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Stranger Things season 4 release date, plot, theories, and everything else you need to know about the Netflix series

Stranger Things season 4
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix has confirmed Stranger Things season 4 will be rolling onto our screens at some stage in the future. And, considering how the excellent Stranger Things 3 managed to break records for the streaming giant, that's no surprise. The bigger questions concern what form Stranger Things season 4 will take. 

Ross and Matt Duffer, the twin brothers who created the series, will once again take the creative reins (writing and directing some of the episodes, as well as overseeing the entire season), ably assisted by long-serving right-hand man Sean Levy. We can also expect a return for the vast majority of the key cast – even one character who seemingly died in season 3 but has been confirmed alive.

So it’s time to set your time circuits for the '80s as we round-up all the key info on Stranger Things season 4, including potential release date, plot details, and cast members, as well as some juicy rumours. And remember, as well as keeping an eye out for creatures from the Upside Down, you should also beware of potential spoilers for Stranger Things season 4 – there’ll be plenty ahead.

Latest update: A new Stranger Things season 4 filming location has been revealed! Read more in the "plot" section.

Fast Facts:

  • Stranger Things season 4 release date: TBC
  • Stranger Things season 4 directors: TBC, though the roster will almost definitely include the Duffer brothers and Shawn Levy
  • Stranger Things season 4 cast (probable): Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Cara Buono, David Harbour
  • Stranger Things season 4 writers: TBC, but expect the Duffer brothers to write the lion’s share of the season

Stranger Things season 4 release date

Stranger Things season 4 release date

(Image credit: Netflix)

There's still no confirmation on a Stranger Things season 4 release date. However, there are a few clues out there that hint when the hit show might return to Netflix.

The show has already begun filming, as confirmed by Netflix and the Duffer Brothers in a press release. Seeing as season 3 went before the cameras in April 2018 for a July 2019 launch, a similar 15-month production schedule would see the new season landing in June 2021.

The three previous seasons launched in July 2016, October 2017, and July 2019, respectively. The increasing gap between seasons (15 months between seasons 1 and 2, 21 months between seasons 2 and 3) potentially hints at a slightly earlier 2021 release. That said, if the show instead sticks to a rigid July/October launch pattern, we could be looking at an October 2020 debut, though that looks unlikely.

But zeroing in on the interval between seasons may not be as important as it initially appears. With seasons 2 and 3 having pegged their storylines and launches to important holidays (Halloween and Independence Day, respectively), it’s a good bet that the Stranger Things season 4 release date will tie into another holiday – such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. In fact, Inverse posits a theory that the season 3 finale seeded a clue about season 4’s setting – when Mike suggests to Eleven (who’s leaving town with the Byers family) that she should come back to Hawkins for Christmas. Could Netflix be giving us something special to unwrap on Christmas Day 2020?

Stranger Things season 4 trailer

Following some Twitter teases, Stranger Things season 4 was officially confirmed (to no-one's surprise) with a teaser trailer that featured the season 4 logo being strangled by the living vines of the Upside Down. It also has a clock chiming. The video concludes with the message, "We're not in Hawkins anymore." Can we expect the curtain to be drawn back on the Upside Down's secrets? 

Then, in February 2020, a second trailer arrived, confirming a very important return... Hopper's alive! After perishing at the end of season 3, the Duffer brothers have confirmed that David Harbour's character will be back.

"We’re excited to officially confirm that production on Stranger Things 4 is now underway – and even more excited to announce the return of Hopper," they said in a statement. "Although it’s not all good news for our 'American'; he is imprisoned far from home in the snowy wasteland of Kamchatka, where he will face dangers both human... and other. Meanwhile, back in the states, a new horror is beginning to surface, something long-buried, something that connects everything….

 "Season 4 is shaping up to be the biggest and most frightening season yet, and we cannot wait for everyone to see more. In the meantime -- pray for the American."

Netflix has also unveiled a look at the cast doing a table read, the video confirming a few big names will return. Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Noah Schnapp (Will), Finn Wolfhard (Mike), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), and Caleb McLaughin (Lucas), Winona Ryder (Joyce), Sadie Sink (Max), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan), Natalia Dyer (Nancy) are all present, as expected. 

