“Stranger Things” is the series to binge on this summer, I absolutely loved it. Secondly it’s very obvious that The Duffer Brothers are fans of The Goonies, E.T., Poltergeist, Gremlins, Close Encounters and fully succeeded in replicating the nostalgic vibe of those movies for the Netflix series this summer. They gave us that special feeling we’ve all missed for so many years, especially if you grew up in those times. People are already clamoring for a second season, so what are we all supposed to do in the meantime? Well I’ve put together a list of some movies that I think likely were an inspiration to the hit series that you might have totally missed out or haven’t seen in a while!
Most of these flicks follow the “Amblin” formula. Amblin cranked out a lot of the spooky 80’s Speilberg style movies. It was a formula that seemed to put kids on dangerous adventures, most often supernatural ones, usually in small towns or the suburbs and most often trying to prove to their parents some crazy story to be true with often times unlucky results. These stories were filled with wonder and most of all they were so undeniably fun to watch that to see a series like Stranger Things in this day and age is a breath of fresh air. So here today in response I’d like to honor 10 of the lesser known movies you’ve gotta hunt down if you dug Stranger Things as much as I did.
1. The Gate (1986) To say they weren’t influenced by this movie when making Stranger Things would be a crime!!
It’s got it all, kids involved in a fight for their lives, monsters, broken families and satanic records being played backwards!! If you have never seen this flick you’re missing out big time. There are some great similarities here between this and Stranger Things especially some of the final confrontations with the monsters the main characters face off against.
2.Critters (1986) Yeah The Duffers were most likely a fan of Critters as well can’t you tell just from the poster?
This follows the story of a young boy in a small town who’s fighting to save his family from an evil alien life form-The Critter. With some help from some alien bounty hunters they enter into a battle to the death with the ultimate predator-a mix between a Tribble from Star Trek and a Gremlin. The sequel was pretty solid too and both are fun as hell!
3. The Monster Squad (1987) Here it is the movie that’s a blend of The Goonies and vintage horror. A true classic yet a bit under rated still somehow in my opinion.
You got a gang of kids who team up with Frankenstein’s monster to battle with Hollywood’s classic monsters. The Mummy, Dracula, The Wolfman and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. That’s a hell of a lot of monsters huh? No wonder this one was such a good time it was directed by Fred Dekker who also brought us “Night of the Creeps”!
4. Making Contact (1985) This is a cool obscure flick that was obsessed with the spooky Amblin formula! The Duffer Bros probably watched this flick the night before making Stranger Things just to get some creative juices flowing.
also known as “Joey” this movie is an awesome mess! It’s got a crazy adventure of a little boy trying to make contact with a deceased parent and as you can imagine that does not go as planned. Nope, he’s got an evil possessed ventriloquist doll that’s out for blood. Fortunately the boy develops telekinesis so he can go into the spirit world to do battle. This one is kinda hard to track down, but it’s worth the effort. It feels like Steven Speilberg’s made this one while he was drunk and I mean that in a good way.
5. Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) What can I really say here? This movie is simply fantastic!
One of my all time faves as a child and still to this day. While this one does not take place in the 80’s it was made back then and embodies the spirit of the time perfectly. What we have here is an epic adventure following the exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Watson when they were kids. The fact is this adventure is better than any of the shit they did as adults. Part Indiana Jones, part Goonies and a hell of a lot better than that recent any recent or past attempt at a Sherlock Holmes movie. Barry Levinson and Spielberg deliver the goods and then some here with this one!
6. The Lady in White (1988)
Here’s a wonderful little ghost story adventure starring a young Lucas Haaas (remember him in that rad Harrison Ford movie where Indiana Jones pretended to be an Amish guy?), It’s a warm, chilling tale of mystery set in a small town and delivers on so many different levels. This one is a classic that throws a young boy into a dangerous supernatural fight for his life. Total forgotten classic. Check it!
7. The Explorers (1985)
All you really need to know about this movie is that is was directed by Joe Dante (The Burbs, Gremlins, The Howling) and that The Duffers probably had taken notes from this flick when perfecting his script for Stranger Things. It features young River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke as they team up to make contact with an alien race and construct a spaceship out of junk to fly out into the galaxy to make physical contact with the aliens themselves. Though the payoff ain’t as great as it does lose some of it’s steam in the third act, it’s still a must see for anyone longing for the those wonderful adventure movies of the 80’s…
8. Silver Bullet (1985)
Well I was going to include The Lost Boys on the list but decided that movie has clearly been overhyped enough-but it is a perfect example of the youthful adventure movie of the 80’s and deserved mention on this list. Instead though I decided to include another great Corey Haim (r.i.p.) supernatural adventure, Silver Bullet, one of the BEST werewolf movies ever. This has got a great simple plot, a drunken ass super charming Gary Busey, a monster and a hot rod wheel chair! This is a true example of a perfect 80’s flick and has all the same ingredients that made Stranger Things best series of this year. Check out this clip..
9. 3615 Code Pere Noel (1989)
Also known as “Game Over”/ 3615 Hide & Freak, this French movie is an incredible little hard to find gem!
It’s got everything you love from the 1980’s written all over it and features a tense face off between a bad ass little boy and a deranged psycho in a Santa Claus get up. Not only that, but it plays like a horror action movie set in the mansion of Ricky Schroder from Silver Spoons. It’s a light hearted and terrifying all at the same time and let’s just say this kid here would destroy Macualay Culkin in a Christmas time battle. This is definitely worth the trouble tracking down. It’s a true forgotten Amblin style classic!
10. Invaders From Mars (1986)
This is a cool little spooky small town horror flick from the master Tobe Hooper!
It’s a remake of the 1953 movie and it finds a child who’s trying to stop an alien invasion in his small town. It’s filled with scares, awesome sets and really cool monsters brought to life by the master Stan Winston. It’s also got Karen Black in it as well being on of the only people who believes the kid. A good time for sure and worth a look!
11. The Hole (2009)
Here’s a more recent movie that I totally loved brought to us by the master Joe Dante!
Yeah this one captures the Amblin vibe perfectly as we’re treated to pulse pounding supernatural thriller by the maker of Gremlins. It’s got a strong Poltergeist feel to it while being something of it’s own entirely. Things get creepy quick when kids discover a weird ass hole in their basement floor that appears to have no bottom. Throw in Christopher Lloyd to the cast and you’ve got in my opinion a modern classic. Dante back to what he did best!
12. Under The Bed (2012)
Another cool more recent movie that’s a definite throwback to the suburban monster movies of the 1980’s…
Under the Bed is a pretty intense little creature feature that actually reminds me a bit of Stranger Things in it’s plot. Two brothers team up to fight off a monster who manifests from beneath the bed. As the older brother returns from the psychiatric ward after being tormented by an evil force years before comes to find that his younger brother is now experiencing the same thing! This one is great time and the final act is pretty damn intense as the tone of the film gets gory quick. Steven C. Miller also did another movie called The Aggression Scale that has similar vibes and is a must see as well!!