Last week, Netflix finally released the highly anticipated third season of the retro sci-fi fantasy horror series known as Stranger Things. The show is well-known for its stunning cinematography and nostalgia-inducing aesthetic, as well as mysterious storylines that constantly have viewers either jumping with fear, weeping in shock, or crying out in joy.
With its skyrocketed popularity, it comes as no surprise that the creators threw in plenty of Easter eggs and hidden references scattered throughout the episodes. As the lates seasons takes place in 1985, many references come from that very same era. In fact, there's a reason certain storylines might seem so familiar to many fans...
10 Dolly Parton's 9 to 5
One of the many summer romances that blossoms in Hawkins is that of Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers. As both parties work at the town's newspaper, they (against the wishes of their boss) follow a lead about rabid rats related to the Mind Flayer's return. In the end, they end up killing their mind-flayed superiors (whose flesh then ends up being part of the monster anyway).
This whole subplot is actually a reference 9 to 5, the 1980 comedy starring Dolly Parton alongside Lily Tomlin. They play secretaries who kidnap their boss and run things themselves. Both this film and Stranger Things seem to reference gender equality and the male-dominated work culture of the era.
9 Fast Times at Ridgemont High
If we take out the monsters, Russian scientists, and mind control, this whole season is essentially one big reference to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The most blatant is in episode 1 when Billy walks by a group of moms checking him out. Later, Karen Wheeler emerges from the pool ogled by Billy from the lifeguard stand. The scene is reminiscent of the dream scene in the film, where Phoebe Cates' character Linda emerges from the pool in an interestingly similar bathing suit.
The references continue when Dustin talks about his girlfriend Suzie whom he met at camp. His exact words are "Think Phoebe Cates, only hotter." At the end of the series when Steve is trying to get a job at the video store, he knocks over a cardboard cutout of Phoebe Cates (in the same bathing suit). And his uniform at Scoops Ahoy reminds us of Brad Hamiltons similarly sailor-themed uniform at his own place of work, Captain Hook Fish and Chips.
8 Will They, Won't They?
While the kids were busy with their own fast flings (except Mike who was apparently in love), the adults took things a little more slowly. It slowly becomes apparent that Hopper has feelings for Joyce, who tragically lost her husband Bob to a Demodog at the end of season 2. However, Hopper is careful about showing his affection, and Joyce is too distracted by magnets for anything to really happen.
Their tiptoe-y relationship is cleverly referenced in a scene when both are in their respective homes watching Cheers. One of the main romantic themes in the show is that between Sam and Diane, who - between all their fighting, frustration, and misadventures - still have mutual respect and love for one another. It's the same dynamic between Hopper and Joyce in the latest season, which tragically never comes to fruition but the small hope remains that they might if you've seen the post-credits scene.
7 Hopper Channeling His Inner Magnum P.I.
Hopper's whole look this season was a bit of a ride, the most interesting being the iconic floral shirt that he apparently had to have specially bought for him for his "date" with Joyce (and ends up keeping for basically the rest of the season). This wardrobe upgrade, 2 seasons of character development, and his well-maintained mustache have led to a look that mirrors Tom Selleck from the hit show Magnum P.I., which was wildly popular in 1985.
Hopper is still a cop but goes off book for a lot of the season, making his own rules to get to the bottom of the weird stuff going on in Hawkins. We even see Hopper watching the detective series, all while yelling at Eleven to keep the door open 3 inches.
6 Product Placement Or New Coke?
An interesting thing happened in the '80s regarding the way we look at branding in corporate America. An experiment was done in which blindfolded subjects would drink Coke and Pepsi and decide which tasted better. As the results were in favor of Pepsi, in 1985, Coke changed its formula and unveiled New Coke. However, they found people (in general and not blindfolded) didn't like it simply because it wasn't Coke.
There's even a point when Lucas drinks some New Coke and complains that it doesn't taste right (Alexi didn't seem to mind). The rest of the season is littered with product placement of Coke and New Coke. Sadly, the fad didn't last and the world was left with the same delicious (?) Coca-cola.
5 Steve's Advice To Dustin
When the gang finally goes to meet Dustin (having just returned from camp), they surprise him by having Eleven use her powers to make his toys move on their own. Dustin, always being prepared for danger, arms himself with a can of Farrah Fawcett branded hairspray, which he then misfires on Lucas when he's surprised by his friends.
Aside from being a funny reunion scene, it's also a reference to season 2 when Steve recommends that Dustin acquire some Farrah Fawcett hair products to upgrade his look. Turns out he followed his mentor's advice after all.
4 Mayors & Monsters
If you've seen Jaws, then the character of Mayor Larry Kline (played by Cary Elwes from the '80s classic The Princess Bride) might seem familiar to you. His aesthetic and motivations are paralleled by Mayor Larry Vaughn from the shark-themed horror flick.
While Vaughn fights against the bad publicity of shark attacks, Kline wants to downplay the bad publicity from the unemployment caused by the new Starcourt mall (and ironically enough, not the supernatural phenomenon occurring in Hawkins). Both of their careers somehow depend on the Fourth of July event when they try to appease the people.
3 The Terminator
Hopper seems to find himself a nemesis in this latest season in the form of a grim, sleek, combat-ready motorcycle-riding hitman by the name of Grigori. His entire aesthetic is an interesting throwback to The Terminator, as Grigori bears a striking resemblance to the titular character. Emotionless expressions and running after vehicles also seems to be a theme.
When Hopper interrogates the mayor to find out the Russian's identity, Kline sarcastically responds, "it's Arnold Schwarzenegger," who played the role of the iconic robot in the 1984 film.
2 The Thing
Aside from the mind control, the monster design behind the Mind-Flayer is similar to the creature from John Carpenter's horror movie The Thing. This monster can also take on the appearance of its victims and is composed of the flesh of those it absorbs, like the scene with the sled dogs.
In the hospital scene after Jonathan and Nancy kill the possessed newsmen, they turn to fleshy masses that combine together to create the Mind Flayer's physical form. As it possesses more people, it absorbs them all to become bigger and stronger, entirely composed of human flesh.
1 Who Says You Need Two People To Turn Keys
Many of us are familiar with the mechanism where some super-powerful computer or machine requires two keys to be turned at the same time to be activated and/or shut down. Usually, it works out; however, sometimes there's only one person and two keys, like in the final episode of Stranger Things and also in the 1983 film Superman III.
In the latter, Richard Pryor's character ties some string to a passed-out security guard. In the Netflix show, Joyce uses a belt to turn the other key, since Hopper is otherwise occupied.