It’s common knowledge by now that our favorite ’80s-inspired TV show, Stranger Things is intentionally packed with pop culture Easter Eggs and references from ’80s and ’90s 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 3, here are the best hidden Stranger Things Easter Eggs revealed…
If you’re not fully caught up with the show, spoiler warnings ahead…
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 Train Scene
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. The Shining
When Joy starts going apes**t about Will’s disappearance in season 1, she decides to tear down her walls with an axe to free her son from the Upside Down. This is a scene that will in no doubt remind one of the famous moment in The Shining where Jack Torrance attacks a door with a similar weapon screaming “Here’s Johnny!” We are, however, glad that Joyce’s purpose in using that axe came from a much more loving place!
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 back in season 1 can definitely be traced back to the blood-thirst of Jaws’ much more realistic monster. The monster taking her down in that water pretty much as though he was a great white shark is an Easter Egg many might have missed.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The sensory deprivation tank used by Eleven to reach the Upside Down in season 1 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 tries pushing through Joyce’s walls with its long sharp fingers? This scene brings back memories of when the razor-fingered Freddy Krueger pushed through Nancy’s bedroom walls.
Stranger Things makes absolutely no secret of its Poltergeist-influence. In the first episode of season 1, 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 Easter Egg, 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.
A most discreet reference in season 1 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. This Stranger Things reference is not necessarily intentional, but it is most definitely an influence.
Check out our list of the coolest, wisest, and funniest Stranger Things quotes – includes lines from Steve and Eleven!
8. Close Encounter of the Third Kind
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.
9. Dragons Lair
A nice touch of historical authenticity that makes Stranger Things all the more lovable for anyone who grew up in the ’80s era. In season 2, the kids can be seen playing ‘Dragons Lair’, a real game that was all the rage in arcades from 1983. It was incredibly complicated to go through while being more expensive than other games of the same kind.
10. Star Wars’ 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.
11. The Goonies
Joyce’s quirky boyfriend in season 2, 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 ’80s 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 helps 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.
12. The Terminator
In season 2, we briefly see a poster of James Cameron’s, The Terminator in the background, which came out on October 26, 1984 – this would definitely have been all the rage for the teens of Hawkins! But that’s not the only Terminator reference we’ve seen throughout the series. Grigori is very much reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic character, wouldn’t you say?
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 season 2 baby-sitting adventure with the baby Demogorgon D’Art 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.
14. Mad Max
An obvious reference to Mad Max is the very nickname of the Dragon’s Lair champion who eventually turns out to be Max Mayfield in season 2. 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.
Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) playing Richie Tozier in the modern adaptation of the Stephen King classic isn’t the only IT reference 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.
Seeing the cast dress up as Ghostbusters for Halloween in season 2, 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…
17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers
The entirety of season 2’s main plot, aka Will being possessed by the Mind Flayer, is an homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the 1978 remake, where people are being replaced by evil copies of themselves. This also comes back in season 3 with the Mind Flayer taking over significant characters, most notably Billy Hargrove.
18. The Blob & The Thing
Throwback to that revolting moment in season 3 when the news editors turn into big masses of blood and human remains. Watching those scenes may have brought back gruesome memories from the 1958 movie, The Blob, or even the 1982 film, The Thing.
19. Dr Strangelove
Let’s take it back to episode 4, season 3, when the gang are dealing with possessed Billy in the sauna. Notice the song in the background is Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again – a soundtrack which is delightfully out of place and haunting in this situation. It also happens to be featured in the 1964 movie, Dr Strangelove by Stanley Kubrick which explores the Cold War and its increasing tension. A nice reference since the Cold War has been in the background of Stranger Things since season 1 and is even more crucial in season 3.
20. Farrah Fawcett
Dustin accidentally using his hairspray against his own friends when they try to surprise him is a memorable moment in season 3. Well, that hairspray is the same as Farrah Fawcett’s hairspray that Steve suggested to Dustin in Season 2 – an ’80s reference to the Charlie’s Angels star, but also a cute ode to Dustin and Steven’s friendship.
21. A Wizard of Earthsea
This Stranger Things Easter Egg would only have been noticed by book nerds. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that Suzie, in the little time she appears on screen by the end of season 3, is reading ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursula K. Le Guin’s. What is the story about? A little boy who unleashes a horrifying evil entity into the world by misusing his abilities – a plot that sounds a lot like the overall premise of the whole series.
22. Jurassic Park
A bit more of a vague Easter Egg, but still quite likely a purposeful one knowing the Duffer Brothers’ love for mirroring scenes from classic movies. When Nancy and Mike’s little sister notices that the trees are moving unusually from the top of the Ferris Wheel, this seems like a direct reference to Jurassic Park, and more precisely to the franchise’s sequel, The Lost World.
23. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
We all remember the moment when Steve and Robin are tied up by the evil Russians in season 3. Was this a reference to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? It may sound like a bit of a reach, but perhaps obvious to any fan of the franchise. This could have been a nod to the moment where Indiana and Dr. Henry Jones are tied up and threatened of being burned alive if they don’t find a way out.
24. Magnum P.I.
The Duffer Brothers like throwing in minor hints that only eagle eyed fans would notice. Take a closer look at Hopper’s shirt that he wears during his date with Joyce. Well, it draws inspiration from Magnum P.I. where Tom Selleck purchases a very similar outfit. Subtle reference, yet delightful!
25. The Breakfast Club
This might sound a little far-fetched to some, but that scene in season 3 where Robin and Steve open up to each other from different bathroom stalls feels very reminiscent of the iconic scene in The Breakfast Club. Most particularly when the teens are seated on the floor and confess a few secrets to each other during detention.
26. The Empire Strikes Back
Call us crazy, but we think there’s another Star Wars Easter Egg in Stranger Things, but this time in season 3. When Hopper says, “See you in hell” just before he kills Russian spy, Grigori, this takes us straight back to an iconic moment in The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo says the exact same thing.
27. “I’m the Chief of Police”
In season 3, episode 2, Hopper is stood up by Joyce and walks out of the restaurant with a bottle, telling his bewildered server, “I can do anything, I’m the chief of police”. As recognized by Reddit user, LucasLeArtist, this happens to be a quote copied directly from Jaws where Chief Brody says the exact same thing as a character questions his capacity to handle a hard task.
28. Murray’s Phone Number
Murray Bauman, the conspiracy theorist is a fan-favorite character from the show, and it seems the creators are very much aware of that. His phone number as seen in season 3 is in fact, real! According to CNET, the number leads to a strange yet hilarious voice message from Murray himself!
29. Stand By Me’s Lardass
At some point at the beginning of season 3, Billy is being his usual bullying self by yelling at an overweight child at the pool. He horribly calls him a ‘lard-ass’, an insult that is pulled straight out of the 1986 classic, Stand By Me, when Gordie is telling a story to his friend about a child bearing this nickname.
30. A Nightmare on Elm Street’s House
This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment might be one of the great things you missed in Stranger Things. After Heather the lifeguard goes missing in season 3, Eleven ventures to her home to figure out what happened. Fans have pointed out that the red door reminds them a lot of the house in A Nightmare on Elm Street. This nod is pretty much confirmed by the house’s number, 1438, which is almost identical to that of the house in the 1984 horror classic, 1428.
These clever Stranger Things Easter Eggs, shout-outs and movie references from films all ’80s kids loved to watch clearly do a great job in sending us back in time. We couldn’t be happier that the show was given the green light for a fourth season, for a new series means more clever ’80s references to throw at us. What other Easter Eggs did we miss? Let us know in the comments below…
Want to turn that frown “upside down”? Check out these hilarious Stranger Things memes!