One of the best ways Stranger Things pays homage to the ’80s is by featuring some of the decade’s best stars. Winona Ryder, Sean Astin, Cary Elwes, Matthew Modine, and Paul Reiser have made Netflix’s drama a living tribute to the era. And that tradition of famous faces will continue in the show’s fourth season. The series’ creators, the Duffer Brothers, told Deadline, “We have a couple cool ones this year. It’s a really fun way to get to meet one of your icons, you know? Write a part for them, see if they want to do it.” We don’t know who those guest stars will be. But we do know some of the movies the Duffers grew up loving. Not to mention the many movies and shows they’ve already shown admiration for by referencing them on their own series.
So we’re having some fun dreaming about who could appear on Stranger Things 4. From big stars to cult heroes, these are ’80s icons we hope to see in Hawkins, Indiana.
There’s a reason Dustin compared his summer camp girlfriend to Phoebe Cates. Everybody in the ’80s loved her. Wait, no, that’s not quite right. Everyone still loves Phoebe Cates. Unfortunately she retired from acting, but that’s why she’s our number one fantasy casting. Plus, few movies better capture the spirit of Stranger Things than Gremlins, which the Duffers said was a big influence on season three. Like Stranger Things, Gremlins is equal parts horrifying, touching, and hilarious. Now they both need to have Phoebe Cates in common.
Stranger Things 3 had some serious The Thing-vibes, and we think season four could be a direct tribute to the horror classic. There would be no better—and cooler—way to honor both John Carpenter’s iconic film and the decade itself than by having the living legend Kurt Russell appear on the show. This might seem like a long shot, but he already played cool Santa for Netflix, so it might not be as crazy as you think.
The Duffer Brothers once listed The Empire Strikes Back as one of their three “desert island” movies. Short of having the next Upside Down monster be an exogorth, Mark Hamill appearing on the series would be the best way to honor the galaxy far, far away. Plus it would certainly be a way to meet one of their idols. Obviously this would be an incredible cameo on its own, but we really want to see what Hamill could do on the show after his amazing guest star role on What We Do in the Shadows.
The brothers’ second desert island option? Back to the Future. The time travel classic was one of the many ’80s movies referenced in the show’s third season, but in a far more subtle way than we expected. Bringing Christopher Lloyd on would be a direct tribute. And considering there’s plenty of mad scientists working in and around Hawkins, there are plenty of ways to also pay tribute to Doc Brown too. Plus, we know thanks to Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Christopher Lloyd can play evil just as well as good, so we wouldn’t even know what to expect from him.
Oh, and since this is our fantasy casting, we’d be thrilled with literally any of the main cast from the trilogy showing up. Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Tom Wilson, Crispin Glover—bring them all aboard.
The Duffers said they grew up with a poster of Scream on their wall. Stranger Things 3 also featured a great homage to E.T., one of the ’80’s biggest hits. Clearly Drew Barrymore, who also showed her sci-fi horror bonafides in 1984’s Firestarter, is a no-brainer guest star. And if they really wanted to get meta with her, she could play a waitress as a tribute to her own ’80s love letter, The Wedding Singer.
Sony Pictures Television
Even if the Duffers could land Kurt Russell we’d still want to see his co-star from The Thing on the show. Keith David is a legend who appeared in some of the most beloved ’80s films, including Platoon and Road House. He also starred in They Live, and it’s impossible for us to overstate how much we want—nay, neeeeed— to see Stranger Things reference that cult classic.
One of the great heroines of horror, A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Heather Langenkamp, is a perfect choice to make an appearance on Stranger Things. The show has made multiple references to the franchise she helped make famous in the ’80s, and bringing her on would be the best tribute possible. Plus, there are few people who have as much experience fighting monsters from another dimension. The Mind Flayer was basically just a bigger Freddy Krueger without the knife gloves.
WarGames. The Breakfast Club. St. Elmo’s Fire. Short Circuit. Ally Sheedy is basically the best of the ’80s distilled into a real person. She’s also one of our favorites, and after Stranger Things 3 went full Breakfast Club anyway, she’s a natural choice for the series. Also, season four looks like it will ramp up the Cold War aspect, and she knows all about that danger after Matthew Broderick almost caused a nuclear war.
Speaking of Matthew Broderick, we also want to see another one of his ’80s co-stars. Alan Ruck from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off would make for an ideal guest star on Stranger Things. Not only is Cameron Frye an icon of the decade, the former Spin City star is still killing it on television on HBO’s Succession. And Stranger Things 4 is the perfect time for him to appear, since Ferris Bueller came to theaters in 1986, the same year the next season is likely to be set.
Oh, and obviously the Duffers should also have Matthew Broderick on. Duh.
Jonathan Ke Quan
Along with Gremlins the Duffers said season three’s mixture of comedy and darkness was inspired by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The show also borrows a lot from The Goonies, as young kids go on dangerous adventures together. Only one person starred in both, Jonathan Ke Quan. The young man who once played Data and Short Round is all grown up now, and is exactly the type of person who would be an amazing living Easter egg to the ’80s.
The Duffer’s final desert island film is Michael Mann’s Heat. There are tons of stars in that movie who also qualify as ’80s legends. But for this one we’re cheating and going to the ’90s instead with Ted Levine. Stranger Things is still a horror story at heart. And Levine’s turn as Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs will forever haunt us.
But the Duffers should still put in a call to Val Kilmer. Like they said, just write a part for him and see if he shows up.
Featured Image: Universal Pictures/Lucasfilm