Written by Josh Sarnecky
Finished binging Stranger Things but still craving more nostalgia-inducing goodness? Waiting in barely contained anticipation for a second season (which is apparently happening)? Have no fear! We’ve compiled a list of movies, shows, and books that should be sure to please fans of all ages! Some of these stories directly influenced or inspired Netflix’s latest hit, while others capture some of the key elements that made the show so captivating. But all of them should leave you as satisfied as Eleven in an Eggo factory!
Here’s Pop-Break’s recommended watching/reading list for fans of Stranger Things:
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (directed by Steven Spielberg)
- What it’s about: A boy and his siblings befriend an alien and help him return home while evading government agents.
- Why you should watch it: A quintessential classic, this movie is clearly one of the major inspirations behind Stranger Things. Kids riding through town on bikes, shady government agents lurking around, an individual with telekinetic powers that wears a wig and spends time in bathtubs—it’s all here. This film is essentially required watching for fans of the show and the perfect appetizer for those viewers unfamiliar with Hollywood in the ’80s.
‘Salem’s Lot (by Stephen King)
- What it’s about: An author returns to his hometown and begins writing a book about the town’s eerie mansion as residents start vanishing.
- Why you should read it: A small town is shaken by the inexplicable disappearance of a young boy. Sound familiar? While the monsters in Stranger Things and this King novel are quite different, their reigns of terror and the fights to defeat them show distinct similarities. This tale should definitely quench your thirst for horror.
Super 8 (written and directed by J.J. Abrams)
- What it’s about: A group of kids making an amateur film encounter a series of inexplicable events as the U.S. military arrives in their town.
- Why you should watch it: Super 8 is another clear homage to the works of Spielberg (who coproduced this film) during the ’70s and ’80s, but adding a dash of King to recipe certainly gives Stranger Things a different flavor. While these two stories share many of the same ingredients, they are both delectable in their own ways.
- Check out Pop-Break’s review of Super 8.
The X-Files (created by Chris Carter)
- What it’s about: Two FBI special agents attempt to solve mysteries that potentially involve supernatural events and entities.
- Why you should watch it: While the show aired a decade after the events of Stranger Things are set, The X-Files was the most important sci-fi TV show in the ’90s. The show’s exploration of conspiracy theories and monsters make this series an obvious choice for Stranger Things fans looking for something else to sink their teeth into.
- Check out Pop-Break’s list of essential X-Files episodes and our interview with series creator Chris Carter.
Wayward Pines (developed by Chad Hodge)
- What it’s about: A Secret Service agent investigates the disappearance of his coworkers in a small town that he is suddenly unable to leave.
- Why you should watch it: More mysteries in another seemingly quiet town. Those with a taste for paranormal thrillers should sample this Fox show before it potentially returns for a third season. Another draw to this show is that the creators of Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers, wrote several episodes in season one.
- Check out Pop-Break’s interview with executive producer M. Night Shyamalan.
Hidden (written and directed by the Duffer Brothers)
- What it’s about: Following an apocalyptic event, a family must avoid the creatures outside of their shelter.
- Why you should watch it: Not only another supernatural thriller for all of you craving horror movies, Hidden is the first feature-length production created by the Duffer Brothers. Anyone interested in seeing how the twins got their start in the business should give this film a shot.
Firestarter (by Stephen King)
- What it’s about: A father and daughter with mysterious powers attempt to evade the secret government agency that gave them their abilities.
- Why you should read it: While Eleven’s powers may have been borrowed from Carrie, this novel inspired much of Eleven’s backstory. When Eleven’s aunt asks Hopper and Joyce if they’ve read any Stephen King, she is most definitely referring to this book. So if you’re hungry for more government experiments that cause superpowers, look no further.
Pretty in Pink (written by John Hughes)
- What it’s about: A girl from a working class family struggles to establish a relationship with a rich boy in her school.
- Why you should watch it: If you were a fan of the Steve-Nancy-Jonathan love triangle, this movie should whet your romantic appetite. Even for those of us that are Team Jonathan. If you want to see John Hughes in his prime (but have had your fill of The Breakfast Club), this is the cult classic for you.
Poltergeist (story by and cowritten by Steven Spielberg)
- What it’s about: A family must contend with the supernatural forces haunting their house as their daughter is abducted.
- Why you should watch it: Spielberg is not usually known as a master of a horror, but he certainly has delved into the genre multiple times as a producer. While he did not direct the movie, Poltergeist marks one of the filmmaker’s rare forays into screenwriting. That alone makes this horror classic a treat. Moreover, many of the haunted house elements from Stranger Things were likely inspired by this movie.
The Body (by Stephen King) / Stand By Me (directed by Rob Reiner)
- What it’s about: Four young friends search for the body of a missing boy but encounter trouble along the way.
- Why you should read/watch it: Anyone in need of a palette cleanser after so many horror stories should enjoy this novella and its film adaptation (enjoying its thirtieth anniversary this year). Stand By Me was so foundational in crafting the friendship between Will, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas that their actors read lines from the movie during their auditions. This coming-of-age classic should serve as a satisfying conclusion to your journey through the ’80s.