Here are 21 of the saddest and most traumatic Stranger Things moments of all time
‘Erica, help!’ had me shaking crying throwing up
It’s no secret that Stranger Things leaves its viewers in emotional turmoil. Having recently been nominated for 13 Emmys, season four was quite the rollercoaster. Personally, not a single breath was taken whilst watching the two hour and a half finale – scared and saddened doesn’t even begin to explain it.
So, in honour of the absolute trainwreck that season four left me in, I’ve taken it upon myself to reflect on the show as a whole and bring you a rundown of the saddest Stranger Things moments across all four seasons. Got tissues at the ready? Ok, let’s begin.
Season One – Benny’s death
Right in the first episode, the show introduces us to Benny who takes a scared Eleven under his wing. He’s warm, caring and something of a father figure. That is, until the social services he calls puts a bullet in his head without explanation – just like that. It’s so sudden that we don’t have proper time to mourn Benny’s death, but it’s sad because he was so lovable at first.
Whilst often memed, the death of Barb still hits hard. Once again, a character death within the second episode of season one is rather shocking – but it’s the desperation in her attempts to escape the demogorgon that’s so heartbreaking. She’s calling Nancy’s name and panicking, because what else are you meant to do? Additionally, when Nancy discovers that her best friend is missing, she can’t help but feel responsible for Barb’s death after ditching her for everyone’s favourite milf Steve.
Will’s fake body is pulled from the lake
This was devastating. Even though we mostly knew that the body wasn’t actually that of Will’s, it’s still heartbreaking to watch the town and our characters react to this tragedy. Mike’s reaction and lashing out at Eleven is so sad to see – when paired with the background score, the parallels between Joyce hugging Jonathan and Karen hugging Mike is peak cinematography.
Flashbacks of Hopper’s daughter’s death
Another sad moment in season one was when Hopper finds Will in the Upside Down, weakened and on the brink of death. When he resuscitates Will, he starts to have flashbacks of his own daughter Sara’s death. Once again, the parallel between the two scenes is heartbreaking but reveals so much about Hopper’s backstory.
Eleven disappears and says goodbye to Mike
In the finale of season one, we’re treated to an amazing scene with Eleven revealing just how powerful she is when she fights the demogorgon that’s been terrorising her friends and their town. However, it’s also terribly sad because she disappears and goes into the Upside Down too – but not before turning and whispering “goodbye Mike” as she leaves.
Season Two – Meeting Barb’s parents
Recovering from the disappearance of their daughter, Barb’s parents cling onto the hope that she is still out there somewhere, alive and well. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Barb is gone and Nancy is haunted by that fact every day. In season two we deal with the aftermath of the events that occurred in season one, but this one is particularly haunting because Nancy can’t even offer them closure.
Eleven learns about her mother
Whilst Eleven’s family history was touched upon last season, it’s here that we really delve deep into her past. She uses her powers to find her mother, but is left scared and confused. She’s screaming “Mama” again and again but to no avail – even when it’s later revealed that she was separated from her mother at birth by Dr Brenner, we’re all heartbroken for poor little El.
Personally, this hit me so hard. It’s just so sad to re-watch. New to the season, Bob quickly became a fan favourite. And we get it – he’s cute, he’s charming; he’s just so lovable. I guess that means the Duffer Brother’s just had to kill him off. Being ripped apart by demodogs in front of Joyce just as he nearly made it out of Hawkins Labs is devastating. He was so close, but he died a hero. Rest in pieces, Bob.
Mike lashes out at Hopper for hiding Eleven
In this emotional scene, Eleven came back to Hawkins to save the day and all her old friends. But when she does, Mike lashes out at Hopper for lying to him all this time and hiding her, despite knowing that he was always trying to find her again. It’s Mike’s mixed reaction of relief and anger and happiness that is truly powerful – the scene is definitely a tearjerker.
Dustin gets rejected at the Snow Ball
Who could ever refuse our adorable little Dustybun? Apparently, some mean girls at school feel the need to rudely reject Dustin’s proposal for a dance at the Snow Ball. When he’s left crying quietly in the corner of the school hall, it’s something that’s so sad to watch. However, it does get better when Nancy approaches him and offers him a dance. It’s very cute and emotional – we often forget that, at the end of the day, these characters are just kids and they can get their feelings hurt.
