I’ve just finished watching Stranger Things and I’m still recovering from how great it was. I didn’t think I would be totally jumping up and down about how great it was, due to all the hype that I heard about it in the last three weeks. Hype like that never works in a show’s favour for me. But despite the hype I still loved it. It’s not up there with The West Wing or Breaking Bad or big shows like that, but it’s the kind of show that just has me thinking about it non stop right now. And it’s inspired me in a bunch of creative ways. I certainly rank it up there with The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, which is pretty good after only one season. In fact I agree with a lot of people that it might have been good to wrap it up as a mini-series and not make multiple seasons of it, but Season 2 was just announced a day or two ago. The danger is that the other seasons won’t be as good as the first, but hey, I’m willing to take the chance.

I’m reading lots of articles about the making of the show, fan theories about the show, listening to podcasts about the show etc. I’m immersing myself in the world. It’s a funny one though, because I don’t know which I’m loving more; the story and characters, or the 80s references and the overall style. I think it’s the combination of the two which is done so well.

It’s obviously set in the 80s and they are obviously making loads of 80s movie and cultural references. I can imagine that other shows have used references, plot points or shot compositions that have been borrowed from other properties and critics have accused them of plagiarism or just laziness. But with Stranger Things, The Duffer Brothers seem to have done things in a way that doesn’t bring on similar accusations. Is it that they have used them for inspiration but not totally ripped them off? Is it that they have just done it in a cool way that makes critics let them off? Or is that they have just been totally honest from the start that this is a love letter homage to 80s horror movies? Whatever it is, I love it. Because I’m one of those people that enjoys looking at the props and locations in the show as much as I enjoy the plot. Lots of sites have listed all the 80s references in the show, but here are the main ones that I enjoyed.


Photo from Netflix via Wired.com


The titles
The titles of the show are getting a lot of love. And quite rightly so. The Duffer Brothers supposedly gave the title design company ten Stephen King books and asked them to create something in that style. In the end, they went for a minimalist approach, which works perfectly I think, and I love that the font is the same font that was used for the Choose Your Own Adventure books in the 80s.

The music
First of all, I love the music of the title sequence and the subsequent score which is used in places throughout the episodes. It really evokes that early electronic 80s synth vibe whilst still sounding fresh. And then there is the soundtrack. There’s a lot of great music in the 80s, and also a lot of cheese (a lot of great cheese mind you). But they have gone with some very cool early 80s tracks, and not all of them hugely well known. Some great band choices to accompany the show, such as Echo and the Bunnymen.

BMX bikes
I seriously love BMX bikes. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to get one. And let’s just say that seeing the kids from the show cruising round town in a bunch of BMXs was very ‘rad’ indeed. I personally never liked Choppers or Grifters though, so I didn’t like Mike’s bike as much I’m afraid.

80s posters
Posters were a huge thing for me. Posters of movies, cars, animals. There were several posters we saw in Stranger Things, including Evil Dead, The Thing, Jaws, The Dark Crystal, Tom Cruise, David Bowie and I think I saw a glimpse of a Ferrari poster in Steve’s house.

Knight Rider and He-Man
One of the first 80s things I spotted was when Mike’s dad is having problems with the TV and for a split second we see an image of David Hasselhoff on the screen. For all of Mike’s dad’s faults, for which there are many, it’s cool that he watches Knight Rider. And then, of course, it’s amazing that Eleven happened to switch on the TV at the exact moment of He-Man’s transformation. Perfect and poignant.

Walkie Talkies, Phones and payphones
I have serious retro-envy of these kids with their humongous walkie talkies. I always wanted to have a gang of friends who could all communicate with walkie talkies. But even I never imagined having walkie talkies that were nearly as large as Colonel Decker’s from The A-Team. Obviously people in the 80s didn’t have smartphones, and that’s one of the most interesting things about the 80s in retrospect. So I loved seeing all the phones that got used, frazzled, ripped out or purchased. And all the payphone. A bygone era indeed.

Calculator Watches
Loving Mike’s calculator watch.

Lucas’ headband
When Lucas puts on his headband it immediately makes you think of Rambo or sequences from Commando or the start of Operation Wolf.

Millenium Falcon
Making a toy Millennium Falcon levitate using your mind is probably many a child’s dream. Seeing Eleven do it was pretty cool.

The dressing up montage
Montages are always good fun, and while there were several scenes which were inspired by E.T., the dressing up montage was the most obvious.

Explorers and Stand By Me
There are a lot of 80s horror movies that are referenced in the movie, such as Evil Dead and Poltergeist, but I loved the homages to more family friendly films like E.T. (as mentioned above), Explorers and Stand By Me. I felt that Dustin looked very like Darren from Explorers. And there are several scenes that evoked the amazing Stand By Me, not least of course the shot of them walking down the train track.

Great that Lando Calrissian gets a couple of mentions in the show. Interestingly, despite Return of the Jedi having been released 6 months earlier, they were still referring to him as a traitor.

Steve’s hair
Steve’s hair is awesome and deserves a mini-series of its own. Seriously. It defies both gravity and logic (but, surprisingly in retrospect, not fashion).

The clothes
There are some seriously 80s t-shirts and polo shirts in this show. And that’s not meant to be complimentary. It’s weird, some 80s clothes are extremely retro cool but some are extremely not cool. Quite a contrast.

Mixtapes were awesome. We all know that. But when Jonathan hands a new mixtape to Will at the end, it just seems to hit home even more how much it would mean to Will, and that it will be something that he will cherish listening to. God bless magnetic tape.

Dungeons & Dragons
I have never played Dungeons & Dragons but I’ve always been enamoured with the culture of it. I love how it is the first scene that we see in the show and that the lexicon of that game is an arc throughout the whole show and one of the last scenes involves the wrap up of a D&D game. In fact they use that scene to hint at things that may come in the sequel, which is even cooler.

Here’s a great article about how they got the props for Stranger Things.

They’re working on Season 2 right now. I wonder if I can apply for a job in the props department.