11 classic movies that inspired Stranger Things

Credit: Stranger Things - Netflix
Credit: Stranger Things - Netflix /
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4. Poltergeist

Release Year: 1982
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writer: Steven Spielberg, Michael Grais, Mark Victor
Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Zelda Rubinstein

In Poltergeist, a family fights to get their youngest daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke), back into our earthly realm when she is abducted by the spirits that haunt their home. The entities are drawn to young Carol Anne’s life force and are not keen to let her go. Her loving mother Diane (JoBeth Williams) is not going to give up without a fight and does everything in her power to take her daughter back.

Diane, in this case, is not entirely unlike Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers in that she adamantly fights for her child’s safe return. Joyce – like Diane – crosses over into the Upside Down in a rescue attempt, refusing to let Jim Hopper go alone. This is her child, and she’s going to find him herself.

Joyce can hear Will in the Upside Down as his voice echoes through the walls of their house, much in the way that Diane communicates with the ghostly voice of Carol Anne. Joyce and Will use the electrical currents to speak to one another, rigging up a simple Ouija-like system of Christmas lights with letters painted on the wall. In Poltergeist, the family’s television set acts as a strange portal through which they can speak.

Aside from the thematic similarities of losing a child to a ghostly and dangerous side-dimension, Stranger Things includes a key visual reference to Poltergeist. An early scene in Hawkins Laboratory shows an employee as he begins his journey into the Upside Down, tethered by a long cable to assist in his return. Diane uses a similar method when venturing to the Other Side to rescue her daughter, with a rope tied around her waist that’s held tight by friends and family back home.