‘Stranger Things’: Five Forgotten Video Shop Classics To Fill That Hole In Your Life

Stranger Things is, of course, coming back for a second series, but not until next year. And that’s a mighty long time to wait for your next hit of childhood adventure movie nostalgia. While creators the Duffer brothers wore influences ranging from ET to Alien and The Goonies on their sleeves, the eight-episode series also recalled many of the lesser-rented titles at your local Variety Video, circa 1988. If you’re hankering for another fix of kooky kids, evil authorities, portals to other worlds and blarping synthesisers, you could do worse than check out these five films…

D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)

The premise: An ’80s twist on the story of Pinocchio, D.A.R.Y.L. – or Data Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform, to give him his full name – is a hyper-intelligent, super-powered android who just wants to be a regular 10-year-old boy. The problem? The people who made him have deemed him a failed experiment and want him sent to the scrappers.
How it scratches your Stranger Things itch: A child protagonist (Barrett Oliver as the all-American AI kid), sinister government agencies out to get him, and a kick-ass synth soundtrack.

Flight Of The Navigator (1986)

The premise: 12-year-old David is knocked out in 1978 and wakes up in 1986, having aged not a day. Turns out the sentient robotic controller of an alien spaceship, Max – voiced by none other than Pee Wee Herman – used his brain as a hard drive to store maps and plans and took him on a faster-than-the-speed-of-light trip to its home planet, Phaelon. Now, Max needs the plans to get home again, and wants David as his navigator.
How it scratches your Stranger Things itch: Malevolent government forces, kooky aliens, brainwave-analysing shower caps and a kid getting into a scrape that’s far too big for him to handle.

The Gate (1987)

The premise: Two boys find a hole in the garden. It’s a portal. Demons come out of it. Shit gets real.
How it scratches your Stranger Things itch: Creepy creatures, child protagonists and a whopping great portal – the go-to ’80s plot device that let the suburban meet the supernatural.

Paperhouse (1988)

The premise: In the throes of glandular fever, 11-year-old Anna finds herself dreaming she’s visiting the house she drew on a sheet of paper. Nightmare and reality soon blur, and the more she draws, the darker things get in this properly chilling British film.
How it scratches your Stranger Things itch: A young girl with weird powers, a boy trapped in an alternate universe, a monster out to get them both and a synthy soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.

Escape To Witch Mountain (1975)

The premise: Tony can move objects around with his mind. Tia, his sister, can mind read, talk to animals and see into the future. Evil millionaire Aristotle Bolt wants to get his hands on the orphan twins, and pursues them across the country on an adventure that reveals their true origins.
How it scratches your Stranger Things itch: Orphans, mind powers, a quest to find out their origins and, well, just watch the playground bully-shaming scene below…