Stranger Things Wiki
Stranger Things Wiki

The Netflix original series Stranger Things is heavily influenced by pop culture, particularly from classic 1980s film and television. The Duffer Brothers aimed for the show to capture the feeling of classic films they loved growing up, which were connected by "these very ordinary people encountering these very extraordinary things."[1] They hoped the show would lead younger generations to discover the stuff they grew up on.[2]

Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King have been named as main influences. The Duffers said their influences came from a thousand different places, and though there are a couple of intentional homages, "it's not us trying to find moments to do an homage to stuff."[1]

The storylines of the three generations in the show were envisioned with their own mood and setting, inspired by different genres of films: the kids in adventure films, like The Goonies or Stand By Me; the teenagers in a classic horror film, like John Carpenter's Halloween or Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street; the adults in a classic Spielberg movie, like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.[3]


  • 48 Hours (1982)
  • 9 to 5 (1980)
    • Actor Jake Busey mentioned Bruce Lowe being inspired by sexist characters like Franklin Hart, Jr. in the film.[4]
    • The film also mirrors Nancy's storyline of being subjected to sexist co-workers while working at The Hawkins Post in the third season.
  • A Christmas Story (1983)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is referenced in the one-shot FCBD 2019 comic that takes place two weeks after the events of the first season. While Steve and Nancy study at the Wheeler house, Steve offers to take her to see A Christmas Story, calling it “good, wholesome fun”.
  • Akira (1988)
    • The plot follows a teenage biker with psychic powers, who attempts to release an imprisoned psychic named Akira. The Duffer Brothers stated that there was a lot of Akira in the show's DNA.[5]
    • Akira features children who possess psychic powers, collectively referred to as "Espers". These children were test subjects, experimented on in a secret government project - the government aimed to develop and use their abilities for personal gain. Similarly, Eleven's powers are used by the Department of Energy to spy on Russians during the Cold War.
    • The Espers were assigned subject numbers alongside their real names, with Akira himself being number 28. This might be an inspiration for Eleven's "name".
  • Alien (1979)
    • The film features an extraterrestrial creature that stalks and hunts the crew of a spaceship.
    • Alien inspired the Upside Down's appearance in Stranger Things.[6]
    • In the first season, David O'Bannon is the state trooper who claims to have found Will's body. His surname is taken from Dan O'Bannon, who wrote Alien's screenplay.
    • The egg that Hopper observes, as well as the tendril found down Will's throat, were nods to Alien.
    • The film also inspired the Duffers to create an animatronic monster.[7]
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is referenced in the comic series Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons. When Mike, Lucas, and Will carry books through the woods, they discuss the gore within the film, with Mike mentioning one of Nancy’s friends becoming nauseous watching it.
  • Aliens (1986)
    • When naming inspirational sequels for the second season of Stranger Things, the Duffers listed Aliens among other film sequels by James Cameron.[8]
    • Paul Reiser, who portrays Dr. Sam Owens in the second season, was casted due to his role in Aliens and to make the audience question his true motives, similarly to the film.
  • All the President’s Men (1976)
  • All the Right Moves (1983)
    • The film is shown playing at the Hawkins Movie Theatre. In The Flea and the Acrobat, Steve visits Nancy and offers her to see the film due to her love of Tom Cruise.
  • Alone in the Dark (1982)
  • Altered States (1980)
    • Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine, and LSD.
    • The film's subject matter was a source of inspiration for the experiments which took place at Hawkins Lab, and served as the basis for Terry Ives's backstory.[9]
  • Animal House (1978)
    • In Trick or Treat, Freak, one of the guests at Tina’s Halloween party that drinks the spiked punch is dressed as Bluto, the main character of the film.
    • In The Battle of Starcourt, Steve lists the film as one of his top three favorite movies.
  • Annie (1982)
    • In MADMAX, while Bob and Joyce fool around in Melvald’s storage closet, a children’s costume of Annie is seen on one of the shelves.
    • Sadie Sink, who portrays Max, starred as Annie on Broadway, where she eventually met Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo, who starred on Broadway productions as well.
  • The Apartment (1960)
  • Back to the Future (1985)
    • The film is seen playing at the Starcourt Mall’s movie theater throughout the third season. In The Bite, Dustin, Steve, Erica, and Robin hide out in a theatre playing the film. Later, when Steve and Robin (who are both high) sneak out to get a drink at the water fountain, Robin tells Steve how she’s sure “that dude was trying to bang his mom”, and explains the plot to a confused Steve. Three months later, while the pair apply for jobs at Family Video, Steve refers to the film as “the one with the DeLorean and Alex P. Keaton and he’s trying to bang his mom”.
  • Bambi (1942)
    • In The Flea and the Acrobat, while Nancy and Jonathan practice shooting in the woods, Jonathan reminisces about the time his father forced him to go hunting and shoot a rabbit on his tenth birthday, making him cry for a week. Jonathan mentions that he’s “a big fan of Thumper”.
  • Battle of the Bulge (1965)
    • The white hair of Robert Shaw’s character, Col. Martin Hessler, inspired Martin Brenner’s hair.
  • Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is seen as a poster in Troy’s bedroom in the tie-in comic Stranger Things: The Bully. Incidentally, the comic takes place in the fall of 1984, while the film was not released until the summer of 1986.
  • The Black Cauldron (1985)
    • A poster of the film is seen outside the Starcourt Mall’s movie theatre in The Bite.
  • The Blob (1958)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is seen in a flashback of Hawkins during the early 1960s when Will tells the story of the Child-Eater of Hawkins in the prequel comic, Stranger Things: Halloween in Hawkins.
    • The third season's monster, The Mind Flayer's spider form, is primarily inspired by the titular Blob monster. In E Pluribus Unum, as Nancy locks herself in a abandoned room in the hospital, the melted monster of Bruce and Tom seeps through the door's vent and rebuilds itself. An exact scene happens in The Blob.
  • The Breakfast Club (1985)
    • The film has been named as an inspiration for the Scoops Troop in the third season and how the characters are forced to befriend each other, despite their differences in popularity and personality.
    • The film’s five teenangers - criminal John Bender, princess Claire Standish, athlete Andrew Clarke, brain Brian Johnson, and basket case Allison Reynolds - are very similar to the series’ five teenagers - criminal Billy Hargrove, princess Nancy Wheeler, athlete Steve Harrington, brain Jonathan Byers, and basket case Robin Buckley.
  • Breaking Away (1979)
    • The film partly inspired the show's Indiana setting, with the quarry scenes being direct references to the film.[10]
    • Coincidentally, the film centers on four boys struggling to keep their friendship together, similarly to Stranger Things’ four main friends.
  • Car Wash (1976)
  • Carrie (1976)
    • The Duffer Brothers have mentioned Eleven's struggle to keep her powers in check throughout the first season was mainly inspired by Carrie's struggle to contain her powers in the film.
  • Children of Paradise (1945)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • Christine (1983)
    • The high schooler's outfits throughout the film were a reference in costume design for the first season.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
    • When developing the character Joyce, the Duffer Brothers "talked a lot about Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, because for much of the show Winona Ryder is entirely on her own and to the outside world she seems absolutely bonkers."[11]
    • Stranger Things' setting in Indiana references the setting of Close Encounters.[10]
    • A shot of Will standing in front of an opening door in MADMAX resembles a scene in the film where Jillian's son, Barry, opens a door, letting in eerie orange light.
    • In Suzie, Do You Copy?, Hawkins suffers through a brief power outage throughout the county due to the Mind Flayer's awakening. This is a reference to the beginning of Close Encounters having the town suffering a power outage upon the alien's arrival. In the same episode, when Dustin returns home from Camp Know Where, his toys begin to possess lives of their own and travel outside to his bedroom in a line. This is a reference to Barry's toys becoming sentient upon the alien's arrival. In fact, Barry and Dustin both have a monkey clanging cymbals together in their bedroom.
