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Ranking Stranger Things Characters By Likability

So few shows in genre television manage to achieve what the Duffer Brothers have with "Stranger Things." Since its debut it has gripped audiences far and wide with compelling storylines and intriguing characters who leave a mark despite how long they're on the screen. "Stranger Things" characters are always memorable, and most of them become pop culture sensations overnight.

Fans could find countless shirts, mugs, and all sorts of merchandise reading "Justice for Barb" after Shannon Purser's Barbara Holland was cruelly killed off. Cherry flavor Slurpees were purchased worldwide and shared on Instagram to honor Alec Utgoff's Alexei. And then, of course, there was SuperBob, a term coined to show appreciation for Sean Astin's Bob Newby.

No character on "Stranger Things" is perfect, and some are more likable than others. Most of them are great (we're talking about a show where "Friends don't lie" is the motto, after all), but who would you most want in your friend group? Here's our ranking of "Stranger Things" characters from least to most likable.

Dr. Brenner

More commonly known as "Papa" to Eleven, Dr. Brenner is inarguably the most detestable character in "Stranger Things." While most human characters in the series are not outright villains, there's no doubt that Dr. Brenner's intentions are wholly malicious. There's not an ounce of goodness in a person who exploits children and uses them as weapons. His treatment of Eleven is inexcusable — remember, his actions are directly responsible for her mental state and the loss of cognition she experiences.

Though viewers could argue that Dr. Brenner cares in some capacity and never really intended for his experiments to go as far as they did, he had plenty of chances to stop and even redeem himself if he wanted, chances that he opted not to take. He became a power-hungry, corrupt man whose plans for selfish gain outweighed any humanity he had left, and that's why he's the most unlikeable character on the show.

Billy Hargrove

While Billy Hargrove is certainly unlikable throughout the entirety of Season 2, he begins to fall into the gray area in Season 3 when his motives become more evident. The fact that his father is abusive in comparison to his loving mother does not excuse his abusive behavior or any of the bullying, but it does explain it to a degree. While he never kills anyone, Billy has violent tendencies that could have gone too far — he could have killed Steve Harrington if the kids didn't stop him.

However, as the monster possesses him in the third season and uses his body as a host, Billy's character becomes less unlikable and easier to sympathize with. He goes on a redemption arc of sorts, and by the time he delivers his last words to Max ("I'm sorry"), we can't help but feel sorry for the guy. Two simple words do not exactly redeem him, but they allow viewers to see that there was potential for growth if he had survived. It leaves Max — and the viewers — wondering about what might have been.

Jonathan Byers

Jonathan Byers is not exactly unlikable, though he has gone through the least amount of growth. That's not to say that his life has been a walk in the park, but he needs to step outside of the older brother and boyfriend role — we know Jonathan more through other characters than we know about him on his own. He is a photographer and likes rock music, but other than that, Jonathan is often in the shadows. He puts his best foot forward in Season 3 when he steps up to cut a part of the monster from Eleven's leg, but generally, Jonathan doesn't do much. He waits, steps behind, and settles as opposed to aiming for something bigger.

As was confirmed in the Season 4 "Welcome to California" trailer, the Byers family has left Hawkins behind to start over in The Golden State. The move to California could be great for him if he uses the opportunity to befriend people and come into his own. Surrounded by some new people, Jonathan may get to know himself better and become a bit more likable in the process.

Nancy Wheeler

Much like Jonathan Byers, Nancy Wheeler isn't exactly unlikable, but she has her flaws. That being said, it's hard not to side with her in Season 3 as her employees consistently belittle her and Jonathan fails to understand how frustrating it is. In the first two seasons, Nancy selfishly goes about satisfying her own desires more often than not, choosing to neglect friends for relationships. Her growth is more apparent in the third season when she begins to trust her instincts and uses them to protect those around her.

Nancy is the type of person who will think on the spot and come up with a solution. She knows how to be of use in difficult situations. Nancy might not be everyone's favorite character, but she has helped the gang out of tight spots on several occasions. She's also a nurturing figure whenever the younger kids are in her care, another underappreciated trait.

Mike Wheeler

In the first season, Mike Wheeler is undeniably one of the most likable characters. His loyalty to Will remains unparalleled, and his kindness towards Eleven is a rarity we don't frequently see on TV. Boys his age have a tendency to be mean to girls, but Mike opens his door to her and chooses to trust her even while his friends don't. However, in later seasons and as the characters continue to grow, Mike becomes more or less a typical teenage boy.

