This article is filled with Stranger Things season 4 spoilers! We have a spoiler free review here.
To help you avoid spoilers, we’ve separated this guide by episode.
Are you the type of Stranger Things viewer who likes to spot things in the background of each shot, like movie posters or toys that evoke nostalgia for the ’80s? The production designer and others behind the scenes of the much-beloved Netflix series take great pains to make each prop historically accurate, and the writers make sure that any reference uttered by the characters is something someone from that decade would actually say.
As we did for season 2 and season 3, we’ve collected here all of the Easter eggs that you may or may not have noticed sprinkled throughout Stranger Things season 4. We’ve arranged the list by episode so that you can follow along as you view each particular installment. Feel free to point out anything that we may have missed in the comments below, and we’ll add it to the article.
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 1: “The Hellfire Club”
“El is bullied at school. Joyce opens a mysterious package. A scrappy player shakes up D&D night.”
In the newspaper we see Dr. Brenner reading in 1979, we can see four horoscopes, two of which contradict the other two. The first two are advising keeping one’s ideas to oneself, while the other two are advising seeking input from others. All seem to be about “clever thoughts,” “fantastic” ideas, and “ingenious plans.” Interestingly, “idea” is also one of the crossword puzzle answers. What does it all mean? Uhhh…you tell us?
Elsewhere in the flashback to 1979, the young test subject known as Ten uses a Magic 8 Ball to answer an inquiry from Dr. Brenner. This toy was widely available in the ’70s and would experience a resurgence in popularity in the ’80s, although not until a year after the events of this season when Tyco Toys purchased the rights in 1987.
The test that Dr. Brenner gives Ten to test his precog abilities feels a little bit like the (rigged) flash card test that Peter Venkman gives a hapless college student at the start of Ghostbusters. But less cruel. Of course, then everything goes off the rails.
Although we only see El’s hero diorama being presented in class, Will is seen carrying into school a poster board emblazoned with the name Alan Turing, the British scientist who despite his heroics in World War II was prosecuted for his homosexuality and chemically castrated.
The Evil Dead
A poster for The Evil Dead adorns Jonathan’s room. Released in 1981, this Sam Raimi-directed cult horror classic would lead to Evil Dead II in 1987, Army of Darkness in 1992, and a lifetime of Bruce Campbell cameos in Raimi superhero movies. It also plays into the Nightmare on Elm Street vibes of this season. The first Evil Dead movie is playing on a TV in the first Nightmare on Elm St. movie, itself a response to how Sam Raimi put a torn poster for Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes in the background of the workshed in Evil Dead!
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Steve reassures Robin that her crush would welcome her advances given that she returned Fast Times at Ridgemont High to the video store paused at 53 minutes 9 seconds. This, as you might have guessed, is the moment in the 1982 film when the character played by Phoebe Cates removes her red bikini top in a memorable dream sequence.
- When we first meet Eddie Munson (think the name’s similarity to Eddie Munster is a coincidence?), we hear “I Was a Teenage Werewolf” by The Cramps playing. We hear their version of “Fever” a few minutes later, too. Yes, that’s common knowledge in the soundtrack list, but people should be listening to The Cramps all the time (but especially around Halloween) so we figured we’d shout it out here.
- Eddie’s jacket is repping bands like Motorhead, WASP, and with a truly awesome Dio backpatch. Former Black Sabbath and Rainbow singer Ronny James Dio’s solo albums had some truly legendary Dungeons & Dragons type album covers, so it figures that Eddie is a big fan. The freaks always have the best taste in music.
The Hellfire Club
- The Hellfire Club is a name with plenty of historical significance, but in the context of Stranger Things, it probably means more as an X-Men comics reference. Both the comics and historical Hellfire Club involved the elites of society, so Eddie has a fun sense of humor naming his club of outcasts that, even as it plays on the “satanic panic” around D&D. But the X-Men’s Hellfire Club were a key factor in Jean Grey’s Dark Phoenix story, and considering how often Stranger Things has flirted with those elements in Eleven’s story, they’re probably having some fun with us, too.
