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What Year Is Stranger Things Set In?

If the lack of smartphones and the internet, the excessive use of hairspray and teasing combs, and the repeat appearances of mom jeans and mullets didn't tip you off, we're here to tell you that Stranger Things most certainly isn't set in our modern, tech-obsessed world. The acclaimed sci-fi series that has swept small screens across the world for three stellar seasons is a period piece — with its most recent batch of episodes diving into a very specific point in time. 

But when, exactly? What year is Stranger Things set in? We'll break it down for you.

The first season of Stranger Things, which hit Netflix in July 2016, is set in 1983 — November 1983, to be precise. It tells the terrifying tale of Will Byers' (Noah Schnapp) disappearance that's originally passed off as an accidental death in the Hawkins, Indiana quarry and later revealed to be an abduction by a creature from an alternate dimension. A team of researchers at Hawkins National Laboratory opened a "gate" to the dimension, known as the Upside Down, from which the Demogorgon escapes — snatching up Will and the sweet, naive teenager Barbara "Barb" Holland (Shannon Purser). Along with Hawkins police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), Will's mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), begins a desperate mission to find Will and bring him back home to safety. Meanwhile, one of the human experiments held at Hawkins National Laboratory, a young girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) who has psychokinetic powers, manages to escape the facility and befriend Will's pals Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo). 

In the real world, November 1983 saw then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a national holiday; Reverend Jesse Jackson announcing that he was running for the U.S. presidency in 1984; Soviet officials misreading the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise Able Archer 83 as a nuclear strike; Turkish Cyprus declaring independence; and the U.S. receiving cruise missiles at RAF Greenham Common. November 1983 was also the month of the Brink's-Mat robbery in London, the Colombian Avianca Flight 11 crash, and the release of A Christmas Story

After Will returns from the Upside Down and Eleven uses her powers to defeat the Demogorgon, almost a year passes before Stranger Things picks up again. The second season of the show begins in October 1984 — a time when the real world was experiencing the attempted assassination of then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the actual assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and NASA's 13th Space Shuttle program flight, the voyage of the Challenger

At the top of season 2, Will is still grappling with the traumas of his abduction, Joyce is trying to ensure that he can have as normal an adolescence as possible given the circumstances, his friends are hoping that Will is still the same happy-go-lucky guy they used to know, and a pair of new kids — plus a whole new threat — are arriving in Hawkins. Stranger Things season 2 again puts Will through the ringer, seeing him become victim to the Mind Flayer, a demonic monster from the Upside Down that uses Will as a host body for its nefarious, world-destroying plans. The pre-teen crew's new friend Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) initially throws their dynamic off balance, making it harder for the youngsters to focus on defeating the Mind Flayer, and her older step-brother Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) definitely doesn't help the situation. 

Eventually, it's Eleven to the ultimate rescue again. On the season 2 finale — which comes after a string of episodes featuring characters fighting miniature Demogorgons (called "Demodogs"), crawling through underground tunnels to get to the center of the Mind Flayer's mental map, and forging new friendships in the face of chaos — Eleven channels the full potency of her powers to vanquish the Mind Flayer and close the gate. The final seconds of the season tease that the Mind Flayer is still out there, though.

And that brings us to season 3, the newest installment of the show. Stranger Things season 3 is set in July 1985 — with the opening sequence taking place on June 28, 1984, when the Russians were testing their own gate-opening machine. There are two big bads this season: the Russians who have infiltrated Hawkins and built a machine beneath the town's new Starcourt Mall, and the grotesque new version of the Mind Flayer, which consumed Billy's mind and forced him to abduct others so the monster could kill and absorb them to make up its disgusting physical form. The third season of Stranger Things features the strongest connections to the real world, as it takes place in a time where most U.S. citizens still viewed the Soviet Union as a threat in the final years of the Cold War. The fear that some Russian bad guys would do something dangerous on American soil? That was reflective of reality. 

Looking ahead, Stranger Things likely won't break out of the 1980s before it airs its final season. Look forward to more '80s-tastic tunes and styles — and even a mini history lesson — on upcoming seasons.