Series / Stranger Things

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Should I stay or should I go?note 

Stranger Things is a Netflix Original Series created by the Duffer Brothers which debuted on July 15, 2016. Taking place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in The '80s, the series tells the story of the disappearance of a young boy named Will, and the supernatural events surrounding it. It is inspired by Amblin Entertainment movies such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist, and The Goonies, the works of Stephen King, and 1980's Horror, Science Fiction and Coming of Age stories. It stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Matthew Modine, and is the breakout role for Millie Brown.

A second season has been announced, and will consist of nine episodes and target a 2017 release date.

Stranger Tropes:

  • Action Girl:
    • Eleven, who is able to fight off attackers by either moving objects into their path, breaking their bones with telekinesis, or even crushing their brains with her mind.
    • Nancy advances into this as she and Jonathan prepare to fight the monster, proving to be a much better shot with the revolver than he is.
  • Abuse Mistake: When Steve sees Nancy's bandaged hand after she and Jonathan cut themselves to lure the monster, he initially thinks Jonathan has been beating her.
  • Abusive Parents: "Papa" put Eleven through questionable parenting techniques...
  • Action Survivor: Will survives for a long time in the Upside-Down, and his mom finds him in a fort he created and named after himself. Barb, Shepard, and the government mooks? Not so savvy, not so lucky.
  • Adult Fear: The show is full of this, and not just for the adult characters. Specifically:
    • Losing a child, either to disease or disappearance.
    • Trying your hardest to find/recover your missing child only for everyone, including your family, to dismiss you as crazy.
    • Having your marriage fall apart.
    • Having to raise your children without the support (financial or otherwise) from their other parent, and ultimately having to rely on one of your children to make ends meet.
    • A Government Conspiracy unaccountable to anyone, which abducts your child for unethical experiments.
    • Most works involving missing children typically emphasize the effects of the disappearance's effects on their family, the parents particularly. Stranger Things demonstrates that a missing child's friends are affected, too, and that the disappearance or death of a friend could be an Adult Fear for children, too.
    • Again, for the children, especially Mike, particularly in Chapter 1: having an adult-sized problem (Will's disappearance), with your family not seeming to give a crap about it. Nancy experiences this as well after Barb's disappearance, being the only one (including the police, her mother, and Barb's own mother) who seems to care about her.
  • Adults Are Useless: Played straight initially.
    • It comes to a natural conclusion in the Season Finale to Season 1: it's not the trained government soldiers that can damage the Demogorgon, but three teenagers with improvised weapons. The Demogorgon easily defeats said soldiers, but is brought down by Eleven with help from Mike, Lucas, and Dustin instead. The trope does zigzag a bit due to the two aforementioned competent adults in the cast, Joyce and Hopper, who are the ones to enter the Upside Down and save Will.
  • Almost Kiss: Between Mike and Eleven in the seventh episode, before Dustin interrupts them.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Flashlights used in various nighttime searches produce very modern blue-white beams of light. Ironically, they'd have been a lot less noticeable if they hadn't been in use next to period-correct devices which produce beams of light in a visibly much redder spectrum. Probably necessary to allow for minimal additional lighting.
    • Jonathan, in a flashback scene, has put The Smiths on a mix tape for Will. An American living in the sticks in 1983 would likely not have heard of them until they released their first album the following year, but more to the point, during the time of the flashback, they wouldn't even have released their first single. This is also true of his liking Joy Division. Their albums had been issued stateside, but they never made an impact outside of the UK.
    • The version of "Nocturnal Me" by Echo & the Bunnymen used at the end of the fifth episode wouldn't be recorded until early 1984.
    • The Military Police officers stationed at Hawkins National Laboratory carry the Beretta 92FS as their sidearm. The Beretta first entered into service in 1985, whereas the show is set in 1983. However, the government agents carry the Colt M1911, which was standard issue for the military at the time.
    • When the kids learn that Eleven can tune a walkie-talkie to a frequency that lets them hear Will, Lucas says that the walkie is just picking up a baby monitor's noise. Baby monitors weren't commonly used at that time; the first Fisher-Price baby monitor came out in 1985.
    • The periodic table shown in the science classroom contains elements that would not be synthesized, let alone named, until ten or more years after the show's setting. Example 
    • The government agents' weapon of choice appears to be the Heckler & Koch MP5k, which is well and good, that gun came out in 1976. What isn't are the MP5k-PDWs (the ones with stocks) that didn't come out until 1991.
  • Ankle Drag: Happens to poor Barb as she tries to crawl out of the pool to escape the monster.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Mike is this to Nancy at the beginning of Season 1.
  • Anticlimax: Joyce and Hopper gear up and descend into the Upside-Down, prepared to face off against the monster to save Will and protect the younger members of the cast from danger. Unfortunately, while they do so this, the monster is in their world attacking said youths.
  • Arc Words:
    • More like arc song really, but "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by The Clash shows up often through the series. Most notably Will sings it to himself while trapped in the Upside-Down, and it gets broadcast over the record player when Will makes contact with Joyce the second time.
    • "Friends don't lie." Mike tells Eleven this when he is explaining friendship to her, and she repeats this throughout the series when she catches Mike trying to hide awkward truths from her.
  • Artistic License: Isolation tanks used for sensory deprivation involve more of the "deprivation" part, though for the purpose used on Eleven, she does require stimulus to gain reassurance and be pulled back to reality.
  • Bad Boss: Dr. Brenner couldn't care less about the safety of his underlings. He routinely puts them at risk from both Eleven and the Demogorgon and is willing to sacrifice as many of them as it takes to achieve his goal.
  • Bald Women: Eleven has a buzzcut as a result of her being a laboratory test subject. It is difficult to discern a pre-pubescent girl with short hair from a boy, making her a red herring for the missing Will. It also adds to the perception of her as a weird outsider and they have to hide it with a wig when the boys have to move her through public.
  • Batter Up: Jonathan hammers nails into a baseball bat to combat the Demogorgon, though Steve is the one who makes use of it.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Hopper attempts this to distract the state trooper guarding Will's "body" in the morgue. When the cop proves too savvy and it doesn't work, he ends up just knocking him out.
    State Trooper: Sir, you can't be back here!
    Chief Jim Hopper: Hey, I just got off the phone with O'Bannon. He needs you back at the station, something about an emergency.
    State Trooper: What the hell are you talking about? I don't work with an "O'Bannon".
    Chief Jim Hopper: Oh did I say O'Bannon? I meant... uh...
    State Trooper: (vacant, hostile staring)
    Chief Jim Hopper: *sighs* (punch)
  • Betty and Veronica: Jonathan is the Betty and Steve is the Veronica to Nancy's Archie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Eleven is a generally nice, if somewhat socially awkward, girl, but you don't want to be on her bad side. The kids who bully Mike and his friends learn this the hard way.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Eleven when bullies force Mike to jump off a cliff.