- Eddie reads to The Hellfire Club an article from Newsweek regarding the dangers of teens becoming obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons. The cover appears to be from the March 3, 1986 issue picturing Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and including a reference to the space shuttle Challenger disaster just three months earlier: “NASA’s Fatal Mistake.” The article in question, however, was probably adapted from a September ’85 Newsweek piece entitled, “Kids: The Deadliest Game” about the perils of D&D.
Steve and Robin still work at Family Video, a popular video rental store which only just closed its doors (and its online store) for good in March of this year.
In the phone booth at Hawkins High, someone has scrawled the graffiti, “E.T., phone home!” This joke referencing the classic 1982 Spielberg film was probably already getting old in 1986.
Dustin has mastered the art of referencing Star Wars when, in attempting to vanquish Vecna in their D&D campaign with a perfect roll of 20, he quotes Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back to his fellow Hellfire Club members: “Never tell me the odds!”
Captain of the basketball team Jason Carver calls out to head cheerleader, girlfriend, and tragic Vecna victim Chrissy Cunningham. Cunningham was the surname of the central family in the similarly nostalgia-obsessed Happy Days, whose idyllic portrayal of 1950s life was still in constant re-runs when Stranger Things takes place. Wait, is Stranger Things our Happy Days? We’re in trouble. And, perhaps coincidentally, Jason bears at least a passing resemblance to Ron Howard’s Richie Cunningham from Happy Days.
Nightmare on Elm St.
For our younger readers, kids getting tormented in their dreams and subconscious by a horribly disfigured, shadowy foe, whose harm that is done to them in their minds manifests on the physical plane as well, is straight out of the Freddy Krueger handbook from the Nightmare on Elm Street movies.
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 2: “Vecna’s Curse”
“A plane brings Mike to California – and a dead body brings Hawkins to a halt. Nancy goes looking for leads. A shaken Eddie tells the gang what he saw.”
Upon meeting Mike Wheeler, Argyle asks him if his colorful shirt is “Ocean Pacific.” The stoner should have probably called it “O.P.,” as the brand was often referred to at the time, but regardless, the beach-inspired clothing line was very popular in the ’80s.
The cab driver at LAX appears to have a Hulk Hogan trading card hanging from his rearview mirror. Hulkster is wearing blue trunks there, which wasn’t his more famous yellow-and-red look he had adopted by 1986.
The Last Dragon
Working at a video store, Robin and Steve are bound to reference many movies of the ’80s, but one poster made a particularly splashy background in this episode: 1985’s The Last Dragon, a martial arts comedy cult classic.
Mike, Will, and Eleven visit a roller rink called Rink-O-Mania in Lenora Hills. Though still decently popular today, the musical skating locations were a much bigger deal in the ‘80s.
Of course, a bunch of mean girls messing with an awkward telekinetic isn’t going to end well for them, even if her powers are currently dormant. The Carrie vibes are strong in this scene, from the increasing public humiliation to something being dumped on poor Eleven, in this case a chocolate milkshake. At least it isn’t animal blood.
Robin wants Steve to watch Doctor Zhivago with her, but Steve shuns movies on “double VHS.” Because most standard play VHS tapes held 120-160 minutes, the 1966 film’s 3 hour runtime would have necessitated switching tapes at some point, a thankless procedure in the pre-DVD ’80s era.
Family Video is well-stocked with the classics of its era, though, from early Tom Hanks flick The Man With One Red Shoe, to schlock-horror Basket Case, and with prominent displays for rental mainstays like Gremlins, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and National Lampoon’s European Vacation.
In the afterglow of their basketball victory and the festivities afterwards, the team awakens to the news of the murder, but Jason would rather watch Thundercats, a classic Saturday morning cartoon which had just begun the previous September, 1985. Jason was ahead of the curve!