  • Clue (1985)
    • The film's atmosphere and cinematography inspired the first season.
  • The Coca-Cola Kid (1985)
    • A poster for the film is hung outside the windows of Family Video in the fourth season.
  • Cocoon (1985)
    • A poster for the film is seen in the hallways of the Starcourt Mall's movie theatre in Suzie, Do You Copy?.
  • Cujo (1983)
    • The Demodogs in the second season were inspired by Cujo's lust of blood and intensity.
  • D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)
    • The film is seen playing at the Starcourt Mall's movie theatre in The Bite.
  • Damnation Alley (1977)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is mentioned in the tie-in comic Zombie Boys where Lucas lists off films that feature the black man dying, Damnation Alley being one of them.
  • The Dark Crystal (1982)
    • A poster for the film is hung in Mike's bedroom throughout the first season.
  • Day of the Dead (1985)
    • In Suzie, Do You Copy?, Mike, Lucas, Will, and Max sneak into the movie theatre to see the film. As they sit down to watch it, the power across Hawkins shuts down, causing a wave of boos across the theatre, before turning to cheers once the power returns.
    • The third season features the Russians experimenting on the rift leading to The Upside Down inside an underground laboratory, similarly how in Day of the Dead, a skeleton crew of American scientists were experimenting on zombies.
    • Grigori's surly and violent behavior mirrors that of Captain Henry Rhodes in Day of the Dead.
    • In E Pluribus Unum, the song "Breakdown", written by John Harrison for Day of the Dead, plays out during Steve and Robin's talk while they are being held hostage by the Russians in the military laboratory beneath Starcourt Mall.
  • Dazed and Confused (1993)
    • In Trick or Treat, Freak, Tina's Halloween party features teens get drunk, teens fights, and rock music. But the soiree Steve and Nancy attend has a strong Dazed and Confused vibe.
  • Die Hard (1988)
    • In The Flayed, when Hopper holds Grigori at gunpoint, Grigori says, "You're a policeman, policeman have rules." The quote nods to the scene in Die Hard tells McClain that he won't shoot because "You're a policeman. There are rules for policeman."
  • Diner (1982)
    • A scene featured in The Gate where Dr. Owens offers his sandwich to Hopper was directly inspired by the film's sandwich scene, where Modell asks for Edward's sandwich.The Duffer Brothers mention watching the film as children, and the film ultimately caused Paul Reiser to be casted into the series due to also starring in the film.[12]
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
    • Clips from the film were used in the fake trailer the Duffers created to pitch the show.[13]
    • Jonathan, Will, and Holly's outfits were inspired by the three main children - Michael, Elliot, and Gertie.
    • Elliott's family is extremely similar to the Byers family (not including Gertie) - Joyce being recently divorced (like Mary), having two sons who struggle having an absent father figure, and a dog who often witnesses strange events.
    • In the original pitch, Mike was named Elliott.
    • In The Vanishing of Will Byers, the series opens with the boys playing Dungeons & Dragons while eating pizza, similarly to Elliott's brother Michael playing D&D with his friends while eating. Later in the episode, Dustin offers Nancy a slice of sausage and pepperoni pizza, the same type of pizza the boys order in the beginning of the film that Elliott drops. The shot of Will running to the shed through the mist was an intentional homage to a similar shot in the film.[14] When Mike, Dustin, and Lucas arrive at school the next day, a student can be seen carrying a E.T. metal lunchbox.
      • The Duffers stated that The Weirdo on Maple Street contained many not-so-subtle nods to the film; if E.T. was about the developing bond between E.T. and Elliott, the second episode was largely about the developing bond between Eleven and Mike.[5] Indeed, within the episode, Mike gives El a tour of his home, introduces her to regular products, and shows his toys and collectibles, all things Elliot does with E.T. in the film.
        • The Bathtub includes a bike chase scene where the kids are chased by agents, which recalls E.T.'s famous chase scene. The Duffers were initially unsure about doing their own chase scene, as it was such an obvious reference to such an iconic moment, but they eventually decided that the scene was not unmerited as it moved along the plot. [15]
          • Eleven's introduction to suburban life and all the comedic situations it leads to was inspired by the film.[14]
          • Mike has to keep Eleven's existence a secret from his parents, as Elliott did so with E.T.
          • The hazmat suit-donning Dr. Brenner could be a reference to E.T.'s villain, government agent "Keys".
          • Both E.T. and Stranger Things feature characters named "Mike" and "Steve".
          • Eleven's makeover in The Body recalls a scene in which E.T. is dressed up by Elliott's younger sister, Gertie.
          • Holly Wheeler, the toddler sibling of Mike and Nancy, is extremely similar to Elliott's little sister Gertie, with her appearance and innocence.
          • In Dustin's bedroom, there is an E.T. doll next to the terrarium on his dresser.
          • Although not directly referenced in the show, in the tie-in graphic novel Zombie Boys, a new classmate to the boys, Joey Kim, wears a T-Shirt with the iconic picture of Elliot and E.T. riding a bike in the sky with the moon behind them.
  • The Endless Summer (1966)
    • A poster for the film is hung in Max's bedroom throughout the second and third seasons.
  • Enter the Dragon (1973)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is mentioned in the tie-in comic Zombie Boys where Lucas lists off films that feature the black man dying, Enter the Dragon being one of them.
  • Escape from New York (1981)
    • The Duffer Brothers have mentioned using clips of the film for the pitch of Stranger Things.
    • The score used in The Lost Sister when Eleven tracks down Ray Carroll parodies the score of John Carpenter's music in the film.
  • The Evil Dead (1981)
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
    • Jonathan has a large poster of the film in his bedroom seen throughout the series. Specifically, in The Flea and the Acrobat, Lonnie tells Jonathan to take it down due to it being inappropriate.
    • Hopper being wrapped around by vines in the underground tunnel is extremely similar to when Cheryl is brutally attacked by the possessed forest's vines and branches in the film.
  • The Exorcist (1973)
    • The Mind Flayer's possession of Will throughout the second season was directly inspired by the possession of Regan MacNeil in the film, including both children acting normal one second before shutting down emotionally, their pain connecting with their possessor's pain (in Will's case is the Mind Flayer while in Regan's case isthe Devil), both being isolated in a cold climate when possessed, and both being strapped to a bed in order to be free of their possessor.
    • In The Spy, a shot of Joyce berating the doctors at Hawkins Lab at a table is a direct reference to when Chris MacNeil berates the doctors for failing to help her daughter.
  • Explorers (1985)
    • A poster for the film is seen inside the Starcourt Mall's movie theatre in Suzie, Do You Copy?.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
    • The Duffers have named the film as one of the inspirations for the third season.[16]
    • In Suzie, Do You Copy?, Billy strutting shirtless at the Hawkins Community Pool while Karen and her friends ogle at him, all the while the Cars "Moving in Stereo" plays, is a direct reference to the film, where Brad sexually fantasizes of Linda removing the top of her bikini while the same song plays.
    • In The Battle of Starcourt, when Steve and Robin apply for jobs at Family Video, Steve trips over a cutout of Phoebe Cate's character, Linda Barrett. Noticing what it is, Steve happily proclaims that Fast Times is one of his top three favorite movies.
    • The character of Argyle was based off of Jeff Spicoli, also a carefree stoner.
    • Nancy's costume design was inspired by Stacy Hamilton in the film.
    • The high schoolers' appearance in the film inspired the Hawkins High alumni's fashion.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
    • Steve, Jonathan and Nancy's character might be inspired by Steve as Ferris Bueller, Jonathan as Cameron Frye, and Nancy as Sloane Peterson.
    • Suzie plays the clarinet like Ferris Bueller.
    • In MADMAX, there's an homage to the film when the camera zooms in on a different bored student in Mr. Clarke's classroom. In the film, the same thing happens as the teacher calls role and notices Ferris Bueller missing.
    • Coincidentally, actor Joe Keery portrayed Ferris Bueller for a Domino's commercial.
