Stranger Things: 7 films that inspired the Netflix hit

By , on July 28, 2016

Netflix has yet another hit on its hands with the eight-part sci-fi series Stranger Things.

One of the big elements that has viewers of a certain age and disposition nodding approvingly is the host of '70s and '80s movie references The Duffer Brothers have managed to cram in.

If you've binge-watched your way through Stranger Things and fancy going back to the source, you can rent or buy these classic '80s films from iTunes, or many of the usual digital media store suspects. For those who never saw these films but loved Stranger Things, you're in for a curiously familiar treat.

Before we begin, we should list a SPOILER ALERT here if you haven't finished (or started) Stranger Things, as we'll be discussing specific scenes.

E.T. (1982)


Image: Universal

The biggest influence by far, Stranger Things contains whole scenes and characters that appear to be tributes to Spielberg's 1982 classic. Besides plenty of 'kids on chopper bikes' scenes and a general Spielbergian tone, the character of El very much fits the ET role. We have her otherworldly nature, naivety, love of pop culture, and telekinetic powers. There's even a 'dressing up' scene.

The Goonies (1985)


Image: Warner Bros.

Probably the second biggest reference point in Stranger Things is The Goonies. Again, there's the theme of a group of kids with troubled home lives going out on a dangerous adventure on their bikes. Plus, of course, the character of Dustin is a clear Chunk analogy, and if Barb isn't a direct nod to Stef from The Goonies we'll eat our trucker hats.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters

For another helping of that general vintage Spielberg vibe (see ET), we can include Close Encounter of the Third Kind on this list. But the reference goes beyond that. Winona Ryder's hysterical parent frantically searching for a child who has disappeared in supernatural circumstances will have a familiar feel to anyone who's seen Spielberg's 1977 film.

Stand by Me (1986)

Stand by Me

Image: Columbia Pictures

The focus in Stranger Things on a cast of four young boys with distinct personalities, who bicker as much as they get on, has strong parallels with Rob Reiner's Stand by Me. As Rob Reiner did with that film, The Duffer Brothers cast their kids carefully, and in many cases wrote to the young actors' personalities. Plus there's the railway track-walking scene, which is a clear nod to the iconic Stand by Me scene.

The Thing (1982)

The Thing


Stranger Things isn't all about childhood adventure and chopper bikes, of course. It's also got a healthy dollop of horror, as the next four references will attest. For its icky body horror and John Carpenter's unmistakable synth soundtrack work, it's clear to see the influence of 1982's The Thing remake on the Netflix series. Heck, the film itself makes a cameo appearance in one of the later episodes.

Alien (1979)


Grim government agents meddling with powers they don't understand, men in suits exploring hostile alien environments, giant eggs spawning creatures that appear to impregnate human hosts with wriggly horrors, a scarcely seen Giger-inspired creature... yep, The Duffer Brothers watched Alien alright.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Nightmare on Elm Street

The bladed fingers of Wes Craven's 1984 horror film can be seen all over Stranger Things. There's the dangerous other-world that our heroine can access through sensory deprivation (in the movie it's sleep), while the scenes of an unspeakable monster stretching through the walls of a suburban home are distinctly Krueger-esque.