10 Shows to Watch if You like Stranger Things: Back in July 2016, Netflix casually served us a mash-up of Eighties small-town America, Synth-pop music, geeky kids, and monster horror in the form of Stranger Things. The show literally seemed like a wish-fulfilling fantasy to me and undoubtedly to so many others all around the world.
Despite the novelty of the maiden season which lacked in the later seasons, Stranger Things could not be stopped from becoming a global phenomenon and most certainly the “next big pop culture thing” after “Game of Thrones.“
And then, during its fourth and latest season last year, the show audaciously expanded its lore by bringing in Political Conspiracy, a new menacing villain, questionable Scientific Experiment, and a rather personal arc featuring the character of Max, played by Sadie Sink all together into one gigantic mash-up and became an even bigger phenomenon than it was before.
With its fifth season going to be the final and the biggest one yet, Netflix is certainly going to take some sweet time to make it nothing short of absolutely worthy.
And to fill the void in the middle, all you Stranger Things fans would need something. That is where I come in. In this article, I am going to talk about some other great shows which might help you during the long wait for your favorite show. Do remember that no two shows can be absolutely similar, so what I am trying here is keeping Stranger Things at the center and then taking a bit of liberty in exploring all the sub-genres related to the show.
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Let me begin with the most obvious choice. Dark appears in every single “show like Stranger Things” article that you would find on the internet, as it should be. Given the basic premises of the two shows are eerily similar, small towns and kids going missing under suspicious circumstances; this is completely understandable.
But the German show takes a much more complicated, “nothing that you have ever seen before” route and leaves you completely dazed and confused by the end of its three seasons. Like Stranger Things, Dark also boldly expands its lore with fascinating characters, multiple timelines, head-turning mysteries, and “you really won’t see that coming” sort of twists.
In case you still haven’t watched the show and are wondering whether or not you should, while waiting for the next season of Stranger Things, this is your cue. I suggest you take things slow and some time in between episodes, though, as that is very much essential for this particular show.
9. Freaks and Geeks
No, there is no demogorgon or Mind-Flayer in Freaks and Geeks. There is no other horror element either. But as much as Stranger Things is about the Supernatural stuff going around Hawkins, it is also about the camaraderie between its characters. And that is where Freaks and Geeks come in.
Also set in a small town, this show features a group of high school juniors and seniors and focuses on their everyday lives. There are two groups, “freaks” and “Geeks,” as you can guess from the title. While the Geeks are certainly going to remind you of Dustin, Lucas, Will, and Mike, you will see shades of Jonathan, Steve, and Nancy in the freaks.
Despite being canceled after only one season thanks to one of the worst possible decisions made by the then “who’s whos” of the NBC network, “Freaks and Geeks” went on to become a cult classic eventually. The show also stars all your favorite popular people, from Linda Cardellini to Martin Star to Jason Segal to James Franco, and basically works as a launchpad for all of them.
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If Firefly came before the time period in which Stranger Things is set in, there would have been a reference to it in the show itself. I can clearly see Dustin fanboying about Firefly and having important discussions about it with Lucas.
Set in the year 2517, the Space-Western drama follows the wild adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds, aka one of the coolest characters to ever grace Television, along with his crew of the spaceship “Serenity.”
Filled with twists and turns, cool villains, and so many thrilling story-lines, Firefly is literally the wet dreams of all the Geeky souls of the world. Not to mention, Malcolm Reynolds is played by none other than Nathan Fillion, aka Richard Castle.
The only con is probably the show having just one season consisting of fourteen episodes only. And the reason for that is another absolutely blasphemous cancellation by the Network the show was in, i.e., the Fox Network. However, you can still find closure as the show continues its unfinished story-line in the 2006 movie “Serenity.” I seldom use the phrase “ahead of its time,” but for this show, it truly applies.
The initial premise of NBC’s six-season-long Grimm is pretty straightforward. Nick Burkhardt, a Portland police detective, starts to see things that no normal humans usually do: fearsome monsters. Soon he discovers that he is a Grimm, the current in line of Guardians who has the responsibility to protect humanity from these threatening monsters, known as Wesen.
Grimm seamlessly mixes the Police Procedural genres with Supernatural and fantasy horror, but most importantly, it keeps expanding the lore and keeps introducing new monsters and exciting story arcs. Like Stranger Things, the characters are endearing and very interesting, and they all come a long way over the period of six seasons.
Grimm is a personal favorite, and I do believe this show did not get its due when it was there. I hope you give this a try, and if you like Stranger Things, then I do not see any reason for you not to get hooked on this one.
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6. American Horror Story: 1984
I could probably suggest all of American Horror Story, but the reason I am particularly singling out the ninth installment of the anthology horror series is that this is the closest AHS got to Stranger Things. It is the eighties, and it is Supernatural horror, which automatically makes it a natural fit. And, of course, it does have an ultra-cool retro soundtrack as well.
Set in the year 1984, the series puts its fateful character in a summer camp, reopening years later, post a notorious massacre that took place fourteen years ago. But things are obviously not going to go smoothly in American Horror Story as the man behind the same massacre is apparently still there. To make it spicier, Ryan Murphy further brings in another story-line featuring a character loosely based on the infamous Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker (Google at your own risk).
A charming homage to the slasher genre of the Eighties, AHS 1984 is definitely worth your time if you give it a try. And if this works for you, then you might as well watch all the other seasons of AHS; just saying.