  • Firestarter (1984)
    • Protagonist Charlie McGee shares various similarities with Eleven. They are both young girls with psychic abilities who are pursued by malevolent government agencies.
    • Both Charlie and Eleven have mothers who, while in college, participated in secret government experiments involving the intake of hallucinogenic drugs. Charlie and Eleven are born with supernatural powers as a result of these experiments.
    • Charlie's father bleeds from his nose when exercising hypnosis, in a similar fashion to how Eleven bleeds when she exercises her powers.
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
  • First Blood (1982)
    • Alexei refers to Hopper as "Fat Rambo" in E Pluribus Unum. He also mentions "Skinny Rambo" a few seconds later in a conversation with Murray
  • Flashdance (1983)
  • Fletch (1985)
    • According to David Harbour, the film will be an influence for the third season.[17]
    • Fletch is one of the films that will be shown playing at the Starcourt Mall's multiplex in The Bite.[18]
  • The Fly (1986)
    • Joyce's costume design was based off of Veronica "Ronnie" Quaife in the film.
  • The Fog (1980)
    • The soundtrack from The Fog was used in the fake trailer the Duffers created to pitch the show.
    • The original Montauk script featured the Demogorgon's presence being associated with fog.
  • Footloose (1984)
  • Foxes (1980)
    • Joyce's costume design was based off of Annie in the film.
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • Friday the 13th (1980-2009)
    • In Trick or Treat, Freak, Will gets scared by an older teenage boy dressed as Jason Voorhees.
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the original 1980 film is referenced by Dustin in the tie-in comic series Science Camp.
    • In Stranger Things: The Game, one of Max's upgrades is a hockey mask, similar to Jason Voorhees, found in her house.
    • Although not directly referenced within the show, the tie-in comic series Stranger Things: Science Camp mirrors the plot of the horror series: During Dustin's attendance of Camp Know Where, the disappearance of camp counselors are linked to a masked individual wielding a screwdriver. At one point, Dustin explains the plot of the first film to a fellow camper.
  • Ghostbusters (1984)
    • With the second season taking place in the fall of 1984, Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Will dress as the four titular Ghostbusters for Halloween. Joyce is seen sewing patches on Will's costume while working in MADMAX. In Trick or Treat, Freak, the four boys arrive in costume at school, where Mike and Lucas argue due to both dressing as Venkman. Mike tells Lucas that he was supposed to be Winston, and Lucas says he's the least interesting of the four and insinuates that the only reason Mike wants him to be Winston is because they're both black. In The Pollywog, Dustin keeps D'Artagnan inside his homemade ghost trap from the film.
    • Both Will and Dustin are seen carrying Ghostbusters lunchboxes to school throughout the second season.
    • In Stranger Things: The Game, when a character (excluding Eleven) inspects a phone, they say the phrase, "Who ya gonna call?", the main tagline from the original film. In the game, one of Dustin's upgrades is a Ghostbusters lunchbox.
    • In Dustin's bedroom, he has a Ghostbusters Certificate of Anti-Paranormal Proficiency hung next to Yurtle's terrarium and a Certified Ghostbusters certificate hung near his desk.
    • In The Bite, when Lucas and Will search for a bowl in Bradley's Big Buy in the cereal aisle, they walk past Ghostbusters cereal with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on it.
    • Coincidentally, actor Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike, was cast as Egon's grandson, Trevor, in the direct 2021 sequel, Ghostbuters: Afterlife.
  • The Goonies (1985)
    • The children's storyline in the first season was mainly inspired by The Goonies.
    • Like Stranger Things, the film features a close-knit group of kids (four kids and three teenagers) - leader Michael "Mikey" Walsh, his athletic older brother Brandon "Brand" Walsh, suave Clark "Mouth" Devereaux, resourceful Richard "Data" Wang, pessimist Lawrence "Chunk" Cohen, Brand's popular girlfriend Andrea "Andy" Carmichael, and Andy's sarcastic best friend Stephanie "Stef" Steinbrenner. The characters mirror our heroes in Stranger Things - leader Michael "Mike" Wheeler, athlete Steve Harrington, suave Lucas Sinclair, resourceful Will Byers, pessimist Dustin Henderson, popular girl Nancy Wheeler, and sarcastic Barbara Holland.
    • Mike's character was originally based on Michael "Mikey" Walsh from the film, with his first name being a direct reference.[19]
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by a Goonies poster.
    • Mike's, Dustin's and Lucas' character based and inspired are by Mike as Mikey, Dustin as Chunk and Lucas as Mouth.
    • Bob's actor, Sean Astin, played Mikey in the original film. He was casted for the second season due this role and due to the Duffer Brother's love of the film.
    • The children exploring the underground tunnel system in The Gate, was modeled after the Goonie's exploring the caves containing One-Eyed Willy's pirate ship.
    • The plot and art for the tie-in comic series Stranger Things: Tomb of Ybwen parodies The Goonies.
  • Gremlins (1984)
  • Halloween (1978)
    • Clips from Halloween were used in the fake trailer the Duffers created to pitch the show.[13]
    • Dustin compares Eleven's behavior to Michael Myers in The Weirdo on Maple Street.
    • In The Monster, a cinematic shot of only someone’s shoulder (Troy) is shown as Mike and Dustin leave Bradley’s Big Buy. This mirrors a similar shot of Michael Myers’ shoulder as he watches Laurie Strode leave the Myers House in the film.
    • In Trick or Treat, Freak, Max wears a Michael Myers costume for Halloween.
  • Hellraiser (1987)
    • The film inspired the Duffers to build an animatronic monster. The Duffers say that Barker's stories influenced the 'strange' factor of the show, saying: "We talked a lot about Clive Barker and his stories. They’re very weird, and the weirder it is, the more inexplicable it is, the scarier it is."[6] [7]
  • The Hidden Fortress (1958)
    • Robin names the film as her top three favorite movies when being interviewed at Family Video in The Battle of Starcourt.
  • Indiana Jones (1981-2008)
    • Hopper's character, his banter between characters, his fighting skills, and signature hat was directly inspired by Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones.
    • A board game of Raiders of the Lost Ark is seen on Mike's shelf in his bedroom.
    • Although not directly not referenced within the series, a poster of The Temple of Doom is seen in Troy's bedroom in the tie-in comic The Bully.
    • The Duffers have noted Temple of Doom, the second film of the franchise and the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark, as one of the inspirations for season two's darker tone, with Matt saying "I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did. Even though it was probably slammed at the time - obviously now people look back on it fondly, but it messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film - that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."[8] [22]
    • In The Gate, Max driving Billy's car with a brick on the gas pedal is a direct reference to The Temple of Doom, which has Short Round, Indiana Jone's young sidekick, doing the same thing in a getaway car. During production, there was a concern as to whether or not Sadie Sink was short enough to use the brick on the pedal, but Sadie was the perfect fit, and the homage stayed in the episode.
    • The opening scene in Suzie, Do You Copy?, where the Russian scientists fail to open the Gate is a direct homage to the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Nazis are killed after a failed experiment as well.
    • The banter between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery while tied up in The Last Crusade was a reference for when Robin and Steve are tied up while being held captives by the Russians in E Pluribus Unum.
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
    • The third season's plot of the Mind Flayer possessing the resident's of Hawkins is extremely similar to the plot of the film.
  • Jaws (1975)
    • The show originally took place and was named after the beachtown of Montauk, Long Island, similarly to the beachtown setting of Amity Island in Jaws.
    • The Duffers have said that Jaws is "probably" their favorite film, it comes at no surprise that Stranger Things is heavily influenced by it.[23]
    • A scene in which Hopper typewrites a police report while talking to Joyce is framed identically to a similar scene in Jaws.[11]
    • The Duffers had this to say on the Demogorgon: "It is an interdimensional being that has more in common with the shark from Jaws than Pennywise from It. When the monster enters our dimension, it’s like a shark breaching the water. Very much like a shark, it drags its prey back into its home, where it feeds."[7]
    • Will has a Jaws poster on his bedroom wall.
