The best thing about Netflix's sci-fi series Stranger Things is the sensation of watching a contemporary TV show that feels like a movie from the '80s. No other show has been able to capture that, which is why no other show in the past five years has been as successful as Stranger Things. There's no show exactly like Stranger Things. If you want an authentic '80s experience, you actually have to actually go back to the movies of that era that influenced the series, like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, Stand by Me, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, Aliens, etc. There are a couple of recent films that give that feeling, like Netflix's alien adventure movie Rim of the World and the first IT, the adaptation of the Stephen King novel that itself is a big influence on Stranger Things, but among TV shows, Stranger Things stands alone.
That being said, there are some shows that have pieces of what makes Stranger Things so special, like parallel dimensions or a tight band of charismatic kids or '80s nostalgia. Those shows are on this list, as are classic shows that influenced Stranger Things. So if you want to watch something that kinda feels like Stranger Things while you wait for Season 4 to hit Netflix, these are your 11 best bets.
The city of Hawkins is central to Stranger Things' narrative because it's the location of the gate to the Upside Down, the alternate dimension that is home to all the monsters who've kept our heroes in prime fighting shape for three seasons. The isolated small town at the center of the French-Belgian thriller Black Spot (known in France as Zone Blanche) is equally important to its series' narrative, but in much creepier ways. The show follows a prosecutor who's arrived to investigate why the town has such a high murder rate, but what he -- and we -- quickly find out is that the forest surrounding the town is full of dark secrets, and it's all somehow related to the head of the local police, who is still trying to figure out what happened to her the night she was kidnapped and chained up in said forest. Suspenseful and atmospheric, Black Spot deftly mixes elements of the mythological with the tension of a great crime drama to create an eerie but highly bingeable series. -Kaitlin Thomas [Watch on Netflix]
Like Stranger Things, Joss Whedon's classic supernatural teen series is appealing to everyone ages 12 and up, as it follows young people coming of age while battling monsters. The Scooby Gang may be a little older than the Stranger Things kids (most of the actors were obviously around 30 years old while playing high schoolers), but they have a similarly unbreakable bond of friendship thanks to their shared experiences and secrets, even when they're not getting along. Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as the titular chosen one, who, like Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), just wants to live a normal life, but she has to fight vampires as well as ghouls, demons, and other assorted creatures with her friends because their town has an interdimensional portal. And though it was contemporary at the time, watching it now invokes nostalgia for the late '90s/early '00s in the way that Stranger Things is nostalgic for the '80s. [Watch on Hulu]
When the mind-bending German series Dark first debuted in 2017, there were numerous comparisons to Stranger Things because both shows opened with children going missing. But Dark eventually swerved into hard sci-fi and time travel while Stranger Things leaned into monsters and the supernatural. And yet, that doesn't mean the show isn't worth watching if you like Stranger Things. The time travel show follows four interconnected families in a small town and explores the actions of multiple generations throughout several different time periods. Posing complex questions about determinism and free will, and with overt religious undertones, Dark has lofty narrative ambitions, and it follows through on everything it promises. You might have to read subtitles for this one, but it's worth it. (And once you're done, we've got a few explainers to help you understand it all.) -Kaitlin Thomas [Watch on Netflix]
When I think of Stranger Things, I think of three things: Sci-fi, the '80s, and kids. All the other shows on this list may check off one of two of those, but no other checks all three like Eerie, Indiana. (OK, admittedly Eerie, Indiana came out and took place in the early '90s, but close enough.) The NBC series only lasted one season, but it's 19 episodes following a young teen and his friend investigating oddities and peculiarities, like haunted libraries, magical ATMs, and mysterious UFOs, in his small town in Indiana. The tone is more fun and whimsical than Stranger Things (though there is a fair share of murderous villains), but more importantly, they both share that charming sense of wonder and excitement that can only be captured through the eyes of kids. And they're both set in the Hoosier State. -Tim Surette [Watch on Amazon Prime Video]
