Like many of you, we’ve been bingeing Stranger Things season 3 since it came out in the early hours of 4 July. Spending summertime in Hawkins, Indiana, instead of visiting in the darker autumn months, marks a nice change in tone for the series. Stranger Things season 3 introduces us to new heroes, new villains and even some new settings, including the neon-mad Starcourt Mall.
For the many of you who have sprinted through the new series, we’ve assembled this handy guide with 10 Easter eggs from each episode that you may have missed. Some of them offer clues regarding the plot; some are varyingly tenuous pop-culture references and homages to the time Stranger Things takes place (the mid-’80s). Some are just there for fun (or are they?).
SPOILER WARNING. If you haven’t seen Stranger Things season 3 yet, please stop reading now - bookmark this page and then revisit it after you’ve watched the new season. We have split the guide up, episode by episode, to allow you to explore these Easter Eggs without spoiling too much of what’s yet to happen.
Episode 1: "Suzie, Do You Copy?"
1. The pre-credits scene takes place on the 28th June 1984, about a year before the main events of Stranger Things season 3 kicks off. It shows a group of Russian scientists and military officers trying to open up a dimensional portal with a gigantic laser. The summer of 1984 saw the release of Red Dawn, a film about a Russian invasion into the United States. You do the maths.
2. The tall Russian baddie in the laser hall bears more than a passing resemblance to the mannerisms of a certain Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in The Terminator in 1984, the same year this scene takes place).
3. “Vladimir Schwarzenegger”, as I’ve decided to call him just now, strangles the Russian scientist in exactly the same way as Darth Vader does at the start of Star Wars.
4. When Dustin returns from science camp, he hails his friends with the message: “Gold Leader returning to base.” Gold Leader is Lando Calrissian’s call sign in the Battle of Endor in 1983’s Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
5. At Starcourt Mall, the kids sneak into a screening of George A Romero’s Day of the Dead. As well as placing the episode at the end of June 1985, this is certainly an homage to the fact that composer John Harrison’s score for that film was a clear inspiration for Stranger Things’ opening theme and score.
6. The posters in the cinema include Cocoon, which came out 21 June 1985, and Back to the Future, which came out 3 July 1985. Day of the Dead opened on 28 June 1985, in between those two films.
7. On Eleven’s wall you’ll see posters of a dinosaur and a butterfly, who look suspiciously like Godzilla and Mothra. Millie Bobbie Brown, who plays Eleven, played one of the lead roles in 2019’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
8. Dustin names his radio invention “Cerebro”, a clear nod to the X-Men comics.
9. There are at least two clear references to Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Dustin compares his suspiciously elusive girlfriend Suzie favourably to Phoebe Cates. Cates starred in Fast Times, as did the 1979 Chevy Camaro - the exact same model of car as Billy, our lovable rogue, drives.
10. As Karen is waiting for Billy to emerge poolside, she takes a sip of New Coke. New Coke was a famous rare flop for the Coca-Cola Company, where they launched New Coke in April 1985, but the terrible reception meant it had disappeared again by the end of the summer.
BONUS EGG: The episode features rats flocking en masse into the abandoned mill then writhing about, mutating and eventually exploding. Stephen King’s 1970 short story Graveyard Shift is about mutating rats that inhabit an abandoned basement, where they devour anyone unfortunate enough to wander in. This is not a coincidence.
Episode 2: "The Mall Rats"
1. The way the Mind Flayer ‘takes over’ Billy is a reference to the Facehugger from Alien. There will be more Alien references later on.
2. It is revealed that several people in Hawkins have been taken over by the Mind Flayer. This is a clear reference to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and that movie’s representation of the American fear of a Soviet invasion.
3. In Max’s bedroom we see a poster for John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing. Not only does that establish Max as a film connoisseur (The Thing was still an underground cult favourite at this time after its disastrous cinema release), it is yet another wink and nod to the season’s plot. The Thing, after all, is about a strange parasitic lifeform that takes over its host’s body.
