This Detective Pikachu article contains spoilers. You can read our spoiler-free review of the film here.
You’re forgiven if you thought that Detective Pikachu was just one big joke when it was first announced, but now that the movie is finally here, we can confirm that Detective Pikachu is much more than a questionable cash-in on one of the biggest video game franchises of all-time.
Yes, Detective Pikachu is a solid standalone movie, but it best serves as a tribute to the wonderful world of Pokemon as well as the fans who helped turn a little Game Boy game into a phenomenon the likes of which nobody had ever quite seen before. Detective Pikachu is a visual feast that will overwhelm even the most hardcore of Pokemon fans as they try to identify every reference, callback, and Easter eggs.
That brings us to the matter at hand. See, Detective Pikachu was essentially made to be the largest, most expensive, and often the most impressive Pokemon easter egg that you could possibly imagine. Since it’s going to take quite a bit of time to catch ’em all, our initial Easter egg list consists mostly of some of the movie’s most clever references as well as the things that you may have truly missed. As always, though, be sure to reach out to us in the comments below and on Twitter after you see the movie so that we can update our list of easter eggs with the ones we missed.
With that out of the way, let’s play an elaborate game of “Who’s That Pokemon?”
Cubone Cries Over His Dead Mother
Early in the film, we see a Cubone standing in the middle of the field crying. While the exact reason isn’t explained, it’s probably because Cubones wear the skulls of their dead mothers on their heads (seriously). They’ve been known to mourn their mothers by hanging around downtown by themselves and having a good cry. It’s all surprisingly dark, and we can see why the movie doesn’t bother explaining this in-depth.
Famous Home Alone Noir Movie “Angels with Filthy Souls” Is Playing on a TV
When Tim walks into his father’s office, there’s a movie playing on the TV that Tim refers to as an old detective movie. It actually sounds like the movie his father was watching is Angels with Filthy Souls, a parody of the movie Angels with Dirty Faces that first appeared in Home Alone. We’re not even going to dive down the rabbit hole that is the shared Home Alone/Pokemon universe.
Jigglypuff Puts a Patron to Sleep at a Diner
During the diner scene, we see a Jigglypuff singing into a microphone at a table where a man is sleeping soundly. Those who aren’t familiar with Pokemon may just assume he’s simply tired, but those who know the franchise (or at least play Smash Bros.) know that Jigglypuff’s singing has the ability to put people to sleep.
The All-Night Diner Is Named after Noctowl and Features a Neon Sign Version of Him
Speaking of that diner, an exterior shot reveals that its name is Noctowl. This is clearly a reference to the Gen-2 Pokemon of the same name. It’s quite the appropriate name considering that Noctowl is a nocturnal Pokemon.
An Old-School Boxing Poster Showcases Two Fighting Pokemon
There’s no shortage of posters in Detective Pikachu that reference something from the game, but this one is particularly clever. In the diner, we see what looks like an old-school boxing promo poster for a battle between what appears to be a Machamp and a Primeape. Considering that these are two fighting Pokemon, it’s a pretty fitting showdown.
There’s a Berry Juice Neon Sign at the Diner
It turns out that diner is a treasure trove of easter eggs. When Tim is at the bar, you can see a neon sign in the background for something called Berry Juice. That’s a reference to a drink introduced in Gen-2 that can heal Pokemon.
Various Versions of Pokemon Themes Are Used for Commercials and Muzak
If you can’t help but feel that you’ve heard some of that background music that plays during the film, it’s because most of those songs are variations of various Pokemon themes during the game. They’re particularly noticeable during the scene when Tim watches a video on the train and when Howard and Roger Clifford are shooting a commercial.
There’s a Binder Full of Pokemon Trading Cards in Tim’s Room
When Pikachu is rifling through Tim’s childhood room, he starts rapidly turning the pages of a binder sitting on a desk. We get a brief peek inside the binder which reveals that it’s full of Pokemon Trading Cards. It appears that Tim was one of the many who spent much time and money collecting as many cards as possible.
