Stranger Things is one of the best shows on Netflix, if not of all time. In large part that’s thanks to the Stranger Things soundtrack, but also its characters. You love them. You hate them. Sometimes you love them and then hate them, depending on where their story arc takes them. And that’s what we’re here to determine: which Stranger Things characters are the best based on their story arcs.
Spoilers for Stranger Things seasons 1-3 ahead.
The best Stranger Things character arcs
1. Steve Harrington
Steve Harrington (played by Joe Keery) easily went from being one of Stranger Things’ most hated characters to one of its best, which is no easy feat.
Steve began as your typical high school jock. He enjoyed throwing parties and bullying his classmates, and he cared more about his hair than schoolwork. But by the end of season one, Steve had completely flipped his stereotype upside down (pun intended).
In all the episodes since, Steve has shown up to help his friends fight whatever evils may show up and proved that under all that hair, he does have a pretty big heart.
As the main character of Stranger Things, Eleven has seen some of the most character growth.
Who else do you know that broke out of an illicit experimental lab, grappled with the brain-death of her mother, joined a gang of super-powered teenagers and saved everyone multiple times from Demagorgons, mind flayers and the like?
Eleven has seen some of the worst trauma life has to offer but over three seasons she’s learned how to embrace the life of a normal teenager and accept the love she deserves, particularly from her relationship with her adopted dad, Hopper.
3. Jim Hopper
Speaking of Hopper, David Harbour’s Chief of Police has really been through it. The loss of his daughter and his divorce is a trauma that Hopper has truly struggled to overcome but after saving Will and adopting Eleven, he’s really turned a corner.
Hopper’s dad mode was under strain in season 3 of Stranger Things but he eventually made the ultimate sacrifice for his adopted daughter and left a letter that shows just how far he’s come (and just how much he can make us all cry).
4. Will Byers
Will is another character in Stranger Things who has been through absolute hell. After going missing and surviving by some sheer miracle in the Upside Down for a whole season, Will was rescued, only to be possessed by the Mind Flayer in season two.
After surviving all that, Will got the chance to be a teenager in season 3 but found that he wasn’t evolving as quickly as his friends, who were more interested in their girlfriends than Dungeons and Dragons.
Through everything, Will has been a constant kind character throughout the show, which makes him one of the MVPs in the dark and dangerous world of Stranger Things.
5. Billy Hargrove
If you thought Steve was a jerk at the beginning of Stranger Things he’s got nothing on Billy.
Dacre Montgomery’s character was the epitome of a bad boy. He drank, smoked and drove too fast, hit on all the older mums at the pool and was abusive to his step-sister, Max. He was the character we all loved to hate.
But as it turns out Billy had his own tragic reasons for being this way. His father also happened to be an abusive asshole which resulted in Billy’s mother leaving him while he was still a kid. Billy was used as a host for the mind flayer in season three, but his love for his mother helped him break free and sacrifice himself to save Eleven and Max.
6. Bob Newby
We can’t have a list of best Stranger Things characters without Bob Newby.
Bob Newby could’ve just been your standard run of the mill side character in season two of Stranger Things, but he was anything but.
Appearing as Joyce Byer’s new love interest, Bob did his best to be the perfect boyfriend and a surrogate dad to Jonathon and Will. He overcame the bumbling loveable stereotype by proving his bravery at the end of season 2 and sacrificing himself to free the others from Hawkins Lab, which resulted in a gruelling death at the hand of the demo-dogs.
Best Stranger Things characters: Honourable mentions
There’s no shortage of great characters in Stranger Things, all of whom have interesting character arcs.
Some notable shout outs include Maya Hawke’s Robin Buckley, who turned from an aloof loner into one of the gang’s MVPs.
Nancy Wheeler also deserves a shout out for sticking to her guns multiple times across the series, whether it was getting justice for her friend Barb or standing up to a male-dominated workplace.
The trio of Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair and Dustin Henderson is also a core part of Stranger Things and nothing in this show would’ve got done without them, but we’re still waiting to see some more character growth that will land them a place on this list. Maybe in Stranger Things 4?
New characters in Stranger Things 4
If you haven’t heard, Stranger Thing 4 is coming! And it’s bringing plenty of new characters for us to add to this list.
Joining the crew in the fourth season are:
- Robert Englund as Victor Creel, a disturbed and intimidating man who is imprisoned in a psychiatric hospital for a gruesome murder in the 1950s.
- Eduardo Franco as Argyle, Jonathan’s new BFF.
- Jamie Campbell Bower as Peter Ballard, a caring man who works as an orderly at a psychiatric hospital
- Sherman Augustus as Lt. Colonel Sullivan, an intelligent, no-nonsense man who believes he knows how to stop the evil in Hawkins once and for all.
- Mason Dye as Jason Carver, a handsome, rich athlete who is dating the most popular girl in school.
- Tom Wlashicha as Dmitri, a smart and charming Russian prison guard.
- Nikola Djuricko as Yuri, a seedy and unpredictable Russian smuggler who loves bad jokes, cold hard cash, and crunchy style peanut butter
- Joseph Quinn as Eddie Mason, the head of the Hawkins High official D&D Club, The Hellfire Club.
- Amybeth McNulty as Vickie, a cool, fast-talking band nerd who catches the eye of one of our beloved heroes.
- Myles Truitt as Patrick, a Hawkins basketball star who has friends, talent, and a good life…until shocking events send his life spiralling out of control.
- Grace Van Dien as Chrissy, Hawkins’ High lead cheerleader and the most popular girl in school.
- Regina Ting Chen as Ms Kelly, a popular guidance counsellor who cares deeply for her students — especially those struggling the most.
Will any of them have a character arc worthy of joining the ranks? We’ll find out when Stranger Things 4 Volume 1 drops on May 27 on Netflix.
While you wait for Stranger Things season 4 check out these similar shows you can stream.