‘Stranger Things’ Season 3: What Movies are Referenced?

As we all hold a collective breath as we wait for more news on when Netflix will release Stranger Things Season 4, let’s take some time to ponder over potential Easter eggs hidden in season 3. Ross and Matt Duffer have always been open about their inspiration from 80s movies

They’ve hidden dozens of references in the first three seasons so far. Movies like The Terminator, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind have some obvious head nods. Other references are hidden throughout. 

Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton look on as Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers in a 'Stranger Things' Season 3 production still.
‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 | Netflix

Back to the Future’ is one of the most noticeable Easter eggs in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3

If there’s one movie Stranger Things Season 3 can’t resist, it’s Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 time-traveling comedy, Back to the Future. The Duffer Brothers pack plenty of hints of the movie in the eight-episode series from the first few minutes of the first episode. 

In episode 1, ‘Suzie, Do You Copy?’ viewers are greeted with a sleeping Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) as they’re blasted awake after sleeping through their alarms. They both frantically throw on clothes so they won’t be late to their internships with the Hawkins Post. As Jonathan tries to put his pants on, his foot gets caught in the leg of his pants, and he pitches forward. 

This is simultaneously an homage to two scenes in Back to the Future. When Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, notices he’s late at Doc Brown’s (Christopher Lloyd) house, he rushes out to go to school. Another scene in the movie involves Marty trying to put his pants on in 1955 at his high school-aged mother’s house. He trips forward out of the frame just as Jonathan does in Stranger Things.

There’s also a scene where Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is awakened by Joyce the same way Lorraine (Lea Thompson) wakes Marty up in  Back to the Future. At one point in Stranger Things, Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) plop Robin (Maya Hawke) and Steve (Joe Keery) down in a movie theater that’s watching what else? Back to the Future.

‘The Neverending Story’ gets a big callback as well

No ’80s fan can miss the callback to The Neverending Story in Stranger Things Season 3, episode 8. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) has to get help from his girlfriend, Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo), to figure out Planck’s Constant. Before she reveals the answer, the two sing a rousing rendition of The Neverending Story theme song.

Erica looks on in disgust. The scene was a hit with fans though. It was a nice bit of comic relief in an otherwise stressful situation.


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‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ ‘The Fly,’ and more are referenced

Billy Hargroves (Dacre Montgomery) is the resident baddie in Stranger Things Season 3, thanks to the Mindflayer. He struts around in his swim trunks at the local pool as the Hawkins moms stare. Billy’s red trunks are an obvious hat tip to Phoebe Cates’ infamous scene in the classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

This season increased the amount of gore from previous seasons by adding the congealed glob of people and rats succumbing to the Mindflayer’s will. Billy and Mrs. Driscolll (Peggy Miley), a Hawkin’s resident, both experience pretty grotesque bodily changes reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s The Fly.

Season 3 also gives off major The Thing vibes. The movie, starring Kurt Russell and Keith David, involves a monster that prefers temps Antarctic levels of cold. The Mindflayer also likes things on the cool side. The kids try to burn it out of Billy by locking him in a sauna. In The Thing, Kurt Russell knows the monster is basically hibernating in the cold until the rescue crew arrives and it has new food to snack on. MacReady (Russell) uses a flamethrower to solve his problem instead of a sauna, but we got the point all the same.

Fans have theories on what specific movie references mean for the show’s future. However, nothing has been confirmed. Stranger Things Season 4 is set for a 2022 release.