Created by twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s. It involves a group of children investigating their friend Will Byers’ disappearance, which leads them to befriend a girl named Eleven (who has psychokinetic abilities) as well as uncover dark secrets of the government.
Gradually, they find out about The Upside Down, which is a portal into the alternate universe; Will is held captive by a creature from the Upside Down. The three-season show is based on Will’s rescue and the subsequent events that follow, where the lives of the Hawkins resident are plagued by supernatural monsters from the Upside Down.
The show has attained the unthinkable with a classic child endangerment theme set in an ’80s grunge backdrop. Nerdy kids on bicycles trying to find their missing friend, a girl with telekinetic powers, dangerous species travelling to and from between dimensions, a wicked bureaucracy and nearly helpless adults.
With the varied range of characters the show has to present, it is a delight to see the creators carefully and intricate the ‘80s behavioural tropes as well, not just the aesthetics. From dysfunctional households to toxic parenting, the show lacks nothing.
It puts the fang of kids at the centre of the story and while we wouldn’t want to pit them against one another in the face of their latest challenge on season four, it’s worth recognising their individual greatness. Below, we do a little of both as we rank the Stranger Things kids. Forget Nancy Wheeler or Jonathan Byers, by kids’ standards they’re fully grown adults, we’re focusing only on the core group of Will, Eleven, Max, Lucas, Dustin and Mike.
Ranking the ‘Stranger Things’ kids:
6. Will Byers
Will Byers is the glue that holds the whole of Hawkins together, the driving force behind the families and friends uniting against the corrupt scientific malpractices. It is Will’s disappearance that sets the plot into motion. People endanger themselves to save Will and Noah Schnapp did a wonderful job as the elusive Byers who is caught within an internal struggle of his own while being stuck in a loop of interdimensional horror.
Despite his close encounters with the horrifying demon, he continues to strive to come back to normality. Intelligent and friendly with a knack for science, Will belongs to an abusive household due to his uncouth father. Abandonment on his father’s part causes him to feel alienated from his peers yet the boys warm up to him.
He returns literally from the dead and is taunted by the names of zombie boy which further isolates him. He is frustrated and annoyed by his family super-sensitivity and overprotectiveness. He is gradually subjected to mind control and memory loss by the Mind Flayer yet he manages to fight it with the help of his family and friends. Although we see Will Byers leaving Hawkins, we are eagerly waiting for a season 4 comeback.
5. Maxine Mayfield
Maxine “Max” Mayfield is a badass. She skates and plays video games and keeps the guys on their toes; she is an absolute dream. While it may seem quite natural now, the series is set in the ‘80s, and such intriguing qualities in a girl were usually not noticed as they were dissuaded from almost everything. Max has a pretty sad backstory as she belongs to a household where her stepbrother Billy is regularly abused by her stepfather. Billy takes out his frustration on her by threatening her like filth.
Max, however, proves her greatness by forgiving him and staying by his side as he perishes. Billy even ends up begging for her forgiveness. Although she tries to befriend Eleven, the latter is wary of Max’s proximity with Mike. Later the two bond over their respective lying boyfriends. Max is dauntless and aids the boys in their mission. She dates Lucas and is a wholesome character with all her unique qualities and brave personality.
We expect Max’s story arc to shoot up another notch this season.
4. Lucas Sinclair
Lucas is the most pragmatic and rational character in his band of friends and is initially quite wary of Eleven and her unique abilities. He is a realist and refuses to, at first, accept the presence of the supernatural. He is incredibly sweet-natured and plays a vital role in keeping the rest of his friends grounded. He eventually starts dating Max and matures with age. He is an expert strategist and makes good use of his sharp brain.
Lucas is great with slingshots and can wield brute force while using an axe. Lucas is a very resourceful friend and his family is equally interesting and delightful. Caleb McLaughlin does a superb job portraying this very important character and adds a certain sense of likeability to his character.
Lucas is not very subtle about his feelings at the beginning and openly expresses his jealousy over his best friend Mike bonding more with Eleven. However, it is heartwarming to see them all make up with each other in the end and unite in their search for their lost friend and to seek the truth.
3. Mike Wheeler
Mike is the perfect best friend. Admittedly, he can be jealous and overprotective at times, especially due to the big fat crush he has on Eleven, but his patience and courage are admirable. He makes a lot of effort to decode Eleven’s sporadic speech and loves solutions embedded in fantasy. He is compassionate and committed, his loyalty toward his friends is impeccable.
Wheeler is willing to take severe risks to save his friends from danger and has a strong sense of morale while his courage and bravado almost border on stupid chivalry. He was deeply affected by Eleven’s disappearance and it is safe to say that they both were very much in love.
Mike suffers a lot at home due to his emotionally distant father. He is deeply affected by Will’s disappearance yet never loses hope, buoying the rest of the forlorn group with his optimism. Finn Wolfhard does a spectacular job of portraying Mike in all his glory of escaping into a feverish adventure involving interdimensional travel. A frequent Dungeon master while playing Dungeons and Dragons with his mates, he proves his natural leadership skills by showcasing immense calm and composure while dealing with difficult situations.
2. Dustin Henderson
We stan a curly-haired king whose gamut of fantasy knowledge and cuss words is admirable. Dustin Henderson is the scientifically inclined, nerdy Solomon of the group whose responsibility seems embedded in his ability to resolve conflicts. With Gaten Matarazzo improvising Dustin’s distinctive purr, the writers made sure to incorporate the actor’s medical condition of cleidocranial dysplasia into the character.
Dustin often keeps the group from falling apart. He is prudent, level-headed and is a great negotiator, managing to bring the believer and the sceptic on the same page (namely Mike and Lucas). Sure, it is his fault that we lose the beloved ginger cat Mews but can we blame the innocent Dustin for knowing that Dart was actually a monstrous creature? He had a crush on max but soon got his way around girls by dating Suzie. Dustin also develops a close bond with Steve towards the end of season three and we cannot wait to see what this unusual friendship has in store for us.
Well, of course, it is.
Millie Bobby Brown as the elusive Eleven with her laconic dialogues does a spectacular job that catapulted her into stardom. Eleven is the unfortunate sufferer at the hands of corrupt power-hungry bureaucracy who take recourse to scientific experiments on humans to fan their ego. After being subjected to such experiments in Hawkins National Laboratory after being abducted, she develops psychokinetic abilities. She escapes and stumbles upon Mike, Lucas and Dustin who are desperately looking for their lost friend Will. Without any second thoughts, she agrees to help the boys. Eleven is constantly pursued by officials who want to make use of her abilities to their own advantages.
Eleven is subjected to severe abuse at the hands of Brenner whose psychotic manipulative tendencies and punishment made her develop severe trauma and claustrophobia. Her limited vocabulary stands as a communicative barrier and she fails to express her feelings. She is fiercely loyal and incredibly determined to save her friends. Eleven was often forced into situations where, despite her heart being devoid of malice or revenge, she had to kill which filled her heart with guilt and self-loathing. Her relationship with Mike, budding friendship with his friends as well as acceptance at the hands of the Hawkins families helps her overcome her insecurities. It is heartwrenching to see her finally meet her long-lost yet unresponsive mother. Rejected by her aunt, she finally finds solace and affection in the arms of her adoptive father Jim Hopper.
Eleven, in all her glory and love for Eggos, is one of our absolute favourites!