The show takes place in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in the early-to-mid 1980s. The first season revolves around the disappearance of Will Byers, while the second season explores the repercussions from the events of the first season.
Cast and characters
- Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers
- David Harbour as Jim Hopper
- Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler
- Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven
- Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson
- Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair
- Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler
- Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers
- Cara Buono as Karen Wheeler
- Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner (season 1; recurring season 2)
- Noah Schnapp as Will Byers (season 2; recurring season 1)
- Joe Keery as Steve Harrington (season 2; recurring season 1)
- Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield (season 2)
- Dacre Montgomery as Billy Hargrove (season 2)
- Sean Astin as Bob Newby (season 2)
- Paul Reiser as Dr. Sam Owens (season 2)
- Joe Chrest as Ted Wheeler
- Rob Morgan as Officer Powell
- Ross Partridge as Lonnie Byers
- Shannon Purser as Barbara Holland (season 1)
- Aimee Mullins as Terry Ives
- John Paul Reynolds as Officer Callahan
- Mark Steger as The Monster
- Chris Sullivan as Benny Hammond (season 1)
- Amy Seimetz as Becky Ives
- Linnea Berthelsen as Kali (season 2)
- Brett Gelman as Murray Bauman (season 2)
- Will Chase as Neil Mayfield (season 2)
Young Will Byers is cycling home from a disappointing "Dungeons & Dragons" campaign at a friend's house, when a terrifying figure suddenly appears... Will tries to escape and hide, but he is abducted... Will's friends Dustin, Lucas and Mike begin investigating his disappearance; while looking for Will in the local forest, the boys find a girl with a shaved head in a hospital gown, who they let stay in Mike's basement. They learn her name is Eleven, discovering she has psychokinetic abilities.
Will's mother Joyce becomes transfixed by supernatural events affecting the house electricity - she's convinced Will is communicating with her. As these strange events continue, she witnesses (and is threatened by) the same monster that took Will. Meanwhile, police chief Jim Hopper grows suspicious of the nearby national laboratory, and begins researching into the facility's shady history. Mike's older sister Nancy attends a pool party hosted by her new boyfriend Steve, begrudgingly accompanied by her best friend Barb. Jonathan, Will's brother, witnesses the events of the party, taking photos. While alone, Barb is abducted by the Monster.
Nancy becomes anxious about Barb's disappearance. Steve discovers and destroys Jonathan's photographs, but Nancy retrieves the fragments of a photo showing Barb, piecing them back together. She looks in and around Steve's house, searching for Barb - she briefly sees the Monster run through the woods.
What appears to be Will's body is discovered in a quarry, however Eleven proves Will is still alive, manipulating several radios to project the sound of Will's voice. Nancy realizes the monster is visible in Barb's photo. Jonathan realizes that Nancy's description of the creature matches his mother's: a humanoid figure with long arms and no face. They team up to learn more about the creature, in the hopes of saving Will and Barb. The two teens look around Hawkins, hoping to find the creature and potentially kill it.
The boys speculate about the supernatural events, before searching for a hypothetical gate to the other world, which they've now nicknamed "the Upside Down". A suspicious Hopper finds and cuts open Will's body, discovering it to be fake. He heads to Hawkins Lab and breaks in, finding Eleven's bedroom and the Gate before being knocked out by agents. He wakes up in his own home and finds it bugged.
Throughout the season, Eleven experiences a series of painful flashbacks to the experimentation conducted on her by Dr. Brenner at the lab. The final flashback shows Eleven's last test, in which she entered an altered psychic state. While in this frame of mind, she made contact with the monster, accidentally opened the Gate to the Upside Down. After sharing what they know, Hopper and Joyce track down Terry Ives, learning more about Eleven and Dr. Brenner. Meanwhile, the kids are pursued by Brenner and his team of government agents, narrowly escaping.
Joyce and Hopper return to Hawkins, sharing their knowledge of the creature with Nancy and Jonathan. Together, they contact and eventually find the kids. They formulate and execute a plan to enhance Eleven's powers at Hawkins Middle School, allowing her to psychically view Will and Barb without entering the Upside Down. Eleven discovers Barb to be dead and Will alive, hiding in Castle Byers, his makeshift fort. Hopper and Joyce break into Hawkins Lab to pass through the Gate and save Will, but are apprehended by security. Nancy and Jonathan resolve to kill the monster. In the Upside Down, the monster breaks through Castle Byers, taking Will.
