Stranger Things 3: five film references to look out for

Posted by
Gareth Watkins
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites
Stranger Things 3: pay close attention

As fans of Stranger Things can attest, the show’s creators the Duffer brothers love to drop in plenty of nods to their favourite movies and judging by the trailers, season three of the Netflix phenomenon looks to be chock full of them.

Eagle-eyed fans of Stranger Things are always on the edge of their sofas ready to blurt out, “E.T!”, “Pretty In Pink!” or “Aliens! I GOT THAT!”, laying claim to their status as official ‘film geek’ and proving that they are BETTER THAN YOU. 

So in order to get the jump on those guys, we’ve dissected what we’ve seen so far from today’s much-anticipated season three launch to give you the lowdown on the 80s (and some non-80s) classics which the Duffer brothers have paid homage to (and yes, we know there’s a lot more – we’re looking forward to being filmsplained by @strangerthingsfan85 from Willesden Green). 

But first, let’s have a look at the trailers…

The Thing

The Duffer brothers have made it no secret that they are massive John Carpenter fans, and the eponymous ‘Thing’ (a parasitic shape-shifting alien which terrorises the crew of an Antarctic research base) seems to have a lookalike at the end of the first trailer. 

Gaten Matarazzo has also hinted that this season doesn’t hold back on the shock front saying, “It’s definitely gorier. If you don’t like gore stuff, I mean, watch it anyway. It’s not for the faint of heart, as some would say.”


OK so this is a very literal reference since the second episode of this season is actually called Mall Rats. However it does give us an excuse to feature one of the often overlooked gems of 90s cinema which centres around a bunch of smart-talking teenagers wasting time and trying to hook up in their local shopping centre. 

Stranger Things’ Starcourt Mall certainly echoes the aesthetic of the identikit mall which formed a backdrop to the everyday drama of teen lives across America throughout the 80s and 90s, even if Eleven and co have the added stress of a multi-dimensional monster running loose around the food court.

Die Hard

One thing to look forward to this season is the return of self-styled nerd baiter and one-woman meme generator Erica (Priah Ferguson). Erica, you may remember was Lucas’ younger sister and only featured peripherally, stealing any scene she was in while delivering an annihilating put-down. 

However, the Duffers were so struck with her (along with the rest of the world) that she is due to feature a lot more heavily and will have a plotline and mission all of her own. At 2.01 minutes in the first trailer we see her crawling through an air duct, a throw directly to the moment Bruce Willis wisecracks, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs,” in the 1988 classic. 

Expect something equally withering from our favourite tween.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

The 1982 cult classic directed by Amy Heckerling and written by Cameron Crowe, adapted from his 1981 book of the same name is a coming-of-age comedy centred around a group of teens in a small town over the course of a school year. 

It’s on the list of films that the Duffers told Entertainment Weekly directly influenced this series and you can see similarities everywhere, but it’s the lifeguard scene from the clip featuring bad-boy Billy (Dacre Montgomery) as the local mums’ Coke break guy which really nails it home. Things were certainly less, shall we say, fruity in our local pool. 

The Terminator

At 1.10 minutes in the second trailer we are introduced to a new double-denim clad character. One who bears more than a passing resemblance – the hair, the chin, the fingerless gloves, the general robotic demeanour – to Arnie’s most famous role (Twins aside). 

We don’t know much about this mystery man as yet, other than fan speculation that he might be Russian and on the hunt for something. He certainly seems to have the air of a man on a mission. Is he tracking the monster? Or could he be after Eleven and any other survivors from Hawkins Lab? Has he been sent back from the future to save the world from the Mind Flayer? 

Only time will tell.

So there you have it, our certainly not exhaustive and at times admittedly tenuous movie reference run down. Check out Netflix today to get your full fill of 80s nostalgia, teen angst and monster scares as season three of Stranger Things finally kicks off. 

Sign up for our essential edit of what to buy, see, read and do, and also receive a free guide to the 101 Female Authors Everyone Should Have On Their Bookshelf.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy