The Movies And Shows That Inspired Stranger Things Season 4

"Stranger Things" season 4 has arrived, and we're starting to see things upside down. Obviously, the first three seasons were inspired by a whole lot of TV shows and movies from the 1980s, and this season is no different. From teen romances to horror flicks, there are so many nods to the media we loved back when hair was huge, and colors were fluorescent (and even a few that came after). Before we start, here is a look at the synopsis for "Stranger Things" season 4 Vol. 1, which is episodes 1-7:

It's been six months since the Battle of Starcourt, which brought terror and destruction to Hawkins. Struggling with the aftermath, our group of friends are separated for the first time – and navigating the complexities of high school hasn't made things any easier. In this most vulnerable time, a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down.

Needless to say (or it should be needless), there will be spoilers ahead after the trailer. Turn back if you haven't watched yet, or Vecna will getcha! 

Back to the Upside Down

Films set in high school in the 1980s featured a lot of bullying by the popular crowd. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is certainly on the receiving end of bullies in her new California school, when she shows her diorama in class, in the schoolyard after the incident, and later at the roller skating rink. It's pretty cruel, and reminds us of moments in "The Breakfast Club," when Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) talks about what being bullied by the jocks did to him, leading him to bring a gun to school. Eleven doesn't have a gun, but she does try to use her powers in the schoolyard on her bullies, and later hits one in the face with a roller skate. 

"The Breakfast Club" character Bender (Judd Nelson) is clearly an influence on Dungeon Master Eddie (Joseph Quinn). Eddie, like Bender, covers up his pain with bravado. Eddie is a bit of a jerk when we meet him at first in the cafeteria, but once the layers are peeled away, we realize that he's had it pretty rough. There is clearly an influence from that film on the scene where the cheerleader Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) — Vecna's first victim in this killing spree — and Eddie get to know a little about each other, recalling when they'd spoken once, years before. If Vecna hadn't intervened, the scene might have played out the way Claire (Molly Ringwald) and Bender's does, with them finding common ground, and possibly a connection. 

High school drama

In "The Breakfast Club," the kids break into the principal's office to read their school records. In "Stranger Things," Max (Sadie Sink) steals her guidance counselor's keys, and the kids look at school records to see what the murdered children have in common; headaches, past trauma, and nightmares. There is also the makeover scene when Nancy (Natalia Dyer) dresses Robin (Maya Hawke) up as a college student and Robin not being able to walk in heels reminds me of the scene where Claire gives Allison (Ally Sheedy) a makeover in the bathroom.

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is a clear influence when Dustin's long-distance girlfriend Susie (Gabriella Pizzolo) changes his Latin grade with her computer, and that's something Ferris (Matthew Broderick) does for himself with absences. The computer even looks very close, visually. Even having a smart and sarcastic younger sister (and I don't mean that in a bad way because first, Erica (Priah Ferguson) is awesome, and second, Ferris is a jerk and his sister — Jennifer Grey — is way cooler) is very "Ferris." 

Though there isn't a specific moment, and I'm speaking more in terms of a feeling, stoner buddies Argyle (Eduardo Franco) and Steve (Joe Keery) give off some "Dazed and Confused" vibes. 

Brenner (Matthew Modine) telling Eleven that monsters don't exist after we've been watching them in a show for four seasons reminded me of Wesley (Carey Elwes) in "The Princess Bride" saying that ROUSs (rodents of unusual size) don't exist right before he gets attacked.

Adventure stories

The first "Star Wars" trilogy had been out for a few years by the time season 4 takes place, so there is no surprise when we hear Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) quote from "Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back," saying, "Never tell me the odds," like Han Solo (Harrison Ford) does in the Dungeons & Dragons game with the Hellfire Club. 

Speaking of "Star Wars," in episode 7, when One (Jamie Campbell Bower) says, "Join me" to Eleven, it definitely felt like Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) speaking to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), trying to turn him to the dark side towards the end of "Return of the Jedi." Plus, One and Eleven hold their hands out like they're having a Force battle, which they sort of are. 

Eleven lying in the water in the sensory deprivation tank gives off "Minority Report" vibes, especially since she's working with psychic powers. In that film, the precogs do the same to discover crimes before they happen. Eleven is discovering the truth of a crime that she thinks she committed in the past.

Scary stuff

There are a whole lot of horror influences here, which makes total sense. Horror films of that time did tend to punish (kill) kids with a past, or who did things they weren't "supposed to." That's been a thing since the first seasons, but here it's kids with trauma instead of just kids who have sex. 

"Carrie" comes to mind because of the roller rink scene with Eleven bashing Angela's (Elodie Grace Orkin) face with the skate. In "Carrie," the continual bullying of the main character, ending with a public prank where she's covered in pig's blood at the prom was very much an influence on Eleven's story. Eleven is bullied, and then subjected to a very public prank at the rink where they film her, covered in a chocolate shake, surrounded by other kids who are taunting her. Eleven isn't covered in blood after the prank, but Angela is, and it was her bullying that finally sent Eleven over the edge. 

Freddy Krueger from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is actually mentioned outright, which is fun because Freddy himself, Robert Englund is playing Victor Creel in the series. They even mention his boiler room, though the creepy place in the Creel house is the attic. Freddy affecting the dreams of his chosen teen victims is paralleled in "Stranger Things" as the kids with past trauma are having terrible nightmares, which are affecting their waking lives. The flashing lights and ghost vibes from "Poltergeist" are all over this season, as they were in the past seasons. 

Don't cross Vecna

Robin and Nancy visit a prison for the criminally insane to meet with convicted murderer Victor Creel. Clarice (Jodie Foster) did the same with Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in "The Silence of the Lambs. There are moments as the young women walk down the hall and are subjected to leers from the other prisoners the same way (though not as graphically) as Clarice was.

Vecna himself, though we haven't seen the endgame, does have a very Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) or Pinhead (Doug Bradley) sort of vibe to him, and the Duffer Brothers said as much in an interview with IGN. He's also got a very "Game of Thrones" Night King (Richard Brake) vibe to him. Honestly, the whole being hooked up to tentacles for power puts one in mind of the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," when he is finally revealed. He's hooked up to something giving him power as well.  

"Stranger Things" season 4, episodes 1-7 are now streaming on Netflix. The final two episodes will hit the streaming service on July 1, 2022.