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This Stranger Things supercut shows how meticulous the show’s '80s references really are

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

If you’ve watched the new Netflix series Stranger Things or even read anything about it, you probably already know it’s a giant love song to the '80s, replete with references to '80s sci-fi movies and the works of Steven Spielberg and Stephen King.

But while the series may leave many viewers with the feeling of having "been here before," they may not know exactly where "here" is. Sure, those images of young boys riding bikes look and feel familiar, but beyond conjuring vague impressions of Stand By Me and It, not everyone who watches Stranger Things will have an extensive frame of reference for the films and movie moments it pays homage to.

That’s why this supercut created by French director Ulysse Thevenon is such a welcome gift to fans of the series. Featuring side-by-side shots that juxtapose Stranger Things’ many movie references with the movies they refer to, Thevenon’s video shows you exactly which classic scenes and characters Stranger Things is invoking.

Thevenon’s knowledge of the films Stranger Things pays tribute to is so encyclopedic that he’s able to lay out exactly how clear and direct many of the series’ visual homages are, even if they’re not obvious to the casual viewer. The way he’s meticulously cataloged them illustrates just how carefully Stranger Things directors Matt and Ross Duffer and Shawn Levy have patterned their visual composition, scenic design, and character configurations based on what came before.

The result is a sense that the world of Stranger Things is connected to an even bigger cinematic universe from our pasts. For instance, many of us twigged immediately to the parallels between Eleven and E.T., but what about between the underwritten Barb and The Goonies skeptic Stef? And you may have pegged Lucas’s red bandana as a Rambo reference, but you may not have realized that the entire scene where he gears up to go to battle is a nod to Commando.

Stranger Things makes plenty of references that Thevenon’s video doesn’t touch on — from simple ones he missed, like this subtle reference to the movie Witness, to the show’s many deep narrative references to John Carpenter movies and Stephen King novels. But it’s still an impressive rundown of the panoply of homages that have made the show an instant hit — a lovable, nostalgic visual pastiche for the '80s kid in all of us.