For its first two seasons on Netflix, Stranger Things has been a giant love letter to ’80s pop culture. The show is a delightful mix of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, Dungeons and Dragons, and just about every other touchstone of that era you can think of. The first season, set in 1983, made several references to movies that came out that year like Videodrome. Season two made a very big reference early on to 1984’s biggest pop culture behemoth, Ghostbusters.
Which leads us to ponder just which 1985 films might leave their mark on season three, since the season is set during the summer of that year? We have some ideas for the movies that could and should pop up this year.
The Breakfast Club
It’s maybe THE most iconic ’80s movie, despite not being the decade’s biggest blockbuster success. But John Hughes’ movie about the unlikely friendship formed by five teenagers in Saturday detention became an instant classic. It epitomized the high school experience in America; kids are segregated by their respective “roles” society assigned to them. The third season of Stranger Things takes place in summer, so the detention angle is out. But the idea of our main kids forging bonds with some other young Hawkins residents who are totally outside their social circle seems perfect for the show. We just expect the situation to be a bit more life-or-death.
The Breakfast Club wasn’t the only John Hughes hit that came out in 1985. That summer also saw Weird Science, about two nerds and social outcasts who use their science skills to create a perfect artificial woman. Granted, the movie is super problematic by today’s standards, and one can even see Weird Science as ground zero for a lot of the ugly incel culture of today. In its defense, the movie is a total farce and ultimately comes down on the idea that the boys’ experiment is wrong-headed. But still. Nevertheless, the idea of our Hawkins kids using their own science know-how to create something they can’t control seems inevitable, and could take place in season three.
My Science Project
This 1985 film is not as fondly remembered as the previous two films, and in fact bombed at the box office. But it had a long life on cable and video. The movie follows a group of high school students who find pieces of a crashed UFO in a hidden fallout shelter. Using a gizmo one of them finds inside as his last minute school science project, lots of wacky chaos ensues. Ultimately, it opens a portal in which dinosaurs and post-apocalyptic marauders show up from different timelines in the school gym. While that all might be a bit too far for Stranger Things, the idea of the kids opening some kind of portal thanks to something they discover in the Upside-Down would be very possible.
One can safely say that Strangers Things has already referenced The Goonies plenty in its first two seasons. The big similarity of course being the “kids on bikes” as the main characters in the series. But Goonies‘ actual plot about a bunch of misfit kids going on an Indiana Jones-style search for hidden treasure is not referred to as much. However, season three could see the Hawkins kids go on some kind of quest like the Goonies did. It probably won’t be pirate treasure this time, but I could see them going on a search for some kind of MacGuffin of a more sci-fi nature.
Back in the summer of ’85, two sci-fi films were released the same weekend. One was the senior citizens -meet kindly aliens movie from Ron Howard Cocoon, and the other was Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce. The first film was a feel good big hit, and the other was a horror movie about weird space vampires and bombed at the box office. Nevertheless, Lifeforce has something of a cult following, and its notion of alien vampire creatures could fit in with the aesthetic of Stranger Things. Instead of space vampires, maybe bloodsucking beings from the Upside-Down?
Speaking of vampires, this callback to Gothic thrillers might be too old school in its approach for Stranger Things. Mostly because the series tends to lean towards sci-fi and not supernatural menaces. The 1985 horror comedy was all about a teenager who discovers a suave vampire has moved into the house next door. But the idea of something sinister moving in next door to you? And one which no one believes in but you? Now that could be the basic for much storytelling on Stranger Things.
Back to the Future
This is the big one, isn’t it? Back to the Future is one of the most celebrated comedies of all time, and one of the best time travel movies ever. And it was also the biggest hit of 1985. There is no way that the members of the Hawkins AV Club won’t refer to it in some kind of literal way. But it is also a matter of time before the show uses time travel as a similar plot device too. We don’t think the more silly rules of time travel from BTTF – which Avengers: Endgame recently reminded us are probably not how it works – should be applied to Stranger Things. But some kind of time travel story that yields some comic gold in the Back to the Future style seems called for.
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