Summary

  • The heartbreaking moments in Stranger Things are just as memorable as the thrilling ones, capturing viewers’ emotions.
  • The show’s main characters play a significant role in its appeal, with season 5 aiming to focus on the ensemble.
  • Emotional reunions and tragic sacrifices highlight the depth of the characters, creating impactful storytelling moments.

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While Stranger Things is mostly known for its many thrilling moments, the show has more than its fair share of heartbreaking scenes too. Stranger Things became a huge hit when the Netflix series premiered in 2016 and the show’s popularity has only grown in the years since. While the small-town mystery and sci-fi horror elements of Stranger Things were major contributing factors to the show’s success, the characters at the heart of the series were what kept viewers coming back. Whether they are kids, teens, or adults, the heroes of Stranger Things provide the backbone of the show’s appeal.

As such, it is no surprise that Stranger Things season 5 aims to focus on the show’s ensemble as much as its main villain and its overarching conspiracy storyline. While the action of Stranger Things has grown bigger in scope and more ambitious in scale with each new season, the show’s main characters remain central to its appeal. This is particularly obvious when viewers look back on the saddest moments in Stranger Things history, as the scenes that made viewers cry are often even more memorable than the scariest, funniest, and most thrilling moments from the show.

10 Will’s “Body” Is Found

Season 1, Episode 4 – “Chapter 4: The Body”

Will's fake body in Stranger Things

The first tragic moment in Stranger Things turned out to be a fake-out, but the scene was so tragic that few viewers were annoyed by this later revelation. After the meek preteen Will Byers went missing in the pilot episode, Stranger Things devoted the first half of its debut season to the search for him. Then Will’s body was found and, in a devastating scene set to Peter Gabriel’s “Heroes,” his family contended with the reality of his death. The scene was so crushing that it made Stranger Things’ fake-out death problem briefly seem like a good thing.

9 Mike Loses Eleven

Season 1, Episode 8 – “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down”

Eleven fighting the Demogorgon in a classroom in Stranger Things

At the end of Stranger Things season 1, Eleven defeated the Demogorgon by utilizing her psychic powers. However, this resulted in her disappearance as Eleven vanished in front of her friends seconds after tearfully saying goodbye to Mike. Mike’s adorable crush on Eleven was central to the story of Stranger Things season 1, so seeing the show’s young hero cope with Eleven’s apparent death was incredibly harsh. Fortunately for the pair, Eleven’s demise was almost as short-lived as the death of Will Byers.

8 Mike’s Reunion with Eleven

Season 2, Episode 8 – “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”

Mike and Eleven's reunion in Stranger Things season 2

While Stranger Things season 2 made it clear that Eleven was alive early on, the show took its sweet time reuniting Mike with her. First, Eleven had to find out the truth about her mother, prompting the worst wasted Stranger Things storyline in the process. However, when Mike finally learned that Eleven was alive, his mixture of disbelief, joy, frustration, and anger at Hopper, and relief was one of the show’s most moving moments to date.

7 Will Destroys Castle Byers

Season 3, Episode 3 – “Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard”

will byers in stranger things

At first, Stranger Things season 3 seemed like it would be a lighter affair than its predecessors. The kids were growing up, they were mostly paired off into couples, and they were navigating young love instead of interdimensional horrors. However, it gradually became clear that the quiet, reserved Will was left behind by his friends growing out of Dungeons and Dragons, and the tragic scene where he destroyed his childhood hideout in a moment of frustration and anger epitomized the pains of growing up.

6 Robin Comes Out to Steve

Season 3, Episode 8 – “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt”

Robin looking at Nancy in Stranger Things season 4

Late in season 3, the unlikely Stranger Things hero Steve finally worked up the courage to tell his friend and colleague Robin that he had feelings for her. Granted, the pair had been tortured and drugged by Soviet scientists at this stage, but Robin’s revelation about her lack of interest in Steve was still a surprisingly poignant moment. Robin quietly explained that she was gay and Steve supported her in a sweet moment for the two supporting characters.

