Five enter a theater called The Overlook, named after the fictional hotel from the movie. Earlier, Halliday can be spotted in his office designing the bathroom of the Overlook Hotel which appears during the challenge.
- Silent Running: While in Aech's workshop, Parzival shows Art3mis a replcia of the Vally Forge.
- Smokey and the Bandit: Sho drives a 1976 Pontiac Trans Am car during the race for the copper key.
- There's Something About Mary: While Parzival is getting ready for his date, Aech disses his "Something About Mary hair."
- Spaceballs: Eagle 5 can be seen in Aech's garage.
- Spawn: The titular character can be seen in The Distracted Globe And later during the final battle.
- Splash: The movies title appears among a jumble of notes in Wade's Notebook.
- Star Wars: A group of Stormtroopers can be seen working together with the Spartans during the final battle. an X-Wing can be seen flying to the Distracted Globe. R2-D2 and C-3PO can briefly be seen in the stands of the copper key racetrack when Wade enters the Location. An R2-D2 also appears as a toy model in Wade and Samantha’s Apartment. When Wade completes the copper key race Anorak congratulates him and says: nice racing, young Padawan. Parzival wears Han Solo’s Belt along with his Holster. Sorrento says he owns a Millenium Falcon. A Return of the Jedi poster is displayed on the outside The Overlook movie theater.
- Superman: Parzival dresses up as Clark Kent. Zod can briefly be seen during the final battle fighting a skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts. The Iron Giant uses his body as a bridge, mirroring Superman's actions in the first film, and fulfilling the Iron Giant's desire from his own film to be like Superman.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: All four of the Ninja Turtles (mirroring their appearances from the 2014 film) appear during the final battle. Tokka (appearing as he did in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze) is seen during the final battle.
- The Terminator films: The iron giant does a Thumbs up when he melts in the lava a callback to the T-800 melting in a fire and doing a Thumbs up before burning.
- Transformers film series: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Nitro Zeus are seen amongst the crowd of Oasis civilians during the final battle. Megatron and Sentinel Prime are seen transforming into vehicle mode on the Oasis racetrack. Onslaught can be seen entering a PvP Portal in the Oasis.
- War of the Worlds: A Tripod is seen during the final battle. Nolan Sorrento and i-R0k‘s meeting takes place in the wreckage of a Marian ship.
- WarGames: One of the computers in Halliday's childhood bedroom is an IMSAI 8080.
- 2000 A.D.: Art3mis uses Judge Dredd's Lawgiver as well as a Magnum Pistol from Halo during the shootout at The Distracted Globe.
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Miraz's Castle appears on a whiteboard behind the Halliday Scholars as a possible location for the third key challenge.
- DC Comics: A Wonder Woman sticker is seen on Art3mis's Akira bike. Two Wonder Woman patches (one of her logo and another of the character with her arms crossed) and a Supergirl patch appear on Helen's jacket. Deathstroke, Joker, and Harley Quinn are seen in The Distracted Globe. Supergirl appears at a table in Holliday Journals. Parzival disguises himself as Clark Kent. During the final battle, Joker appears as part of Spawn's clan, Zod makes a brief appearance fighting a skeleton from Jason and the Argonauts, and Batgirl appears during the montage of player deaths caused by The Cataclyst. Aquaman, Blue Beetle, Deadshot, Flash, and Nightwing also appear during the final battle. A random person in Ohio is wearing a Flash t-shirt. Wade mentions Lex Luthor to Art3mis. Raven can be seen as graffiti on one of the Stacks buildings.
- Dune: While in Aech's workshop, Parzival talks to Art3mis about how quickly a Harkonenn Drop Ship can travel to Arrakis.
- Hamlet: When i-R0k holds up The Steampunk Pirate's skull, he utters a variaton of the line Prince Hamlet delivers while holding Yorick's skull.
- Garfield: A Garfield sticker is seen inside Wade's hideout van..
- Hägar the Horrible: The titular character is briefly seen in The Distracted Globe.
- The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy: The clue to the third challenge mentions the ultimate number, which is 42 (as it is in the book). Shortly afterward, the movie's title appears among several others in Wade's notebook.
- Image Comics: Spawn leads one of the clans in the final battle.