He used to pay attention to Will's behavior and his needs following his ordeal in the Upside Down, but he stopped listening as much. These newer developments don't necessarily make Mike unlikable, but it's easier to find him frustrating when he starts to think that he knows better than Eleven does. In his defense, Mike does try to learn when people point out his mistakes, so he should continue to evolve for the better as the show goes on.

Erica Sinclair

Erica Sinclair, Lucas' younger sister, is a newer character we don't know that much about yet, but she's already more interesting than most of the adults on the show. Erica might constantly mock her older brother for being a nerd, but it's clear that she cares about him deeply. Erica's fearless persona and the ability to hold her own with adults to get what she wants is a top-notch trait, especially if she needs to survive in a world full of alien-like creatures.

She's an unapologetic fangirl who loves "My Little Pony" and doesn't care if someone mocks her for it, showing audience members that a person should be proud of whatever they adore. If one thing is clear after the Season 3 finale, "The Battle of Starcourt," Erica is likely to have a more significant role in the group going forward, mainly since Will's "Dungeons & Dragons" game is in her possession.

Robin Buckley

Debuting in Season 3, Maya Hawke's Robin Buckley is likable from the moment we meet her. She is the only character able to consistently put Steve Harrington in his place, and she is incredibly resourceful. Though there's still a lot to learn about Robin, we do know that she speaks five languages (including pig Latin) and that she's a lesbian. She came out to Steve in an emotional moment that blew viewers away.

Robin fits in seamlessly with the rest of the characters, often acting as a mouthpiece for the audience, saying what we're all thinking (like when she asks Steve: "How many children are you friends with?"). Robin is brave when necessary, thinks quickly, and is the kind of person who'll go to the bat for her friends. At the end of Season 3, when she and Steve both apply to Family Video, she defends his character to ensure that Keith, the manager, hires him.

Lucas Sinclair

Lucas Sinclair is incredibly loyal like his friend Mike, but what makes Lucas more likable is how real and grounded he feels. Lucas is the first character to show hesitancy against Eleven, but he is also the one to apologize most sincerely, understanding that his quick judgments aren't the best call. And though he is still very much quick to judge and almost always the friend group's bluntest member, no one should question Lucas' good intentions.

Viewers will recall that Lucas is the first to introduce Eleven to the "friends don't lie" promise, and, despite his fears and hesitations, he sides with the team. As smooth as he seems, he's a little hesitant when it comes to professing his feelings for Max, making their interactions that much more adorable. He decides to be himself, and that's ultimately his best trait — his desire to be genuine with everyone.

Max Mayfield

Max Mayfield isn't exactly likable right from the start, but as the series progresses, she proves to be the type of girl who's always looking out for others. The show could have easily resorted to making her the cliché new kid from Cali who belittles everyone, but by making her the polar opposite of Billy, the creators chose to exhibit the differences between having a loving parent and not.

In Season 3, the audience sees more of Max's heart as it becomes apparent that, despite how Billy treats her, she still looks to him as her brother. She is willing to forgive his poor behavior, and she is ready to fight for him during The Battle of Starcourt. Max is also the kind of young feminist whose understanding of female agency allows Eleven the confidence necessary to trust in her own abilities and desires. Like most of the younger characters, Max might have a lot to learn, but she is one of the few who is on the right path.

Dustin Henderson

Dustin Henderson grows more likable by the second, mainly because of how hilarious he is, but also because he wears his heart on his sleeve in a way that no one else on the show does. Though he makes questionable choices (like keeping Dart from his friends in Season 2), without his attentiveness in Season 3 no one would have known what the Russians were plotting in Hawkins. No one could question Dustin's loyalty, and no one could mistrust his intelligence.

He might be a risk taker, but he always has honorable intentions and will do whatever it takes to get the job done — even if that means taking part in a duet with his long-distance girlfriend in the middle of an explosive moment. Like all the boys, Dustin is sometimes targeted by bullies, but he refuses to allow their words to diminish his love for nerdy things. One of the best things about the show is his relationship with Steve Harrington, and the actors are very much aware of this. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, has even mentioned a spin-off. "I think a Dustin-Steve spinoff would be good if it were in a weird niche format," he told Entertainment Tonight.