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for Jaws.
    • In The Mall Rats, as Hopper drunkenly leaves Enzo's, a waiter says he cannot take the alcohol, to which Hopper murmurs, "I'm the Chief of Police. I can do anything." This line is directly taken from the film, where Chief Brody says the exact line.
    • For the third season, Larry Kline's namesake and personality was directly inspired by Larry Vaughn, the mayor of Amityville in Jaws.
    • The third season revolving around the Fourth of July was directly inspired by the town in Jaws' celebration of the holiday being interrupted by a strange entity.
    • Although not directly referenced in the show, in the tie-in graphic novel Zombie Boys, a new classmate to the boys, Joey Kim, wears a T-Shirt with the poster compressed onto the shirt.
  • The Jerk (1979)
  • Jurassic Park (1993)
    • The Duffers listed the film as one of the inspirations for the third season.[16]
    • Bob sneaking through Hawkins Lab in The Mind Flayer was inspired by Dr. Ellie Sattler escaping rabid dinosaurs.
    • Mike, Eleven, and Max hiding inside The Gap of the Starcourt Mall while the Mind Flayer's tendrils looked for them was inspired by Lex and Tim hiding in the park's restaurant kitchen while raptors looked for them.
  • The Karate Kid (1984)
    • At Tina's party in Trick or Treat, Freak, Tommy dresses as Johnny Lawrence, the top student at the Cobra Kai dojo.
    • In The Case of the Missing Lifeguard, Eleven flips through a teen magazine and finds Ralph Macchio on the cover. Max notices and explains that he's "The Karate Kid", pretending to do a karate chop. As they giggle, Max comments how hot he is and bets he's an "amazing kisser".
  • Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
    • Various music tracks from the film is used in Suzie, Do You Copy?, when Eleven manipulates Dustin's toys to come to life.
  • Let the Right One In (2008)/Let Me In (2010)
    • While it is unknown if the Duffers have seen the original Swedish film or have read the novel, they did use clips from the American remake in a fake trailer they made to demonstrate the tone they wanted Stranger Things to have.[24]
  • The Lonely Guy (1984)
    • A poster for the film is seen being advertised outside of the Hawkins Theatre in The Monster.
    • A VHS tape of the film is seen on the shelves of Family Video in The Battle of Starcourt.
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
    • In Stranger Things: The Game, each level is referred to as a chapter (similarly to the each episode in the show titled as a chapter). The first level is titled, "Chapter One: The Lost Boys".
    • Billy Hargrove is very similar to the film's main protagonist, Michael Emerson. Both wear a signature lone earring, both are shown to be rebel kids moving into a new town with their younger sibling, and Billy's reluctance to give into the Mind Flayer's command is similar to Michael's reluctance to give into becoming a vampire.
  • Mad Max (1979)
    • Max's alias of the same name and persona was directly inspired by the film.
  • Mask (1985)
    • Joyce's costume design was based off of Florence "Rusty" Dennis in the film.
  • Midnight Run (1988)
    • The Duffer Brothers acknowledged the film as one of the inspirations for the third season.[16]
    • Various music tracks from the film are used in The Flayed and E Pluribus Unum.
  • Mr. Mom (1983)
    • The film is one of three movies rented by Jonathan for movie night in MADMAX. Bob chooses Mr. Mom and the family watches it, though Bob is the only one who seems to genuinely enjoy it.
    • A VHS copy of the film is seen on the shelves in Family Video in The Battle of Starcourt.
  • The Mummy (1959)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is seen in the comic Halloween in Hawkins during a flashback of Hawkins during the 1960s.
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
    • Suzie has a large poster of the film hung above her radio in The Battle of Starcourt.
  • National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
    • In The Battle of Starcourt, the codename for the group of Mike, Eleven, Lucas, Will, Max, Nancy, and Jonathan is "Griswold Family", referencing the titular family of the film series. In the same episode, a small cardboard advertisement can be seen on the counter at the Family Video.
  • The NeverEnding Story (1984)
    • In The Battle of Starcourt, it's revealed Dustin and Suzie often sing the theme song of the film in duet. When Dustin calls her through his radio asking what Planck's Constant is, she offers the information in exchange for a duet. Reluctantly but soon happily, Dustin sings the theme along with Suzie, much to the confusion and awkwardness of the rest of the groups, who sit in silence. Three months later, Max and Lucas tease Dustin by singing verses of the song while helping the Byers move out.
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is referenced throughout the comic series. In Halloween in Hawkins, Jonathan watches the film of T.V. on Halloween night. In Zombie Boys, Troy and James tease Lucas for starring in Joey's movie, saying that the black guy always dies first in horror movies, noting the character Ben in the film. When Lucas explains this to Joey, he tells him that Ben is different since he is the hero.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
    • When asked about the cultural reference points of the teens' story, the Duffers stated that "the teens are in that sort of ‘80s horror film like Nightmare on Elm Street."[25] They also said "A Nightmare on Elm Street" was a movie that scared them as kids, with Ross explaining that "When you put that unexplainable evil with this very ordinary American life, to us, that was the scariest, because suddenly I'm going to bed, and I'm thinking, 'Is Freddy going to push through the ceiling and grab me?'" They tried to replicate this sense of dread with Stranger Things.[26] Snippets from A Nightmare on Elm Street were used in the fake trailer created to pitch the show.[13]
    • The Demogorgon pushing through Joyce's walls and stretching the wallpaper is visually reminiscent of a scene in which Freddy Krueger tries to push through the wall above Nancy Thompson's bed.
    • In the film, the characters exploit Freddy Krueger's nature and behavior in order to defeat him; they are dependent on a trusted person to pull them out of sleep if attacked by Freddy in their dreams. In a similar fashion, the teens in Stranger Things exploit the nature of the Demogorgon in order to defeat it. Nancy and Jonathan cut themselves, hoping that the blood scent will lure the creature to a house with a booby trap set up inside. Nancy and Glen concoct a similar scheme to fight Freddy.
    • The mention of an "Elm Street" in The Bathtub is an obvious reference to the title of the film.
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
    • Nancy Wheeler's namesake and character is primarily based of the film's main character, Nancy Thompson. They're both typical American high-school girls, they both date a popular athlete, they both have a best friend killed by a mysterious entity, and they hunt for said monster for revenge.
    • Steve Harrington's costume design was inspired by Glen Lantz, Nancy's boyfriend, in the film.
    • Robert Englund, who has portrayed Freddy Krueger since the original film, was casted as Victor Creel for the fourth season.
    • A cutout for the film is seen in Family Video during the fourth season.
  • North by Northwest (1959)
    • Cary Grant's outfit and suit inspired Martin Brenner's wardrobe for the first season.
  • The Osterman Weekend (1983)
    • Hopper's costume design was based off of Bernard Osterman in the film.
  • The Outsiders (1983)
  • The Parallax View (1974)
  • Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)
    • A poster for the film is seen outside the Starcourt's movie theatre in The Bite.
  • Planet of the Apes (1968)
    • Although not directly referenced within the series, the film is mentioned by Lucas in the tie-in comic Zombie Boys, listing off films that have the black guy being killed off, with Planet of the Apes being one of them.
  • Poltergeist (1982)
    • Poltergeist made an ordinary object or device like a television seem like something extraordinary - the Duffers were inspired to do the same but with Joyce's Christmas lights.[27]
    • Will being trapped in another dimension while being hunted by the Demogorgon has parallels to Carol Anne's story; Carol is taken to another dimension and held captive by a demon known as the “Beast”.
    • During a flashback in The Vanishing of Will Byers, sometime in 1982, Joyce visits Will at Castle Byers and surprises him with tickets to see Poltergeist. Joyce asks Will if he's still afraid of clowns, which might be a reference to a creepy clown toy prominently seen in the film that terrorizes the main children.
