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The Netflix original series Stranger Things is heavily influenced by pop culture, in particular 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]

Films

  • "Akira" — A 1988 Japanese anime science fiction film directed by Katsuhiro Otomo, based on Otomo's manga of the same name. 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.[4]
    • 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" — A 1979 science-fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott. The film features an extraterrestrial creature which stalks and hunts the crew of a spaceship. Alien inspired the Upside Down's appearance in Stranger Things.[5]
    • In Stranger Things, David O'Bannon is the state trooper who claims to have found Will's body. His surname is likely 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.[6]
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
  • "Aliens" — A 1986 science fiction horror film written and directed by James Cameron, and the sequel to Alien. When naming inspirational sequels for the second season of Stranger Things, the Duffers listed Aliens among other film sequels by James Cameron.[7]
  • "Altered States — A 1980 American science fiction-horror film adaptation of a novel by the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. 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.[8]
  • "Back to the Future" — A 1985 science-fiction adventure comedy film. Max Mayfield possesses a skateboard that was produced by the same company as Marty McFly's.
    • In "Trick or Treat, Freak" Bob Newby lends Jonathan his video camera, which is the same model of camera that Doc Brown gives to Marty to film his Delorean time travel experiments.
    • According to Shawn Levy, the film will be referenced in the third season.[9]
  • "Breaking Away" — A 1979 coming of age comedy-drama film produced and directed by Peter Yates. The film partly inspired the show's Indiana setting, with the quarry scenes being direct references to the film's setting.[10]
  • "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" — This 1977 science fiction film, written and directed by Steven Spielberg, tells the story of an everyday blue collar worker in Indiana, whose life changes after an encounter with an UFO. When developing the character Joyce, the Duffer Brothers "talked a lot about Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, because for much of the show Winona 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 an eerie orange light.
  • "Diner" — A 1982 American comedy-drama film.
    • 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. Also, both the characters, Dr. Owens and Modell, were portrayed by Paul Reiser.[12]
  • "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" — A 1982 science fiction fantasy film directed by Steven Spielberg. E.T. tells the story of Elliott, a lonely boy who befriends an benevolent extraterrestrial who is stranded on Earth. Elliott and his siblings help the alien return home while hiding it from their mother and the government. E.T. is an evident influence on Stranger Things, which share many similar elements. Clips from the film were used in the fake trailer the Duffers created to pitch the show.[13]
    • An early scene in the film features a group of boys playing Dungeons & Dragons just like Stranger Things.
    • Will running into the shed in "The Vanishing of Will Byers" was an intentional homage to a similar shot in the film.[14]
    • 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, Chapter Two was largely about the developing bond between Eleven and Mike.[4]
    • "The Monster" 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".
    • At one moment in the film, Elliott accidentally drops a sausage and pepperoni pizza. Dustin offers a pizza with the same toppings to Nancy in the opening scenes of the show.
    • Eleven's makeover in "The Body" recalls a scene in which E.T. is dressed up by Elliott's younger sister, Gertie. Furthermore, Holly Wheeler herself, the toddler sibling of Mike and Nancy, may have been inspired by Gertie.
    • Dustin possesses an E.T. toy figurine.
  • "The Evil Dead" — Jonathan has an Evil Dead poster in his bedroom.
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
  • "Firestarter" — A 1980 science fiction novel by Stephen King, and its subsequent 1984 film adaptation. The story follows a young girl, born with pyrokinesis, who runs from a secret government agency which seeks to control her.
    • 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.
  • "Fletch" — A 1985 comedy film starring Chevy Chase as a reporter who takes on several identities in order to solve a case. According to David Harbour, the film will be an influence for the third season.[16]
  • "The Fog" — The soundtrack from The Fog was used in the fake trailer the Duffers created to pitch the show.[13]
  • "Frankenstein" — A 1931 film based on the 1818 novel of the same name by Mary Shelley. Eleven can be seen watching the film in "Trick or Treat, Freak".
Trick o' Treat

The boys in Ghostbusters costumes.

