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    54 Things That Inspired Stranger Things To Keep You Occupied Until Season 4, Part 2 Drops

    Major Stranger Things vibes.

    Binged Stranger Things Season 4, Part 1, and don’t know what to do with yourself until Part 2 drops in July? Well, whack some Kate Bush on and hunker down, because I’ve rounded up a whole bunch of things that the show creators, cast, and crew have said aided them in bringing the story to life.

    Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Gaten Matarazzo, Priah Ferguson in Stranger Things

    All of the following works of art have influenced the show in some way, so if you choose to watch, read, play, or listen to any of them, you should be able to feel those Stranger Things vibes and give yourself that little hit to tide you over until the next episodes drop!

    🚨WARNING: Spoilers for all seasons ahead, so read at your own discretion! 🚨

    1. Movie: Batman (1989)

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    The Duffer brothers, who created Stranger Things, said that when they saw TV commercials for Tim Burton’s Batman, “it looked like the most mind-blowing thing (they) had ever seen.” Unfortunately, they weren’t allowed to see it at the time, as it was PG-13, but after much whining, they were able to coax their parents to get them a copy on VHS. 

    Matt Duffer said: “That was the first time we realized what a movie director was — Tim Burton’s style was just so distinct. Then we started to watch all of his films. His visual style, his art direction, and the music in those films really have a personal stamp on them.” 

    From there, they knew that they wanted to make movies — so thanks for that, Tim Burton! (The Duffers actually got their start in movies before turning their hand to serialized TV storylines like Wayward Pines).

    2. Card game: Magic: The Gathering

    Image shows four rows of four card stacks, with two separate piles on the right hand side

    3. Book: Carrie by Stephen King (1974)

    Carrie looking horrified as blood drips from her head and hands at the prom

    4. Movie: Scream (1996)

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    The genre-redefining movie from 1996 and its self-aware, meta take on horror had the Duffers leaping down the rabbit hole of director Wes Craven’s work.

    In Season 4, Part 1, a scene from Scream is recreated when Chrissy Cunningham’s body is taken away on a stretcher, covered by a sheet. The camera pans over the scene from above, which also happens in Scream.

    5. Movie: Evil Dead (1981)

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    The notorious Evil Dead movies by Sam Raimi were super influential on the Duffer brothers, and in turn, on Stranger Things. 

    Similarities and homages to the franchise can be seen throughout the show, from the poster for the film in Jonathan’s bedroom to a cabin in the woods with secrets beneath its floorboards, otherworldly monsters, and more.

    Matt and Ross watched the films on VHS, and as they were too young for the film’s rating, it took a little subterfuge to get it into their hands!

    “We tricked our mom so she would rent it for us. I told her it was unrated, but (film critic) Leonard Maltin said it would be PG-13, which is just not true”, said Matt. “We were sneaky children.”

    6. Movie: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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    This Spielberg classic tells the story of an average Indiana man whose life is turned upside down by a visit from another sphere. 

    Matt Duffer said that the movie's visual language on-screen helped them hone their own cinematic style. 

    He also said that Winona Ryder’s portrayal of Joyce and her conviction that Will was communicating with her via lights even when everyone else thought she was delusional reminded him of Richard Dreyfuss’s character in this movie.

    7. Book and movie: The Shining by Stephen King (1977/1980 respectively)

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    King’s third novel follows Jack Torrance, who slowly sinks into madness at a hotel filled with supernatural forces. His son Danny is gifted with “shining”, psychic powers that allow him to have premonitions and see the bloody past of the hotel they are staying in. 

    Cited as an influence for Season 2 of Stranger Things when Will acquires second sight (“Now-Memories”) following his possession by the Mind Flayer, the parallels with The Shining can be seen quite clearly.

    Another similarity is the way Joyce takes an axe to the wall in her living room, determined to get to Will — and very reminiscent of the famous scene in The Shining where Jack Nicholson’s character breaks a bathroom door with an axe to reach his wife — though his intentions are definitely more sinister than Joyce’s!

    8. Movie: The Thing (1982)

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    John Carpenter, famed for his Halloween franchise, remade the 1951 sci-fi fave The Thing from Another World, and it proved influential for a young Ross Duffer.

