Best Stranger Things Episodes: Top 5 Shocking Moments Most Recommended By Fans

In the summer of 2016, Netflix released one of its earliest flagship shows, “Stranger Things.” Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, more commonly called the Duffer Brothers, the series took the world by storm. Ranking as the third most-watched Netflix series in the U.S. that year, it would go on top of the charts as the most-watched Netflix series of all time by its third season. With such popularity, it’s clear the show hits all the marks. It has a talented cast, well-written script, beautiful soundtrack, and overall a certain je ne sais quoi that make up some of the best “Stranger Things” episodes. 

On top of its popularity, “Stranger Things” is also one of Netflix’s most binge-watched shows. With its third season completed by upwards of 18 million people within the first four days of its release alone. Of course, Binge-watching is a uniquely modern phenomenon brought on by the age of streaming. It may initially seem indulgent, but fascinating new findings indicate a lot of self-control involved in streaming binges. And at the top of the mentioned shows, most likely to be binged? You guessed it, “Stranger Things”. 

Even with Netflix’s recent setbacks, it seems “Stranger Things” has helped have a resurgence for the platform. A new survey suggests that Netflix is still a big contender in the television world. The data was first reported by OnePoll and collected from over 2,000 respondents, each of whom was asked to pick their favorites from a list of all the TV series they watched in 2022. Netflix represented half of the overall top 10 list, as well as half the best-scripted shows. The platform has also revealed its jolt in subscribers, no doubt bolstered by fan reactions to the conclusion of “Stranger Things” Season 4 last year. 

But you’re here because you either already love “Stranger Things” or want to start it. So if you’re new here, we at StudyFinds take our best of the best very seriously, researching across various platforms to bring you the top five best “Stranger Things” episodes of all time! Disagree with our list? We would love to hear from you and your favorite chapter in the comments below! Oh, and a spoiler warning for those who are a little behind on their binge. Now, onto our rankings!

Netflix starting up on a TV
Netflix starting up on a TV (Photo by Thibault Penin on Unsplash)

The List: Best “Stranger Things” Episodes, According to Experts

1.“The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” (Season 4, Chapter 7)

Remember that episode we mentioned that helped skyrocket Netflix’s subscribers? “The Massacre At Hawkins Lab” is the episode that has the privilege of causing that jump. “Officially, the highest-rated ‘Stranger Things’ episode of all time comes from the latest and final season of the show. ‘The Massacre At Hawkins Lab’ sees Hopper get braced to battle a monster. Ranked at an almost perfect 9.7 on IMDb,” describes Scotsman.

“Earning the top spot as the number one best episode of ‘Stranger Things’ is the seventh episode of Season four. In ‘The Massacre at Hawkins Lab,’ fans witness Nancy, Robin, and Eddie saving Steve from getting fully devoured by Vecna’s bats. However, their exit gets blocked off by more bats, trapping them in the Upside Down. Unaware of the older teens’ situation, Dustin, Lucas, and Eddie are eventually caught by the police, who bring them to the Wheeler family’s house. There, the gang continues to evade questions from parents and police about their involvement with Eddie, who has become a prime suspect in the deaths of Vecna’s victims,” explains Looper.

“Serving as the finale of season four, volume one, ‘The Massacre at Hawkins Lab’ reveals that Vecna is actually Henry Creel, a former Hawkins Lab experiment named One. Years earlier, Eleven tore One apart after he slaughtered her siblings and much of the lab’s staff, created the first gate to the Upside Down, and threw him inside it, creating Vecna in the process,” says Cleveland.

2. “Dear Billy” (Season 4, Chapter 4)

Even those who haven’t watched a single episode of “Stranger Things” would recognize the most iconic scene from this episode. “Dear Billy” “sees the progression of many narratives; perhaps the most important is the culmination of one of the best storylines in ‘Stranger Things’ season 4, as Vecna’s curse finally catches up with Max just as she’s reading her heartfelt letter to Billy in the Hawkins cemetery,” writes Screenrant.

“One of the most popular episodes of Season 4 is ‘Dear Billy,’ which features Robin, Nancy, Steve, Dustin, and Lucas doing everything they can to find a way to stop Vecna’s curse from getting a complete hold of Max. This includes Robin and Nancy disguising themselves as psychology students to score an interview with Victor Creel, the only known survivor of the curse,” adds Looper.

