Film Review: Films To See If You Loved Netflix's Stranger Things

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By now many of you have probably watched (or possibly re-watched) the Netflix Original Series, Stranger Things. Now whilst I don't usually enter in to the realms of television reviews - I am very much a boxset binger. Having adored the season myself and spotted the countless classic film references, I thought I'd put together a list of movies to fill the void now you've finished Stranger Things...

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Oozing with film references and drawing influence from Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, John Carpenter and 80's B Movie Horror, Stranger Things is every film lovers ideal TV show. Not only has The Netflix original series received critical acclaim, but it has mesmerised viewers with it's gripping narrative, character development and stunning use of cinematography.

Starring award-winning actress Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers, our story is set in a small Indiana town in 1983 where Joyce's young son, Will, goes missing whilst walking home from a friends house. Feeling that something isn't right and refusing to accept her son may be dead, Joyce launches a terrifying investigation into his disappearance alongside the town's sheriff. However, as they search for clues, they unravel a series of extraordinary findings and government conspiracy at play which involves supernatural forces, and a very unusual little girl. Here's some films which inspired the series and you're sure to enjoy if you liked it...

Super 8 cast
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The Plot: Set in 1979 Ohio, a group of young boys and an aspiring young actress are making a zombie movie with a Super-8 camera when they witness a horrifying train derailment containing alien cargo. Following a series of mysterious, supernatural events, the group soon discover that the train-wreck was no accident and go in search for the truth. 

With Stranger Things and Super 8 both taking influence from Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), ET: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and The Goonies (1985), it's no surprise that both texts are visually very similar and equally enjoyable. Whilst the narratives can draw comparisons and scenes can easily be juxtapositioned together to show their similarities, one of the most prominent themes in both is the basis of friendship and the relationships. Both are able to capture that feeling of adventure that Spielberg does so well, taking us on a whirlwind of fear, angst, compassion and humour - both with mysterious sci-fi attributes. 
The Plot: A government scientist Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) who possesses the genetic sequence for an alien life form, successfully creates an alien-human hybrid with the abilities to evolve. However, the team soon grows concerned at the rapid rate of growth of the girl, Sil (Michelle Williams/Natasha Henstridge) and not before long, she is able to use her powers to destroy the lab and escape. Having realised that her plan is to mate and reproduce, the team must track her down to stop her violent quest of destruction, recruiting government assassin Preston Lennox (Michael Madsen) to help.

As well as drawing similarities between Sil and our beloved Eleven, Species also contains many similar scenes and imagery which suggests the Stranger Things may have taken some influence from this 90's sci-fi classic.

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The Plot: Set in a remote scientific facility in Antarctica, a group of American research scientists are disturbed when one of their sled dogs turns violently aggressive. Having examined the animal, the group soon discover that another life-form is possessing it and the 'virus' soon begins spreading to humans; taking on the shape of it's victims. Realising the species if picking off the team one by one, a helicopter pilot (Kurt Russell) and a doctor, fight to escape the deadly parasite in this iconic, utterly mad body horror.

You'd have to have kept your eyes closed for part of the series to have missed the not-so subtle references of John Carpenter's The Thing. Shown on a poster on Mike's wall and on the TV as Mr.Clarke explains how they achieved those 'special effects' to his date, The Thing is not only to provide viewers with a timeline but is featured as it represents the ultimate in body horror - a theme which too runs throughout Stranger Things and is a dead give-away that the Duffy Brothers are clearly 80's film fans. Honourable horror mentions also include Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982) and The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980).

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The Plot: 12-year-old David (Joey Cramer) who lives with his family in Florida but having taken a fall in the forest near his home, he awakens eight years later with no explanation. Whilst his family are overjoyed to have him back, they also have questions as to where he has been and why he has not aged since his disappearance. However, when a NASA scientist (Howard Hesseman) discovers a nearby UFO, David gets the chance to piece together what happened.

Created by Disney in 1986, Flight Of the Navigator may seem like a far cry from the darker themes of Stranger Things but look closely and you can see many similarities in the cinematography through the use of bright colourful lights - also featured in Close Encounters. Much like Stranger Things also, the plot contains a whole host of twists which makes for fantastic, classic family viewing.

