since Stranger Things season 1, the Netflix show has drawn inspiration from 1980s horror movies, but now the show’s young actors are taking over the face of modern horror cinema. The young actors of Stranger Things have spread their wings beyond the TV show that made them famous and have become the stars. New horror media is not just borrowing the 1980s imagery and aesthetic trend from Stranger Thingsthey’re also borrowing the actors.
Stranger Things follows a group of young friends seeking their friend Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who was stolen from his reality by the creatures living in the Upside Down. The Upside Down is a terrifying alternate dimension full of deadly and vicious creatures the characters call Demogorgons. While Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) are searching for their friend, they find Eleven. Eleven is a young girl with psychokinetic abilities who helps them in their search. After they find Will Byers, the Upside Down begins to trickle into their reality, sped up by the Russians trying to harness its power. Since the 80s was rife with various types of horror content, Stranger Things characters often find themselves in scenarios that heavily reference 80s horror movies like the stuff, aliensand The Thing.
While the horror movies of the 80s once influenced Stranger Things, Stranger Things is now influencing the horror movies of the present. The young cast of misfits that make up the heart of Stranger Things includes acting newcomers like Millie Bobby Brown and Finn Wolfhard, who had little to no widely recognizable television or film credits to their name before Stranger Things. After the success of Stranger Things, these young actors have consistently appeared in various horror movies to the point where they are no longer only recognizable as the characters they portray on the show, but are horror movie stars in their own right. The variety of roles these actors have accrued in the few years since Stranger Things aired in 2016 is as impressive as it is diverse.
Dacre Montgomery in Better Watch Out (2016)
The Christmas horror movie slasher from the mid-2010s, Better Watch Outfeatures Dacre Montgomery, who plays Billy Hargrove on Stranger Things. In Better Watch Out, Dacre plays the ex-boyfriend of a babysitter who is terrorized by a killer during the Christmas season. Although Dacre’s role in Better Watch Out was not as substantial as his presence in Stranger Things seasons 2 and 3, his experience acting in the horror movie Better Watch Out must have been helpful when preparing for the role of Billy in Stranger Things.
Shannon Purser in Wish Upon (2017)
Although Shannon Purser only played Nancy’s best friend Barbara Holland on Stranger Things for a few episodes, audiences remembered Shannon Pusher’s impact on the show long after Barb’s controversial death. She can be seen in the 2017 horror movie Wish Upon, where her best friend also makes poor choices that impact her safety. In Wish Upon, a cursed music box grants the owner any wish their heart desires, but there is always a price. Sadly, the wishes come true at the expense of Shannon Purser’s character.
Finn Wolfhard in IT (2017) and IT: Chapter 2 (2019) and The Turning (2020)
In 2017 Finn Wolfhard starred as the young Richie Tozier, the comedic soul of the Loser’s Club, in Andy Muscietti’s remake of Stephen King’s IT: Chapter One and IT: Chapter Two. This was a full circle moment for Stranger Things because the series was heavily inspired by the Stephen King books and media released in the 1980s, and then Stranger Things influenced a Stephen King adaptation in both its 80s aesthetic as well as its use of Stranger Things Mike Wheeler actor Finn Wolfhard in IT: Chapter One and IT: Chapter Two. Although Wolfhard had Seth Green’s legacy as Richie to contend with, he made the role completely his own.
Finn Wolfhard also starred in another horror movie adaptation of a classic novel in 2020. The Turning adapted the horror novel The Turn of the Screw by Henry James to the big screen. In The Turning Wolfhard was able to shed his typical good-guy persona and instead portrayed a violent young man. Although Ghostbusters: Afterlife is not strictly a horror film, it is important to note that Wolfhard was cast as Egon Spengler’s grandson in the sequel to the classic horror-comedy Ghostbusters.
Sadie Sink in Eli (2019)
The 2019 Netflix-released horror movie Eli features Sadie Sink, who played the spunky Max Mayfield on Stranger Things. The Eli horror movie was so intriguing that some are hoping an Eli sequel will be green lit soon. Sadie Sink’s character in EliHaley, befriends a troubled young boy named Eli, who is tormented by supernatural forces. Eli provides Sink a departure from the science-fiction-based horror elements present in Stranger Things and instead focuses on the mysteries of religious horror. Although Sadie Sink only plays a side character in Elishe gets the chance to show some darkness rarely seen in her performance of Max Hargrave on Stranger Things.