    Rob Bottin’s special effects were revolutionary at the time and all achieved in-camera, a technique that the Duffer brothers used in the early episodes of Stranger Things.

    9. Movie: Altered States (1980)

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    Named as one of Matt Duffer’s inspirations, it’s easy to see the ways this sci-fi thriller bled into Stranger Things. 

    Featuring a Harvard scientist experimenting with hallucinogenic substances and an isolation tank, it’s definitely reminiscent of Eleven’s time submerged in water in a tank for Dr. Brenner’s experiments. 

    The film’s lab sequences inspired the look of the inside of Hawkins National Laboratory, where these scenes were set. It also served as inspiration for the backstory of Terry Ives, Eleven’s biological mother.

    10. Movie: Alien (1979)

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    Ross Duffer has listed this sci-fi horror classic as one that definitely helped with the inception of Stranger Things further down the line. Its xenomorph monster even had a direct influence on the design of the show’s iconic Demogorgon. 

    Matt Duffer said that the planet in the movie inspired them, particularly the way there are always particles floating in the air. They added spores, vines, and “weird organic growths” to the Upside Down, mostly achieved through practical effects like dandelion pappuses to achieve a similar effect to what they'd seen in Alien.

    Incidentally, the movie's sequel Aliens (1986), featured Paul Reiser aka Stranger Things’ Dr. Sam Owens, as a slippery villain! Maybe we should watch out for him…

    11. Movie: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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    This one goes without saying! In fact, if you look into the Duffers' inspirations, they've cited basically every Stephen Spielberg movie at some point. E.T. is, of course, one of the works that's totally synonymous with the director.

    Matt Duffer listed E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial as an inspiration for Stranger Things, and it’s no surprise as the similarities are pretty obvious. E.T. follows Elliott, a young boy who befriends a strange visitor from another world and seeks to shelter him from his mom and government agents. 

    Described as a “foundational text for Stranger Things in tone and tenor in the book Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down, Elliott and E.T.’s relationship is a lot like Eleven and Mike’s Season 1 relationship — plus, there’s even some iconic bicycle riding scenes in both works of art!

    Stranger Things set decorator Jess Royal said there’s a subtle homage to E.T. in Mike’s bedroom, explaining: “I always remembered that the mini-blinds in Elliott’s bedroom were rainbow. I wanted to do a version of that in Mike’s room.”

    If you look closely in Season 4, Part 1, you’ll spot graffiti on the phone booth that says “E.T phone home” when Dustin calls Steve from school. There are actually a ton of E.T. references throughout all seasons, from Eleven being put in a dress and blonde wig by Mike, much like E.T. being shoved into the same get-up by Elliott’s younger sister, all the way to the pizza the boys eat in the very first episode being the same specific sausage and pepperoni flavor that Elliott drops at the beginning of E.T.

    12. Movie: Jaws (1975)

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    This iconic shark flick based on the Peter Benchley book is the Duffer brothers’ favorite film. Following a beachside community in the midst of a barrage of vicious shark attacks, the police chief character from the movie is the character who sparked the inspiration for Jim Hopper. 

    The Duffers have also cited the looming terror of the shark as a definite influence on the build-up and fear around the ominous presence of the monster haunting Hawkins. Stranger Things cinematographer Tim Ives said they didn’t want audiences to see the monster immediately, much like in Jaws, where the shark isn’t seen until the end and the frenzy and hysteria around the unknown creature grows exponentially the longer the monster goes unknown. Plus, no one can say they don't know the ominous Jaws score that immediately kicks your senses into high alert and suggests danger is near!

    If you look closely in Season 4, Part 1, you’ll see a Jaws poster in Will’s room, complete with the authentic '80s fold down the middle. Kudos to set decorators for their attention to detail here because most 1980s movie posters had a fold down the middle from being mailed to the movie theater.

    Incidentally, the Duffers were originally planning to call their show Montauk as an homage to Jaws, which was inspired by the exploits of a Montauk shark fisherman.  

    13. Movie and book: Firestarter (1980/1984 respectively)

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    This Stephen King novel has recently seen another film adaptation (incidentally, the 1984 film adaptation starred a young Drew Barrymore, who starred in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and Scream, both of which are listed as other sources of inspiration for the Duffers). 

