All The ’80s References You Missed In ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 | Pop Culture Decoded

[Narrator] The cult Netflix
series “Stranger Things” is back and darker than ever. The last series was set in 1984, but this one jumps forward to 1985, following a group of now young adults. Seasons one and two were filled
with great ’80s references. We’re gonna have a look at
all the ones in season three. And yes, spoilers are coming. Man: A beauty, a jock, a rebel. [Narrator] 1985 was a
strong year for cult cinema. Box-office hits included “The Goonies,” “Brazil,” and “Teen Wolf,” so we expected some strong cultural
references from season three. The most obvious one is Robert Zemeckis’ “Back to the Future.” This features obviously in episode seven, when Dustin and his group hide
in the screening of the movie to escape the Soviets. First, we see a poster, then segments of the movie
playing on the projector. But did you spot an earlier reference in Mrs. Driscoll’s house in episode two? The camera pans from a
Kit-Cat Klock on the wall to Nancy and Jonathan. That clock is in the title
sequence for “Back to the Future” as well as in Katy Perry and
Taylor Swift music videos. There are also some visual parallels between Joyce visiting
Mr. Clarke in his garage with Marty visiting Doc. There’s been a poster for “The Thing” on the Wheelers’ basement
wall since season one, but the movie gets a
name check this season by Mike and Lucas in episode three. In episode one, the gang
sneak into a screening of George Romero’s “Day of the Dead.” It’s billed as a sneak preview, as the movie premiered on June 30, 1985, but had a widespread release on July 19, so the Hawkins Middle AV
club really would have been some of the first people to watch it. We also see a poster for “The Evil Dead” on Jonathan’s bedroom
wall in this episode, originating from 1981. Fans will be keeping a close eye out for the “It” Easter egg. In season two, Bob Newby’s childhood story seemed to recall the events
of Stephen King’s “It.” Newby: Hey, kiddo, would
you like a balloon? [Narrator] In season three, episode seven, Alexei is shot in the
fairground by Grigori. At the same time, a red balloon is popped by someone winning a prize. The book “It” didn’t come out until 1986. Could the red balloon
pop be a nod to “It”? The series makes heavy
reference to “The Goonies.” Dustin also near repeats one of the most famous
lines in the film… Sheriff: Holy Mary, mother of God. [Narrator] …when arriving
at the bottom of the elevator in episode five. Interestingly, “The Goonies”
and “Stranger Things” both starred Sean Astin, who played Bob Newby in season two and appears in a brief
season three flashback. The Soviet threat in season three brings up some interesting parallels with ’80s Cold War movies. The opening scenes resemble
that of 1983’s “WarGames.” In episode five, Dustin
recalls the movie “Red Dawn,” in which a group of teenagers
attempt to defend their town from a Russian invasion. In episode three, Dustin mentions to Steve that they’re likely to
spot an undercover Soviet, because he’s carrying a duffel bag. And he’s sort of got a point. Name any big action
movie from the mid-’80s, and this trope comes up. “Rambo: First Blood II,” Soviets. “A View to a Kill,” the Soviets. “Rocky IV,” Dolph Lundgren as a Soviet. The plotline of Soviets
taking over a shopping mall has parallels to Chuck Norris’
1985 film “Invasion USA,” in which the action
star takes on a mixture of Latin American and Soviet agents. In episode five, when
one of the Soviets shoots at Joyce and Hopper, he follows the car out into the garden in a robotic way. The scene looks very similar to the end of the cop-shop shootout
in “The Terminator.” The mayor in episode
four even makes a joke about one of the bad guys
being Arnold Schwarzenegger. In episode five, it’s the most
obvious “Die Hard” reference. Hopper holds a gun to Grigori’s head. Grigori says that Hopper
won’t dare shoot him, because policemen have rules… John McClane: Yeah? Why not? Tony: Because you’re a policeman. There are rules for policemen. [Narrator] …an exact
quote a henchman says to John McClane, with the same spray of machine-gun fire after. Something more subtle, perhaps, is Dustin getting stuck in
the air vent in episode four. Mid-’80s-horror fans will
love the funhouse sequence in episode seven. When Hopper enters, you can hear a taunting, spooky voice say, “Do you dare face the
challenge of the funhouse?” It sounds eerily like
the trailer voiceover from 1981’s “Funhouse,” a
horror film set at the fair. The hall-of-mirrors moment plays out like the 1983 fantasy “Something
Wicked This Way Comes,” also set at the fairground. The Mind Flayer seeps and
oozes into host bodies, much like how The Blob moves
around in the 1988 movie. The way it hugs onto its
victim’s face is similar, as well as its veiny, sticky tendrils. And that creepy hospital
scene in episode five? It has a bit of a “Halloween
II” feeling about it. Episode six features a
rather gruesome scene, where Steve and Robin are being interrogated by the Russians. Torture equipment is brought in, along with an administrator
in a white overall. Personally, this reminded
me of the torture scene in the 1985 Terry Gilliam film, “Brazil.” In episode eight, Billy’s
car lights flash on as he prepares to smash
into Jonathan and Nancy. These shots look very similar
to the 1983 horror film “Christine,” about a man
possessed by his car. Also, when he enters
the mall, Billy appears to be dressed like Kurt Russell in 1986’s “Big Trouble in Little China.” In this same episode, Steve and Robin are in the video-rental