    • And Steve when Jonathan and Nancy are fighting the Demogorgon.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The "Social Worker" Connie.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Demogorgon is dead, and it seemed to take Eleven with it, but she's implied to be alive since Hopper was bringing Eggos to a dead drop in the woods. Nancy chose Steve over Jonathan, but they're all friends. Will is safe, but the monster did something to him so that he's vomiting slugs and having visions of the Upside-Down. Hopper exposed the Hawkins "Department of Energy" research to the public, but appears to have made a deal with some Men in Black. Also, Mike succeeded in saving Will, but Nancy was too late for Barbara.
  • Bookends: Begins and ends with the boys playing D&D.
    • Alternatively/more specifically, begins with Will telling Mike the Demogorgon got him in the game when everyone thought he was safe, and ends with the revelation that the Demogorgon actually did get Will when everyone thought he was safe.
  • Boom, Headshot:
    • In the first episode, this is the fate of Benny, the diner owner.
    • Played with in the final episode of season 1, when the monster opens its maw, and it looks like the wrist rocket (not a slingshot) throws it across the room. It was actually Eleven.
  • Brick Joke: When Mike shows Eleven the La-Z-Boy, he says, "This is where my father sleeps." In the final episode of season 1, we see his father passed out on the chair.
  • The Bully: Troy and James, who regularly terrorize the gang.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The orderlies at the facility where Eleven was experimented on. They may not have known the details, but they should've known and seen enough to know that manhandling Eleven might be a bad idea.
  • Call Back: Joyce flees her home and gets into her car when the Demogorgon almost breaches the walls. But she looks back at the house and realizes that she can't leave Will. In the final episode, Steve also runs to his car and almost leaves Jonathan and Nancy to fend for themselves, but looks back to the house at the last moment and realizes he can't leave Nancy, either.
  • California Doubling: Suburban Atlanta, Georgia stands in for Hawkins, Indiana.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • No one believes Joyce when she claims Will is alive. Justified, because she's talking to him through flickering lightbulbs.
    • The hardware store clerk raises an eyebrow at the weapons Nancy and Jonathan are buying. When he asks what they are up to, Nancy point blank tells him they are going monster hunting. He makes the sale.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Eleven's powers clearly take a number on her, most evident by her Psychic Nosebleed. There is some element of Cast From Calories as well, since it's noted that food helps her to recover.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Mike.
  • Chase Scene: A particularly memorable one in "The Bathtub" in which Dr. Brenner and his agents chase after the kids.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Hopper mentions to one of his officers early on that falling into the quarry from the top would break every bone in your body, as you would hit the water at such a speed it would be like cement. This is one of the things that leads him to believe something isn't right when he sees Will's intact and unscathed "corpse" in the morgue.
    • The Wrist-Rocket – not slingshot – is introduced early and gets some use in the final episode of season 1.
    • Nancy and Jonathan's box of monster hunting equipment does get used. Nancy's bat is the only weapon that actually makes the Demogorgon retreat after Steve takes some swings at it, though it looks more like a mace at that point after Jonathan jammed some nails in it.
    • Mr. Clarke's ham radio is introduced early on and is used by Eleven in a later episode.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Chief Hopper's police uniform is tan, whereas the other officers in Hawkins Police Dept wear blue shirts and black pants.
  • Cool Car: Apart from the usual 1970s/early 1980s Oldsmobiles, Ford Pintos and Chevy Blazers that the people of Hawkins drive, Steve Harrington drives a 1981-1982 BMW 733i, which would have cost around $36,000 ($77,000 in today's money).
    • Lonnie's 1971 Oldsmobile 442, as well.
  • Conditional Powers: A couple of examples:
    • Eleven is extremely powerful, but she seems to be limited by her bodily limits. This is usually manifested by bruising and ruptures in her mucosal capillaries, causing either nose or ear canal bleeding. She faints whenever she overexerts herself.
    • The Demogorgon is extremely attracted to the scent of blood and only attacks actively bleeding victims outside its dimension; in some cases he will transcend the barrier if he gets even the tiniest whiff of blood. One of the reasons it doesn't immediately kill Will is because he's not bleeding.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Troy's mother just so happens to bring him into the police station in time for Hopper to overhear him deliver a vital piece of plot when he needs it most-this is somewhat justified as the events in question are all happening at the same time. Hopper would have heard about it later anyway.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Clarke. He shares the boys' scientific interests, and even purchases a ham radio for them to play around with during lunch. He also knows exactly what the boys are talking about when they make nerdy references, and gives them instructions on the phone in the middle of a date as how to build a sensory deprivation tank to amplify Eleven's powers.
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: Officially, the Hawkins National Laboratory is a research centre run by the Department of Energy, which leads most people to assume it is fairly uninteresting (Dustin initially thinks they "design lightbulbs or something"). However, it becomes clear the research they do, such as using Eleven's telekinesis and mind reading to access alternate dimensions and monitor Soviet officials, involves multiple higher-ranking government agencies than the DOE. It has military police (US Army) providing security, and the badge that Connie Frazier shows to the Wheeler's suggests she works for the NSA, which could also explain the phone bugging (not exactly within the Dept of Energy's remit).
    • The government field agents use vans marked "Hawkins Water & Power" to drive around town and carry out surveillance without getting too much attention.
  • CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): Hopper instructs Joyce on how to perform CPR on Will when they find him in the Upside-Down. It doesn't work and Hopper, in an act of desperation, simply pounds on his chest while shouting "Come on, breathe, dammit!", which, of course, works.
  • Creepy Child: Eleven. She barely speaks and her entire body language is that of a skittish and scared animal. She also has no idea how to interact with regular people. Being raised as a subject of study in a laboratory will do that.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Chief Jim Hopper. He is initially presented as a struggling alcoholic/addict and uncaring police officer who rolls into work hours late, but later proves to be more than capable of handling himself. He knocks out a State Trooper with only two punches, is able to take down a government agent and disarm an MP in the space of a few seconds, and later incapacitates three more agents whilst avoiding being spotted by a helicopter. Later, even when threatened with torture and death whilst being interrogated, he remains unfazed and warns the agents they are going to negotiate with him for the safety of the boys.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Eleven in "the bathtub".
  • Dark Action Girl: Agent Connie Frazier, seemingly the only female member of the government agency, who carries out the murder of Benny in episode 1.
  • Darkness Equals Death: The monster's arrival is usually signaled by all nearby lights turning off.
  • Dark World: The Upside-Down where Will is trapped, which is filled with toxic fog and covered in Meat Moss.
  • Defective Detective: Chief Hopper was once a big-city cop, but he's become a mess since his daughter died. He's divorced, spends his time abusing substances, and apparently had to take an easier job in the small town of Hawkins.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Some due to taking place in 1983.
    • Bullying and casual homophobia, two things which are greatly looked down upon today, are generally treated as a non-issue here.
