Movies are made to be rewatched over and over again. Since filmmakers put countless hours into planning each production, is it at all surprising to hear that they insert important details to the story and hide them in plain sight?

These little details are also known as Easter eggs as they are usually cleverly hidden in the movie, giving only eagle-eyed audience members an opportunity to spot them and be rewarded for their attention to detail. These small details can easily be overlooked even when you rewatch the movie for the 100th time and if you miss them they don’t break the movie-watching experience at all. But if you do spot them, sometimes they are actually a pretty big part of the puzzle and can add an extra layer to the story.

It takes great smarts and a little bit of confidence to plant such important plot details in your movie, risking the possibility that moviegoers may never stumble upon it. Sometimes the directors will hit you over the head (not literally) with these red flags, but when the filmmakers are experts at sneakiness they can really make you work to spot them.

Let’s unearth some of these secret details.

 

THE DEPARTED

Martin Scorsese’s hard-boiled adaptation of the twisted detective story Infernal Affairs (2002) out of Hong Kong upped the ante of the crime film with a few extra touches. Some of which went unnoticed but are a very big tell if you can spot it.

The Departed

In The Departed (2006), Billy Costigan (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is an undercover cop working in the Irish Mob hunting for a dirty cop, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon). The back-and-forth play between the two escalates over the course of the film, occasionally with major characters getting caught in the crossfire and getting killed.

The Departed 2

Whenever we are about to see a character about to kick the bucket, an “X” is used to foreshadow the death. Each “X” is hidden visually in the production design of the set, either in the architecture or deco itself, or simply as tape crossed over a wall behind a character’s head. Whenever you see an “X”, you know that character isn’t making it out of this story alive.

The Departed 3

This little tip off to character deaths is very similar to another classic crime movie…

 

THE GODFATHER

Scorsese may have taken a page from the great Francis Ford Coppola in the mafia movie that serves as the Don to all mafia movies, The Godfather (1972).

Whereas Scorsese used “X”s to mark characters for death, Coppola would use oranges as the harbinger of doom. In each scene where something disastrous is about to occur, oranges can be seen somewhere.

 

When Vito, the godfather himself, dies of a heart attack he is goofing around with his grandson by placing an orange rind in his mouth like a set of false teeth. Prior to the legendary horse head scene (where a person who has offended Vito wakes up to find his prize horse’s head in bed with him), oranges are seen at the dinner table between him and one of Vito’s men. When all of the mafia families meet, oranges are placed near those who will all be assassinated by the movie’s end.

Obviously, nobody clued in while watching the movie the first time around that oranges were a bad omen, but now that you know, upon rewatching this classic movie you’ll hear the director telling you “See this orange? Watch what’s about to go down…”

Maybe think twice next time you’re munching on some orange slices and don’t want any bad news. Grab an apple instead.

 

INCEPTION

This movie already has layers upon layers, taking its characters further and further into a heist that takes place in a person’s mind. That’s already forcing the audience to rewatch it countless times just to wrap their brains around the full story.

Inception

 

The ending of Inception (2010) had audiences truly divided over whether Cobb (DiCaprio again) was still stuck in the dream world or if he had escaped in reality. For a while it seemed that director Christopher Nolan had intentionally left the ending up in the air and wouldn’t be giving us a definitive answer…until that is you notice that he already gave us one.

Cobb is plagued by the presence of his wife in the dream world after she’s driven to suicide in real life. One other big difference between the real world and dream world for Cobb is the presence of his wedding ring. While in the dream world, he has his wedding ring, whereas in the real world it’s missing from his hand.

This little detail gives away that Cobb is still trapped in the dream world by the end of the film, but it’s the smallest of details that most audiences would overlook and live in blissful ignorance, sparking many more hours of debate amongst cinephiles.

 

Inception 2

 

 

SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Edgar Wright burst onto the scene with the genre-blending wonder that was Shaun of the Dead, mixing zombie horror and comedy in a perfect cinematic smoothie. It took some clever writing to pull this off, so of course he spared some wit to hide some critical clues for the detail-savvy viewers.

Ordinarily viewers would be pretty peeved at the very notion of having the entire movie spoiled for us, but that’s exactly what Edgar Wright did with this movie.

Early on we have our protagonists Shaun and Ed (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) discussing how they should spend the day and solve all of Shaun’s problems. Ed comes up with a plan:

 

“We have a Bloody Mary first thing, a bite at the King’s head, a couple at the Little Princess and stagger back here to the bar for shots.”

 

At this point we don’t realize it but they’ve just given away the entire plot in one line. They first encounter a zombified Mary, intervene at Shaun’s parent’s house when his step-dad is bitten, rescue Shaun’s girlfriend along with her 2 friends and seek refuge back at their pub.

Of course we don’t realize any of this until after going back for a repeat viewing, which just adds some extra value for the keen observer when they go for another round of the movie.

 

Shaun of the death

 

 

IN CONCLUSION

It’s the mark of a truly talented filmmaker to tell a great story. It’s the mark of a ninja to hide game-changing details in plain sight that can go undiscovered and wouldn’t take away from the story.

Why do directors do this? It makes them feel smart, it makes you feel smart and it will make you replay the movie again and again to see what else you missed.

Just when you think you know your favourite movie inside and out, you may discover something new and fall in love with it all over again.

Speaking of ways to hide things from the viewer for effect, check out our article on Invisible Sounds to see how hiding the source of audio in movies can up the chill factor for your audience.