Will Byers

If the boys were real people, we would all agree that Will Byers is the best of them. He's quiet and shy and awkward at times, but the outpouring of adoration and loyalty he shows is irreplaceable. If he weren't such a great kid, his friends wouldn't continue to put their lives at risk to fight for him. Will is the heart of the series and a character worth going through the Upside Down for.

In the third season, Will reminds viewers that he's essentially the glue who holds the gang together as they bicker and spend time apart or with their girlfriends. Will makes plans every time and chooses to forgive even while he feels alone. He might not be able to fight physically, but in a world full of hardened hearts, he's a kid who's not afraid of his softer edges. Like Dustin, he embraces his nerdy qualities and expresses his appreciation for the people around him, a great trait to have.

Joyce Byers

From day one, Joyce Byers is the best kind of mother and a very likable character. When the entire town turns against her and calls her crazy, Joyce fights night and day, trusting her gut and insisting that her son is alive. She is the most complex of all the characters, proving that she'll always rise back up no matter how hard life kicks her. In a myriad of ways, Joyce Byers represents the working class, and the town of Hawkins visualizes how the general population perceives people who aren't rich. People constantly misjudge, ridicule, and diminish Joyce, but none of it phases her.

For Joyce, her top priority is fighting for her kids and allowing them to be whoever they want to be. She only wants Will and Jonathan to be happy. She is compassionate, warm, and easy to talk to, listening to reason and making sure that everyone around her is cared for. She's hard-working, transparent, and — like her son Will — soft around her edges, proving that strength is born from endurance. Everyone needs a Joyce Byers in their corner.

Jim Hopper

From the moment Jim Hopper walks into the police station uttering the words "Mornings are for contemplation," he becomes the most relatable and meme-worthy character on "Stranger Things." He is effortlessly likable from the start, but when the series shows us his darker past, it becomes easier to understand his world-weary outlook. Hopper has lived through tremendous pain (he sadly lost his daughter), and though he fails to believe Joyce initially about Will's disappearance, once he does, he fights tooth and nail to ensure his safe return. And as he later adopts Eleven, Hopper has the chance to be a father again, proving that though he isn't nearly ready for the teenage phase, he's on the right path towards adapting.

Hopper's words to Eleven in Season 3 tells viewers that he's not only learning, but that his complexities stem from his past mistakes. Part of his letter reads: "Keep on growing up, kid. Don't let me stop you. Make mistakes, learn from them, and when life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good." This reminds audience members that though he grumbles through everything, Hopper has a heart of solid gold.

Steve Harrington

When the show introduced viewers to Steve Harrington, it was hard to imagine the character ever becoming a fan favorite. He's arrogant, selfish, and a stereotypical teenage jock for whom popularity is the main concern. But Steve shows that he's ready to change his ways when he replaces Jonathan's broken camera with a new one. By Season 2, he's essentially a lone wolf after Nancy breaks up with him, though befriending Dustin changed everything — he accidentally became the world's most excellent babysitter and the internet's favorite mom.

YouTube and Twitter are full of compilations where Steve's behavior resembles a parent figure, with moments such as benching the kids, flinging the towel over his shoulder, and stopping the kids from going headfirst towards danger. It's a joke that Netflix loves to get in on. "Before we forget, here's wishing a very happy Mother's Day to Joyce Byers, Steve Harrington, and all the other moms in Hawkins," Netflix India once tweeted. Jokes aside, "Stranger Things" subverts expectations admirably by allowing Steve's growth to happen with natural progression. He continues to evolve by showing the audience that he's trying to make amends for slacking off and being a jerk.


Millie Bobby Brown's breakout role, Eleven is likable from the first beat, and it's not only because of her telekinesis. Eleven is the crux of the series, and her inherent kindness is the reason the main characters continue to succeed in their fight. After everything she experienced at the hands of Dr. Brenner during her time as his lab rat daughter, she could have decided to use her powers to get revenge, going full on supervillain. Instead, Eleven is a sweet kid who wants Eggo waffles and companionship.

In more ways than one, she is every kid (or adult) who merely wants a place to belong. Eleven is all heart and unceasing devotion. After learning that friends don't lie, she takes the sentiment in, promising to herself that she'll not only remain loyal but transparent with those she loves. She's too strong for her own good at times, but Eleven's greatest superpower is her vulnerability and the ability to love. She gives without expecting anything in return, and that's why she's the most likable "Stranger Things" character.