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Ready Player One: 80s Films Prep

January 23rd, 2018Ready Player One: 80s Films Prep

Ernest Cline’s novel READY PLAYER ONE charmed readers with a rich world filled with ‘80s and ‘90s pop-culture nostalgia. The film adaptation of the book, directed by Steven Spielberg, looks to bring every bit of that nostalgia-dipped action to the big screen at the end of March.

The overwhelming number of TV shows, movies, video games and music referenced in READY PLAYER ONE covers decades. But the film's real heart is in the '80s. To get ready for the film’s release, we’ve gathered all the '80s movies that are essential to the book's story – these are the films you need to see to get you prepared for Ready Player One.

The Goonies

THE GOONIES was released in 1985 and it has stood the test of time. Plenty of ‘80s and ‘90s kids grew up watching the movie, and it defined the childhoods of many viewers. The film follows a group of kids as they search for pirate treasure, but it’s more about the character’s relationships and their lives in a small town.

READY PLAYER ONE references THE GOONIES a few times, but the film has a broader impact on the book than just providing a few references. The main plot of READY PLAYER ONE follows Wade Watts as he searches a virtual world for hidden Easter eggs. The Goonies themes of adventure, treasure hunting and friendship are encoded into the DNA of READY PLAYER ONE.

Back To The Future

Robert Zemeckis's 1985 BACK TO THE FUTURE is nearly cinematic perfection. The film blends humor, action and sci-fi into an engrossing story about taking control of your life and your future. Marty McFly, Doc Brown and The DeLorean have been immortalized in the pop culture zeitgeist, while also influencing a generation of creators.

It’s obvious that BACK TO THE FUTURE influenced READY PLAYER ONE; however, Cline also used facets from the film in the story. In the trailer for READY PLAYER ONE, we see Parzival driving the DeLorean in the OASIS. Given Back to the Future’s cultural relevance, it’s fair to say the film adaptation of READY PLAYER ONE will have more nods to the time-travel masterpiece.


WARGAMES was released in 1983, but it was decades ahead of its time. The film centers around a teenage hacker named David Lightman (Matthew Broderick), who unknowingly ignites a very real game of war with an artificial intelligence. It's a a quintessential ‘80s film that engages with the emergence of computers – then a very new topic.

WARGAMES plays a huge role in the book READY PLAYER ONE. During Parzival’s quest to find the easter eggs, he must complete a test that involves reenacting the film. Line for line, Parzival steps into the shoes of David Lightman to pass the challenge. This may be changed for the film adaptation, but in preparation for the film, it can’t hurt to check out this 80’s classic.


TRON was one of the first films to delve into the digital world, and, in many ways, was the precursor to many other sci-fi films. The film mixed fantasy and science in an interesting way, as a programmer is pulled into a digital environment, and that story still works even though TRON’s visual effects have not aged well.

READY PLAYER ONE is essentially a modern retelling of Tron, where a character dives head-first into a virtual world. Facets of TRON’s original story have been adapted into Cline’s book, as have several overall themes. In fact, the trailer for the film adaptation features one of TRON’s Light Cycles, which factored into an action setpiece that still stands as a classic. Out of all the films that influenced READY PLAYER ONE, TRON is certainly near the top of the list.


LADYHAWKE, the story of a couple cursed to live together but forever apart, transported audiences to a fantasy realm filled with love, adventure and dark magic. The 1985 film might not be the most well-known property, but its influence can not be overstated. Cline’s novel, references LADYHAWKE throughout the third chapter, and the film is listed as one of the book’s main influences.

The larger concepts of quests and a battle between good and evil waged by a young hero, also penetrate the READY PLAYER ONE story. It’s unclear if Ladyhawke will be featured in the film version of READY PLAYER ONE, but it’s one to watch regardless, and a great '80s fantasy film that deserves a bigger audience.

Blade Runner

It wasn’t successful at the time, but BLADE RUNNER has become a classic. It is one of Harrison Ford’s most celebrated films, with then-cutting-edge special effects. The film centers around Ford's character Deckard, who hunts down rogue sentient robots known as replicants. Ridley Scott's film has a slower pace than most sci-fi films, but its cerebral story and outstanding performances make BLADE RUNNER truly special.

READY PLAYER ONE may not been influenced directly by BLADE RUNNER, but it’s referenced throughout the book. To pass through the second gate on his quest, Parzival must use a Voight-Kampff machine, a test used to distinguish replicants and humans in BLADE RUNNER. It’s a huge part of the book, and since Warner Bros. produced both films, it’s likely to make an appearance in the upcoming READY PLAYER ONE film.

To be fair, there are hundreds of references to films in the book, so, not all of them will make it to the movie. These six titles serve as a good foundation to get you ready for the film, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. We can’t wait to see which titles make it into READY PLAYER ONE, and how Spielberg adapts the amazing source material.

Make sure you catch READY PLAYER ONE when it hits theaters on March 30, 2018.

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