•As usual, Stranger Things 3 was full of homages and tributes to ’80s pop culture.
• Terminator and Fast Times were obvious, but what else was there?
• Here are a few that you probably noticed, and some you may have missed.
It’s summer in Hawkins, Indiana, and invading the town for season three is: one mom-and-pop-clearing shopping mall, hundreds of fashion staples, action figures, comics, boxed cereal, meticulously-placed props, New Coke, and ‘The NeverEnding Story’ song—all here to remind us that, yes, we get it, Stranger Things is set in the 1980s. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the show also knows that it’s set in the 1980s—and the show knows that we know that it’s set in the 1980s. When did watching TV turn so meta?
While we couldn’t catch every Easter egg, here are the biggest ’80s movie references in Stranger Things 3. Get your VCRs ready.
1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
There are a lot of Phoebe Cates references in Stranger Things 3. Cates plays Linda Barrett in 1982’s Fast Times. Not only does Karen Wheeler wear Cates’ famous swim suit in a pool scene, Steve knocks over a cardboard cutout of Cates in the video store during the last episode. Oh, and Dustin says his girlfriend (Suzie-Poo!) looks like Cates, “only hotter.” Damn, why not just name a character Linda?
2. Day of the Dead (1985)
Stranger Things 3 effectively opens and closes in a movie theater, the first character sequence taking place during a showing of Day of the Dead, and the final-ish sequence during Back to the Future (1985). (And then the show really ends in a VHS store, where the massive theater-going experience went to die.)
Day of the Dead, however, better informs this season than Back to the Future. In many ways, Stranger Things 3 plays out like a typical monster/zombie campy horror thriller. The genre conventions very much began with 1985’s Day of the Dead.
3. The Terminator (1984)
The close-cropped hair, the boots, the staccato speech, the unstoppable, hard-hitting machismo. That Russian hitman was perhaps the least subtle reference of the season. It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s the Terminator. Hell, Mayor Larry Kline (Cary Elwes’ character) even literally says “It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.” And we hope it won’t be back.
4. Magnum, P.I (1980-1988)
Hopper’s sartorial choices this season (read: button-down Hawaiian shirt) along with that ginormous thing above his lip call back Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum from Magnum, P.I, which first aired on CBS in 1980. David Harbour also shared a very funny tribute on his Instagram. We guess that would make Joyce Higgins?
5. Rambo (1985), Indiana Jones (1984), Die Hard (1988)
Once they went Terminator, Stranger Things went all in with the ’80s action movies. In one scene, Hopper is endearingly referred to as “fat Rambo” for his bravado—and his gut. Erica also references “booby traps” when attempting to infiltrate the Russian base. Steve’s attempt to hold the door open as the team scrambles out also feels Indiana Jones-esque. As for Hopper’s Hans-Gruber-back-of-the-head gun mistake… yeah, that’s straight-up Die Hard. Did we miss any Chuck Norris references?
6. Cheers (1982-1993)
The will-they-won’t-they awkwardness of Joyce and Hopper finds filmic precedence in Ted Danson and Shelley Long’s Cheers characters. Cheers also plays in Joyce’s flashback: she and Bob sitting on the couch together in classic ’80s TV dinner style.
7. James Bond (1962 – ), Red Dawn (1984)
As soon as Soviet forces appeared in Hawkins, you knew there would be at least a few Cold War film allusions. The funhouse mirror scene may be the most obvious—a shout out to The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). Steve and Robin’s torture scene alongside Hopper and gang’s disguised infiltration find Bond equivalents across every decade. Admittedly, these could also be classic Cold War film tropes rather than explicit 007 callbacks.
Still, we like to think that there was a spy thriller somewhere in Stranger Things 3. As for all those High schoolers inadvertently sucked into a Russian plot? That comes straight out of Red Dawn.
8. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter’s ’80s monster flick may be the most direct filmic cousin to Hawkins’ Mind Flayer. Like the Thing, the Mind Flayer prefers the cold—the sauna scene with Billy a strategy employed by both casts of protagonists. Like the Thing, the Mind Flayer also plays a game of town mind possession. And like the Thing, the Mind Flayer is just, like, pretty frickin’ gross.
9. Alien (1979)
The way in which the Mind Flayer bursts out of Eleven’s ankle and slinks around the shopping mall and hospital, sliding up to Eleven and Nancy and screaming at them—yep, that’s all super Alien. Eleven herself may be seen as a kind of Ripley, trapped with and battling the monster.
10. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars had wrapped up by 1985, but it was a sensation popular enough that even film-illiterate Steve could name it during his video store interview. Which one? The final installment climaxes with the most famous character redemption moment of all time: Darth Vader throwing down with Emperor Palpatine. We’re not saying Billy is Vader, but we’re also not saying Billy isn’t Vader. Also worth noting is Eleven’s Luke-like force moment where she tries and fails to lift the mall car—just as Luke failed to free his X-Wing fighter from Dagobah’s swamp.
You’ll get ’em in Stranger Things 4, El.
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