One of the best things about Netflix’s Stranger Things is its unabashed adoration of all things eighties. The Duffer Brothers adore the era and everything about it and they’ve lovingly peppered their show with subtle — and not so subtle — nods and winks to influences. If you thought season one was packed with homages, season two is overflowing with them. While the kids will appreciate the show’s sci-fi fun, adults watching can also play a nice round of “Spot the Kids’ Movie Reference.” From Gremlins to The Goonies, here are a few of our favorite of the many, many movie references you’ll spot.
Season 1 featured a clear homage to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial with Eleven hiding out in the suburbs from government operatives trying to study her. Season 2’s references are a little subtler and more spread out. There’s Dustin’s attempts to hide Dart, which brings to mind E.T.’s Elliott sneaking the alien in and out of his house. Then there’s Eleven’s idea to go out on Halloween disguised as a ghost and Will’s favorite candy being Reese’s Pieces..
While Dart starts off cute and innocent like E.T., he quickly turns into a dangerous pet not unlike the menacing mogwai from Gremlins. Similar to Gizmo, Dart mutates after being fed and dislikes bright light. And, while one is trouble enough, more and more soon show up to wreak havoc.
This season borrows a few elements from the Alien franchise, thematically and visually. Most obviously, Will’s possession by the Shadow Monster bears resemblance to John Hurt’s character’s infamous “chest-burster” scene from Alien, in which he returns from a dangerous expedition seemingly unhurt, only to bring back something dangerous embedded inside him. Thankfully, Will’s possession was far more PG.
Season 2 makes a more explicit callback to Aliens by casting Paul Reiser as a doctor working for Hawkins Lab. In Aliens, Reiser similarly plays a suspicious bureaucrat who proves he’s willing to sacrifice the main characters’ safety over his own, which leads to a scene in which a group of soldiers get ambushed by aliens that bears a great deal of resemblance to the attack in Chapter 6.
The Empire Strikes Back
In Chapter 7, Eleven teams up with another escapee from Hawkins Lab, Kali, who was experimented on as a child. Kali encourages Eleven to unleash the full potential of her powers by tapping into her anger. While Kali’s no Darth Vader, it’s the classic Star Wars Dark versus Light Side debate all over again.
Stand by Me
In Chapter Five, Dustin and babysitter extraordinaire Steve Harrington share a bonding moment talking about girls while walking along a train track. It’s almost certainly a reference to Stand by Me, where the four boys shoot the shit while ambling on the tracks.
While season one saw Joyce Byers putting together her Christmas light alphabet on her home’s wall, Season two’s obligatory at-home arts-and-crafts project was a sprawling map of tunnels buried beneath Hawkins. And who better to decode that map than Joyce’s boyfriend played by Sean Astin, who followed an old pirate map in The Goonies. Astin’s character even wonders aloud if the map leads to pirate treasure.
Eleven uses television static to mimic sensory deprivation as a way to visit the Upside Down. Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist employs a similar gimmick, where static can serve as a sinister portal to another world.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Chief Hopper gets into character as the legendary archaeologist when he goes back to grab his hat in the tunnels in Chapter 5. But Season 2’s clearest reference to the Indiana Jones franchise is in Chapter 6, when Nancy and Jonathan talk about each other in separate rooms while trying to fall asleep, before giving up and accepting their romantic urges.
Pretty in Pink
Stranger Things closes out Season 2 almost identically to John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink. Eleven’s appearance at the school dance mirrors Andie’s arrival at prom, and both scenes wrap up a story by having all of their main characters grab dance partners for a carefree night.