  • "Ghostbusters" — A 1984 supernatural comedy film. In "Trick or Treat, Freak" Mike, Dustin, Will, and Lucas wear Ghostbusters outfits as Halloween costumes.
    • In Stranger Things: The Game, when a character examines a telephone, they say "Who you gonna call?", referencing the film's infamous tagline.
  • "The Goonies" — A 1985 adventure comedy film. The film's plot revolves around a gang of teens and pre-teens who go looking for long-lost treasure in the hopes of saving their homes from demolition. The tone of the kids' storyline in Stranger Things was largely inspired by The Goonies.
    • Both stories feature a close-knit gang of kids. Dustin, in particular, has a lot of similarities to Chunk - they share a large appetite and love of food, but also has a lot of similarities to Mouth - they are both smart and humorous and crucial to the story.
    • Mike's character was originally based on Michael "Mikey" Walsh from the film, with his first name being a direct reference.[17]
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by a Goonies poster.
  • "Gremlins" — A 1984 comedy horror film. The Duffers have revealed the second season was influenced by the film.[18]
    • Dustin's season two storyline of finding and bonding with Dart was inspired by Gremlins.[19]
  • "Halloween" — Clips from Halloween were used in the fake trailer the Duffers created to pitch the show.[13]
    • In "The Weirdo on Maple Street" when Lucas believes that Eleven has escaped from a psychiatric hospital, Dustin compares her to Michael Myers.
    • In "Trick or Treat, Freak", Max wears a Michael Myers Halloween costume.
  • "Hellraiser" — Clive Barker’s classic horror film Hellraiser 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."[5] [6]
  • "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" — A 1984 action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg. While the second film in the franchise, it is the prequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark.
    • The Duffers have noted Temple of Doom 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 traumatised some children. Not saying that we want to traumatise children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder."[7] [20]
  • "Jaws" — a 1975 thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg, based on Peter Benchley's novel of the same name. The story is about a giant man-eating shark that terrorizes the fictional coastal town of Amity Island. As the Duffers have said that Jaws is "probably" their favorite film, it comes at no surprise that Stranger Things is heavily influenced by it.[21]
    • A scene in which Hopper typewrites a police report while talking to Joyce is framed identically to a similar scene in Jaws.[11]
    • Stranger Things was originally titled Montauk, and would've taken place in Montauk, New York. One of the reasons behind this was the desire to replicate Amity's coastal town feel and atmosphere.[21]
    • 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."[6]
    • 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.
  • Let the Right One In”/”Let Me InLet the Right One In is a 2008 Swedish romantic horror film, based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It tells the story of a young boy named Oskar who befriends a vampire child named Eli. The film was given a 2010 American remake called Let Me In, where the names of the main characters were changed to Owen and Abby respectively. 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.[22]
    • The relationship between Eleven and Mike has a similar dynamic to the relationship between Oskar and Eli. Oskar, being interested in serial killers and who even fantasized about killing those who bullied him, meets and befriends Eli, who must kill in order to survive. In a similar fashion, Mike, who enjoys movies like Star Wars that feature characters with extraordinary abilities, befriends Eleven, who was born with such abilities and as a result was held captive in a lab for her entire life. Both boys also end up developing romantic feelings towards their new friends.
    • In "The Monster", Mike is seen holding a Rubik's Cube while waiting for Eleven to return. A Rubik's Cube was a prominent symbol of Oskar's and Eli's friendship in both films and the novel. However, the Duffers could have simply included the Rubik's Cube to further express the time period since the toy was extremely popular in the early '80s.
    • Both Eleven and Eli defended their friends from bullies with switchblades, with both situations involving water; Mike was threatened to jump off a cliff into a lake, while Oskar was forced to hold his breath in a swimming pool.
  • "Mr. Mom" — A 1983 comedy film that follows automobile engineer Jack after he is fired from his job. When his wife, Caroline, finds a job before he does, they switch roles, placing him in the unfamiliar position of homemaker and caretaker to their three children.
    • It was one of the films being rented by Jonathan Byers for their movie night, eventually Bob chooses to watch the film.
A Nightmare on Elm Street Stranger Things comparison

