What To Watch After Stranger Things
80s ExpertBy Gareth Bellamy
So you've got to the end of Stranger Things, but you're suffering withdrawal symptoms from life in Hawkins. Well, we have a cure for you, a list of all the films and TV shows that have influenced the show in some way that you can go and watch again. Or, if you're really lucky, see for the first time!
Have we missed a favourite out? Let us know in the comments section below.
We're going to assume you've seen all the Stranger Things major influences on our check list, if not, watch these first.
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial: Government agents, kids on bikes being chased through suburbs.
The Goonies: Group of children on a perilous quest.
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: Alien forces from beyond our world disturb suburban life protected by a government cover-up.
Ghostbusters: A strong influence on season 2, the original film follows a crew of wise-cracking nerds who take on immense forces from 'the underworld'!
Poltergeist: A mum desperate to save her child from evil forces.
It: The novel, the TV series, or the recent film, the parallels are very strong. A group of boys and a girl take on a hideous, terrifying monster.
Halloween: John Carpenter, along with Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, has a huge influence over both seasons, so far, of Stranger Things. Halloween took the horror film and transplanted it straight into YOUR street.
Let us interrupt these filmic recommendations to point out that reading some of the Stephen King classics, like the producers and writers of Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers have done, will yield a huge amount of 'oh wow, that's just like Stranger Things!' moments. Our shortlist is, in no particular order, The Shining, It, Carrie, Firestarter, Needful Things.
Also, if you love the 80s vibe of Stranger Things, the recent horror novel 'My Best Friend's Exorcism' should be on your reading list. It's based around two teenage best friends in suburban America, one of whom gets possessed. It's chock full of 80s references, including the lead characters bonding over a viewing of E.T. and loads of 80s music references. Get stuck in!
Red Oaks - 2014
Available on Amazon Video, this series stars Paul Reiser (Dr Owens) in this 1980s set country club comedy. 1980s references overload, this is more of s straight up drama/comedy and has no mystical horror element, but if you're looking for a fun comedown from Stranger Things, this is our recommendation.
Twin Peaks - 1990
Back for a third series TWENTY SIX years after it's second season finished, Twin Peaks premiered in 1990 and changed TV series forever. We love it because it takes the idea of the dark heart lurking beneath the seemingly normal surface of a small town and manages to weave in murder, sex, aliens, possession all with an impossibly handsome cast. The owls are not what they seem.
The X-Files – 1993
Although a recent reboot and films were not universally well-received, the original X-Files Tv series from the 90s is a great series to dip into if you're missing that sense of spooky from Stranger Things. A pair of FBI Agents manage to get stuck into all kinds of stories, aliens, ghosts, monsters, shapeshifters, you name it, it's in here. And reaching over the whole thing is the shadowy arms of the government.
Arrival - 2016
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, this intelligent sci-fi asks the question if aliens did arrive on earth, how would we communicate with them? Thought provoking, intelligent, and with great, controlled direction from Denis Villeneuve (whose Blade Runner 2049 is currently doing rather well at the box office), the aliens in this film have more than a passing resemblance to the 'shadow monster' that Will witnesses towering over Hawkins. A great film to move onto if you like to think about 'our' world not being the only one in the universe.
Gremlins – 1984
A horror classic which was a major influence on the whole 'Dustin finds a pet' storyline in season 2 of Stranger Things, this Jow Dante film is wonderfully made, has a real heart, but doesn't hold back from the shocks. It's a 15 for a reason!
The Thing - 1982
Starring Kurt Russell. Directed by acknowledged master of the horror and science fiction genres, The Thing dates from 1982 and is a must-see for all Stranger Things fans. The film tells the story of a shape-shifting alien which infiltrates an Antarctic research base and can assume the form of other living things, such as scientists! Who is the alien, who isn't, and will they catch it before it kills everyone and escapes to the wider world. Full of shocks, superb special effects and a tense atmosphere of dread and pressure.
Aliens - 1986
Colonial Marines rampaging round a base on a distant planet, trying to destroy an alien infestation before they're killed themselves. Featuring cocooned colonists, firefights in enclosed spaces, an alien species that behaves a lot like a 'Demodog'. Add in flamethrowers, video cameras and motion detectors, an upside down world full of gunge which is not too far from the lair of the aliens, plus Paul Reiser appears in both products.
The Exorcist - 1974
If you enjoyed the scary bits when Will was possessed by the shadow demon, or liked seeing El's powers on display, this is the one for you. Not the for faint hearted this one, it really doesn't hold back in trying to shock and disgust you. A film about a teenage girl possessed by a demon, by the time you've got to the end you'll feel like you've done ten rounds with the devil yourself.
Predator - 1987
Predator, the science-fiction action horror film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the film, a team of elite special forces troops who become stalked and hunted by an alien with a face a bit like that of a Demodog.
A Nightmare on Elm Street - 1984
A franchise that never seems to die, the original film features the delight of a young Johnny Depp being eaten by his bed, what this film really got right was blending together dreams and reality, what is real and what isn't? The 'elastic' barrier between the two is something that regularly pops up in Stranger Things as the barrier between the Upside Down and our world.
Under The Skin – 2013
A much, much darker and more disturbing story than Stranger Things, this dark sci-fi horror film stars Scarlett Johansson as a woman who seems quite happy driving around Scotland and picking up random men from the streets. What happens next is pretty horrible, but so, so well made. The scenes in Stranger Things were El retreats into her mind, set in that black, bare world are directly taken from scenes in this film. Nasty, but great.
Hellraiser – 1987
A low budget British horror film which gave rise to modern horror icon Pinhead. The original Clive Barker film features a female heroine, who served as an inspiration for Eleven. Very dark, and not a little bit pervy, definitely the next step up in horror from Stranger Things.
The Lost Boys – 1987
A quiet, seaside town in California, home to the vampires wearing the most ridiculous 1980s hair metal fashions, and a group of teenagers who take them on is the set up to one of the most fun films you'll find from the 80s. Featuring Kiefer Sutherland as the vampire prince, Jason Patric as the one the girls loved, and two actors called Corey!
Super 8 – 2011
Like Stranger Tings, this 2011 film from J. J. Abrams owes a lot to the 1980s. So much so it even has Steven Spielberg on board as producer. You've got a group of nerdy kids, some of whom are from broken homes, and they ride bikes, and then something incredible happens, and a horrible alien monster is threatening their town. Somehow they need to take on the government forces, track the monster through tunnels under their town, and then… enough! You get the idea, it's like Stranger Things season 1.5, go and watch it!
Donnie Darko - 2001
An eerie science fiction films set in the 1980s, with a Halloween party, a freaky supernatural creature and parallel dimensions/time travel thrown in for good measure. One of the themes in this film is the idea that beneath the normal veneer of an American town lurk some dark secrets. Sounds like Hawkins to us!
St. Elmo's Fire – 1985
If you enjoyed the whole Steve-Nancy-Jonathan-Billy grouping in Stranger Things, you should watch St.Elmo's Fire. This is a classic of the 1980s 'brat pack' films, starring Rob Lower with a long mullet and earring, a look perfectly emulated by Billy in the Stranger Things 2.
Pretty In Pink – 1986
A great film to end our recommendations on, as this clearly had an influence on the closing scenes of Stranger Things at the Snow Ball dance.
Pretty in Pink is another 80s 'brat pack' film from director John Hughes. With a soundtrack evocative of what was considered cool in the mid 80s, this film stars Molly Ringwald and looks at love, social cliques and fitting in. If you love the school dance scene at the end of season 2, watch this.
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