store, where we can see lots of posters and front
covers of VHS tapes. There’s “Mad Max,” “Animal
House,” “Car Wash,” as well as a poster in the
window for 1984’s “Scarface.” Steve knocks over a cardboard cutout to 1982’s “Fast Times at
Ridgemont High,” which in itself is a very Ridgemont High
slapstick thing to do. And we couldn’t talk about movies without mentioning “The
NeverEnding Story.” In episode eight, Dustin
calls his girlfriend, Susie, to ask what Planck’s constant is in order to unlock a door. She forces him to serenade her with the theme tune to “The NeverEnding Story.” It was released in April 1985, so it would have been
a current cinema movie. Also note how on the wall
of Susie’s bedroom she has a poster for “The Wizard of
Oz,” another escapist fantasy. She’s reading “A Wizard of
Earthsea” by Ursula Le Guin. Two popular ’80s TV shows
feature in this season. In episode one, Hopper is
watching “Magnum P.I.,” a show about a charismatic
private investigator. There’s also a short snippet of “Cheers” when Joyce is eating a TV dinner alone. She thinks about Bob commenting on the will-they-won’t-they
storyline between the characters of Sam (Ted Danson) and
Diane (Shelley Long). Could this be a parallel
to Joyce and Hopper’s will-they-won’t-they sexual tension? Woman: Ladies and
gentlemen, that concludes the film portion of our presentation. Now, I’m sure you all
have questions, so… [Narrator] The shopping
mall was a central part of American life in the ’80s. Jess Royal explained in “Stranger Things: Worlds
Turned Upside Down” that the production wanted to stay true to all the products on sale so actually built a mall as the set, genuinely filled with products. Classic 1980s US brands are in situ. There’s The Gap, JCPenney,
Waldenbooks, Sam Goody, and we’re told that Taco Bell
and Esprit are coming soon. There’s the book “Breaking with Moscow” behind Steve and Dustin in this season three, episode three scene. This is a genuine 1985 release by a former Soviet foreign minister. It foreshadows Alexei’s storyline. In episode one’s first
scene, after the credits, the camera pans over to cassettes. One is by Bryan Adams, and the other one is by Corey Hart, very much the 1983-84 heartthrob. It’s also in this episode that we see music posters on Jonathan’s bedroom wall. There’s one for R.E.M., specifically their 1983 release, “Murmur.” Even though the band was formed in 1980, they didn’t achieve vast
popularity until 1987, which means Jonathan caught
them in their cult period. Eighties-era music fills the season. We catch parts of
Madonna’s “Material Girl,” REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t
Fight This Feeling,” The Cars’ “Moving in Stereo,” Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice,” and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total
Eclipse of the Heart.” Steve: Ahoy! Robin: Ahoy! Man: Ahoy! [Narrator] The season has
noticeable product placement of Coca-Cola, specifically New Coke, which was a limited-edition run in 1985. Netflix executives even visited the Atlanta Coca-Cola archives to study the packaging and advertising. Look closer at some of the books and magazine covers throughout the season. In episode one, Mrs.
Wheeler is sat poolside reading Johanna Lindsey’s
“Tender Is the Storm,” a sensationalist romance novel from 1985. She also reads a book by the same author in season two, episode nine. In episode three, Max shows
Eleven a copy of Superteen featuring a double-page
spread of Ralph Macchio, the Karate Kid, which came out in 1984. Daniel: Telling me. [Narrator] In Max’s
bedroom, we see a poster for the 1960s cult surf
film “The Endless Summer.” The poster reads, “Follow the surf around
the world from Malibu,” which potentially foreshadows later surfing scenes in
California with Billy. The editions of Penthouse
magazine that Alex and Eleven discover in Billy’s
drawer in episode three are genuine historical editions. In episode four, Max is also
reading mid-’80s editions of “Wonder Woman” and “Green Lantern.” In episode seven, the group loots a store. Now, it’s the same store
that Eleven stole from in season one. This time, she sits in front of a fridge full of Eggo waffles, preparing to enter the Upside Down. In previous seasons, we have seen her go straight to grab them. But in season three, the
situation at the mall is so desperate that she
barely even looks at them. In Mike’s basement, we
see retro board games like Upwords, which was invented in 1981. I don’t know about you, but
Dustin’s toys coming to life reminds me of the front cover of Stephen King’s 1985
collection, “Skeleton Crew.” The cover features a
simple clapping monkey. Will appears in his wizard costume for the first time during
Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s a dead-on match with
the drawings of Will the Wise that we saw on the wall in
season two, episode four. The funfair scene gives
us two ’80s references. The first is the ride the Gravitron, a popular ride introduced in 1983, and a stuffed toy Alexei
wins of Woody Woodpecker, who was a kids-TV staple in the mid-’80s. Think you spotted anything not
on this list? Comment below.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. Although it didn't come out until 1989, it's still an 80's reference, but did anyone else think that the machine the Russians were using to open the portal to the Upside Down resembled Dr. Wayne Szalinski's shrinking machine from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids?