    • Joyce smokes around her kids, and Hopper smokes on the job when dealing with the public. Smoking in most public places wouldn't be outlawed until the late 90s.
    • Two teenagers buying gasoline, bear traps, nails, sledge hammers and revolver ammunition doesn't get much more than a weird look from the hardware store clerk. Post-Columbine, he'd most likely jump to the conclusion that they were planning to terrorize their school.
  • The Determinator: Joyce Byers will stop at nothing to save her son.
  • Disappeared Dad: One of many thematic references to Spielberg.
    • Will and Jonathan's father Lonnie. He's been living in Indianapolis for some time and makes little effort to stay in touch. During one flashback, Joyce is heard yelling at him for breaking a promise to take Will to a baseball game over the phone and we soon learn that he only want to because he wanted Will to be a "normal" kid. He shows up only after Will's apparent death, and then Joyce finds out he's trying to cash in with a lawsuit.
    • Mike's father is in the picture, but is generally depicted as a useless dolt whose wife picks up all of the slack for him.
    • There's also no mention of whether or not anyone even known who Eleven's father may be, and Dr. Brenner is far from a proper surrogate.
  • The Dog Bites Back: When Eleven finally has enough of her pursuers' shit — especially when they threaten her new friends — the results aren't pretty, and uses her powers to puree their brains inside their skulls. And they deserved every agonizing moment of it. She also does it to a pair of abusive orderlies before her escape, throwing one into a concrete wall so hard he leaves a massive dent, and casually snapping the neck of the second like a twig.
  • Downer Beginning: Episode 3 starts with Barbara being killed.
  • Downer Ending: Again, Episode 3. The police pull what is thought to be Will's body out of the lake, and an enraged Mike yells at Eleven, asking why she lied to them and said that Will was alive, and then leaves when Eleven can't give any answers.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • Hopper isn't amused when Powell cracks a joke about Joyce's Sanity Slippage.
    • Mike tells off his bullies for laughing at Will's memorial assembly, which Eleven manages to stop from escalating into a fist fight.
  • Dug Too Deep: When Brenner forced Eleven to make contact with the Demogorgon, opening the gate in the process.
  • The '80s: The first season takes place during November 1983.
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: Episode 8 does this. Nearly the entire scene in the school when the kids are being chased by the monster and the Hawkins men is while the lights are constantly and rapidly flickering.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The cool and cruel Tommy and Carol have the most consistent relationship in the series. Barb says that they've probably been having sex since the 7th grade. They're always seen together and always support each other.
  • Everytown, America: Hawkins, Indiana, an anonymous, small Midwestern town.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Inverted. The Byers family dog barks at nothing in the backyard and eventually settles in Castle Byers. Both are places where Will hides.
  • Extremely Short Time Span: The main story takes place over the course of about a week.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: Seems to be a part of the Demogorgon's M.O.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: Invoked. The body of "Will" found at the quarry is almost life-like and close to the real deal, enough to pass off as a real body at first glance; remarkable work from the scrubs at the Hawkins facility, considering they had less than a day to prepare it. It even had Will's exact clothes to boot. It's identified as fake by Joyce and later confirmed to be an extremely detailed doll by Hopper.
  • Faking the Dead: The government plants a dummy of Will to make everyone believe he drowned. They're careful not to let anyone get any close looks at it.
  • First Love: Mike and El, obviously. It's almost a foregone conclusion.
  • Flashback Echo: Eleven's backstory is gradually revealed through these.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • As he leaves for home, Will admits that the Demogorgon "got him" in the game the boys were playing. The real monster gets him on his ride home.
    • In an early episode, Hopper tells an officer that a fall from the local cliff would be fatal, despite there being a lake on the bottom, due to sheer height. Mike later goes over the edge.
    • Steve sings into a baseball bat while trying to woo back Nancy. He later uses the bat to rescue her.
    • In the first episode, the boys get excited about how far the signal on Mr. Clarke's ham radio can reach. The radio is later used by Eleven to reach a place farther away than they ever thought.
    • After a big fight in the group, Dustin recalls a D&D session where the party split up and they were picked off by trolls one by one. Sure enough, both Lucas and Dustin and Mike end up in trouble in two separate situations.
  • Freak Lab Accident: It seems that the whole purpose of Eleven's subject testing was spying on Russia and possibly eliminating Soviet agents via telekinesis, only it brought the attention of a bloodthirsty Eldritch Abomination. Dr. Brenner's priority becomes trying to cover this up as quietly as possible.
  • Freak Out:
    • The boys do this when Eleven, who really has No Social Skills, tries to change her clothes right in front of them.
    • Nancy gets a mild one in the shower after her encounter with the monster in the upside down.
    • Eleven has a proper one when she sees Barb's body.
    • Steve, when he shows up at the Byers home at the moment Nancy and Jonathan are setting up a trap for the Demogorgon. He then crumbles down and escapes when they tell him that it will appear again. He puts himself together and returns to save both Nancy and Jonathan.
  • Free-Range Children: A good portion of the early episodes has the various middle school and high school characters slipping away from their homes, skipping school and staying out later than they'd promised, though this does typically land them in hot water when they get home. Justified in that it was several years after this before media-fueled fear of kidnapping and strangers caused parents to more closely monitor where kids went in their free time.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Although it is never openly stated which government agency Connie Frazier works for, the credentials she presents to the Wheeler parents before getting agents to search their house shows she works for the NSA.
    • The season one finale has 4 articles pinned to a corkboard regarding the events of the season, all of which are quite detailed.
  • Funny Background Event: Several, mostly courtesy of Lucas and Dustin. Examples include Dustin disgustedly wiping his hand on his shirt after Lucas demonstrates a spit swear to Eleven and both of their expressions when Mike blurts out that Eleven looks pretty.
    • When Mike instructs his friends to "look sad" if anyone at school sees them, Lucas and Dustin make exaggerated crying expressions to show Eleven what he means. She immediately mimics them.
  • Gaslighting: What the government can't conveniently murder or sequester, they'll subject to this.
  • Genre Roulette: Switches between horror, sci-fi, and conspiracy thriller. Usually, the genre depends on the characters being followed. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas's plotlines are more sci-fi/horror, Jonathan and Nancy are more horror, and Hopper and Joyce are investigating a conspiracy.
  • Genre Throwback: To Steven Spielberg's early 1980s output, particularly E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and to Stephen King's novels of the same era.
  • The Glomp: After Will is saved from the Upside-Down, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin give their friend a huge hug for surviving.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: It was already bad when the facility was torturing children to spy on Russia, but bringing a monster of unspeakable horror into the world is on a whole worse level.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The facility wanted a psychic child who could spy on Russian intelligence — they got that. Then when they found out she used a parallel universe to do it, they wanted her to contact the being that already lived there — they got that too. However, they didn't realise the nature of that being, nor what it could do.
