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 least 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!
25. 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!
24. Billy Hargrove
Actor: Dacre Montgomery
Billy Hargrove is difficult to pin down as he seems to be suffering quite the abuse from his father, which seemed meant to garner our sympathy. There is definitely room for a redemption arc on his part if the writers decide to take it that way now that he’s received quite the lesson from Max. Nonetheless, he is by far one of the most despicable protagonists of the two seasons combined and so for now, he’s a long way from fan-forgiveness and he remains a villain in our eyes.
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!
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. 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.
20. Dr. Sam Owens
Actor: Paul Reiser
Dr. Sam Owens is a tricky case as we are never sure whether or not we should trust him. But by the end of season 2, he has more or less proven himself as an ally, and there is such an odd charm to his character regardless of the horrible things he’s been a part of, that we can’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt. Though we’ll definitely keep an eye on 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. 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 for two seasons now 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. Just like Lucas’s little sister, more of him in season 3 would be much, much appreciated!
17. 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 make for great comedy that we just can’t get enough of. He probably relates to many of our dads, too!
16. 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 among our favorite parents.
15. Erica Sinclair
Actress: Priah Ferguson
Erica is a rather minor character who only appeared a few times in season 2, but she’s definitely won our hearts with her adorable comments on Lucas’s Halloween costume and her overall refreshing, screen-stealing presence. We hope to see more of her in the future because she has huge potential to become one of the most interesting characters in the show. She says the funniest things, too!
13. 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, and well his character, Bob Newby, Joyce Byers’ goofy and kind new boyfriend, is just as great as his previous roles. He’s 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!
12. Barbara Holland
Died: Season 1
Actress: Shannon Purser
Barbara was the ultimate fan-favorite during season 1 and she remains a beloved character in spite of her absence in season 2. Nancy grieving her throughout the last series reminds 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.
11. 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.
10. 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.
9. 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.
8. Will Byers
Actor: Noah Schnapp
Will Byers is the member of the gang that we saw the least of in season 1, but being more present in season 2, he has definitely won our hearts. With the trauma he’s been through in both 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! We hope he’ll have it easier next season, we really do.
7. Steve Harington
Actor: Joe Keery
Steve Harington has proven himself to be much more than the stereotypical high school a-hole that season 1 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!
6. Sheriff Hopper
Actor: David Harbour
Hopper is like Joyce, incredibly likable 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 as well is one of the many reasons why we love grumpy, kindhearted sheriff throughout both seasons. For some, he’s the father they wished they had and for others, he’s become a heartthrob!
5. 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 Joy, 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.
4. 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!
3. Mike Wheeler
Actor: Finn Wolfhard
Here’s where things get interesting – we’ve officially reached the top 3 best characters of Stranger Things and the legendary Mike Wheeler is placed at third spot. The front-man of the gang for most of season 1, 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 friendship (and obvious crush) for Eleven makes him even more likable.
2. Dustin Henderson
Actor: Finn Wolfhard
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 moment where he’s been weak. 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 two 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 more proud of the long, arduous journey she has 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 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…