Updated Oct. 30, 2017: Revised with references from Season 2.
Let's face it. Netflix's hit, Stranger Things, is just one big #tbt homage to the sometimes heartwarming, slightly creepy, Cold War-era cinematic world of the 1980s.
So now you've finished binge-watching Season 2, what's up next? We've got you covered with a list of the best films to keep your Stranger mood going strong.
Warning: This post is dark and full of spoilers.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The entire Season 1 story line of the young kids and Eleven in Stranger Things is straight out of Steven Spielberg's 1982 adopted alien story. The bikes, the flashlights, the dress-up scene where Eleven gets that pink dress — it's all E.T.
Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)
The depiction of the Upside Down relies heavily on H.R. Giger's designs for Alien. When Will is discovered with some kind of slug thing down his throat in the Season 1 finale, it's impossible not to think of the Xenomorph facehuggers. (Bonus: An unconscious Will attached to the monster's wall is also reminiscent of this super creepy scene cut from Alien.)
In Season 2, the soldiers who take to the tunnels draw a lot from the 1986 sequel, Aliens. They even exchange some lifted dialogue. Paul Reiser played the company man in that film, trying to get Ripley to trust him. In Stranger Things, Reiser plays a doctor who tries to earn Joyce's trust.
Stand By Me (1986)
The young cast of Stranger Things had to audition using lines from this 1986 coming-of-age story. It's a classic because it hits a balance between being an adventurous child while having to deal with adult themes like death and danger. Sound familiar?
The Goonies (1985)
R.I.P. Bob the brain, a.k.a. Sean Astin, a.k.a. the Barb of Season 2. Astin slides into the Stranger Things universe after the show made so many references to his earlier work in The Goonies. He treats Will's drawings of the tunnel like a treasure map, drops some of his old lines from the 1985 classic, and quickly became a fan favorite after his too-soon demise.
If you're going to talk about '80s adventure stories, you can't forget The Goonies. Like many of these classics, the young heroes are working through deep, adult-world conflicts (foreclosure, divorce, etc.) while participating in an "innocent" adventure. Plus, how can you not love how Chunk and Dustin are so similar?
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Stranger Things isn't all fun and games. Remember when Barb gets totally eaten in a dream world that sucks up kids and spits out demon monsters? That's a little less E.T. and a little more Freddy Kreuger.
John Carpenter was a strong influence of the Duffer brothers, who created Stranger Things. The synth-heavy theme alone would be a big enough tip of that influence, but you add in how Carpenter defined horror through movies like Halloween, and you see where the Duffer brothers got many of their creative ideas.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
One of the things that makes Stranger Things stand out is how genre-bending it can be. Take out all that Demogorgon stuff, and the Nancy-Steve-Jonathan storyline is pure John Hughes.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Another Stranger Things episode, another Spielberg reference. Before he made aliens lovable with E.T., Spielberg was exploring secret government programs at Devil's Tower, Wyo. Just like Joyce destroys her family's living room in Stranger Things, Richard Dreyfuss tears his family home apart trying to recreate the national monument in Close Encounters.
Winona Ryder. 'Nuff said.
The kids dress up as the Ghostbusters gang for Halloween. Dustin carries around a mini-demogorgon in his ghost trap from the costume. Last year, we just thought there were enough paranormal threads to include Ghostbusters on this list. After watching Season 2, it's a no-brainer.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Have you re-watched Empire recently? It's so good. Also, bonus points for a direct Stranger Things reference: Lando.
When Eleven goes to train with her sister, Kali, it's an inverse of Luke training with Yoda on Degobah. She learns to lift heavy objects by embracing her anger.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Jonathan keeps a poster of this 1981 blood bath on his bedroom wall in Stranger Things. In Season 2, Will's possession scenes throw back to the voice-changing growls of zombies in The Evil Dead. The original cabin-in-the-woods horror movie, the special effects in The Evil Dead are almost so gory they're funny. Almost.
Breaking Away (1979)
Hawkins, Ind., clearly doesn't exist. But Southern Indiana is full of beautiful — and sometimes deadly — limestone quarries, a key setting in the Oscar-winning Breaking Away. (There's also a massive Naval base hidden in the hills of Southern Indiana, but we can't comment on that.)
Secretive experiments on a young girl with telekinetic powers? The flashbacks that Eleven has throughout the first season of Stranger Things pull from the Stephen King story starring a young Drew Barrymore.
The Shining (1980)
Stranger Things has a lot of visual similarity with The Shining, including when axe-wielding Judy goes to town on her living room wall. That, plus another psychically gifted child, earns this Stanley Kubrick classic a spot on our list.
So, do we need to have a talk about why this era was obsessed with kids who have psychic powers? Let's hope Eleven doesn't take a card out of Carrie's book and go all crazy at the Snow Ball.
Blade Runner (1982)
Does it freak anyone else out that the original Blade Runner movie is supposed to take place in, like, three years? Despite being re-cut, then super-cut, then really-final-last-time-ever-cut, Blade Runner's dystopian fantasy stands out.
Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
Twin Peaks is an outlier on this list for two reasons: It's a TV show and it's the '90s baby that wishes it were an '80s kid. But the whole time we watched Stranger Things, we kept thinking FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper was gonna show up in Hopper's police station for a cup of strong black coffee.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Speaking of Hopper, who's he kidding with that hat? Just because he's a cop in Indiana doesn't mean he has to go full Indiana Jones.
First and foremost, a moment of silence for Jareth the Goblin King.
The themes of child-snatching, alternate-universe hopping, fantasy-creature sighting run through both Stranger Things and Labyrinth. If you're into that sort of thing, don't miss this Jim Henson fantasy.
Bonus for Season 2:
St. Elmo's Fire (1985)
Billy, the new bully in town with the cool car, looks remarkably like a young Rob Lowe. In St. Elmo's Fire, Lowe's character doesn't fit the same antagonistic role, but he sure does look the part.
The Terminator (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature role was featured on the marquee of the movie theater in downtown Hawkins in Season 2, and a trailer flashed on the screen in Eleven's cabin in the woods.
If only Dustin had watched Gremlins. He'd know adopting D'Art and feeding him nougat was a bad idea. Especially after midnight.
Jurassic Park (1993)
Another entry that's a little late to be a direct reference circa 1984, there is so much of the scenes at the Hawkins lab — especially after stuff the demodogs take over — that is lifted from Jurassic Park. Bob's trek to the computer to turn the power back on, using a mirror to find monsters around the next corner, it all feels a lot like the escape from Isla Nublar.