This Weekend, Watch Some of the ’80s Movies That Inspired ‘Stranger Things’

The first season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” released in the summer of 2016, remains one of the streaming service’s bona fide sensations. Although Netflix refuses to release viewership numbers about any of its series, that horror/sci-fi series set in a small Indiana town was a word-of-mouth phenomenon.

All nine episodes of Season 2 drop on Friday, Oct. 27. Like its predecessor, this season borrows liberally — in terms of mood and plot — from many ’80s genre classics. Before starting your binge this weekend, dip into any of the following films.

From left: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman in “Stand by Me.”Columbia Pictures

Stand by Me
Where to watch:
Amazon, iTunes

Just as the heart of “Stranger Things” is its tight-knit group of four preteen boys, such is the case with “Stand by Me,” with its gang of adolescent outcasts played by River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell. A moment in “Stranger Things” in which the group walks down a set of train tracks feels like a direct nod to similar scenes in this Rob Reiner film. And one of the episodes from Season 1 is titled “The Body,” which is the name of the Stephen King story upon which “Stand by Me” is based.

Sissy Spacek in “Carrie.”United Artists

‘Carrie’
Where to watch: iTunes

“Stranger Things” is steeped in King-ian motifs, not least of all his telekinetic young women. Eleven’s misfit status and mental abilities resemble those of King’s tortured high-school protagonist Carrie, portrayed by Sissy Spacek in this film adaptation by Brian De Palma. (Based on the trailers, things seem to turn out better for Eleven than they do for Carrie. Sort of.)

‘Firestarter’
Where to watch:
Amazon, iTunes

Eleven also resembles another King character, the little girl with combustible psychic powers in “Firestarter” (played by Drew Barrymore), who’s on the run from a secret government agency. (And if you’re looking for more King connections, the show’s creators, the Duffer brothers, said they had been inspired to model their eerie opening sequence after the work of Richard Greenberg, the title designer behind the movie adaptation of “The Dead Zone.”)

Cary Guffey in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”Columbia Pictures

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes

Aliens steal a child, and his single mother heads out to rescue him? A parent who destroys the family home in an attempt to solve a mystery? A government agency trying to cover-up the truth? Sounds like this 1977 hit from Steven Spielberg. In addition to thematic similarities, the show adopts elements of Spielberg’s cinematic style (kids in danger, impressive light shows, awe-struck faces).

Henry Thomas, center, and E.T. in “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.”Universal Studios

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Where to watch:
Netflix, Amazon, iTunes

As a friendly outsider obsessed with a certain brand of junk food and lacking the social skills needed to navigate a new world, E.T. is the original Eleven. Like “Stranger Things,” this family-friendly Spielberg film also features a group of kids evading gun-toting government agents. And any movie or show that features young people riding around on bikes in the ’80s needs to drop a few bucks in the “E.T.” jar.

Poltergeist
Where to watch:
Amazon, iTunes

In this 1982 movie from Tobe Hooper, the angry spirits in a haunted house abduct a child and torment the family that’s trying to get her back. While stuck on “the other side,” the missing girl is able to manipulate electronics to communicate with her family, a bit like Will does with the Christmas lights in “Stranger Things.” (Bonus connection: Before her son’s disappearance, Joyce buys movie tickets for them to see “Poltergeist.”)

Jon Cryer and Molly Ringwald in “Pretty in Pink.”Paramount Pictures

‘Pretty in Pink’
Where to watch:
Amazon, iTunes

What’s a 1980s drama without a little heartbreak? There are hints of John Hughes in the “Stranger Things” mixtape, particularly in the high school love triangle of Nancy, Steve and Jonathan. As in “Stranger Things,” the class and schoolyard dynamics of Hughes’s “Pretty in Pink” (1986) inevitably shape the characters’ relationships.

Bottom row, from left, Ke Huy Quan, Sean Astin and Jeff Cohen, and top row, Josh Brolin and Corey Feldman.Warner Bros. Pictures

‘The Goonies’
Where to watch: Amazon, iTunes

Season 2 of “Stranger Things” adds two classic ’80s actors: Paul Reiser and Sean Astin. One of Astin’s first movies was this adventure film about a group of teens who go on a literal treasure hunt in an attempt to save their Oregon community from being demolished by real-estate interests. Although Astin is probably best known now for his portrayal of Sam in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, he was more than good enough in this 1985 Spielberg-produced film.

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