    • In Stranger Things: The Other Side, which focuses on Will's perspective of the Upside Down during the first season, Will enters the Upside Down version of his home and presses his hand against the television. When nothing happens, he scolds himself, saying just because it worked in a movie doesn't mean it would work in real life, which references Carol Anne using the television to communicate with the spirits in her home.
    • Holly is extremely similar to Carol Anne, as both make contact with supernatural entities with their families having no knowledge of it.
    • Ted, Karen, and Nancy's costume design was based on Steven, Diane, and Dana Freeling in the film.
    • The Wheeler family is extremely similar to the Freeling family. In Poltergeist, there's father Steven, mother Diane, eldest daughter Dana, middle son Robbie, and youngest daughter Carol Anne. In Stranger Things, there's father Ted, mother Karen, eldest daughter Nancy, middle son Mike, and youngest daughter Holly.
    • In Stranger Things: The Game, when the player inspects a television as Eleven, she'll say the phrase, "They're here . . .", referencing the film.
  • Pretty in Pink (1986)
    • The film's ending with a prom inspired the second season ending with The Snow Ball.
    • Dustin's hairstyle for the Snow Ball was directly inspired by Ducky's in the film.
  • Prisoners (2013)
    • The film was the initial inspiration for the plot of Stranger Things.[28]
  • Return to Oz (1985)
    • The film is seen playing at the Starcourt Mall's movie theatre in The Bite.
  • Risky Business (1983)
    • In The Flea and the Acrobat, when Steve asks Nancy out to see the movie All The Right Moves, starring Tom Cruise, Steve says, "You know, your loverboy from Risky Business". He mentions that Carol says Steve looks like Tom Cruise and begins to sing "Old Time Rock and Roll", which was featured in the film.
    • In Trick or Treat, Freak, Steve and Nancy attend Tina's Halloween party dressed as Joel Goodson and Lana, the main couple from the film.
  • Romancing the Stone (1984)
    • The film was one of the inspirations for the third season.[16]
  • The Running Man (1987)
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
  • Scarface (1983)
  • The Shining (1980)
    • Joyce breaking through the living room wall with an axe and her disheveled appearance/defensive stance while sitting on the couch in The Body mirrors Jack Torrance taking an axe through a bathroom door in a psychopathic rage.
    • According to actor Dacre Montgomery, the Duffers based his character Billy somewhat on Jack Nicholson's character in the film, Jack Torrance, as they both have dangerous behavioral problems masked under a kind and nice personality.[29]
  • Silkwood (1983)
    • Joyce's costume design was based off of Karen Silkwood in the film.
  • Sixteen Candles (1984)
    • The school dance in the film inspired the tone of the Snow Ball in The Gate.
    • A poster of the film is hung outside the windows of Family Video in The Battle of Starcourt.
  • Stand by Me (1986)
    • During auditions, the child actors read lines from scenes from Stand by Me.[30] Matt Duffer said "We always wanted to keep the stakes high. When you’re looking back at 'Stand By Me,' the stakes feel very real. The kids never feel completely safe, even though there is an element of fun and you love those boys." [6]
    • In both, the main characters are young, small town boys at a carefree age who are suddenly confronted with adult issues such as loss and tragedy.
    • Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Eleven's walk along the train tracks when they search for Will is similar to an iconic scene from the film.
    • The group of friends in both are threatened by bullies wielding switchblades.
    • The fourth episode is called The Body, borrowing its title from the King novella.
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
    • In Hawkins Community Pool, Billy called the running boy "lard-ass" is when Gordie tell a story about a overweight fat boy called David "Lard-Ass" Hogan to his childhood friends (Chris, Teddy, and Vern).
  • Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)
    • Mike compares Eleven and her psychic abilities to the mentor character Yoda and his special ability to tap into the mystical "Force".
    • When the kids are debating whether to answer their radio in The Bathtub, Dustin references Lando Calrissian, a character who is notable for betraying his allies.
    • When Lucas tells Mike that he wants to find Will without Eleven, Mike refuses, saying that be would like, "R2-D2 going to fight Darth Vader!".
    • In Holly, Jolly, Dustin tries to make Eleven levitate Mike's toy Millenium Falcon in the air with her powers, to no avail. When they leave, however, El does make the toy float with ease, but gets bored and drops the toy quickly.
    • In Suzie, Do You Copy?, Dustin has an R2-D2 remote-controlled toy.
    • When Will was suffering from memory loss, Joyce reminded that his friends brought him Star Wars toys on his birthday and he drew a large spaceship inspired by the movie's spaceship, referring to the "Star Destroyer".
    • When naming inspirational sequels for the second season, Shawn Levy said he and the Duffers noted The Empire Strikes Back as a sequel that "worked". [31]
    • Grigori choking the scientist in the opening scene of Suzie, Do You Copy? is an allusion to Darth Vader choking a rebel in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
    • In The Battle of Starcourt, Steve lists the Star Wars franchise as his favorite movies. Keith asks if it's A New Hope or which of the trilogy does he like. Steve refers to the one with the "teddy bears" (The Ewoks, first appearing in Return of the Jedi).
    • Although not directly referenced in the show, in the tie-in graphic novel Zombie Boys, a new classmate to the boys, Joey Kim, wears a T-Shirt with a picture of the Death Star.
    • In Stranger Things: Halloween in Hawkins, Dustin, Lucas, Mike, and Will dressed as Star Wars characters for Halloween.
  • Super 8 (2011)
    • Like Stranger Things, Super 8 attempts to capture the feel of Steven Spielberg's work, featuring a group of close-knit middle schoolers discovering an extra-terrestrial creature that threatens their town, though Stranger Things is set during the early-to-mid 1980's, while Super 8 is set during the summer of 1979.
    • For the second season, the scene of Steve, Dustin, Lucas, and Max hiding out in an abandoned bus in the junkyard while Demodogs attack in The Spy was inspired by the alien attacking the government bus with the kids inside in Super 8.
    • Lucas' desire to kill the Mind Flayer using fireworks in the third season was inspired by one of the characters in Super 8, Cary McCarthy, who's obsession of firecrackers comes to use in the film's climax.
  • The Stuff (1985)
    • The film is seen playing at the Starcourt Mall's movie theatre in The Bite.
  • Teen Wolf (1985)
    • A poster for the film is seen outside Family Video in the fourth season.
  • The Terminator (1984)
    • The film is seen playing at the Hawkins Theater in MADMAX.
    • In Trick or Treat, Freak, while Eleven channel surfs through her television, she skips past a commercial for The Terminator.
    • The main antagonist of the third season, Grigori, was primarily inspired by the Terminator himself.
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
    • When naming inspirational sequels for the second season of Stranger Things, the Duffers listed Terminator 2 among other film sequels by James Cameron.[8]
  • The Thing (1982)
    • The Thing was one of various science fiction and horror films which inspired the Duffers to use practical effects when creating their own monster.[7]
    • Mike has a poster for the film hung up on the basement wall.
    • In The Bathtub, Scott Clarke and his girlfriend Jen are watching the film on VHS when Dustin calls asking about sensory deprivation. While Jen is horrified at the film, Scott comforts her by explaining how they made the special effects.
    • The film was one of the inspirations for the third season when it came to the Flayed.[16]
    • In The Bite, while the group is in Bradley's Big Buy, Lucas drinks New Coke, much to the disgust of the group. Lucas compares his love for New Coke to his love for John Carpenter's The Thing: Although the original is a classic, the remake is "sweeter, bolder, better".
  • Trading Places (1983)
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
    • The film is one of the three movies Jonathan rents for movie night in MADMAX.
  • Under the Skin (2013)
  • WarGames (1983)
    • The Palace, the arcade in Hawkins, was named after the arcade in the film.[33]
    • The film is one of three movies Jonathan rents for movie night in MADMAX.