  2. Cary Elwes was in “THE PRINCESS BRIDE”. He is basically playing the “JAWS” mayor. When Hopper is drunk at the restaurant the music is from “THE BLUES BROTHERS” & “TRADING PLACES”. The underground bunker is a reference to “SPIES LIKE US”. Other John Landis movies can be seen in the video store such as “SCHLOCK”. Hopper starts dressing like “MAGNUM P.I.”. 11 we’re told likes “MIAMI VICE”. The car’s license plate references “THE GODFATHER”. Other mall films include “DAWN OF THE DEAD” & “THE BLUES BROTHERS”. “THE STUFF” is showing at the cinema, which is about something from another world killing people. The monkey toy is also referencing the poster for “MONKEY SHINES”. The toys coming to life thanks to 11, references “CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND” and even “TIME BANDITS”. The mindflayer is also a reference to “THE THING” as parts of it can work independently to the main monster. Russian bad guys are also in “SPIES LIKE US” and even “RAISE THE TITANIC”. Arnie even played a Russian in “RED HEAT”. “THE EVIL DEAD” was theatrically released in 1983, not 1981 which was it’s one time premiere in Detroit. The raincoat reference “IT”. The grocery store references “THE MIST” which is about monsters from another dimension. Jake Busey is the son of Gary Busey. Maya Hawke is the daughter of “THE EXPLORERS” star Ethan Hawke and “JOHNNY BE GOOD” star Uma Thurman. Two Weird Al references, a song “My Bologna” and a tee shirt.

  3. Very comprehensive. I graduated high school in 1985 and this season captured it so perfectly. I could barely believe it, I felt like a kid again. ?

  4. You missed Dark Crystal reference with the music Will plays trying to get the others to play D&D. It’s the Podlings celebration song, The Pod Dance

  5. "THE SHINING" when that guy chases nancy and jonathan and they break glass on door ,it reminded me of the shining ,when jack says "where's johnny"

  6. Rambo reference…. When Hopper sprays the AK-47 into the ceiling in the lab…. Granted John Rambo fires his weapon in the exact same fashion at the end of Rambo First Blood Part II but he he had an M-60 which he took off a helicopter side mount.

