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‘Stranger Things’: All the Pop Culture References and Homages, Episode by Episode

From “Aliens” and “Jurassic Park” to Stephen King and Rob Lowe, here’s a guide to what you might have missed.

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Stranger Things 2"

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “Stranger Things 2”

Columbia Pictures, Netflix

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“Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister”

  • “The Warriors” – Eleven’s sister Eight/Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) leads a gang of misfits who are very much in the style of the New York City gang seen in this 1979 cult favorite film.
  • “The X-Men” – Charles Xavier makes his group appear invisible, just like Kali does.
  • “X-Men” comics – Eleven’s journey to discovering her dark side off on her own is very much like the Dark Phoenix storyline with Jean Grey.
  • “Punky Brewster” – Eleven watches an episode of this sitcom while in the lair. The series was about an abandoned young girl who is raised by a curmudgeonly foster parent.
  • Care Bears – One of Eight’s gang members is called Funshine, which is a reference to the toy line of colorful bears with signature pictures on their bellies called the Care Bears. Later, when they go to kill one of the lab men, that character wears a Care Bears mask, but it’s not Funshine, who is yellow. The color is more in line with Tenderheart Bear.

Stranger Things

“Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”

    • “Jurassic Park” – More from the demodogs acting like raptors, especially the one who is outside of the door of the closet where Bob is trapped. Also similar to the movie, the power goes out and the breakers need to be reset.
    • “The Exorcist” – Regan pleads, “Help me” in the film to show that she’s still inside her possessed body. Will taps out the word “here” to show that he’s still inside his possessed body.
    • “Maximum Overdrive”: Morse code is also a plot point in “Maximum Overdrive,” a subpar film that Stephen King wrote and directed, based on his short story “Trucks.”
    • “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) – This classic horror film is echoed in how our team of heroes are trapped inside the house and arming up to fight.
    • Dungeons & Dragons – Again, D&D provides a great name for whatever weird monster comes through from the Upside-Down. Illithids or mind-flayers have psionic abilities and believe they’re the superior species. They use other intelligent species as slaves.
    • “Resident Evil” – This might be a stretch, but having Eleven throw a dead demodog through the window into the house gives a nice jump scare that feels similar to when the dobermans crash through the window in the game.

“Chapter Nine: The Gate”

"St. Elmo's Fire" and "Stranger Things 2"

“St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Stranger Things 2”

Columbia Pictures, Netflix

  • “Heart of Thunder” – Mrs. Wheeler (Cara Buono) is reading this Joanna Lindsey novel published in 1983 to unwind in the bath.
  • “St. Elmo’s Fire” – Billy is really channeling Rob Lowe’s Billy this time with his one dangle earring.
  • “Terminator” – The relentless nature of how Billy beats up Steve and the corresponding camerawork, is reminiscent of the Terminator fight.
  • “The Exorcist” – The movie homage comes to its logical conclusion with Will finally getting the Shadow Monster out of him through heat. Before that though, he even grabs Joyce by the throat, like Regan did with her mom.
"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," "Stranger Things 2"

“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Stranger Things 2”

Paramount Pictures, Netflix

  • “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” – When Max drives the car, she uses a box on the gas pedal so she can reach. Similarly, Shortound has a small crate tied to his foot in order to accelerate. Jonathan Ke Huy Quan, who plays Shortround also plays Data in “Goonies.”
  • “Jurassic Park” – The demodogs have the run of the lab, much like the velociraptors did in the kitchen.
  • “X-Men” – Like the Dark Phoenix, Eleven using her telekineses even causes her to levitate and fly.
  • “Pretty in Pink” – At the end of the Brat Pack film, Duckie (Jon Cryer) gets a spiffy makeover for prom, which looks a lot like Dustin’s ensemble and hair. In both instances, they get to dance with a popular and attractive girl who asks them to dance.
"Pretty in Pink," "Stranger Things 2"

“Pretty in Pink,” “Stranger Things 2”

Paramount Pictures, Netflix

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