80s nostalgia-fest Stranger Things is the TV show of the moment – sorry, Robot Wars reboot – and we love this poster that Netflix commissioned British artist Kyle Lambert to paint for it almost as much as we love the show. Like Stranger Things itself, this poster is a perfect homage to the cult films of 1980s – hand-painted using line-and-brushwork and a composition that’s instantly familiar to those of us who grew up during that decade.
Here we look at the creation of the poster – along with a series of other paintings based on the show – plus we’ve pulled out a few classic 80s movie posters that the Stranger Things poster draws on.
Most of the major movies of my childhood had posters that were photorealistic paintings collaging main actors in costumes that established their characters with iconic moments of action, danger or wonder.
In a pre-Internet era when you only saw trailers at the cinema, very occasionally on TV and perhaps at the beginning of rental VHS tapes – movie posters for films often had to serve in their stead, giving you all of the information about the film you needed to sell you on seeing it. And if it didn't have a big star to hang the film around, then stuffing the poster full of characters you might identify with (or be attracted to) and the promise of excitement was the way to go.
The placement of these posters on the walls of cinemas and in newspapers meant viewers could – and would – spend more time looking at them.
This mean that while being eye-catching mattered, immediacy wasn't everything – and artists often created works that revealed more details the more you looked at them. Or intrigued you, like the ‘is that another Death Star?’ shape in the back of the Return of the Jedi poster that had everyone talking at my school.
Kyle Lambert's poster for Stranger Things is an immaculate pastiche of these. Kyle says he drew heavily on the work of Drew Struzan, who created iconic posters for the likes of the first Star Wars trilogy, Blade Runner and Raiders of the Lost Ark (compare how Kyle has drawn Chief Hopper to Indiana Jones here).
"I was given a loose composition by the studio and was asked to explore ideas for how best to communicate the story in a single image,” he says. "Netflix gave me rough cuts of the first few episodes and a library of still photography to work from.
"After a few weeks of exploration, the studio and I settled on a composition and I was tasked with painting the finished poster."
The typography is taken from the show's credits, which were created by Imaginary Forces – as Sarah Gless has pointed out – are styled on the cover typography of 80s horror novels from the likes of Stephen King (one of the show's key reference points).
While Drew's original paintings were created using oils, Kyle produced the poster art for Stranger Things using digital tools. He created sketches in Procreate on an iPad Pro, initially as an outline.
He also started adding colour on a layer below, before transferring over to Photoshop to work at a higher resolution.
The Goonies is another film that clearly inspired Stranger Things. Its poster was created by Drew Struzan.
Drew's poster for The Thing is referenced in the man in the hazmet suit on Kyle's poster.
Stand By Me – which is based on a non-horror novella by Stephen King – is another touchstone for the show. Its poster is based around a photomontage, but retains the classic composition.
Kyle also created paintings based on stills from the series, which were given as gifts to the cast.