5. The Strain
Just like “Stranger Things,” at the center of “The Strain” is also a Mind-Flayer-like evil. Except this one is an ancient Vampire strain that originated in Eastern Europe many years and decades ago. However, the show is set in modern-day New York, where the Head of a specific CDC project becomes involved in this massive Supernatural Conspiracy and ultimately emerges as the hero who battles it.
Based on the popular Vampire horror novel series of the same name penned by Chuck Hogan and none other than Guillermo Del Toro, The Strain begins with a seemingly normal plane landing at JFK Airport, NYC, but somehow with all its passengers being dead. That’s where Corey Stoll’s Dr. Ephraim Goodweather comes in to investigate and eventually finds out the existence of a parasitic worm, suspecting an Ebola-like virus spreading. Of course, what follows after is much scarier than that.
The four-season-long show has Del Toro and Hogan at its helm as the creators, with Del Toro directing the pilot that is certainly going to draw you in. Filled with lots of squeamish moments and vampire ravaging, “The Strain” is the perfect show for you if you have a thing for gore and the body-horror genre in general.
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Fringe is the first thing that came to my mind when I took this assignment. That is not surprising, considering the show has almost every single Stranger Things aspect, from scary monsters to another world right beside ours.
Coming from the mind of J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci, the Fox network series centers around FBI agent Olivia played by a fantastic Anna Torv (whom you have most recently seen in HBO’s The Last of Us), a dysfunctional genius scientist Walter Bishop (played by John Noble) and Walter’s son Peter Bishop (played by Joshua Jackson) as a man with a troubled history and many secrets. The trio is a part of the newly formed Fringe decision, and their primary work is to solve “strange,” unsolvable mysteries. While the show is built on a case-per-week format, throughout its five seasons, it keeps adapting so many essential, serialized story-lines as well, featuring the three main characters.
This is a long show with more than a hundred episodes, so you are in for a great, satisfying binge because the show never bores you for once. What further enhances your experience is a great soundtrack by Michael Giacchino, who is one of the best working composers (and newly turned director) right now. The late Chadwick Boseman, aka Black Panther, recently deceased Lance Reddick, the legendary Christopher Lloyd, and Leonard Nemoy, aka Spock, also stars in Fringe; in case you are looking for more reason to start Fringe.
3. The Returned
In this fantastic French Supernatural drama series, dead people suddenly start to come back to life in a mountain town. Along with that, literally “stranger things” like sudden power outages, the local reservoir’s water level mysteriously going down, strange-looking marks appearing on the bodies of both living and the dead, and last but not least, dead animals appearing out of nowhere.
The greatest thing about this show is the eerie atmospheric charm it manages to create. I still remember the chills I felt while binging it during winter many years ago. The series is also one of the greatest-looking series that I have ever witnessed. The acting and writing are both top-notch, and every character and story-arcs is properly explored over the two seasons. The soundtrack, created by the Scottish post-rock band Mogwai, is another great aspect of Les Revenants.
The series has an American remake which does not hold a candle against the French one, and both the shows have the same English title, i.e., “The Returned.” So make sure you watch the original one.
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Considering both Lost and Fringe came from the same co-creator, J.J. Abrams, and have a lot of thematic similarities, I was initially apprehensive about suggesting Lost given I have already included Fringe in this list. But considering the kind of content this show offers, there is no reason for me not to suggest this to you when you are looking for something “Stranger Things” like.
Created by Abrams, Jeffrey Lieber, and Damon Lindelof, who eventually went on to create HBO’s groundbreaking “The Leftovers,” Lost follows a group of surviving passengers of the fateful Oceanic Flight 815, which crashes into a mysterious island.
The island is, as you can expect, filled with magic, horror, and so many mysteries, along with polar bears and smoke monsters. The ever-expanding lore of Lost is bigger than anything that you have ever seen, which includes even Dark and Stranger Things. The six-season-long show deals with the concept of purgatory, along with multiple timelines, heady science versus faith arguments, along with so many other things.
One of the most interesting things about Lost is that with all the “Stranger Things” going around, the characters of the shows are regular human beings, and their arcs are extremely well-written.
In fact, I found myself caring more about the characters than the mysteries while watching the later seasons of Lost during my first viewing. In many ways, Lost can be considered a pioneer of a trendsetter in this genre, as so many other shoes followed its template over the next two decades. It is 2023, and a binge-watch of this “pop culture phenomenon” that came even before the phrase got popular should definitely be on your to-do list.
1. Twin Peaks
What to say about Twin Peaks? How to explain it even? These are not rhetorical questions, by the way. While putting this show on the list is a very obvious thing to do, at least to me, writing two paragraphs to offer you an idea about it is really a head-scratching job.
The show follows FBI special agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan) investigating the death of Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the fictional town of Twin Peaks, in the state of Washington. The show not only bears the small-town mystery similarity with Stranger Things, but it also gives you the same camaraderie vibe with the beautiful friendship between Cooper and local Police Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean).
Other than that, though, Twin Peaks is nothing like anything as it cannot be, considering the origin of the show is the weirdly sweet mind of the legendary David Lynch and popular American novelist Mark Frost. Just like Lost, Twin Peaks is also a pioneer of a lot of traits in the genre; like another weirder world co-existing (Upside Down), so many strange, inexplicable things stemming from that world and, of course, a merge between the two worlds ensuring chaotic outcomes.
The show also ends with a cliffhanger that promises to be resolved in twenty-five years, and in case you can’t live with that, there is a weirder, avant-garde follow-up of the show titled “Twin Peaks: The Return,” which actually came twenty-five years after the original Twin Peaks. Can things get more meta than this?