‘Stranger Things’: Is It All Just About The 80s References?

When Netflix dropped its latest original series, Stranger Things, on July 15, it became an instant success. Children loved it because it was scary, but not gory enough that their parents wouldn’t allow them to watch it. Adults, in turn, loved it for the 80s references. And, boy, aren’t there a lot of them. So, if Stranger Things wasn’t set in the 80s, would it be as successful?

Netflix's Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 1. Joyce Byers on the phone [Image via Netflix]Part of the attraction of watching Stranger Things as someone who lived through the 80s is not only laughing at the 80s decor but picking out all the 80s movies references. Already, there is a plethora of articles listing all the movie references. Vulture probably has the most comprehensive movies reference article. Yet, if you read through the comments below that article, you realize pretty quickly that referencing the movies drawn on for inspiration in Stranger Things is no easy feat. It is also probably never going to be complete unless the Duffy brothers (who produced Stranger Things) release their concise list of movie references. Even still, a lot of what makes Stranger Things great is not only the movie references but the homage to the 80s, so there are moments throughout the series when you are reminded of movies from the 80s yet can’t quite put your finger on the movie, merely because the Duffy brothers have put their finger on the pulse of the 80s rather than using a direct reference from an 80s movie.

Netflix's Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 2 Hazmat suits [Image via Netflix]However, for those of you who are desperate to check out the 80s references, here is a list of some of the more obvious movie references.

  • E.T. This appears to be the greatest influence for Stranger Things. Between the Hazmat suits and Mike’s younger sister channeling Drew Barrymore, these are just starting points for this iconic movie from the 80s.
  • The Goonies. The series centers around a group of boys. If they are not channeling The Goonies, they are walking along train lines just like in Stephen King’s Stand By Me.
  • Alien. While Alien was more geared towards adults in the 80s, Stranger Things brings many elements from this horror franchise to the series.
  • Poltergeist. Another classic 80s movie that Stranger Things not only channels but also has the characters directly reference.
  • Stephen King. Besides Stand By Me, Stephen King’s The Firestarter could also be listed as a reference point for Stranger Things.

Of course, this is just a small list. Stranger Things also draws on other iconic 80s movies such as A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Manhattan Project, The Fog, Jaws, and many, many more. Plus, we can’t forget that all of the high school scenes seem to be a direct homage to movies such as The Breakfast Club and Valley Girl. As well as the fact Stranger Things feels like it is directly channeling Steven Spielberg.

Netflix's Stranger Things Season 1 Episode 2 High School teens judging [Image via Netflix]But, if Stranger Things were not set in the 80s, could it still be as popular? It’s hard to say, after all, the 80s obviously inspired the series and the culture is so imbibed in the show that it is hard to image Stranger Things as being anything else but set in the 80s. Essentially, though, it would be a series about a boy who goes missing. Would it work in the 90s, or the present day? Perhaps it would. But, would it then make it just like all the other law enforcement shows currently available? Once again, it’s really hard to say.

As yet, Netflix has not made an official statement in regard to Stranger Things returning for Season 2. However, the Duffy brothers and Shawn Levy (executive producer) already have plotted out a second season at least, leading many fans to think Season 2 has already been confirmed. When interviewed by /Film, Levy had this to say about whether he and the Duffy brothers wanted another season.

“Yes. The answer is yes and yes. We definitely are hopeful to go several more seasons. And the plan is to continue with this set of characters while introducing a few critical key new ones next season. So I’ll just say that a lot of the big mysteries get answered at the end of Season 1, but we are very much kind of unearthing new problems and questions that merit future stories and future investigation in the most enjoyable way. So we are in love with our cast and our characters.”

“Things end up being resolved to some extent at the end of Season 1, but not entirely. And that’s why we’re so hopeful we get another few seasons to live with these people a little longer.”

Have you watched Stranger Things? Do you think the appeal of the show is because of the 80s influences, or could stand alone regardless of the era it was set in? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!

Season 1 of Stranger Things is currently available on Netflix.

[Image via Netflix]