Photo: Netflix

[This article discusses the plot of Stranger Things 3.]

Stranger Things is a never-ending Easter egg hunt, a TV series that wears its influences on its sleeves and takes every chance it can to pay homage to them. Sometimes, it’s overt, like casting Paul Reiser in Stranger Things 2 to channel the type of weaselly stooge with ulterior motives that he played in Aliens; other times, a set dresser litters references to his little-known synthpop side project across Hawkins. With this in mind, the eagle-eyed staffers of The A.V. Club took a close look Stranger Things 3 to deliver this exhaustive, but by no means complete, catalog of the movies, TV shows, books, and other media we saw reflected—or just straight-up featured—in the latest season. Every episode including the finale is fair game, so turn back if you haven’t reached the ending yet.

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Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

Photo: Netflix

The quintessential ’80s teen comedy takes place in Max and Billy’s old West Coast stomping grounds, but a summertime in Hawkins still bears a striking resemblance to Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The introduction to the Starcourt mimics the film’s corn-dog-frying, escalator-flirting opening-title sequence, and the counter-jockeying parallels don’t stop there: The nautical uniforms at Scoops Ahoy have a distinct air of the pirate duds Brad Hamilton has to wear while slinging seafood at Captain Hook Fish & Chips. But the most obvious Fast Times shoutout is in a gender-flipped take on a scene that also involves Brad’s Captain Hook gear: When Billy soaks in the ogling of everyone at the community pool, the soundtrack is the same sultry Cars single, “Moving In Stereo,” Brad hears in his head while, uh, handling his bait and tackle in an unlocked bathroom. Fittingly, Steve finds himself tangled up with a fake Phoebe Cates while interviewing for a job at Family Video in the season finale. [Erik Adams]

Caddyshack (1980)

Community pools weren’t a staple of ’80s films so much as they were the era itself, which is represented in how these splashy gathering zones weren’t frequently exploited onscreen until the films of the ’90s (The Sandlot), 2000s (Little Children), and 2010s (The To-Do List) started getting nostalgic. It was 1980’s Caddyshack, then, that gave us the local pool’s most iconic cinematic moments, from its flood of filthy rapscallions to that soggy, still-good Baby Ruth. It’s the spirit of a swimsuit-clad Lacey Underall, however, that haunts Stranger Things 3, having turned heads poolside in much the same manner as a shirtless Billy Hargrove. [Randall Colburn]

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Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

Day Of The Dead factors into Stranger Things’ prologue, but it’s that film’s predecessor that plays a larger hand in the new season. Sure, malls serve as a setting for both stories, but they share DNA in other ways, too—both, for example, frame the corporate monolith as a capitalist soul-sucker that’s nevertheless appealing in its comforts. There’s also, you know, that whole zombification thing, as well as some direct nods, such as Robin’s slide down the center of the escalators in “Chapter Seven: The Bite.” [Randall Colburn]

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Back To The Future (1985)

GIF: Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)

The kids’ moviegoing priorities in Stranger Things 3 are focused on the end of a trilogy, rather than the beginning of one, but Marty McFly’s adventures in time loom large over the third season. The episodes take place during Back To The Future’s opening weekend, and a screening of 1985’s top box-office draw gives Dustin and Erica cover after they smuggle Steven and Robin out of the Russian lab—lending “Chapter Seven: The Bite” an orchestral Alan Silvestri crescendo along the way. (Also playing at the Starcourt Cinema: A Stranger Things-appropriate lineup of Cocoon, D.A.R.Y.L., Fletch, Return To Oz, and The Stuff.) But even before Steve witnesses this big-screen milestone for the actor he won’t stop referring to as Alex P. Keaton, bits of Back To The Future are scattered about like so many “SAVE THE CLOCK TOWER” fliers: Max rides the same brand of skateboard as Marty, Mrs. Driscoll has a black Kit-Cat clock like Doc Brown’s, and a pre-“The Power Of Love” cut from Huey Lewis And The News soundtracks Nancy’s lunch delivery in “Chapter One: Suzie Do You Copy?” And though there’s no shot of Billy’s odometer to confirm whether or not he reaches 88 mph when attempting to smash his Camaro into our heroes in the finale, you don’t send a car racing through an empty shopping-mall parking lot without wanting to at least momentarily transport viewers back to Hill Valley.