In this episode, we find “Max fighting for her life after she’s marked for death by Vecna. The group manages to save her by playing her favorite song, ‘Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)’ by Kate Bush. Season four has led to a massive rediscovery of Bush’s music, with the artist reportedly earning $2.3 million from her song being featured on the show,” notes Cleveland.

3. “The Upside Down” (Season 1, Chapter 8)

For our number three pick, we are throwing it back all the way to the first season. After seven excruciatingly long episodes of Will being missing, “Joyce and Hopper venture into the Upside Down and rescue Will, El defeats her papa and his lackeys to save her friends but vanishes in the process, and we see that not all is right with Will as he vomits a slug,” writes Mashable.

“In the season one finale, Steve helps Nancy and Jonathan in their plan to lure the Demogorgon back to the Byers’ house. Ultimately, Eleven manages to destroy the monster, vaporizing both it and herself in the process. The season ends with Will flashing back to the Upside Down for a moment, indicating that his struggles with the other dimension are far from over,” describes Cleveland.

“Elsewhere, when Steve comes over to apologize to Jonathan, he’s roped into their scheme and redeems himself by saving Nancy, proving that he has the best ‘Stranger Things’ character arc. It’s a bittersweet ending with a cliffhanger that perfectly sets up season 2,” says ScreenRant.

4. “The Gate” (Season 2, Chapter 9)

This is a satisfying episode for those who are a fan of young love, as well as someone who loves a good family dynamic story. “‘The Gate’ basically has zero missteps. The action is amazing, but then there is still time for humor, heart, and more. Sure, we can’t get too invested in the romantic lives of two teenagers, but when Mike and Eleven dance together at the Snow Ball? That’s a sweet moment that’s hard to deny. If you want to know how to end a season of television, watch ‘The Gate’ to get a picture-perfect example,” writes Yardbarker.

“In the season two finale, Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy extract the Mind Flayer from Will using extreme heat, while Eleven and Hopper close the gate to the Upside Down. Eleven uses Kali’s advice to let her anger fuel her powers and manages to levitate for the first time,” notes Stacker.

“We finally see Eleven and Mike reunited as their love continues to blossom. On top of that, Hopper shares his true father-like feelings with Eleven, and all he wanted was to protect her like he couldn’t save his daughter, Sarah. The special effects continue to be a scene-stealer as Eleven gives her all to close the gate and protect her friends. The season two finale gives closure to Eleven as she realizes her friends and Hawkins are her home despite all the pain she has endured,” adds Collider.

5. “The Battle of Starcourt” (Season 3, Chapter 8)

One of the more saddening episodes on the list comes in the form of “The Battle of Starcourt,” which features a surprisingly heartbreaking moment from an unlikely character. “A tense episode, ‘The Battle of Starcourt,’ kicks off with El and the gang trying to get a piece of the Mind Flayer out of her leg. Eleven uses her power to do it, and in a game-changing moment, the pain results in her losing her powers. With the Mind Flayer out to kill El, it’s everyone else’s turn to save her. Hopper, Joyce, and Murray make up the team that will close the gate while the Scoops Troop uses Dustin’s radio to guide them. The rest of the gang tries to hide but are stopped from leaving by Billy and the Mind Flayer, who trap them at the mall, a move that has tragic results,” explains ScreenRant.

“In ‘The Battle of Starcourt,’ the group is trapped inside the local mall and confronts the Mind Flayer, who continues growing into an even bigger black widow mass and almost annihilates the group. The monster closes in, and Billy steps directly into the line of fire to fend off its grasping tentacles. ‘Billy!’ Max screams. It’s enough to tear your heart out. It’s a death that brings a myriad of conflicting emotions ranging from relief to sorrow,” writes SlashFilm.

“The Season 3 finale is visually stunning — the glittering neon rainbow of Starcourt is eclipsed only by the dazzling swarm of fireworks launched at the Mind Flayer’s decaying body. Dustin, Suzie, and Erica guide Murray, Joyce, and Hopper through the labyrinthine Russian-built tunnels below the mall. Hopper seemingly perishes along with the portal-generating Key, devastating Joyce, and Eleven. The Byers decide to shift base to California; Eleven, now powerless, leaves Hawkins with her new family, and the episode drops a major hint concerning Hopper’s status in a mid-credits scene,” adds CBR.

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