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

  • "A Nightmare on Elm Street" — A 1984 horror film directed by Wes Craven, and the first installment of a long-running franchise. The plot revolves around several teenagers who are terrorized and killed in their dreams by burn-damaged serial killer Freddy Krueger.
    • 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."[23] 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.[24] 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.
    • Nancy Wheeler's first name is potentially derived from Elm Street's Nancy Thompson.
    • A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
  • "Poltergeist" — A well-known supernatural horror film directed by Tobe Hooper, and written and produced by Steven Spielberg. The plot follows a family whose home is invaded by malevolent ghosts - these ghosts kidnap the young girl, Carol Anne. Poltergeist made an ordinary object or device like a television seem like something extraordinary - the Duffers were inspired to do the same but with Christmas lights.[25]
    • 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”.
    • Joyce communicating with Will through the Christmas lights, as well as Will being heard through radios, was also inspired by Poltergeist, where Carol Anne can be heard through the television and walls.
    • During a flashback in "The Vanishing of Will Byers", Joyce visits Will at Castle Byers and surprises him with tickets to see Poltergeist.
  • "Prisoners" — A 2013 film about the search for the abductor of two young girls. The film was the initial inspiration for the plot of Stranger Things.[26]
  • "Risky Business" — A 1983 romantic comedy film. In "Trick or Treat, Freak", Steve and Nancy attended a Halloween party dressed as characters from the film, with Steve dressed as Joel Goodson and Nancy dressed as Lana.
  • "The Running Man" — A 1987 science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and loosely based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. A promo poster posted on the show's social media accounts was directly inspired by the theatrical poster for the film.
  • "The Shining" — A 1980 psychological horror film that is based on Stephen King's 1977 novel of the same name. According to actor Dacre Montgomery, the Duffers based his character Billy somewhat on Jack Nicholson's character in the film, Jack Torrance.[27]
  • "Stand by Me"— A 1986 adventure film based on Stephen King's 1982 novella "The Body." In the film, four small town boys go on a hike across the countryside to find the corpse of a missing child.
    • During auditions, the child actors read lines from scenes from Stand by Me.[28] 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." [5]
    • 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.
    • Chapter Four 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.
  • Star Wars— Although the long-running science fiction film franchise has little to no influence on the first season's overall plot, the boys make various references, scattered across the span of the eight chapters. It makes sense that the boys would be exposed to "Star Wars", as it was a pop culture phenomenon in the 80's - especially considering that "Return of the Jedi" came out in 1983, the same year the first season is set in.
    • Mike compares Eleven and her psychic abilities to the mentor character Yoda and his special ability to tap in 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!".
    • Mike has a toy model of the Millennium Falcon, the starship piloted by the films' lead characters. He also has a small Yoda action figure.
    • 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 Empire Strikes Back as a sequel that "worked". [29]
  • "The Terminator" — A 1984 science-fiction action film directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. An advertisement for the film is briefly shown while Eleven is watching television in "Trick or Treat, Freak".
  • "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" — A 1991 science-fiction action film and the sequel to The Terminator. When naming inspirational sequels for the second season of Stranger Things, the Duffers listed Terminator 2 among other film sequels by James Cameron.[7]
  • "The Thing" — A 1982 American science-fiction horror film directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster. The titular "Thing" is a parasitic alien life form that can hijack and imitate other organisms. The Thing was one of various science fiction and horror films which inspired the Duffers to use practical effects when creating their own monster.[6] Stranger Things also includes various nods to the film.
    • Mike has a poster for The Thing hung up on the basement wall.
    • Scott Clarke and his partner Jen are watching the film on VHS when Dustin calls asking about sensory deprivation.
  • "Under the Skin" — A 2013 science fiction film directed and co-written by Jonathan Glazer; it is loosely based on Michel Faber's 2000 novel of the same name. The film takes place in Scotland, following an otherworldly woman who preys on unsuspecting men. It is the direct inspiration for the Void, a visual representation of Eleven's mind while sensorily deprived.[30]
  • "WarGames" — A 1983 Cold War science fiction film that follows a hacker named David Lightman, who unknowingly hacks into a military supercomputer believing it to simply be a computer game. The Palace, the arcade in Hawkins, was named after the arcade in the film.[31]

