What would Stranger Things be without its amazing characters and villains? Very little, we dare say. The plot is amazing, mind you, but the heartwarming and badass range of characters we find along the way (as well as the deliciously villainous ones) are definitely what make the popular show so refreshingly great.
It certainly would be difficult to rank them from worst to best but we’re about to give it a go. Here is Tell Tales’ ranking of the best Stranger Things characters starting from Dr. Brenner all the way to, well, we won’t spoil it for you…
Here’s our take! *Spoiler alert*
30. Dr. Brenner (Papa)
Actor: Matthew Modine
Dr. Brenner was the iconic villain of season 1, played by the amazing Matthew Modine, and with his sullen, dignified cruelty towards Eleven, he definitely gave us the spooks. One “flaw” as a character was that his villainous potential was never as fully exploited as it could have been, with his reason for torturing Eleven never truly revealed beyond the whole “I’m a bad guy doing bad stuff” malarkey. This made him a cartoonish villain rather than a believable human being with a dark goal and that’s perhaps our only beef with the writing of his character. Still, we’ve loved to hate him and we’d love to learn more about his backstory further into the series!
Died: Season 3
Actor: Andrey Ivchenko
Anyone who hurts or attempts to hurt our favorite characters is going to get a thumbs down from us. Other than the Demogorgon, Grigori played the main villain throughout season 3 and what a douchebag he was. In fact, the Russian killer was pretty damn scary with his Terminator antics, and all. Shooting poor Alexei and spurring the death (or disappearance) of Jim Hopper, we can’t help but dislike this mad and mean character for seasons to come.
28. Tom and Bruce
Died: Season 3
Actors: Michael Park & Jake Busey
Nobody likes a mean colleague. And nobody likes the Mind Flayer’s hosts. That’s exactly what reporters, Tom and Bruce were – combined! The two bullies who antagonised and undermined poor Nancy Wheeler during her time at the Hawkins Post, soon got possessed by the Mind Flayer, turning them into monstrous beings. Not only were these two hated for their mean spirits (and for firing Nancy and Jonathan), but also for turning into that bloody gooey beast at the hospital – Nancy and Jonothan took some serious hits!
27. Mayor Kline
Actor: Cary Elwes
Pathetic, sleazy and incredibly annoying. Mayor Kline deserved every punch he had coming to him by Jim Hopper. Used as a pawn and cover-up for the Russian’s Upside Down shenanigans, this forgettable character certainly got on most viewers’ nerves. If only every irritating leader got the same comeuppance as Mayor Kline, right?
Actress: Linnea Berthelsen
Kali had the potential of being a great character but her desire for a bloody revenge and her wish to attract our wholesome Eleven into her dark side made her rather difficult to like. Nonetheless, it’s impossible not to feel for her and wish her to find the redemption arc she deserves in future seasons. Badass and charismatic as hell, we don’t doubt she has the potential to climb up to the top 10 if she just stops killing people!
25. Dr. Sam Owens
Actor: Paul Reiser
Dr. Sam Owens is a tricky case as we’re never really sure whether to trust him or not. But by the end of season 2, he more or less proved himself as an ally, and there was such an odd charm to his character regardless of the horrible things he’d been a part of. I guess this helped us give him the benefit of the doubt. Though we’ll definitely keep an eye on him.
24. Ted Wheeler
Actor: Joe Chrest
Mr Wheeler is incredibly annoying at times, but his passive, sloth-like character is almost endearing in its own right. His interaction with his wife, who is the complete opposite of him, always makes for great comedy that we just can’t get enough of. He probably relates to many of our dads, too!
Actress: Gabriella Pizzolo
Ah Suzie, the so-called imaginary girlfriend of Dustin Henderson. Although purely a running joke throughout the third season, and pretty much absent, Suzie’s eventual appearance was rather enjoyable. She did help save the world after all, by cracking the Russian’s code. Seeing her sing The NeverEnding Story with Dustin over their walkie-talkies was very much enlightening during what was a dark time in the series.
Actor: Matty Cardarople
We hardly see Keith but he’s goofy enough to make us wonder why he wasn’t given more screen-time. The geeky young man who tries to get Nancy’s number out of Mike, this character introduced in a game arcade oozes an 80’s vibe so much, we hope to see him again soon, maybe in a longer scene!