GLOW is a dramedy about the extremely '80s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, an off-brand women's wrestling promotion, and stars Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin. It's very different than Stranger Things both tonally and stylistically, but in terms of making you feel like you're watching a fun show made in the late 2010s about the mid-1980s, nothing does it better (except The Americans, which is so different from Stranger Things that it truly can't go on this list). [Watch on Netflix]
If Eleven as a telekinetic badass is your favorite part of Stranger Things, you should check out I Am Not Okay With This, which shares producers with Stranger Things and also features a telekinetic heroine at the center of its story. Set in the Rust Belt, the coming-of-age show follows Sydney (IT's Sophia Lillis), a young teen who is attempting to navigate the complexities of high school, her father's recent suicide, and her budding sexuality while also struggling to understand and control her newfound telekinesis, which is a not-so-subtle metaphor for the experiences of growing up. The show, which is based on Charles Forsman's comic of the same name, is more expansive and much lighter in tone than its source material, and therefore a lot more viewer friendly. Plus, the show has an awesome soundtrack and episodes are only 30-minutes long. You pretty much can't go wrong here. -Kaitlin Thomas [Watch on Netflix]
Talk about stranger things, Brit Marling's Netflix series The OA might be the weirdest show on the streaming service, but it shares a few common threads with the Duffer Brothers' hit. The logline for The OA is a young, blind woman named Prairie returns with her sight intact after going missing for seven years, but from there it rockets into cuckoo land involving interpretive dance, basement science experiments, and transdimensional or transuniversal movement, and, if you can believe it, things gets even stranger than that. In the first season in particular, Prairie works with some high school kids to tell her story, opening their eyes to see that there's a lot more to our world than what we're told -- much like the kids of Stranger Things discover with the Upside Down. The OA is much more philosophical than Stranger Things, really exploring the ideas of faith and destiny, while also thoughtfully discussing human connection. It's a real trip, one that some will find totally magical and others will find too much. -Tim Surette [Watch on Netflix]
This reboot of the classic anthology series isn't obviously like Stranger Things, but it probably wouldn't exist in its current form without the success of Stranger Things' "kinda creepy but not too creepy" atmosphere, which is kind of ironic, because Stranger Things itself is heavily indebted to the directors of the Twilight Zone movie from 1983, Steven Spielberg, John Landis, Joe Dante, and George Miller. The streaming-era Twilight Zone has some notable things in common with Stranger Things. Sci-fi qualities in a recognizably real-world setting? Check. Light horror uneasiness? Check. Throwback vibes? Check. Parallel universes? Check! It's kind of surprising that Stranger Things and The Twilight Zone haven't had any cast crossover, but Brett Gelman feels like someone who could easily enter the Twilight Zone. [Watch it on Paramount+]
Twin Peaks, Wash., like Hawkins, Ind., is a town where odd occurrences happen due to a rupture in the boundary between dimensions. The Upside Down is clearly influenced by Twin Peaks' Black Lodge, and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan's (Charlie Heaton) relationship is a lot like Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) and James' (James Marshall), as the privileged girl falls in love with the loner boy from the other side of the tracks over the course of their investigation into the disappearance of her best friend. And Stranger Things has a quirky sense of humor that pulls a little bit from Twin Peaks. [Watch on Netflix, Hulu, Paramount+]
This one's for the Murray Bauman fans. It's been highly fictionalized for the show, which basically just uses it for inspiration, but Project MKUltra, the experimental CIA mind control program that created Eleven, was real. This limited series is directed by documentarian legend Errol Morris and tells the story of Frank Olson, a biological warfare scientist and CIA employee who fell to his death from a hotel window in 1953 nine days after being dosed with LSD as part of Project MKUltra. His death was ruled a suicide, but there are still lingering questions all these years later. Morris investigates with his signature doggedness, and the show uses abnormally high-quality reenactments in which Peter Sarsgaard plays Olson. It's a unique project that blends documentary and character-driven conspiracy drama. [Watch on Netflix]
Before Stranger Things had an unforgettable synth theme song, The X-Files had an unforgettable synth theme song. Investigating the Hawkins lab would have just been a day at the office for Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson). They would have defeated the Demogorgon and captured Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) and been out of there, off to look for black helicopters over Phoenix or something. And instead of Chief Hopper (David Harbour), they had their own Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis). [Watch on Hulu]