Television

  • "Cheers" — An American sitcom that ran from 1982 - 1993. It briefly appears while Eleven is watching television in "Will the Wise".
  • "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" — A thirteen-part television series that originally aired from September 28 - December 21, 1980. It is referenced by Mike in "The Flea and the Acrobat" when he, along with Lucas and Dustin, ask Mr. Clarke about other dimensions.
    • In the original Montauk pilot script, Mr. Clarke mentions the series as he is teaching his class.
  • "Elfen Lied" — A 2004 anime television series directed by Mamoru Kanbe, based on the manga of the same name, written by Lynn Okamoto. The plot largely revolves around a teenager named Lucy, a member of the Diclonii, a mutant off-shoot species of humans. Diclonii mostly resemble humans, with the distinguishing feature being a pair of horns that protrude from a Diclonius's skull. They also possess “vectors”, which are telepathically controlled arms usually invisible to the naked eyes. Vectors can be used to pick up and cut objects, though they are primarily used to brutally murder people.
    • 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." [21][4]
    • 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.
  • Freaks and Geeks”/"Friday Night Lights"Freaks and Geeks was a 1999 drama series following a group of early 80's teens and their life at high school; the teens clearly parallel those of Stranger Things and their storylines. The show was one of the Duffer Brothers' favorite shows growing up. Friday Night Lights, meanwhile, is a 2006 drama series about a high school football team. 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."[32]
    • Stranger Things' Nancy shares several character traits with Freaks and Geeks' Lindsay Weir. Both girls are academic students, but they become keen to hang out in more popular (and less academically minded) social circles. They both have a 'geeky', academic and long-time best friend, who becomes suspicious of this change in behavior. Nancy and Lindsay's younger brothers are also dismissive of their unexpected, wilder antics.
  • "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" — A 1983 American animated television series that followed the adventures of Prince Adam on the planet of Eternia. The show is referenced in “Holly, Jolly”; it briefly appears on the Wheelers' television while Eleven is channel-surfing.
    • Lucas possesses a He-Man action figure.
  • "Knight Rider" — A popular 80's show, appears briefly in "The Vanishing of Will Byers"; Ted Wheeler, while talking to Mike, tries watching an episode on television, but he is frustrated by the poor reception.
    • 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.

Games

  • 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".[33]
  • "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.[21]
    • Silent Hill's Otherworld conceptually and visually informed the Upside Down. [34][35] 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.[6]
    • 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.[21]
    • 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.[5]
    • The Monster bares some resemblance to Clickers (a stage of the Infected from the game), though this is very possibly coincidental.

Comics

  • "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.

Artists

  • 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."[36]
  • 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.[34]

Books/Novels

  • 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.[37]
  • "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.[38]
  • 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." [35]

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.[21]
    • The Rainbow room could possibly be an allusion to this film.
  • "Carrie" — Eleven shares some features with Stephen King character Carrie White, a fundamentally sweet-natured but troubled girl with telekinetic powers.
    • Stranger Things also seems to include a homage to the stinger that closes Carrie: Just as Carrie’s hand reaches through the soil at her grave site, Nancy’s hand punctures through a web-like portal upon returning from the Upside Down.
  • "Die Hard"Stranger Things's Officer Powell is a possible reference to the similarly named Officer Al Powell in the 1988 action movie classic Die Hard.
  • "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.” [39]
  • "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.

