Here’s a look at the influence of classic pop culture movies on Stranger Things Season 3. From Aliens to Karate Kid, Star Wars to It and more
Netflix’s Strangers Things has given us way too many reasons to love it over the course of three seasons. A group of bike-riding kids fighting monsters from another world called the Upside Down. A waffle-loving girl with telekinetic powers. A cop we have grown to adore among other iconic characters. The series has given us moments to cherish – joy, shock, sadness, thrill, and some emotions that we can’t really explain.
And yet Season 3 of Stranger Things manages to pack in awesome pop culture movie references.
Heads Up! Behold all the Stranger Things’ pop culture movie Easter eggs across Season 3
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Hello Eleven
- Poltergeist: Lost in another dimension
- Jurassic Park: Seen that Season 2 climax somewhere?
- It: Group of adolescent small-town children
- Ghostbusters: That’s an easy one
While we can’t compare the Netflix series directly to any other show we’ve seen before, there is still an odd sense of familiarity. It lies in certain scenes, in some characters, like we’ve seen it somewhere before. And as we already know, it’s true. Even the Duffer Brothers admitted to the show being influenced and inspired by many classics. So we thought about taking you through some of the major pop-culture influences seen in the show. Let’s begin!
E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial
Amongst all the Spielberg film influences, E.T. probably has the most major mark on the series. From kids riding on bikes through suburbia and into the wilderness, trying to escape Government authorities. Furthermore, hiding a life form with powers, and even playing Dungeons and Dragons, the show has it all.
The most obvious homage was when Eleven, like the alien from E.T, wore the blonde wig. And she explored an empty house to find day-to-day things unfamiliar. And how can we forget the extensive use of flashlights and flashlight beams… Stranger Things loves giving E.T. vibes at every opportunity it gets.
Watch: ET reference in Stranger Things Explained
A child lost in another dimension that is somehow connected to their home. A mother (and family) that communicates with their child that is lost in another dimension through electronics equipment at home, sounds too familiar right. These are just some scenes in Poltergeist.
And a direct homage is made in Stranger Things where Joyce, the mother, buys tickets to Poltergeist for her son Will.
Watch: Stranger Things Poltergeist reference
The idea of government experimentation with psychic and telekinetic powers. A young girl with special powers, being pursued by government agents. She uses her powers against those that want to harm her and her friends. Sounds like the story of Eleven, right? Yes!
But it’s also the plot of the 1984 movie starring a young Drew Barrymore.
Another Spielberg classic on this list is Jurassic Park. Remember when in the third season Nancy and Jonathan catch sight of the Mind Flayer monster at the mall and gawk. Isn’t it similar to Laura Dern and Sam Neil gazing at the brachiosaurus in the Spielberg Dinosaur Classic?
The car chase that follows is an obvious tribute to the T-Rex pursuit in Jurassic Park, with the monster looming in the side mirrors. It’s akin to the scene in the fair when Mike’s sister notices the moving trees from the top of the Giant Wheel. The scene is a homage to the Lost World, when Jeff Goldblum’s daughter in the film notices the moving trees, a sign of the T-Rex moving towards her father’s trailer.
The entire hide-n-seek sequence between Bob and the Demodogs in the 2nd season finale is also a straight throwback to the climax in Jurassic Park. Remember the Demodog tapping its toe like a raptor before killing Bob?
Watch: Stranger Things’ Jurassic Park reference
In Stranger Things season 3, the kids find themselves trapped inside Hopper’s cabin while under attack from the Mind Flayer. Now both, the original Evil Dead and its sequel, The Evil Dead 2, featured a group of people fighting for their lives while in a cabin in the woods.
Other than these references, The Evil Dead poster on Jonathan’s bedroom wall is a direct tribute.
The Karate Kid
In Stranger Things Season 3, Eleven takes an interest in Ralph Macchio, who is featured in one of Max’s teen magazines. It’s a fun reference and adds to their bonding time.
Later, we see Lucas wearing a Karate Kid-inspired outfit, which isn’t just a nod towards the film’s popularity in 1984, the timeframe during which season 3 takes place, but also Max’s crush on its star.
Watch: Karate Kid reference in Stranger Things
Lucas’ slingshot, which seems fairly useless before the final showdown with the Demogorgon. The scene is a tribute to Beverly Marsh launching a slingshot at the killer clown Pennywise. How fitting! Also, the actor who plays Mike starred in the 2017 hit reboot film It too. And of course, they too share the concept of a group of adolescent small-town children confronting the fears and a monster in the woods.