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The Plot: Five very different high school students are forced together by a Saturday detention. Making up this diverse group is rebel John (Judd Nelson), princess Claire (Molly Ringwald), outcast Allison (Ally Sheedy), brainy Brian (Anthony Michael Hall) and jock, Andrew (Emilio Estevez). Having come from different walks of life, the film allows each of them a chance to tell their story, allowing the others to see them in a completely different light. However, when the day ends they all question whether their school lives will ever be the same.

With such a heavy 1980's ascetic and comic elements, it's hard not to mistake Stranger Thing's homage to legendary film director, John Hughes. As we see through our lead characters Max, Will, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven - all come from different backgrounds and ways of life (some more so than others). However, the group maintain a strong friendship despite their tiffs and scrapes which are used to create a great deal of humour throughout the series. Further more, Nancy's relationships with her friend Barb, boyfriend Stephen and Jonathan are quintessentially referencing the jock vs outcast themes explored in The Breakfast Club. Better yet, Winona Ryder (although clearly cast for her skills as an actress) is a living embodiment of the 1980's film era - in particular for her starring role in Hughes classic Heathers (John Hughes, 1988). And that, film fans, is the John Hughes effect.

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The Plot: In deepest depths of space, the crew of a commercial vessel are awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules to investigate a distress call from what appears to be an alien ship. Having boarded them, the crew encounters a nest of mysterious eggs but are terrified when a creature from inside an egg attaches itself to one of the crew, causing him to fall in to a coma. Believing it to now be dead, the real horror ensues when they learn that it's life cycle has only just begun.

We've all seen it - it's a classic. Not only does Stranger Things draw influence from Alien for it's several strong female lead but also the monsters portrayed in the 1978 classic aren’t so different from the monster we meet in Stranger Things. Much like in Alien, the creature covers every surface of the victims’ faces. Visual comparisons can also be found in Eleven's oxygen helmet (similar to Ripley's above) and the several shots of back-lit Hazmat suits.

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The Plot: Based on the horror novel by Stephen King, Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is often horrifically bullied at school before heading home to face further abuse from her religious fanatic mother (Piper Laurie). However, when pushed to her limits, Carrie begins to notice her strength through a series of supernatural powers. Having made some new friends and been invited to prom by the school's jock, Carrie finally begins to let her guard down only for it to take a dark and violent turn.

The Duffy Brothers may have already said that the opening credits of the series are based on an 80's Stephen King TV series but look closely, and you'll spot some other references to King's work in there too. Much like Carrie, Eleven has telekinetic powers that she sometimes uses for violence when provoked or distressed. The most obvious reference, however, is in the sixth episode when Nancy’s hand emerges from the portal to the Upside Down, a close resemblance to the scene when Carrie’s hand bursts through the earth covering her grave. An honourable mention goes also to Stephen King for the obvious comparisons to Stand By Me (Rob Reiner, 1986); mirrored in Stranger Things by the group's friendship journey and of course, when they are at the junkyard.

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The Plot: When a small group of young boys find out that they may lose their homes, they embark on a quest to save their small town. Finding an old treasure map in their attic, the group set out to find buried treasure but on the way encounter a group of bad guys and their mother who are also after the loot.

In Stranger Things, we follow a small group of kids who bond over their love of film, TV and Dungeons and Dragons - not too dissimilar to the group of misfits we meet in Spielberg's The Goonies. Besides their whacky sense of humour and endearing qualities, much like the group in Stranger Things, the young group in The Goonies are innocent; self contained within their small humble town where very little ever happens. And so, it proves tough when trying to defeat an evil mafia family and a corporate organisation wanting to turn their homes in to a giant golf course. Whilst the Stranger Things crowd aren't hunting lost treasure, they are on the hunt for their missing friend whilst at the same time, hiding from a top secret government facility. Furthermore, we can't help but notice a striking resemblance between Stranger Things' underdog, Barb (Shannon Purser) and goonie third wheel, Stef, portrayed by Martha Plimpton.
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Well, that's it for another movie review. With so many films, it was hard to narrow it down to just these. Can you think of any other film references not on this list? What did you think of Stranger Things? As always, I love reading your thoughts so please do leave me lots of lovely comments below. Have a great weekend everyone - let me know what you get up to 

Until next time film fans, 



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20 comments:

  1. There's some good recommendations in here and some I'll definitely check out. I'd also suggest The Poltergiest (the original, not the crappy remake) as I think the relationship between Will and his mum is very similar to the one between the girl from The Poltergiest and her mum.