    It follows Charlie McGee, who gets psychic powers as a result of a clandestine government program her parents took part in involving mind-altering substances. The book Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down describes Charlie as Eleven’s literary cousin due to the way the girls both struggle to understand and harness their powers.

    When the Duffers veered from their movie-making path and into TV, their initial idea was a sci-fi story set in the Cold War, which would focus on covert government experiments in mind control in the 1950s and '60s. 

    Although it sounds a lot like Firestarter, the Duffers were actually inspired by a mix of King’s story and the real-life covert program known as Project MKUltra, in which the US government-administered illicit psychotropic substances to US citizens (including LSD, MDMA, methamphetamines, and psilocybin) without their knowledge. The program continued for 20 years, ending in 1973. 

    Author Ken Kesey actually volunteered for the program during his student days, and his experiences influenced his work, including his famous One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

    As previously mentioned, the Duffers were also planning to call their show Montauk as an homage to Jaws, but it tied in even better when they found out that a US Air Force Base in Montauk was rumored to be the site of mind control experiments. This base became the inspiration for Hawkins National Lab.   

    14. Movie: Poltergeist (1982)

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    A film that terrified an entire generation, Poltergeist is another Stephen Spielberg work that the Duffers cite as a fave. In a season 1 flashback scene, Joyce actually agrees to take Will to see the film if he promises not to have nightmares! 

    Similar to the way Joyce and Will communicate through Christmas lights when Will is in the Upside Down, the child in Poltergeist uses the TV to communicate with ghosts, then becomes lost in another dimension as a prisoner of a dark creature, again much like Will.

    15. Movie and book: The Dead Zone (1979/1983 respectively)

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    This Stephen King film adaptation is one of the Duffers’ many faves from horror auteur David Cronenberg. They’ve also cited the book that the movie is based on as a favorite.

    The story follows a former high school teacher who awakes from a coma after nearly five years and discovers that he can see the future - and that an increasingly influential politician is destined to start a nuclear war. 

    From this, the Duffers drew inspiration for many aspects of what would become Stranger Things, such as the small-town setting, extraordinarily gifted protagonist, well-fleshed-out supporting characters, and that looming sense of growing dread.

    16. Book: Different Seasons (1982)

    A book cover featuring a silhouette of a tree against a purple sky, with red leaves falling. The words "Stephen King, Different Seasons" sit atop the falling leaves

    17. Movie and book: Stand By Me (1982/1986 respectively)

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    The Duffers were inspired by both the Stephen King novella this movie was based on and the movie itself. The story follows four 12-year-old boys who traverse a train track on a quest to find the body of a missing child. Of course, it’s not that simple, and along the way, they run into several obstacles which test the boys and their friendship, growing a strong bond built through adversity.

    Listed as “one of the principal cinematic inspirations for Stranger Things", actor Finn Wolfhard (Mike) also lists the movie as one of his favorites. 

    The Duffers actually had the child actors read lines from the film in their audition, and the scene where Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Eleven walk along the train tracks searching for Will is an homage to the film. There’s even an episode called “The Body”, that Stand By Me is based on.

    18. Movie and book: IT (1986/1990 respectively)

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    There are some strong parallels between IT and Stranger Things, so it’s no surprise that the Duffers found inspiration in the horror classic that gave the world a fear of clowns. The Duffers actually hoped to direct a movie version of IT but ended up making what would become Stranger Things instead. 

    Nonetheless, much like IT, their show includes a group of young social misfit friends in a small town confronting a terrifying evil that haunts their home.

    Incidentally, Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler in the show, starred in the 2017 adaptation of IT!

    19. Movie: The Sixth Sense (1999)

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    The Sixth Sense follows a young boy who can see the dead, and of course, Stranger Things is similar in that it's a supernatural-themed sensation with a young protagonist exhibiting otherworldly gifts.

    The director of the movie, M. Night Shyamalan, read one of the Duffers’ movie scripts and was impressed, inviting the Duffers to work on Wayward Pines, which he was executive producing for Fox. 