4. Mayor Larry Kline, played in a deliciously scenery-eating style by Cary Elwes, inherits his first name, arrogant mannerisms, his affinity for distracting his subjects with spectacular celebrations, and even his wardrobe, from Larry Vaughn, the mayor from Jaws.
BONUS JAWS: Jim Hopper directly references Jaws' Chief Brody: “I can do anything I want, I’m the chief of police.”
5. Hopper, who we can be seen watching Magnum P.I. in episode one, clearly takes more than just professional inspiration from Tom Selleck’s magnificently moustachioed detective; the rather flamboyant shirt he buys for his dinner date is the same shirt Magnum wears in the show.
6. While Scoops Ahoy is a made-up store, many of the other shops in Starcourt Mall are based on real American mall mainstays of the past, including Orange Julius, Sam Goody and Waldenbooks.
7. The song Scott Clarke, the science teacher, is listening to Weird Al Jankovic’s “My Bologna”, a parody of “My Sharona” by The Knack.
8. Billy’s infected arm looks decidedly like the Deadite poisoning in Evil Dead.
9. Steve discovers that the song from the background of the coded Russian message is played by a funfair ride in Starcourt Mall. The song it plays, “On A Bicycle Built For Two”, may sound familiar to sci-fi fans: it’s the same tune HAL 9000 sings (discordantly) as he’s being turned off in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
10. Great Scott! Science teacher Scott has a model town in his garage, much like Doc in Back to the Future.
Episode 3: "The Case of the Missing Lifeguard"
1. Ralph Macchio, from The Karate Kid, is mentioned. In the episode, Eleven also wears a Karate Kid bandana.
2. The female lifeguard who Billy abducts and ‘infects’ with the Mind Flayer is named Heather. Winona Ryder starred in a 1980s’ film called Heathers. The first girl to die in that film? Her name was Heather.
3. Max exclaims “Gag me with a spoon” when she finds Billy’s Penthouse magazines. This is the correct colloquialism for someone from California (as Max is), as this phrase became trendy among young socialites in San Fernando in the 1980s.
4. Dustin and Steve tail a suspicious person in the mall, only to end up stumbling into an exercise class, filled with women in colourful spandex clothing. This is a “Jazzercise” class, but those were immensely popular in the 1980s, spawning a sexual awakening for many a hormonal teen at the time, as evidenced by Dustin and Steve’s frozen gaze.
5. Billy is a proper metal fan. In his room there’s a poster for the album Filth Hounds of Hades by the band Tank.
6. The name of the shop Kaufman Shoes is likely another nod to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The 1978 remake of that film was directed by Philip Kaufman.
7. There are several Nancy Drew references in this episode, including the Hawkins Post’s enduring bullying of Nancy Wheeler, as well as the episode title itself, “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”, which sounds very much like a Nancy Drew book title.
8. Dustin describes the Russian thug as “tall, blond, not smiling,” a cheeky nod toward Ivan Drago, played by Dolph Lundgren in 1985’s Rocky IV.
9. Weird Al makes another appearance here, now on Dustion’s T-shirt.
10. The pile of magazines in Castle Byers, Will’s fortress of solitude in the forest, is a bunch of Dragon magazines, which contained source material for Dungeons & Dragons games.
Episode 4: "The Sauna Test"
1. Gumby, who Robin and Dustin argue about, is a very stretchy comical clay-mation character from the 1950s. They probably know about him from a sketch Eddie Murphy performed in an early-1980s’ episode of Saturday Night Live.
2. The episode’s name and key plot point, “The Sauna Test”, is another possible reference to The Thing.
3. Doris’s behaviour and fate is eerily similar to an Evil Dead character.
4. The unsuccessful attempt at crawling through a vent may or may not be a reference to Alien and/or Die Hard.
5. The comics El and Max are reading are issue #185 of Green Lantern and issue 326 of Wonder Woman. Perhaps unsurprisingly, El chooses the Wonder Woman issue.
6. Our Russian friend is directly referred to as “Arnold Schwarzenegger”, hammering home the resemblance to The Terminator.
