Stranger Things is without doubt the new ‘it’ television show, and I’m not just saying that because Stephen King’s novel It is one of its many profound influences. The Duffer Brothers nostalgia heavy Netflix original contains an encyclopaedias worth of references to different films, television shows, and music from a time when VHS was king and suburban culdersacs were the setting for many an adventure.
The true brilliance of Stranger Things is that it feels like its own beast, despite the fact its almost impossible for viewers of a certain age to watch the show and not slowly check off the many easter eggs contained within. Comprehensive lists of these references can easily be found elsewhere on the net, so instead we’ve decided to compile a more specialised countdown of essential eighties films you may want to consider revisiting now that you’ve devoured the series in record time.
Whilst we can’t promise the following selection of films will be adequate enough to fill the quarry sized hole left in your life, hopefully it will provide some much needed nostalgia nourishment until the inevitable second season is officially announced.
WARNING: There be spoilers ahead for those who’ve yet to watch the series in full, in which case, what the hell are you doing!? Go and fix that mistake immediately.
The Thing (1982)A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)Explorers (1985)5
The mysterious Eleven appears to be modeled a great deal on Drew Barrymore’s character in this adaptation of the Stephen King novel about a nine year old girl with pyrokinetic abilities. Many have pointed out the visual similarities between Elle and Barrymore’s Charlie, with brain censors and nose bleeds factoring into both stories. But the general theme of telekinesis and psychic abilities seems to have been borrowed from Stephen King’s wider body of work.
The Goonies (1985)
The general camaraderie of Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will is something representative of many eighties family films (See also: the aforementioned Explorers) but the way in which the boys embrace adventure and attract mischief draws unmistakable parallels to Richard Donner’s beloved eighties staple. From the very first episode there are obvious similarities between these two groups of misfits, from the boy with a recognisable quirk (SEE: Dustin’s teeth instead of Chunk’s belly), to the older character with a crush (Jonathon’s love for Nancy echoes Brand’s pining for the popular girl in Goonies).
Stand By Me (1986)
If you didn’t get a strong Stand By Me vibe from Stranger Things straight away, you sure as well would have by the time Chapter Five came around, as there’s an almost identical shot of the gang walking along an empty railway line that evokes Rob Reiner’s classic coming of age drama. The influences go slightly further than surface level however, with the two films sharing a central key theme: the uncomfortable yet curious relationship young children have with death, the most blatant example of which being the moment Will’s body is found at the end of Chapter Three, which is essentially the basis of Stand By Me’s entire plot.
Oh and in case you were starting to question the Duffer Brothers’ deep love for all things Stephen King, this is yet another adaptation of the great author’s work.
There are several strong references to the horror genre throughout Stranger Things, with the Tobe Hooper directed and Spielberg produced Poltergeist being the most obvious example. In a particularly effective sequence in Chapter Two, Winona Ryder’s Joyce attempts to contact her son in a manner reminiscent of the Freeling family’s ordeal with the child snatching apparition terrorising their home. The major difference between the two? Will’s preferred method of inter-dimensional communication is via telephone rather than television.
The only way the scene could’ve made the similarities more obvious is if Will had somehow uttered the immortal words “They’re here…”
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Even the most casual film fan would’ve picked up on a Spielbergian vibe from the very first Stranger Things trailer, let alone from the show itself. The image of torchlit bicycles riding through the night has almost become an Amblin trademark all on its own, but much like the aforementioned films in this list, the many obvious E.T. references peppered throughout the show always serve as loving nods rather than eye rolling retreads. Apart from the obvious link of Elle and Mike’s relationship echoing Elliot’s and E.T.’s, there’s the mysterious government organisation, untrustworthy adults, a divorced parent and a damaged family, all set against the backdrop of a small town nestled amongst a deep dark forest.
Heck, you could even say Stranger Things pays homage to ET’s famous “Penis Breath” insult in the kids frequent use of the expression “Mouth Breathers”.That’s all folks!
What eighties films were you reminded of while watching Stranger Things? Let us know in the comments section below or hit us up on Facebook!
And be sure to check out the awesome video compilation below from Vimeo user Ulysse Thevenon, which compiles many of the show’s filmic references, including the ones we’ve mentioned.