It’s common knowledge by now that our favorite 80’s-inspired TV show, Stranger Things is intentionally packed with memorabilia and references from 80’s and 90’s movies (and some even older). While some are as obvious as a huge “shadow monster” taking over your city, others are far less subtle and cautiously hidden, which we will all agree is a lot cooler anyway! From season 1 to season 2, here are the best hidden Stranger Things movie references revealed…
If you’re not fully caught up with the show, spoiler warnings ahead for season 1 & 2…
1. E.T. (1982)
Eleven mimics many of E.T’s characteristics
It’s no secret that the majority of Stranger Things’ inspirations stem from much of Spielberg’s work, from the tone of the show to its themes, protagonists, all the way to the visuals. Season 1 gives us E.T references right off the bat. Boy of a suburban town befriending an “alien”? Check. Evil guys in hazmat suits trying to capture it for experimentation? Check. Sure, Eleven is very much a human child as far as we know, but her newborn-like attitude toward the world, her difficulty to communicate, as well as Mike having to hide her from his parents, is an obvious shout-out to the beloved classic.
That and Eleven dressing up as a “normal little girl” with a blonde wig and typically girly outfit, is a direct nod to the comical scene in which Spielberg’s small extraterrestrial creature is given a blonde wig and girl-ish ensemble.
2. Stand by Me (1986)
The TV show takes a leaf out of Stephen King’s novel
A little known Stranger Things fact is that the cast of the show — Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will — were asked to recite lines from Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me during their auditions. That should come as no surprise to those who know about Stephen King’s short story and the 1986 movie adaptation thereof – the film is about insouciant boys having to face something much, much bigger than them. A strong visual reference to the movie is a scene in which Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Eleven walk along train rails in episode 5 of season 1, similarly to that infamous scene in Stand By Me.
3. Jaws (1975)
The Demogorgon likes blood just as much as Jaws
This movie may not be the first thing that came to mind when thinking of Stranger Things. Barb’s blood dripping in the pool and attracting the Demogorgon can definitely be traced back to the blood-thirst of Jaws’ much more realistic monster. The monster takes her down in that water pretty much as though he was a great white shark.
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The Demogorgon and Freddy have “dreams” in common
The sensory deprivation tank used by El to reach the Upside Down is useful yet dangerous, as it makes her much more likely to be sensed by the creature and turned into its lunchable. To make this journey successful, El needs a trustworthy person to wake her up when danger is coming. This concept is quite close to that of Freddy catching teenagers in the middle of their dreams and his preys coming up with a similar plan to defeat him – someone has to sit next to the dreamer and wake them up before Freddy gets to them.
That’s not all. Remember when the Demogorgon tried pushing through Joyce’s walls with its long sharp fingers? That scene brought back memories of when the razor-fingered Freddy Krueger pushed through Nancy’s bedroom walls.
5. Poltergeist (1982)
Stranger Things brings Poltergeists’ scares to life again
Stranger Things makes absolutely no secret of its Poltergeist-influence. In episode one, Joyce offers Will tickets for the movie itself, and just as obvious as if “Poltergeist” had been put between parentheses under the show’s title, Joyce communicates with her “abducted” son through the walls like Carol Anne does in Tobe Hooper’s movie. For this one, the Duffer Brothers truly had no intention of making us guess, but it was so well-inserted that it turned out to be even more exciting.
6. Blow-Up (1966)
Jonathan’s photo reveals just as much as the photo in Blow-Up
A most discreet reference is that of Jonathan hiding to take pictures of Nancy and her friends, then taking a picture of Barb just seconds before the monster drags her inside his realm. Later on, Nancy discovers Barb’s deadly fate by looking at this chancey picture Jonathan took. This whole investigation is reminiscent of the 1966 movie, Blow-Up in which a photograph suspects he may have captured a murder. The reference is not necessarily intentional but it is most definitely an influence.
Check out our ranking of the BEST and WORST Stranger Things characters! Tell us who your fave is!
7. Star Wars (1977-2018)
Eleven channels the “Force”
If you’ve ever watched any opus of the Star Wars franchise then you would’ve noticed the not-so-subtle hint to one of the most important elements of the saga in episode 7 of the second series – “The Lost Sister”. As El attempts to move a train with her mind, Kali invokes her inner Yoda and tells her to “channel” the anger that will help her in this task. This is obviously a big nudge to Luke attempting to channel the Force, and although it is dropped on the viewer with the same discretion as a Demogorgon stepping into your living room, it will no doubt still be tasty to fans of the classic franchise.
8. The Goonies (1985)
Bob Newby also starred in the Goonies
Joyce’s quirky new boyfriend, Bob Newby is played by Sean Astin, known predominantly for his iconic role as Lord of the Rings’ Samwise but also adored for his role as Mikey in the 80’s classic The Goonies. The very presence of Astin in Bob’s role is a respectful bow to the cult movie in itself, which like Stranger Things deals with charismatic and brave children going on dangerous adventures.
The whole show borrows a lot of the tone and tropes from this movie, but if that isn’t enough to make your hair stand on end, check out this little Easter Egg that featured in episode 5 of season 2. Remember when Bob helped Joyce and Mike figure out the map? “What’s at the X? Pirate treasure?”, he jokes. Turns out this is exactly what the Goonies gang were after themselves.
9. Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977)
Both Will and Barry face apocalypse-like scenery on their doorstep
When Will opens his door in the season 2 premiere and stares at the apocalypse-like scenery unfolding on his front porch, the red light shining around him and penetrating the house will strike many as an image quite similar to that of the little Barry Guiler in the movie Close Encounter Of The Third Kind. As you might recall, Barry opens the door and is faced by a strange orange glow that is also of extraterrestrial nature.
10. Gremlins (1984)
Baby Demogorgon is your new Gizmo
Anyone who’s ever watched the classic Joe Dante movie about adorable little creatures turning into awful reptile-like monsters at midnight would have recognized the obvious parallel between Dustin’s baby-sitting adventure with the baby Demogorgon D’Art (short for D’Artagnan) and the relationship between Billy and Gizmo. From wanting to protect your baby, to the horror of discovering that your new pet could eat your entire village in one gulp, the resemblance couldn’t be more striking.
11. Mad Max (1979/2015)
Mad Max (sorta) cameos in season 2
An obvious reference to Mad Max is the very nickname of the mysterious Dragon’s Lair champion who eventually turns out to be the new girl in town, Max Mayfield. Both her name and nickname on the arcade game (MADMAX) are reminiscent of none other than the eponymous character of the classic Mel Gibson-lead movie, as well as the 2015 remake in which he is played by Tom Hardy.
12. IT (1990/2017)
Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) playing Richie Tozier in the 2017 adaptation of the Stephen King classic isn’t the only IT related thing you might have spotted in season 2. In episode 8, Lucas can be seen carrying a slingshot, a weapon that Beverly Marsh uses herself against Pennywise the clown in the 1990’s mini-series adaptation of King’s novel.
13 : Ghostbusters (1984)
Seeing the cast dress up as Ghostbusters for Halloween, gave way to an epic, hilarious and fun montage of them posing while their over-excited mothers photo-bomb them. This is not only fun but also a very on-the-spot reference since the children are actually about to try and “bust” down a menacing entity themselves, which they had also been doing the previous year…
Clearly, Stranger Things does a great job sending us back in time with clever Easter Eggs, shout-outs and movie references from movies all 80’s kids loved to watch. We couldn’t be happier that the show was given the green light for a third season, for a new season means more clever references to throw at us. Which other movie references did we miss? Let us know in the comments below…
Want to turn that frown “upside down”? Check out these hilarious Stranger Things memes!