    Both Stranger Things and The Poltergiest had some heart warming family scenes in it and I thought that just like the scene in The Poltergiest, where they were 'talking through the walls' I definitely got teary eyed! That scene in The Poltergiest (through the TV, but close enough) gets me everytime! x

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    1. Yup - Poltergeist definitely gets an honourable mention in there for all those reasons. Especially with the hands through the wall! x

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  2. I love the breakfast club =]

    emyii90.blogspot.co.uk

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  3. I hadn't even finished the first episode of Stranger Things and I was already hooked! I loved everything about it - so much so that it may have taken the top spot as my favourite show! I haven't seen a few of these so am adding them to my to-watch list straight away. I thoroughly enjoyed reading King's Carrie so can't wait to get around to watching De Palma's original! xx

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    1. Ah you have sooo much to look forward to! It is considered a little dated now but for me it always remains a classic :) xx

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  4. I'm over half way through watching Stranger Things with my dad and it's such a good series! Will defo watch your other recommendations x

    www.wanderergirl.com

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    1. Yay! I'm so glad you like it - I really love it x

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  5. Ahh I love everything on this list! The goonies is my all time fave movie in the world! I drive Tim mad making him watch it with me at weekends! I need to watch Stranger Things, Tonight me thinks!
    Fix Me In Forty Five - A Beauty & Lifestyle Blog
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    xx

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    1. Right there with you! For Christmas, my brother got me a replica map and key from Goonies and it was amazing!! I think you'd really like Stranger Things - I can't wait to hear what you think of it xx

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  6. Many of those films are among my favorites but I haven't actually watched Stranger Things. I've seen references to it on tumblr and the like so I'll watch an episode pretty soon. I've been looking at Mark Kermode's reviews on youtube and I watched Love and Friendship over the weekend (besides watching Suicide Squad whose second part seemed very similar to Ghostbusters 2016). I liked Love and Friendship and I noticed that Kermode was keen on a movie called Tale of Tales (which has some elements of horror -- a poster of the film shows Salma Hayek eating a heart). I was wondering if you've seen the film and if you liked it. It won't come out in the US on disc until September but I was thinking I should keep it on my list of movies to see.

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    1. If I've seen Tale of Tales? I haven't although I've noticed it is available for streaming on Netflix or Amazon now (I can't remember which). Salma Hayek did alot of TV promotion for it over here a little while back.

      Love and Friendship wasn't really my sort of film so gave that one a miss although I've seen a few clips from it.

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  7. Great list! My partner and I were SO bummed when we finished Stranger Things. We love that it was a great homage to 80s horror and had all the classic elements of it, without having to be a remake. Totally refreshing in a time where remakes and reboots of old classics are popping out left and right.

    I love that you mentioned Species because as soon as we got done, we were craving more "horror" and bingewatched Species and Species II.


    www.thesixthlisbon.blogspot.com

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    1. I know! What to do with life now?? Ha that's so awesome - I haven't watched either in a while actually but they're such classics. Definitely need to rewatch and enjoy the awesomeness once more x

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  8. Yesss, totally agree with the Alien, Goonies & Super 8 thing! There's a couple on here I still need to watch so will be adding them to my to-watch list.
    Emily
    www.thebelljarblog.com

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  9. I love all those 80's films!

    Another trippy homage to the 80's worth checking out is "Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)" which also features a great synth music score and an eerily 80's accurate film quality. It's about a girl with ESP named E... Eva.:)

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    1. Oh that sounds really cool - I'll have to check it out :) Thanks for the recommendation

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