Pokemon Red and Green/Black and White Posters in Tim’s Room
There are quite a few Pokemon-related posters in Tim’s childhood room, but there are two that stand out above the rest. One shows a red and a green Pokemon seemingly facing off while the other features a black and a white Pokemon doing the same. These are almost certainly a reference to Pokemon Red and Green (or Emerald and Ruby) as well as Pokemon Black and White.
Pikachu References Seinfeld by Saying “Serenity Now” to Psyduck
When Psyduck is about to lose his mind, Pikachu attempts to calm him down by saying (among other things) “serenity now.” This is a reference to “The Serenity Now” episode of Seinfeld in which George’s father is advised to say “serenity now” whenever he gets angry and feels his blood pressure rising.
The Speakers at the Underground Fight Club Are Actually Loudreds
When Tim and Pikachu wander into the underground Pokemon fight club that doubles as a pretty hopping night club, be sure to check out the speakers in the room. They’re actually a Pokemon named Loudred that uses its ears as loudspeakers.
Missing Pokemon on Posters Appear to Be at The Underground Fight Club
Throughout Detective Pikachu, we see an unusual number of missing posters for various Pokemon. While the film doesn’t spend much time directly addressing the cause of these posters, it’s probably not a coincidence that we see many of the Pokemon featured on these posters hanging around the club.
Magikarp Uses Splash Attack During Escape
During that same underground fight club scene, we watch as the Pokemon go crazy after being exposed to the mysterious R gas. During the chaos that follows, we watch as the glass on a Magikarp’s tank is broken and he falls out. In the process, he splashes some water on some nearby Pokemon. This is likely a reference to Magikarp’s infamously weak splash attack.
R Is Likely a Reference to Team Rocket
One of the key plot points in Detective Pikachu involves a substance referred to as R that causes Pokemon to lose their minds. It’s likely that the R is a reference to Team Rocket, an evil faction that has a tendency to brand many things with the same letter.
Mewtwo Escaped from Kanto 20 Years Ago (Around the Time of Pokemon’s Release)
At one point, we learn that Mewtwo made it to the world of Detective Pikachu after he escaped the Kanto region about 20 years ago. This is almost certainly a reference to the original games which took place in the Kanto region, introduced Mewtwo to the series, and were released a little over 20 years ago.
Balloons Full of Gas at the Parade Like in Tim Burton’s Batman
Howard Clifford’s evil plot involves releasing the dangerous R gas from parade balloons during a celebration. This might be a callback to Tim Burton’s Batman, which features the Joker utilizing the exact same tactic. Unfortunately, nobody pulls a comically large revolver out of their pants in this movie.
The Pikachu Balloon Looks Like the Same One from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
You’re not really a pop culture icon until you’ve got your own balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and sure enough, Pikachu has his own. It looks like the producers either borrowed that balloon or at least borrowed its design as the balloon in Detective Pikachu is a dead ringer for it.
Snorlax Sleeps in the Street to Block Progress
An early shot of Ryme City reveals a Snorlax sleeping in the middle of a street forcing drivers to move around him. What initially seems like a throwaway joke is actually a pretty clever reference to the many Pokemon games which require players to navigate around a Snorlax that is blocking their progress in some way.
Howard Clifford Has Evolutionary Stones in His Office
Most of Howard Clifford’s office is a treasure trove of references, but there are a couple that especially stand out. The first involves some stones that we see sitting on one of his tables. While no direct reference to them is made, it’s easy to guess that these are evolutionary stones used to evolve certain Pokemon in the games.
Howard Clifford’s Office Is Decorated With Legendary Pokemon Fossils
Staying in Clifford’s office, be sure to take a closer look at those skeletons behind Howard Clifford’s desk. It certainly seems like they’re fossils of the legendary Pokemon Dialga, Palkia, and Arceus. That’s quite the impressive collection considering that these are some of the oldest Pokemon in existence and that Arceus is believed to be the creator of the Pokemon universe. Of course, it’s always possible they are fakes.
