Season 2 of Stranger Things is upon us. The good news is that most reviews point to an entertaining sophomore season that expands the mythology and makes good on the promised premise set down in Season 1. Our own Allison Keene called it “a delightful return” with “a smartly written and cleverly-plotted script” from the Duffer Brothers; you can read the full review here. But much like early detractors called the first season derivative and unoriginal, you can expect to hear similar criticisms levied against Season 2. Personally, I think the Duffers’ references, nods, and homages to pop culture icons that have shaped their creative vision and act as nostalgic touchstones for generations of people are some of the traits that make Stranger Things so darn likable and buzz-worthy.
But not everyone grew up in the 70s, 80s, or even the 90s, so it would be impossible to expect audiences’ viewing experience to be the same across the world. Some people simply did not experience the thrills, chills, and spills of Friday night at the movies in the summer of 1984. The good news is that, thanks to the modern era of technology, you can still get caught up on the source material for the many, many references scattered throughout this season. (Heck, you can even read a book about them!)
Now some films carry over from Season 1 as far as thematic inspiration goes. These include The Goonies, Evil Dead, IT (pick whichever version you want to watch), Firestarter, Alien, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Poltergeist, and even Akira. If it’s character inspiration you’re looking for, pick just about any Indiana Jones movie to get a sense of Chief Jim Hopper’s characterization, as played perfectly by David Harbour. If it’s “humans vs monsters” action that you’re into, you’d be in good company watching Jaws, Predator, or even Jurassic Park to get in the mood. These all have their part to play in the creation and continuation of Stranger Things, whether it’s a big dose of thematic resonance or just a scene-specific bit of cinematic DNA. And if you think you’re already an expert on all the movies that have gone into Stranger Things, do yourself a favor and cue up Metallica‘s 1983 album “Kill ‘Em All” to complete the aesthetic as you read our list of suggested movies below: