27 essential movies every 'Stranger Things' fan should watch

27 essential movies every 'Stranger Things' fan should watch
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  • Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for "Stranger Things."

  • Netflix's series "Stranger Things" is a love letter to the '80s, with references to movies like "Jaws."

  • "Stand By Me", "E.T.," and "Firestarter" also inspired themes throughout all four seasons of the show.

Matt and Ross Duffer, known as The Duffer Brothers, co-created Netflix's hit series "Stranger Things" as "a love letter to the '80s classics that captivated a generation."

Keep reading for a look at 27 essential films "Stranger Things" drew inspiration from that any fans of the show should watch.

"The Exorcist" (1973)

the exorcist
Will's possession on "Stranger Things" was similar to "The Exorcist."Warner Bros.

"When a girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter."

Source: IMDB

"Jaws" (1975)

The Demogorgon was based on the giant shark in Steven Spielberg's first blockbuster hit.Jaws/IMDB

"A giant great white shark arrives on the shores of a New England beach resort and wreaks havoc with bloody attacks on swimmers, until a local sheriff teams up with a marine biologist and an old seafarer to hunt the monster down."

Source: IMDB



"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers the scream movie
The Duffer brothers say this is one of their favorite movies and fans have drawn connections between it and scenes from the series.Allied Artists Pictures

"In San Francisco, a group of people discover the human race is being replaced one by one, with clones devoid of emotion."

Source: IMDB

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977)

close encounters of the third kind
The "Stranger Things" scene of Will seeing the Mind Flayer replicated this shot.Columbia Pictures

"After an accidental encounter with otherworldly vessels, an ordinary man follows a series of psychic clues to the first scheduled meeting between representatives of Earth and visitors from the cosmos."

Source: IMDB

"The Shining" (1980)

Jack Nicholson The Shining Here's Johnny
Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance was inspiration for Billy's character.Warner Bros.

"A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where an evil spiritual presence influences the father into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from the past and of the future."

Source: IMDB

"Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

luke skywalker yoda star wars empire strikes back
Yoda training Luke was similar to Kali training Eleven on season two.Lucasfilm

"After the rebels are overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda. His friends accept shelter from a questionable ally as Darth Vader hunts them in a plan to capture Luke."

Source: IMDB

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982)

"E.T." was also directed by Steven Spielberg.Universal Pictures

"A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home world."

Source: IMDB

"The Thing" (1982)

The Things movie 1982
The Duffer brothers frequently cite director John Carpenter as an inspiration, plus Will has a poster of this movie in his bedroom.Universal Pictures

"A crew in Antarctica finds a neighboring camp destroyed and its crew dead. Whatever killed them is nowhere to be found, unless it's hidden in plain sight."

Source: IMDB

"Poltergeist" (1982)

poltergeist tv girl
Steven Spielberg co-wrote the screenplay for "Poltergeist," which influenced many visuals on "Stranger Things.""Poltergeist"/MGM

"A family's home is haunted by a host of ghosts."

Source: IMDB

"Firestarter" (1984)

Drew Barrymore Firestarter 1984 movie
Drew Barrymore's character has several parallels to Eleven on "Stranger Things."Universal Pictures

"A couple who participated in a potent medical experiment gain telekinetic ability and then have a child who is pyrokinetic."

Source: IMDB

"Gremlins" (1984)

Gremlins Gizmo movie
Dustin's pet Dart on "Stranger Things 2" was an homage to Gizmo the Gremlin.Warner Bros.

"A boy inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town."

Source: IMDB

"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984)

Indiana Jones Temple of Doom
All three Indiana Jones movies, directed by Steven Spielberg, have influenced "Stranger Things."LucasFilm

"After arriving in India, Indiana Jones is asked by a desperate village to find a mystical stone. He agrees, and stumbles upon a secret cult plotting a terrible plan in the catacombs of an ancient palace."

Source: IMDB

"Ghostbusters" (1984)

The kids on "Stranger Things" dressed as the Ghostbusters for Halloween in 1984.Columbia Pictures

"Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service."

Source: IMDB

"The Goonies" (1985)

the goonies
Sean Astin starred in "The Goonies" and on "Stranger Things 2.""The Goonies"/Warner Bros.

"In order to save their home from foreclosure, a group of misfits set out to find a pirate's ancient valuable treasure."

Source: IMDB

"St. Elmo's Fire" (1985)

st elmo's fire graduation
Rob Lowe's character in this movie inspired Billy's entire look on "Stranger Things 2."St. Elmo's Fire, screenshot

"A group of friends, just out of college, struggle with adulthood."

Source: IMDB

"Stand By Me" (1986)

Stand By me
The train tracks are an iconic part of "Stand By Me."Columbia Pictures via YouTube

"After the death of a friend, a writer recounts a boyhood journey to find the body of a missing boy."

Source: IMDB

Stephen King's "It" (adapted in both 1990 and 2017)

losers club it movie
The boys fighting off monsters is greatly influenced by "It." Also, "Stranger Things" actor Finn Wolfhard was also in 2017's "It."Brooke Palmer/Warner Bros.

"A group of bullied kids band together when a shapeshifting monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children."

Source: IMDB

"Jurassic Park" (1993)

jurassic park
Many of the Demogorgon fight scenes on "Stranger Things 2" were akin to "Jurassic Park."Universal

"During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok."

Source: IMDB

"Back to the Future" (1985)

Back to the Future
This movie is featured in a scene on "Stranger Things 3."Universal Pictures

"Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, is accidentally sent thirty years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his close friend, the maverick scientist Doc Brown."

Source: IMDB

"Day of the Dead" (1985)

Day of the Dead George Romero 1985 United Film
All three of George A. Romero's zombie trilogy movies are worth the watch.United Film

"A small group of military officers and scientists dwell in an underground bunker as the world above is overrun by zombies."

Source: IMDB

"The NeverEnding Story" (1984)

Neverending Story movie Warner Bros
Dustin and Suzie sing the title song from this beloved fantasy movie on "Stranger Things 3."Warner Bros.

"A troubled boy dives into a wondrous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book."

Source: IMDB

"The Terminator" (1984)

the terminator 1984
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton star in this iconic action film.Orion Pictures

"A seemingly indestructible robot is sent from 2029 to 1984 to assassinate a young waitress, whose unborn son will lead humanity in a war against sentient machines, while a human soldier from the same war is sent to protect her at all costs."

Source: IMDB

"Die Hard" (1988)

die hard bruce willis
The air duct scenes on "Stranger Things 3" evoked "Die Hard."Twentieth Century Fox

"An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles."

Source: IMDB

"Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High trailer MovieClips Universal Pictures
Sean Penn is one of the stars of this teen-movie classic.Universal Pictures

"A group of Southern California high school students are enjoying their most important subjects: sex, drugs, and rock n' roll."

Source: IMDB

"Red Dawn" (1984)

Red Dawn Movie MGM 1984
Patrick Swayze stars in this movie about high schoolers and a Russian invasion.MGM

"It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, a group of teenagers band together to defend their town, and their country, from invading Soviet forces."

Source: IMDB

"Alien" (1979)

Ridley Scott's "Alien" and the sequel "Aliens" are sci-fi/horror classics.Twentieth Century-Fox Productions

"After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun."

Source: IMDB

"Aliens" (1986)

Paul Reiser in Aliens
Paul Reiser was in this sequel to "Alien" and "Stranger Things 2."20th Century Fox

"57 years later, Ellen Ripley is rescued by a deep salvage team during her hypersleep. The moon from the original movie has been colonized, but contact is lost. This time, colonial marines have impressive firepower, but will that be enough?"

Source: IMDB

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