9 Throwback References to Look Out for in 'Stranger Things 2'

Dana Getz

Finn Wolfhard as Mike in Stranger Things.

A big part of Stranger Things’ charm is its unabashed nostalgia. Its first season played like a love letter to decades past, drawing from retro touchstones that ranged from horror classic Carrie to sci-fi favorite E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial. And when the Netflix hit returns, it will jump to 1984—the year of Gremlins, Footloose, Purple Rain, Miami Vice, Madonna’s Like A Virgin—so there should be plenty of vintage references to mine. Here’s what we know so far.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Steven Spielberg had a heavy influence on Season 1, and this time around will be no different. During an interview with IGN, co-creator Matt Duffer said they’d take a nod from the director’s 1984 feature, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

“I love that it gets a little darker and weirder from Raiders, I like that it feels very different than Raiders did,” Duffer said. “It messed up a lot of kids, and I love that about that film—that it really traumatized some children. Not saying that we want to traumatize children, just that we want to get a little darker and weirder.”

James Cameron Films

In keeping with the cinematic feel they touted in Season 1, the Duffer brothers view Season 2 not as a television show, but as a movie sequel, and for that they looked to James Cameron.

“He’s brilliant. And I think one of the reasons his sequels are as successful as they are is [that] he makes them feel very different without losing what we loved about the original,” Matt told Entertainment Weekly earlier this month. “So I think we kinda looked to him and what he does and tried to capture a little bit of the magic of his work.”


They also quite literally borrowed from Cameron’s 1986 effort, Aliens, when it came to crafting new character Dr. Owens, an energy exec tasked with cleaning up the mess left by Hawkins Laboratory. He’s played by Paul Reiser, who appeared in a similar role in Aliens as Carter Burke.

"We want people to have those debates like, 'Do you trust that guy or is he Burke?'" co-creator Ross Duffer told EW in September. “Paul was saying the reason James Cameron cast him is because he thought people would inherently trust him and it would be a twist.”


Stranger Things
Perhaps the most on-the-nose reference thus far comes courtesy of the Season 2 trailer, in which Will, Dusty, Mike, and Lucas don some of Ghostbusters’ famous jumpsuits for Halloween.


In another trailer, Eleven hunkers down in front of a static-filled TV á la Tobe Hooper’s 1982 chiller, Poltergeist.


Elsewhere in the clip, Dustin can be seen sporting some baseball gear akin to Patrick Renner’s in ‘90s baseball gem Sandlot.

H.P. Lovecraft

Season 1’s Demogorgon had obvious ties to Jaws, but the “shadow monster” now wreaking havoc on Hawkins goes back a little further, to early 19th century author H.P. Lovecraft. His venerated horror stories are known for featuring mythic, all-powerful entities, and indeed, Stranger Things’ newest beast looks similar to vein to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep. “There’s an H.P. Lovecraft sort of approach, this inter-dimensional being that is sort of beyond human comprehension,” Matt told EW. “We purposely don’t want to go too much into what it is or what it wants.”


Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler, confirmed to Nerdist that Gremlins was among the movies the Duffer brothers asked their young cast to watch to prime them for Season 2.

The Shining

While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Dacre Montgomery (Power Rangers) said the Duffers shaped his character—a new-in-town bad boy named Billy—loosely around Jack Nicholson’s role in The Shining. “He’s wild. He’s unpredictable...[He comes] to town and basically ruffles feathers,” he told the outlet.

Stranger Things 2, Streaming, Friday, Oct. 27, Netflix