Comprehensive guide to pop culture references in ‘Stranger Things’


The Duffers have never been shy about how the popular Netflix series, “Stranger Things” takes cues from movies and music first forged during the show’s 1980s setting, and season two is no exception, with a jam-packed soundtrack and tons of different films (and games) fueling the action forward.

Read on for all of the references picked up by Hollywood Reporter along the way, for your perusing pleasure!

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

• “Whip It” by Devo, blaring when Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) first arrives at the Hawkins arcade. 

• “Just Another Day” by Oingo Boingo, in which we see Hawkins in daylight for the first time in a year. 

• “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions, as Billy (Dacre Montgomery) first rolls into town.

• Roy Clark’s “Spooky Movies,” as Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Bob (Sean Astin) take a quick work break. 

• The Ghostbusters theme song, the party’s spooktacular Halloween anthem.

• “Wango Tango” by Ted Nugent, pumping in Billy’s car as he almost runs the kids off the road.

• “Shout at the Devil” by Motley Cruë, playing at the “bullshit” Halloween party.

• “Girls on Film” by Duran Duran, also playing at the aforementioned party.

• “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, scoring Bob and Joyce’s first dance.

• “Monster Mash” by Bobby Pickett, as the Ghostbusters of Hawkins go out trick-or-treating.

• “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” by Jim Croce, as Hopper (David Harbour) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) fix up their cabin.

• “Push it to the Limit” by Paul Engemann, as Billy and Steve Harington (Joe Keery) face off on the basketball court.

• “No More” by Billie Holiday, as Muray Bauman (Brett Gelman) tries to think through the big Hawkins bombshell dropped by Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton).

• “There’s Frost on the Moon” by Artie Shaw, during Nancy and Jonathan’s “will they/won’t they” moment.

• “You Better Go Now” by Billie Holiday, during Nancy and Jonathan’s “they did!” moment.

• “Blue Bayou” by Roy Orbison, the awkward morning after. 

• “Hammer to Fall” by Queen, during one of Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve’s first bonding sessions.

• “Round and Round” by Ratt, as the ratty-haired Billy works out at home.

• “Runaway” by Bon Jovi, as Eleven hits the road to meet Kali (Linnea Berthelsen).

• “Dead End Justice” by The Runaways, during Eleven’s outcast makeover.

• “The Four Horsemen” by Metallica, yet another one of Billy’s workouts.

• “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash, memorably used in season one, returning here in season two during the first attempt at exorcising the Mind Flayer from Will.

• “The Way We Were” by Barbara Streisand, enjoyed by Mrs Wheeler alongside a warm bath and a thunderous book.

• “I Do Believe I Fell in Love” by Donna Summer, as Mrs Wheeler meets Billy.

• “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, playing as the Hawkins Middle Snow Ball of 1984 gets set up.

• “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar, playing when Steve drives Dustin to the Snow Ball.

• “Twist of Fate” by Olivia Newton-John, playing as Dustin sets foot inside the Snow Ball.

• “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, playing as all the kids dance.

• “Every Breath You Take” by The Police, scoring the Mind Flayer as it ominously hovers over Hawkins.

Stranger Sights:

• “Aliens,” the primary inspiration for how season two plays out.

• “The Empire Strikes Back,” seen through Mike’s Millennium Falcon, also an inspiration for the season.

• “The Terminator,” playing at the local Hawkins cinema.

• “The Exorcist,” a clear influence on the story of Will’s possession.

• “The Goonies,” Sean Astin’s most famous film this side of “Lord of the Rings” and “Rudy,” and a big influence on season two’s “trans-generational” storytelling, according to executive producer Shawn Levy.

• “Mr Mom,” starring Michael Keaton, Bob’s Halloween movie of choice.

• “Ghostbusters,” the inspiration behind the boys’ Halloween costumes.

• “Halloween,” the home of Michael Myers, aka the costume was worn by Sadie Sink’s Max.

• “Frankenstein,” playing on television when Eleven’s at home alone on Halloween.

• “It,” because Bob’s story about Mr Baldo is eerily close to how Georgie met Pennywise the Clown.

• “Gremlins,” due to its association with Dart’s transformation into full-blown Demo-dog.

• “Mad Max: Road Warrior,” in order to understand the movie that gives Sadie Sink’s character her nickname. 

• Reese’s Pieces, Will Byers’ desert island candy.

• Mounds, Dr Owens’ (Paul Reiser) desert island candy.

• Three Musketeers and nougat in general, Dustin and Dart’s favourite candy.

• Kentucky Fried Chicken, if you want to eat like Barb’s family.

• Triple Decker Eggo Extravaganzas, if you want to eat like Hopper and Eleven the morning after Halloween. (Good news: it’s only eight thousand calories!)

• A big fat dinner sandwich, if you want to stress eat just like Hopper and Dr Owens.

Stranger Game Nights

• “Dragon’s Lair,” the medieval arcade game that will eat your quarters alive.

• “Dig Dug,” another game at the local arcade, and also the game from which Chapter Five gets its title.

• “Centipede,” yet another game featured at the local arcade.

• Seriously, think about virtually any arcade game from the ’80s, and it applies here.

• When you’re done thinking about arcade games, consider one of Bob’s brain teasers: “HiQ,” or if you’re feeling ambitious, “Double HiQ.”

• Even though it’s absent from season two: “Dungeons and Dragons,” for old time’s sake. Plus, couldn’t hurt to go up against the D&D Mind Flayer and get a sense for what Hawkins is up against.