  • Government Conspiracy: All the shenanigans on the show are the result of dangerous experiments conducted in a government facility near Hawkins. When the consequences of those experiments start spilling over into the town, the government does everything in its power to cover things up.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Nancy and Jonathan bring a bat and a revolver respectively to kill the monster. Initially, they try practicing with the weapons they picked, but trade when Nancy proves to be the better shot.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Played with. As Hopper is being interrogated by the agents, they demand to know who he is working with. Hopper answers that he is working alone, but he is also savvy enough to attempt a bluff by telling them that he has shared all the information he has with a journalist.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: At the end of season one, Eleven manages to kill the Demogorgon, but seemingly disintegrates in the process.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Hopper is a more insightful, conniving, and caring person than he lets on.
    • Steve is more caring and brave than he shows at first, finally revealing the person Nancy sees in him.
    • Most of Lucas' behavior is focused on his concerns about the safety of his closest friends.
    • Played with in the case of Terry Ives. Though catatonic, Ives' concern hinges on the notion that her daughter is still alive, which she considers a fact. The experimentation done on her raises the question of how much she is aware of what transpired and to what degree the experimentation affected her too.
  • History Repeats: Jonathan accuses Nancy of repeating her parents' story, which is something he says that most teens do.
  • Homage: Many that are not explicit shout-outs:
    • An inversion of the E.T. flying-bike shot, where rather than make the bikes fly, Eleven just launches a van over them instead.
    • The X-Files fans were delighted to find similarities between scenes: when Hopper and Joyce save Will from The Upside-Down, it bears a striking resemblance to a similar scene in the 1998 movie Fight the Future. Near the end of the final episode of season 1, Will coughs up a miniature of whatever had been pulled from his throat in the Upside-Down, a scene that is almost frame-by-frame a copy of a scene from season two's "The Host." The Duffer Brothers have said in interviews that they were fans of the series during its original run, though it was not credited as having a direct impact on Stranger Things.
    • The alien slug coughed up by Will could be an homage to Night of the Creeps.
    • Eleven's origin story is very similar to Firestarter. One character even explicitly likens the experiments Eleven's mom took part in to something out of a Stephen King novel.
      • Also, young girl (possibly) born by a woman involved with a top-secret research lab, raised from birth to be a weapon, and subjected to brutal torture and abuse by her keepers who are willing and able to kill anyone in their way to get her back. Eleven? Or X-23?
    • The show's title typography is very reminiscent of the way Stephen King's name used to be presented on his book covers.
    • The monster's mouth is reminiscent of both the eggs from Alien and the mouths of the sandworms from Dune.
    • A group of geeky, ostracized middle school kids, joined by some teenagers (including one kid's protective big brother), discovers a secret beneath the surface of their seemingly quiet hometown, while (most) adults remain blissfully ignorant of what's going on... The premise of the series was clearly inspired by The Goonies, and the main protagonist kid in both works is even named Michael. One could also interpret that description to apply to It.
    • A bullied boy befriended by a girl with paranormal abilities in 1983 seems reminiscent of Let the Right One In by way of its Americanized version, Let Me In. Troy's Sadistic Choice to Mike and Dustin is reminiscent of the bullies' Sadistic Choice to Oskar/Owen in the pool; Eleven's Big Damn Heroes moment is a Lighter and Softer version of Eli/Abby's rescue of Oskar/Owen. Notably, Eleven's cover story is that of a cousin from Sweden, the original setting of Let the Right One In. Also, the same actress plays the mother of Owen and Mike.
    • The overarching plot of a missing child being trapped in another dimension, who is nevertheless able to contact his family goes all the way back to "Little Girl Lost", an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959). Also to Poltergeist, a movie mentioned in Episode 1 that also includes the dimensionally lost child communicating through electronics.
    • Hopper's Properly Paranoid scene is lifted straight out of Coppola's The Conversation.
    • When Will says he's sure his Christmas present is an Atari, Joyce responds with "An A-what-i?"
    • There are quite a few references to Stephen King throughout the series, including one notable scene of the kids traveling along train tracks. A government experiment that opens a rift to another dimension that lets human-hungry monsters into our world also brings to mind the Stephen King story (and film) The Mist.
    • A girl named Nancy sets booby traps for a supernatural killer she intends to lure into our world and then set on fire.
    • The writers apparently also took inspiration from videogames such as Silent Hill and The Last of Us. The Upside Down's foggy and creepy design shares a lot of similarities to Silent Hill settings, while the spores in the air and fungus growing around the Upside Down's entrances is reminiscent of the cordyceps fungus in The Last Of Us. One of the biggest similarities would be how, just like Joel, Chief Hopper is a divorced, gruff man still occasionally haunted by the death of his daughter. Named Sarah. Also, both Joel and Hopper have scenes where they fight their way through a hospital to reach a desired place.
    • The simple visual explanation in Chapter Five for the Upside-Down takes the "move across dimensions like a pencil punching through a folded piece of paper" used in Event Horizon.
    • A pack of preteens investigating an underground portal to another dimension, accidentally opened by one of their friends? Could be inspired by Gravity Falls.
  • How Many Fingers?: Dustin does this after he and Mike revive an unconcious Lucas.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The sixth episode stresses that while the monster is a deadly and frightful being, it's still little more than an animal. Humans on the other hand, can be downright EVIL.
  • I Am a Monster: When Lucas accuses Eleven of being the monster, she attacks him and runs away. She takes off her wig and uses her powers more aggressively to steal food. She even says it verbatim when confessing that she opened the portal to the Upside-Down.
  • I Can Explain: The boys try to explain why they're breaking into the AV room instead of the memorial assembly for Will:
    Mike: We're just...you know...
    Lucas: Upset.
    Dustin: Yeah, definitely upset.
    Mike: We need some alone time.
    Dustin: To...cry.
  • If We Get Through This...: In "The Upside-Down", Mike talks about his and Eleven's future. Guess what happens to Eleven.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: In episode 7, Nancy and Mike agree to start being honest with each other, then instantly lie to each other about their feelings for Jonathan and Eleven, respectively.
  • Immune to Bullets: The Demogorgon is still standing after Brenner's men pump lead at it for several seconds.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Apparently Jonathan attended, as when he takes a revolver out for the first time in preparation to face the monster, he misses every shot he takes at the cans he's set up.
  • Impersonating an Officer: Agent Frazier seems to specialise in this. She first impersonates a social services worker to gain access into Benny's Diner and kill him whilst searching for El, then a member of the County Education Board to get Mr. Clarke to give her the names of the boys under the guise of starting a county-wide AV club. She also flashes NSA credentials to the Wheelers before a small army of agents descend on their house to search it, but given the nature of the operations the government is running, it wouldn't be hard to believe she actually does work for the NSA.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Barb is attacked by a strange monster while Nancy and Steve have sex.
