Ever since Stranger Things first burst onto our screens in the summer of 2016, it has captivated our minds with its story, captured our hearts with its characters, and immersed us into a world both familiar and fantastical, fun and frightening. With allusions and homages to many of the films from the 1980s and before, in which this series is set, Stranger Things is a mix of adventure, comedy, and supernatural horror with no shortage of moments that can have us on the edge of our seats, make us laugh or even cry, thanks to the spectacular, serialized, and binge worthy style writing that is gripping and completely addictive.
The show balances the supernatural and horror aspects with moments of grounded and relatable character beats, giving the show its distinct soul. With Season 4 upon us, and the end of the series in sight, let's take a look back at the 15 most memorable moments from the first three seasons of Stranger Things.
Dustin and Suzie Sing \\”the Neverending Story\\” (Season 3, Episode 8)
One of the things about Stranger Things that is so wonderful is that even in moments of great peril, it can surprise us with something completely light-hearted in the midst of that. Such is the case when Dustin finally gets through to his girlfriend from summer camp, Suzie, whom he's been waxing poetic about to his friends. In desperate need of the number for Plank's constant, unaware of just how dire the situation is, she insists her “Dusty-bun” sings the theme song from The Neverending Story with her. And they do much to our delight while everyone else listens on with annoyance and bewilderment. But it was pretty much adorable and a much-needed movement of levity.
Steve, the Babysitter (Season 2, Episodes 6 – 9)
This is not allocated to one specific moment but rather a few as it represents one of the best character arcs and development not only on the series, but in television in general. While Steve was never as bad as the vile friends he hung around with, he also was not a paradigm of kindness or altruism. But by the end of season 1 and into season 2, he establishes himself as a character who not only matures but leaps into protector mode for the younger kids on the show without a thought, not only putting himself in harm's way, but also making sure they are all safe before he is. Combine that with the sweet friendship he forms with Dustin, giving him advice about love and girls, and it's a recipe for a character becoming many a favorite for fans of the series.
Joyce and Hopper Save Will (Season 1, Episode 8)
When Joyce and Hopper make their way into the unknown of the Upside Down to find Will, they have no idea where he is and what state is going to be in. Finding Will attached to the organisms of this world, and not breathing once they free him, we see Hopper and Joyce perform CPR on Will, cross cut with flashback scenes in a hospital to when Hopper's daughter Sarah lost her life. It's an extremely emotional moment contrasting the loss of Sarah as she flat-lined and takes her last breath to Will as he breaths again after Hopper determinedly hits his chest to revive him. The tears surely flowed for any viewer with a heart, and especially those with paternal instincts or children themselves.
Steve and Robin Bond in the Bathroom (Season 3, Episode 7)
For the entirety of Season 3, the relationship between the two Scoops Ahoy employees went from antagonistic, to reluctant teamwork, to genuine friendship. But that friendship reaches a deeper point of understanding and camaraderie when Steve admits that he has grown to like her, something that he wasn't sure would happen after the pain of losing Nancy, and Robin to her surprise, says she likes him as well. But those feelings are not quite the same as Steve's as she admits she is gay in a roundabout way by talking about a girl she had a crush on, who only ever paid attention to Steve.
Instead of being hurt or upset, Steve does the exact opposite. He shows support and a moment of laughter about how that girl isn't even worth crushing on. By sharing something so personal, especially in his time period, and Steve so quickly and openly giving her the understanding she needs, it gives them a stronger bond and a refreshing layer to their friendship.
The Kids Escape on Their Bicycles (Season 1, Episode 7)
At one point during the first season tensions arose between Eleven, Mike, Dustin and Lucas and they split up and go in different directions. When they all come together again Eleven had just saved Mike and Dustin, and Lucas, having done some reconnaissance work by Hawkins Lab, rushes back to his friends to warn them the “bad men” are coming.
When they all reunite they speed away on their bikes in their neighborhood trying desperately to escape Brenner and the government officials. At every turn, their capture seems imminent until Eleven shows off what she is truly capable of with her powers and literally is able to flip an entire van over their heads sending it crashing to the ground and allowing them to get away. It's an intense and incredible scene, and one that begins the episode, making it even more effective.
Barb's Fate Is Discovered and Eleven in the Sensory Deprivation Pool (Season 1, Episode 7)
Two of the things that stood out in season one were the disappearance of Barb and the explorations of Eleven's powers. When those two combine we get an emotionally resonant moment. As Eleven uses powers to enter this in-between world in her mind using the sensory deprivation pool, we not only see the sad truth of what happened to Barb as Eleven finds her and yells “gone, gone, gone,” but we see Eleven receive actual care and supports from Joyce, who is kind and mothering to her, something she never experienced with her exploitative “Papa.”
Hopper's Choice and the Letter (Season 3, Episode 8)
A combination of two powerful moments, the look Hopper gives Joyce to close the gate, the two know that means he's sacrificing his life, is one of heartbreak and acceptance, and is extremely powerful. It is only matched by the second in which Eleven finds the letter/speech Hopper had written with the help of Joyce as a way of getting Eleven to understand how he feels as she is growing older.