Pikachu Sings the Animated Series Theme Song
In one of Detective Pikachu’s funniest fanboy moments, we watch as Pikachu wanders along mournfully singing a song. That song is none other than the theme song from the English version of the original Pokemon animated series.
Lucy Wears a Slightly Modified Pokemon Trainer Outfit
Later in the movie, we see Lucy wearing an outfit that looks surprisingly similar to the classic Pokemon trainer look. Granted, it does look like she’s modified it slightly to look a little more modern.
Lucy Has a Spoink as a Dashboard Accessory on Her Car
It’s nearly impossible to call out every Pokemon featured in the film, but this appearance is particularly clever. When Lucy gets out of her car during the parade, we can just see what appears to be a Spoink on her dashboard. We’re guessing it’s not actually a live Pokemon, but this bouncing creature’s design would make it the perfect accessory.
Unown’s Alphabet Appears Throughout the Film
It doesn’t seem like any of the incredibly rare Pokemon known as Unowns appear in Detective Pikachu, but they do make their presence felt. These Pokemon, whose shapes form a mysterious alphabet, can be seen on some signs throughout the movie, and one of them even appears on a shirt that Tim wears.
Lucy’s Psyduck Is a Callback to the Pokemon Animated Series
Fans of the Pokemon animated series may experience deja vu after learning that Lucy Stevens has a Psyduck. Maybe that’s because Misty’s most famous Pokemon in the animated series was a Psyduck that usually gave her quite a bit of trouble.
Pokemon Trainer Red Is Referenced in a Video
When Tim is heading to Ryme City, he watches a video on the train. That video lingers on a Pokemon trainer who is either the infamous Pokemon trainer, Red, or is wearing an outfit that looks just like the one that he famously wore in the games.
Pikachu Rides a Pidgeot Just Like in the Anime’s Intro
During Detective Pikachu‘s climactic scene, we see Pikachu riding a Pidgeot. This is most likely a reference to the original anime intro in which we see a brief clip of a determined Pikachu riding a Pidgeot.
Tim’s Red Hoodie is a Callback to the Detective Pikachu Game
The actual Detective Pikachu game doesn’t seem to be referenced much in the Detective Pikachu movie, but there’s at least one notable callback in the movie. The red hoodie that Lucy wears is almost certainly a reference to the red hoodie worn by Detective Pikachu‘s protagonist in the game.
The Movie’s Giant Torterra Are Referenced in Pokemon Pearl
At one point in Detective Pikachu, we learn that Torterra are being experimented on in order to make them frighteningly large. We see the effects of these experiments when our heroes are caught in a moving forest of Torterra. That scene may actually be a reference to a Pokedex entry in Pokemon Pearl in which we learn that “Groups of this Pokemon migrating in search of water have been mistaken for ‘moving forests.'”
Pikachu Was Also Addicted to Coffee in the Detective Pikachu Game
If Pikachu’s addiction to coffee caught you off-guard, that’s probably because you never played the Detective Pikachu game. In it, you must constantly supply Pikachu with coffee in order to keep him going. So like us.
Volt Tackle Harms Pikachu
At one point, Tim and Pikachu refer to Pikachu’s Volt Tackle as his strongest move. That’s somewhat debatable based on how deep we’re diving, but the fact that using Volt Tackle seems to hurt Pikachu in the film is an accurate callback to the effect the move has on the Pokemon in the game.
A Guy Named Bill Gets Turned Into a Pokemon Just Like in the Original Games
Here’s one that’s been making the rounds that’s too good to ignore. In Detective Pikachu, Bill Nighy plays Howard Clifford; a man who is obsessed with transferring his mind into the body of a Pokemon. Strangely enough, that isn’t the first time that a man named Bill has been turned into a Pokemon. In Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow, we learn that a man named Bill accidentally performed an experiment that turned him into a Pokemon. That itself is likely a reference to the movie The Fly.
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.