Netflix's Stranger Things is the surprise hit of the summer that completely stole our hearts. Here, our staff and culturally savvy friends-of-the-site lay out our "Best Character" picks.
Toast an Eggo to the kid who made bloody noses and buzzcuts cool again. Eleven is the secret weapon of Stranger Things. Scientifically-tormented like Wolverine, on-the-run like Rogue, super-powered like Jean Grey, and checks all innocence at the door when she gets ANGRY.
It's impossible not to admire the telekinetic creativity at play here. She coined the Upside Down, opened the Upside Down, then later flipped a van upside down to stay on-brand. She put a school bully in diapers and wrecked a pristine lake with a scream that put me in diapers. Did she just take out a hallway of henchmen by freaking IMPLODING their brains? Her finest moment wasn't sacrificially dusting herself and the monster-mouth to save humanity after disowning her fake dad – but the way she manually owned those auto-sliding grocery doors. During Girl Scout cookies offseason, thank God.
And now we get to believe that Eleven's enchanted spirit roams the forest of Anytown, USA like a friendlier version of the disembodied Voldemort from Chamber, getting stronger every day off Hopper's frozen waffle stash. She's the hero of the 80's, the best character on the show and the most powerful Kellogg's spokesperson this world has ever known.–Ryan Porter
I have two words for you: Han Solo. Police Chief Hopper is the 80s equivalent of your favorite scoundrel. Brimming with swagger and charm, Hopper walks around like he hasn’t had to try a day in his life. And even though he’s on the other side of the law than Solo, you get the sense he doesn’t take the whole policing thing too seriously, especially when he's strolling in late to the office and grumbling memorable lines like “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation, COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION!” to his badgering receptionist.
What Stranger Things does well is create characters that initially fall into nostalgic stereotypes but then develop their own unique and dynamic elements that push the story along. Yes, Hopper starts the show as the cliché disinterested police chief, but by the end of the first season he’s grown into a complex character that steals the spotlight in some of the most pivotal scenes.
Also, please, let’s not forget that in one night Hopper downed a glass of scotch, beat the hell out of four security guards, broke into a maximum security facility and found a portal to another dimension. You've got approximately a 3,720 to 1 chance to pull that off but something tells me Hopper would respond in only one way if you laid out his chances: “Never tell me the odds!”–Keefe Dempsey
Let's be real, the great 80s-obsessed Stranger Things wouldn't be a thing without the portrayal of a jerkass rich kid. And the Duffer Brothers created a good one with Steve Harrington – the best character in the show. By now you realize that he redeems himself from his bullying ways, transforming into a good guy slugger while pulling off retro Nikes with ease, driving a (most likely father owned) Airows-approved '81 BMW 733i and wraps everything up by landing the most sought after girl on the show. What's not to like?–Joseph Attanasio
Lucas is the skeptic with a heart of gold that was desperately needed in the Stranger Things world. His quickly triggered temper and initial distrust of Eleven's allegiance may seem counterproductive to Mike and Dustin, but his intentions remain selfless, even as cracks begin to form in their friendship. His mission is clear, find Will and don't get anyone killed in the process. It also doesn't hurt that he has the perfect sarcastic response for every uninformed statement anyone makes in his presence. Lucas is essentially the type of friend who will sternly tell you that you don’t need another drink, but never hesitate to carry you home after you've embarrassingly passed out in public. Like all great friends, no matter what is said, no matter how long you have been apart, Lucas will be the first person to step up and save you from any monster of the paranormal kind, like the slingshot wielding pint-sized Rambo that he is.–Max Kayajanian
The unsung hero in so many ways, Mr. Clarke is the kind of teacher you wish every public school was filled with. The way he championed the kids' love for learning added a warmness to the show, his explanations of complex science helped the monster fighting squad (and audience) connect the dots and the way he brushed off his date night when "duty called" was nothing short of cavalier.
In a world filled with knife wielding bullies, disconnected parents, faceless monsters, and creepy government employees, I'm glad our leads had Mr. Clarke as an ally.–Jack Archer
As soon as Barb is discovered missing, who is the one who leads the search to find her? Who puts her love life on hold in order to go monster hunting with the creepy boy who was caught taking voyeuristic photos of her on the night of Barb's disappearance? Who is 80 pounds, can shoot a revolver, and hit her target without flinching even a little bit from the recoil? Who finds an oozing hole in a tree and ends up venturing into the Upside Down, ALONE, and makes it out alive?! Who, with the help of both potential love interests, stages an all out Battle Royale with the DEMOGORGON?!!! The answer, my friends, is Nancy...because Nancy...is a badass.
Although often overlooked, she transcends the boundaries of the iconic 80s high school sweetheart, demonstrating that the Duffer Brothers really put time into developing a three-dimensional character. We are introduced to an innocent teen struggling with the realities of high school and we are left with a survivor who may struggle to support the stricter gun laws of the future.
Nancy was caught between her internal desire to be loved and wanting to stay true to her own good nature and I think this dilemma is very relatable for a lot of people. She's a reminder that at some point in time, all of us have allowed desire to cloud our judgement- but it's how we respond to the resulting consequences that truly define our character.–Taylor Florio
In many ways Mike is the driving force of Stranger Things. He sheltered Eleven when Dustin and Lucas wanted nothing to do with her, convinces his friends to keep searching for Will, and even puts his life on the line to save Dustin. He trusts his instincts and connects the dots at crucial moments in the season, and without Mike's leadership, the monster would probably still be attacking innocent people in Hawkins.–Burke Doeren
Winona Ryder, where have you been? How old were you even in the 1980s when this amazingly nostalgic mini-series is set? Wherever, however, it doesn't matter because your portrayal of the dependently erratic Joyce is an absolute joy to watch.
While it's never exactly explained how Will is able to control the alphabetic switchboard of Christmas lights that she uses to communicate with while in the Upside Down, it's a true testament to a mother's intuition that she refuses to believe in his death and evolves from a victim to a heroine in the final dash to recover him.–Brandon Vaughan
By far the most entertaining character on Stranger Things is the toothless wise cracker Dustin. With all the silliness of Chunk from The Goonies but with an incredible amount of depth when the situation calls for it, he takes the initiative to resolve the petty spats between friends, confronts schoolyard injustices without fear and has an overall sense of self that far exceeds his years. All while not passing up the chance to endearingly raid the cafeteria for scores of chocolate pudding.
The best line in the whole series is when Dustin uses his guile and presence of mind to coax his science teacher into giving pertinent answers in the wee hours of the night:
“Why are you keeping this curiosity-door locked?”
It's this type of big hearted verbal jiu-jitsu that makes Dustin the most beloved and undeniable character in the series. I'd play D&D with him any day.–Doug Riggs
Mike and Nancy's Dad?
Just kidding. It's Jonathan.–Benjamin Cooper