The Rubik’s Cube in Movies
The Rubik’s Cube, as a theatrical device, is an incredibly useful and frequently-seen object not only in music videos and commercials but in movies as well. It can be used in different ways to represent different things, or just as a background object to help the audience subconsciously relate to the character portrayed by thinking “I had one of those”. It is also very useful to clearly portray intelligence, thanks to the general public’s belief that only the most intelligent people are able to solve it. The cube has most likely appeared in too many pieces of media as a background image to count, so here we will take a look at some of the more in-depth uses which portray the cube as more than just an object.
Despicable Me 3 (2017)
We can spot a Rubik’s Cube in the third episode of the successful series, in which the Minions and Gru battle the 80’s-obsessed villain Balthazar Bratt (voiced by South Park co-creator Trey Parker). The cube is used as a smoke bomb thrown by Balthazar among soldiers. Bubble gum is another weapon he really likes to use.
Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness
The incorrectly spelt (don’t worry, it’s on purpose) box-office hit, The Pursuit of Happyness, has the cube shown in several different scenes, the most prevalent of which being when Will Smith is explaining to Mr. Twistle how he thinks the cube works. The film is set in 1981, a possible explanation for the cameo of the cube. Chris Gardner (Will Smith) learns of the cube’s existence when he finds one in his kitchen. In a later scene, he is shown solving the first two layers of the puzzle. Finally, whilst in a taxi with Mr. Twistle (who states that he believes the Rubik’s Cube is “impossible”) is surprised at Gardner’s ability to complete the puzzle. This results in Gardner receiving an interview request later on (it is heavily implied that the taxi ride was the provocation for this invitation).
After the film, Will Smith learnt how to solve the cube properly (he did not have to learn the solution for the film), and has even solved it live during a chat show.
The film is based on the year’s homelessness of the original Chris Gardner; however, it is unknown if he actually solved the cube to impress anyone or not.
In the popular sci-fi animation WALL-E, the Rubik’s Cube is used as an interaction piece between the two main characters, WALL-E and EVE. Due to WALL-E’s role as a cleaning robot on Earth after it’s abandonment, he collects objects from his cleaning that seem interesting. He is shown placing a Rubik’s Cube he has found into a locker after briefly inspecting it. Later within the film, once WALL-E has met EVE, he shows her the cube that he has found, and within a few seconds (not shown), she has solved it and returned it to him. (A fun fact that there are real Rubik’s Cube solving robots, the fastest being able to do it under 1 second.) This scene most likely used to portray the intelligence of EVE compared to the outdated technology used to create WALL-E. In a later scene, WALL-E is unable to recognise EVE, and in an attempt to jog his memory she shows him the Rubik’s Cube that she solved for him.
The cube makes another cameo in the first Hellboy film, where Abe Sapien, a psychic amphibious humanoid. In the scene, Sapien is talking to Liz Sherman from behind the glass of his aquarium with a Rubik’s Cube in his hand. As part of their conversation, he says “Listen, I’m not much a problem solver. Three decades, and I’ve only completed two sides”. This is the only appearance of the puzzle within the film. Despite being an intelligent psychic creature, it is interesting that he is unable to complete the puzzle. This could be a method of relation portraying the human side of Sapien to develop a bond between him and the viewer.
The Amazing Spider-Man
In the popular 2012 superhero movie, Peter Parker and Uncle Ben are conversing in Parker’s room. When Ben enters, he picks up the cube resting on Parker’s desk (note that the puzzle is solved). Ben twists one side and continues to talk with Parker. Once the conversation is over, Ben returns the cube to the desk with one layer misaligned. The theatrical use of the Rubik’s Cube could have been used here to foreshadow the way Parker’s life would go from an organised, normal life to something completely different with one small turn.
The cube has, of course, appeared within several different films, a few being listed below. However, these are in my opinion the most popular films in which the cube has a significance past simply existing as a background object, and how the directors of these respective films have all used it in such a way that adds to the plot of the story rather than just sitting on a table.
Charlie Sheen throws up the cube in the air and catches it in Being John Malkovich (1999).
Rockhound, played by Steve Buscemi solves a Rubik’s cube in the movie Armageddon (1998).
Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) holding the cube in Dude, Where’s My Car? comedy (2000). It turns out it is in fact a “Continuum Transfunctioner”.
Blind man solving the cube in UHT comedy (1989).
Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) holding the puzzle in Let Me In horror drama (2010).
A Rubik’s Cube in Sam Flynn’s (Owen Best) bedroom in TRON: Legacy (2010).
Find a more detailed list at RubiksCubesInMovies.com!