Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Stranger Things 2 Channels Classic Horror And Sci-Fi Films

One of the coolest things about the first season of Stranger Things was the sheer amount of Easter eggs and nods to pop culture from the era in which the series is set—and creators the Duffer brothers clearly couldn't wait for the new season to get back at it. A series of Stranger Things posters has been released, each one a tribute to a different classic horror or science fiction film. For lovers of '80s cinema these posters are the stuff of dreams, but is there more to them than simple fan service? Here's what we've seen so far, and what these posters may imply for the second season of Stranger Things.

Jaws (1975)

The work of numerous talented filmmakers was channeled by the Duffers in the first season of Stranger Things, but none more so than Steven Spielberg, whose movies were "huge touchstones" for the brothers growing up. The direct influence of Spielberg staple E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is obvious throughout, but man-eating shark thriller Jaws also played a big part, providing a blueprint on how to approach the lurking threat coming from the Demogorgon.

"You don't see too much of the monster for a good bit of the series, and that was how they shot it in Jaws, you could just see a little glimpse of it," Mark Steger, the costume performer who brought the Demogorgon to life, told USA Today. "And I think that's what really works in the series. The idea that this monster that I'm portraying appears from this other realm... When I come into our consensus reality it's like I'm breaking the surface."

The tribute poster features the tagline "Don't go in the void," a play on "Don't go in the water," one of the many taglines given to Jaws during its marketing. Instead of a doomed swimmer paddling along the surface of the ocean, Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) strolls above the Upside Down as the gaping mouth of the Demogorgon opens beneath her, indicating that she's destined for another run-in with the monster this coming season.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Spielberg's follow-up to Jaws got audiences to stop thinking about the horrors of the open ocean and instead consider the wonders of outer space. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the story of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a family man from Indiana who's plagued with otherworldly visions after seeing a UFO. Spielberg was never satisfied with the original theatrical cut, claiming that Columbia forced an early release as a Hail Mary attempt to save the studio from bankruptcy.

"[I] was forced to finish it before it was really ready to be finished," the director is quoted as saying by IFC. "I kind of felt like I was being pushed into finishing the movie based on huge corporate matters which I had no ability to comprehend."

The film saved Columbia's skin and went on to have a huge cultural impact, one that still lingers today. This Stranger Things tribute poster is proof of that lasting impact, mimicking one of the movie's most iconic moments. The silhouette of Will Byers against the glow of a supernatural threat is a direct nod to this scene, which was used on the Close Encounters of the Third Kind 40th anniversary theatrical re-release poster. The Stranger Things season 2 Comic-Con trailer suggests that this new creature (which the cast have been calling "The Shadow Monster" on set) doesn't intend to harm Will, leading many to speculate over whether he might become the show's new villain.

Alien (1979)

Despite the fact that it was released in 1979, Ridley Scott's Alien is often lumped in with the best of the following decade, perhaps because the well-received sequel by James Cameron came out in 1986 and made the Alien franchise synonymous with '80s cinema. The influence of the original film on Stranger Things can be found in the creature that the residents of Hawkins, Indiana are up against, which was inspired by the titular alien from Scott's seminal sci-fi. Matt Duffer admitted as much in an interview with Variety.

"Alien was an inspiration, in terms of the look," he revealed. Concept artist Aaron Sims went into more detail about the influence of H.R. Giger, telling ScreenCrush, "What really inspired us with Giger were the very iconic elements of his alien designs. Our goal was to reach something like this level of icon—it's impossible to ever go beyond that, as Alien has one of the most iconic creatures to ever exist on film."

The main difference between the Demogorgon and Giger's Xenomorph is its face, which in itself is another nod to Alien. The flower petal-like face looks remarkably similar to the facehugger eggs that the crew of commercial spacecraft Nostromo find inside the derelict alien space vessel. The homage poster changes Alien's classic tagline to "In The Upside Down, no one can hear you scream." 

The Evil Dead (1981)

In the first season of Stranger Things, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) gets a scolding from his dad for having this poster for Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead up on his bedroom wall, which his father calls "inappropriate" considering the goings on in the town of Hawkins. When the show's official Twitter account released its tribute to the cult '80s horror, it pointed out some fundamental similarities between the Bruce Campbell-led classic and the Duffer brothers' show.

The post included the caption: "The Ultimate Experience in Gruelling Curiosity." This description could refer to either The Evil Dead or Stranger Things, as both tales follow a group of characters who get sucked into a dangerous world hidden just beyond their own. The image is of Will Byers' mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) being pulled into The Upside Down by the throat. While the original poster carries a quote from Stephen King (who influenced Stranger Things just as much as Spielberg did), the tribute poster replaces that with: "Joyce got up on the wrong side of The Upside Down."

We already know from the season 2 trailer that Noah Schnapp's Will Byers (who is "very much at the center of season 2," according to executive producer Shawn Levy) is going to return to The Upside Down, and this poster certainly hints at his mother joining him there.

Firestarter (1984)

People were quick to draw comparisons between Eleven and classic Stephen King character Carrie, though the telekinetic runaway actually has a lot more in common with Charlie McGee from King's 1981 novel Firestarter. Both girls are hunted by a grey-haired, ill-meaning scientist with a team of hazmat-clad cronies at their backs, and both are capable of extraordinary things with their minds.

