Who out there is obsessed with Stranger Things? I know I am and after the latest season completely blew me away, surpassing the previous two seasons for me and becoming my firm favourite, its safe to say that I am a die hard fan. What I thought would be a fun blog post was to list the 80s references I spotted whilst watching the third season. Some are obvious, with literal quotes and references by the cast, others are slightly more subtle but all of them added up to a full on nostalgia fest of everyone’s favourite decade.
Running from 1989 to 2001, this iconic series is best known for all that slow motion running. The show was referenced with the red swimsuits of the public pool’s lifeguards, including the poor ill-fated Billy and Heather. I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on the hunky Billy with his slow motion walks and sexy stares, made all the better with the entirety of Hawkins MILFs ogling from the sidelines. Not that I joined them or anything, ahem.
Back to The Future:
Considering much of the film takes place at screenings of this beloved 80s classic, it’s an easy one to spot. Steve uses his position at Scoops Ahoy to let his young friends sneak in as often as they like and after their escape from the Russian underground base beneath the mall (even typing those words makes my nerdy heart happy), Dustin and co use the screening as a way to blend in with the malls crowd in an attempt to escape their Russian pursuers. It’s even referenced again at the end by Steve as one of his favourite movies as he tries to land a job at the local video store, complete with his repeated ‘mom trying to bang her son’ storyline confusion. Given that this film played such a part in 80s pop culture and continues to influence film lovers to this day, it makes sense that it featured so heavily in the shows plot.
Running from 1984 to 1990, this iconic cop show featured some rather dubious fashion choices. Cue Hopper’s new ‘date night look’ complete with flamboyant Hawaiian shirt. Whilst I am not the biggest fan of pastel pattern shirts under expensive suits (with rolled up sleeves of course), if anyone can pull this look of it is the hunky Hopper and his yummy dad bod…that’s right, dad bods are in!
This iconic 1984 science fiction film featuring everyone’s favourite monotoned, one liner pumping, shot gun wielding cyborg, is referenced most clearly by this seasons baddy Grigori. This muscular, dead pan Russian badass becomes Hopper’s nemesis and stalks his prey with the same slow paced, casual walk as Arnie himself. Throw in the leather jacket for good measure and we have ourselves a Terminator.
Day of the Dead:
George A. Romero’s classic 1985 Zombie movie takes place in a bunker of all places, where surviving scientists and military personnel attempt to find a solution to the hoards of undead, including some rather gruesome experiments…sound familiar? This is also the first film our young friends from Hawkins sneak into at the Starcourt’s movie theatre where the movies poster is given pride of place. Throw in the mind flayers possessed, zombie like minions and we can see Romero’s influence clearly throughout.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High:
Season 3 centres around the Starcourt Mall and truthfully, that busy, brightly coloured shopping experience is reminiscent of many of our favourite 80s classics but none more so than Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This 1982 movie features many of our favourite teen stereotypes like the virgin, the jock, the nerd and my personal favourite, the stoner played by a young Sean Penn. Special shout out goes to the pirate costume worn by Judge Reinhold’s character Brad Hamilton whilst working his fast food job and Steve’s Scoops Ahoy sailor costume’s perfect homage to it!
The Thing is renowned for its badass and super gross special effects by Rob Bottin and the third instalment of Stranger Things makes multiple references to it. Not only if there a poster hanging in Mike’s basement, but Lucas even gives a speech comparing John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing with new cola. Throw in the fact that the Mindflayer inhabits people without anyone realising and prefers the cold and all our nerdy Thing loving dreams have come true.
Max takes on the BFF role with El in season 3, teaching her about boys, friendship and shopping…basically all the things that make a teenage girl’s heart go pitty pat. Speaking of which, Max also introduces El to Ralph Macchio aka The Karate Kid and every 80s teenage girl’s poster boy.
One of the funniest, sweetest and most memorable moments of Season 3 came when Dustin and his (not fictitious) camp girlfriend Suzie belt out the main theme from this classic 1984 children’s fantasy film. This is a heartwarming moment which firmly cements Dustin as a fan favourite and provides some much needed tension relief at what is an action packed and dangerous episode. If this didn’t make you want to rewatch this 80s children’s classic, then nothing will.
One of my all time favourite horror films and a cult classic, Evil Dead is referenced by yet another poster, this time hanging on the wall of Jonathan’s room. Billie is also dragged through the empty warehouse by an unknown and invisible force, gripping and clawing at the floor and door frames in desperation, just as Ash is sucked through the portal in the third Evil Dead flick, Army of Darkness.
Nasty and corrupt mayor putting money above the lives of their citizens, check. A reluctant, old school hero facing him down, check. Man-eater on the prowl, check. Not to mention that direct quote from Hopper, “I can do anything I want. I’m the chief of police.”
Close Encounters of the Third Kind:
Whilst this classic science fiction movie is actually from the late seventies (1977), it deserves an honourable mention as it is clearly referenced at the beginning of the series, when Dustin’s toys are brought to life by telepathic Elle.
Every 80s Chick Flick:
There are so many great 80s chick flicks out there like Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club just to name a few (and yes these are all Molly Ringwald movies and Yes I may have a slight obsession with her). What did all of these great films have in common? A great montage of course. Whether it is The Breakfast Club dancing through the library or Pretty in Pink’s making her own pink prom dress, no 80s chick flick is complete without a good montage emphasised with a great 80s song choice. Cue El and Max’s mall shopping spree complete with the perfectly chosen Material Girl by Madonna.
This 1985 movie, a personal favourite of mine, is going in the honourable mentions category because as far as I am concerned, every single season of Stranger Things perfectly captures that adventure seeking, puzzle solving, team working kids film. A group of nerdy kids, joined by some older teens, go on a dangerous adventure, face up to bad guys and become firm friends along the way…sound familiar?
So that’s it guys, a list of the 80s Easter eggs and pop culture references inside the latest season of Stranger Things, or the ones I spotted anyway. I have no doubt there are a bunch I missed or am unfamiliar with so let me know in a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with the latest articles, book reviews and pieces of original writing.