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Shout Out / Stranger Things

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As a series deliberately designed to be a throwback to The '80s, Stranger Things is positively brimming with references to works from that decade.

  • The Terminator:
    • A marquee and a TV commercial for the first film appear in the season two premiere. The advertisement for The Terminator is the real one, not a mash-up made by the producers. Shown Their Work indeed!
    • The Russian hitman Grigori in Season 3 greatly resembles the original Terminator, having villainous sculpted features, short brushed-up hair, fingerless gloves and a denim jacket (instead of leather) giving him a similar silhouette, and being a large man who frequently hip-fires an assault rifle on full auto. He's even jokingly called "Arnold Schwarzenegger" once. For added measure, his actor bears a slight resemblance to Robert Patrick, who played The T-1000.
  • Stephen King:
    • The font used for the title — ITC Benguiat, if you're wondering — has a long, proud history of being used for his novels. Considering the writers' stated influence from Mr. King himself, this is probably not a coincidence.
    • One of his books 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.
    • When Becky Ives recounts Eleven's backstory, it's basically Firestarter. She then lampshades this by asking, "Ever read any Stephen King?" The movie adaptation makes use of Psychic Nosebleed, just as Stranger Things does.
    • One analysis compares Eleven's arrival to that of puberty and maturity for the boys. The video also notes that Eleven bleeds frequently, and the blood is a source of horror and fear, much like Carrie. There's even a school dance.
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    • 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. All of this has parallels in Stand by Me, based on Stephen King's short story "The Body." Episode four is also called "The Body."
    • While under the influence of the Mind Flayer, Billy stops the Party from escaping from the mall by removing part of their vehicle's ignition system. This is the same tactic Jack Torrance, while under the influence of the hotel and its ghosts, uses to prevent Wendy and Danny from escaping the hotel in The Shining.
    • According to Dacre Montgomery, his performance as Billy is inspired by both Kiefer Sutherland 's performance as Ace in Stand by Me and Jack Nicholson in The Shining and other roles.
    • The scene where Billy reveals himself at the mall, his headlights flaring up out of the dark, is almost exactly shot like a similar scene in the film version of Christine.
    • It
      • In the pilot, Joyce alludes to her son Will having a fear of clowns. In a series heavily influenced by Stephen King, the allusion to Pennywise is hard to miss.
      • Bob's anecdote about "Mr. Baldo", which he offers as advice — after being frightened at the fair by a strange clown offering him a balloon, he had nightmares about Baldo for months until he finally took charge of his fears and, in doing so, conquered them, driving the clown away. Will's monster, however, does not work on the same rules as Pennywise.
      • In the mobile game, each of the dungeons has a set of five collectibles that can be found throughout the map (smoke detectors in the lab, overdue books in the library, etc.). What is the collectible in the sewer dungeon? Balloons. Looks like the gang has a lot more to worry about down there than the Demogorgon...
    • The rats in Season 3 are reminiscent of the ones that have appeared in King's work (including his essay "The Ten Bears," which discusses things that make many people squirm, particularly rats). "Graveyard Shift" and Salem’s Lot both featured rats as part of the horror.
    • Person turning to alien goo? "Grey Matter," from the collection Night Shift.
  • Steven Spielberg:
    • 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.
    • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
      • Several episodes frame the kids' relationship with Eleven in a way that's deliberately similar to Elliot's relationship with E.T. Mike lets her hide in his house from government agents, he shows her his Star Wars action figures, she hides from his mom in the closet, she reveals her powers of telekinesis, 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.
      • In the second season, Eleven wants to go out trick-or-treating disguised as a ghost, figuring no one will recognize her. This works for ET, but Hopper denies Eleven the opportunity to even try something that risky.
      • In the second season, Will mentions that his favorite candy is Reese's Pieces, which factor heavily into E.T. Dustin's relationship with Dart is also largely built around feeding it candy.
    • Jaws
      • A Jaws poster can be seen hanging on a wall in the beginning of Episode 3.
      • Hopper's police vehicle is painted identically to Chief Brody's car.
    • Jurassic Park
      • Bob having to restore the power to Hawkins Lab via resetting the circuit breakers is a subtle parallel to an identical scene. He is even guided on the radio by another character, just like in the film. Sadly though he succeeds in his mission, he doesn't make it.
      • There's scene in Season 3 where the monster is seen in a rearview mirror labeled with OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.
    • Nancy and Jonathan sitting in separate rooms while talking to themselves in an irritated manner in regards to their feelings for one another is based on the similar scene between Jones and Willie in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which came out in the same year as season 2 takes place.
