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All The Pop Culture References In 'Stranger Things'

Anyone who spent time in the ‘80s can tell you about the multitude of pop culture Easter eggs in Stranger Things - and there’s a wide variety of memorable examples to choose from. But it’s all the less obvious pop culture references in Stranger Things that are seamlessly slipped into the plot of the series that truly mark it as a hallmark of homages.

The Duffer brothers have gone out of their way to insert as much nostalgia into their series as possible without bogging it down, and through the seasons, they seem to have perfected the formula, with the Starcourt Mall in Season 3 almost earning a place as a character. Stranger Things manages the difficult task of feeling old and new at the same time.

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  • The Gang Frequently Traipse The Train Tracks A La 'Stand by Me'

    The creators of Stranger Things had countless “group of boys go on an adventure”-type films from the ‘80s to choose from when selecting influences for their series, and 1986’s Stand by Me has had the greatest impact.

    That film features a few memorable shots of its protagonists traveling along a set of train tracks, and similar frames pop up a number of times throughout both seasons of Stranger Things. In Season 1, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Eleven wander around on the tracks looking for Will and the Upside Down, and in Season 2, it’s Steve and Dustin who bond as they wander down the railway. 

  • Joyce Byers Has A Close Encounter With Another Paranormal Classic

    The audience watching Stranger Things is perfectly aware that Will Byers is trapped in the Upside Down for the majority of Season 1, and that his mother Joyce is able to communicate with him via Christmas lights - but that’s not quite so apparent to the rest of the citizens of Hawkins. Joyce’s experience with the paranormal makes her look outright deranged to the outside world, and that closely mirrors the story arc of the protagonist in a 1977 science-fiction masterpiece: Close Encounters of the Third Kind’s Roy Neary.

    Just like Neary, Joyce makes a giant mess in her house in an effort to understand the inexplicable, and just like Neary, everyone in town thinks she's insane.

  • Will Byers Opens The Door To Another 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' Homage

    Many of the pop culture homages strewn throughout Stranger Things are thematic in nature, but others feature direct visual callbacks. Season 2’s memorable imagery of Will Byers opening his front door to witness the Mind Flayer and the sinister glow that accompanies it is one such case. It’s a clear reference to a famous scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind in which a young boy opens his front door, sees an orange glow, and then is abducted by aliens.

    In fact, the imagery is so iconic that both Stranger Things and Close Encounters used the similar shots for promotional posters.

  • Season 2 Hopper Is Basically Indiana Jones

    The original Indiana Jones trilogy is a major part of ‘80s cinema, and the same spirit of adventure can be felt throughout Stranger Things - and in particular, Season 2’s Chief Jim Hopper. The parallels between Hopper and Indy are many, including similar hats and a shared propensity to risk life and limb to maintain possession of said hats.

    The fact that Season 2’s action climax features Hopper performing heroics in an underground tunnel can’t be a coincidence, as it’s yet another trademark of Dr. Indiana Jones.