  • The Warriors (1979)
  • Weird Science (1985)
    • A poster of the film is seen inside the halls of the Starcourt Mall's movie theater in Suzie, Do You Copy?.
    • A poster is hung outside the Family Video window in the fourth season.
  • Witness (1985)
    • A cinematic shot of Eleven pointing to a picture of Will in The Weirdo on Maple Street is a reference to the film, when Samuel Lapp points to a picture of Officer James McFee in a newspaper clipping.
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
    • In Holly, Jolly, as Hopper, Callahan, and Powell pull up to Hawkins Lab, Powell compares the lab to "Emerald City".
    • In The Battle of Starcourt, Suzie has a small poster of The Wizard of Oz behind her bed.
    • In promotions for the fourth season, the tagline, "We're Not in Hawkins Anymore", is a reference to the film, where Dorothy says to her dog, "Toto, I have the feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

The boys in Ghostbusters costumes.

Comparison of scenes in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Stranger Things."


  • Cheers (1982-1993)
    • In Will the Wise, while Hopper yanks the cord out of the television, Cheers is seen playing on it.
    • In Suzie, Do You Copy?, Joyce eats dinner alone while watching the show. She remembers a time where she and Bob laughed hysterically together on the couch. Bob says he wishes Diane and Sam would get back to together already, to which Joyce agrees as they kiss.
  • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980)
    • The show is referenced by Mike when he, Dustin, Lucas, and Mr. Clarke discuss portals through other dimensions in The Flea and the Acrobat.
    • Mr. Clarke mentions the show while teaching his class in the original Montauk script.
  • Elfen Lied (2004)
    • The Duffers have named this as an influence, in particular for Eleven's story, saying it reminded them of a "very violent, anime-ish E.T." [23][5]
    • Eleven and Lucy are similar since they both possess extraordinary power. They also both escape from the laboratory in which they are experimented on, kill numerous people, and develop romantic feelings for a boy who treated them kindly.
    • Eleven also has some similarities with the Diclonius, Nana. Both refer to the scientists who raised them as “papa”, and both have a number for a name (“Nana” being a word that means “seven” in Japanese).
    • The other Diclonius individuals who were held captive in the lab were also given assigned subject numbers as names. This, along with Akira, was most likely the inspiration for Eleven's "name".
    • The scene where Eleven interacts with Nancy's music box could be a reference to Elfen Lied, as a music box was featured prominently in the anime.
    • Diclonii, while extremely violent towards humans, were shown to act benevolently towards animals. This potentially inspired the scene where Eleven refuses to hurt a cat.
  • Family Ties (1982-1989)
    • After watching Back to the Future, Steve refers to Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly as Alex P. Keaton, the eldest child in Family Ties in The Bite and The Battle of Starcourt.
  • Fraggle Rock (1983-1987)
  • Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
    • The show was one of the Duffer Brothers' favorite shows growing up. Matt Duffer said this: "I thought, 'OK, television now is becoming more cinematic. Can you do a show where you care about the characters just as much as Freaks And Geeks or Friday Night Lights, but can there also please be a monster in it?' So that was a goal with it. I just hadn’t seen enough of that on TV."[34]
    • Like Stranger Things, Freaks and Geeks attempts to capture the feel of the 1980's, though less with supernatural elements and more with teenage angst, and while Stranger Things takes place during the early-to-mid 1980's, Freaks and Geeks take place over the course of 1980-1981.
    • The original Montauk script took place in the fall of 1980, similar to Freaks and Geeks.
    • The show's main character, Lindsay Weir, and her family and her friends mirror Nancy Wheeler and the people in her life:
      • Nancy's dilemma and character arc during the first season mirrors Lindsay's dilemma throughout the series. They both come from a healthy family home with loving yet naive parents, they have a little brother who is aware of her antics, both their brothers have two friends (where one both has a crush on them; Dustin has a small crush on Nancy in the beginning of Stranger Things, while it's Neal who has a crush on Lindsay in Freaks and Geeks), both have a nerdy girl best friend who clashes with her new cooler friends (Stranger Things has Barbara Holland, while Freaks and Geeks has Millie Kentner), and both must deal with choosing between rebelling with the Freaks or continuing to be a Geek.
      • Nancy's bedroom pattern is near identical to Lindsay's bedroom in Freaks and Geeks.
      • Mike, Dustin, and Lucas are similar to the small group of Geeks - Sam Weir, Neal Schweiber, and Bill Haverchuck.
      • Steve's arc of redeeming himself in the first season seems to be a combination of characters Daniel Desario and Nick Andopolis. Nick's character mirrors Steve showing compassion to Nancy and Barb while his snarky friends tease them behind their backs, while Daniel's character mirrors Steve evolving from a popular bad boy to befriending the nerdier kids through Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Friday Night Lights (2006-2011)
    • The show is set in Dillon, Texas, while Stranger Things is set in Hawkins, Indiana - both are fictional towns. Matt Duffer said this: "I thought, 'OK, television now is becoming more cinematic. Can you do a show where you care about the characters just as much as Freaks And Geeks or Friday Night Lights, but can there also please be a monster in it?' So that was a goal with it. I just hadn’t seen enough of that on TV."[34]
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985)
    • In The Vanishing of Will Byers, Lucas has a Man-at-Arms action figure resting on his nightstand.
    • In Holly, Jolly, when Eleven channel surfs through the Wheelers' television, she skips past the opening theme of He-Man.
    • In Dig Dug, when Erica responds to Dustin's code red while snooping through Lucas' room, she inspects her brother's He-Man figure. Later in The Spy, Erica lays on her bed and pretends to make He-Man kiss her Barbie doll. Lucas barges in and snatches it away, causing Erica to yell that they're in love, to which Lucas responds that they don't even exist on the same planet.
    • Although not directly referenced within the show, in the tie-in graphic novel The Bully, Troy has a He-Man poster in his bedroom.
  • Knight Rider (1982-1986)
    • The show is seen in The Vanishing of Will Byers, when Ted tries to fix the signal on the television.
    • In the original pilot script, Ted is instead trying to watch CHiPS, a TV series that aired from September 15, 1977, to May 1, 1983. The change from CHiPS to Knight Rider likely occurred due to the show's shift from 1980 to 1983.
  • Magnum, P.I. (1980-1988)
    • Hopper is seen watching the show in Suzie, Do You Copy?.
    • Hopper's signature Hawaiian shirt throughout the third season is inspired by Thomas Magnum, who is known for wearing tropical Hawaiian shirts.
    • In The Bite, the carny handling the Gravitron tells Joyce and Hopper to lean against the wall. When Hopper tells her to hold the ride, she says, "On your life, Magnum!"
  • Miami Vice (1984-1990)
  • Punky Brewster (1984-1988)
  • Rainbow Brite (1984-1986)
  • Rescue at Midnight Castle (1984)
    • Erica carries a My Little Pony backpack throughout the third season. In E Pluribus Unum, Dustin explains to Erica how similar the plot of the special (dragons and magic) is similar to his nerdy interests of Dungeons & Dragons, ergo Erica is somewhat of a nerd.
  • Sesame Street (1969-)
    • In the Starcourt Mall, The Big Cookie has a large Cookie Monster poster hung next to the register, and there's an Oscar the Grouch cookie cake seen on the display window.
    • Sesame Street toys are seen being sold at the Fun Fair in The Bite.
  • The Smurfs (1981-1989)
  • Strawberry Shortcake (1980-1985)
  • The Transformers (1984-1987)
    • In Suzie, Do You Copy?, Dustin owns a G1 Transformers Ultra Magnus figure, despite the season taking place in 1985, and the toy not being released until 1986.
  • The X-Files (1993-2002)


  • Atari — A series of home video game consoles produced by Atari Inc, which reached their greatest heights of popularity from the late '70s to mid '80s. Will strongly suspected one of his Christmas presents, as well as one of Dustin's, was an Atari console, as both gifts were of the same weight.