Interrogated by Brenner, Hopper gives up Eleven's location in exchange for access to the Gate. Hopper and Joyce enter the Upside Down, discovering the creature's nest, where an unconscious Will has been strung up with a tendril extending down his throat. After detaching and killing the creature, Hopper and Joyce attempt to revive Will, and Hopper remembers the moment his daughter died - he's determined to spare Joyce from the same grief. Will is eventually revived, and the three return through the Gate.
Meanwhile, Nancy and Jonathan set up a trap at the Byers house before cutting their hands to attract the creature with their blood. Steve arrives, intending to apologize to Jonathan and Nancy following a previous argument. The monster attacks - although Nancy, Jonathan and Steve successfully injure and trap it, it escapes to the Upside Down. Agents storm the school, but Eleven kills many of them, crushing their brains. As Brenner recovers a weakened Eleven, the wounded monster, attracted by the bloodshed, enters the school and attacks Brenner. The boys escape with Eleven and hide in a classroom, but the monster finds and attacks them. Eleven pins the creature against a wall and says goodbye to Mike. In a painful and self-destructive act, Eleven dissolves the creature into a thick mist in which she too vanishes. Will is hospitalized and reunited with family and friends. Hopper is reluctantly picked up by a black government car.
One month later, Nancy has gotten back together with Steve, and they've both befriended Jonathan. Hopper leaves food in a concealed box in the woods. Will coughs up a slug-like creature in his bathroom sink and has a momentary flash into the Upside Down.
Season 3 and beyond
In August 2017, the Duffers confirmed there will be a third season. Director and producer Shawn Levy revealed he and the Duffers begun planning a third season when the second season started filming. He said “We are not gonna be caught off guard and we don’t wanna be making stuff up like the day before we have to write it and make it, so we are definitely optimistic and we have started thinking ahead”. The Duffers have said Season 2 "(lays) the ground work for further seasons", much like how Season 1 laid the ground work for Season 2.
According to Levy, Things will last four seasons, and may possibly extend to a fifth. Matt Duffer said he and his brother have an overarching story they want to tell and an ending they want to reach.
|1||"The Vanishing of Will Byers"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers|
|On his way home from a friend's house, young Will sees something terrifying. Nearby, a sinister secret lurks in the depths of a government lab.|
|2||"The Weirdo on Maple Street"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers|
|Lucas, Mike and Dustin try to talk to the girl they found in the woods. Hopper questions an anxious Joyce about an unsettling phone call.|
|3||"Holly, Jolly"||Shawn Levy||Jessica Mecklenburg|
|An increasingly concerned Nancy looks for Barb and finds out what Jonathan's been up to. Joyce is convinced Will is trying to talk to her.|
|4||"The Body"||Shawn Levy||Justin Doble|
|Refusing to believe Will is dead, Joyce tries to connect with her son. The boys give Eleven a makeover. Nancy and Jonathan form an unlikely alliance.|
|5||"The Flea and the Acrobat"||The Duffer Brothers||Alison Tatlock|
|Hopper breaks into the lab while Nancy and Jonathan confront the force that took Will. The boys ask Mr. Clarke how to travel to another dimension.|
|6||"The Monster"||The Duffer Brothers||Jessie Nickson-Lopez|
|A frantic Jonathan looks for Nancy in the darkness, but Steve's looking for her, too. Hopper and Joyce uncover the truth about the lab's experiments.|
|7||"The Bathtub"||The Duffer Brothers||Justin Doble|
|Eleven struggles to reach Will, while Lucas warns that "the bad men are coming." Nancy and Jonathan show the police what Jonathan caught on camera.|
|8||"The Upside Down"||The Duffer Brothers||Paul Dichter · The Duffer Brothers|
|Dr. Brenner holds Hopper and Joyce for questioning while the boys wait with Eleven in the gym. Back at Will's, Nancy and Jonathan prepare for battle.|
|9||"MADMAX"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers|
|As the town preps for Halloween, a high-scoring rival shakes things up in the arcade, and a skeptical Hopper inspects a field of rotting pumpkins.|
|10||"Trick or Treat, Freak"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers|
|After Will sees something terrible on trick-or-treat night, Mike wonders if Eleven is still out there. Nancy wrestles with the truth about Barb.|
|11||"The Pollywog"||Shawn Levy||Justin Doble|
|Dustin adopts a strange new pet, and Eleven grows increasingly impatient. A well-meaning Bob urges Will to stand up to his fears.|
|12||"Will the Wise"||Shawn Levy||Paul Dichter|
|An ailing Will opens up to Joyce -- with disturbing results. While Hopper digs for the truth, Eleven unearths a surprising discovery.|
|13||"Dig Dug"||Andrew Stanton||Jessie Nickson-Lopez|
|Nancy and Jonathan swap conspiracy theories with a new ally as Eleven searches for someone from her past. "Bob the Brain" tackles a difficult problem.|