Watch: It Easter Egg in Stranger Things
Back To The Future
A Back To The Future poster on the wall when the kids go to watch Day of the Dead in season 3 is the first reference.
However, the more obvious one comes later in the season, with Dustin, Erica, Steve, and Robin hiding out in a screening of the film. The action afterward takes place in a mall parking, adding to the homage as well.
Watch: Stranger Things Back to the Future Scene
The Terminator is one of the biggest influences on Stranger Things season 3, and it comes in the form of the character Grigori (Andrey Ivchenko).
He, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, rides a motorcycle, is completely relentless in his pursuit of Hopper, and is extremely strong and skilled in combat. He even talks like a human-robot. But we all know that in Season 4, Hopper is the one who’ll “be back!”
Watch: Stranger Things Terminator reference
The design of the monster in the third season of Stranger Things, which is a gloopy, disgusting mess, is strongly influenced by The Thing. There’s a glimpse of the poster of The Thing early in season 3, while a a discussion about which version of the movie is better takes place in episode 7.
Also, in The Thing, the alien possesses the power to invade other life forms to spy on everyone, much like Will hosting the monster inside his innocent little body.
An alien that leaves a residue that characters have to push themselves through impregnates victims using “face-huggers”, keeps its victims encased in cocoons.
The residue is just some of the few major inspirations that Stranger Things takes for the movie, Aliens. The face lit protective space suits to even, some might say, the monster design, there seems to be a covert homage to Alien in almost every episode of Stranger Things.
Watch: Spookiest monster moments from Stranger Things
Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back/Return Of The Jedi
Of course, Stranger Things loves Star Wars. First, Eleven possesses Jedi like powers. Then in the first episode of Season 3, Dustin has an R2-D2 toy, while he refers to himself throughout as “Gold Leader.” It is a reference to Lando Calrissian’s call sign in Return of the Jedi.
Then Steve says Star Wars is one of his three favorite movies, citing the one with the teddy bears, i.e. Ewoks.
Watch: Stars Wars references in Stranger Things compilation
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
In episode one, when the door to Will’s house creaks open, he stares in horror at the blazing red sky. The crackling lightning in the scene is another reference to an iconic Steven Spielberg movie moment. When little Barry Guiler stands in front of a door as weird orange light floods in.
In the first season, Joyce’s flashing of Christmas lights to the communication system was compared with the movie’s grand finale.
The most in-your-face reference of season 3 inarguably is Ghostbusters. For that, one has to look no further than Dustin. The Ghostbusters superfan makes a joke about “crossing the streams” on Halloween night in episode two.
Then in episode three, we see he has a “Ghostbusters Certificate of Anti-Paranormal Proficiency” hanging on his bedroom wall. The trap that Dustin uses to stow his new pet is straight out of Ghostbusters. And finally, when it’s time to rise to action, Lucas says, “it’s judgment day.” Stantz and Winston say the exact same thing in Ghostbusters.
Watch: Ghostbusters scene from Stranger Things
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which was released in 1982, is referenced a number of times across the third season. The Starcourt Mall is inspired by the mall from that film, and the Scoops Ahoy! outfits worn by Steve and Robin are like the pirate costumes worn by Judge Reinhold at Captain Hook’s Fish & Chips.
Dustin comparing his girlfriend, Suzie, to Fast Times star Phoebe Cates, and Steve bumping into a cardboard cutout of Cates’ famous bikini scene from the movie are all direct tributes. But Billy while working as a lifeguard, walking past the women ogling at him, with Moving In Stereo By The Cars playing in the background, the same song from the now-famous Cates pool-scene is the best movie throwback.
The Neverending Story
How can we ever forget, right? With Dustin having finally made contact with his girlfriend Suzie, she agrees to help him if he does the thing she likes. What ensues is Dustin and Suzie both singing the song with the same title as the movie at the top of their voices, while everyone else looks on bewildered, waiting in a dreadful situation. That was one of the best moments of Season 3.
Watch: Stranger Things NeverEnding Story scene
So, these were some of the noteworthy tributes given by Stranger Things Season 3 to classic pop culture movies. If you think we missed out on some important ones, let us know in the comments below.