  • "Dark Souls" — A Japanese action role-playing game released in 2011. According to Matt Duffer, ""We're huge, huge fans of the Dark Souls games, and there's something about when you're playing Dark Souls,". He said, "Immediately when you're in that world, it was to do with the imagery, it has to do with the sound design, and you're just immediately very uncomfortable and on edge. We wanted you to feel that way when you're in the Upside Down".[35]
  • "Dig Dug" — A 1982 arcade game. In "MADMAX", the game is first mentioned when Dustin discovers that his high score in the game has been beaten. Later, Max is seen playing the game while Lucas and Dustin spy on her.
  • "Dragon's Lair" — A 1983 laserdisc video game. Dustin, Will, Lucas, and Mike play the game at the Palace in "MADMAX".
  • Dungeons & Dragons — A tabletop RPG that plays a prominent role in the first season. The boys' two D&D campaigns bookend the season, and foreshadow and reference various characters and story elements, such as the Demogorgon's attack on Will in the opening scenes.
  • "Silent Hill" — A popular Japanese survival horror video game franchise created by Keiichiro Toyama, developed and published by Konami. The games take place in the series' fictional town Silent Hill, Maine. The games are heavily influenced by psychological horror, with Stephen King as one of the possible inspirations. The Duffers have acknowledged Silent Hill as one of the video games that inspired Stranger Things.[23]
    • Silent Hill's Otherworld conceptually and visually informed the Upside Down. [36][37] Both are essentially “dark reflections” of the regular world, and are home to grotesque monsters.
    • When creating the Demogorgon, the Duffers were inspired by the work of Masahiro Ito, who designed the monsters for some of the Silent Hill games.[7]
    • One of the franchise's major characters, Alessa Gillespie, has a lot in common with Eleven. Both have supernatural powers and had abusive childhoods. Hopper also mentioned an Eleanor Gillespie, whose surname could be referencing this character.
  • "The Last of Us" — An action-adventure survival horror video game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. In the game, protagonist Joel accompanies a young girl named Ellie as they travel across a post-apocalyptic United States, overridden with the undead. The Duffers have noted The Last of Us as one of the video games that inspired Stranger Things.[23]
    • Both Chief Hopper and Joel had a daughter named Sara. Both also died tragically, albeit through very different means.
    • Eleven and Ellie are similarly named preteen girls who are endowed with unusual, remarkable qualities: Ellie is immune to the mutant Cordyceps fungus, while Eleven instead possesses psychokinetic abilities. Just how Ellie reminds Joel of his deceased daughter, Eleven potentially reminds Hopper of his own child who passed away. The Duffers have alluded to this connection, with Matt saying "we like the idea of potentially putting (Eleven) and Hopper together" in future seasons.[6]
    • The Monster bares some resemblance to Clickers (a stage of the Infected from the game), though this is very possibly coincidental.


  • "Fantastic Four" — While comparing Dustin's cleidocranial dysplasia to a superpower, Mike name-drops Mr. Fantastic, a member of the fictional superhero group called the Fantastic Four. They appear in Marvel Comics along with the X-Men.
  • X-Men — A fictional team of superheroes appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics.
    • In the opening episode, Will remarks that if he wins a bike race with Dustin, he wins his X-Men #134. In this issue, Jean Grey telepathically pins the villain Mastermind to a wall and puts in him in a coma - this is reminiscent of Eleven's eventual confrontation with the Monster in Chapter Eight.
    • In the original pilot script, Will instead wanted Dustin's Uncanny X-Men #269 - this would've been an anachronism, as that issue was released on October 10, 1990.
    • The X-Men are also mentioned in Chapter Three, when Dustin speculates about the origin of Eleven's abilities.
    • In "The Body", when Eleven "channels Will", Dustin compares her to Professor X, a powerful telepath.
  • "Wonder Woman" — Max collects and reads Wonder Woman comic books from DC Comics. Max gives a brief rundown on the books' premise to Eleven.
  • "Green Lantern (John Stewart)" — Max collects and reads Green Lantern comic books from DC Comics. The cover of one of her issues of Green Lantern features John Stewart, the third human to join the Green Lantern Corps.
  • "Cyborg" — A fictional superhero appearing as part of the The New Teen Titans comic series from 1980-1996. In the episode "The Flayed" Dustin and Robin name droped the character's alter ego of "Victor Stone" and brought up the fact that the character's mechanical limbs were built out of the fictional sybstance promethiun.


  • Drew Struzan — A renowned artist known for making over 150 movie posters, especially those for the Indiana Jones, Back to the Future, and Star Wars films. Artist Kyle Lambert, who created the main Stranger Things poster, drew inspiration from Struzan's work in order to "pay tribute to the ‘80s style of movie poster."[38]
  • Zdzislaw Beksinski — A Polish painter that specialized in the field of dystopian surrealism. The "hellish" and "otherwordly" imagery of his work were one of the inspirations for Aaron Sims while creating the look of the Upside Down.[36]


  • Cujo — A 1981 psychological horror novel by Stephen King about a rabid dog. In "The Body", the security guard at the morgue can be seen reading the novel - Hopper acknowledges the book, remarking "That's a nasty mutt..."
  • "The Hunt for Red October" — A 1984 novel by Tom Clancy. It tells the story of a CIA analyst named Jack Ryan, who must determine the motives of a seemingly rogue Soviet Captain named Marko Ramius aboard the submarine "Red October", which is equipped with cutting-edge stealth technology, making the sub nearly invisible. The novel can be seen featured at Waldenbooks in the first teaser trailer for the third season.
  • It — The Duffers were influenced by much of Stephen King's work, including his novel It. The titular "It", also known as Pennywise, is a child-stalking creature originating from beyond our regular universe. "It" has a fair deal in common with Stranger Things' Monster, which also stalks children and originates from another dimension beyond our own. They also acknowledged that Bob's backstory behind his fear of clowns was based on It. Ironically, Finn Wolfhard would later portray one of the main characters in the 2017 film adaptation. He'd also utter an exact same quote from the film later in the show.[39]
  • "Ronia, the Robber's Daughter" — A 1981 children's fantasy book by Astrid Lindgren that tells the story of a young girl, Ronia, who lives among a clan of robbers. Ronia's appearance on the book's cover was the inspiration for Eleven's hairstyle for the second season.[40]
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth — The boys casually refer to a wooded area/road in Hawkins as "Mirkwood". This is the name of a great forest in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, located near the Grey Mountains. Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey and a group of dwarves venture through this forest in The Hobbit.
    • The password to Castle Byers is "Radagast", a reference to a wizard or "Istari" featured in The Lord of the Rings.
  • The work of H.P. Lovecraft — H.P. Lovecraft is an author widely credited with the creation of the "cosmic horror" subgenre. Cosmic horror stories usually promote the notion that human civilsation is insignificant in the wider scheme of a mysterious, uncaring universe. Lovecraft was one of various storytellers who influenced the Duffers when developing Stranger Things' more supernatural elements. When discussing the Upside Down, Matt Duffer said he believes "it’s scarier when you don’t fully understand it. The more that you reveal and the more you comprehend, the less scary it gets. That’s sort of the H.P. Lovecraft, Clive Barker approach." [37]
  • The work of Preston B. NicholsStranger Things is influenced by the books of Preston B. Nichols, such as The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time. Stranger Things and his books cover a great deal of common ground, such as monsters, portals and children with psychic powers. The pilot script reveals that the show was originally set in Montauk, Long Island instead of Hawkins, Indiana.
  • "The d'Artagnan Romances" — A book trilogy written by French novelist Alexandre Dumas in the 19th Century. The novels detail the adventures of a trio of French swordsmen (musketeers) during the 17th Century and of Charles d'Artagnan, a young man wishing to join the trio as their fourth member.

