20 Movies and Shows to Watch While You Wait for Stranger Things 5

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20 Movies and Shows to Watch While You Wait for Stranger Things 5

Since its premiere in 2016, Stranger Things has been a massive hit, drawing praise for its story, characters, and classic feeling. The Netflix series tells the story of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who disappears in his small town of Hawkins. His disappearance coincides with the arrival of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a young girl with psychokinetic powers who escaped from the Hawkins lab. The lab has been conducting human experiments, and has accidentally opened a portal to the Upside Down, an alternate dimension whose presence begins haunting the town. Wrapped up in everything are Will’s friends – Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) – who try to solve the mystery of his disappearance.

Over four seasons, the story has developed to include more locations, more characters, and more threats, including a secret Russian lab under the mall and the arrival of Vecna in the latest season. The show is set to start filming its fifth season soon, which will also be its last. While you impatiently wait for the final season, here are 20 movies and shows that feature similar stories, characters, or atmospheres. They all make great watches for the long wait.



20 The OA (2016-2019)

Netflix Studios

The OA stars Brit Marling as Prairie, a young woman who reappears after being missing for seven years. Despite having been blind, she returns with the ability to see, and calls herself the OA, or Original Angel. She also has mysterious scars on her back, and won’t reveal what happened during her disappearance. Her role as the OA leads her on a mission; she tells her story to a group of teenagers and their teacher, drawing them into her hopes to rescue other missing people by opening an interdimensional portal. Adding to this are the challenges she faces from those who think she’s dangerous. It leans more into the fantasy realm, but still has enough mystery and sci-fi for Stranger Things fans.

19 I Am Not Okay With This (2020)

A scene from I Am Not Okay With This

Though short-lived, I Am Not Okay With This is a quick, fun, and suspenseful watch, based on a graphic novel by Charles Forsman. It stars Sophia Lillis as Sydney, a teenager who begins to develop uncontrollable telekinetic powers after the strange death of her father, which her mother won’t talk about. In addition to her growing powers, she also has to deal with the issues of her family and her sexuality, as she crushes on her best friend Dina (Sofia Bryant). It’s a strong combination of supernatural elements with normal teenage drama, tied together with dark humor and great performances.

18 Wednesday (2022-Present)

A scene from Wednesday
Netflix Streaming Services

Wednesday tells the story of the beloved member of the Addams Family, played by Jenna Ortega. After getting expelled from her public school, she attends Nevermore Academy, a school for monsters that is home to magic and mystery. While there, she gets wrapped into trouble with the students, the town locals, and a monster who has been wreaking havoc on both. When she also begins developing psychic abilities, she uses them to discover the monster’s identity, and who’s been controlling it. It was a massive hit upon its release, and combines elements of horror, mystery, and dark comedy. It’s perfect for fans of the Addams Family, but is equally enjoyable and accessible for those unfamiliar. With season two on the way, there’s plenty more to look forward to.

17 Paper Girls (2022)

A scene from Paper Girls
Amazon Studios

Based on the graphic novel series by Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls is a 1988-set series that focuses on four young teenagers who deliver newspapers. While delivering papers after Halloween, the girls get caught up in a war between rival time-traveling groups from the future. They’re then thrown through time, where they encounter danger and the future versions of themselves. The interaction between the girls and their future selves is a great twist that brings many emotional moments. Through it all is the looming mention of the Quilkin Institute, further adding to the mystery of the show, and paying off with a big reveal. Its core friendship and 1980s vibes make it a great fit for Stranger Things fans. While it unfortunately wasn’t renewed for a second season, it’s still a strong watch – and, if you’re a fan of graphic novels, you can finish the story with those.

16 Teen Wolf (2011-2017)

A scene from Teen Wolf
MGM Domestic Television Distribution

Teen Wolf is set in the town of Beacon Falls, home to various supernatural creatures and activities. Scott (Tyler Posey) is a normal teenager whose life changes when he’s bitten by a werewolf. His transformation gives him new abilities that he uses to keep the town safe from other monsters. However, these powers also bring their own danger; there are threats from other creatures, Scott’s own violent urges, and his crush on the daughter of werewolf hunters. Though it brings big thrills and supernatural action, it also has some very emotional, human moments — like its many character deaths, or the important relationship between Scott and his friend Stiles (Dylan O’Brien).