    • During the third season, Dustin, having gotten Erica to watch the drugged Steve and Robin in a theater watching Back to the Future, makes a frantic call to Mike's group over walkie-talkie. Not only does the pacing and reveals of this scene mimic the film, the backing score is used in a diegetic manner to emphasize the tension. This ends with Steve and Robin, still drugged, trying to make heads or tails of Marty's romance with his mother.
  • John Carpenter:
    • The poster for The Thing (1982) hangs on Mike's wall 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.
    • The bass-heavy 'getting shit done' song from "The Lost Sister" is a track from the Escape From New York soundtrack that went unused in the final film.
    • On Halloween, Max dresses as Michael Myers.
    • In the beginning of the second episode in season 2, we see Hopper making breakfast. When he turns around, he's startled to see Eleven dressed as a Bedsheet Ghost, accompanied by a Scare Chord. This scene mirrors the famous scene in the original Halloween when Michael Myers disguises himself as a bed sheet ghost to kill a woman while she's in the kitchen with her back turned.
  • Season 3 has the kids sneaking into a screening of George Romero's Day of the Dead (1985). In a case of Life Imitates Art, most of the town is soon taken over and they become undead-like creatures.
  • Star Wars:
    • 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 opening scene of season 3 ends with Grigori picking up the lead Russian scientist by the throat and throttling him, and there's a shot of the man's boots dangling in the air, just like in the scene where Darth Vader chokes Captain Antilles.
    • Steve and Dustin have a mock lightsaber duel in the ice-cream parlor in season 3.
  • Ghostbusters (1984):
    • The four boys dress as the Ghostbusters on Halloween, and the theme song is heard.
    • Dustin's prop ghost trap is used to hold a creature from another dimension, just like its cinematic counterpart.
  • Kali's cell of punk rebels is nod to The Invisibles, where the protagonists form a similar cell. El also has to make a choice whether or not to embrace their violent ways, just like Jack Frost does in the comic book. That the shout-out is intentional is confirmed when we see the words "King Mob", "O'Bedlam", and "Barbelith" sprayed on the walls of Kali's gang's hideout, all three of which are important names in The Invisibles. Also, at one point, Kali uses her power so the cops won't see them, making the gang literally "the invisibles".
  • 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.
  • Alien:
    • The Demogorgon's whole shtick of being an unstoppable alien hunter, its lifecycle, and its grotesque eyeless face all recall the titular xenomorph.
    • The end of 2x06, "The Spy", contains a nearly direct lift from a scene in Aliens where the Colonial Marines venture into the atmosphere processing facility, with multiple red dots converging on their position as seen through a radar scanner like in the movie. Except it goes even less well for the soldiers in question. To boot, both scenes feature Paul Reiser watching them over a body-mounted camera.
    • Also, the scene where the Hawkins scientists are interrogating Will. Reiser taps on the monitor and turns it off, like his character Burke doing the same in Aliens.
    • Owens is an inversion of Burke, one of Paul Reiser's most famous characters. Burke seems like an "okay guy" at first, but turns out to be a monster. Owens seems like a villain, but is revealed to be a good man willing to sacrifice himself to help others. Both have the same slightly-smarmy charm that Paul Reiser does so well, making you want to like and trust them while simultaneously waiting for the other shoe to drop, making the inversion that much more effective.
    • Eleven's short, curly hairstyle throughout much of season two seems to deliberately recall that of Ellen Ripley in the first two Alien films. For bonus points, both Ripley (in Alien³) and Eleven (in season one) have also sported shaved heads.
  • Joyce's first season haircut was inspired by Meryl Streep 's hair in Silkwood.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien:
    • The name Mirkwood is straight out of The Hobbit (not The Lord of the Rings).
    • Weathertop from season 3 is from The Lord of the Rings.
    • The password for Will's fort in the woods is "Radagast", after Radagast the Brown, one of the Istari.
    • "Like 'Riddles in the Dark'."
    • A character played by Sean Astin rescues someone from a cave who has had their whole body bound.
  • 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. In the second season, Steve and Nancy's Halloween costumes are 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.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 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. The final Dungeons and Dragons game directly reuses several phrases from the game in the first episode, and is the same absurd length (10 hours). Also, Will notes that the Demogorgon got him in the first episode. The Monster did so too here.
    • 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. It's been noted too that the 4 kids are basically character archetypes from a D&D campaign.