    From there, the Duffers had a crash course in TV production and realized that it was a medium that could work really well for them and their style of storytelling. So M. Night Shyamalan inadvertently set the ball rolling for the Duffers to bring Stranger Things to our screens!

    20. Movie: Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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    Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic that left many afraid to go to sleep. The Duffers created a 23-page lookbook for Stranger Things, to be used as a companion document that described their ideas and inspirations for the series. In it, Nightmare on Elm Street was included. The brothers also referred actor Natalia Dyer (Nancy) to Nancy Thompson, the protagonist in the movie who kicked ass in sweater sets!

    Watching Season 4, Part 1 of Stranger Things, it’s easy to see the influence of the movie, with teens being mentally tormented by an unknown monster who kills while their bodies are unconscious. There’s even a Freddy Krueger cut-out in Family Video, where Robin and Steve work.

    Another obvious nod to the movie is the fact that Victor Creel is played by Robert Englund, the actor who brought the notorious Freddy Krueger to life in Nightmare on Elm Street. The way Creel is scratching the desk as Nancy walks towards his cell when she visits him in prison is said to be a nod to the character and the razor-sharp blades he has attached to his fingers.

    As well as this, Freddy's first victim in Nightmare on Elm Street levitates as he kills them.

    Vecna actor Jamie Campbell Bower has also talked about the Duffers’ Freddy inspiration and how it influenced his character.

    21. Movies: The work of Guillermo del Toro

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    Del Toro, renowned for his chilling and mind-bending movies, is listed as one of the Duffers’ inspirations. 

    Perhaps most famous for his love of monsters, del Toro’s films (including Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water) feature ethereal and intricately crafted creatures that help to build an immersive world that sucks you in, much like in Stranger Things. 

    Del Toro’s work also appears in the lookbook the Duffers created to help bring their vision to life, serving as a reference for horror elements and the “design of monstrous entities”.

    22. Movie and book: The Silence of the Lambs

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    When Nancy and Robin walk down the dark hallway in the prison to see Victor Creel, it’s an homage to the moment in The Silence of the Lambs when Clarice visits the infamous Hannibal Lecter for the first time.

    Many have commented on the film’s portrayal of women in male-dominated workspaces, showing the struggle to navigate sexist workplaces. In the same episode of Stranger Things, there’s another ode to the film as Robin and Nancy pose as psychology students who are denied access to interview Victor Creel.

    Robin launches into an impassioned speech about how the clothes she’s wearing are itchy and she only wore them to make her “look the part” because “nobody takes girls seriously in this field”. 

    She tells the staff member a story about a campmate called Petey McHugh and finishes up her speech by saying “but don’t tell me that crybaby Petey McHugh wouldn't have got an audience with Victor in a matter of moments if he just asked nicely ‘cause you and I both know that he would!”, finishing up by asking for just 10 minutes with Creel. 

    Clarice would be proud!

    23. Video game: Silent Hill (1999)

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    Horror video game, Silent Hill, also served as inspiration for the Duffer brothers. The survival game is heavily rooted in horror, with players setting out to solve a mystery in a town consumed by shadows and sinister creatures.

    Matt Duffer said: “Our concern was how do we create an alternate dimension in a way that doesn’t look cheesy. It couldn’t become a CG fest. We wanted to do it in a very simple, effective way, and it did lead us, of course, to talking about (the approach used in) Silent Hill, which is basically color correction, ash, and deteriorating buildings.”

    The Silent Hill franchise started in 1999 and has seen several games and movies. It is still considered one of the OGs of horror gaming.

    24. The work of John Carpenter

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    Perhaps most famous for his Halloween film franchise, which popularized the slasher genre, Carpenter inspired the Duffer brothers in many ways, from in-camera effects in The Thing, to strong musical scores and clever ways of creating atmosphere and suspense.

    Back in Season 2, Max dresses as Halloween villain Michael Myers and scares the life out of Dustin, Mike, Will, and Lucas! Fast-forward to Season 4, when Max is taken by Vecna, and we see a gravestone with “Myers” engraved on it in Vecna’s creepy lair.

    25. Movie: Breaking Away (1979)

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    Originally, the Duffers planned for the show to be set in Long Island, but the community didn’t look as they had imagined for their creation. They realized they needed a new approach, and began discussing what they needed to do to make it work.