  7. The Russian torture / truth serum doctor reminded me more of True Lies when Arnold is injected with the truth serum. Though this movie didn't come out until 1994.

  8. You Missed the reference to the line finn wolfhard said in the 4th episode which was a reference to what he said in IT where he swings his bat at pennywise, instead in this it's actually billy

  9. When the toys come to life, you can hear the gremlins theme. And the hammer Dustin buildt is just like the one, the father in Gremlins buildt. The monster is a direkt refrence to The thing. The day of the dead is about a secret undergound Army base, just like the one, under the mall. And Nancy has an uncany likness to Jennifer gray in Dirty dancing this seson.

  10. Is no one going to talk about the fight between Hopper and the Russian in the last episode? It's almost exactly like the final battle in Terminator 2, between T2 and T1000!

  11. I almost cried when Alexi was shot, the guy had a redemption arc coming and I was so ready for him and Murray to be friends ?

  12. The Hawkins Memorial Hospital logo is the exact same logo for the Haddonfeild Memorial Hospital logo in Halloween II

  13. Back to the future isn't really a easter egg if they blaintly say its name and SHOW it in the series, easter eggs are things like the "the thing" poster, they are hidden refrences in places like backgrounds, but are still able to find, ewster eggs aren't things that just blaintly shove it in your face

  14. Alexis was too innocent to die. I was very sad. Especially after he won woody woodpecker. Hoppers letter and the sad music made me cry.

  15. You forgot the resemblance to India jones when hopper and gregori put up their fists when they are fighting next to the machine

  16. The mirrors scene is more similar to the Lady from Shanghai one and the green ooze is the same of Prince of darkness by Carpenter

  17. Also, when Steve and Robin are drugged and drinking water outside the movie theater, talking about “Back To The Future”, Steve calls McFly as Alex P. Keaton. That was the character’s name that Fox (the guy who plays McFly) played in a famous 1980’s TV Series at the same time as “Back To The Future”.

  18. Me when seeing the cat clock: MELANIE MARTINEZ SHE PUTS THAT IN HER MVS!?
    video: brings up other song artists that have the clock in their videos
    Me: oh…..

  19. The mayor's speech before the fireworks show sounds and looks similar to Vice President Johnson's speech at the Texas BBQ in The Right Stuff (1983). Also, the fireworks show over the forest looks similar to the last scene in Return of the Jedi.

  20. There's also the the Woody woodpecker show references, the was the a Woody woodpecker show in the 1980s.

  21. I was pretty disappointed with Stranger Things season 3, season 1 & 2 were far much better. I hope season 4 finally shows the MK Ultra Experiments that Eleven had to go threw as a young girl because that is what I want to see the most more than anything else.

  22. Anyone catch the Superman III reference?
    When Joyce turns both keys at once. Prior did that in S3. Used a belt.

  23. Also thought when hopper was stood up by Joyce, the violins playing reminded me of ferris bueller when he sneaks into the fancy restaurant

  24. You missed this one, in the last episode when the monster kills billy, he’s on his knees looking up with his hand up in the air. This is a reference to platoon when William Defoe’s character is left behind and is being shot in the back while the helicopter flies over!

  25. The scene of El and Max riding their bikes in the rain wearing their beight yellow and beight red rubber rain coats looked straight out of “IT.”

  26. How come no one is bringing up episode 1s cold open and how when Alexie is promoted as his predecessor outs choked out (with the implication that results are expected) is a direct reference to Empire Strikes back – but without the force powers.

  27. Really thought of Carrie when they were all in the car park and Billy flashed his lights and revved the engine

  28. 2:21 the red balloon popping as Alexei is shot could be a reference to the 1983/1984 song 99 Red Balloons, which is a song inspired by the idea of a red balloon popping near the Berlin Wall starting World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries.

  29. 11:26 the toys coming to life has to be a reference to toys being moved by the poltergeist in the 1982 movie Poltergeist.

  30. A number of car shots outside and inside the mall with Billy were shot exactly the same as various car shots in Back to the Future. Lots of homage camera work in here.