References

  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.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Stranger Things episode 2: The Duffer Brothers on finding their Eleven" Entertainment Weekly. July 16, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "‘Stranger Things’ Finale: Duffer Brothers Talk Cliffhangers, Death and Season 2" Variety. July 18, 2016.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Stranger Things episode 6: How the Duffer Brothers created the monster" Entertainment Weekly. July 20, 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Stranger Things season 2: Duffer Brothers reveal details" Entertainment Weekly. August 31, 2016.
  8. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2, ‘Chapter Five: Dig Dug’" Vulture. November 3, 2017
  9. "‘Stranger Things’: First Season 3 Details Revealed" The Hollywood Reporter. March 25, 2018
  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 13.3 "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. "‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Is Inspired by 1985’s ‘Fletch’ (EXCLUSIVE)" Variety. August 18, 2018
  17. "Interview: The Duffer Brothers & Shawn Levy of “Stranger Things”" Cut Print Film. August 3, 2016.
  18. "Remote Controlled: ‘Stranger Things’ Creators Duffer Brothers on Going ‘Big’ in Season 2"Variety. June 6, 2017.
  19. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2, ‘Chapter Three: The Pollywog’" Vulture. November 1, 2017
  20. "6 THINGS THE STRANGER THINGS WRITERS TOLD US ABOUT SEASON 2" IGN. August 23, 2016.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 "The Duffer Brothers Talk 'Stranger Things' Influences, 'It' Dreams and Netflix Phase 2" The Hollywood Reporter. August 1, 2016.
  22. "Stranger Things Panel @ The Days of the Dead Atlanta Feb. 4 2017"
  23. "The Twin Brothers Who Are Bringing the 1980's, and Winona Ryder, Back on Screen" Men's Journal. July 2016.
  24. "Matt and Ross Duffer Discuss 'Stranger Things,' a Nightmare on '80s Street" New York Times. August 11, 2016.
  25. "Stranger Things interview - Duffer Brothers on Netflix's new supernatural show" Irish Examiner. May 18, 2016.
  26. "‘Stranger Things’: How Two Brothers Created Summer’s Biggest TV Hit" Rolling Stone. August 3, 2016
  27. "'Power Rangers': Dacre Montgomery on "Potential" Sequel and His Naked Audition for 'Stranger Things'" The Hollywood Reporter. March 22, 2017.
  28. "Stranger Things premiere: The Duffer Brothers introduce their new Netflix series" Entertainment Weekly. July 15, 2016.
  29. "'Stranger Things' Producer on New Characters and Casting "Famous People" for Season 2" The Hollywood Reporter. August 31, 2016
  30. "How 'Stranger Things' Created The Void" Inverse. August 2, 2016.
  31. "The Duffer Brothers Recap Stranger Things 2, ‘Chapter One: MadMax’" Vulture. October 30, 2017
  32. "The Stranger Things creators want some scares with their Spielberg" AV Club. Jul 13, 2016
  33. http://www.gamesradar.com/yes-stranger-things-upside-down-was-totally-inspired-by-silent-hill/
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Exclusive ‘Stranger Things’ Art Reveals ‘Upside Down’ Secrets and Barb’s Alternate End" ScreenCrush. August 22, 2016.
  35. 35.0 35.1 "Inside ‘Stranger Things’: The Duffer Bros. on How They Made the TV Hit of the Summer"The Daily Beast. August 6, 2016.
  36. "Meet Kyle Lambert, the Artist Behind the Now-Iconic Stranger Things Poster" The Hundreds. August 17, 2016.
  37. "The Connection Between ‘Stranger Things’ And ‘It’ Is Quite Intentional"Uproxx
  38. "’Stranger Things’ Stylist Teases Season 3 Hair and Breaks Down 7 Iconic Character Hairdos" IndieWire. Novemeber 8, 2017
  39. "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.