If, like us, you’ve binged on the excellent, ’80s-influenced sci-fi/horror nostalgia trip Stranger Things, you’ll be aware that it references almost all the movies that made up your childhood. The series centres on a town where supernatural forces are causing people to go missing, and it manages to hit parts of your brain that won’t have been reached since you saw E.T. for the first time. Some of the parallels drawn by writer/directors the Duffer Brothers are obvious as anything, but some are more covert. To keep things as spoiler-free as possible, here are all the ones we spotted in the first four episodes.
1. E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial
Ok, so Eleven isn’t an alien, but she’s taken in by a group of kids and hidden from their parents and the authorities. She has special powers and she has to wear a wig for a disguise at one point. Then there’s the forest that surrounds the town of Hawkins – and the bikes! It’s very E.T.
2. The Goonies
Look at our central group: they’re preteen kids on an adventure, they’re pretty nerdy, and one of them does a weird thing with his body (clicking his arm joints) on request – a bit like the truffle shuffle. They’re the Goonies.
3. John Carpenter
It’s less his horror style, as on Halloween and more his music composition for films that influences Stranger Things: atmospheric electronic stuff that transports you straight into this magical ’80s world. Stranger Things‘ music is done by a duo called S U R V I V E – click to hear more.
4. Stand By Me
Four kids go through a forest and find a dead body in this coming-of-age film, and there’s a scene where that (sort of) happens in Stranger Things too. There’s another scene in the fifth episode where they walk along a train track line, as in Stand By Me, and – fun fact – at the casting of the kids in the show, they had to run lines from Stand By Me.
The film based on Stephen King’s novel depicted a girl who could start fires with her mind. Elle sort of does this at one point with a radio, but it’s the nosebleeds that really connect her to Firestarter’s Charlene and her telepathic parents Andy and Vicky.
6. John Hughes
It’s not all horror. Before the teenagers’ storyline gets as brutal as the kids’ and Joyce’s, Nancy, Steve and their friends recall the atmosphere of Hughes’ teen worlds in this all-American ’80s high school.
Millie Bobby Brown, the 12-year-old British actor who plays Eleven, said the kids were all asked to watch The Goonies, Stand By Me and Poltergeist to prepare for filming. Like in Poltergeist, the abducted Will can be heard by his mother Joyce through the walls of the house – and in episode one of the show, Joyce presents Will with tickets to ‘Tobe Hooper’s suburban story’. Hooper is the director of Poltergeist, which in the show’s setting (1983) had come out the year before.
8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Winona Ryder’s Joyce is a single mother whose son is abducted and becomes obsessed with uncovering the supernatural forces behind her son’s disappearance; she’s helped by Sheriff Hopper. Quite like the relationship between Jillian and Roy in Close Encounters, no?
What does the monster look like, exactly? You don’t get much of a look-in during the first few episodes, but it’s got the same long spindly limbs that made Alien so terrifying. Then there’s the description of its facelessness – a bit like the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth.
10. Parks & Recreation
Not an ’80s reference, but it has to be noted: Steve and Parks & Rec’s Jean-Ralphio are basically the same person.
— Theodora (@TheodoraG13) July 19, 2016
I'm really enjoying Stranger Things. It's providing such an interesting insight into Jean-Ralphio's childhood pic.twitter.com/U8vsuaxjIc
— Katie (@Katie_Rennie) July 19, 2016