    Ross Duffer said: “We started talking about some of our favorite films. Whether it was Breaking Away or Close Encounters of the Third Kind, those were movies that were set in Indiana, which is sort of an Anywhere, USA, kind of place.” 

    They realized that they were better suited to telling a story in a conventional suburban setting like those in the movies that inspired them and their own hometown. From there, Hawkins, Indiana, was born and the show’s name changed from Montauk to Stranger Things.

    26. Game: Dungeons and Dragons

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    When we first land in Hawkins, Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin are in the throes of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in Mike’s basement. The board game/amateur theater hybrid was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and allowed a game leader (known as a Dungeon Master) to bring to life fantastical adventures with friends. Games, known as campaigns, can pretty much last as long as you want them to, be it hours, days, weeks, months or even years! 

    Much like we saw in Stranger Things Season 4, Part 1, the game did have a bad rep and sparked fear around occultism and satanism in the 1970s and mid-'80s, due to the dark subject matter and creatures in the game. There were lots of people who would have joined Jason Carver’s witch hunt for Eddie!

    The game is a thread throughout the whole series so far, but it’s more than just the characters who get immersed in its extensive lore. Matt and Ross Duffer said that when they come up with a monster, they immediately flip through D&D Monster Manuals looking for what the kids would likely reference when describing the monster. 

    In the case of Season 4’s villain, the Duffers said they actually cheated a little bit, with Matt telling Netflix: “(Vecna wasn’t) really wasn’t a character until the '90s. We cheated a little bit, but we thought Eddie is so advanced — and the idea of Vecna did exist [in the lore] — that he could have brought Vecna back to life. But that’s why you have the kids react in the way they do, like, “You can’t do that. He doesn’t exist. He’s dead.” And Eddie’s like, “No, he’s alive. He’s very much alive.”

    Ross follows up, saying: “It’s essentially like if Eddie wrote (the book) “Vecna Lives!” a bit earlier than it was actually written. Hopefully, the D&D lovers out there don’t hate us for doing a little bit of a cheat there. But it really felt like it had to be Vecna. If the kids were going to talk about this new monster, that was the closest [fit]. 

    So, that was our way of making it work within the context of it not yet being 1990. It was too good to pass up. Vecna just feels so ominous and scary. We wanted it to be just like the Demogorgon is. We wanted it to be a monster that is infamous in the D&D world."

    27. Comic: X-Men #134

    The image shows Dustin, Eddie and Mike wearing Hellfire Club t-shirts at a school canteen table

    28. Movie: Gremlins (1984)

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    Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler on the show, was immediately drawn to Stranger Things because he grew up watching '80s movies and credits several as some of his favorites. 

    One he mentioned was Gremlins, a comedy horror about a horde of monsters being unleashed when someone fails to follow the specific instructions required for his new pet. 

    Wolfhard says he used to watch movies all day every day, and had a particular love of cinema from the '80s. That love combined with the storytelling and '80s setting of Stranger Things is how we got our Mike!

    Dustin and Dart’s relationship was also inspired by Gremlins, with the score even mimicking the theme of Gremlins when Dart escapes the A.V. room and evades Dustin!

    29. Movie: The Goonies (1985)

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    Another of Wolfhard’s favorites is The Goonies, which incidentally stars Sean Astin, who would go on to play the beloved Bob Newby on-screen with him in Stranger Things. 

    Following a group of kids on an unlikely adventure, it definitely has similarities to Stranger Things. There’s a nod to the movie in Season 4, Part 1, too, when Lucas makes a joke about opening a secret door by playing the piano correctly when they’re exploring Victor Creel’s house. In The Goonies, Mikey has to play a piano perfectly in order for the crew to find One-Eyed Willy’s treasure.

    30. Movie: First Blood (1982)

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    Actor Caleb McLaughlin wants his character Lucas to go more “Rambo mode”, after Lucas’ lone stint to Hawkins Lab late at night back in the earlier seasons of the show. He wants to develop that side of his character more, being a fiercely independent “bad butt” with his bandana and wrist rocket!