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Screenshot: Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)

There’s also a sideways Back To The Future reference in the name of the place where Dustin met Suzie: Camp Know Where puns on the name of the ’90s kid comedy co-starring BTTF alumni Christopher Lloyd and Thomas F. Wilson. [Erik Adams]

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Making Contact (1985)

Making Contact, an early feature from Independence Day director Roland Emmerich, follows Joey, a 9-year old with telekinesis, who discovers he can speak with his dead father over a toy phone. One of its more memorable scenes finds several of his toys supernaturally whirring to life in much the same fashion that Dustin’s do near the top of episode one. The similarities between the toys in each sequence could be a coincidence, but it is worth noting that one of the compositions from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s first-season score is titled “Making Contact.” [Randall Colburn]

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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

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There’s plenty of narrative parallels between this season and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, so it’s only appropriate that the Starcourt Mall would include a nod to Philip Kaufman, director of the 1978 version. [Randall Colburn]

Magnum P.I. (1980-1988) and Miami Vice (1984-1990)

Photo: Netflix

The primetime lineups of the ’80s provide Chief Hopper with plenty of law-enforcement role models, from the complex cops working out of Hill Street Station to Simons Rick and A.J. But judging by his viewing habits in Stranger Things 3, he has a couple of personal favorites: El’s flouting of the three-inch minimum in the premiere interrupts Hop’s viewing of Magnum P.I., and in the finale he notes that father and daughter have a standing appointment with Miami Vice on Friday nights. And the outfit he requests for his broken date with Joyce in “Chapter Two: The Mall Rats” combines those shows’ signature looks, matching Thomas Magnum’s loud tropical prints and facial hair with Sonny Crockett’s aversion to socks. (Magnum’s Detroit Tigers cap not included.) [Erik Adams]

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Die Hard (1988)

Erica’s trip through the Starcourt vents is so indebted to Die Hard that it’s a wonder the Duffers didn’t have her strike a Zippo and mumble, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs.” No, they instead saved the quotations for “Chapter Five: The Flayed,” wherein Grigori responds to Hopper’s gun to his head by channeling German terrorist Tony: “You’re a policeman. Policemen have rules.” Okay, Grigori’s isn’t a direct quote—see the original above—but it’s a bit of kibble for anyone who’s made Die Hard a Christmas tradition. Also, just try and tell me Billy isn’t a bizarro John McClane —soiled undershirt, jeans, limp—during that final battle. [Randall Colburn]

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Halloween II (1981)

Screenshot: Halloween II (HBOGo)

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Screenshot: Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)

“Chapter Five: The Flayed” and the second Halloween don’t just have their claustrophobic, easily weaponized hospital settings in common—judging by their logos, Hawkins Memorial and Haddonfield Memorial share a graphic designer, too. [Erik Adams]

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Signs (2002)

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Bear with us on this one but the farmhouse that plays such a pivotal role in “Chapter Five: The Flayed” is shown time and again to belong to the Hess family, which was also the name of the gang of farmers that headline M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 film Signs. A weird reference, that, but the Signs aliens do bear a resemblance to the Demogorgon. [Randall Colburn]

The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead 2 (1987)

GIF: Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)

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The ultimate experience in grueling terror didn’t invent creepy cabins in the woods, but it did perfect them—and then it improved upon them six years later in its same-story-more-jokes sequel. In preparation for the assault on Hopper’s place in “Chapter Seven: The Bite,” The Duffer Brothers pull a few pages from the Necronomicon, with the shot of Nancy swinging open the workshed doors quick cutting to her and Jonathan picking up some items from Ash Williams’ groovy arsenal: a shotgun, then an axe. And the cabin’s subsequent destruction gets its energy from some Sam Raimi-esque flourishes, its shaky-cam spinning around the living room and, inevitably, following a severed, skittering appendage as it escapes into the night. [Erik Adams]

Alien 3 (1992)

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Screenshot: Alien 3

The Mind Flayer, with its mouths within mouths, was clearly born of the Alien franchise, a property the Duffers have never been afraid to mine for inspiration. That continued in “Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum,” during which the monster and Nancy had a close encounter not unlike the intimate one between Ripley and a Xenomorph that’s become the takeaway image of David Fincher’s 1992 threequel. [Randall Colburn]

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It (1986 novel, 1990 miniseries)

Screenshot: Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)

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Screenshot: It

Stephen King’s been a reliable source of Stranger Things’ DNA since season one, but these latest episodes give the Mind Flayer a Pennywisian flair. Like It’s interdimensional antagonist, the monster recruits the local bully as its lackey and, as we see in “Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum,” uses the Hawkins’ sewers as a means of traveling. Fans of the 1990 miniseries adaptation may also see shades of that deliriously cheesy arachnid that served as Pennywise’s final form in the gooey, beefed-up spider that terrorizes our heroes in the final two episodes. It looks a lot less silly, sure, but it’s still susceptible to the humble slingshot, which Lucas handles nearly as well as Beverly Marsh. [Randall Colburn]

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Firestarter (1984)

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It’s a little weird that the video store visited by Steve and Robin during the season’s epilogue would have a Firestarter poster on display. The Drew Barrymore-starring adaptation of Stephen King’s 1980 novel hit theaters roughly 14 months before the events of the season, and made it to home video sometime in the fall of the previous year. Surely, one could reason, there are newer releases to highlight. Those releases, though, wouldn’t hearken back to the series’ first season, wherein Eleven’s struggles against nefarious government scientists mirrors that of Stephen King’s “pyrokinetic” Charlie McGee. [Randall Colburn]

The Terminator franchise (1984-present)

Screenshot: Stranger Things (Netflix)