Misfits of Science
One of Max’s flashbacks in this episode shows her watching television when a young pre-Friends Courtney Cox appears on the screen. Max was likely watching Misfits of Science, a one-season wonder in 1985-86 in which Cox played a telekinetic girl named Gloria. Very Eleven-like!
Cheech and Chong
Robin is able to track down Reefer Rick through his rental history at the video store. The list not only includes the aforementioned Fast Times at Ridgemont High but also several Cheech and Chong movies, most of which were known for their weed-centric storylines. The pair had just released their final movie together in 1985, Get Out of My Room, but they would still be popular among the stoner set in the ‘80s.
Eddie Munsen’s father likens Victor Creel to Michael Myers of Halloween, the 1979 film which already had two sequels by 1986. His comparison is ironic given that Creel is played by actor Robert Englund, famous for playing Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street, a different ‘80s horror franchise.
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 3: “The Monster and the Superhero”
“Murray and Joyce fly to Alaska, and El faces serious consequences. Robin and Nancy dig up dirt on Hawkins’ demons. Dr. Owens delivers sobering news.”
Dustin claims he hacked into the police’s primitive online database with the help of Cerebro. Cerebro is, of course, the fictional device that X-Men founder Professor Charles Xavier uses to enhance his psychic powers and detect mutants from a distance.
Will and Mike are seen watching the animated Star Wars series Ewoks on TV. The show ran from 1985 until 1987, so this particular spin-off cartoon was just getting started. We’re guessing it doesn’t count as SWEU canon, though. Although…that theme tune is low key great and was performed by blues legend Taj Mahal!
Police Academy 3
According to Jonathan, Police Academy 3 is now in theaters. Indeed the release date for the film was March 21, 1986, the very same day that marks the beginning of this season back in episode 1. Mike and company don’t want to go see it, which is probably the right move as the third entry into the Police Academy franchise was not particularly well received (for the record, we do not agree).
This episode marks the first reference to Watergate (albeit it will become a more literal reference later on). Perhaps the scandal is a point of focus in history class at Hawkins High School. 1986 was an election year but not a presidential election year.
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 4: “Dear Billy”
“Max is in grave danger…and running out of time. A patient at Pennhurst asylum has visitors. Elsewhere in Russia, Hopper is hard at work.”
Erica notes that if Lucas expects him to cover for him for another week, he’s going to have to get her a Nintendo…WITH Duck Hunt. The classic light gun shooter game was released in April 1984.
Nancy has a Tom Cruise poster in her room. The now-60-year-old actor would be just weeks away from appearing in 1986’s Top Gun but was already a heartthrob due to his now iconic underwear dancing scene in 1983’s Risky Business.
Yuri likens Hopper to Steve McQueen “The Cooler King”. This is referring to McQueen’s classic character Virgil Hilts from The Great Escape about an American who never stopped trying to escape a German prison camp.
Billy Hargrove’s Grave
Interestingly, Billy’s grave reads as his full name “William Hargrove” and not “Billy Hargrove.” This is significant because in the first full trailer for season 4, there were shots featuring both the William and Billy spellings, suggesting one of them could have been as part of a dream sequence.
Ponch and John
Charlie calls the government guards who set up shop in the Wheeler home “Ponch and John,” referring to the two main characters of the action crime drama, CHiPs, starring Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox. Ironic nicknames at first, the two lazy-looking agents earn their stripes later.
Little Shop of Horrors
On his bedroom wall, Will displays a small Little Shop of Horrors poster. Although the film adaptation with Rick Moranis wouldn’t arrive until December of that year, the 1982 Broadway play was already widely popular by then.
The smuggler’s hideout in the abandoned church where Hopper finds refuge features a very un-holy pinup poster of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Although the film of that name wouldn’t arrive until 1988, Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a B-movie showcase that ran from 1981-86, had already made Elvira a cult figure among horror fans.
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 5: “The Nina Project”
“Owens takes El to Nevada, where she’s forced to confront her past, while the Hawkins kids comb a crumbling house for clues. Vecna claims another victim.”
