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‘Stranger Things’: 19 Totally ‘80s Pop Culture References That Should Be in Season 2

The Netflix series picks up in 1984 , which was a very good year for memorable events, films, TV, and music.

"Stranger Things"

“Stranger Things”

Jackson Davis/Netflix

Stranger Things 2” returns just in time for Halloween, both in the real world and in the eerie town of Hawkins, Indiana conceived in the nostalgic minds of The Duffer Brothers. The action picks up three days before Halloween 1984, which means that the year will soon be coming to a close. For those who may not have been alive or perhaps have a shaky memory of the time, 1984 was a big year for memorable events and in pop culture.

The first season reveled in bringing the time period alive in all of its totally ‘80s glory, from Dungeons & Dragons gaming sessions and Eggo waffles to homages to “E.T.,” “The Shining,” and “Rambo.” Hell, even star Winona Ryder’s presence is a timely tribute since she made her early career in such iconic ‘80s films as “Lucas,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Heathers.”

Judging from the trailers alone, it looks like the second season will have just as many, if not more, nods to the culture at the time. From Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” played over the first trailer and all the games in the arcade — Dragon’s Lair, Dig Dug, Galaga, Centipede, Ms. Pac-Man, and Asteroids — to the Reagan/Bush presidential election sign and the “Ghostbusters” group Halloween costume, Season 2 is already shaping up nicely. It even added iconic ‘80s cast members Paul Reiser (“Aliens”) and Sean Astin (“Goonies”).

Before “Stranger Things” returns, IndieWire got in on the fun to create a wishlist of references that should appear in the second season. To narrow down the offerings, anything from Season 1 doesn’t need to be repeated here, and only events and pop culture that the kids might have experienced from January 1- October 31, 1984 were considered.

Here are the 19 totally ‘80s references that should be in Season 2:

1. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”

Harrison Ford, "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom"

Harrison Ford, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”


Any Indiana Jones reference would be appropriate for the more adventure elements of this series, but we’d settle for someone dressed as Indy for Halloween, with his sidekick Shortround chastising him that “There’s no time for love, Dr. Jones.”

2. “Friday the 13: The Final Chapter”

A Jason hockey mask Halloween costume is a no-brainer, but other hallmarks of the franchise such as the camera movement or the “ki ki ki” sound effect would be easy to incorporate as well.

3. “V”

The original miniseries aired in 1983, which led to a short-lived follow-up series, but the story is still a classic. Aliens known as “The Visitors” visit Earth with seemingly friendly intentions and needing help. But it’s revealed that they’re actually carnivorous reptilian humanoids in disguise, who they eat their prey alive and whole. The human resistance movement and the atmosphere of paranoia and how scientists are attacked is very much in line with the dark conspiracy that’s seen in “Stranger Things.”

Marc Singer and Frank Ashmore, "V"

Marc Singer and Frank Ashmore, “V”


4. “Where’s the beef?

Clara Peller became a sensation in a series of Wendy’s commercials that highlighted how those other fast-food joints gave more bun and less meat in their burgers. Her “Where’s the beef?” catchphrase was quoted by everybody, including smart-alecky school kids.

5. “Transformers”

The animated series launched the dominance of this Hasbro robot toy line that still has recognition today thanks to some awful Michael Bay blockbusters. Even the cool kids wanted to own an Optimus Prime and would utter that catchphrase, “Autobots, roll out!”

Transformers toy Dream Toys photocall, London, Britain - 10 Oct 2007

6. The Cold War

Anti-Russian sentiments ran high during this time period, especially since the Soviet Union decided to boycott the United States’ Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles in 1984. Our young heroes would absolutely be paranoid about Russians and communists, even without fully understanding what it all means.

7. “The A-Team”

This series actually began in 1983, but the fact that it’s about a group of four sort-of misfits who go out and kick butt on missions fits perfectly with the core group of four boys here. Plus, it starred Mr. T, who broke out as one of the walking symbols of the ’80s.