- The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf is seen in The Distracted Globe. A Cave Troll can be during the final battle in the Oasis. Aech uses an Orc as his selected Oasis avatar. The Battle of Helm's Deep is scribbled in Wade's notebook. A whiteboard behind a female Halliday Scholar lists Isengard and Minas the names of potential locations for the third challenge.
- Marvel Comics: Peter Parker and Bruce Banner are mentioned by Parzival.
- Nancy Drew: While searching through Sorrento's files, Art3mis stumbles across his copy of "The Complete Nancy Drew."
- The War of the Worlds: A Tripod is seen during the final battle. Nolan Sorrento and i-R0k‘s meeting takes place in the wreckage of a Marian ship.
- Watchmen: A Watchmen Smiley can be seen as a sticker in Wade's hideout van.
- Apple: A Macintosh computer is in Wade's possession while he's in his hideout.
- Ask Jeeves: The Curator is a robotic version of the web site's mascot.
- Bigfoot: Aech drives the vehicle on the Oasis racetrack.
- Charleston Chew: A Wrapper of The Snack can be seen on the floor in Wade’s Van.
- Cheetos: A Packet Of Cheeto‘s can be seen on the floor in Wade’s Van.
- Chuck E. Cheese: Parzival says Halliday’s favorite restaurant was Chuck E. Cheese.
- Dungeons & Dragons: A twenty sided die pin appears on Holliday's lapel during his will & testament video. Despite it's name, the Orb of Osuvox is also in the shape of a twenty-sided die. There's also a Dungeons & Dragons store in the OASIS Mall. The back door of Helen's van features the demonic face from The Tomb of Horrors (which was the location of the first key challenge in the book). During his rallying speech, Parzival mentions the Goldmines of Gygax, a reference to the game's co-creator Gary Gygax.
- Emoji: When Aech shoots an OASIS user in the PVP Zone an Emoji pops out of him along with credits. A crying emoji can be seen as an Avatar when Wade enters Halliday Journals.
- Fruit Loops/Rocks: A Halliday Scholar can be seen examining the Cereal on his Computer.
- Garbage Pail Kids: Lots of Garbage Pail Kids cards are stuck on the wall of Wade's hideout in The Stacks.
- Hello Kitty: The titular character, Kerropi, and Badtz-Maru can be briefly seen in the Oasis. A sticker decal of the titular character can also be seen on Art3mis's bike. Hello Kitty can be seen sitting on a table in Halliday Journals.
- Hot Pockets: An IOI Drone can briefly be seen delivering the food to a stacks person.
- Hot Wheels: A part of The Oasis Copper Key race includes a Hot Wheels-inspired ramp.
- Lazer Tag: The 1980's Lazer Tag game can be seen in Aech's garage. Parzival also draws a starlight pistol when he and Art3mis are ambushed in The Distracted Globe .
- Madballs: Repville appears as grafitti on the side of one of the Stacks buildings. Art3mis throws a bomb in the image of Dust Brain into Mechagodzilla's cockpit.
- M&M’s: An M&M's wrapper an be seen on the floor in Wade’s Stacks hideout.
- Magic 8 Ball: A camera resembling a Magic 8 Ball is used to record Parzival’s broadcast.
- Nerf: A Nerf blaster can be seen in Aech's garage. There's also a Nerf kiosk is the OASIS Mall.
- Pizza Hut: A drone delivers some Pizza Hut food to people in the stacks.
- Rubik's Cube: In the Oasis Mall a shop named the cube with a giant Rubik cube can be seen briefly.
- Simon (game): The game is seen as a pin on James Halliday's jacket. The game also appears next to a young Halliday while he's building his first computer, and again in his childhood bedroom.
- Tab: The now discontinued soft drink is mentioned by Sorrento while trying to impress Wade.
- Tootsie Pop: During his initial meeting with Sorrento i-R0k's references the candy company's TV commercials.
- Twitch: Parzival says he’s seen all of Art3mis’s Twitch streams when seeing her during the race.
- Warhammer 40,000: an Eldar Warrior is seen during the final battle. When the Halliday Scholars are brainstorming possible locations for the third challenge, Angran's Castle is listed on a whiteboard as one of many possible locations for the third challenge.
- The A-Team: The A-Team van is seen as one of the vehicles in the Oasis racetrack.