Told with a combination of flashbacks and a voiceover, we feel all the emotions Eleven feels reading this speech from her adoptive father, the man who took care of her and showed her what it's like to have a caring parent and a home for the first time in her life. From his reminiscing and lamenting that their life of playing board games and eating Eggos can't last forever, and the reminder to keep the door open 3 inches, the tears start flowing and do not stop.
Jonathan, Nancy, and Steve Fight the Demagorgan (Season 1, Episode 8)
With all the characters split into different groups at the climax of season one, we see Nancy and Jonathan, and eventually, Steve partakes in a plan to distract and hopefully take out the Demagorgan to allow Joyce and Hopper the chance to rescue Will. They devise an ingenious plan, but one that still is difficult and dangerous to execute, but they all work together, with a confused Steve being told to run, but thankfully coming in the clutch at the last minute to help them. The scene is nail-biting and layered with the complicated relationship between the three characters making it one of the best of season one.
The Snow Ball (Season 2, Episode 9)
First mentioned in season one, we do not get to get this soirée until the last episode of season two, and it's one of the few times we get to see our characters enjoy a moment of happiness and peace, and more teenage normalcy. Even though not every moment is happy when Dustin is meanly rejected by a girl, it turns on a dime when Nancy shows him kindness by asking him to dance, while Lucas and Max and Mike and Eleven take to the dance floor as well as the two young couples share sweet and innocent kisses.
With the wonderful and inspired uses of two 1980s musical staples, Cyndi Lauper's “Time After Time,” and Sting and The Police's “Every Breath You Take,” the former showcases the happiness the kids are feeling as well reflecting how they will all be there for each other, and the latter providing a slightly more ominous feeling as it cuts to an image of the school and then the Upside Down with the Enormous and imposing Mind Flayer hovering overhead, telling the audience that he is still watching. It's a fantastic way to end the second season giving our characters a chance to breathe and escape the terror, but telling the audience the battle is just beginning.
Eleven Returns Home and Saves Everyone (Season 2, Episode 8)
Scenes, where all of the characters are together, are always fantastic and of course memorable, and this scene was one of the best. After just escaping Hawkins Lab everyone races to the Byers' house where they attempt to interrogate the demon possessing Will's body. When it eventually realizes where they are and starts sending the Demogorgans after them, they all prepare for a standoff, with weapons in hand, prepared for the fight.
The moment is reminiscent of a scene from Jurassic Park in its staging and sense of heightened tension as they keep turning from one direction to another before one creature comes hurling through the window. And in true dramatic fashion, we see the doorknob turn and the deadbolt come unlocked as Eleven comes striding in like the powerful young woman she is. She saved them again but what makes the scene is the look of astonishment, relief, and emotion of seeing her back again after so long.
Bob's Death (Season 2, Episode 8)
One of the most heartbreaking moments of the series is also one that is embedded in our memories as it combines so many emotions. Television has engrained in me this tendency to not trust any character, so early on I was not sure about Bob's character and wondered if he was trustworthy. Of course by the time we reach this episode that mistrust goes out the window and the moments leading up to his death are heart pounding as we yet again, see a definite nod to Jurassic Park as he is the only one capable of rebooting the computer programs to restore power and allow them all to escape.
And in cruel fashion just as you think he is home free and we see him smile at Joyce, he is viciously attacked and we can only watch as this sweet and brave man perishes in such an awful fashion. Difficult to watch for the characters and the audience, but most assuredly is a moment not ever forgotten.
Eleven Closes the Gate (Season 2, Episode 9)
If you thought Eleven facing off against the Demogorgon at the end of Season 1 was dramatic, then you would be overwhelmed at the power of this Season two moment when Eleven musters all her strength to close the gate and once again save her friends and Hawkins from a terrible fate. Visually this moment is evocative and dynamic as Eleven and Hopper take an elevator into the bowels of Hawkins lab where the gate is open, with bright, vibrant colors of fire are a stark contrast to the darkness trying to break through and the black outfit Eleven is still donning from her trip to find her sister.
She holds Hopper's hand for a moment of motivation and strength before he fends off as many monsters as he can and she uses every ounce of her telekinetic abilities she can to close that gate, screaming and even levitating as she finally succeeds. Her strength and bravery are unparalleled in this incredible moment.
The Battle of Starcourt Mall and Billy's Sacrifice (Season 3, Episode 8)
Although not a single moment but rather a long and continuous scene, it is indeed one of the most memorable, intense, explosive (literally), and emotional sequences of the entire series. Having become grander in scale, it's unsurprising that the battle with the stand in Mind Flayer which had grown larger and larger with the death of each person it had possessed and killed into mush with the help of a darkly and dangerously possessed Billy. This monster wants Eleven dead, knowing she is the only one who can stop him, and as Billy uses his brute strength to almost let him succeed, all of her friends explode fireworks Lucas has so keenly thought they might need into the demon. But alas their plan wasn't enough to stop him when they run out.