|14||"The Spy"||Andrew Stanton||Kate Trefry|
|Will's connection to a shadowy evil grows stronger, but no one's quite sure how to stop it. Elsewhere, Dustin and Steve forge an unlikely bond.|
|15||"The Lost Sister"||Rebecca Thomas||Justin Doble|
|Psychic visions draw Eleven to a band of violent outcasts and an angry girl with a shadowy past.|
|16||"The Mind Flayer"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers|
|An unlikely hero steps forward when a deadly development puts the Hawkins Lab on lockdown, trapping Will and several others inside.|
|17||"The Gate"||The Duffer Brothers||The Duffer Brothers|
|Eleven makes plans to finish what she started while the survivors turn up the heat on the monstrous force that's holding Will hostage.|
Growing up as avid movie fans, the Duffer Brothers were excited how television was going in a more cinematic direction, and they loved the idea of doing a long form movie. When they started thinking out their ideas in early 2014, they were initially inspired by the plot of the 2013 film Prisoners, which starred Hugh Jackman as a man searching for his missing daughters. Wanting the show to have something more, the Duffers began discussing “more childlike sensibilities”, like having a monster devouring people. They became interested in a paranormal missing child storyline, which would be connected to versions of mysterious, real-life government experiments which took place at the tail end of the Cold War. They thought it made sense to set it at the end of the ‘70s or early 80’s and realized it allowed them to pay homage to the films they grew up with.
Growing up in the suburbs of North Carolina, watching films made them feel like their normal lives had the potential for adventure, which was a feeling they wanted to capture with Stranger Things. They aimed to return to a simpler style of storytelling and create something in the vein of the classic stories they loved growing up - such as films by Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Wes Craven, and the novels of Stephen King. They have stated many times that “What made those stories so great and resonant was that they explored that magical point where the ordinary meets the extraordinary.”
Two weeks after having the idea, they threw it away, thinking no one would let them do a TV show. They were invited to write on Wayward Pines and, taking lessons from that experience, wrote a pilot script.
The pilot script was brought to Dan Cohen, the vice president of production company 21 Laps Entertainment, in late 2014. He showed it to producer Shawn Levy, and within days they started talking about the project and how to bring it to the world. The Duffers created a mock-trailer, where they combined clips from more than twenty-five classic films, including Carpenter and Spielberg movies, and added a John Carpenter soundtrack over it. They also made a little notebook to help sell the show when pitching it with the cover aesthetically modelled after a Stephen King book.
Being filmmakers, the Duffers were determined to approach the show as an eight hour movie and not have it feel like typical television which influenced their every key decision in the development process. They did not want anyone else directing as they wanted the show to be unified in the same way a movie is. The Duffers make emotional decisions leading with their heart, so when choosing the crew, they wanted to go with people who understood their idea and the show.
Netflix was their first choice when looking for a production company and broadcaster as their format would give them the freedom to tell the story like an eight-hour movie. With Cohen and Levy, the brothers pitched the show to Netflix in early March 2015. Netflix was very passionate about the show and bought the entire season within 24 hours of the first meeting. Matt Duffer later stated “The dream scenario was always Netflix, so we’re very fortunate that we wound up there.”
Originally, the show was set in Montauk and correspondingly titled Montauk because the twins always loved the idea of the coastal-town Amity feel in Jaws. As it would be impossible to shoot in Long Island during wintertime, production was moved from Montauk to Atlanta. The twins ended up falling in love with the idea that it was more Anywhere, USA, and it reminded them of their childhoods and homes, a world they inherently understood better than the coastal town.
The Duffers always wanted the music to play a major role in the show, deciding very early on that they wanted an entirely electronic score. They were charmed by existing electronic soundtracks, as they were very modern and cutting-edge, while also inevitably evoking the sounds of ’80s music (most notably Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and John Carpenter). The Duffers felt that having a synth soundtrack would do exactly what they wanted to achieve with the show: It would feel both modern and nostalgic at the same time. Some of the show’s biggest inspirations, such as E.T. or Jaws, feature a soaring, orchestral "John Williams" style score, so the Duffers thought that a synth soundtrack would play nicely against expectations.