“You’re bigger than Madonna to them,” Dr. Owens tells Eleven. That’s a big statement in 1986, given that the artist had already released “Like a Virgin” and was on the verge of releasing her third album, True Blue.
When Dustin drops his backpack, it’s easy to spot his Ghostbusters pin reading “I’ve Been Slimed.” This not only hearkens back to the gang’s season 2 Halloween costumes honoring the 1984 film but also acknowledges Dustin’s experience with messy supernatural events.
Mike and Will are immediately able to suss out they’re calling a computer when they call “NINA” because it makes the sound from WarGames, the 1983 technothriller starring Matthew Broderick. Mike even wonders aloud if NINA is like Joshua, the computer in WarGames.
Dustin quotes Sherlock Holmes to Steve: “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” Jeremy Brett brought new popularity to the role of the famous detective for ITV and PBS starting in 1984, so it’s possible Dustin was a fan… or maybe he’s just an avid reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
“I’ll See You in My Dreams”
On the chalkboard in the mental hospital we can see the names of several songs, as music therapy is the order of the day here. The theme mostly seems to be “dreams” (for obvious reasons with Vecna and the ongoing Nightmare on Elm Street tributes). We get old standards like “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”
But one is Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” which also wouldn’t immediately seem to fit the “dream” theme until you realize it was originally known as “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep,” which suddenly sounds…much more sinister. “Red Sails in the Sunset” seems to be the outlier here, as we can’t figure out how this might fit the theme.
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 6: “The Dive”
“Behind the Iron Curtain, a risky rescue mission gets underway. The California crew seeks help from a hacker. Steve takes one for the team.”
Jif Peanut Butter
Another thing that makes Stranger Things feel so incredibly authentic to its era is how it works its product placement into the actual story (see, for example, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Reese’s Pieces). Here, it’s Jif peanut butter, which was almost ubiquitous in the ’80s for its ad campaign which promised that “choosy moms choose Jif,” implying that if you were buying your kids Skippy then maybe we should be dropping a dime on you to social services or something. And if anyone is a “choosy mom” it is Joyce!
Eddie says he’s “pretty god damn far from OK.” Could this be the rare non-’80s Stranger Things reference? “I’m pretty fuckin’ far from OK.” is a notable line from Ving Rhames’s Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction (1994).
Anyone else think of the mynocks from The Empire Strikes Back when the Demogorgon-bats (or whatever they are) are onscreen?
Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 7: “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”
“As Hopper braces to battle a monster, Dustin dissects Vecna’s motives – and decodes a message from beyond. El finds strength in a distant memory.”
After Steve fights off some Demogorgon-style bats in the Upside Down, Eddie compares him favorably to Ozzy Osbourne. Steve doesn’t get the reference but we do: during a concert in 1982, the then-Black Sabbath drummer bit the head off of a bat onstage in Des Moines, Iowa. The bat is often remembered as being alive but in fact was dead and thrown onstage by 17-year-old fan Mark Neal. Ozzy was rushed to the hospital to receive rabies shots after the show.
As El attempts to regain her powers, she is shown concentrating on crushing a “Coca-Cola Classic” can. New Coke, with its modified formula and less desirable taste, had just been introduced in 1985, but by this time in 1986, the company had realized their marketing blunder and reintroduced the original recipe with the “classic” branding.
Be Kind, Rewind
Erica Sinclair has to be brought up to speed in the supernatural history of Hawkins, so she asks the veterans to explain by using the phrase, “Be kind, rewind.” As video store employees, Robin and Steve would be proud; customers were always encouraged to rewind their movie rental tapes before returning them for the next person to borrow. Perhaps Robin’s crush in the school band should also have heeded that advice!
Holly receives a bag of Skittles in exchange for her Lite Brite (an ‘80s toy that has been featured in Stranger Things before). Although this British candy had been imported to the U.S. as early as 1979, it surged in popularity and availability once the Mars company’s Wrigley division took over domestic production in 1982.
Spot anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!