    31. Movie: Arrival (2016)

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    21 Laps Entertainment produced Arrival, in which Amy Adams plays a linguist who communicates with alien visitors. She wears a hazmat-style suit throughout, a visual replicated in Stranger Things through the Hawkins National Lab scientists as well as Joyce and Hopper when they venture into the Upside Down. 

    The suits were customized by costume designer Kimberly Adams — made from Cordura nylon, dyed a mustard color, and fitted with lights inside to illuminate the actors on-screen.

    21 Laps Entertainment is a film and TV production company run by Shawn Levy, who is the executive producer for Stranger Things. He was given the script for the Stranger Things pilot by executive Dan Cohen, ultimately setting the ball in motion for Levy’s now-historic partnership with the Duffer brothers.

    32. The work of John Hughes

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    John Hughes movies were staples of the 1980s, and the Duffers credit his on-screen protagonists as inspiration for Nancy Wheeler, Jonathan Byers, and Steve Harrington. 

    Nancy and Jonathan’s initial dynamic — that bickering, unimpressed with each other, teenage way of interacting — was inspired by the dynamic often seen between two characters who ultimately end up getting together in John Hughes movies.

    33. Book and movie: The Lord of the Rings (1954/2001 respectively)

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    When Will is biking back from Mike’s back in Season 1, he sees the shape of the Demogorgon in the fog as he goes past a wooded area. The Duffers had the boys give these woods the nickname Mirkwood, taken from The Lord of the Rings. Mirkwood is also where the boys first encounter Eleven.

    Another fun link to Lord of the Rings is when Mike, Jonathan, Will, and Argyle are escaping the shoot-out at the Byers’ home with Unknown Hero Agent Man, and Will, Jonathan, and Mike yell “get off the road!” at Argyle when they see they’re being followed, much like Frodo yelling “get off the road!” to the Hobbits when he senses the Ringwraith approaching.  

    34. The work of Carl Sagan

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    Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator (whew!). He was the inspiration for the character of Mr. Clarke, the Hawkins Middle School Science teacher who runs the A.V. Club. 

    “We love Mr. Clarke,” Ross Duffer said. “He’s just a pure nerd.” 

    35. The work of Marsha Mason

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    Winona Ryder has said one of her inspirations for the character of Joyce was American actor and director Marsha Mason’s work, in particular 1983’s Max Dugan Returns and 1977’s Audrey Rose. 

    Max Dugan Returns is a comedy-drama about a struggling single mother who has her life disrupted — granted, it’s by her estranged con-artist father showing up, as opposed to a Demogorgon rocking up, but nonetheless!

    As for Audrey Rose, the film is a little darker than Max Dugan Returns, following a happily married couple who are harassed by a stranger attempting to convince them that their daughter is actually the reincarnation of his daughter. The psychological horror drama is based on a book of the same name by Frank De Felitta.  

    36. Movie: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

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    Another of Winona’s inspirations was the 1974 movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, in particular, actor Ellen Burstyn’s Oscar-winning performance in it. A comedy-drama film directed by Martin Scorsese, the story follows the recently widowed Alice, who has dreams of becoming a singer and hits the road with her son, Tommy. However, things don’t go smoothly!

    Alice and her son Tommy are in a somewhat unusual situation, and Tommy is described as precocious and intelligent beyond his years, both elements which are replicated in Stranger Things.

    Incidentally, the leading actor in the film, Ellen Burstyn, played the mother in The Exorcist, a film in which the mother frantically tries to save her possessed child from dark forces, and one which proved inspiring for another member of the cast...

    37. Movie: The Exorcist (1973)

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    When the Shadow Monster takes control of Will’s body, his body goes into something akin to a seizure. To replicate this effectively, actor Noah Schnapp studied the scientific aspects of what happens to the body during a seizure, as well as the ultimate possession film — The Exorcist. 

    Schnapp’s performance blew the cast and crew away, and he knew his performance must have been pretty good when a concerned Winona Ryder came over to him and said: “Oh, my baby, are you okay? Please tell me if anything’s wrong” when he'd finished the scene!

    38. Leading men from the '80s

    David Harbour at a Stranger Things season 4 event, wearing a dark denim blazer with red patches and yellow tinted sunglasses

    39. Music: Cliff Martinez’s Drive score (2011)

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    I think we can all agree that Stranger Things’ synth score and authentic '80s soundtrack is one of the many things that make the show so immersive, memorable, and impactful. 

