10 Easter Eggs You May Have Missed In ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’

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Easter Eggs in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3', Chris Pratt on the front and Guardians in the background

Credit: Inside the Magic

Warning: SPOILERS ahead for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3!

After a nearly decade-long run in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has come to an end with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023). Acting as the second installment in Marvel’s Phase Five, the movie pays homage to MCU projects both past and present—and even the most dedicated fans likely missed one or two of these subtle nods.

Now that it’s finally crash landed into theaters, here’s a list of the top 10 most important Easter eggs and MCU references you might’ve missed in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Guardians of the Galaxy characters Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista), Groot (Vin Diesel), Nebula (Karen Gillan), and Mantis (Pom Klementieff)
Credit: Marvel Studios

What is “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” About?

“Vol. 3” story synopsis and audience reception

Picking up after the events of the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022), Vol. 3 follows the titular team of ragtag antiheroes as they go on a daring adventure through the cosmos in order to save their friend, Rocket Raccoon. Along the way, the Guardians come face-to-face with the remnants of Rocket’s dark past, particularly in the form of the mad genetic scientist, The High Evolutionary, and his gun-for-hire, the mighty Adam Warlock.

Watch the official trailer for Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 below:

So far, Vol. 3 has been a box office hit, raking in $118 million over its opening weekend. Critically, it seems like Gunn’s trilogy will also end on a high note, with the film debuting to impressive ratings from professional movie reviewers. As for audiences’ general reception, Vol. 3‘s Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at a whopping 95%, making it one of Marvel’s best-reviewed superhero flicks to date.

Which actors are returning for “Vol. 3”?

Vol. 3 sees the original main cast reprising their roles, with Chris Pratt taking the lead as Star-Lord/Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista, who plays Drax, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, and Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel as the voices of Rocket and Groot, respectively. Franchise newcomer Will Poulter portrays the MCU’s favorite golden boy, Adam Warlock, while Chukwudi Iwuji makes his villainous debut as the High Evolutionary. James Gunn also returned to direct the film.

The Guardians stare ahead
Credit: Marvel

The Guardians’ MCU History and Future

Where have we seen the Guardians before?

The Guardians have been a familiar presence in the MCU since Phase Two, when Gunn’s first Guardians of the Galaxy movie premiered in 2014. Since then, the franchise has gotten a handful of sequels and spin-offs: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), the Disney+ Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, the I Am Groot animated series, and now, its threequel.

Outside of Marvel’s Guardians-centric projects, we’ve also seen the group appear in a number of crossover movies, including Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Avengers: Endgame (2019), and a brief cameo at the beginning of Thor: Love and Thunder (2022).

Drax (Dave Bautista) feels festive in 'The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special' (2022). Credit: Marvel Studios
Credit: Marvel Studios

Will there be a “Guardians 4”?

In short, maybe. But either way, future Guardians installments presumably won’t be helmed by Gunn, who’s moving on from Marvel to serve as the new co-chairman and co-CEO of DC Studios. Several actors from Gunn’s iteration of the Guardians have also announced their retirement from the MCU, namely, Saldana and Bautista. Vol. 3 is the final installment in Gunn’s trilogy, though that doesn’t mean the MCU is finished with the Guardians just yet.

As seen in Vol. 3‘s mid-credits scene, Pratt’s “Legendary” Star-Lord will also return for future Marvel projects, meaning his character isn’t going anywhere soon. The post-credits scene also depicted a new, refreshed team of Guardians, comprised of Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Cosmo the Space Dog (Maria Bakalova), Adam Warlock, mysterious “Star Kid,” Phyla (Kai Zen), Groot, and Rocket, who acts as the squad’s new leader. While any future Guardians standalone movies have yet to be confirmed, the new team’s introduction makes it seem imminent.

Pom Klementieff, Chris Pratt and Karen Gillan in 'Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3' (2023). Credit: Marvel Studios
Credit: Marvel Studios

Top 10 Easter Eggs You Might’ve Missed In “Vol. 3”

10. The Return of the Abilisks

Prior to the ravenous, surprisingly non-human-eating Abilisks’ appearance in Vol. 3, the sharp-toothed monsters actually made their MCU debut in Vol. 2. As some fans may remember, an Abilisk fights the Guardians while trying to eat the Sovereign’s Anulax batteries before Gamora ultimately kills the beast with her sword.

Abelisk and Drax in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Credit: Marvel Studios

In Vol. 3, the High Evolutionary keeps a trio of Abilisks onboard his ship and tries to get them to rip apart Mantis, Drax, and Nebula. However, Mantis sees a different side of the creatures and uses her powers to communicate with them, convincing the beasts to trust her. At the end of the film, Mantis and the crew takes the Abilisks back to Knowhere before departing on a journey of self-discovery with them by her side.

9. Nathan Fillion’s Third MCU Role

Vol. 3 marks Nathan Fillion’s not first, not second, but third role in the MCU. The seasoned actor, who’s good friends with Gunn, plays Master Karja in the new movie—an Orgoscope security guard who causes trouble for the Guardians when they attempt to break into the facility’s database. Fillion also voiced an alien prisoner in the first Guardians of the Galaxy and had a small background cameo in Vol. 2 as actor Simon Williams. However, the scene was ultimately cut from the final product.