21. Mrs Henderson
Actress: Catherine Curtin
Mrs Henderson is the overly positive, quirky mother we could only expect such an adorable character as Dustin to have. With her heart bigger than a house and her warm presence through season 2, she definitely counts as one of our favorite parents.
20. Mr Clarke
Actor: Randall P. Havens
Mr Clarke is the goofy, clever, slightly naive but all-around kindhearted teacher who has been helping the boys in their fight against evil throughout the seasons without even knowing it. What we love about Mr Clarke is that even if he is quite quirky, the writers never turn him into a buffoon and it’s obvious that the boys truly respect him.
19. Karen Wheeler
Actress: Cara Buono
Karen is much less tender than Joyce, but she has that kind of panicked affection for her children that we can only respect her for, especially with a husband as passive as Ted Wheeler and children as unpredictable as Mike and Nancy. We love them but we must confess that few of us would want to be their parents while they’re off fighting evil monsters with baseball bats rather than being at school.
18. Billy Hargrove
Died: Season 3
Actor: Dacre Montgomery
Billy Hargrove was a difficult character to pin down, as he seemed to be suffering quite the abuse from his father in the second season – an attempt meant to garner our sympathy. His role in both series made him one of the most despicable protagonists and until his demise, was a long way from fan-forgiveness. But the once-was villain ended up making us feel sorry him as he battled against the horrid Mind-Flayer in season 3. He may not be a character to be missed, but he will be remembered to say the least.
Died: Season 3
Actor: Alec Utgoff
Poor Alexei. Just as we were beginning to like him, the Russian scientist got wiped out of the show. Kidnapped by Hopper and Joyce in season 3, Alexei wormed his way right into our hearts, despite not even being able to speak English! “Smirnoff” (as referred to by Hopper) was provoking indeed (but who wouldn’t be after getting the wrong Slurpee flavor?!), but it’s safe to say his childlike personality, infectious grin and obvious sense of humor will be missed!
16. Bob Newby
Died: Season 2
Actor: Sean Astin
Stranger Things isn’t just inspired by 80’s movies but it also features characters from iconic films from that era, too – one of the best in fact! Bob was brought to life by the incredible Sean Astin whom any self-respecting 80’s movie fan will remember as a member of the unforgettable Goonies! Most of us will also remember him as Sam in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His character, Bob Newby, Joyce Byers’ goofy and kind new boyfriend, was just as great as his previous roles. He was the caring father Will and Jonathan never had, and the zest of positivity Joyce needed in her life. Bob’s fate in season 2 got us teary and so for us, he has certainly joined Barbara in the list of characters who deserved so much better. #JusticeForBob!
15. Barbara Holland
Died: Season 1
Actress: Shannon Purser
Barbara was the ultimate fan-favorite during season one and she remains a beloved character in spite of her absence in future seasons. Nancy grieving her throughout the second series reminded her of how much of a devoted friend she was, and how unfair it was of the writers to kill her off so early on. We’ll never stop screaming justice for Barb, and we’ll even continue wearing a Barb t-shirt in memory of her, too.
14. Murray Bauman
Actor: Brett Gelman
Murray Bauman is a minor character, but he is by far one of the most agreeable surprises this last season. A bit aloof but hilariously sarcastic, he is also the one who manages to bring Nancy and Jonathan together in one of the best humorous scenes in season 2 and for this, we feel eternally indebted to him. His major contribution in season 3 made his character grow on us just a little more. The “bald bastard” as Erica calls him is actually an endearing character who doesn’t fail to make us laugh.
13. Jonathan Byers
Actor: Charlie Heaton
Misunderstood and broody, Jonathan Beyers remains a fan-favorite thanks to his big heart, his love for Nancy and his deep bond with Will. A bond which, like Joyce, brings him to do anything he can to help his brother regardless of the danger. He and Joyce bring a whole new definition to the word family, the kind that just doesn’t care if it takes defeating a giant monster and its babies to get their loved ones back.
12. Nancy Wheeler
Actress: Natalia Dyer
Nancy is the “shy school girl turned badass monster hunter” we all aspire to be! At first filled with self-doubt but now quite certain of what she wants, we couldn’t love her character more, and we can’t wait to know what’s in store for her in future episodes.
11. Will Byers
Actor: Noah Schnapp
Will Byers is the member of the gang that we saw the least of in season one, but being more present in season 2 and 3, he has definitely won our hearts. With the trauma he’s been through in all series, it’s difficult not to feel for him, especially since he seems like such a sweet boy without all this “antagonists possessing him to use him against his own family” business!