Cara Buono (Karen) and the season-stealing Maya Hawke (Robin) will return. Then there’s a bald-headed David Harbour (Hopper), presumably fresh off his excursion to Mother Russia.

Stranger Things season 4 episode count and titles

Stranger Things season 4 episode count

(Image credit: Netflix)

Reports have circulated that Stranger Things season 4 will be eight episodes long, which would be consistent with seasons 1 and 3, though one episode behind season 2. The show's producers have not confirmed the report, though we're hopeful for more rather than less.

More interesting is the title of episode one. Yes, we've had confirmation on the name of the Stranger Things season 4 premiere, all thanks to the show's official writers Twitter account. The episode is titled "The Hellfire Club," and alongside the image, a message reads: "Looking for new members... are you in?"

The Hellfire Club is a group of villains who have faced off against the X-Men numerous times, including on the big screen in X-Men: First Class. In that movie, the Hellfire Club is led by Sebastian Shaw, played by Kevin Bacon. Of course, the Stranger Things kids will not have seen that movie, but they will have read the comics. 

The Hellfire Club, filled with wealthy and influential individuals looking to manipulate world events for their own benefit, debuted in the 1980 comic Uncanny X-Men #129. At one stage, Jean Grey, overtaken by Phoenix, joins the club. 

Numerous commentators have drawn comparisons between Eleven and Jean Grey. Could the telepathic teenager be about to break bad? We should also take note of the writers' comments that they're "Looking for new members." We know that the Byers family are moving away from Hawkins – could the kids be forming a new club in a new city? Perhaps with some new cast members? More on that below...

Stranger Things season 4 plot

Stranger Things season 4 plot

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Soviets’ involvement in season 3 was kept under wraps until the episodes dropped on Netflix, so don’t expect any major revelations about the Stranger Things season 4 plot for a good while yet. One of the most important questions we have right now, however, concerns when the new season will be set. Not just the month – as we’ve discussed above – but also the year. 

The first three seasons have been set in November 1983, October 1984 and July 1985, respectively, so it would be continuing an established pattern if Stranger Things season 4 took place the following year, in 1986. But we wouldn’t be surprised if the show gave 1986 a miss entirely and jumped straight on to 1987.

Why? It’s not that we’ve got anything against the year that brought us Top Gun and Aliens – and both would clearly be ripe for the sort of Easter egg treatment Back to the Future received in season 3. Instead, this theory owes more to the fact that the teenage cast are ageing significantly faster in real-life than they are in the show. 

Although only 20 months have passed in Hawkins time since the story began for Eleven, Mike, Dustin and the rest, the actors have aged more than three years in the real world – and it’ll be at least another 18 months before we see them in action again. Increasing the in-show gap between seasons would be a good way to address the stars getting older – especially as Shawn Levy says the show’s creative team can’t work make episodes any quicker. 

Stranger Things season 4 cast

(Image credit: Netflix)

“Probably once a week we say to ourselves we really should work faster,” Levy told GamesRadar+’s sister publication SFX ahead of season three. “Then within moments we realise, ‘Oh wait, we’re working at the speed we can work at.’ However much we resolve to work more quickly, it takes what it takes to do it right. Because we’re not really able to change the pace it’s a reason why we simply embrace the evolution of our actors – we don’t have an option.”

Whatever year Stranger Things season 4 is set, the biggest mystery in Hawkins surrounds Jim Hopper’s status. Of course, we already know the "American" will be back, but Eleven and the gang do not. How they will deal with his inevitable return remains to be seen.

Stranger Things season 4: Hopper

(Image credit: Netflix)

Murray Bauman, the Russian-speaking conspiracy theorist who played a key role in season 3 (and who has been bumped up to a regular cast member for season 4), hinted that he knows something about his best frenemy’s whereabouts. Because, as CNET revealed, if you call his home phone number (618-625-8313, according to the show) you receive the following answerphone message:

“Hi, you have reached the residence of Murray Bauman. Mom, if this is you, please hang up and call me between the hours of 5 and 6pm as previously discussed, okay? If this is Joyce: Joyce, thank you for calling, I have been trying to reach you. I have an update. It’s about... well, it’s probably best if we speak in person. It’s not good or bad, but it’s something.”