  31. Why is Billy wearing a normal wife-beater and jeans a reference?

    And I think it was more of an it reference in the transition between mayor Kline's speech and the Ferris wheel at the fair there's a kid in a blue shirt similar to the one Mike wore at the beginning of the season and the same socks el borrowed from Mike in season one. It's an it reference because that kid looking a lot like Mike (who also was in it) was chasing a kid with a red balloon. Coincidence,I think not.

  32. When Erica and Dustin crashes some green acid tanks to distract guards and they watch down the hole it's the same scene when Hicks and Drake find the first holes on the floor in Aliens.

  33. Erika is dressed like Punky Brewster and love Ice cream and has the same behavior ? like Arnold ( Arnold and Willie )

  34. A Nightmare on Elm Street Reference:
    During the scene in Episode 3 when El mind-searches for Heather.
    1: Her house number is "1438". The Elm Street house is "1428" (maybe they changed it because "Season 3"?)
    2: The red door is emphasized in both ANOES and ST3.
    3: When finding Heather she's submerged in a bathtub and then pulled into it as if she is going underwater into a sea, much like Nancy's bathtub nightmare.

  35. Don't you think that El touching Billys face is a referencje to the final scene of end of evangelion?

  36. Soooo maaany references in the series. The "Exterminator" part has even the same bruise on the right temporal, the difference being red blood, not metal.
    As LotR fan, my favorite is the name of Suzie's radio. Who noticed it?

    Palantir, the scrying orbs that allow communication over vast distances from Arnor to Gondor. It appears written in a red tape over the dial right after she says to Dustin -Standby!

  37. How about when Jake Busey did a Shining reference while attacking Nancy? And the Podling Dance theme from The Dark Crystal is heard when the boys were playing D&D.

  38. The Toys were a Poltergeist reference, to include the clapping monkey. Sure it’s 1982, but still counts…

  39. I think the old woman is a reference to one of a hit TV Show Golden Girls that was released in that year set, 1985…

  40. The problem is, the novel IT came out in 1986 (after the events of season 1-3 of Stranger Things) and the original TV movie didn't come out until 1990. That's a BIG oopsie. So it means there isn't any way Sean Austin's character could quote from IT, as the book wasn't even out yet.

  41. In the episode, 5 guy at the gas station plays Terminator theme on the cash register while charging "The Russian Terminator". 🙂

  42. Everyone forgot that the bathtub scene with Heather was referencing the bathtub scene in Nightmare on Elm Street.

  43. What about mrs Driscoll she said her husband’s name was jack and in King Kong there’s a character called jack Driscoll.

  44. Not an 80's reference, but the music of the horse riding machine that serves as a clue on where the russians are, is 'Daisy Bell'. The first song played by a computer, and the song HAL sings while being disconnected in '2001:A Space Odyssey".
    Not sure what is trying to reference, but is not by chance.

  45. The outsiders reference, when they just get to the family video and they are being interviewed look closely. And can we not forget Ralph macchio

  46. Am i alone in thinking the alarm in the Soviets underground base is the alarm as aboard princess Leia's ship in Star Wars:A New Hope???

  47. You guys missed the 7/11 reference and brand style when they weren't nation wide and when the store was limited to rest stops.
    There's also the Burger King bag and sandwich wrapping reference.
    You also missed the Eddie Murphy music reference to the "Beverly Hills Cop" movie.
    There's also a "Weird Science" escalator reference. A group of girls and boys are riding the escalator. One of the girls makes a kissy face at the boys. In the 1985 movie Weird Science, actress Kelly Lebrock did the same thing to a young Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Rusler, but she wasn't with girls.

    There's also the obvious video store VHS movies seen in the last episode and the obvious Firestarter reference, but the nose bleeding reference, since Stranger Things season one, is a nod to Charlie's father. In the film Charlie's father nose bleeds whenever he gets angry and use his power.

    There's also a none 80's reference of Dawn of the Dead in season 3. In the mall Robin slides down the center of the escalator (in Dawn of the Dead, Roger slides down the center of the elevator. This one might be random but the camera shot was done the same way)

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