Possible or Unconfirmed

  • Beyond the Black Rainbow — A 2010 science fiction-horror film written and directed by Panos Cosmatos. The film's main story takes place in 1983, and features a tyrannical scientist, Dr. Nyle, experimenting on a young, female test subject named Elena, who have a similar dynamic to Dr. Brenner and Eleven. There are scenes in which characters become submerged in a vat of liquid and subsequently experience the supernatural. Like Eleven, Elena eventually escapes Nyle's laboratory and is pursued by her former master.
    • Matt Duffer has watched Beyond the Black Rainbow, although his brother Ross has not. Ross has remarked that the film very possibly influenced his brother while producing Stranger Things.[23]
    • The Rainbow room could possibly be an allusion to this film.
  • "Eerie, Indiana" — An American television series which aired in the early 90s, and has since developed a cult following. The show revolves around a teenager whose family moves to the desolate town of Eerie, Indiana. He soon begins to encounter various bizarre, sometimes supernatural goings-on in the town. The idea of the supernatural meeting the ordinary, as well as the Indiana setting, could have been an influence to Stranger Things.
    • When the Duffers had to rename the series once the setting was changed from Montauk, New York to Hawkins, Indiana, they stated they "didn’t want to do the Eerie, Indiana or Twin Peaks thing and name it after a fictional place because it had been done a lot.” [41]
  • "The Last Starfighter" — A 1984 sci-fi film about a teenager who’s recruited into interstellar warfare. Though Stranger Things contains no direct references to the film, both stories are rooted in the geek-friendly idea that playing video games or D&D campaigns can provide kids with knowledge they can use to solve real-life situations.
  • "The Mist" — A 1980 horror novella by Stephen King that was later adapted as a film in 2007. The appearance of the Mind Flayer emerging in the midst of a storm is vaguely reminiscent of The Mist.
  • "Police Academy"Stranger Things's Officer Callahan is a possible reference to the similarly named Officer Debbie Callahan in the 1980s comedy film series Police Academy.
  • "Predator" — A 1987 sci-fi action horror film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The name of the film's team leader that tried to recover the CIA agents was Jim Hopper, who could be a potential inspiration for the show's Chief Jim Hopper, although no direct references exist between them.
  • "The Twilight Zone"The Twilight Zone was a fantasy, psychological-supernatural horror anthology television series which ran from 1959 to 1964.
    • Chapter Two's title, "The Weirdo on Maple Street", recalls "The Monsters are due on Maple Street," a classic Twilight Zone episode in which aliens invade and scare a small neighborhood.
    • The Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost" follows a married couple as they try to find their daughter, who becomes lost in an alternate dimension. There are clear parallels between "Little Girl Lost"'s and Stranger Things's missing child story-lines. It is unknown if the episode directly influenced the Duffer Brothers. That being said, Poltergeist, a film named as an influence on the show, was itself influenced by "Little Girl Lost"; in this sense, the Duffers were at least indirectly influenced by the episode.
  • "Twin Peaks" — David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks shares various similarities with Stranger Things. Both shows are set in small and seemingly inconspicuous American towns, where supernatural goings-on secretly take place. The two shows both revolve around the mysteries surrounding an ill-fated local - this is teenager Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, and Will Byers in Stranger Things. Both are found dead in or near a body of water, yet they are later seen seemingly alive.
  • "Videodrome" — When Will communicates with Joyce through the house in Chapter Two, his bedroom walls distend like the skin-colored television in David Cronenberg’s horror film Videodrome. A similar effect can be seen whenever the creature tears through the seams of the Upside Down to attack.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "How Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King Influenced Stranger Things" IGN. July 7, 2016.
  2. "'Stranger Things': Creators Matt and Ross Duffer Reveal Plans for a Possible Season 2" Collider. July 31, 2016.
  3. "Stranger Things interview - Duffer Brothers on Netflix's new supernatural show" Irish Examiner. May 18, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Stranger Things episode 2: The Duffer Brothers on finding their Eleven" Entertainment Weekly. July 16, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "‘Stranger Things’ Finale: Duffer Brothers Talk Cliffhangers, Death and Season 2" Variety. July 18, 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "Stranger Things episode 6: How the Duffer Brothers created the monster" Entertainment Weekly. July 20, 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "Stranger Things season 2: Duffer Brothers reveal details" Entertainment Weekly. August 31, 2016.
  9. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2, ‘Chapter Five: Dig Dug’" Vulture. November 3, 2017
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Duffer Brothers On Their 'Stranger Things'" Awards Daily.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Stranger Things: the Dufferbrothers share the secrets of their hit show" Empire. July 27, 2016.
  12. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2 Finale" Vulture. November 10, 2017.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "How the Duffer Brothers Picked the Perfect Music for 'Stranger Things'" Complex. August 2, 2016.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "'Stranger Things' Creators Explain It All About Season 1" Hitfix. July 27, 2016.
  15. "Stranger Thingsepisode 7: The Duffer Brothers on the 'most fun' episode of the season" Entertainment Weekly. July 21, 2016.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 "Stranger Things 3: The movies that inspired the new season" Entertainment Weekly. May 23, 2019
  17. "‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Is Inspired by 1985’s ‘Fletch’ (EXCLUSIVE)" Variety. August 18, 2018
  18. Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down
  19. "Interview: The Duffer Brothers & Shawn Levy of “Stranger Things”" Cut Print Film. August 3, 2016.
  20. "Remote Controlled: ‘Stranger Things’ Creators Duffer Brothers on Going ‘Big’ in Season 2"Variety. June 6, 2017.
  21. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2, ‘Chapter Three: The Pollywog’" Vulture. November 1, 2017
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 "The Duffer Brothers Talk 'Stranger Things' Influences, 'It' Dreams and Netflix Phase 2" The Hollywood Reporter. August 1, 2016.
  24. "Stranger Things Panel @ The Days of the Dead Atlanta Feb. 4 2017"
  25. "The Twin Brothers Who Are Bringing the 1980's, and Winona Ryder, Back on Screen" Men's Journal. July 2016.
  26. "Matt and Ross Duffer Discuss 'Stranger Things,' a Nightmare on '80s Street" New York Times. August 11, 2016.
  27. "Stranger Things interview - Duffer Brothers on Netflix's new supernatural show" Irish Examiner. May 18, 2016.
  28. "‘Stranger Things’: How Two Brothers Created Summer’s Biggest TV Hit" Rolling Stone. August 3, 2016
  29. "'Power Rangers': Dacre Montgomery on "Potential" Sequel and His Naked Audition for 'Stranger Things'" The Hollywood Reporter. March 22, 2017.
  30. "Stranger Things premiere: The Duffer Brothers introduce their new Netflix series" Entertainment Weekly. July 15, 2016.
  31. "'Stranger Things' Producer on New Characters and Casting "Famous People" for Season 2" The Hollywood Reporter. August 31, 2016
  32. "How 'Stranger Things' Created The Void" Inverse. August 2, 2016.
  33. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2, ‘Chapter One: MadMax’" Vulture. October 30, 2017
  34. 34.0 34.1 "The Stranger Things creators want some scares with their Spielberg" AV Club. Jul 13, 2016
  36. 36.0 36.1 "Exclusive ‘Stranger Things’ Art Reveals ‘Upside Down’ Secrets and Barb’s Alternate End" ScreenCrush. August 22, 2016.
  37. 37.0 37.1 "Inside ‘Stranger Things’: The Duffer Bros. on How They Made the TV Hit of the Summer"The Daily Beast. August 6, 2016.
  38. "Meet Kyle Lambert, the Artist Behind the Now-Iconic Stranger Things Poster" The Hundreds. August 17, 2016.
  39. "The Connection Between ‘Stranger Things’ And ‘It’ Is Quite Intentional"Uproxx
  40. "’Stranger Things’ Stylist Teases Season 3 Hair and Breaks Down 7 Iconic Character Hairdos" IndieWire. Novemeber 8, 2017
  41. "On Set For ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2, Duffers Hint At Future: “We Have A Blinking Light That We’re Headed Toward”"Deadline. May 15, 2017.