8. “The Karate Kid”

Martial arts as a genre hit some of its greatest (and cheesiest) heights in the ‘80s, with this underdog narrative as one of the favorites from the era. Mr. Miyagi’s unorthodox instruction methods (“Wax on, wax off”) and ability to catch flies with chopsticks (not really that hard, FYI) brought the mysterious and wise Asian stereotype to life, and Daniel-san’s ability to take on the villainous Cobra Kai dojo even while injured is still legendary. There’s no young boy who watched this movie in the ‘80s who didn’t attempt to do the one-legged crane kick.

9. “Purple Rain” and All Things Prince

This may not be that much of a fit with “Stranger Things” but Prince’s music was so pervasive during this period of time that we hope it’s not ignored, especially in light of the Purple One’s recent death. “Darling Nikki” or “Let’s Go Crazy” would work well in a party setting.

10. “Blue Thunder” and “Airwolf”

This is about as tween boy geeky as it gets, but in 1984 two shows about helicopters premiered. “Blue Thunder” was based on the film of the same name and starred Dana Carvey and football players Bubba Smith and Dick Butkus. If that cast wasn’t enough of a clue, it was a pretty lousy action thriller and far inferior to the more serious “Airwolf,” which starred Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine, and focused on a high-tech military helicopter and its crew. “Blue Thunder” lasted 11 episodes, while “Airwolf” got four seasons and a pretty nifty synth score.

11. Hulkamania

It really didn’t matter who you were or what your interests were in 1984; Hulk Hogan, with his yellow duds and loud showmanship, was on your radar. This was the year he took down The Iron Sheik, beginning his WWF winning streak.

12. “Firestarter”

Drew Barrymore, "Firestarter"

Drew Barrymore, “Firestarter”

De Laurentiis/Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

While Season 1 included some visual and thematic homages to the film based on Stephen King’s novel, it’d be great to see Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) really dig into this persona and actually whip out some pyrokinesis. Not that we’re bloodthirsty arsonists or anything.

13. Macintosh computers

This is the year that Apple introduced its personal computer line known as the Mac, with that iconic ad that aired during the Super Bowl. Someone on the show has to have this big square clunky thing on their desk somewhere.

14. “The Terminator”

This film premiered just before the events in the timeline for this season, so it’s possible that some of the kids may have seen it. The film also showed another side to “Conan” star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Either a last-minute Halloween costume or uttering “I’ll be back” would be an easy way to incorporate a reference to the James Cameron film.

15. “Like a Virgin”

Like Michael Jackson and Prince, Madonna had a huge presence in 1984, and this was the year that the controversial “Like a Virgin” was released that she performed it by writhing around the stage at the very first MTV Video Music Awards. The song solidified her brand of defiant sexuality while also making her a style icon.

16. Fantasy novels

Those who played Dungeons & Dragons found their fantasy worlds extended into novels by the game’s designer Gary Gygax, plus there were plenty of other writers who realized that biting off of Tolkien could pay off. The range of offerings were diverse as well, ranging from the high fantasy of David Eddings and Michael Moorcock to the lighthearted and pun-laden “Xanth” novels by Piers Anthony. No doubt any number of these would be found on these kids’ bookshelves.

17. “The Last Starfighter”

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Lorimar/Universal/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5878079b) Lance Guest, Dan O'Herlihy The Last Starfighter - 1984 Director: Nick Castle Lorimar/Universal USA Scene Still Scifi

Lance Guest and Dan O’Herlihy, “The Last Starfighter”


This film, about an alien species using an arcade game as a sneaky recruitment tool to find someone to act as a gunner in an interstellar war, was the epitome of wish fulfillment.

18. “Knight Rider”

Premiering in 1982, this show proved that you cannot Hassle the Hoff because he has a talking, crime-solving car. KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand) was a sweet Pontiac Firebird Trans Am whose AI allowed him to respond to Michael Knight’s (David Hasselhoff) cheekiness, the evil twin car KARR (Knight Automated Roving Robot) or even the rocket-equipped truck Goliath.

19. “Gremlins

The violence in “Temple of Doom” and this black comedy about cute fuzzy monsters who became destructive reptilian monsters were the films that caused the MPAA to adjust its rating system, which alone was reason to want to watch. Its nutty premise, dark tone, and compelling puppet creatures made it into an instant classic.

Watch the two trailers below for the second season of “Stranger Things”:


”Stranger Things” Season 2 will be available to stream on Friday, Oct. 27 on Netflix.

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