7. The cylinders containing the mysterious green liquid open up in exactly the same way the power cells onboard the Nostromo in Alien do.
8. The liquid itself, apparently highly acidic, can eat through steel, in a way almost identical to the Xenomorph’s blood in Alien.
9. How Billy runs off is very similar to American Werewolf in London. This similarity is enhanced by the prominent hair on his back.
10. The song at the end of the episode is Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.” This same song plays at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire Dr Strangelove.
Episode 5: "The Flayed"
1. In case you thought the Schwarzenegger likeness in our Russian friend is accidental, he eliminates any doubt with the way he fires his gun - it’s almost identical to Ah-nuld’s method in The Terminator.
2. The song that Todd is listening to as he rolls up in his convertible is “Hot Girls in Love” by Loverboy. The wannabe-Miami Vice vibe is enhanced by a suit that is almost certainly lifted straight out of Crockett’s wardrobe from that show.
3. The Russian underground base is very similar to the mostly Russian baddie lairs in Bond films, including the long corridors and the cubelike electric shuttles.
4. There is another possible Bond nod in the phrase “I’ll shoot the daylight out of you.” The Living Daylights sported a tall Russian baddie of few words, just like this episode.
5. There is another Heathers reference here. We discover that our Heather was killed by drinking chemicals, just like the first Heather in Winona Ryder’s 1980s’ film.
6. We see a label for a “Kit Kat Kash” giveaway on the vending machine in the hospital. This was a real competition in 1985, with a top prize of $25,000.
7. The green liquid is quite similar to Prometheum, which is used in the creation of Cyborg in the DC comic.
8. Hopper keeps calling Alexei “Smirnoff”, and while this might simply be a vodka reference, it could also refer to a popular comedian Yakov Smirnoff, a Russian who earned fame in the US by making fun of the Soviet Union. Hopper is an avid TV viewer, so this tracks.
9. There is a mention of Red Dawn, the 1984 film about a Soviet invasion into the United States, echoing the opening of episode one.
10. In the hospital fight scene (which may or may not be a reference to Halloween II in itself), Tom and Bruce morph into a squelchy goo monster. The way that happens is almost certainly a reference to The Thing, as well as The Blob – its visceral 1988 remake even more so than the 1958 original.
Episode 6: "E. Pluribus Unum"
1. The episode title is Latin for “Out of many, one”, which of course refers to the increasingly gigantic monster being built out of an increasing number of Hawkins’ citizens.
2. While Alien 3 didn’t come out until 1992, the scene where the Mind Flayer monster screams within inches of Nancy’s face is a cool reference to the scene where the Xenomorph comes to within nose-touching distance of Ellen Ripley’s face in that film.
3. One of the workers at the 4th of July funfair is wearing a World’s Fair T-shirt. This World’s Fair was held in Knoxville, Tennessee, only a few hours south of the show’s setting in Indiana.
4. The Gravitron featured at the fair was a trendy new introduction to funfairs in the 1980s, essentially a gigantic centrifuge subjecting its passengers to up to 4 Gs’ worth of force as it spun them around. In some of those, the floor would even drop away, leaving the poor unfortunates onboard perched precariously against its outer side. Considering the ride’s entirely unsurprising vomit rate, its blatant disregard for the riders’ basic safety and indeed any sense at all, the Gravitron has unsurprisingly been all-but discontinued today.
5. The Russians calling Hopper “Fat Rambo” is, of course, a reference to Sly Stallone’s heroics in First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II, the latter of which came out in May 1985. It could also be a cheeky nod to actor David Harbour’s 2019 Hellboy film (in which he was anything but fat, mind you).
6. In Murray’s kitchen you can spot a poster for The Conspiracy Stomp, a live performance from 1969, pointing to Murray’s hippie past.
7. “Neutron Dance” by Pointer Sisters plays in Hopper’s car as Alexei ponders driving away from Murray’s house. This song, originally released in 1983, became immensely popular after featuring in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop.
8. The cartoon Alexei is watching at Murray’s house is Woody Woodpecker, which for some reason seems to still be popular in Brazil today, but almost nowhere else.
