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08/01/2016 12:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Every Major 80's Movie Homage in Netflix's Stranger Things

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This Post originally appeared on the blog ScreenCraft. ScreenCraft is dedicated to helping screenwriters and filmmakers succeed through educational events, screenwriting competitions and the annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship program, connecting screenwriters with agents, managers and Hollywood producers. Follow ScreenCraft on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Netflix’s acclaimed Stranger Things is the ultimate amalgam of everything we love from 80’s movies, mixed with some outstanding acting, directing, producing, and suspenseful writing.

In honor of this amazing show that has captured the hearts of all who love the 80’s, we detail each and every major homage to 80’s cinema that the series makes throughout its eight episode run of the first season. And yes, the creators have confirmed that they plan on producing multiple seasons, so this is hopefully just the beginning.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


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Stranger Things does manage to showcase some direct homages to one of the greatest sequels of all time.

Homages

  • Characters in Stranger Things mention a “Lando” analogy while referencing another character.
  • A Millennium Falcon toy is featured
  • A Yoda action figure is featured
  • Mention of Eleven’s “Jedi-like” powers

Altered States (1980)

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This underrated sci-fi film told the story of a Harvard scientist that conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically.

Homages

  • A character using an isolation chamber

Scanners (1981)

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This David Cronenberg sci-fi classic about a scientist sending a man with extraordinary psychic powers to hunt others like him mirrors what the Stranger Things character Eleven is up against.

Homages

  • Characters with special powers
  • Characters with special powers being pursued by government agents
  • The idea of government experimentation with psychic and telekinetic powers
  • Many shots in the series of the character Eleven taking out armed guards and agents with her powers mirror those found in Scanners

The Evil Dead (1981)

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This classic horror comedy that launched the career of Sam Raimi isn’t as featured as the other movies mentioned, but there is a direct homage.

Homage

  • Poster in a bedroom of The Evil Dead movie

E.T. (1982)

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Stranger Things perhaps homages this beloved classic most. It’s the story of a troubled child that summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home-world.

Homages

  • Kids on dirt bikes riding through suburbia and into the wilderness
  • Kids trying to escape government authorities on their bikes
  • Kids keeping secrets from their parents while hiding a life form with powers that is unfamiliar with day-to-day life
  • That strange life form exploring the house while everyone is gone
  • That strange life form wearing a blonde wig
  • Kids playing Dungeons & Dragons
  • Kids swearing and talking more like adults than children
  • Strange government figures in hazmat suits
  • A younger sister always in the background with cute reactions to what is going on around her
  • A divorced mother to the main characters
  • Kids on a quest
  • The extensive usage of flashlights -- and flashlight beams -- in the darkness
  • Many shots in the series mirror the lighting and framing found in E.T.

Poltergeist (1982)

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Stranger Things is highly influenced by some elements found in this classic about a family’s home that is haunted by ghosts.

Homages

  • A child lost in another dimension that is somehow connected to their home
  • A mother (and family) that communicates with their child that is lost in another dimension
  • A direct homage is made in Stranger Things where Joyce, the mother, buys tickets to Poltergeist for her son Will.

Videodrome (1983)

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This cult classic from David Cronenberg tells the story of a sleazy cable-TV programmer that begins to see his life and the future of media spin out of control in a very unusual fashion when he acquires a new kind of programming for his station.

Homages

  • A shot of a surface -- a television screen in the case of Videodrome -- distending as a nightmarish figure tries to enter their world

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The horror classic about teenagers being hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams figures prominently throughout the series.

Homages

  • Characters trying to coax a nightmarish figure into their world
  • Characters setting traps around a house for a nightmarish figure that is about to enter their world
  • Boyfriends climbing through the window of the lead female character’s bedroom
  • Teen sexual angst
  • Group of teenage characters with different backgrounds and temperaments
  • A shot of a wall distending as a nightmarish figure tries to enter their world

Firestarter (1984)

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This film -- about a couple who participated in a potent medical experiment gain telekinetic ability and then have a child who is pyrokinetic -- is a major influence on one specific character of the series, Eleven.

Homages

  • A young girl with special powers
  • A young girl with special powers that is being pursued by government agents
  • A young girl with special powers that uses her powers against those that want to harm her
  • The idea of government experimentation with psychic and telekinetic powers

The Goonies (1985)

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This classic is another major influencer of the series. It tells the story of a group of misfits set out to find a pirate’s ancient valuable treasure in order to save their homes from foreclosure.

