Stranger Things is most beloved for its perfect replication of all things 1980s, as well as its countless callbacks and tributes to the television shows, movies, and music that made the 1980s such a cultural goldmine. But the series is also beloved for its fresh take on the coming of age genre, seeing as the vast majority of its core characters are tweens and teens trying to find their way in life, all while fighting monsters to boot.
Countless friendships have been forged and broken in the series' three seasons so far. Some of them are friendships worth rooting for and absolutely adoring, but other friendships are toxic from day one and have no chance of becoming anything other than that. Here, we take a look at the best and worst friendships the Netflix series has introduced so far.
10 Best: Eleven and Max
Considering her unconventional upbringing, and the way in which she reintegrated into mainstream society, it goes without saying that Eleven never really had a real friend, and definitely not a female one. So when Stranger Things 3 allowed El to form a friendship with former enemy Max, it was a refreshing change of pace. It allowed Eleven to form a friendship free of the boys' world, and their interests, too.
Through her time with Max, El was able to learn more about herself, her own interests, her own personality, and her own worth. Their gleeful adventures at the mall and in their sleepovers stand out as some of the third season's best moments.
9 Worst: Dustin and Lucas
The main group of kids might be the heart and show of the series, but it's been clear virtually from day one that Dustin and Lucas would never work as a friendship all on their own outside of the group setting. It's hard to find a scene where these two aren't in conflict, and that's even before the second season forced them into a love triangle they were entirely not ready for.
Dustin and Lucas are the two most openly opinionated and argumentative members of the friendship group, which inevitably leads to plenty of conflicts. They both have their pros and cons as characters, and they contribute a lot to the group. But it's definitely not a good idea to leave them alone together for any considerable amount of time.
8 Best: Steve and Robin
One of the best additions the series made in its third season was the introduction of Steve's Scoops Ahoy coworker, Robin. Played with pitch perfect sass and endless heart by Maya Hawke, Robin added yet another strong, smart female presence to a series already teeming with amazing female characters. Steve and Robin were hilarious together from their first moments as bickering coworkers.
But over the course of the season, as they began to learn more about one another, and went to great lengths to save each other (and the world, at that) it became clear that these two were the real deal. Robin even trusted Steve enough to come out to him in one of the series' most sensitively handled scenes, which shows just how much she cares for him, and how much she knows he cares for her, too.
7 Worst: Nancy and Barb
You can want justice for Barb all you want, but there's no way of denying that Barb was a terrible friend to Nancy, and Nancy was a terrible friend to Barb, too. From the first episode of the series, Barb was critical and highly judgmental of Nancy's life and choices, often trying to make her be someone Nancy clearly didn't want to be anymore.
Likewise, Nancy abandoned Barb in moments when she should have stuck by her side, which, as we all know, would lead to Barb getting abducted and killed by the demogorgon. It's not outright Nancy's fault that Barb was killed, but the friction in their relationship should definitely have been addressed before they attended that party. If they'd talked out their issues before then, and Barb not gone to the party, maybe things could have gone differently.
6 Best: Will and Mike
From day one, it was clear that Mike Wheeler and Will Byers were the best of friends, the true heart within the series' core friendship group. It wasn't until the second season, however, that the series truly explored the intensity and depth of their friendship. All along, Mike is by Will's side, supporting him and protecting him and reminding him of everything that he has to live for.
"Do you remember the first day that we met?" Mike asks Will in the second season's penultimate episode. "It was the first day of kindergarten. I knew nobody. I had no friends and I just felt so alone and so scared. But I saw you on the swings and you were alone, too. You were just swinging by yourself and I just walked up to you and I asked. I asked if you wanted to be my friend. And you said yes. You said yes. It was the best thing I’ve ever done." There aren't words for how much we love these two.
5 Best: Steve and Dustin
Talk about unconventional friendships. One of the most surprising things to come out of Stranger Things 2 was former cool kid Steve Harrington's total skill at being a babysitter, and "the mom friend." But through his adventures with taking care of the kids and helping them defeat monsters, Steve formed a real, lasting friendship with Dustin Henderson. And boy, are we glad he did.
Stranger Things 3 leans heavily into their friendship, and their odd couple qualities of bickering and bantering. They have their own handshake now, and Steve's sheer glee at seeing Dustin come home from camp is too adorable for words. The way that they work together to save the day, along with Erica and Robin, shows that these two are a real team. "If you die, I die," Dustin tells Steve at one point. It doesn't get more bromantic than that.
4 Worst: Troy and James
Every story has its villains, and in the world of middle school, there are no better villains than the archetypal bullies. Troy and James terrorize the series' core group of friends in the first season, and they're about as one note villainous as any characters in the series can get. They're always side by side, always bullying and threatening as a team, and always humiliating the boys in tag team efforts.
But thankfully, they get some of what they deserve when Eleven arrives, using her abilities to give them some just dessert and humiliate them publicly the way they've spent years bullying the boys. We don't know what happened to these two after the first season - and honestly, we're good with that.
3 Best: Hopper and Joyce
When Stranger Things first started, it was clear that Chief Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers had a lot of history, but there wasn't a lot of love lost between them, either. Over the course of the series, however, these two have come to be each other's main support system, investigating mysteries and conspiracies and kicking human and monster butt alike side by side.
Hopper was the first person to believe Joyce when everyone thought she was crazy. He was also there for her every moment of Will's absence, and there for her after Bob's tragic death. The third season takes things to a romantic level with these two, but we're more than okay with that. The best romances are rooted in friendship, after all, and these two definitely have one of the strongest friendships in the series.
2 Worst: Steve, Carol, Tommy, and Nicole
Way back in Stranger Things' first season, Steve Harrington was a total tool. A stereotypical spoiled, rich, popular kid, Steve was surrounded by a band of cronies that were more focused on their popularity, their wealth, and their sex life than anything else. Carol, Tommy, and Nicole were absolutely loathsome characters, who spent their entire time on screen insulting people and starting fights.
Thankfully, Steve finally broke away from them at the end of the first season, realizing he didn't want to be like them or spend time with them anymore. But the damage that they all did together in the first season is still hard to forget, especially when it came to publicly humiliating Nancy and Jonathan both.
1 Best: Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas
No other friendship could possibly have topped this list. At the end of the day, when all the monsters are defeated and conspiracies exposed, Stranger Things is a show about a group of friends who love each other and will do everything they can to keep each other safe. Whether they're planning their next Dungeons & Dragons campaign, trying to get the highest score on the latest games in the arcade, or spending all of their time in Starcourt Mall, Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas are the best of friends, and always will be.
They've been through quite a lot in the series' three seasons, facing countless monsters and having plenty of fights that could have broken them for good. But in the end, friendship overcomes everything, and they make amends, just as we know they always will. Hopefully, with Will moving away from Hawkins, Stranger Things 4 will let this iconic foursome continue their friendship somehow.