Related: Teen Wolf: Most Emotional Moments, Ranked

15 Dark (2017-2020)

A scene from Dark

Set in the town of Winden, Germany, Dark is a massive story encompassing generations of people over time. When local kids start disappearing, various secrets and connections among four different families in town are revealed. Beneath the personal and relationship dramas, there is also some sinister sci-fi action: everyone is tied together by a time travel conspiracy that covers several decades, as there is a time-warping wormhole hidden beneath the nuclear power plant. This sweeping story takes viewers to the past, present, and future, following the characters at different ages, and seeing how they all intersect. It’s a twisty, mind-bending sci-fi show that really makes you think about time, humanity, and existence.

14 The Lost Boys (1987)

A scene from The Lost Boys
Warner Bros.

The Lost Boys follows two brothers, Mike (Jason Patric) and Sam (Corey Haim), who move to the town of Santa Carla, California. This town has fallen prey to a group of young vampires, led by David (Kiefer Sutherland). When Mike is pulled under the vampires’ spell, Sam must work with other boys in town to save his brother, and put an end to the vampires. The Lost Boys changed the classic vampire and made it cool. It also features great ’80s fashion and music that create an unmistakable atmosphere. It’s considered one of the best vampire movies by ScreenRant, but even if you’re not a vampire fan, there’s enough great visuals and action to enjoy.

13 The Monster Squad (1987)

A scene from The Monster Squad
TriStar Pictures

The Monster Squad features a similar set-up to The Lost Boys, with a group of teenagers taking down various monsters. However, The Monster Squad’s monsters are re-imaginings of classic Universal monsters, like the Wolfman and Dracula. Dracula summons the monsters to obtain an amulet, which he wants to use to take over the world. The squad has to work together to get the amulet first, and use it to defeat the monsters. It’s a fun movie, made better by its great group of friends, and is perfect for fans of classic monsters.

12 Twin Peaks (1990-1991; 2017)

A scene from Twin Peaks
CBS Television Distribution

Twin Peaks has many of the things that make Stranger Things memorable, and presents them in a complex, adult show. It features the quirky small town of Twin Peaks, which is home to strange occurrences. The show kicks off with the murder of local teen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), which is investigated by federal agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). What seems like a straightforward murder has layers of secrets, both normal and extraordinary. Along with the drama spread across its many characters, it also delves into the absurd and supernatural, with things like alternate realities. It remains an excellent puzzle that still captivates.

11 It (2017)

A scene from IT
Warner Bros. Pictures

The recent version of It adapts Stephen King’s novel and tells the story of Derry, Maine, a town that falls prey to the monstrous Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) every 27 years. In 1989, Bill (Jaeden Martell) is struggling after the death of his younger brother. He and his friends, who call themselves the Losers Club, are all haunted by various forms of Pennywise. With more and more deaths occurring, the Losers team up to defeat Pennywise. The Losers bring light moments in their humor, friendship, and romance; these are a great contrast to the horror Pennywise brings. It also has a strong sequel, where the adult Losers must return to Derry and finish what they started.

10 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street
New Line Cinema

A Nightmare on Elm Street serves as the start to what would become a massive franchise. The first movie centers around a group of teenagers, led by Heather Langenkamp as Nancy. She and friends have their dreams taken over by Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), a former child murderer who had been killed by the victim’s parents. His ghostly form targets Nancy and her friends, who are killed in their dreams. Freddy became an instantly iconic and terrifying villain, one who met his match in the determined Nancy, who wins by refusing to give in to her fear. It remains the best in the franchise, per Collider, and still maintains its horror in scenes like Freddy’s glove emerging from the bathtub.

9 Halloween (1978)

A scene from Halloween
Compass International Pictures

Halloween is another first movie that led to a beloved, long-running franchise. It marks the debut of killer Michael Myers, who murdered his babysitter when he was a child. Now an adult, he escapes from a psychiatric facility, puts on a mask – worn by Max (Sadie Sink) in the show – and targets babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). They engage in a tense, bloody game of cat-and-mouse, before Laurie finally emerges alive. It’s still packed with thrills and scares, and is great for fans who really want to embrace the horror elements of the show.

8 Midnight Special (2016)

A scene from Midnight Special
Warner Bros. Pictures

Midnight Special has a few things familiar to Stranger Things fans. It stars Michael Shannon as Roy, a man who must take his son, Alton (Jaeden Martell), on the run from the government and a religious cult after they both discover Alton’s special powers. His powers include seeing into parallel universes, with great visual effects. Most of the movie unfolds as a thrilling chase, as Roy tries to keep Alton safe. However, it’s also an emotional father-son story that explores the bond between Roy and Alton. It adds a layer of humanity and emotion to the tense story, especially with their two great performances.