10. Max Mayfield
Actress: Sadie Sink
Max may be the newbie in town, but she has proven herself the perfect addition to the gang this past season. With her kick-ass energy and her sass, her will to help others and protect the boys she barely knows, she has managed to win Lucas’s heart and our own, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for her in the future. Plus, she’s a super-cool BFF to have.
9. Lucas Sinclair
Actor: Caleb McLaughlin
Lucas is the dose of skepticism and wisdom that the gang so often needs. Lucas is likable for his perfect cynicism and for his “go big or go home” sense of friendship. We really wonder where the group would be without him, or his signature bandanna!
8. Joyce Byers
Actress: Winona Ryder
Not only can we not resist the fact that Winona Ryder, one of the most iconic actresses of the 80’s, is on our screen for eight hours each season, the actress also brings a special charisma to Joyce, a character as tender as she is badass. Willing to go to the end of the world for her son and those she loves, Joyce never stops to amaze us with her resourcefulness and her determination to do what is right regardless of the evil facing her.
7. Erica Sinclair
Actress: Priah Ferguson
Erica was a rather minor character who grew to become a lead favorite in season 3. Her hilarious interactions with her fellow “nerds”, epic one-liners and her overall refreshing, screen-stealing presence has led this character to be one of the best on the show. We’re super-glad she became one of the team in the recent series and we sincerely hope she continues to play a major role in the future.
Actress: Maya Hawke
It’s always great to add another member to our favorite team of youngsters! Robin easily became a likeable character throughout the mere 8 episodes of season 3 thanks to her brave, badass and relatable characteristics. Steve’s ice-cream parlour colleague and soon-to-be member of the gang not only proved she’s extremely useful (by solving codes and fighting those Russians), but she also grabbed viewers hearts’ when she came out to Steve. Here’s to hoping she’s a recurring character!
5. Sheriff Hopper
Actor: David Harbour
Hopper is like Joyce, incredibly likeable in his motivation to do right by Hawkins and to protect those that he cares about most. Especially Eleven for whom he becomes a surrogate father in the second season. His determination to keep her safe and protect the boys is also one of the many reasons why we love grumpy, kindhearted sheriff throughout all seasons. For some, he’s the father they wished they had and for others, he’s become a heartthrob!
4. Mike Wheeler
Actor: Finn Wolfhard
Here’s where things get interesting – we’ve officially reached the top 4 best characters of Stranger Things and the legendary Mike Wheeler is placed at fourth spot. The front-man of the gang for most of the seasons, and a formidable leader for the three boys, is loyal to a fault and is determined and generous, especially for his delicate age. One could say that Mike is one of the most fleshed out child characters on the show. It’s safe to say his relationship with Eleven makes him even more likeable.
3. Steve Harington
Actor: Joe Keery
Steve Harington has proven himself to be much more than the stereotypical high school a-hole that season one first made him out to be. Since discovering the demogorgon, good old Steve-o has turned into an empathetic and fleshed out character who even manages to play a caring and badass babysitter for the younger boys – this has even turned him into an infamous Stranger Things’ meme – ‘Dad Steve’. He has by far had the best character development in the entire series and we don’t doubt he will rank even higher in our list next season. Plus, his hair is ICONIC!
2. Dustin Henderson
Actor: Gaten Matarazzo
Witty, clever, and by far the funniest member of the gang, Dustin can only rank among the top 3 of our list. With his adorable smile, his loyalty, and his winning sarcasm, he has our hearts and our friendship forever. He’s geeky and proud and there’s never a dull moment when he’s around. One of the most determined of his gang, we just can’t wait to see what this truly original character is going to come up with next.
Actress: Millie Bobby Brown
With her discrete but headstrong personality, her badass powers which she is slowly learning to control to her benefit, her kind heart, and her amazing style throughout the three seasons — (especially her punk makeover in season 2), Eleven is by far our favorite Stranger Things character here at Tell Tales, and we couldn’t be more proud of the long, arduous journey she’s been through. What’s more, Eleven is played by the ever-popular and extremely talented Millie Bobby Brown!
Whether your list of best Stranger Things characters ranks differently in your mind, I’m sure we can all agree that, best or worst, each member of the Netflix show brings a little something that it just wouldn’t be the same without them.
Do you agree with our list? Or do you think that some numbers should be swapped? We all interpret TV shows differently, obviously, so let us know what your own list would look like in the comments below…