As the title suggests, McGee (played by a young Drew Barrymore, who told Eleven actress Millie Bobbie Brown how much she loves Stranger Things while interviewing her for Teen Vogue) is blessed with a pyrokinetic ability and is able to torch anyone who crosses her and her father. Like Eleven, her powers are highly coveted and she's hooked up to electrodes by scientists trying to unlock them before she manages to escape.

McGee's father (who got his own powers during an ill-fated medical experiment) suffers from nosebleeds whenever he uses his abilities, as does Eleven. Blood drips from her nose in the Stranger Things tribute poster, and the strands of her blonde wig blow in the wind just like Barrymore's hair in the classic Firestarter poster. We saw Eleven flipping trucks to keep her friends safe in the first season—will she need to go a step further for them this time out?

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

When the late Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street hit cinemas in the mid-'80s, it unleashed a character that would go on to write his own chapter in the pages of pop culture history. Freddy Krueger was keeping teenagers everywhere awake at night back then, and the badly burned killer who shows up in your dreams to gut you with his razor-blade mitt clearly made a lasting impact on the Duffers too.

Parts of the Stranger Things season 1 finale are practically identical to the closing stages of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The scene in which Natalia Dyer's Nancy (also the name of the lead in Craven's film), Jonathan, and Steve attempt to kill the Demogorgon mirrors the scene in which Craven's Nancy tries to deal with Krueger. With her boyfriend Glen already dead at Freddy's hand after falling asleep, Nancy lures the killer out of her dreams and into her house, which she has rigged with booby traps.

Just like they do in Stranger Things, she sets the monster on fire, but (also just like Stranger Things) because it belongs to another dimension, it can't be killed just like that. Judging from the tagline in the tribute poster, Nancy will have another chance to put an end to the Demogorgon in season 2.

The Goonies (1985)

The overall tone of Stranger Things is unmistakably reminiscent of The Goonies. This '80s classic was scripted by Chris Columbus and directed by Richard Donner, but it was Spielberg's story and his influence shone brightest. The Duffers have named the film as an influence on several occasions, praising the way it keeps things PG-13 while still managing to be entertaining for adults. "Not only are they cursing, but these kids are in real danger and that's one reason we responded to it," they told the Irish Examiner.

In the tribute poster, Dustin, Mike and Lucas cling to each other in center frame just as Data, Mikey, and Mouth do in the original (drawing some interesting parallels between the characters), while Police Chief Hopper takes the place of Brand, both being the closest thing their respective motley crews have to a responsible adult. Interestingly, Will Byers is nowhere to be seen on the new poster, which is probably why Joyce has gone back to consulting her Christmas lights.

Goonies star Sean Astin will actually be appearing in Stranger Things season 2 as a nerdy former classmate of Joyce, and his young castmates have taken this as a chance to pick his brains about the timeless flick. "They were showing The Goonies [on set] the other day," Finn Wolfhard told Deadline. "I've asked him any and everything I could about that."

Stand By Me (1986)

While Stand By Me is actually set in the 1950s, Rob Reiner's feature-length adaptation of the Stephen King novella The Body (also the name of the fourth Stranger Things chapter) came out in 1986 and is remembered as one of the stand-out films of the decade. The Duffer brothers make some less-than-subtle references to Reiner's classic in Stranger Things, most notably the scene in episode five in which Dustin, Lucas, Mike and Eleven trek down some secluded train tracks in search of the portal to The Upside Down.

Stand By Me played a much bigger role than supplying a couple of cool scenes to reference, however. The film inspired Stranger Things thematically in many ways, both being stories about four boys whose friendship is stretched to its limits when they're confronted by death for the first time. The young stars of Stranger Things were actually made to read lines from Stand By Me during the audition process, something Wil Wheaton (who played Gordie in Reiner's film) called "an incredible honor."

The tribute poster (made to look extra retro with fake fold creases) is a direct mock-up of the original. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Will (Noah Schnapp) are back together, though there's further proof here that Schnapp will take the role of lead investigator this season, as he features most prominently.

The Running Man (1987)

Another Stephen King book to have an influence on the Duffer brothers, dystopian sci-fi The Running Man was first published in 1982 under King's pseudonym Richard Bachman. Set in the now not-so-distant year of 2025, the novella follows a man named Ben Richards as he takes part in the Running Man competition, a twisted game show in which contestants must avoid being killed by hired assassins for 30 days to win a grand prize of $1 billion.

King is said to have written the entire story in as little as 72 hours, and the Duffer twins were equally quick to devour it as readers. "I remember reading The Running Man in like one night," Ross Duffer told The Hollywood Reporter. "We just devoured his stuff when we were little... Spielberg obviously is a huge influence on us, but King just as much."

The 1987 movie adaptation starring Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced the scale of the titular game show and changed the time setting to the late 2010s. (the BBC recently praised the film for its eerily accurate foreshadowing of life today). The black and white image of Arnie is replaced by David Harbour in the Stranger Things homage, and the wording of the tagline suggests that his character Police Chief Jim Hopper will do to the Upside Down what Ben Richards did to the Running Man—beat it.