Natalia Dyer in Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
while Stranger Things contains government conspiracies surrounding monsters and alternate dimensions and the occasional Russian spy, in Velvet BuzzsawNatalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler on Stranger Things) deals with deadly art exhibits and pretentious artists. Alongside Hollywood superstars like Jake Gyllenhall, Natalia Dyer holds her own as Coco the assistant. In Velvet Buzzsaw Natalia’s portrayal balances the horror of dealing with artists and the horror of dealing with gruesome death quite well; Nancy Wheeler would be proud.
Joe Keery in Spree (2020)
In Spree, a cautionary tale horror movie, Joe Keery, who plays Steve Harrington on Stranger Things, got to play against his usual everyman type by portraying a terrifying murderer. In Spree, Keery plays Kurt Kunkle, a rideshare driver who aspires to be a famous streamer in the found footage-style horror movie. Kurt murders his passengers and stalks his streaming icons to get more views on his streaming account. while Spree received mixed reviews, Keery’s performance balanced the earnestness, desperation, and cynicism of obsession with online fame to terrifying effect.
Millie Bobby Brown in Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
Millie Bobby Brown’s experience facing Demogorgons and terrifying government agencies has prepared her well for staring in awe and terror at Godzilla and King Kong smashing their way through various cities. After her iconic performance as the main character Eleven in Stranger ThingsMillie Bobby Brown stars as Madison Russell in the 2019 Godzilla sequel: Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Millie Bobby Brown serves as an advocate for Godzilla throughout the film as she believes he is not humanity’s enemy. Millie Bobby Brown revised her role in the sequel, wherein King Kong returns to fight Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Kong (2021). Although these days, the Godzilla films tend to lean more towards the Action-Adventure or Science Fiction Genre, his terrifying origins as an expression of Japan’s fears of post-war nuclear technology can never be fully separated from the creature-feature horror subgenre.
Maya Hawke and Sadie Sink in The Fear Street Trilogy (2021)
Both Maya Hawke and Sadie Sink starred in The Fear Street Trilogy, directed by Leigh Janiak, based on the books by RL Stein. In Fear StreetSadie Sink proves she is more than just a plucky sidekick (as she is in Stranger Things and Eli); but she is a scream queen in her own right. Sadie Sink plays Ziggie Berman, the survivor of a Shadyside summer camp massacre in Fear Street Part 2: 1978 and Fear Street Part 3: 1966. Maya Hawke may have played a primary role in Stranger Things season 3 as Steve’s sarcastic coworker Robin Buckley, but she was killed off in the Fear Street Part 1: 1994. Her death was an homage to Drew Barrymore’s role as Casey Becker in Scream.
why Stranger Things Actors Have Made So Many Horror Movies
since Stranger Things pays homage to so many iconic horror movies from the 80s, it functions as a sort of boot camp for the actors. By season 3 of Stranger Thingsthe cast has shown they are well-versed in how to act in classic horror movie scenarios, and even when Stranger Things ends these actors’ careers’ are sure to be far from over. the Stranger Things cast has faced Demogorgons, evil government conspiracies, Secret Russian plots, possessed teenage bullies, and every other situation an actor would need to be familiar with when acting in a horror film. Audiences and casting directors are already familiar with and fond of these actors because of their work on Stranger Things and associate them with iconic horror movie scenarios from the 80s. The translation from Stranger Things to horror acting was not only natural for these actors, but it was inevitable. Stranger Things seems to be setting up young actors like Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown for a future in horror media.
Now that the actors of Stranger Things are getting older and Stranger Things season 4 debuted in 2022, they have proven that their careers will expand well beyond the beloved Netflix show. Thanks to the experience gained from Stranger Things, talented young actors like Millie Bobby Brown, Joe Keery, Finn Wolfhard, and so many others from the show have helped reinvent horror and are likely to appear in future horror movies even after Hollywood’s obsession with the 80s has passed. Audiences have seen firsthand how well the Stranger Things cast conveys terror and bravery in the face of impossible odds, so it’s only natural they continue to do so in other horrific scenarios. However, whether or not their characters will survive the events of Stranger Things season 5 is yet to be revealed.