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.

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