Netflix's Stranger Things is the TV sensation of the summer, and it's not too difficult to figure out why: the series appeals to Generation X-ers with 1980s nostalgia and plays to younger viewers by combining "old-school" techniques with theory-ready mystery. While some of the series' touchstones are pretty obvious -- Steven Spielberg's E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, Ridley Scott's Alien, and Brian De Palma's Carrie, to name only a few -- Stranger Things is packed with ideas that keep it relevant in 2016.

So once you're done digging through the eight effortlessly entertaining chapters of Stranger Things, here are a few other movies and TV shows that will keep the imagination racing until the debut of Season 2:

NBC

Amazing Stories (1985)

This Steven Spielberg-produced series applies a wholesome dose of wistful warmth to the anthology style of Twilight Zone. Amazing Stories was a Wednesday night tradition for '80s kids who couldn't wait to get their eyeballs on the next Spielberg movie. Horror, sci-fi, adventure, oddball comedy -- this series had it all, and the awe still holds up in today's "golden age of television."
Where to watch it: Stream on NBC.com

Sony Pictures/YouTube

Stand by Me (1986)

If you loved the kids in Stranger Things, then odds are you'll dig this fantastic Stephen King adaptation. This was the very first film to illustrate that there was more to King than scares, and while Stand by Me does, at times, have a dark and ominous edge to it, it's mostly a charming and engaging story of four young boys enjoying their last long adventure before adulthood. A movie of multitudes, from dead bodies to disastrous pie-eating contests.
Where to watch it: Rent on iTunes and Amazon Video

Universal Pictures/YouTube

Cloak & Dagger (1984)

This highly entertaining but virtually forgotten espionage adventure features Henry Thomas (fresh off of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and character-actor extraordinaire Dabney Coleman in not one, but two roles! Cloak & Dagger stages old-school spy hijinks in the "new-fangled" world of video games. Vector graphics: still thrilling 30 years later! This is a movie that champions smart kids and good parents, and clicks with the Stranger Things vibe.
Where to watch it: Stream on HBO GO and HBO NOW; rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video

Warner Bros. Pictures

Midnight Special (2016)

The "other" 1980s sci-fi throwback from this year is close to a masterpiece (and might just be one in a few years). From Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols, Midnight Special is about a father and a cop who struggle to keep a strange little boy from falling into the hands of a cult, and later the FBI. The pursuit is clouded in mystery; there are numerous surprises regarding heroes, villains, and the source of the desperate kid's seemingly otherworldly powers. Like Stranger Things, Midnight Special lifts from the likes of Spielberg and John Carpenter, but still stands as an impressively original story. Brace yourself for one hell of an ending.
Where to watch it: Rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video

Echo Bridge/YouTube

The Gate (1987)

Few but the most ardent of 1980s survivors will recall this low-budget tale of kids doing battle with a collection of demons. Despite drawing inspiration from Gremlins (the reason this movie exists, honestly), The Gate still rolls along with original twists, a few nifty FX sequences, and enough solid scary bits. It was rare to find a PG-13 horror movie back in 1987 -- and still is today, really.
Where to watch it: Rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video

Paramount Pictures/YouTube

Explorers (1985)

Explorers should have been a smash hit. From the always-reliable Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, Innerspace), the movie follows three affable kids (including Ethan Hawke and the late River Phoenix) who manage to build a spaceship and head off to the cosmos. Unfortunately, Paramount rushed the final product and dropped it on the same weekend as the Live Aid concert. The movie bombed. The movie has become a favorite among Gen X-ers and those students of underrated summertime blockbusters. A sloppy ending aside, Explorers is still a fun, funny, charming movie.
Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video

Paramount Pictures/YouTube

The Monster Squad (1987)

Considerably goofier than most of the films on this list, we simply had to include this popcorn movie about a bunch of kids who face off against all the classic movie monsters, including Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein's Monster. There's not much here in the way of subtext or high drama, but the kids are all funny and director Fred Dekker keeps things moving quite smoothly. If this were eight episodes rather than a movie, The Monster Squad would be totally bingeable. 
Where to watch it: Rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video

ABC/YouTube

The Outer Limits (1963)

The series only ran two seasons, but this sci-fi spin on The Twilight Zone provided more than enough fantastic episodes to warrant full-bore cult status. The initial 49 episodes continue to dazzle sci-fi fans of all ages -- provided they're refined enough to give a dated ol' black-and-white sci-fi show a spin. Once you're done with the original, pick through over 150 more sci-fi stories produced for the 1995 reboot, which isn't quite as consistent but does feature some fine speculative storytelling.
Where to watch it: Stream both versions on Hulu

20th Century Fox

The Sandlot (1993)

There's nothing even remotely supernatural about this low-key, baseball-lovin' comedy (go for The Goonies if you need that fix), but The Sandlot does have one key element in common with Stranger Things: winning chemistry between surprisingly talented kid actors. We all know how painful a movie can be when the kid actors come off as too precocious, stilted, or obnoxious. The Sandlot is perfectly cast.
Where to watch it: Stream on Netflix; rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video

Paramount Pictures/YouTube

Super 8 (2011)

It'd be impossible to talk about sci-fi nostalgia movies without including J.J. Abrams' overhyped, yet smoothly appealing entry. Whether this virtual love letter to Steven Spielberg borrows too much from its inspirations is up to the viewer, but there's no denying that this "small-town kids save the day from an encroaching supernatural menace" movie pumps earnest love through its veins. A few eye-popping action sequences set it apart from the past.
Where to watch it: Rent on iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Video

NBC/YouTube

Eerie, Indiana (1991)

This kid-friendly take on Twin Peaks (only with more monsters!) was a short-lived affair. Only 19 episodes were produced, most of which were directed by Joe Dante, and the series never even made it to a second season. A millennial fanbase -- plus short stints on Netflix and Hulu (curse you, lapsed rights!) -- has allowed Eerie, Indiana to live on as a cult favorite. That it's also a clever, well-made piece of genre goofiness doesn't hurt. The final episode, where the stars break the fourth wall to ward off a hostile takeover of the show, is weird and wild.
Where to watch it: It's currently not streaming (legally), but it's available to Netflix DVD subscribers

Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.

Scott Weinberg is a film writer and critic who has written for outlets such as Playboy, FEARnet, Nerdist, and many others. He tweets @scotteweinberg but ignores mean people.

Clickbait

close

Learn More