9. Dustin’s encyclopedic knowledge of My Little Pony, explored in episodes five and six, suggests he is the Original Brony. At this time, My Little Pony had only been shown as animated specials, as the regular series only debuted in 1986, confirming both Dustin and Erica’s nerd cred.
10. The poster behind Murray’s sofa with the slogan “Informed Opinion Counts” was a propaganda poster made by the United States between 1935 and 1943, showing Murray’s affinity for collecting historical paraphernalia.
Episode 7: "The Bite"
1. The fun fair is titled Roane County Fair. As with the town of Hawkins, there is no Roane County in Indiana (although there is one in Tennessee). The makers probably made up a county to prevent would-be travelling fans from descending upon any particular place in Indiana.
2. The Mind Flayer’s attack on the cabin is filled with references to Evil Dead; the deer head on the wall, the extensive use of an axe, and the piece of the Mind Flayer crawling away after being severed off the main monster (á la Ash’s hand).
3. The Mind Flayer is revealed to have a mouth within a mouth, much like H.R. Giger’s iconic Xenomorph in the Alien franchise.
4. After seeing Back to the Future, Steve refers to Michael J Fox as “Alex Keaton”. Alex B Keaton was a character Fox played in the sitcom Family Ties.
5. As Hopper and Joyce enter Indiana, a sign bearing the name of “Robert D. Orr” can be seen. Orr was Indiana’s governor from 1981 to 1989.
6. In the supermarket, we can see a Ghostbusters, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and, perhaps most bizarrely, a Mr T cereal. These were indeed real and popular cereals at the time; in fact, this era saw a huge number of licensed cereals hit the market, to varying success.
7. Spotting movie posters is fun. This time, one of the posters is for 1985 film The Stuff, a horror comedy about a gooey yoghurt-like dessert that devours its consumers. This is not a coincedence.
8. The car on display in Starcourt Mall is (almost definitely) a 1985 Chrysler Lebaron Convertible. Apart from being a convertible, it was an entirely unremarkable car, signifying the hollow spectacle that Starcourt Mall is.
9. When El is blindfolded in the supermarket, she sits directly in front of a freezer full of Eggo waffles, a nice callback to seasons 1 and 2.
10. The arcade we glimpse as the kids flee the Russians is Time Out, which was a famous arcade chain at the time.
Episode 8: "The Battle of Starcourt"
1. El removing the Mind Flayer parasite from her leg is a direct visual reference to Alien and its famous chestburster scene.
2. Dustin assigning the call sign “Griswold family” to the people in Wheeler’s station wagon references National Lampoon’s Vacation from 1983, as a very similar station wagon features in that film.
3. The song Steve and co listen to, “Your Love” by Howard Huntsberry, also features in Ghostbusters II as the heroes save the day in that film.
4. One of Starcourt Mall’s shops is The Gap, which, incidentally offers El, Mike and Max an important, er, gap to escape the Mind Flayer and get out of Starcourt Mall. No, this isn’t tenuous. YOU’RE tenuous.
5. The newscast on the TV starts with a shot of a clocktower, which is approximately nod #129 to Back to the Future in this series.
6. If you feel like you know Keith at the Family Video store, you’re right. He appeared in Season 2, except then he worked at the arcade.
7. One of the three films Robin counts as her favourites is Hidden Fortress. This 1958 film by Akira Kurosawa was one of George Lucas’ biggest influences for Star Wars.
8. The song Dustin and Suzie sing oh so beautifully together over the radio is of course the theme song from the 1984 film The NeverEnding Story.
9. At the video store we can spot a Firestarter poster. Firestarter, of course, was a big influence for the creation of Eleven’s character, most prominently so in season 1.
10. Fittingly, the cardboard cutout Steve stumbles into is the frequently mentioned Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
These aren’t nearly all the Easter Eggs featured across the eight episodes of Stranger Things 3. Which ones can you add? Tell us in the comments!
Want more Stranger Things in your life? Be sure to read sister site SFX's big interview with Millie Bobby Brown.