    • Season 2 has several more references. At several points, they refer to Will's "now memories" as True Sight, a D&D spell. And the Eldritch Abomination from the teaser trailer is eventually referred to as a Mind Flayer. This confuses basically everyone but the four boys. In Dungeons and Dragons, Mind Flayers, or illithids, are known for enslaving other races with their mind control, which would seem to be a point in the favor of the theory that the Demogorgon/demodogs might not be inherently evil. Better yet, Mind Flayers live, along with others, in massive underground catacombs called the Underdark.
    • In Season 3, we see Will GMing a campaign involving the party fighting zombies foreshadowing the Mindflayer's Flayed, who act zombielike while being puppeteered. It also features Will dressed in full Wizard attire as he does so.
  • In the last episode of Season 1, Hopper can be seen reading Anne of Green Gables to his daughter in a flashback.
  • In episode 2x01, the guys are seen playing Dragon's Lair, with Dustin mentioning he has (or had) the record on Centipede and Dig Dug.
  • Dustin's turtle is named Yertle.
  • Neil Hargrove bears some similarities to David Madsen, down to the personality and mustache.
  • Dustin names the Pollywog d'Artagnan after his favorite candy bar, 3 Musketeers.
    • Not to mention bringing home a creature that hates bright light, and eventually changes into something much more dangerous? Gremlins.
  • Dracula (1931): Bob dresses as Bela Lugosi's Dracula on Halloween.
  • The Byers family watches Mr. Mom on movie night, which Bob finds hysterical while the rest of the family appears disinterested.
  • Bob, a character played by Sean Astin, at one point jokingly asks if Joyce, Will, and Mike are searching for pirate treasure.
  • Mad Max: Max signs her arcade scores as "MADMAX." She's referred to as "Road Warrior" once.
  • The Duffer brothers were inspired by Elfen Lied, lifting several plot elements from the anime, including a girl with telekinetic powers escaped from a secret lab who refers to a father figure as "Papa."
  • Jim Hopper shares his name with a Green Beret leader that was killed offscreen in Predator
  • In episode 1x07 the boys say to meet at the corner of "Elm and Cherry". Which would mean there is an Elm Street in Hawkins (or possibly Elm Road or such). It is probably not a coincidence that moments later the boys pass by two young girls singing a rhyme.
  • Bob telling the story about standing up to his Monster Clown in his nightmares references Xander doing the same thing when nightmares became real. He even tells the clown that "Your balloon animals suck."
  • Billy being a sexy lifeguard that the housewives can't stop ogling is a gender-flipped take on The Sandlot. Billy's co-lifeguard Heather dresses exactly like Wendy in the same film.
  • Season 3 is basically if Fast Times at Ridgemont High were also a super-natural thriller —
    • The montage introducing Starcourt Mall is a direct homage to the opening of Fast Times, complete with kids flirting as they cross on the escalators.
    • The Cars' "Moving in Stereo" plays while Billy Hargrove walks out onto the pool deck and is ogled by Karen Wheeler and the ladies in a gender-reversed version of Phoebe Cates’ famous poolside bikini-top-pop.
    • Dustin calls Suzie better looking that Phoebe Cates
    • The sailor outfits Steve and Robin mimic the pirate outfit Brad wears from Fast Times.
    • In the Season 3 finale, Steve bumps into a cutout display of Fast Times at Ridgemont High depicting Phoebe Cates in her famous red bikini. Steve recognizes her and adds the film to his "favorites" list.
  • When Robin gets the mall blueprints, she explains, “It’s fascinating what 20 bucks will get you at the county recorder’s office. This is almost a direct quote from Sneakers.
  • When El goes for a sleepover at Max's house Max introduces her to Wonder Woman.
  • As the heroes split off into three teams, to be coordinated by Dustin over walkie-talkie, Mike's group taking El to the safety of Murray's home get called The Griswalds in part due to driving an ugly-looking station wagon.
  • In the final episode of Season 3, Dustin and his girlfriend Suzie sing the theme song of The Neverending Story together.
  • An exchange between Hopper and the Russian goon greatly resembles one between John McClane and one of the villains in Die Hard. ("You won't shoot me. You're a policeman. There are rules for policemen.")
  • Teenagers fighting a Russian invasion? Red Dawn, which is referenced in Season 3.
  • A red, gory, gelatinous blob that eats and gets bigger? The Blob, more so the 1980s version than the 1950s version.
  • The premise behind season one's plot, two escapees from a secret lab, one a dangerous monster, the other a friendly and with extraordinary capabilities is pretty much the same as the Dean Koontz book Watchers.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: "Daisy" played in a minor key and with weird, dwindling electronics is the tune that HAL plays as it's dying, and in Hawkins it's the soundtrack to the Russian broadcast.
  • Robin lists her favorite films as The Apartment, The Hidden Fortress and Children of Paradise.


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