Ready Player One References An Unexpected Steven Spielberg Movie

Schindler's List

The end of this month sees the release of the Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One. The film is based on Ernest Cline's novel of the same name, which is a pastiche of pop culture references, particularly towards the kinds of genre films that shaped the modern blockbuster. So naturally, the influence of Steven Spielberg's work is felt prominently. The feature film adaptation looks to include a head-spinning amount of references and Easter eggs, but Steven Spielberg struggled with referencing his own films. But that doesn't mean that the film is devoid of callbacks to the director's work. In fact, Ready Player One includes a reference to the most unlikely of Spielberg films: Schindler's List.

Yeah, when you think fun pop culture, a movie about the Holocaust isn't exactly the first thing that springs to mind. In speaking with Entertainment Weekly, production designer Adam Stockhausen notes how Spielberg basically refused to reference his own films, not wanting the whole film to basically be a self-glorifying effort. But as a story so influenced by 80's geek culture, it seemed lacking for the director's catalog to not make an appearance. So things were snuck in, during photography and post-production to reference the legendary director's filmography. The Schindler's List reference is a sly one, too. In Wade Watts' apartment in the stacks, outside the OASIS in the film, a paperback copy of Schindler's Ark made its way onto a shelf. Schindler's Ark is the original title of Thomas Keneally's 1982 book upon which Spielberg's Best Picture winner is based.

This is really cool and actually an appropriate reference to be included in the film. Steven Spielberg fought to not have the movie play like his greatest hits, but he did include the DeLorean from Back to the Future, which he produced, as well as the T-Rex from Jurassic Park, which has been glimpsed in the trailers. But Steven Spielberg's career is more than just fun blockbusters, and for every popcorn flick in his oeuvre, there is a smaller, more challenging film like The Color Purple or Munich. So including this reference isn't just a tribute to Schindler's List, but also to the man himself.

One thing this reference also makes painfully clear is just how difficult enumerating this film's countless references will be. Sure, you'll see Master Chief, Harley Quinn and Chun-Li, but those are the easy ones. The real challenge will come when the reference isn't as blatant as a main character or a logo; when it is a deeper cut that requires you to truly know the property in order to spot it. Such is the case with this Schindler's List reference. Not only would you probably have to freeze frame and zoom in on a shot in Wade's apartment in order to read the book titles, you would then have to know the original title of the book the movie is based on. That is daunting. Just judging by this, the trailers and what I've heard about the film, by the time we tally up all the references in Ready Player One, our own virtual reality technology will have caught up to Ernest Cline's vision.

You can see Steven Spielberg's return to blockbuster adventure filmmaking when Ready Player One hits theaters on March 29. For all the biggest movies hitting this year, check out our 2018 release schedule.

Nick Evans

Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.