Season 3 – Will destroys Castle Byers
We’re onto season three now, where there definitely isn’t a shortage of seriously sad moments. One especially devastating scene is when Will gets upset at his friends (looking at you in particular, Mikey) and tears down Castle Byers. It’s sad because this was his safe space, but as his friends have moved on without him, he’s destroying the last few bits of childhood and innocence that he has left. Ouch.
When fan favourite Alexei died at the end of season three, everyone was furious. Although he was a newcomer to the show, he quickly gained lots of attention as this adorable little Russian engineer – for the most part, his comedic scenes with Hopper and Murray were pure gold. But when he’s shot unexpectedly just moments after having the time of his life at the carnival, he ends up dying all alone by a tent as Murray goes to find help. Sigh.
Billy’s past revealed
This season was heart-wrenching for Billy. Whilst disliked initially, Billy’s character arch was something spectacular. But what was truly saddening was to learn all about his childhood trauma and past – after that, he also quickly became a fan favourite (the Duffer brothers really seem to love killing off fan favourites. Who’s next, Steve?). So, when Eleven finds out that Billy is only the bully he is now because his mother left him with his abusive father, it’s definitely a tear jerking moment.
And to top it all off, yes, it’s Billy’s death. After discovering his traumatic past and devastating childhood troubles, we had to sit and watch as Billy sacrifices himself in a desperate attempt to protect Eleven. And just to rub salt in the wound, we have to deal with the fact that Max is sitting right there too, helpless.
The Byers move away
The ending of season three was also just devastating. I remember sitting there, too stunned to speak, as I realised that Will and Jonathan and Joyce and El were leaving. Despite me knowing that they’re only fictional characters, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was actually watching my best friends move away and leave the town we had grown up in.
Hopper’s letter to Eleven
I was already hanging onto a very thin thread of sanity at the end of this season. So when Hopper’s letter was playing in the background as Eleven sobbed and hugged her friends goodbye – I was a mess. The three inches and the fact that she thought her dad was gone? So painful to watch. It doesn’t get easier on the rewatch either.
Season 4 – Max prepares for Vecna’s curse
Poor Max. She carried this season on her back and she paid for it. When she found out that she was next in line for Vecna’s teenage killing sprees, she wrote letters and made plans for her death. The whole of that episode was just so sad – and I’m guessing those letters will come back in season five and rip our hearts out all over again.
Hopper is free for the first time
I didn’t realise I’d get so choked up at a man dipping his grubby hands into peanut butter and licking it off his fingers in a Russian church, but here we are. There’s something so tragic and moving about the simplicity of it all – having spent such a long time in a prison camp, I guess it’s the little things that bring tears to our eyes.
Hopper reunites with Joyce
But when Hopper sees Joyce again for the first time in eight months, everything comes flooding back. After eight months of relentless torture and suffering, it’s genuinely so sad to see the condition that Hopper is in now. It’s their long-awaited hug that packs such a powerful punch – David Harbour and Winona Ryder killed it.
Ah, Eddie Munson. Where to begin? Everyone was devastated to see him go – but it was his final words to Dustin that really killed me. “I didn’t run away this time, right?” No, Eddie, you didn’t. He was a hero, and even though the stupid town of Hawkins doesn’t see that, he’ll continue to live on forever in our hearts. His death was a truly sad moment; even Doja Cat would agree that we want to see more of him in the future.
“I don’t want to die… I’m not ready” and “Erica, help!”
We’ve saved the best for last. This moment quite literally ripped my heart out and snapped my bones Chrissy-style. The fact that Max was ready to face Vecna but lost and ended up begging for her life was incredibly painful to watch. Sadie Sink and Caleb McLaughlin are such a great acting duo – when Lucas delivered that heart-wrenching, improvised line (“Erica, help!”) I lost all sense of hope. I’m still not over it tbh, and I don’t think I ever will be. They both deserve better and I’m still mad at Jason.