  • Ironic Echo: In the second episode, Mike explains the concept of a promise to Eleven as "something that you can't break", and Eleven later promises that she's okay when he finds her crying. In the season one finale, Mike and Eleven promise each other that she'll be okay and have a life with Mike and his family. That promise is quickly broken.
  • Irony: In episode 7, Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Eleven decide to trust Hopper not to give their location to the government, reasoning, "Why would the chief betray us?" In the next episode, Hopper does exactly that.
  • It's All About Me: Steve's self-absorbed reaction to Nancy's concern about Barb echoes Nancy's own self-absorbed reaction to Mike's concern about Will in the first episode.
  • It's All My Fault:
    • Since she opened the gate to the Upside-Down and made first contact with the monster, Eleven feels personally responsible for the havoc it wreaks.
    • Nancy feels responsible for what happened to Barb because she left her alone to have sex with Steve.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Hopper utilizes it in episode 4 after the state police officer who'd "found" Will's body lies to his face regarding the jurisdiction of the quarry.
  • Jerk Jock: Tommy and seemingly Steve at first.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Breaking the camera was perhaps harsh, but Steve and his friends were right to call Jonathan out on taking pictures of the party.
    • Sure, Lonnie is a deadbeat dad trying to cash in on his son's apparent death, but he is right: that gorge is ridiculously unsafe. It's just a sheer dead drop over the side into the water around a hundred feet down. Later, we see Mike nearly fall in too. Even if Will really wasn't killed there, someone likely would be.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While he does some pretty awful, self-absorbed things, Steve eventually proves to be a decent guy. He clearly has Nancy's best interests in mind and makes up for smashing Jonathan's camera by buying him a new one for Christmas. It's implied that Tommy and Carol were a bad influence on an otherwise good kid.
  • Jock Dad, Nerd Son: Lonnie had absolutely no respect for Will's nerdy pursuits, and mistreated him because of them.
  • Jump Scare: How Episode 7 ends, with the monster breaking into Will's fort in the Upside Down.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Invoked when the state police "find" Will's body in the quarry. They refuse the local police access to even see the body close up, and have the local coroner sent home so someone "from state" can perform the autopsy. When asked, the trooper who called it in claimed the quarry was state-owned, when it was actually a privately owned one (thus under Hawkins PD jurisdiction), something Hopper knew prior to asking him, which confirms his suspicions of foul play and a cover up.
  • Karma Houdini: Although Brenner is killed by the Demogorgon (Maybe. Word of God is not so clear-cut), the organization which created Eleven and caused the entire mess in the first place ultimately escapes justice for their actions.
  • Kick the Dog: Dr. Brenner and his cronies establish early on that they are not a benevolent government agency when they kill Benny (the diner owner who takes good care of Eleven) after he's already convinced that the social services are there to routinely take some stray girl from him.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Eleven displays telepathic powers, possibly for the first time, when she refuses to harm a cat and is dragged by two Red Shirt Mooks into a small closet-like space for punishment; instead of the cat, it's her tormentors who die when she panics at the thought of being trapped. It's also not hard to take immense satisfaction when she offs Frazier and her team during the climax, no matter how far it crosses into Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Benny.
  • Kill It with Fire: Combined with a bear trap as part of Jonathan and Nancy's second plan to kill the monster. It doesn't take, but it hurts the creature badly enough that it retreats back to the Upside Down. Unfortunately, it regenerates quickly enough to be seemingly no worse for wear when it shows up again.
  • Kubrick Stare: Eleven does several of these throughout the series usually before using her psychic powers.
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: Because of her androgynous appearance, Eleven is briefly mistaken for a boy in the first episode. This later leads to her case getting mixed up with Will's during Hopper's investigation.
  • Left Hanging: A significant number of questions are left unanswered (lampshaded in the boys' final D&D game). Which (if any) are Sequel Hooks is yet to be seen.
  • Little "No": Eleven does several of these, but does an especially badass one in episode 2 when she telekinetically slams the door shut as Lucas tries to leave.
  • Lock and Load Montage:
    • Lucas gets one when he sets out to save Will on his own.
    • Nancy and Jonathan preparing to fight the Demogorgon at the Byers' house in "The Upside-Down".
  • Madness Mantra: After Eleven finds Barb's dead body in the Upside-Down she can only repeat the word "Gone!" until Joyce calms her down.
  • Makeover Montage: A short one in "The Body" in which the boys disguise Eleven as a normal middle school girl, complete with a blonde wig and pretty pink dress.
  • Match Cut: In "The Flea and the Acrobat", someone hammering a nail is used to segue into Mike poking a hole into a paper to illustrate the titular "flea/acrobat" metaphor.
  • Mauve Shirt: Poor Barb and Shepard...
  • Meat Moss: Seems to be prevalent in The Upside-Down and around its portals.
  • Mercy Kill: Jonathan and Nancy find a deer in the woods that has been hit by a car. As they decide what to do and screw up the courage to shoot the poor thing, the Demogorgon makes the decision for them and drags it off to feed.
  • Mind over Matter: Eleven's telekinetic powers can do anything from closing doors and turning fans to flipping vans and crumbling brains.
  • Missed Him by That Much:
    • The boys ask Eleven to take them to where Will is hiding; when she leads them to Will's house, they try explain the concept of being at home vs hiding. Meanwhile, inside, Joyce is trying desperately to communicate with her son trapped in the Upside-Down. If the boys had only walked inside...
    • Nancy is looking for Barb and the one person who might be able to explain where she is is hiding in the basement.
    • When the government agents get to the school gym, the boys and Eleven had moved to the main school building to look for food. This gives them a slight head-start that ends up with the luring of the Demogorgon, who butchers the agents.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: When Nancy and Jonathan come back from the encounter with the Demogorgon in the woods, Steve catches them in an apparent compromising position.
  • Monster Delay: Fitting, given the show's prominent Spielberg influence.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: The Demogorgon.
  • The Mourning After: Some examples:
    • Played with in the following case. Eleven leads the boys to the quarry to find Will's body, much to the contrary to what she's been telling them so far. In grief and anger, the boys accuse her of misleading them. She then tinkers with Mike's walkie-talkie to show him that Will is indeed alive, which they later confirm by using their teacher's ham radio. They spend the following couple of chapters pretending they are grieving to their parents and schoolmates.
    • In Barbara's case, while mostly everything that happened is covered in the end, it's still not known whether her death was indeed reported. Most of the protagonists are aware of her fate in the end, but any mentions of anything else related to her are left out, including whether she had a funeral or a vigil like Will had at school.
    • In the epilogue, Mike is shown to be still grieving El's sacrifice, though unbeknownst to him, she might still be alive.
  • Mysterious Past: Hopper, big time. Aside from a brief mention that he used to work in "the big city", and that he and his wife separated after the death of their daughter, nothing concrete is revealed. However, given his combat and infiltration skills, connections to reporters with the New York Times, and his ability to parlay with the government agents to negotiate the safety of the boys and ensure he doesnt end up getting tied up as a loose end (he is seen to still be alive and have his job a month later), one can speculate he may have also worked for the government prior to relocating to Hawkins.
