The '80s Movies You MUST Watch to Get the References in Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a masterpiece that fully stands up on its own, but it's somehow even better when you understand all of the references.

But the '80s were a long time ago, and chances are that you haven't seen all the movies to which Stranger Things pays homage. Remedy that with this handy list of must-see movies.

Ghostbusters (1984)

The influence of Ghostbusters is very present in the second season of Stranger Things. Once you watch the movie, you'll probably want a sweet jumpsuit and proton pack of your own—and you'll finally get the importance of the gang's Halloween costumes. Plus, you'll get the references to "crossing the streams" and why Dustin's trap for catching Dart is so significant.


(Stranger Things via Netflix)


The Goonies (1985)

If you haven't seen The Goonies yet, prepare yourself to get a lot more attached to Bob the Brain. Bob's actor, Sean Astin, was 14 when he played Mikey in the film. It's about a bunch of misfit friends who stumble upon a treasure map and follow the clues to save their town. Sean Astin seems to have a thing for maps.


(Stranger Things via Netflix)


E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

In the first season, Eleven gets treated a lot like the titular character of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Like E.T., she has powers, and is taken in by kids, who take her into their homes but must hide her from their parents and the hazmat-suit-wearing bad guys. Both also feature lots of kids scrambling through forest roads on their bikes, and the hidden characters wearing blonde wigs as a disguise—though Eleven rocks hers much better than E.T.

In season two, Dart even initially seems like be a friendly E.T.-type creature. If you've seen the show, you know better.


(Stranger Things via Netflix)


Gremlins (1984)

Spoiler alert: Dart winds up being a lot more like one of the gremlins from Gremlins than a friendly E.T. (and we're not talking about the furry mogwai type). He starts off small and cute, but (as every horror movie fan anticipated) grows up to be way more than Dustin can handle. Be warned—this movie is way scarier than it ought to be.


(Stranger Things via Netflix)


Stand By Me (1986)

Stand By Me is the story of four boys who live relatively simple lives until the discovery of a dead body forces them to deal with loss, bringing them together closer than ever. Besides the intense sci-fi elements, Stranger Things actually follows this formula pretty closely. One of Stand By Me's most iconic moments involves the boys walking along train tracks. This is copied in both seasons of Stranger Things.


(Stranger Things via Netflix)


Star Wars: Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

A decent knowledge of Star Wars is required to understand most pop culture references, so if you haven't seen the original Star Wars trilogy, get on it. Mike shows Eleven a Yoda action figure and calls her a Jedi thanks to her force-like abilities. Dustin also calls Lucas "Lando Calrissian," after the smuggler who briefly betrays the good guys in The Empire Strikes Back (even though Lucas totally doesn't deserve it).


(Stranger Things via Netflix)


Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist is one terrifying movie, but it has too many parallels to Stranger Things to pass up. First, Joyce buys Will tickets to see the movie even after she forbids him from watching it. Second, at first glance, the Upside Down is a lot like the alternate dimension Carol Anne enters in Poltergeist. Both Will and Carol Anne are trapped in another world but are able to communicate with their families through their homes in ways that are both haunting and hopeful. In the second season, Eleven also sits in front of the TV in an almost identical fashion to Carol Anne in Poltergeist.


(Stranger Things via Netflix)


If you need to add more media to your watchlist, click HERE for the shows that will hold you over until Stranger Things season 3.