The Stranger Things guide to 1984

Here’s what was actually happening in the year Stranger Things 2 is set

Stranger Things (Netflix, HF)

Just like season one, Netflix’s Stranger Things 2 is a pitch-perfect tribute to the 1980s adventure and sci-fi films of yesterdecade.

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This time, however, the action has shifted forward a year to 1984, bringing in a whole new raft of opportunities for pop cultural, cinematic and political references.

Check out the movies, TV shows, games and events that are bubbling in the background of Stranger Things 2.

Movies

Stranger Things behind the scenes (Netflix, JG)
Stranger Things behind the scenes (Netflix)

1984 was a bumper year for classic movies that now have a geek following, with the release of the original Ghostbusters most prominently featured in Stranger Things 2 (the boys dress in as the ‘busters for Hallowe’en and use a home-made version of one of their ghost traps).

The Terminator also gets an onscreen call-out, with the film playing at the Hawkins movie theatre (accurately, as it was released on October 26 – the new series begins on Hallowe’en).

Other prominent 1984 releases including Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Revenge of the Nerds, The Karate Kid, Red Dawn, Sixteen Candles, Friday the 13th, The NeverEnding Story, The Last Starfighter, Romancing the Stone, Police Academy, The Muppets Take Manhattan, This Is Spinal Tap and, er, 1984.


Music

The end of the season features a scene set to Cyndi Lauper’s Time after Time playing over a speaker system, and it’s an appropriate choice – Time after Time was indeed released in 1984, around 9 months before Stranger Things 2 is set.

Other songs that Nancy, Jonathan and the rest of the characters could be listening to include Dancing in the Dark, Like a Virgin, Relax, What’s Love Got to Do With It, Jump, Careless Whisper, Radio Ga Ga, Footloose and Purple Rain among many, many others.


TV

Stranger Things 2 (Netflix, BA)

Some of the biggest US TV shows that began or were popular in 1984 include The Cosby Show, The A-Team, Miami Vice, V, Airwolf, Cagney and Lacey, Magnum, P.I., ER, Dynasty, Jeopardy!, Knight Rider and The Jeffersons, though there aren’t any specific callbacks to these series in Stranger Things 2.


Toys

Some of the most popular toys for Christmas 1984 (when the series ends) were Transformers action figures, GI Joes, the ColecoVision Game System and Console and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe figures, the latter of which actually makes an appearance in the possession of Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin).


Video Games

Stranger Things season 2

While we see the party tackle Dragons’ Lair and Dig Dug in the new series, these games weren’t actually released in 1984 – they came out in 1983 and 1982 respectively, making their appearance in the Hawkins Arcade a near-certainty at the time.

Still, we’re sure that Dustin, Will, Lucas, Mike and Max would find their way to 1984 releases like Pac-Land, Kung-Fu Master, Marble Madness, Elite and, perhaps most significantly of all, Tetris, at some point in the future. It takes a while for these things to make their way to the arcades and home consoles of every kid, after all.

In a related point, 1984 was also the year when Apple put the Macintosh personal computer on sale in the United States, which we’re sure Hawkins’ RadioShack master Bob (Sean Astin) would have been TOTALLY on top of at the time.


Politics 

President Reagan in 1984 (Getty, HF)
President Reagan in 1984 (Getty)

Stranger Things 2 takes place around the time of the 1984 general election, when actor-turned politician Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H W. Bush ( a future President himself) took on Walter Mondale (a former Vice President) and Geraldine Ferraro.

A sign supporting Republicans Reagan and Bush can be spotted in the front garden of the Wheeler household; overall Indiana did end up returning a vote for the winning pair.


Other notable events

1984 was the year that Brunei became an independent state, the Soviet Union boycotted the Olympics, the UK miners began their year-long strike, TED talks were founded, Marvin Gaye was shot and killed, Tommy Cooper had a heart attack on stage and died, Bruce Springsteen released Born in the USA and Brighton Hotel was bombed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army – and that’s barely scratching the surface, as the above video demonstrates.

While not everything about the year touches the very specific world of Stranger Things, it’s definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled for authentic period touches – especially on that inevitable second binge.

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Stranger Things 2 is now streaming on Netflix UK