  • Neck Snap: Eleven kills a security guard this way.
  • Never Suicide: Benny the diner owner is murdered by government spooks and made to look like he shot himself.
  • Newscaster Cameo: The anchorwoman in the pilot episode is a real anchor for ll Alive, the local NBC affiliate in Atlanta where the show is filmed.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: While there is no Hawkins nor Roane County in Indiana, there is a Roane County, Tennessee, which is home to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex, two secluded government facilities that were integral parts of the top secret "Manhattan Project" that developed the first atomic bombs during World War II. Y-12 was a highly secure nuclear weapons production facility in the Reagan Era (and still is to some degree), and both Y-12 and ORNL were and are operated under the aegis of the Department of Energy. However, it's doubtful that psychic children and dimensional portals were ever on the agenda at either.
    • There's a reference to a mental hospital called Pennhurst. There might not be a Pennhurst in Indiana, but there was one in Pennsylvania, which was shut down in the late '80s for mistreatment of patients.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Poor Benny the diner owner tries to help out a lost girl and ends up shot in the head for his trouble.
    • Likewise, Nancy's best friend Barbara, who agrees to party with Steve and his friends to make sure Nancy doesn't get too drunk and gets dragged into the Upside-Down, suffering a horrific death... eventually.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown
    • Hopper delivers one to a flunky of the "Department of Energy."
    • Jonathan gives an epic one to Steve for making fun of his mother and implying that he killed his brother. His rage eventually becomes so primal that he continues to pound Steve's face as he's being pulled off of him by police... and then punches a cop just so he can continue punching Steve.
  • No Name Given:
    • The names of the other agencies working alongside the Department of Energy and Army are never explicitly mentioned, but it can be assumed due to the consistent references to MKUltra that the CIA plays at least some role in the operation. Its also suggested the NSA is in cahoots as well, given that the houses close to the site are bugged, and Connie Frazier is briefly seen with what appears to be an NSA badge.
    • The monster is never given an official name by the government or the scientists. Its only (unofficial) name, "the Demogorgon", is given to it by the kids, which is a reference to a creature in Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Nothing But Hits:
    • "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" by The Clash, which figures heavily into the plot, was released a year before the events of the show. Besides that, a few Eighties standards are heard, including "Africa" by Toto, "Hazy Shade of Winter" by The Bangles, "I Melt with You" by Modern English, and "Waiting for a Girl Like You" by Foreigner.
    • Notable aversions: Episode 5 ends with "Nocturnal Me" by Echo & the Bunnymen, which is from the same album as the far better known "The Killing Moon." Lesser-known songs by both Joy Division and New Order are also used in the series.
    • Averted and played straight within the same sequence in episode one: When Eleven sneaks into the diner, Jefferson Airplane can be heard as Source Music (probably meant to give the owner, Benny, some characterization as a former hippie). "She Has Funny Cars" from Surrealistic Pillow is heard first, and only a while later do we hear the much better known "White Rabbit" from the same album.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: According to Hopper, the worst thing that had happened in his four years of working in Hawkins was when an owl attacked Eleanor Gillespie's head because it thought her hair was a nest. Also, the last time when somebody was missing was in Summer 1923 and the last time that somebody commited suicide was in October 1961.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The show makes fantastic use of this trope. The Demogorgon isn't clearly seen until very late in the first season.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • Nancy when she sees the Demogorgon.
    • Mike when he notices a car coming in "The Upside-Down" and runs outside only to realize that it's not Nancy and Jonathan – it's the bad guys.
    • Also in "The Upside-Down" when the lights start flickering and everyone collectively realizes the Demogorgon is about to break through the wall.
    Mike: Blood.
    Lucas: What?
    Mike: Blood!
  • One of Us: In-universe example: the boys' chemistry teacher, who is an RPG geek as well.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with James Hopper, one of the protagonists, and James, the Mook of The Bully Troy. Given that Hopper is almost uniquely referred to on a Last Name Basis, and James is only in a few scenes and has little characterisation out of being another annoying dickhead that the protagonists have to deal with and drawing the line at forcing Mike to jump off a cliff, it's not particularly noticeable.
  • The Quiet One: Eleven speaks very little, often preferring hand gestures to get her point across.
  • Parental Obliviousness: Pretty much all of the parents beside Joyce.
  • Parents Know Their Children: This is one of Joyce's most prominent character traits, and key to the strength of Winona Ryder's performance. Joyce has a thorough and timely understanding of her son's social life. She deduces that the drawing wasn't created by Will by asking the exact right question, "was it good?" and shows pride of her son's artistic talent. She remembers where his birthmarks are. Most importantly, her motherly intuition leads her to the conclusion, despite knowing full well just how crazy it sounds, that Will is communicating from the Upside-Down through flickering the lights and playing the Clash, knowing it's one of Will's favorite songs.
  • Period Piece: The whole season happens on late November, 1983, in a period of 4-6 days (later jumping to Christmas Eve). It shows a remarkably faithful recreation of the 1980's down to the most minute details. The series as a whole is a collection of tropes of 80's sci-fi.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Will admitting to Michael that the Demogorgon got him is both foreshadowing and shows that Will is a good kid worth saving.
    • Steve volunteering to clean up the graffiti he's responsible for shows that he's turning a new leaf.
  • Phoneaholic Teenager: Nancy is introduced lying on her bed and talking on her bedroom phone in a classic invocation of this trope.
  • Planning for the Future Before the End: In "The Upside Down", Michael will twice tell Eleven how she can move in with him and his family after the monster has been dealt with, and they'll have a normal life together. The second time he tells her this is while she's drained of her powers and the Demogorgon is coming for them. Soon after, Eleven sacrifices herself to kill it.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Played with and somewhat justified. The kids, Nancy and Jonathan, and Joyce and Hopper keep their findings to themselves, for various reasons:
    • Mike, Lucas, and Dustin hide Eleven's existence because they want to find Will and believe she's key to the mystery. Eleven's fear of The Conspiracy helps contribute to their reluctance to tell others the truth.
      • Although Eleven knows exactly what happened to Will, and even where to find him, her difficulties expressing herself clearly lead to her being unable to explain in anything more than vague concepts. For example, when initially asked by the boys where Will is, her response is to turn their D&D board upside down to explain the alternate world. It only takes a Eureka Moment from Mike later on before they piece together her meaning. It's also not helped in the least that for all her power, she's nonetheless a very scared, confused, and traumatized young girl, and it takes most of the first season before she's even able to say that she's the one who made the Demogorgon aware of the real world.
    • Nancy and Mike haven't been close for years and have no reason to share the information. They have a bonding moment when they team up and agree to avoid keeping secrets.
