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Stranger Things

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Stranger Things TV Poster Image
Dark "strange invader" drama will appeal to sci-fi fans.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 194 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 560 reviews

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Children are generally the clued-in, curious, courageous characters, which will make young viewers feel powerful, confident. Military and medical authorities are not to be trusted, which may make viewers suspicious of authority figures in their own lives. However, importance of family and friendship underscores all action.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parents are present, responsible, very concerned about their children. A tight friend group of boys deals with their chaotic world by being kind, open, willing to listen to each other. They often hug, show their love for each other in clear ways without worrying about looking "manly." A tween girl is one of the strongest characters. Their teamwork is often fraught with bickering, but ultimately the boys and Eleven come together and use smarts and communication skills to solve problems. 

Violence

A man is taken by a mysterious creature from above, and his body is pulled into the air; a young boy is kidnapped by an off-screen force while his distraught mother searches for him; a strange creature leaves a pulsing, otherworldly web and makes growling noises when it's around. A young girl is a captive in some type of military/medical experiment; guns are brandished, while others are killed instantly by mysterious powers. A sympathetic character is suddenly shot and killed; blood and gore shown briefly. A slimy, disturbing underworld is depicted, may be scary to sensitive viewers. A particularly gruesome scene in Season 3 features many rats exploding, while others include zombie-like humans being killed by scissors. Lots of fist fighting throughout. 

Sex

Teen characters kiss frequently; discussion of dating, flirting. A steamy make-out scene occurs in a bedroom; a teen takes her shirt off to expose her bra. An adult character prepares to have an affair with an older teen heartthrob.

Language

Cursing includes "s--t," "hell," "a--hole," "dammit." A woman calls another a "bitch." One boy calls another a "p---y" and says they're "screwed." Bullies call a trio of misfit friends "freaks," "toothless" (in reference to a character with a genetic disorder), "frog face," and "midnight" (in reference to an African American character). Other language: "pissed off," a sister calling her brother a "douche bag."

Consumerism

1980s products are shown, and a clear partnership with Coca-Cola in the third season sees many Cokes being consumed by characters. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A lot of tobacco use: Joyce smokes during stressful moments, and the sheriff not only smokes frequently but may have a pill and alcohol addiction. Underage drinking, sometimes to excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stranger Things is a sci-fi drama that centers on a group of pre-teen and teen friends who find themselves fighting a mysterious, dangerous force below the earth. A young boy is taken by a creature from this "upside down" world; it emits grunts and growls and leaves behind pulsing webs of gray material, and his relationship with this dark world spans seasons. There's a lot of scary stuff: Guns are frequent, and many characters are killed by them as well as by supernatural means. A sympathetic character is suddenly shot and killed; blood and gore are shown briefly. A group of rats explode in a bloody, graphic manner. A young girl is the subject of some type of experiment and spends much of her time processing the abuses she dealt with as a research guinea pig. Medical/military authorities have complicated motives. Two teens meet secretly in a school bathroom to make out. There's lots of kissing and heavy make-out scenes, one in a bedroom with a character removing her shirt. Language includes "hell," "damn," "bitch," and "s--t," young characters calling each other "douche bag," and references to being "screwed" and "pissed off." Parents and teens will have fun watching this nail-biter of a mystery.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byCosmin K. February 18, 2018

Great show, but just some things to keep in mind… 13-14 up (depending on maturity)

The name of the TV show has popped up and been mentioned, quite frequently by my friends and other parents, in the past half year or so, so we (my 14y old and I... Continue reading
Parent of a 4 and 8 year old Written byiatoolman July 18, 2016

Good tween sci-fi

It is really good, first of all. It isn't a cheesy 80's throwback film; it is more like an 80s noir, an homage. Great sci-fi/adventure story. The kid... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byrebo344 July 15, 2016

One of TV's finest.

Stranger Things is amazing. The "retro" soundtrack is great, the acting is amazing, mainly from Finn Wolfhard, who has decent chemistry with Millie Br... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byhalobro678 July 23, 2016

Great show!

Its a great show and I think teens and some 12 year olds could watch it. Blood and Gore is shown briefly. And sex scenes happen a lot throughout the first 3-4 e... Continue reading

What's the story?

STRANGER THINGS centers on the mysterious disappearance of young Will (Noah Schnapp), who vanishes in the woods while biking home from a Dungeons & Dragons session with his friends. His terrified mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder), and his brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), are certain something terrible has happened to him, and the detective leading the search team, Chief Hopper (David Harbour), is increasingly worried, too. Meanwhile, a mysterious young girl, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), has escaped from a shadowy experimental facility -- one that seems connected with an otherworldly creature that dispatches its victims from above, grunts and growls when near, and leaves behind pulsing webs of gray matter. Where is Will? What is the creature we hear but don't see? And just what are those officials up to in their secret laboratory?

Is it any good?

Dark, creepy, and sublimely intriguing, this 1980s throwback will remind you of many a vintage-era sci-fi/horror movie, in the most pleasant way imaginable. The cast is clad in dated '80s wear, walls are (fake) wood-paneled, phones are firmly attached to cords, and kids are free enough to race around on their bicycles, looking for clues. Meanwhile, a missing boy and an appeared-from-nowhere girl are our first clues that all is not as it seems in the small-town setting, as are glimpses of a military locale staffed with white-suited, terrified doctors on the trail of a huge creature who seems to have made an escape.

Violence and gore are low; atmosphere and spookiness are high -- and with characters of kid- and parent-age to relate to, the whole family will have someone to root for. Stranger Things is a bit too creepy for the youngest viewers, but tweens and teens will be interested in the mystery and compelled by the finely drawn characters, with adults additionally amused by the vintage clothing, technology, and prices, as well as charmed by the spunkiness of the middle school-age heroes, who are ready, willing, and able to save the day when the adults in their lives are stymied. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why missing children are a staple of TV drama. What type of viewer are dramas like Stranger Things hoping to appeal to? Why is a missing child such a common dramatic element? 

  • What era is this drama set in? How can you tell? Consider costuming, dialogue, props, and settings in your answer.  

  • Many reviews of Stranger Things refer to 1980s dramas such as E.T., It, and Poltergeist. How is Stranger Things like or unlike these dramas? Why are these comparisons being made? 

  • How do the characters in Stranger Things demonstrate curiosity, courage, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Character Strengths

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