    Originally, the Duffers had considered a John Williams-style orchestral score, but due to budget implications, they couldn’t commit to it. 

    They started to look into synthesizer-driven electronic scores like the famous Drive score by composer Cliff Martinez, and even some horror director John Carpenter had written for his own features. From there, the hunt was on to find someone who could create a unique, synth-led score for the show.

    40. Music: The song “Dirge” by Survive

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    The Duffers’ search for a synth specialist led them to a song called “Dirge” from a band called Survive, which the Duffers actually used on a “sizzle reel” to help them sell the show before it got green-lit. When they got that green light, one of the first calls they made was to Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of Survive, who managed to create a distinct, recognizable, and just straight-up great score despite never having composed for film or TV before!

    (Listen from about 1:15 and you can definitely see the style of Dixon and Stein and the early seeds of what would bloom into a globally recognizable synth score!)

    41. Movie: The Road (2009)

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    John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel proved inspiring for Stranger Things production designer, Chris Trujillo, who used the aesthetics of the movie as inspiration for the Upside Down.

    Trujillo wanted the Upside Down to look like “a shadow world, this murky, dark reflection of reality that feels infected in some way,” and drew inspiration from the dystopian movie, saying: “The Road, obviously, has that sort of post-apocalyptic vibe - there’s just this inexplicable ash covering everything and floating in the air.” 

    42. Movie: Stalker (1979)

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    This Andrei Tarkovsky movie also provided inspiration for production designer Chris Trujillo. The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland known as The Zone, where an illegal guide (or Stalker) leads a writer and a scientist in search of a mythical place known as The Room, which supposedly will fulfill the wishes of anyone who enters.

    Combining science fiction with philosophical and psychological themes, this movie is based loosely on the novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Its dystopian aesthetics proved influential for Trujillo.

    43. Book: Paradise Lost (1667)

    The cover of the book Paradise Lost, which is black with a grey and white sketch of what looks like a winged creature falling from the sky

    44. Movie: The Fog (1980)

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    The spooky fog surrounding many of the shots, particularly the ones obscuring the Demogorgon back in Season 1, were inspired by the foreboding fog in The Fog, a film about the dead rising under the cover of the fog to claim retribution as a small town’s centenary approaches.

    45. Movie and book: Under the Skin (2013)

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    Loosely based on the book of the same name by Michael Faber, this sci-fi movie follows Scarlett Johansson as an extraterrestrial who seduces men and sends them into another dimension where they are nothing but meat.

    The black room in Stranger Things with the black water floor is inspired by the “black room” in Under the Skin, where the men are absorbed and digested.

    46. The work of George Romero

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    The Duffers were inspired by the work of George Romero, a pioneer of the horror genre known as the "Father of the Zombie Film."

    The Duffers said that they wanted to pay tribute to the horror movies and horror masters that they grew up watching, and a few subtle nods to Romero’s work can be spotted throughout the show, including the battle with the Mindflayer at the end of Season 3. 

    One of Romero’s most famous works, Dawn of the Dead, was a bloodbath in a shopping mall, which influenced the Duffers’ decision to set key moments of their storyline in the newly opened Starcourt Mall in Hawkins.

    47. Movie: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

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    Remember back when Nancy and Jonathan go to Murray’s, and he calls them out on their obvious feelings for one another? 

    According to the book Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down, their sleeping in separate rooms was a nod to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which Indiana and nightclub singer Willie flirt, quarrel, and brood over each other in adjoining rooms.

    48. Movie: Super 8 (2011)

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    Looking at just the synopsis for Super 8, I can already see the similarities. Described as a sci-fi film in which a train crash sets off a series of bizarre events in a small town in the late '70s, the Spielberg/Abrams film has an even closer link to Stranger Things. Artist Kyle Lambert designed the posters for both and used the same concept as he did in his Super 8 art on the Stranger Things poster to communicate the supernatural elements of the show in a still image.

    The scene in Season 2 where Steve, Dustin, Lucas, and Max hide out in an abandoned bus in the junkyard while Demodogs attack was inspired by a scene in Super 8 where an alien attacks a bus the kids are hiding in.

