Pop culture references in Stranger Things 3


The new season of Stranger Things was recently released and it is bursting with interesting new storylines and character developments. Amongst the plot are various pop culture references from the 1980s in which Stranger Things is set. The series makes reference to a number of movies released around the time as well as a few famous songs and people. Here are some of the more interesting pop culture references we spotted in Stranger Things 3.

Pop culture references in Stranger Things 3

WarGames (1983)

The season opens with a scene where Russian scientists are working tirelessly to open the Upside Down. The scene is strikingly similar to the Cold War Thriller WarGames, which was released in 1983. The characters’ positions and movements are similar in each scene, but unlike WarGames, the Russian scientists do not back down from their task.

Open the Door by Gentlemen Afterdark

This rather underground song was a regional favorite in the 80s but it never quite made it to a chart-topper. It plays while Nancy and Jonathan are on their way to work in chapter one. It is an interesting choice by the producers because it’s not that well known, so it would take a keen ear to spot. It also seems to have a symbolism toward the opening of the Upside Down.

Poltergeist (1982)

There is a rather humorous scene where Dustin is startled by the autonomous movement of his toys. If you’re a fan of 1980s horrors such as The Poltergeist, you’ll recognize that the angle of the scene pays homage to such films. It’s a rather subtle reference but it’s quite clever once you see it.

Cerebro from the X-Men comics

This pop culture references one of the easier ones to spot. Dustin names his HAM radio “Cerebro” after a device used in the X-Men comics. X-Men comics were released a couple of decades earlier but were very popular in the 1980s, especially to boys who were around Dustin’s age.

Pop culture references in Stranger Things 3

Madonna’s Material Girl (1984)

When El and Mac go shopping in chapter two, Madonna’s Material Girl can be heard playing in the background. The song is fitting because it is all about buying new and flashy things. It was very popular during the 1980s. Material Girl was the second single released on Madonna’s second album, as she was beginning to rise more and more to fame.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

In chapter five, in the scene where we are shown a Russian super-soldier, we can’t help but think that he is a reminder of the fame that Arnold Schwarzenegger acquired as a bodybuilder and actor in the 1980s. We also can’t help but wonder if this character was inspired by the 1984 movie The Terminator, with his thick European accent and muscular build.

Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future has got to be one of the most referenced pop culture items in Stranger Things. Not only is there an entire scene dedicated to two of the main characters watching it on its release date, but also other subtle hints like Max’s skateboard being the same as that of Marty McFly’s. The series also makes very slight references to saving the clock tower downtown through posters placed on telephone poles. Back to the Future is quite a fitting pop culture item to reference because Stranger Things is showing futuristic technology in a story set in the past (all very confusing with the sci-fi jump around but appreciated none-the-less).