Film & TV

The Films That Made Stranger Things

80’s film and television is laced into Stranger Things’ DNA, not only stylistically but in brick-laid, foundational plot choices. The third season of Netflix’s Stranger Things came out a few weeks ago, which means most of us have already steamed through it, so if you’re still itching for more of the same: here is a list of 80’s classics that we think inspired the hit show.

Ella Clucas on The Breakfast Club

Following the dramatic events of the first season, Netflix’s Stranger Things 3 throws us back into the heart of Hawkins, Indiana. The year is 1984, the streets are brimming with bright colours, patterns and outrageous hairstyles, and whilst the kids of Stranger Things are battling the Mindflayer in its various forms, the familiar faces of The Breakfast Club are arriving for Saturday detention.

Yes, it seems that 1984 was an eventful year for American youth, so it’s no surprise to see John Hughes’ influence weaved throughout the Duffer Brothers’s vision. Cast your mind back to Stranger Things 1, where Nancy Wheeler, strangely reminiscent of a young Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink, finds herself caught between the popular jock Steve Harrington and the token oddball, Jonathan Byers. Nancy’s ongoing struggles with feminism, middle-class pressures and the tensions between her popularity and her own morals (#JusticeForBarb) mirror Clare Standish’s internal conflicts in The Breakfast Club, as she falls for the troubled John Bender despite their differences in class and social hierarchy. We all know the iconic ending of Hughes’ film: the exchange of the diamond earring, John Bender throwing his fist up in triumph because he got the girl just once. But whilst Clare chooses social status over following her heart, Nancy does the opposite, ditching Steve for Jonathan and not-so-sadly missing her chance at high school queendom.

The ultimate common denominator between these two cinematic phenomenons is the coming together of the brain, the athlete, the basket-case, the princess and the criminal, to form the on-screen friendships we have grown to love so dearly. Both The Breakfast Club and Stranger Things unite their characters in pursuit of a common goal: to stick it to the man, or to save the world as we know it.

Ellie-Mai Pope on The Terminator

Stranger Things is a true ode to the 80’s. From Die Hard to Back to the Future, from Magnum P.I to The Neverending Story, the show is far from subtle when paying tribute to the most iconic films of the decade. However, the movie that seems to inspire Stranger Things, again and again, is the 1984 film The Terminator.

Not only does Stranger Things share surface-level similarities with The Terminator, such as a slow-panning title sequence with large letters and an eighties interpretation of futuristic music, or a soundtrack that can only have been made with the eighties film in mind – proved if you listen to The Terminator’s ‘Tunnel Chase’ against Stranger Things’ ‘Spiked Bat’ – but there are far deeper comparisons there too.

For instance: look at the protagonist of The Terminator, Sarah Connor. A true product of eighties feminism, Sarah is a woman who bravely faces an unexpected peril to ensure not only the life of her child, but the future lives of humankind. There is so much of her in Stranger Things’ Joyce Byers: a mother determined to save her child and her town. Both women are failed to be believed, made to feel crazy, and yet carry on fighting.

Stranger things’ tribute to The Terminator is taken to a whole new level in season three as the character Grigori is introduced. His rigid conduct and monosyllabic vocabulary, added to his being seemingly unbeatable, leaves what is undoubtedly an homage to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic character – with him even employing the famous move of lifting a man by the throat.

Like Stranger Things, The Terminator is tense, thrilling, and utterly engrossing. So if you loved Stranger Things, I highly recommend giving the film that seems to have inspired so many elements of it a go!

Bronte Spargo on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Although Stranger Things has rightly made a name for itself after its debut in 2016, fans of the 80s will surely recognise many of the film influences that the Duffer brothers have included in the hit show. One of these is E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Steven Spielberg’s seminal 1982 science-fiction classic.

E.T.’s influence on the first season of Stranger Things is glaringly obvious in many respects, not least for the fact that their premises are majorly similar: just as Elliot finds E.T., Mike finds Eleven, and both take this new ‘alien’ home to hide them. The Duffer brothers cleverly play tribute to E.T. in episode four, ‘The Body’, when Eleven is made-over in a disguise of a pink dress and a blonde wig. This outfit recalls E.T.’s own makeover in the film when Elliot’s sister, Gertie, dresses him up. Stranger Things’ seventh episode nods to the most famous scene in E.T., where E.T. sits in Elliot’s bike basket covered in a white blanket as the group use their bikes to escape from the villainous government agents. Although Eleven is sat behind Mike on the bike rather than in the basket, the scene is a clever remake, as the group attempt to cycle furiously away from Eleven’s ‘Papa’ and the ominous white vans with ‘Hawkins Power and Light’ written on the side. However, the Duffer brothers’ twist on this famous scene cleverly subverts E.T., as instead of E.T.’s power causing the bikes to fly into the air, Eleven shoots the approaching van into the air and over their heads.

Although E.T. has clearly influenced Stranger Things in a big way, it is obvious as the show reaches its third season that it stands on its own as a unique and innovative Netflix original that continues to go from strength to strength.