Stranger Things, Netflix’s streaming tribute the 1980s, was the breakout TV show of last summer. Viewers fell in love with the story it weaved together from references to classic Spielberg, Stephen King, and other childhood hallmarks of the Reagan decade. Despite these obvious influences, the show was also praised for standing on its own as an original work of period genre fiction. However, does one element of Stranger Things cross the line from homage to rip-off?
Respected internet movie personality Film Critic Hulk recently tweeted about how the beloved smooth and spooky synth tones of the Stranger Things theme song sound suspiciously familiar to the beloved synth tones of composer and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Cliff Martinez. When writing their score, did Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein rip off this track “Wanna Fight” from 2013’s Only God Forgives? Listen for yourself.
This could just be a coincidence. Stranger Things and Only God Forgives share some things in common that call for similar scores. One is a nostalgic show about kids on a supernatural adventure while the other is an almost unwatchable arthouse action violence movie from the director of Drive and The Neon Demon. But both feature incredibly strong and creepy 1980s influences, so the wavey tunes just fit.
However, this wasn’t the first time the Stranger Things theme composers have been accused of plagiarism. Soon after the show premiered, internet audio sleuths found similarities between its theme and an early potential Daft Punk track from the movie that would become Tron Legacy. Again, listen for yourself.
Stranger Things season two is on the way. If these rip-off claims get more serious, maybe the theme will change. After all, it happened to Metal Gear.