    • Joyce, at first, is very vocal about her belief in Will's survival. Hopper is usually much more subtle about his investigations, especially after alerting The Conspiracy, but he immediately subverts the trope and tells Joyce what he's uncovered when he's convinced she's right.
    • Lonnie convinces Jonathan that telling Joyce his suspicions about the Demogorgon would only hurt an already traumatized Joyce. She calls him out on it later and he quickly admits his mistake.
    • Completely averted once everyone is gathered together in "The Bathtub" where they all make sure everyone knows the situation.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Eleven's powers are used to spy on Russians and ultimately communicate with the creature and open the portal between the Upside Down and their reality.
  • Properly Paranoid: After Chief Hopper awakens from being drugged after seeing too much inside the Hawkins Lab, he immediately looks for surveillance equipment in his trailer and eventually finds it.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Eleven gets them whenever she uses her telekinesis. This becomes a plot point when it's used to prove that she's been using her powers.
  • Putting on the Reich: A variant. Eleven's serial number is tattooed on her left forearm, right where the Nazis put it on people in the camps. She's also essentially a government slave and used as a human test subject in completely unethical, illegal ways, which the Nazis did as well. Not to mention her "owners" tactics in trying to retrieve Eleven once she escapes easily put them into Nazi territory.
  • Puppy Love: Mike and Eleven, who are both around twelve years old.
  • Raster Vision: Appears on the period-correct TV screens.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • When Eleven sees Barb's body, she freaks out and needs to be comforted by Joyce. This shows us that, super-powered or not, she's still a kid with a very human reaction to seeing a dead body.
    • When Eleven attempts to get changed in front of the boys, the After Show commentators initially expect the boys to perv at her; instead, being kids, they act their age and freak out.
    • Additionally, the boys, particularly Lucas, are initially reluctant to look for Will or keep Eleven's secret. They need to be talked into the former by Mike; later, Eleven's telekinesis stops Lucas from exposing her to Mike's mom.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Hopper is actually pretty willing to listen once he sees actual evidence. He's also remarkably quick on the uptake, as seen in episode three when he realizes the tape they were shown wasn't the night after Will's disappearance, as it was pouring rain while the tape showed none.
    • Mr. Clarke, the boys' science teacher, is shown to be remarkably caring and nurturing of the kids' pursuits regardless of the weirdness of their requests and the appropriateness of the situation.
  • Red Shirt: The Department of Energy's foot soldiers are essentially only there to be slaughtered by Eleven or the Demogorgon.
  • Relatively Flimsy Excuse: The boys pretend Eleven is Mike's cousin from Sweden when they try to get into the AV Room.
  • Retraux: The title sequence and synth-heavy soundtrack are a pitch-perfect '80s throwback, very much emulating John Carpenter's style. It can be jarring to see modern CGI against the carefully researched early '80s look.
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: A zippo is tossed on a pool of gas to burn the monster in the final episode of season 1.
  • Sarcastic Confession: "What are you doing with all this stuff?" — "Monster hunting."
  • Science Is Bad: Invoked. The boys' teacher tells them that even when science is neat, it's rather unforgiving. The show makes a point in showing both sides of the coin: the cold-hearted and dehumanizing aspect of scientific research, and the wondrous world of scientific pursuit.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The can, in this case, is an alternate dimension with at least one, but possibly multiple monsters inside it. Interestingly, there was never an apparent seal; the monster simply wasn't aware of our world. Until we became aware of it.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the first season, a few loose-ends remain:
    • Eleven pulls a Heroic Sacrifice, but her death isn't confirmed. Hopper and Mike are on the lookout for signs of her return. Hopper appears to be leaving food out in the forest for her.
    • Will vomits up a worm-like creature and has a flash of the Upside-Down.
    • Hopper is approached by the Men In Black, but since he is still working as the town sheriff after that, it seems he's managed to cut some kind of a deal with them. What this entails, though, is not yet revealed.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: In order to sneak Eleven into the school, Mike dresses her up complete with wig. Though he already likes her, a smitten Mike, and then his friends, freely admit that she is indeed a very pretty girl.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Although "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" aren't used, in "The Bathtub", when the three groups join up, Mike and Nancy ask each other if they like their new opposite-sex friends. In keeping with this trope, Nancy calmly says that it's not like that, foreshadowing the fact that she and Jonathan remain friends in the end; Mike denies it a bit more vehemently, and ends up kissing Eleven in the next episode.
    Nancy: Do you like Eleven?
    Mike: What?! Ew, no, gross!
  • Shout-Out:
    • A child, abducted by paranormal forces into another dimension, who contacts his family through household appliances is a reference to Poltergeist, a movie that is referenced by name.
    • The series is rife with references to Star Wars, including:
      • Many a Star Wars novice has wondered why all the stormtroopers are numbered 011.
      • In the final few episodes of season 1, the kids use the term "Lando" to describe the possibility of the adults being forced to betray them.
    • The facility's experimentation on Eleven's powers, which include psychokinetic abilities and mind-reading, is reminiscent of the Japanese government's experimentation on children with the Espers as seen in AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo; as shown with Terry Ives in Stranger Things and Lady Miyako in Akira, state-sponsored experimentation had been going on for decades on both works, and are both covered up by the government with extreme prejudice.
      • X-23 fans immediately noticed Eleven's background shares many similarities. Like X-23, Eleven is possibly the child of a woman involved with a top-secret government research project. Although in Eleven's case her suspected mother was a subject from the start, rather than one of the researchers. Both girls were raised from birth with the idea of using her abilities to create a Living Weapon, endured severe torture and abuse by their creators, were dehumanized by only giving them a number rather than a name, and are pursued by agents with no qualms against killing anyone in their way to recover them. They also share similar personalities in their lack of social skills, weirdness unsettling even their peers, and laconicness.
    • Many to John Carpenter's work (the soundtrack being close to his style) and especially The Thing (1982), with the poster being shown in one scene and Mr. Clarke watching the Norris-monster scene at one point. Also acts as foreshadowing for the Kill It with Fire solution for the monster, like The Thing.
    • When Will wins one of Dustin's comics in Episode 1, he asks for X-Men 134. This issue features Jean Grey using her telekinetic powers to unleash Dark Phoenix for the first time.
    • The name Mirkwood is straight out of The Hobbit, (not The Lord of the Rings).
    • There's a prominent film poster for The Dark Crystal.
    • Steve invites Nancy to go see All The Right Moves, with that guy from Risky Business. He then starts singing Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll," reenacting the famous scene from Risky Business.
    • Jonathan has a poster for The Evil Dead (1981) on his wall. His father tells him to pull it down as it is "inappropriate" with Will's death.
    • May not be intentional, but Jim Hopper was the name of the Green Beret leader in Predator that is killed offscreen by the titular alien.
    • Also may not be intentional, but when Nancy and Jonathan are investigating the woods, they come across a wounded deer, consider whether or not to Mercy Kill it, before it gets suddenly dragged away by the Demogorgon. The whole scene is remarkably similar to a scene from Until Dawn.