5 Billy’s Backstory and Sacrifice

Season 3, Episode 8 – “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt”

While Stranger Things season 3 made Hopper a more boorish, stereotypically macho figure than ever before, the outing did the opposite for Dacre Montgomery’s Billy. Introduced as a racist, violent bully, Billy became a tragic figure in season 3 when he was turned into a human conduit for the Mind Flayer. In a touching scene, Eleven learned that Stranger Things’ best villain Billy was once a sweet kid, and Montgomery’s character redeemed himself with a violent self-sacrifice that helped take down the Mind Flayer at the cost of his life.

4 Hopper’s Letter to Eleven

Season 3, Episode 8 – “Chapter Eight: The Battle of Starcourt”

Eleven crying after reading Hopper's letter in Stranger Things season 3

While Hopper’s death was another instance of Stranger Things temporally misleading viewers, the letter that he left his surrogate daughter Eleven was another story. Hopper’s heartfelt message about trying to keep up with Eleven proved just how proud the inarticulate antihero was of her, and showed a softer side of the brutish sheriff. While Stranger Things season 3 made Hopper pretty egregiously unlikable, this sequence went a long way to redeeming him.

3 Max Escapes Vecna

Season 4, Episode 4: “Chapter Four: Dear Billy”

Sadie Sink’s performance as Max in Stranger Things season 4 might be the strongest in the show’s history, and the role reached its peak with her escape from Vecna. As the villain tightened his grip on a dying Max, she used her last ounce of strength to remember her friends, her favorite music, her most cherished memories, and other reasons to live. Both an effective metaphor for battling mental health issues and a thrilling, triumphant set-piece, Max’s escape from Vecna remains one of the best moments in Stranger Things history.

2 Eddie Munson’s Death

Season 4, Episode 9 – “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback”

Eddie Munson was doomed from the moment the lovable outsider was introduced, but it was still brutal to see him go down in a blaze of glory as Stranger Things season 4 reached its conclusion. Not only did Eddie’s death help save the people of Hawkins, but Stranger Things season 4 made it more tragic when the small-minded townspeople continued to blame him for Vecna’s killings. While season 5 might clear his name, this currently stands out as the show’s saddest subplot to date.

1 Hopper and Eleven’s Reunion

Season 4, Episode 9 – “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback”

David Harbour as Hopper and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Stranger Things.

Hopper and Eleven had to wait until the closing moments of season 4 before the pair were finally reunited, and it is fair to say that there was astronomical pressure on this reunion to deliver. Fortunately, the scene was one of the most moving Stranger Things moments to date. Hopper’s stint in a gulag ironed out season 3’s gruff machismo, leaving Eleven with the same sweet, well-meaning father figure she first embraced back in season 1. With this reunion, Stranger Things came full circle and left viewers sobbing into their Kleenex boxes in the process.

  • Stranger Things Season 4 Poster

    Stranger Things

    Release Date:
    2016-07-15

    Cast:
    Finn Wolfhard, Joe Keery, Jamie Campbell Bower, Brett Gelman, Caleb McLaughlin, Maya Hawke, David Harbour, Matthew Modine, Priah Ferguson, Gaten Matarazzo, Winona Ryder, Charlie Heaton, Sadie Sink, Millie Bobby Brown, Joseph Quinn, Dacre Montgomery, Natalia Dyer, Noah Schnapp

    Genres:
    Fantasy, Horror, Drama

    Seasons:
    4

    Summary:
    Inspired by 80s pop-culture and elements of Stephen King’s works, Stranger Things is a supernatural action-drama TV series set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. When a young boy goes missing, his group of friends stumbles upon a young girl with telekinetic powers who recently escaped from a mysterious facility. They soon realize that she may be their only chance at stopping an impending doom that threatens to engulf Hawkins whole.

    Franchise:
    Stranger Things

    Story By:
    The Duffer Brothers

    Writers:
    Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Paul Dichter, Kate Trefry

    Streaming Service(s):
    Netflix

    Directors:
    Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer

    Showrunner:
    Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer

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