Reports have indicated that season 4 will film in New Mexico, home to the likes of Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and a certain major conspiracy theory…

“This is the first time the show will be travelling beyond Atlanta,” Netflix’s Momita SenGupta said of the decision to film in New Mexico, while also promising that the move means the show will be “bigger, bolder and more intricate than ever.”

So, why is Stranger Things upping sticks? It’s almost definitely spoiler-related. “If I told you that, I would be disappearing into the Witness Protection Program,” SenGupta said when asked about the New Mexico scenes. Those of you who know their UFO history, though, can point to at least one major location of interest in New Mexico: Roswell, where evidence of aliens was reportedly spotted in 1947. The event grew in prominence in the late 1970s-early 1980s. Perhaps Bauman will go exploring?

Expect Stranger Things season 4 to also explore how Eleven is coping now that her telekinetic powers have deserted her – and also how she’s dealing with life after Hopper, living with the Byers in a new (as-yet unrevealed) town. While we’re pretty much certain that Stranger Things season 4 will find some way of bringing Eleven, Joyce, Jonathan and Will back to Hawkins at some point, Noah Schnapp (who plays Will) suggested in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that the story may hook up with him in a new location: “I know that I might have a separate storyline from everyone else, so we might be filming, like, in another place.” 

Ross Duffer appeared to echo this idea in Entertainment Weekly: “I think the biggest thing that’s going to happen [in the new season] is it’s going to open up a little bit, not necessarily in terms of scale, in terms of special effects, but open up in terms of allowing plotlines into areas outside of Hawkins.” 

Stranger Things season 4: Starcourt team

(Image credit: Netflix)

Now, seeing as the first episode of Stranger Things season 4 is titled "The Hellfire Club" and the writers are asking, "Looking for new members... are you in?" it seems fair enough to say the premier will focus on the Byers making new friends wherever they end up. We also have word that the showrunners are looking to cast an "entitled jock,” a “metalhead” and even a stoner, which all sound like members of an '80s gang of drop-out students. Colour us intrigued. 

Of course, “areas outside of Hawkins” could mean the Byers’ new home or, just as feasibly, more trips to the Soviet Union – after going to the effort of building that colossal base under the Starcourt Mall, it’s unlikely Communist forces be disappearing any time soon. Indeed, Duffer could even be referring to the mysterious world of the Upside Down – over the course of three seasons we’ve spent very little time there and we know even less about it.

“No one really knows what the Upside Down is, we just know what comes from it, like Demogorgons and like the Mind Flayer,” Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas, told Entertainment Weekly. “But the Upside Down is an alternate dimension of our world. Our world is so big so there’s more than just Demodogs, and Demogorgons and Mind Flayers, so no one really knows.”

Perhaps not even the Duffers, it seems, as Levy readily admitted to SFX back in June that “we don’t really follow some overarching road map. Every year we end up exploring things that interest us in that moment, and that means we don’t plan everything.”

“We don’t know a lot [about Stranger Things season 4], but we do know a lot of the big broad strokes,” Ross Duffer told Entertainment Weekly in July. “At the end of season two, we knew about Billy [Hargrove]. We knew that the Russians were going to come in. We didn’t know the mall and stuff, but again, we know these big broad strokes. That’s sort of where we are in season 4. We have the big broad strokes. It’s just now about filling in those lines in the details. We’re pretty excited about where it’s potentially going to go. It’s going to feel very different than this season. But I think that’s the right thing to do and I think it’ll be exciting.”

No confirmation as yet, but Stranger Things season 4 could even be the last ever for the show, as it’s still undecided when the curtain will come down on Hawkins for the final time. “Those conversations are very much ongoing,” Levy teased in SFX back in June. “I think all we’ve sealed is that we anticipate a fourth for sure. As far as the life of our show beyond that goes I’ll simply tell you that we don’t have complete clarity and certainty yet, but we adore this show and telling these stories, and it’s not like anyone is looking to be done with it in the very near future. I’ll just say stay tuned on that front.”