It takes a moment of empathy and connection between Eleven and Billy when she recalls the memory of his him she saw as a child with his mother on the beach- a time when he was still innocent and truly happy, and a place inside him that is still good and can break free from the demon that attached himself to him. The tears Eleven shed as she tells Billy about his pretty mother are then shed by him as the real him comes through as he stops the monster, essentially sacrificing himself in the process. He may have been a dark character but in this moment, the bit of goodness that had been pushed down by abandonment, abuse, and trauma breaks free and he dies a hero. I did not ever expect to cry over a scene with Billy and yet that happened to make it not only powerful but memorable.
Joyce Communicates With Will Through Christmas Lights (Season 1, Episode 3)
Sometimes we forget that because the show has broadened in scope, but Stranger Things began as the story of a boy's mysterious disappearance and a mother's relentless determination to find him. When things in her house such as the phone, the stereo, and then the lights show signs of Will trying to communicate with his mother Joyce we see just how determined she is and how strong her faith resonates as she buys as many Christmas lights as she can and begins by asking yes and no questions that Will answers in the flash of white lights.
Then in turn she proceeds to paint the alphabet on her living room wall and he tells her where he is by lighting a bulb above each corresponding letter. He tells her that he is “Right Here” and then to “run.” It was still a mystery what exactly was happening but this moment is not only emotional, unique, and beautifully performed, but it represents what is no doubt the most iconic image from the entire series. The image of the lights and the letters on the wall has become the emblem of Stranger Things.
Eleven Saves Mike and Dustin (Season 1, Episode 6)
What can one say about what is no doubt the only other scene beside Joyce and the lights that is the most iconic and most memorable, as well as showcasing everything by which Stranger Things is known for: the other worldly combined with the reality of real danger, and heart pounding and intense moments coupled with acts of strength, bravery and enormous acts of love and friendship. After having split up, Mike and Dustin and confronted by vicious bullies who hold Dustin at knifepoint and tell Mike to jump off a cliff which would surely claim his life or his friend will be cut. And Mike does this for his friend only to find himself suspended in mid-air and propelled back up to safety to the astonishment of the other boys.
We then see Eleven stride up like a renegade, with a look of fierceness as she with little effort disarms the bullies who flee, Dustin yells, “you better run! She's our friend and she's crazy.” The amazing way the scene turns from frightening to humor on a dime is only matched by the way in which this moment ends. As Eleven lay on the ground exhausted she cries revealing that she was the one who opened the gate calling herself the Monster. But Mike assures her, that she is not. She saved him, and he embraces his new friend and Dustin then embraces the two of them, the image of these three kids hugging and indeed every aspect of this moment showcasing how we should never underestimate children or their capacity for profound acts of courage or love. And that is why this is the most memorable moment in Stranger Things.
Hopper Discovers Will's \\”Body\\” (Season 1, Episode 4)
Hopper taking matters into his own hands and discovering the body pulled from the lake that was supposedly Will is nothing more than a well constructed and realistic dummy was quite the moment.
Alexi's Death (Season 3, Episode 7)
The Russian scientist turned sweet cinnamon roll was so happy to be experiencing an American carnival but his joy is so short-lived when just as quickly he is gunned down without notice except from Murray who looks on in horror.
Will's Drawings and Bob's Deductions (Season 2, Episode 5)
The Byers'shome went through an even more dramatic transformation as Will's drawings he furiously cranks out are deduced to be a map of Hawkins thanks to Bob's cleverness, something that allows them to rescue Hopper.
Nancy and Her Mother Have a Heart to Heart Talk (Season 3, Episode 4)
A quiet and empowering moment between mother and Daughter is all too relatable with the commiserating over being mistreated in the workplace by patronizing men. But Mrs. Wheeler tells her daughter to never discount her intelligence and not let these men stop her from following her dreams and most importantly her instincts.
Eleven and Max Go Shopping (Season 3, Episode 2)
One of the happiest and lightest moments of the series is this one where Max shares the glorious world of shopping malls in their heyday, giving Eleven one of the most normal and fun moments of her life, complete with a montage to Madonna's “Material Girl.” It is sweet and light-hearted and impossible to forget.
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This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Image Credit: Netflix.
Marianne Paluso is a freelance writer and artist and holds a Masters Degree in English and Children’s Literature from San Diego State University. Inspired by her favorite films, television, theme parks and all things pop culture and geek related, she especially loves Disney, classic films, fairy tales, period dramas, musicals, adventures, mysteries, and a good rom-com. She joined Wealth of Geeks in 2021, and has also contributed to The Nerd Machine, Catholic News Agency, Christianity Today, and The La Jolla Light. She writes on her own website TheGirlyNerd.com, creates art that is sold on Redbubble and Etsy, and also partakes in the occasional Disneybound, cosplay, and YouTube video. She resides in San Diego, California.