This one’s on the nose. The hyperalloy-combat-chassis-on-the-inside, living-human-tissue nose: Russian enforcer Grigori is a stand-in for any number of terse, ’80s Transatlantic heavies, but his seeming indestructibility, chosen mode of transportation, and dogged pursuit of Hopper point most firmly in the direction of Cyberdyne Systems. He and the T-800 even have corresponding wounds: Rumbling amid the types of catwalks and heavy machinery that tend to spell a Terminator’s doom, Grigori gets roughed up on the right side of this face, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. [Erik Adams]

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True Lies (1994)

Screenshot: Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)

Sure, Grigori is a walking, hulking ode to Schwarzenegger, but the Terminator isn’t the only action classic on the Duffers’ minds. Steve and Robin’s encounter with the Russians’ mad doctor/torture artist evokes a similar scene (and a similar doctor) in James Cameron’s True Lies. In both scenes, a dose of truth serum does more to unite our heroes than it does help the villains. [Randall Colburn]

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A Wizard Of Earthsea (1968)

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The book Suzie’s reading when Dustin finally reaches her in the finale is Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard Of Earthsea, a 1968 fantasy classic that, like Stranger Things, follows a young person with magical abilities who accidentally releases an evil entity into the world. Wait until Suzie meets some of her new boyfriend’s pals. [Randall Colburn]

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

Screenshot: Stranger Things 3 (Netflix)

If the Wheelers’ new wheels put in mind of Chevy Chase’s Quixotic quest to reach Walley World, you’re not alone: When Dustin’s handing out callsigns in “Chapter Eight: The Battle Of Starcourt,” he alludes to the first film in the vacation franchise by dubbing the group that’s supposed to take Eleven to Murray’s “Griswold Family.” And just like Clark, Ellen, and the kids, these Griswolds encounter some major roadblocks along the way. [Erik Adams]

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Midnight Run (1988)

There’s a similar “Are they doing what I think they’re doing?” vibe to Hopper and Joyce escorting a handcuffed Alexei across state lines: Hopper’s grouchiness, the mishaps they encounter along the way, and the 7-Eleven clerk asking “So what are you—some kind of bounty hunter?” ring of the Robert De Niro-Charles Grodin caper Midnight Run. And if the bluesy guitars sneaking into the sound mix weren’t confirmation enough (hat tip to Alan Sepinwall on that one), there’s the assurance offered by the Duffers’ pre-season list of films that inspired the third season: This is no ’80s cinema apophenia. Stranger Things 3 really, truly contains an intentional allusion to the 1988 buddy cop comedy in which bounty-hunter De Niro tries to get accountant Grodin from New York to Los Angeles in five days without first being intercepted by the FBI or the mobsters from whom Grodin embezzled $15 million. [Erik Adams]

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X-Men (1963-present)

“The Cadillac of ham radios,” Cerebro, is named for the device used throughout the X-Men franchise for tracking down and identifying mutants—often by telepaths like Eleven. Cerebros across fictional universes are having a moment in the summer of 2019: James McAvoy’s Professor X uses his in Dark Phoenix, while his Legion counterpart is shown constructing Cerebro in promos for that show’s third and final season. [Erik Adams]

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The secret transmission that Dustin picks up on Cerebro is in the style of a numbers station, those mysterious stops on the shortwave dial whose communiques, presumed to originate from intelligence agencies across the globe, use recognizable melodies like “The Lincolnshire Poacher” as interval signals. The melody that’s bleeding into the “silver cat” broadcast has its own significance in the shared histories of computer science and science fiction: The Library Of Congress recognizes a 1961 performance of “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built For Two)” by a Bell Laboratories IBM 704 as “the earliest known recording of a computer-synthesized voice singing a song.” A public demonstration of the musical machine was witnessed by author Arthur C. Clarke, who then synthesized the milestone into a piece of backstory for 2001: A Space Odyssey: The film’s rogue AI, HAL 9000, was taught to sing “Daisy Bell” upon its activation, and gives one last, haunting rendition as astronaut Dave Bowman shuts HAL down. [Erik Adams]

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The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The duet that threatens to grind “The Battle Of Starcourt” to a halt is the theme song to the 1984 film version of Michael Ende’s fantasy novel The Neverending Story, composed by ’80s soundtrack king Giorgio Moroder. Dustin’s standing in for skunk-haired Kajagoogoo frontman Limahl, Suzie’s singing parts originated by Beth Anderson, and everyone else is justified in rolling their eyes at the musical indulgence that eats up precious time in what’s otherwise a crackerjack finale. [Erik Adams]

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Stranger Things (2016-present)

Screenshot: Stranger Things 2 (Netflix)

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Screenshot: Stranger Things 2 (Netflix)

And sometimes the call is coming from inside the house. Callbacks abound in Stranger Things 3, like Hopper having a celebratory moment with Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” or Dustin pumping way more than four puffs of the Farrah Fawcett spray into Lucas’ eyes. And while you’ll need the end credits to point it out for you, that’s series composers Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon picking through the inventory while Robin makes her case for Steve at Family Video. [Erik Adams]

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