Homages

  • Kids on dirt bikes riding through suburbia and into the wilderness
  • The comradery between friends that are coming-of-age
  • Kids swearing and talking more like adults than children
  • Kids fighting and confronting each other amidst the drama of the situation at hand
  • Kids on a quest
  • Kids dealing with bullies

The Explorers (1985)

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This underrated 80s flick starred a young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, telling the story of three youths that come together, driven by a scientific discovery which has lead to them having the same dream that unlocks secrets to space travel. Together they venture into the stars and discover something beyond their wildest imagination.

Homages

  • Kids on dirt bikes riding through suburbia and into the wilderness
  • The comradery between friends that are coming-of-age
  • Kids swearing and talking more like adults than children
  • Kids on a quest
  • Kids facing alien life forms
  • Kids keeping secrets from their parents as they embark on an adventure

Stand By Me (1986)

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The series homages this 80s movie, which is based on Stephen King’s novella The Body about a writer recounting a boyhood journey to find the body of a missing boy, extensively.

Homages

  • Kids swearing and talking more like adults than children
  • The comradery between friends that are coming-of-age
  • A kid that is clearly influenced by their father’s military service
  • Kids gathering supplies for an adventure
  • A kid, who is more portly than the others, bringing otherwise unnecessary supplies for an adventure
  • Kids going on an adventure which takes them onto a railroad track
  • Kids fighting and confronting each other amidst the drama of the situation at hand
  • Kids on a quest
  • Many shots in the series mirror the lighting and framing found in Stand By Me, including a direct homage shot to four of the characters walking in pairs on the railroad tracks having different discussions.

Alien (1979) & Aliens (1986)

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So technically the first Alien movie debuted in 1979. However, it resonated through the 80’s thanks to its own merit -- as well as VHS and cable airings -- and that of the amazing sequel, Aliens, directed by James Cameron.

Homages

  • An alien that leaves residue that characters have to push themselves through
  • An alien that impregnates victims using “face-huggers”
  • An alien that keeps its victims encased in cocoons and residue
  • An alien creature design inspired or directly influenced from the works of H.R. Giger
  • Alien egg pods
  • The extensive usage of flashlights in the dark
  • Helmets of protective suits that are lit from within so the characters’ faces can be seen

Pretty in Pink (1986)

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This John Hughes-produced -- and written -- 80’s classic about a poor girl that must choose between the affections of her doting childhood sweetheart and a rich but sensitive playboy mirrors the teenage storyline in Stranger Things.

Homages

  • Teen sexual angst
  • Group of teenage characters with different backgrounds and temperaments
  • A teenage girl with an “uncool” friend that is introduced to the world of popular teenagers
  • A teenage girl that pays less attention to her “uncool” friend and more attention to her rich new popular boyfriend
  • A rich and popular boyfriend that struggles between being nice and trying to be “cool”
  • The rich and popular boyfriend’s best friend is a jerk that makes fun of him and the “uncool” teenage girl he’s dating
  • Ironically, the teenage girl’s “uncool” friend dresses in pink, is a red head, and looks much like Molly Ringwald’s character did in Pretty in Pink

Stephen King Novels

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Many of his books and stories were adapted into 80’s movies like Firestarter, Christine, Stand By Me, The Dead Zone, etc. We’ve featured some of those above. In this case, there is a specific homage worth mentioning.

Homages

  • The creators of Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers, mentioned that the title sequence (watch below) was influenced by Stephen King paperback novel covers that were prevalent in the 1980s.

John Carpenter Movies

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John Carpenter rules genre filmmaking in the 80s, with sci-fi, horror, and action flicks like Escape From New York, The Thing, They Live, Prince of Darkness, and Christine.

Homages

  • A direct homage featuring a poster of The Thing in a bedroom
  • Simple musical score often using synthesizers to create taut hypnotic tension. This is most evident in the aforementioned Stranger Things title sequence. John Carpenter’s scores in his movies are iconic and the Duffer brothers clearly homaged them in the series episodes and in the title sequence

These are only the major homages. There are surely many, many more throughout each episode of the series, which makes binge-watching it all the more fun.

Check out this clever side-by-side comparison video, which showcases many of the visual homages found throughout the series.

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