A In-Depth Look At The '80s Movie References In 'Stranger Things'

by Anna Menta
Netflix / Universal Pictures

The Netflix original "Stranger Things" has become the biggest cult hit of 2016, filling a much-needed void of summer TV.

Unsurprisingly the show has been green-lit for a nine-episode second season, which Netflix announced today in a mysterious teaser trailer.

"Stranger Things" truly is great TV — all the characters are complex and sympathetic (even the douchebag boyfriend) and the plot is fast-paced and compelling.

But perhaps the most important thing creators Matt and Ross Duffer did for their success was cash in on their audience's biggest weakness: nostalgia.

Even those of us born in the '90s can appreciate the mega load of '80s nostalgia in this show.

Not only is the story set in the '80s midwest  — the classic childhood nostalgia location — but every scene is chalk full of homages to classic science fiction and horror films from that era.

Fans have taken notice and some, like Ulysse Thevenon who made the below video, have attempted to figure out just how many references the Duffer brothers managed to cram into their creation.

The teaser trailer reveals season two will also take place in the '80s — the fall of 1984 to be exact — so there are undoubtedly even more '80s references to come.

There's probably no way to catch them all (unlike Pokémon), but here is an attempt to break down some of the bigger references from Season 1.

1. "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982)

Netflix / Universal Pictures
Netflix / Universal Pictures

This is the most plentiful and obvious of the homages.  While not technically an alien (as far as we know, anyhow), Eleven takes on essentially the same role as E.T. in Speilberg's beloved 1982 classic.

The biggest parallels that stood out to me were Eleven and E.T.'s wig and the big chase scene — E.T. makes the bikes fly, while Eleven flipped the van.

2. "Alien" (1979)

Netflix / 20th Century Fox

Though Ridley Scott's film "Alien" technically came out in 1979, I would still count it as a huge piece of '80s pop culture.

The obvious reference to it in "Stranger Things" comes from the monster's method of inserting itself down its victim's mouths — possibly to reproduce, just like the Alien.

3. "The Goonies" (1985)

Netflix / Warner Bros

Besides being a movie about a group of children who ride their bikes around and are the same age as Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Eleven and Will, Dustin from "Stranger Things" is the spitting image of Chunk from this 1985 cult comedy.

4. "Stand By Me" (1986)

Netflix / Columbia Pictures

You can't have four kids making their way down a set of train tracks without referencing Rob Reiner's famous coming-of-age film, "Stand By Me."

4. "Carrie" (1976)

Netflix / United Artists

Remember when Nancy's hand shot out of that tree/portal to the Upside Down into Jonathan's face? Pro tip: Whenever a scary hand shoots out of anywhere, it's a reference Stephen King's "Carrie."

5. "Firestarter" (1984)

Netflix / Universal Pictures

Eleven is a little girl with frighteningly powerful mind powers — a trope that pays homage to the 1984 film adaption of Stephen King's novel "Firestarter." Nine-year-old Charlene "Charlie" McGee (AKA Drew Barrymore) can't flip vans with her mind, but she can start fires with her mind.

6. "A Nightmare On Elm Street" (1984)

Netflix / New Line Cinema

Nancy and Jonathan's plan to kill the Demogorgon was an elaborate set of booby traps that ended in lighting it on fire. That's exactly how the protagonist in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" kills Freddy Krueger — and her name just happens to also be Nancy.

7. "The Shining" (1980)

Netflix / Warner Bros

It's hard to have a scene of a someone desperately attacking a wall with an axe — like Joyce did — without referencing Jack Nicholson's iconic scene in the film adaption of Stephen King's "The Shining."

8. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977)

Netflix / Columbia Pictures

In "Stranger Things," Will communicates with his mom from the Upside Down by using colored lights. This directly mirrors the colored light board the aliens in Speilberg's classic film, "Close Encounters," use at the end of the film to communicate with the humans.

9. "Twin Peaks"  (1990-91)

Netflix / ABC

Though David Lynch's groundbreaking TV show is technically from the early '90s, it's impossible not mention when the font of both shows's titles is so similar.

10. "Poltergeist" (1982)

Netflix / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Tobe Hooper's classic horror film is actually explicitly referenced in "Stranger Things" when Joyce buys Will tickets to see the R-rated film. And the plots also clearly mirror each other — just like Carol Anne in "Poltergeist," Will disappears and communicates with his mother from another dimension in the walls of his home.

11. The Evil Dead (1981)

New Line Cinema

Another explicit reference to a horror classic — Jonathan's dad scolds him for having an "Evil Dead" poster in his room, for being, ironically "inappropriate."

13. "The Thing" (1982)

Netflix / Universal Pictures

This 1982 remake of a horror classic is also referenced explicitly several times in "Stranger Things" — a poster of the film hangs in Mike's basement, and Mr. Clarke, the science teacher, is watching the film when Dustin calls him late at night on a weekend.

14. "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)


Another direct reference — Mike shows Eleven his Yoda action figure, and Dustin references the traitor Lando while the kids debate whether or not to trust Hopper on the walkie talkie. Dustin also points out trying to fight the Demogorgon without Eleven would be like "R2-D2 going to fight Darth Vader."

15. So many movie posters

Netflix / 20th Century Fox

Netflix's illustrated poster for the series resembles so many classic '70s and '80s film posters, like "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" and "The Goonies," just to name a few.

Now we wait until 2017 to get a whole new load of references! In the meantime, let me know what references you caught I missed in the comments.