11 classic movies that inspired Stranger Things

Credit: Stranger Things - Netflix
Credit: Stranger Things - Netflix /
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Stranger Things took the world by storm, captivating audiences with a new premise and a heavy dose of nostalgia. It’s safe to say we’re hooked.

With the upcoming release of Stranger Things 2 coming to Netflix on Oct. 27, let’s take a look back at the various influences that helped to inspire the new show. The Duffer Brothers grew up absorbing books and films from Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and much more. Their decision to set Stranger Things in the 1980s allows those influences to flow freely through the show’s original story. There are references, homages, and shot-for-shot comparisons for a multitude of media, but these 11 films stand out as classics.

1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Release Year: 1982
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Melissa Mathison
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Dee Wallace, Robert MacNaughton

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial follows a group of youngsters who meet an alien that was accidentally left behind by his brethren. One of the boys, Elliot, forms a bond with the visitor. Elliot teams up with his siblings to do everything they can to aid E.T. in his journey, keeping his existence a secret to protect their new friend.

There are obvious connections to Stranger Things here, some thematic and some direct visual comparisons. Eleven, like E.T., has a limited vocabulary, telekinetic abilities, and must be kept a secret lest some government agencies find her and take her away. As a disguise, she too puts on a pink dress and blonde wig (though it looks much nicer on Millie Bobby Brown than E.T… sorry buddy). There’s even a scene in both the film and the series of the “alien” friend interacting with a television set for the first time.

In the most iconic scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the new friends pedal their way to victory as E.T. uses telekinesis to fly Elliot’s bicycle away from the government agents in hot pursuit. A similar scene transpires in Stranger Things, but with a more violent outcome. The “children on bicycles being chased by cars” trope is a perfect visual representation of how out-of-their-depth these kids are in.

Moreover, both stories have a heavy focus on themes of friendship and family. Their unexpected guests soon become part of the tight-knit clan, proving that family is more than blood.