    Incidentally, Super 8 has been compared to E.T., Stand By Me, and The Goonies, all of which inspired Stranger Things’ creators, as well as set decorator Jess Royal and Mike actor Finn Wolfhard.

    49. The work of Drew Struzan

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    Stranger Things poster artist, Kyle Lambert, was inspired by the work of artist Drew Struzan, who has an impressive array of film posters in his portfolio, including The Shawshank Redemption, Blade Runner, films in the Indiana Jones series, Back to the Future, Star Wars, and more. 

    Struzan’s work has a distinct style and is often called upon to communicate and sell sci-fi storylines to audiences in an eye-catching and effective way. Lambert said: “Drew’s posters were very successful at combining the people and the story elements in a well-composed way.”

    50. Famous movie villains

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    Jamie Campbell Bower’s performance as Vecna was one that caught us all off-guard in Season 4, Part 1 of Stranger Things. While the actor has previously played morally gray and villainous characters in films such as Twilight, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and more, the reception for his intense performance as Vecna was overwhelmingly positive. 

    But where did Campbell Bower pull from to bring such a sinister and spine-chilling character to life? He told IGN that he was given two sides when he auditioned — one from Primal Fear and one from Hellraiser. He told Vanity Fair that he used Hellraiser's villain, Pinhead, as his main source of inspiration, as well as Dracula (both Christopher Lee and Claes Bang), Voldemort, Freddy Krueger, and Pennywise.  

    51. The music of bands Sunn O))), Carpathian Forest, and Mayhem

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    Jamie Campbell Bower said he would listen to these bands in his trailer. He told Vanity Fair that black metal music had a “lovely depth and darkness to it” that helped him get into character. 

    He said he would take half an hour to himself after the prosthetics process to sit in the darkness away from everyone, listen to these bands and transform into Vecna before walking onto the set.  

    52. Anime/manga: Elfen Lied (2002/2004 respectively)

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    The Duffers named this as an influence, particularly for Eleven and her storyline, saying it reminded them of an “ultraviolent E.T.” 

    The two shows have obvious similarities, with both Eleven and Elfen Lied’s protagonist Lucy harnessing incredible powers, escaping from a lab where they are experimented on, and falling for a boy who takes them in when they’re on the run. Both girls refer to the scientists who raised them as “papa,” and both labs assign numbers instead of names to their test subjects.

    There are a few things that could be more direct references to the anime/manga in Stranger Things too, such as Eleven being enchanted by Nancy’s music box (a music box was featured prominently in the anime), and the scene where Eleven refuses to hurt a cat (Lucy’s species are known to be violent towards humans but extremely benevolent towards animals).

    53. Movie: Prisoners (2013)

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    Fronted by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, this Denis Villeneuve thriller led to a key element of the plot for Stranger Things.

    Matt Duffer told Rolling Stone: “We thought; ‘wouldn’t that movie have been even better in eight hours on HBO or Netflix?' So we started talking about a missing person story.” 

    Ross elaborated, saying: “It was taking that idea of a missing child and combining it with the more childlike sensibilities we have. You know — can we put a monster in there that eats people? Because we are nerds and children at heart, we thought it was the best thing ever.”

    54. Anime: Akira (1988)

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    This anime follows a teenage biker with psychic powers, and the Duffers have cited it as an influence on the show’s structure. 

    In Akira, there are children known as “Espers”, who have psychic powers through being test subjects for secret government experiments. Of course, the aim of developing these abilities for the government's personal gain, much like when Eleven’s powers are used to spy on Russians during the Cold War.

    The Espers also have numbers for names, with Akira being number 28, which doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as the number eleven!

    I could honestly write all day about this! There are so, so many influences and inspirations behind Stranger Things, which is a beautiful tapestry of all the favorites from the cast and crew of the show. There are undoubtedly hundreds of threads in this tapestry, and I feel like I notice more and more every time I watch.

    Which references or influences have you noticed when watching Stranger Things? Let me know in the comments!

    Note: Information and quotes on the Duffer Brothers’ inspirations are from the book Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down by Gina McIntyre.