The Netflix smash hit sci-fi horror series Stranger Things follows the residents of Hawkins, Indiana, where the supernatural and strange run rampant. The Duffer Brothers’ juggernaut introduced audiences across the world to the psychokinetic abilities of the mysterious Eleven, who arrives in the seemingly sleepy town and befriends a group of Dungeons and Dragons–loving young boys in the 1980s, forever changing their lives and perceptions of reality. The thrilling Stranger Things touts an impressive cast of Hollywood stars like Winona Ryder, David Harbour, and Millie Bobby Brown and has gone on to garner critical acclaim for its brilliant performances, soundtrack, atmosphere, and overall homage to the ‘80s.
Update September 5, 2023: Halloween is fast approaching, and Stranger Things is a popular pick for the season, so this article has been updated with even more details about the cast of characters on the hit series for anyone looking to start it for the first time.
Stranger Things is packed full of nostalgia, endearing and unforgettable characters, terrifying creatures, and killer music that is sure to capture your attention and make you want to binge the groundbreaking series in one sitting. Fans are eagerly anticipating its return for its fifth and final season, excited to once again be reunited with Mike, Dustin, and the rest of the charming gang of supernatural warriors. To prepare for what’s coming in the future, here is a character guide and description of Hawkins’ beloved band of misfits.
Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder)
The loving and fiercely protective mother of Will and Jonathan, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) refused to give up on her younger son when he disappeared in the show’s first season, even venturing into the terrifying Upside Down to rescue him from its horrors. While everyone believed she’d lost her mind when Will vanished, Joyce knew her child was out there and turned to police chief Jim Hopper to help in her search, with the two developing a close bond in the process. Joyce will do anything to keep her children out of harm’s way, and despite suffering extreme heartache after watching her son battle his demons and losing a romantic partner, she remains a constant and comforting presence. She also provides the opportunity for one of Ryder’s best performances in recent years.
Jim Hopper (David Harbour)
The Chief of Police in the seemingly sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) started out as a struggling alcoholic haunted by his tragic past before finding a new sense of purpose when Will Byers disappeared, sparking once more Hopper’s determination and ability to investigate. Hopper takes in the telepathic Eleven and adopts her as his daughter, with the two sharing a tender and sweet bond that grows as the series progresses.
He has a mutual attraction with Joyce that is often skirted around in a will-they-or-won’t-they way, and has proven to be a brave and relentless force against the Upside Down and any dangerous presence that threatens those he loves. Hopper made the ultimate sacrifice at the end of season 3, but season 4 brought him back as audience’s favorite who went against everything come back and fight for those he loves.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)
After making a harrowing escape from the Hawkins Laboratory where she endured grueling experiments, the telepathic and psychokinetic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is befriended by Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, with the young boys becoming protective of the traumatized girl. Eleven helps Joyce access the Upside Down and rescue her son Will, defeating the Demogorgon and later Mind Flayer to protect her friends and Hawkins. She struggles with her powers after such draining battles, eventually learning to better control them with the support of Hopper and her boyfriend Will. Eleven is devastated by the apparent death of Hopper, being taken in by the Byers as they relocate to California, but then in season 4, she joins the gang again while also exploring a key piece of her past.
Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard)
The loyal and intelligent Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolhard) is the unofficial leader of his group of friends, and sets out with both Dustin and Lucas to find his best friend Will Byers when he mysteriously disappears. Along the journey he develops romantic feelings for Eleven and the young pair eventually date, with their relationship enduring frightening creatures like the Mind Flayer and Demodogs and adolescent woes like jealousy and hormones. Mike is always willing to face the terrors that plague Hawkins along with his buddies, being protective over Eleven while toughening up over the course of the show due to the craziness that persists in his life.
Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo)
The goofy and sharp Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) is a devoted friend to Mike, Lucas, and Will and provides a lot of comedic relief during the more tension-filled events of the show. Initially bullied for his nerdy tendencies and for a lisp caused by cleidocranial dysplasia, Dustin develops more self-confidence and breaks apart from the core group when he grows close to Steve Harrington, whom he looks up to and views as a mentor. The pair’s relationship is both amusing and endearing, with Dustin seeking romantic advice from the older character when both he and Lucas fall for new girl Max Mayfield. After spending a month at science camp, Dustin returns to Hawkins with a girlfriend named Susie who is “hotter than Phoebe Cates,” and in his attempts to contact her through his makeshift radio tower he makes the important discovery of the coded Russian transmission. In season 4, Dustin connects with misfit Eddie Munson, and we all know how that ends.
Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin)
The pragmatic and level-headed member of the gang, Lucas Sinclair (Calen McLaughlin) is initially wary of the arrival of Eleven but eventually warms up to her, becoming impressed by her abilities and protective over her safety. He accepts the bizarre occurrences that run rampant in Hawkins, and finds comfort and romance with California transplant Max Mayfield, whom he begins a relationship with.
Lucas grows and matures very quickly as a result of being with Max, even offering dating advice to fellow couple Mike and Eleven, and branches out from the group by being a benchwarmer on the school’s basketball team. He is skilled with his slingshot known as “The Wrist Rocket” and is never afraid to join the fight against the deadly creatures from the Upside Down. In season 4, Lucas played a key role in turning over to the bully side for a while, as the jocks started hunting Eddie because they suspected he was Chrissy’s murderer.
Will Byers (Noah Schnapp)
Serving as one of the catalysts who kicked off the entire events of the series, Will Byers is a shy and creative boy who is captured by the Demogorgon from the Upside Down, creating a domino effect in the process. His mother Joyce goes against everything to find her son, who becomes haunted by disturbing visions of the chilling alternate dimension that he attempts to keep from his friends and family.
