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‘Stranger Things’ Season 3: All the Pop Culture References and Homages, Episode by Episode

From Phoebe Cates and New Coke to "Dawn of the Dead" and "Jaws," here’s a guide to what you might have missed.

"Stranger Things"

“Stranger Things”


“Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”

  • “The Karate Kid” (1984)- Eleven sees a foldout of heartthrob Ralph Macchio, star of “The Karate Kid,” in a teen magazine at Max’s house.
  • Raincoats – From “It” and “Don’t Look Now,” to “Friday the 13th” and “Milo,” bright raincoats have long been bold splash of color to offset the darkness of horror projects. The two girls side-by-side also evoke “The Shining” twins.
  • “Poltergeist II” (1986) – Reminiscent of Carol Anne from the “Poltergeist” franchise, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is a child who is sensitive to malevolent forces. After the hairs on his neck are activated again, he realizes that “He’s back,” referring to The Mind Flayer.

Courtesy of Netflix

“Chapter Four: The Sauna Test”

  • “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978) – When Mrs. Driscoll is taken away by ambulance after having chowed down on the fertilizer, she shrieks and reaches her hand out when the vehicle passes the Brimborn Steelworks, where the Mind Flayer source is. In the 1978 film, the pod people open their mouths and point dramatically when they spot someone who hasn’t been turned yet.
  • “Darkman” (1990) Although Hopper didn’t go through with slicing off the mayor’s finger with his own cigar cutter, various victims from “Darkman” can’t say the same.
  • “Alien” (1979)/ “Die Hard” (1988) – Robin (Maya Hawke) obtains the blueprints for the Starcourt Mall, which includes the airducts. This of course leads to some essential airduct crawling scenes that echo what we’ve seen in these two movies.
  • My Little Pony – Erica (Priah Ferguson) has a backpack with a My Little Pony design on it. The toy line was launched in 1982, marketed mainly at young girls long before it became a phenomenon with adults worldwide with “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.”
  • “We’ll Meet Again”- This 1939 British song popularized by Vera Lynn is now indelibly linked to Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” montage of atomic explosions. Here it’s used to create a menacing atmosphere as the camera shows all the Hawkins townspeople who are now among The Flayed.
"Stranger Things" and "The Terminator"

“Stranger Things” and “The Terminator”

Netflix, Orion Pictures

“Chapter Five: The Flayed”

  • Yakov Smirnoff – Hopper insists on calling scientist Dr. Alexei (Alec Utgoff) “Smirnoff,” most likely referring to the Soviet-born American comedian Yakov Smirnoff whose jokes often revolved around a naive Soviet who finds Ameircan ways confusing, while also mocking both countries. The ’80s was the height of his popularity.
  • “Terminator” (1984) – The haircut, grim visage, motorcycle, and unstoppable nature of the Russian thug Grigori (Andrey Ivchenko) evoke Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. Both chase after people who are trying to outrun him in a vehicle. When Hopper beats up the mayor to find out the identity of the Russian, Kline snidely tells him, “It’s Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
  • Jolt Cola – In the 7/11, Hopper chugs a Jolt, a cola that was created in 1985 with the slogan, “All the sugar, twice the caffeine!” If only that was the excuse for his aggro behavior earlier!
  • “The Godfather”- The convertible that Hopper commandeers has a vanity plate that reads, “TODFTHR.”
  • “Cyborg” (1980)- The comic book character Cyborg, aka Victor Stone, is mentioned in regards to the substance promethium, which is a real-life chemical element, but in the DC universe, it makes cyborgs bionic and is used in cybernetic components.
  • “Halloween II” (1988) – Bruce (Jake Busey) leisurely stalking Nancy through the halls of a hospital recalls Michael Myers doing the same for Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and others at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital.
  • “The Shining” (1980) – Bruce busting the glass window in the hospital door and saying, “Hi there,” before unlocking the door is reminiscent of Jack Nicholson’s “Here’s Johnny!” entrance.
  • “The Thing” (1951/1982)- When Jonathan and Nancy kill the possessed Tom Holloway (Michael Park) and Bruce, respectively, each of their bodies turn to mush, ooze towards each other, and eventually merge to create a screaming Mind Flayer. This is similar to how the titular creature in “The Thing” absorbed all the sled dogs to become bigger and scarier.
"Stranger Things" and "The Shining"

“Stranger Things” and “The Shining”

Netflix and Warner Bros.

“Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum”

  • Woody Woodpecker – Walter Lantz’s mischievous woodpecker has been around since the ’40s and on TV in various forms since the ’50s. In “Stranger Things,” Alexei is watching during one of the syndicated runs. He’s later seen carrying a stuffed version of Woody at the carnival.
  • Metallica – Billy has a poster for the Metallica album “Kill ‘Em All” on his bedroom well. The sentiment is fitting for someone possessed by the Mind Flayer.
  • “My Little Pony: Rescue at Midnight Castle” (1984) – This 22-minute animated special that Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) recounts to prove that Erica is a nerd was one of the major inspirations for Lauren Faust’s hit series “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.”
  • “Rambo” franchise – Alexei says that Hopper reminds him of a “Fat Rambo” after the cop delivers a serious speech about getting the scientist to the key in the underground lair.
  • “The Thing” (1982) – The title of the episode, “E Pluribus Unum,” is also on the Great Seal for the United States and serves as the country’s unofficial motto. It means “out of many, one,” which in real life refers to how the 13 colonies became a unified nation, but on the show the meaning is subverted to refer to how all The Flayed join in to become one gigantic Mind Flayer.

Continue to next page for the “Dawn of the Dead” slide and more>>

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