10 Brilliant Details In Stranger Things You Might Have Missed
1. Barb’s fate was foreshadowed early on
For a show about children in mortal danger, not too many kids actually die. One of the only exceptions is poor Barb, who was rewarded for her concern and friendship with a one-way trip to the Upside Down. We don’t actually see Barb’s corpse until the final episode, but her body’s location was hinted at several episodes beforehand.
When Nancy is first looking for her friend, she quickly realizes that Barb’s mother has no idea where her daughter is, so she has to make up a quick cover story.
Nancy had no way of knowing, but she was exactly right. When Hopper and Joyce journey into the Upside-Down to find Will, they stumble across a dead Barb… in the library.
Stranger Things is pretty damned crafty when it comes to the art of subtle foreshadowing, but its movie reference game is on another level.
2. Very specific callouts to Spielberg’s Jaws
The influence of director Steven Spielberg on Stranger Things is so palpable you could raise it as a child that would later run away from home to have adventures on its own. It’s not just all the lingering shots of characters struck with awe, either — the homages go down to props and costuming.
For instance: Hopper’s police vehicle is straight out of Jaws, down to the stripe and plain font. Look closer at Hopper’s uniform and you’ll notice that the patch that Stranger Things’ officers wear on their shoulders strongly resemble those worn by Sheriff Brody in Spielberg’s first blockbuster.
The inspiration is clear, but there’s still one burning question left unanswered: Who’s hotter?
3. A lingering thread falls back into place
If you haven’t been doing so already in preparation of season two, Stranger Things definitely rewards rewatchers. Little details that seem like part of the background will suddenly click, and it becomes easier to appreciate the show as a whole rather than a series of discrete, bingeable episodes.
I’ll show you what I mean. In the first episode, we are introduced to Eleven walking through the woods in a ratty gown. This is what she was wearing when she escaped the Hawkins facility. What’s important here is that we pan up from her feet, seeing a noticeable tear in the fabric.
When you’re first watching it you probably thought nothing of it. Why would you? But a piece of cloth matching that shape turns up in the next episode, when the police are searching for Will.
It’s not a world-shaking revelation, but continuity moments like these give you the feeling that it’s worth paying attention to the little things in this universe.
4. The ET References go even deeper than you thought
If there’s one movie that Stranger Things owes its existence to, it’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The whole “coming-of-age story about a strange visitor befriending a group of young people in a suburb while being chased by government agents” trope was more or less invented back in 1982.
Most of the similarities between ET and ST are easy to spot. There’s the way that Eleven wears a dress, much like the stubby alien in Spielberg’s classic. Then there’s the exciting adults vs kids bicycle chase, which Stranger Things puts its own twist on:
But there are a few details that take the connections between the movie and the show a few layers deeper.
You might remember that when Eleven is left alone in Mike’s house for the first time, she has a powerful, mystified moment with a television. You might also remember that ET has the same experience.
Beyond the “stranger in a strange land” antics, it seems as though the kids in both the ET and ST universe have the same taste in pizza.
Did I mention that both ET and Stranger Things open with kids eating sausage and pepperoni pizza while playing Dungeons and Dragons?
Adding to the Jaws wardrobe similarities, Mike’s little sister Holly is dressed up in what’s more or less an inverted version of the outfit Drew Barrymore’s character wears in ET.
This might be obvious in retrospect, but when Will is talking to his mother from the Upside Down, the lights tell her that he’s “right here” — which is more than a little reminiscent of that classic ending in ET.
The dialogue might be the same, but the emotional and thematic contexts are just a tad different.
5. Hopper’s touching keepsake was with us all along
There’s a lot we still don’t know about Sheriff Hopper. It was only in the last episode of the first season that we got a fleshed-out glimpse at his past. Once upon a time, he was married with a daughter. When we first see her, the little girl suddenly runs out of breath in the park. It’s easy to miss, but her pigtails are held in place by blue ribbons.
When we see her in the next flashback, Hopper’s daughter is deep into cancer treatment. Look closely and you can see Hopper is wearing his daughter’s blue ribbon around his wrist.
When we open the series, the girl has already passed on, but her dad is still wearing that bracelet.