- Batman (1966 series): The Batmobile from the show is seen as one of the vehicles in the Oasis racetrack And later appears sliding off the road with a brief moment with the theme song playing.
- Battlestar Galactica (1978): While in Aech's workshop, Wade shows Art3mis Aech's copy of the titular spacecraft. A Colonial Viper fighter is also visible in the workshop. During the final battle, Parzival uses a blaster from the series to zero Art3mis.
- Buck Rogers in the 25st Century: A Thunderfighter appears in Aech's garage.
- Cowboy Bebop: The Swordfish 2 can be seen on the official poster for Ready Player One. A miniature version of Swordfish 2 can be seen on the work table of Aech's garage.
- Dr. Who: A TARDIS appears in Aech's garage. While Parzival is disguising himself as Clark Kent, Art3mis holds up two of the Tenth Doctor's suits.
- Firefly: Daito is seen arriving at the final battle on Serenity.
- Fraggle Rock: An image of the show can be seen briefly on a box containing miniature ships inside Aech's workshop.
- Garfield And Friends: Stickers from The Cartoon can be seen stuck to the wall of Wade’s Van.
- He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe: Wade puts his glasses on a Vintage He-Man Lunchbox. Inside of Halliday Journals, Parzival passes a recreation of young Hhalliday in his room and next to the TV is a Castle Grayskull Playset. He-Man appears in the final battle as part of Spawn’s clan.
- Knight Rider: Parzival's DeLorean is outfitted with KITT. KITT also appears as a car on the racetrack.
- Looney Tunes: Marvin the Martian appears running out of an entry portal when Wade is introducing the OASIS, appears again in Halliday Journals, and makes a final appearance as a toy form in James Halliday‘s childhood bedroom. A Looney Tunes shop can be seen in the Oasis Mall with a hologram of Marvin.
- Mobile Suit Gundam: The RX-78-2 Gundam mech is seen during the final battle in the Oasis.
- School House Rock: The clue to the third challenge reference the song "Three is the Magic Number."
- Speed Racer: The Mach 5 is one of the vehicles in the Oasis racetrack.
- Star Trek: In Anorak’s Invitation video it is shown James Halliday having a Star Trek themed funeral complete with a photon torpedo casing as a coffin and flowers arranged in the shape of the Starfleet logo and the Enterprise. A bat'leth sits on the windowsill of Wade and Samantha's apartment.
- Thundercats: Parzival wears a belt with the Thundercats logo on the buckle. There's also a Lion-O patch next to the Wonder Woman logo on Helen's jacket.
- Voltron: Planet Doom is references several times throughout the film, and is the setting of both Aech's PVP fight and the final battle. The Red Lion appears during the final battle.
- A-ha: An orchestral version of "Take On Me" is played in the "Dreamers" fim trailer. "Take On Me" is also Halliday's favorite music video.
- Akira Ifukube: A remixed version of "Godzilla Main Title" plays when Sorrento summons Mechagodzilla.
- Alan Silvestri: "Back to the Future Theme" is played after Parzival using Zemeckis Cube, the theme also heard in the trailer when the screen says "March 30"
- The Bee Gees: "Stayin' Alive" is played during Parzival and Art3mis' dance routine.
- Blondie: "One Way or Another" plays when Parzival returns to Halliday Journals after collecting the copper key.
- Billy Idol: His Mondy Mondy album appears on Halliday's desk when he's telling Morrow about his date with Karen.
- Bruce Springsteen: "Stand On It" is played during Parzival and Aech visiting OASIS Mall.
- The Buggles: While Art3mis and Parzival are talking in Aech's garage they mention that "Video Killed The Radio Star" is Halliday's favorite song.
- Dead Kennedys: The band's logo appear on the back of the punk outfit Parzival tries on before his date. Later, two Dead Kennedys patch appears on the front of Helen's jacket.
- Depeche Mode: "World In My Eyes" is played at the official trailer of Ready Player One, but instead using the original version, the trailer using the Cicada Mix version.
- Devo: The bartender at The Distracted Globe is wearing a Devo hat.
- Duran Duran: Before going to The Distracted Globe, Parzival tries out a suit worn by Nick Rhodes in one of the band's better known publicity photos. Sorrento later tells Wade that he likes to relax by drinking Tab, playing Robotron, and listening to Duran Duran.