The Duffers first discovered the synth band S U R V I V E when they heard one of their tracks in Adam Wingard’s film, The Guest. The Duffers reached out to the band and asked if they were interested. Two band members, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, agreed to score the project. Kyle and Michael first started composing music in summer 2015, sending “sketch” tracks inspired by the characters, tone, and story.
Over the course of the year, over 13 and a half hours of music was accumulated from Kyle and Michael. Though not all of this music made it into the eight-hour first season, it gave the Duffers a huge library to pull from as they edited.
The title sequence was designed by production studio Imaginary Forces. The first phone call between the studio and the Duffer Brothers was set up by Shawn Levy, where the Duffers spoke about what they were looking for. Imaginary Forces was sent the script for the first episode and started working on the titles before the show had started filming, which is fairly unusual for a TV show.
In terms of design, the Duffers referenced Richard Greenberg, who had designed the titles for The Goonies, Altered States, Alien, The Untouchables and many others. For the font they were inspired by old Stephen King books and sent twelve different covers to Imaginary Forces. They felt that going back to the simplicity of Greenberg’s titles and the King covers represented the show well. The production team tested out several typefaces before deciding on Benguiat.
Imaginary Forces initially presented three different ideas; one was called “Missing,” which featured eerie scenes of abandoned toys; another was “Shadows,” which was type creating shadows or objects creating shadows with type. “Red” was the idea that eventually became the final product. 
The production team for the sequence was a small one. They used Cinema 4D, but most of it was done in After Effects, with “tonnes and tonnes of layering.” For effects, they used elements of Lens Distortion 4K, which is real shot optical lens flares, and Gorilla Grail, which is real scanned 35mm film grain, which was also used in the actual film footage in the show.
The special effects in Stranger Things were achieved through a combined effort of practical effects and computer-generated imagery (CGI).
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "6 Things The Stranger Things Writers Told Us About Season 2" IGN. August 23, 2016.
- ↑ "Turned Upside Down The Duffer brothers thought they’d flamed out in Hollywood. Then they came up with Stranger Things.]" Vulture. August 20, 2017.
- ↑ "‘Stranger Things’ Season 2: Shawn Levy Confirms He’s Directing Again; Teases Season 3" Collider. November 8, 2016.
- ↑ "Stranger Thingswill likely go beyond 4 seasons, per producers" Entertainment Weekly. September 8, 2017.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "How Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King Influenced Stranger Things" IGN. July 7, 2016.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 "Stranger Things interview - Duffer Brothers on Netflix's new supernatural show" Irish Examiner. May 18, 2016.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 "‘Stranger Things’: Creators Matt and Ross Duffer Reveal Plans for a Possible Season 2" Collider. July 31, 2016.
- ↑ ”'Stranger Things': How Two Brothers Created Summer's Biggest TV Hit”Rolling Stone. August 3, 2016.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Stranger Things’ Duffer Brothers on ’80s Cinema, Fighting Over Kid Actors, and How They Cast Winona Ryder" Vulture. July 15, 2016.
- ↑ "Stranger Things premiere: The Duffer Brothers introduce their new Netflix series" Entertainment Weekly. July 15, 2016.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Interview: ‘Stranger Things’ Producers on Influences, Marketing, the Possibility of Future Seasons and More" Slash Film. July 21, 2016.
- ↑ "Stranger Things episode 5: The Duffer Brothers on the perfect soundtrack" Entertainment Weekly. July 19, 2016.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 "Stranger Things: the Duffer brothers share the secrets of their hit show" Empire. July 27, 2016.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 "Netflix's Stranger Things: Shawn Levy interview" Den of Geek. July 15, 2016.
- ↑ "‘Stranger Things’: Shawn Levy & Dan Cohen on Working with Netflix and Season 2 Plans" Collider. July 21, 2016.
- ↑ "Durham’s Duffer Brothers land on Netflix" The News & Observer. July 9, 2016.
- ↑ "The Duffer Brothers Talk 'Stranger Things' Influences, 'It' Dreams and Netflix Phase 2" The Hollywood Reporter. August 1, 2016.
- ↑ "Stranger Things episode 5: The Duffer Brothers explain the show's soundtrack" Entertainment Weekly. July 16, 2016.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Stranger Things (2016)" Art of the Title. August 9, 2016.
- ↑ "Stranger Thingsepisode 4: How the Duffer Brothers were inspired by Stephen King" Entertainment Weekly. July 18, 2016.