Stranger Things season 4 cast

Stranger Things season 4 swimming pool

(Image credit: Netflix)

While the accountants at Netflix will probably be tearing their hair out at the thought of finding money to pay a massive ensemble of stars who’ll be considerably more expensive than they were as unknowns back in 2016, don’t expect too many changes in the Stranger Things season 4 cast. Though we’ve probably seen the last of Dacre Montgomery as Billy (even in a sci-fi show it’s tricky coming back from being repeatedly impaled by a monster) we’d be surprised if any of the Hawkins regulars were missing, something which has been confirmed by a cast reading video. 

Finn Wolfhard (Mike), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), Sadie Sink (Max), Natalia Dyer (Nancy), Joe Keery (Steve), Cara Buono (Karen), Winona Ryder (Joyce), Noah Schnapp (Will), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan) and, of course, Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven) are all back. as is David Harbour's Hopper. Maya Hawke (Robin) has been confirmed to return. 

“I wanna see [Robin] at the video store,” star Hawke told Consequence of Sound. “So many of the great minds of the ’80s and ‘80s filmmakers and creatives started out working in video stores, and as far as I know, that environment hasn’t really been explored on TV. I think that would be really fun.” Anything that allows for more scenes between Steve and Robin is okay with us…

We haven't seen the last of the brilliant Brett Gelman as Murray Bauman, either – now a season regular. And after the briefest of wordless cameos in the season 3 finale, Paul Reiser’s Dr Sam Owens will surely have a role to play next time out.

And Lucas’s little sister Erica was such a key player in the assault on Starcourt Mall that Priah Ferguson will surely be back, while fellow breakout star  must also be a cert for a return in Stranger Things season 4.

Perhaps the most interesting game to play, however, is speculating on which icon of ’80s cinema will follow in the footsteps of Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, Paul Reiser, Sean Astin, and Cary Elwes by taking a Stranger Things season 4 role. Judge Reinhold? Molly Ringwald? Matthew Broderick? Pee-wee Herman? If the Duffers wanted to get truly meta, they could draft in Explorers and Dead Poets Society star Ethan Hawke – who also happens to be Maya Hawke’s dad. Though that might break the internet.

There's also been word of new casting calls. TVLine reveals that four new characters are set to arrive in Hawkins, Indiana – and beyond. All of the purported new Stranger Things season 4 characters are male, while three are teenagers that come straight out of the ‘80s production line of John Hughes movies. There’s an “entitled jock,” a “metalhead” and even a stoner.

Elsewhere, an older possible newcomer has certain “characteristics” that mean he could factor into the Russian storyline glimpsed in the Stranger Things season 3 post-credits scene. While none of these have been confirmed, it all sounds very interesting. 

The movies influencing Stranger Things season 4

Stranger Things season 4 influence

(Image credit: Netflix)

As per the “Stranger Writers” account on Twitter, the writers' room have been looking at five films in particular for inspiration: The Peanut Butter Solution, The Fisher King, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, You’ve Got Mail, and Ordinary People.

While each could be a red herring or just something discussed in terms of a particularly minor plot point, the selection still offers a glimpse at the thematic qualities in Stranger Things season 4.

Interestingly, a handful of these (The Fisher King, Ordinary People) deal with life in the big city and involve coping with traumatic events, including deaths and suicide. With the first season 4 teaser outright saying, “We’re not in Hawkins anymore,” each could be a touchstone for how the Byers family deals with life outside Indiana.

Meanwhile, The Peanut Butter Solution is perhaps a more obscure reference point: it features plenty of fantasy horror, as well as an older authority figure exploiting children for his own end – much like Eleven’s origins. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey may be the most recognisable, though, and also the most interesting. That’s because it contains time travel and is also delightfully ‘80s in terms of its big hair, big ballads, and even bigger fantastical scope, despite being released in 1991.

And You’ve Got Mail? It’s a Tom Hanks romantic comedy about two business rivals who find love with each other on an online chatroom. Uhh. We’ve got nothing.

Want more Stranger Things? Why not take a look at the best season 3 merchandise, direct from Hawkins, Indiana.