- Earth Wind & Fire: "Can't Hide Love" plays when Art3mis ask Parzival for a date (?) in Distracted Globe.
- Gene Wilder: An orchestral version of "Pure Imagination" plays in the Comic-Con film trailer and another composed by Ghostwriter in the "Come with Me" trailer.
- George Michaels: "Faith" is played when Parzival first enters Halliday Journals.
- Hall & Oates: "You Make My Dreams" is played during the credits. Spielberg selected it after learning it was the song that Ernest Cline and his wife walked down the aisle to at their wedding.
- Hatsune Miku: The titular character is seen in The Distracted Globe.
- Joan Jett: "I Hate Myself For Loving You" played before the Oasis racetrack begin.
- Johann Sebastian Bach: "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" plays while Halliday rises from his coffin to recite his will.
- Joy Division: When Wade first meets Art3mis/Samantha in real life, she's wearing a Joy Division shirt.
- Michael Jackson: Parzival tries out Michael Jackson's Thriller outfit before going to the Distracted Globe.
- New Order: "Blue Monday" is played at The Distracted Globe when Parzival enters and meets Art3mis there. Toward the end of the film, Ms. Gilmore is seen wearing a shirt with the cover art for Technique.
- Pink Floyd: Marching Hammers are seen in the final battle.
- The Police: Ms. Gilmore wears a shirt with the cover art of the album Synchronicity.
- Prince: Before going to The Distracted Globe, Parzival tries out Prince's Purple Rain outfit.
- RUSH: "Tom Sawyer" can be heard during one of the trailers for Ready Player One. A poster of the album and a vinyl album itself appears in James Halliday‘s childhood bedroom. Helen wears a 2112 shirt.
- Stormzy: "Big for Your Boots" plays during Aech's chat session.
- Tears for Fears: "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" plays when Parzival telling about Halliday's history about making the OASIS.
- The Temptations: "Just My Imagination" plays in Aech's garage.
- Twisted Sister: "We're Not Gonna Take It" is heard during the final battle when Parzival plays it out of a boombox.
- Van Halen: "Jump" opens up the movie when wade is climbing down the stacks.
- Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind: "The Shining Theme" plays when the High Fives entering "The Shining" simulation for the second key.
- Wham!: "Wake Up Before You Go-Go" is the sound of Wade's alarm clock.
List of licences on the film
Since the film had many references to licensed properties which Warner Bros. does not control, the cameos wouldn't be able to appear without obtaining the following licences:
- 20th Century Fox rights to Alien
- 2K Games rights to BioShock and Battleborn
- Atari rights to Adventure, Asteroids, Centipede, Joust
- Bandai Namco rights to Gundam, Pac-Man
- Bethesda Softworks rights to Skyrim
- Blizzard Entertainment rights to Overwatch, Starcraft, and Warcraft
- Capcom rights to Resident Evil, Street Fighter
- CBS Television
- Columbia Pictures rights to Ghostbusters
- Disney Enterprises rights to Star Wars and Marvel
- Electronic Arts rights to Mass Effect
- Gearbox Software rights to Borderlands and Duke Nukem
- Hasbro rights to Transformers
- Jim Henson Company rights to The Dark Crystal and The Muppets Fraggle Rock
- Kodansha rights to Akira
- Mattel rights to He-Man
- MGM (Metro-Goldwyn Mayer) rights to Care Bears
- Microsoft Corporation rights to Halo, GoldenEye 007 (via their ownership of Rare)
- Midway Games rights to their logo
- Mojang rights to Minecraft
- Nintendo rights to Donkey Kong, Gameboy, The Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, Nintendo Power, Nintendo Zapper
- Paramount Pictures - rights to Friday the 13th
- Sanrio Company rights to Hello Kitty and Friends
- SEGA rights to Sonic The Hedgehog
- Sesame Workshop rights to The Muppets
- Sony Pictures rights to Ghostbusters
- Square Enix rights to Space Invaders, Tomb Raider (via their ownership of Eidos)
- Sunrise to Gundam
- Taito rights to company logo
- Toho rights to Mechagodzilla
- Topps Company
- Universal Studios rights to Back to The Future
- Valve Corporation rights to Portal and HTC Vive's
- The sixer vehicles have QR codes on their bonnets that, when scanned, lead to http://www.jointhequest.io; the Innovative Online Industries recruitment site.