Since arriving in 2016, Stranger Things has become the most popular show on Netflix. It became a pop culture hit thanks to an intriguing sci-fi horror vibe, wonderfully likable characters, and an 80s setting that tugs on the nostalgia heartstrings of its viewers. Season three recently premiered and provided fans with eight more intense episodes featuring their favorites from Hawkins, Indiana.
All three seasons have received critical acclaim. Even the episodes considered to be the worst would often be highly touted for other series. With this third season in the books, we figured now would be a good time to narrow things down and pick out the 10 best episodes in history.
10 Trick Or Treat, Freak (Season 2, Episode 2)
No show is better suited for a big Halloween episode than Stranger Things. A lot of the season two promotional stuff centered around the kids dressed as the Ghostbusters and getting to see it was a ton of fun. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for this episode. After Eleven's apparent death in the season one finale, she appeared at the end of the season two premiere. "Trick or Treat, Freak" gave us some insight into her life since she disappeared and gave us our first look at the father/daughter bond formed with Hopper.
On the trick or treating front, the gang was split. Dustin and Lucas were focused on bringing Max into the group, which angered Mike who was also trying to get to the bottom of Will's "now memories." Nancy and Steve were still struggling with the aftermath of Barb's death, which gave us drama. This episode also introduced us to Dart. But the real highlight? Bob dressed as a vampire for the holiday. We love Bob.
9 The Bite (Season 3, Episode 7)
The penultimate episode of a season can often be a thrilling one. It sets the stage for the finale and leaves you with a big cliffhanger. That happened with "The Bite" as it brought our characters closer together ahead of the big climax. A lot of the season focused on the limits of Eleven's powers. She does a great job against the Mind Flayer at Hopper's cabin, but gets in trouble and needs help from the gang. It's awesome to see Lucas wield an ax and Nancy fire off shotgun rounds, giving us a real team effort.
Eleven is badly wounded in the fight, properly raising the stakes ahead of the finale. There's also a surprisingly well done emotional moment as Alexei is killed just as we started to like him.
8 The Spy (Season 2, Episode 6)
You wouldn't expect it, but the only episode to not feature Eleven is also one of the best. "The Spy" brought a lot of great things together. For starters, it was where the lovable Dustin and Steve friendship truly got going. Hearing them discuss girls problems and hair products was great. The scene where Steve and the kids come together to fight the Demodogs is a series highlight. We also get a deeper dive into Max, as she bonds with the team and reveals some of her back story to Lucas.
Meanwhile, intense stuff happened at Hawkins Lab. Will was forced to act as a spy for the Mind Flayer. It caused the death of several men, while also bringing the Demodogs to the lab and putting everyone in danger.
7 The Sauna Test (Season 3, Episode 4)
The idea of the Mind Flayer taking over Billy was a brilliant one. Billy was established as a tough guy in season two, so you add in the power of the monster and he's an imposing threat. "The Sauna Test" gave us our first battle between him and the kids. It didn't disappoint. Billy breaking out of the sauna was intimidating and when he held Eleven up by the throat, it's both brutal and terrifying. Eleven gets her shots in and this worked as a tremendous first encounter.
Elsewhere, there's an unexpectedly touching moment between Nancy and her mother. Mrs. Wheeler isn't a character who gets a lot to work with but that scene was great.
6 The Monster (Season 1, Episode 6)
The first season of Stranger Things was filled with memorable scenes. An argument could be made that the most iconic came in "The Monster." This is the episode where Dustin and Mike were bullied and Mike was forced to jump off a cliff. To the surprise of everyone, Mike floated thanks to Eleven showing up to save the day. She sent the bullies packing and we were gifted by Dustin yelling, "SHE'S OUR FRIEND AND SHE'S CRAZY!" It was actually a beautiful sentiment because Eleven was worried that she was a monster, but Mike assured her that what she did was heroic. We also got to see Eleven steal Eggos from a local supermarket.
This episode also shined a light on Eleven's past while giving us an early look at the Upside Down.
5 The Gate (Season 2, Episode 9)
After spending most of season two apart, our heroes were reunited and joined forces in the finale, "The Gate." And almost immediately, they all split up. Eleven and Hopper went off to close the gate to the Upside Down, while Nancy, Jonathan, and Joyce went to the cabin to get the Mind Flayer out of Will. If that wasn't enough, Steve took the rest of the kids into the Upside Down to blow part of it up.
What this episode did masterfully was how it mixed the action with the lighthearted moments.
4 The Mind Flayer (Season 2, Episode 8)
Just before season two concluded, we got one of the best episodes of the entire series. "The Mind Flayer" provided us with the saddest moment in Stranger Things history. Sean Astin stole our hearts as Bob, the lovable boyfriend of Joyce Byers. He was the ultimate hero in this episode, using his brain to help everyone escape a Hawkins Lab overrun by Demodogs. Unfortunately, he couldn't get out in time and was gruesomely killed by the Demodogs as Joyce and company got away.
While that is the reason we all remember the episode, it's far from all that "The Mind Flayer" has going for it. The escape from Hawkins Lab was an exhilarating one. Everyone interrogating Will as he communicated through Morse code was exciting. But the real kicker came right at the end when Eleven took out a Demodog and walked into the cabin.
3 The Vanishing Of Will Byers (Season 1, Episode 1)
The first episode of a series can often feel like they're just testing the waters. They haven't figured out what works and don't hit their stride until midway through the season. That wasn't the case with Stranger Things. They came out firing with "The Vanishing of Will Byers." A lot of time was spent setting up all of these characters. We fully grasp who these people are almost instantly. That's especially true for the party of friends.
When Will Byers disappears before the opening credits, we know we're in for something special. The episode truly shined when it balanced the introduction of so many characters with the mystery surrounding the yet unnamed Eleven. Watching her meet up with Dustin, Mike, and Lucas set the tone for what that friendship would mean for the show going forward. An incredible start that perfectly captured what Stranger Things was.
2 The Battle Of Starcourt (Season 3, Episode 8)
The season three finale, "The Battle of Starcourt" feels like a movie. It clocks in at nearly 90 minutes and each minute is filled with something to take in. We finally got everyone in the same place at the same time for a warm reunion before they had to go off on their own missions. It's a Stranger Things staple and it has never worked better. The "Scoop Troop" was off to handle communications and directions, which led to the outrageous scene of Dustin and his girlfriend Suzie singing the theme song from The Neverending Story.
The actual fight at the Starcourt Mall was one of the best in series history. With Eleven's powers not working, it forced everyone else to step up. Lucas' idea of using fireworks on the Mind Flayer was smart and gave us some stunning visuals. Billy had a heroic death as he turned the tide after being mind-controlled for most of the season. The topper was Joyce finally agreeing to go on a date with Hopper, only for him to seemingly perish as she closed the gate and saved the day.
1 The Upside Down (Season 1, Episode 8)
Season one ended on the highest note possible. Everything that the previous seven episodes built towards came to a thrilling end in "The Upside Down." Joyce and Hopper took a long trip into the Upside Down to rescue Will and resuscitate him. Getting to spend a lot of time in that world was something all fans wanted for most of the season. There was also Steve getting his big heroic moment when he returned to save Nancy and Jonathan from the Demogorgon with a spiked baseball bat. Without this scene, we wouldn't love Steve as much as we do.
The true high point for the episode arguably came in the storyline where the kids did battle in the school. Eleven got to ruthlessly take out her "papa" and all of his goons before turning her attention to the Demogorgon. Her goodbye to Mike as she risked it all to save Hawkins was truly touching and a fantastic way to wrap up the season.