Will becomes possessed by the Mind Flayer and acts as a spy for the creature before it is eradicated from his body by his mother, brother, and Nancy Wheeler. The character becomes even more quiet and meek after his traumatic experiences, clinging to what’s left of his childhood by playing Dungeons and Dragons and spending time with his pals. Will feels left out from Mike and Lucas when they both get busy with their girlfriends, and sets out to leave behind his childish hobbies and embrace his own maturity and interests. Season 4 showed an endearing and compelling side we had never seen. And it was about time he got the screen time he deserved!
Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink)
The skateboarding tomboy and arcade game-loving Max Mayfield arrived in Hawkins with her older brother Billy in Season 2, attracting the attention of both Lucas and Dustin while eventually developing a close friendship with Eleven. She begins a relationship with Lucas while gradually accepting that the supernatural and strange exist in her new town.
Max has a strained relationship with her volatile and verbally abusive brother, who becomes an unwilling vessel of the Mind Flayer and ultimately sacrifices his life to save Eleven. The death of Billy devastated Max and left her in a deep depression, causing her to become reclusive and turn away from both her friends and Lucas as she struggles with her profound grief. In season 4, Max’s role was heavily improved and her arc turned out to be essential to the show’s storyline.
Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer)
The studious and compassionate Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) is Mike’s older sister, who branches out from her rule-following nature to investigate the disappearance of her friend Barbara and the Hawkins Lab, teaming up with loner Jonathan Byers as they both search for their missing loved ones. She finds herself growing disillusioned with her relationship with the popular jock Steve Harrington, breaking up with him after developing romantic feelings for Jonathan on their quest to expose the nefarious Hawkins Lab.
The ambitious Nancy gets a summer internship job at the town’s local newspaper and along with Jonathan discover signs that the Mind Flayer has returned, ultimately joining in the epic battle to eradicate the creature from Hawkins once and for all. In the following seasons, Nancy becomes an essential part of the gang.
Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton)
The protective and introverted big brother of Will, Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), is a quiet outsider who has a passion for photography, often expressing to his sibling that it’s okay to be different and trying to comfort Will after his traumatizing experience in the Upside Down. Jonathan becomes a devoted boyfriend to Nancy, banning together to investigate the Hawkins Lab and the strange occurrences that lead to the stunning realization the Mind Flayer was not actually destroyed. He has a strong bond with his family and does everything he can to be a positive male role model for Will, taking a job at the Hawkins Post to financially support them.
Steve Harrington (Joe Keery)
Popular high school student and former boyfriend to Nancy, Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) underwent extreme character development from season 1 on, starting out as an unlikable and bullying jock before transforming into a caring and vigilant character. Steve forms a charming and heartwarming relationship with Dustin, taking him under his wing by offering him guidance and support while becoming an ally to the other kids and acting as an authority figure for the group.
He steps up and becomes a key component in the fight against the Mind Flayer, maturing in his newfound role as protector while keeping an eye on the trouble-prone pals. Steve helps stop the possessed Billy along with the gang, resulting in the destruction of the Mind Flayer and Hawkins, effectively losing his job at Scoops Ahoy! in the process. In season 4, we evidence something resembling a reconnection with Nancy.
Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn)
An audience favorite. Eddie (Joseph Quinn) arrives in season 4 as the representation of how satanic panic modeled society during the ’80s and ’90s. Eddie is an outcast who loves listening to heavy metal, playing Dungeons & Dragons, and shredding notes on his guitar. However, in the beginning of the most recent season he gets accused of murdering Chrissy and goes dark.
The gang knows he’s not to blame and attempts to find him. When they do, he joins them in fighting Vecna. Eddie stars in one of the series’ iconic musical moments: to make monsters come to him in the Upside Down, he blasts Metallica’s Master of Puppets impeccably but also causes his own demise. If writers find a way to bring him back, Stranger Things will become more popular than before.
Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke)
Robin (Maya Hawke) is part of the group of characters that were introduced in the show for no apparent reason other than enlarging the ensemble cast, but the show is better for her inclusion. Introduced as Steve’s colleague in Scoops Ahoy! in season 3, Robin goes everywhere with Steve but is far from being his love interest: she’s one of the queer representations of the show. With a colorful wit and insane capacity to engage the audience by just her being her silly self, Robin is one of those characters that if they end up killing her, mayhem will ensue.
Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine)
Brenner (Matthew Modine) has been a recurring character since season 1. Every time Eleven has a flashback or the series is oriented to her being part of a government experiment, Brenner, aka Papa, shows up. He’s the fatherly figure to Eleven and one of the most ambiguous characters in the show. Does he want what’s best for Eleven? Or is he following his own agenda? In any case, the scientist of Hawking’s Laboratory met his demise in season 4 after being able to power up Eleven and defending her from the evil guys in the government. If he comes back for season 5, it will be fan service.
Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman)
Murray was introduced in season 2 as a conspiracy theorist that knew more about the experiments in Hawkins Laboratory than anyone in the town. But he wasn’t as engaging. Brett Gelman‘s persona is rough, and not as silly as his character demands it. However, in season 3 and 4, he became part of the regular cast, and the show saw his character being developed further. In season 4 especially, Murray became a key player in rescuing Hopper from the Soviets as he’s very familiar with their customs. He provides comic relief in unexpected ways.
Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson)
We’re pretty certain Erica will be more important in the upcoming season. Lucas’ sister is really badass, and in season 4, she showed more gravitas than her own brother by being part of the Hellfire Club, the nerds whose idea of fun is playing Dungeons & Dragons while the rest of the town is attending a basketball game. Season 3 saw her grow. But season 4 saw her being capable of standing alongside the rest of the gang and fiercely fighting Vecna. Priah Ferguson‘s performance as Erica is one of the best of the show.