In case there was any doubt, actor David Harbor confirmed this detail in an interview:
The blue bracelet on my right wrist is actually one of my daughter’s hair ribbons, which she wears in the flashback that he took after her hair fell out. And in the first scene, when he wakes up, he touches it. It’s the first thing he touches every day just to make sure to always remember her.
This might be one of the most devastating easter eggs in anything ever.
Let’s move onto something a little bit lighter.
6. The X-Men Connection
The 80s movie references in Stranger Things are usually pretty easy to spot, but the show makes some deep cuts into comic book territory, too. Early in the first episode, the kids call out to a very specific issue of X-Men.
Marvel diehards know this issue one of the turning points for Jean Grey, the telekinetic powerhouse who’s struggling against a malevolent deity. Sounds kinda familiar.
The parallels get even more explicit. In the issue, Jean Grey slams an enemy against the wall with her powers and pins him there — just like Eleven does to the monster.
If Eleven is Jean Grey, then Hopper would probably Wolverine, Mike would be Cyclops and that diner guy who gets shot in the first episode would be Morph. Okay, maybe this isn’t the best analogy.
7. Eleven walks this way
This is a tiny detail, but in a way that makes you admire the production team’s attention to detail. As we mentioned earlier, we first see Eleven walking in the forest:
Much later, when Eleven is in the sensory deprivation tank, she walks through the black void with what appears to be the exact same saunter. Check out the way she rolls her right foot.
You might guess that Eleven is walking this way because in both contexts she’s in a strange foreign world she’s never known and exploring with trepidation. Or maybe Millie Bobbie Brown’s foot still hurts from stepping on a Lego.
8. Mike and Eleven hold hands as they run away from the bad guys in the finale
That’s all, really. I just thought it was nice.
9. Nods to Nightmare on Elm Street
Okay, here’s the last movie reference rundown we’ll do. As much as Stranger Things might owe to childhood favorite 80s movies, the tinge of horror adds a nice edge over something like The Goonies.
One of the biggest inspirations has to be Nightmare on Elm Street. Remember how the monster in Stranger Things clawed at the wall before bursting through? It’s strongly reminiscent of a similar scene in Freddy Krueger’s initial killing spree.
A cheekier, more direct shout-out comes during the big bike chase. Over the walkie-talkies, the kids agree to meet at a certain location — “Elm and Cherry.” As in, Elm Street.
Seconds after this exchange, the gang runs into girls playing pattycake, disrupting their fun. The proximity to the Elm Street callout makes it seem like the similarity to Nightmare’s jumprope girls isn’t a coincidence.
In 2017, Netflix abandoned all pretense and straight-up made a Nightmare on Elm Street-inspired poster for Stranger Things ahead of the new season.
At a certain point, the endless homages become a little refreshing. The sheer amount of references basically acknowledges the idea that nothing is new and we’re all watching the same stories over and over again. Only you know, instead of fighting monsters in their dreams, sometimes heroes have to plunge into a hellish alternate helldimension.
10. The opening minutes of the episode spoils the whole season
Dungeons and Dragons forms the basis for a lot of the fantastical elements in Stranger Things, giving us a sort of baseline example to understand some of the concepts and characters. Eleven flips the board to the black side to explain the nature of the Upside-Down, and the kids aren’t shy about comparing the real-world monster to the double-headed Demogorgon of their tabletop game.
But packed into that first gaming scene are tons of hints about what’s to come. Here’s Mike’s first lines of the series:
Okay sure, that’s appropriately ominous for a show about killer monsters, but the mention of blood is important here. Remember, sensing blood is how the monster finds its victims in the real world. That’s how it found Barb at the pool.
You could argue that the whole season is laid out in that fateful DnD game. Like when the Demogorgon approaches in the game, Will hastily decides to use a fireball.
He only rolls a 7 (he needed a 13), but Will’s older brother had better luck at the end of the series when he lights the monster ablaze. A fireball of a different kind, but a fireball all the same.
If you want to take it further, you could say that when the dice go rolling off the table and the gang starts frantically searching for the results, that might foreshadow their fruitless quest to find Will. Fruitless, I say, because Will knows he was already taken.
The way the first season was set up, it almost makes you think you should really pay attention to the opening minutes of season two. Or you can fast forward 10 minutes, if you want to avoid spoilers.
Have any favorite details we missed? Let us know!