Nathan Fillion as an inmate in Guardians 1, the teaser for Guardians 3
Credit: Marvel Studios

8. Howard the Duck’s Usual “Guardians” Cameo

In typical Guardians fashion, Gunn keeps the Howard the Duck cameo streak alive in Vol. 3. One of the more noticeable MCU Easter eggs, Seth Greene returns in the new movie to voice the anthropomorphic duck, who pops up during a scene on Knowhere. In it, Howard is seen playing a card game with Kraglin, Cosmo, and some of the planet’s other inhabitants. It marks the character’s fourth overall appearance in the MCU following Guardians 1 and 2, as well as Avengers: Endgame.

7. Kevin Bacon’s Kidnapping in the Holiday Special

After arriving on Disney+ in December 2022, Vol. 3 couldn’t ignore the events of the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, which starred an iconic Hollywood legend: Kevin Bacon. After being taken from Earth by Mantis and Drax as a Christmas present for a forlorn Peter, it seems like Bacon hasn’t forgotten about his brief stint in space. In the final post-credits for Vol. 3, Peter’s grandpa (Gregg Henry) is shown reading a newspaper with a headline about a story where Bacon recalls his alien kidnapping. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but still a hilarious reference to the Disney+ special.

Kevin Bacon in Guardians Holiday Special
Credit: Marvel Studios

6. Drax Finally Becomes a Dancer

Drax the Destroyer gets a particularly heartwarming arc in Vol. 3, where it’s implied that he’ll set down his weapons for toys and games to care for the child prisoners left by The High Evolutionary. Towards the end of the film, Drax and everyone else on Knowhere begin dancing to Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over,” which is a subtle reference to a memorable saying of his in Vol. 2: “There are two types of beings in the universe. Those who dance and those who do not.” While insignificant on the surface, this actually signals some huge emotional growth for the character, who’s spent the last few movies grieving the loss of his wife and daughter. Now, Drax has heard the music, and is ready to leave his unsavory past behind.

Dave Bautista (Drax) and Bradley Cooper (Rocket) in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' (2014)
Credit: Marvel Studios

5. Michael Rooker’s Yondu Cameo

Being one of the fan-favorite characters in the first two Guardians movies, it’s no surprise that Michael Rooker’s Ravager leader, Yondu, made a quick appearance in Vol. 3 to shed some wisdom on an old friend. After cementing himself as Peter’s complicated pseudo-father figure, Yondu’s sacrifice in Vol. 2 was easily one of the most tear-jerking story moments in MCU history. While he doesn’t appear to Peter in the new movie, he does appear to fellow Ravager Kraglin in true “Force ghost” fashion, who’s struggling with learning how to use Yondu’s Yaka Arrow. It’s a short but sweet cameo that drives home the Guardians franchise’s core themes of family and friendship.

Yondu, Rocket, and Groot walk through the Ravagers' ship
Credit: Marvel

4. Cameos From James Gunn’s DC Universe Actors

It’s no secret that James Gunn likes to reuse actors he’s already worked with for his many different projects. And Vol. 3 is no exception. After making the jump to DC with 2021’s The Suicide Squad, the director brought in a handful of actors from the movie to Marvel, including his wife and Peacemaker star, Jennifer Holland, who plays Administrator Kwol. Additionally, The Suicide Squad‘s Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2 actor, Daniela Melchoir, plays Ura in Vol. 3, an Orgoscope employee. Nathan Fillion, Mikaela Hoover, and Sylvester Stallone have also dipped their toes in both superhero franchises.

3. Two MCU Alums Voice Rocket’s Furry Friends

Vol. 3 didn’t shy away from recasting Marvel veterans for new roles, mainly when it came to Rocket’s furry friends, Teefs the Walrus, Floor the Rabbit, and Lylla the Otter. Linda Cardellini, who plays Clint Barton’s wife, Laura, in the MCU, lent her voice to Lylla just months after appearing in Disney+’s Hawkeye miniseries. Meanwhile, Floor is voiced by Mikaela Hoover, one of the actors Gunn brought over from DC Studios.

guardians of the galaxy rocket, lylla, teefs, floor
Credit: Marvel Studios

2. Marvel Comics Hero Phyla-Vell

It wouldn’t be a true Marvel movie without a hint as to what’s next. And Vol. 3 might’ve just teased one of the franchise’s most powerful heroes yet—Phyla-Vell. Pulled straight from the comics, Phyla is confirmed to be among the kid prisoners created by The High Evolutionary, and is played by Kai Zen in Vol. 3. While her mysterious characters’ powers have yet to be fully revealed, she acts as the de-facto leader of the child prisoners, and seems to be one of The High Evolutionary’s most prized test subjects.

High Evolutionary Reveal
Credit: IGN

In a post-credits scene, Phyla becomes an official member of the Guardians, hinting at her future in the MCU. Her powers traditionally come from Quantum Bands in the comics, but it seems like the movies are taking her in a different direction, further connecting her story to The High Evolutionary.

1. The Legendary Star-Lord

One key detail casual MCU fans might’ve missed in the post-credits for Vol. 3 is the phrase “Legendary Star-Lord,” which is used to announce Peter Quill’s eventual MCU return. But it’s not just a throwaway line teasing the character’s continuation—instead, a reference to his solo comic run known as Legendary Star-Lord from 2014-2015, written by Sam Humphries. The new superhero name is an important Easter egg to his comic history and hints at what we can expect to see from Star-Lord down the line.

Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, and Zoe Saldana as Gamora with Blurp in 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3' (2023)
Credit: Marvel Studios

What was your favorite Easter egg from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3? Let us know in the comments below.

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