7 The X-Files (1993-2002; 2016-2018)

A scene from The X-Files
20th Television

The X-Files stars David Duchovny as Mulder and Gillian Anderson as Scully, two FBI agents who are tasked with investigating aliens and various oddities across the country. Mulder is a believer in aliens, while Scully is a skeptic; these often cause them to be at odds with each other, but they remain a great team. Their investigations cover everything from aliens to shape-shifters to monsters, and the show has a mix of tones, including humor, romance, and horror. The highlight is the relationship between the two leads, who make it such an enjoyable and re-watchable show.

Related: How The X-Files Changed Television

6 Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

A scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Columbia Pictures

Close Encounters of the Third Kind tells the story of Roy (Richard Dreyfuss), an ordinary man in small-town Indiana. One day, he sees a UFO, and becomes obsessed with both the UFO and a mountain he keeps recreating. The same happens to others in town who saw the UFO; the town also experiences weird activity, like a young boy’s toys moving on their own. After the government learns where the aliens will be landing, Roy makes the journey to the mountain, and joins the aliens in their travels. It’s an unexpected ending to a strong sci-fi movie.

5 Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

A scene from Buffy The Vampire Slayer
20th Television

Buffy the Vampire Slayer stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, a teenage vampire slayer who’s been chosen to protect the world from vampires, demons, and other monsters – with a little help from her friends, who call themselves the Scooby Gang. Similar to Hawkins, the show’s setting of Sunnydale is over a Hellmouth, an entrance to Hell. This Hellmouth is responsible for everything from the excessive number of vampires to things like classmates who turn invisible. The show blends its elements of sci-fi, action, and horror, while still keeping an emphasis on the very human struggles of school and romance. It also has great humor and plenty of emotional moments throughout the series, like the death of Buffy’s mom, all brought to life by its strong characters.

4 Super 8 (2011)

A scene from Super 8
Paramount Pictures

Super 8 centers around a group of teenagers in small-town Ohio. In the summer of 1979, the group is filming a zombie movie to enter in a contest. While filming, they witness a huge train crash that unleashes an alien captured by the government. The alien’s release then causes several disappearances and strange occurrences in town. When the army descends on their town, the group has to learn the truth about the alien, and stop any destruction. It features great characters enjoying a nostalgic summer, while still packing an emotional end in helping the alien get home.

A scene from ET the Extraterrestrial
Universal Pictures

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a classic whose influence is felt throughout Stranger Things. The movie centers around young Elliott (Henry Thomas), who discovers E.T., an alien left behind on earth. While helping E.T. get home, Elliott and his siblings befriend him, forming a fun and emotional bond. This bond is threatened by the arrival of the government, who tries to tear the two apart. With its beautiful score, fun visuals, and heartwarming friendship, it remains just as powerful and emotional 40 years later.

2 Stand By Me (1986)

A scene from Stand by Me
Columbia Pictures

Stand By Me is often considered one of the best Stephen King adaptations, and for good reason. The movie centers around four young boys – Gordie (Wil Wheaton), Chris (River Phoenix), Vern (Jerry O’Connell), and Teddy (Corey Feldman) – who venture into the woods searching for the body of a missing boy. Narrated by adult Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss), this intense journey features humor, danger, and great friendship. The four boys are the heart of the movie, and their relationship unfolds in meaningful ways. They talk about their lives and the challenges they face, from Chris being seen as a delinquent because of his family, to Gordie’s parents ignoring him after his brother’s death. It remains a fun and poignant coming-of-age movie that shows the power a great friendship can have.

1 The Goonies (1985)

The Goonies cast
Warner Bros.

The Goonies focuses on a large group of kids who live in the “Goon Docks” neighborhood of Oregon. The group is split into younger and older teens, like Mikey (Sean Astin) and his friends, and Mikey’s brother, Brandon (Josh Brolin), and his friends — a set-up that mirrors the character groups of Stranger Things. When their homes are in danger of foreclosure, they find an old pirate treasure map and set out on an adventure to claim it, and save their homes. Joining their adventure is a group of criminals, who want the treasure themselves. It’s a funny, adventurous tale with plenty of twists and turns along the way. It also has amazing visuals and set pieces, particularly the wondrous pirate ship. The characters bring great joy and emotion to the movie, and make the journey worthwhile.

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