Netflix's new original series Stranger Things is quickly gaining a large fanbase thanks to an '80s throwback aesthetic and story that pays homage to many different films, books, and ideas from that bodacious decade. Stranger Things is essentially a mix tape, like a Quentin Tarantino movie, and the callbacks—intentional or not—are seemingly endless.
Fans of Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment especially, but also of John Carpenter, Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro, Stephen King, and J.R.R. Tolkien will be able to spot dozens of easter eggs and references on the Netflix show that look familiar. Here's a breakdown of all the callbacks I recognized. I'm sure I'm missing some so comment below with what I missed.
**Spoilers ahead for Stranger Things.**
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial - Steven Spielberg's seminal film about a little boy who finds an alien in his backyard is the major inspiration for the main Stranger Things storyline. The show begins with kids playing Dungeons and Dragons, just like in E.T.. The main character, Mike Wheeler, is an Elliott surrogate. He finds a strange girl, who acts like an alien, in the woods, just as Elliott finds E.T.. Mike takes the girl home and hides her, just as Elliott does with his new alien buddy. (Mike and his friends even dress her up in a blonde wig and normal clothes.) The kids all ride bikes at night; scary guys in Hazmat suits appear; and Stranger Things also features an '80s Coke commercial ("Coke is it!") that appears in E.T..
2. Poltergeist - The Tobe Hooper movie is mentioned directly, a righteous thing since a big portion of the supernatural storyline (which I won't ruin) is lifted from the 1982 film.
3. The Goonies - The idea of kids having their own adventure without their parents' consent or knowledge reeks of The Goonies (and movies like Stand By Me). Plus, there's a direct reference to the Truffle Shuffle when the bully at school tells Dustin to "do the thing" and gross everyone out by cracking his shoulder.
4. Jaws - Hopper is a big city cop working in the suburbs just like Brody in Jaws. There's also a scene where he must sit down and do a missing person report and, the way the scene is staged echoes Brody writing a similar report in Spielberg's film.
5. The Evil Dead - A poster for the Sam Raimi horror classic appears in one of the boy's rooms. There's also a scene where a swinging bench rattles against a house like in The Evil Dead.
6. The Thing - A poster for the John Carpenter film is seen in Mike's basement. It also appears on TV in a scene.
7. The Frighteners - The Peter Jackson film is referenced via the monster who pushes and stretches against the wall threatening to break through.
8. Title Credits - The music in the Stranger Things opening credits is a direct reference to John Carpenter's famous Halloween score. You can also thank '80s films like Risky Business, Blade Runner, and Sixteen Candles for the synth-pop and music programming sensibilities of composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.
9. Title Font - If the credits for Stranger Things seem familiar, it's because you've probably seen the style before. The font is the same one used for '80s era Stephen King novels like the similarly-titled, Needful Things. King fans will also find the plot of Stranger Things very similar to It.
10. Comic books - X-Men #134 is referenced a couple of times in the pilot episode and its not insignificant. The issue features the first appearance of Dark Phoenix, Jean Grey's dangerous alter ego once she's tapped into her full array of powers. The reference foreshadows Eleven's story and how she slowly harnesses her own powers.
11. J.R.R. Tolkien's World - There are a few Hobbit references in Stranger Things. "Mirkwood" is the nickname of a local street intersection. And Will Byers uses "Radagast" as the password to his clubhouse.
12. Guillermo Del Toro's World - The faceless monster seems lifted from Del Toro's notebook. It looks like the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth and feels like Del Toro's aesthetic in general.
13. Toys from the '80s - Look closely at what's out of focus or in the background on Stranger Things and you'll find cool old toys and school supplies like Trapper Keepers.
14. Film Trope #1 - Mike's older sister, Nancy, is an unpopular girl who gains the attention of a popular boy at school, mirroring John Hughes films like Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Some Kind of Wonderful and Weird Science (genders reversed for the last two).
15. Film Trope #2 - Nancy's popular boyfriend, Steve, is an amalgamation of all those tubular '80s dudes who love hair spray. He looks like Hardy Jenns or Joan Cusack in Working Girl, and he throws a party at his house while his parents are away like Joel in Risky Business or Gary and Wyatt in Weird Science.
16. Film Trope #3 - A government agency conducts shady experiments that result in a child with enhanced abilities/powers (A.I., Firestarter, Akira, D.A.R.Y.L.).
17. Film Trope #4 - The psychic/superpower nosebleed: El's nose bleeds after she uses her powers, suggesting a degenerative effect similar to those seen in Scanners, Heroes (TV), Firestarter, Chronicle, The Fifth Element and many others.
18. Film Trope #5 - Speaking to a loved one via antiquated communication across time or dimensions. On Stranger Things, Joyce talks to Will by stringing Christmas lights along an alphabet so he can choose letters to speak to her from wherever he is. We've seen this recently, in The Martian last year. But the trope also appears in Poltergeist, Interstellar, and others.
19. The Actors - Stranger Things' stars Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine were two of the brightest young stars of the '80s. Their castings alone are callbacks to the decade.
Catch the first season of Stranger Things on Netflix now. Oh, I almost forgot: