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SYFY WIRE Stranger Things

Watch The Duffer Brothers break down every deep cut reference in Stranger Things

By Matthew Jackson

It's no secret that Stranger Things is a show that traffics heavily in nostalgia. The show is set in the American Midwest in the 1980s and gleefuly recreates everything that entails, from childhood games of Dungeons & Dragons to days spent at the shiny new local mall. The show's creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, have also made sure to pepper their hit sci-fi series with numerous references to the pop culture of the era, from characters discussing their favorite movies and TV shows to visual nods to their own favorite films of the era in certain key moments. Even if you've combed every episode of Stranger Things for every possible reference to the films of the 1980s, though, you've probably missed a few.

In a new video for Wired, the Duffer brothers sat down and spent almost a half hour breaking down the many, many movie references peppered throughout the first three seasons of the series. As they acknowledge right up front, the show is heavily influenced by what they dub "The Two Stephens" — director Steven Spielberg and author Stephen King — who both defined a certain kind of touchstone 1980s aesthetic. It therefore leans heavily on stories like King's Carrie and Firestarter (both stories of young women with scary mind powers) and Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. (both stories about communities encountering forces from other worlds), as well as other works from both men, like King's Cujo and It and Spielberg's Indiana Jones trilogy. There are also, as you may have spotted in the series, references to the works of John Carpenter, including The Thing and The Fog, as well as references to 1980s kid adventure classics like Gremlins and The Goonies

As they continued to break down those references, the Duffers revealed that some of them run deeper than many fans might have noticed at first glance. For example, it's easy to see Dustin making friends with the creature he calls "Dart" in Stranger Things 2 and draw a line to Gremlins, but what you might not have caught is that the score in the scene in which Dart runs away from the kids at the school is actually directly referencing the melody and cadence of the Gremlins score in that moment.

Then there are the references to non-genre classics from the 1980s that you might not have caught. Yes, there are certainly references to John Hughes classics like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, especially at the Snow Ball in the finale of Season 2, but there are still more. At the high school party in Season 2, Steve and Nancy show up dressed like characters from Risky Business in a nod to the Tom Cruise classic, and in Season 1 things got even more specific when the brothers dropped in a visual nod to the 1985 Harrison Ford thriller Witness for a scene in which Eleven first recognizes Will, who she's never met in person, from a photo.

"We're huge fans of the director Peter Weir," Matt Duffer said, and went on to describe a key scene in Witness when a little boy recognizes a murder suspect after glancing at a photo and immediately being drawn to it. Studying Weir's technique in the film helped inform not just a key Season 1 scene but the whole look of the show.

"We had a sort of very similar scene by coincidence where Eleven sees the photo of Will while in Mike's room and points at it, and we really weren't quite sure how to shoot the scene," Duffer continued. "We looked at Witness and how Peter Weir shot that scene, and he used a lot of zooming camera, and at that point before then we hadn't really used the zoom because we were worried about it being too cheesy or cliche. But after we shot that scene we loved how it turned out, and we now kind of embrace the zoom."

For more from the Duffers, check out the video above. You might catch yet another reference you haven't spotted in the show yet.