    • Whenever Eleven uses the deprivation tanks, the dimension she winds up in is very similar to the Eldritch Location in Under the Skin.
    • Jonathan's beatdown of Steve elicits "He's had enough, man!" from Tommy, similar to Bobby's line to Johnny in The Karate Kid. Even the inflection and way he says it are similar.
    • Yet another example that may be unintentional: the Upside-Down bears a strong resemblance to Dark Aether from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, particularly when intruding on our world. It may be no coincidence that the opening title of Stranger Things lingers on the letters "ING" for a while, the titular parallel-universe enemies of said game.
    • There are a lot of Dungeons & Dragons shout-outs in the series. The first few minutes of the first episode involve kids playing the game, fighting troglodytes before being attacked by Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons. Which is later used as a name for the extradimensional monster. In episode 5, we see them looking through a copy of the D&D Expert Rulebook, which is used to describe the Upside-Down by comparing it to "the Vale of Shadows", taking its name from a location in Icewind Dale and its description from the Shadowfell. Even Eleven's psionic powers can be taken as a reference to D&D's psionics.
    • A Stephen King book physically appears in the series, read by the state trooper guarding the morgue. We can only see it from the back, which has nothing but a giant author photo of King, but from Hopper's quip it's Cujo.
    • In the last episode of Season 1, Hopper can be seen reading Anne of Green Gables to his daughter in a flashback.
    • Several episodes frame the kids' relationship with Eleven in a way that's deliberately similar to Elliot's relationship with E.T. in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Mike lets her hide in his house from government agents, she rides on the back of his bicycle at one point, the kids disguise her with a dress and a blonde wig when they take her out in public, and she uses a radio to communicate with another world in one pivotal scene. The first episode even introduces Mike and his friends playing Dungeons and Dragons—the same way Elliot and his friends were introduced in E.T.
      • The scenes where the group is escaping on bikes looks like it's about to recreate the flying bikes scene from E.T.... until Eleven flips a van with her mind.
    • The episode "The Monster" climaxes with the kids walking off into the woods along a set of railroad tracks before being ambushed by a pair of bullies, one of whom threatens them with a switchblade. Note that the fourth episode is also titled "The Body", which was the name of the Stephen King story that was adapted into Stand by Me.
    • The Monster is a tall, lean humanoid with grey skin and a featureless face. It lives in a dark forest and snatches children. Sound familiar?
  • Sickening "Crunch!": Heard in episode 3 when Eleven kills a security guard via telekinetic Neck Snap. Again when she breaks Troy's arm at the quarry.
    • The closed-captioning makes frequent use of "squelch(ing/ed)".
  • Sinister Surveillance: Most of the houses close to Hawkins National Laboratory are illegally bugged, with a small group of analysts constantly listening in on the goings on. Makes sense, considering it is implied the NSA is working alongside the Department of Energy (and other agencies) in the operation of the experiments.
  • Slut-Shaming: Done to Nancy by Tommy and Carol, with the connivance, at least, of Steve, after Steve finds Nancy with Jonathan.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: In the first episode, Mike's mother tries to referee her kids around the dinner table while his father silently eats without helping. As the dinner disintegrates, the mother pointedly asks the father if he's enjoying the chicken.
  • Soft Water: Deputy Callahan brings it up when retelling a story from a local who claims to have taken a dive into the water at the bottom of the quarry from the top of the cliff on a bet. Chief Hopper immediately calls bullshit, informing Callahan that from that height he would've broken every single bone in his body upon hitting the water.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" is sometimes used to this effect, especially in episode 2 when Joyce finds it blaring from Jon's room shortly before the lights go out and the monster appears.
  • Spit Shake: Lucas and an unwilling Dustin demonstrate this to Eleven to teach her the meaning of an unbreakable promise.
  • Spotting the Thread: One reason why Hopper is a Reasonable Authority Figure — when he sees something amiss, he doesn't write it off as just a coincidence until he's investigated it fully.
  • Standard Snippet: In season 1 episode 3, "Holly, Jolly," the TV shows a clip of President Ronald Reagan saying "Today, Syria has become a home for sev-". A simple search reveals that to have come from his address to the nation on Lebanon and Grenada from October 27, 1983. Depending on the writers' attention to detail, this could be an exact date or a "close enough" bit of stock footage.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Dungeons & Dragons games the boys play are short on details, and have details a little off (such as referring to him as "the" Demogorgon) and glossing over roleplay elements like rewarding the quest. The boys also seem to think 10 hours is a full campaign, when long campaigns have been known to take decades in real life. Their behavior is consistent with young players, however.
  • Tap on the Head: Hopper knocks a state police officer out in two punches when investigating Will's body.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Take one look at the heat the bad guys brought for a bunch of twelve-year-olds. Possibly justified in that they initially try to stop Eleven with an absurd amount of manpower, and that proves completely inadequate. They then escalate to a much larger force, which also fails completely.
  • Those Two Guys: Officers Powell and Callahan rarely show up without the other.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Tommy and Carol are implied to have been the ones who pushed Steve from a decent guy with a bit of an attitude to an outright bully.
  • Troperiffic: As many reviews have indicated, this series is built on tropes from eighties movies and shows.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Eleven is really into Eggos.
  • True Companions: Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will, with Eleven being welcomed into the group first by Mike, then Dustin, and finally Lucas.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The show juggles the plotlines of Will's mother and brother, his friends, Nancy, and the town's sheriff before intertwining them all by the season one finale.
  • Tyke Bomb: Eleven is the daughter of an MKULTRA test subject. She inherited supernatural abilities from her mother and, among other things, is being used by Brenner to spy on and assassinate Russians, this being the Cold War era.
  • The Unfair Sex: Benny roughly grabs and threatens Eleven when he sees "him" stealing food, but his entire demeanor changes when he realizes that she's female. He even gives her free food.
    • Though it's possible that he changes his demeanor just because he got a better look at her state (covered in dirt, scared, and wearing a hospital gown).
  • Villainous Rescue: The Demogorgon arrives to attack the government goons, allowing the heroes to escape, at least for a short while.
  • Weapon Twirling: Steven twirls his bat while pounding on the Demogorgon.
  • Weirder Than Usual: Verbatim in episode 5, when Lucas asks Dustin if he thinks El is acting weird.
  • Why Don't You Marry It?: Quoted by Lucas in episode 3 when he gives Mike a bad time for his liking of Eleven.
  • Working the Same Case: Three distinct groups of people (the kids, the sheriff, and Nancy and Johnny) all run around independently trying to figure out what is going on until converging for the season one finale. Each group ends up ‘specializing’ in a certain area of the investigation. The kids do the most research into the science and idea of The Upside-Down, Nancy and Johnny are mostly dealing with understanding the Demogorgon, and Joyce and Hopper are largely dealing with Eleven's origins.
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