Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4 throughout this story. Proceed at your own risk!
Like a lot of other people with a Netflix subscription, I spent my Fourth of July weekend watching the final two chapters of Stranger Things Season 4. The penultimate season of the increasingly popular sci-fi series, with its beloved characters and freaking awesome musical moments, was a blast from start to finish. And after watching the closing shot that seems to be setting up Stranger Things Season 5, I couldn’t stop thinking about movies that I wanted to watch immediately as soon as the credits began to roll.
I have a feeling other people are looking for movies to watch after binging Stranger Things Season 4, and so I put together a quick list of titles that have a least one thing in common with the Netflix show. Let’s take a look at those now…
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Years after being burned alive by the parents of his victims, child killer Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) returns from the grave to prey on a group of teenagers in their dreams. But as the high school students soon discover, when Freddy kills you in your dreams, he also takes you in real life.
From the beginning of the series, Stranger Things has always felt like it takes cues from Wes Craven’s 1984 slasher classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. That feeling was even harder to shake in Season 4 with Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) preying on high school students before taking their minds to another dimension to viciously murder them. It also doesn’t hurt that Englund himself showed up as falsely convicted killer, Victor Creel.
Red Dawn (1984)
When a coalition of Soviet, Cuban, and Nicaraguan soldiers invade the small town of Calumet, Colorado, it’s not the United States military that comes in to defend the community but a ragtag group of teenagers who take on the moniker “The Wolverines.” Together, this outmatched group takes on the large military force in the beginning days of World War III.
I couldn’t stop thinking about John Milius’ 1984 classic, Red Dawn, as the Hawkins group went to the Warzone gun-store to pick up some supplies in the first episode of Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 2. Then I couldn’t stop drawing comparisons from Jennifer Grey’s character in Red Dawn to Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) in the final episode.
A group of outcasts known as the Losers Club face off with a diabolical force known as Pennywise the Clown that returns to the small town of Derry, Maine and wrecks havoc every 27 years. In hopes of preventing the ancient evil from coming back and claiming future victims, the gang attempts to beat it once and for all.
Andrés Mushcietti’s 2017 adaptation of Stephen King’s It came out in the wake of Stranger Things Season 1 and feels very much in step with the Netflix series. Not only does the movie focus on a group of kids who take matters into their own hands, the movie ends on a very similar note to Stranger Things Season 4 in that both titles leave you both optimistic and uncertain about what the future holds.
The Goonies (1985)
On the eve of their parents being forced to sell their homes so they can be torn down and turned into a golf course, a group of young children (and three reluctant high schoolers) go on one last epic journey in search of long-lost treasure hidden on the Oregon coast.
Richard Donner’s timeless classic, The Goonies, helped lay the groundwork for Stranger Things in a number of ways, and the movie’s fingerprints can be felt throughout the show’s first four seasons. But, what made me think of the movie (no, not the deleted octopus scene) was how an unlikely group of heroes puts their lives on the line to save their town from destruction.
The Fear Street Trilogy (2021)
Released in the summer of 2021, the Fear Street trilogy tells three interconnected stories about groups of teenagers trying to save their town from an evil entity that has been plaguing the community of Shadyside since the 17th Century.
I first watched the Fear Street movies when they premiered on Netflix a year ago, but couldn’t stop thinking about them while watching Stranger Things Season 4. Sure, it mostly has to do with Sadie Sink and Maya Hawke appearing in both franchises, but the two series also share similar situations, tones, and stories.
The Great Escape
After being captured and sent to a German POW camp in the middle of World War II, a group of American and Allied soldiers led by Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen) and Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) don’t plan on being there long, and put an ambitious escape plan into motion.
Replace Nazi soldiers with Soviet guards and place the prison in Russia instead of Germany, and the Jim Hopper storyline in Stranger Things Season 4 looks and sounds a whole lot like The Great Escape. I have been meaning to give this wartime film another spin and now I have even more of a reason to watch it for the first time in ages. It doesn’t hurt that David Harbour also said the 1953 classic was one of the season’s inspirations.
Paradise Lost (1996 - 2011)
In June 1993, the West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin — were falsely accused of viciously murdering three young boys in their rural Arkansas town with the prosecution saying the killings were part of a satanic ritual. The three teenagers, who were convicted and given sentences ranging from life in prison (Misskelley and Baldwin) to the death penalty (Echols), later became the subject of the HBO documentary series, Paradise Lost, which consisted of three parts released between 1996 and 2011.
During their appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast in July 2022, the Duffer Brothers revealed that the fan-favorite Eddie Munson character was inspired by the case and specifically Echols, who is often viewed as the ringleader of the group that found themselves in the crosshairs of the satanic panic. And, though their story ends much differently than the Stranger Things Season 4 all-star, I still can’t help but think about it.
Bonus: Doctor Zhivago (1965)
And then there is Doctor Zhivago, David Lean’s 1965 Academy Award-winning epic that tells the story of a troubled romance set during the Russian Revolution. The movie, which actually sold more tickets that Avengers: Endgame, was featured in a couple of scenes at the Family Video between Steve and Robin. And while you can’t stream Doctor Zhivago, you can rent or buy a digital copy, meaning you don’t have to swap out the VHS tape halfway through.
These are just a few of the movies that quickly came to mind while watching Stranger Things Season 4, and I’m sure the list will grow when I start my eventual re-watch.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.