Science-fiction/horror mashup Stranger Things is nothing short of a pop culture phenomenon. But it isn’t all psychic powers and extradimensional monstrosities: this show’s got a lot of heart. Stranger Things manages to weave touching coming-of-age narratives and tender moments around its core horror dramatics and then sprinkles a little neon-tinged 1980s nostalgia over the top for good measure.
Uncannily striking all the right notes at the right time, Stranger Things has audiences running the full spectrum of human emotions, from raucous laughter to heartfelt tears, and every stop in between. To demonstrate, here are five of the greatest moments in the series, alongside five that had us blubbering through an entire box of tissues. Watch out for spoilers if you’re not up to date with the series!
10 THE BEST: The Triple-Decker Eggo Extravaganza
Because carbohydrates and coma-inducing levels of sugar are a safe way into anyone’s heart, right? After a particularly tense argument with Eleven concerning how important it is that she remains hidden, the grizzled old police chief needs a pretty strong apology to make amends. And he knows exactly what to do.
Taking advantage of Eleven’s weakness for Eggo waffles, he prepares this monstrous pile of sugar. Layering whipped cream, Hershey’s Kisses, and waffles three times over before topping with Reese’s Pieces and jelly beans, it seems to be a winner in her book. But the best thing about it? As Hopper says, “It’s only eight thousand calories.”
9 WE CRIED: Justice For Barb
The character of Barbara was a runaway fan favorite that not even the show’s creators expected, but audiences nonetheless strongly identified with her nerdy and kind-hearted demeanor. Having been blown off by Nancy, audiences were horrified when the Demogorgon kills her shortly afterward, and the truth is covered up by Hawkins Lab.
“Justice for Barb” became a movement unto itself within the fandom, and fans got the catharsis they needed when John and Nancy force Hawkins into a compromise, allowing Barbara to have a proper funeral. The sight of her parents finally being able to openly mourn her loss might be tragic, but at least they get to actually do so, at long last.
8 THE BEST: Mike’s Leap of Faith
Mike and Dustin find themselves cornered by their less-than-friendly neighborhood bullies, and the situation gets a little bit too real when one of them actually pulls a knife on Dustin. Knife boy then instructs Mike to jump off the nearby cliff, or else he’ll start carving Dustin up.
Seeing no choice, Mike takes the plunge, with Dustin and the pair of bullies scrambling over to the ledge to see that he’s actually floating in mid-air. Eleven has happened upon the scene in the nick of time, utilizing her telekinetic powers to both save Mike and subdue the two tormentors.
7 WE CRIED: Bob’s Heroic Sacrifice
Alas, poor Bob deserved better. The almost annoyingly affable Bob was Joyce’s love interest for Season Two, and though he’s a rather plain sort of guy, he’s stable, kind, and shows genuine interest in the well-being of Joyce and her son, Will.
After the Hawkins lab is invaded by a host of vicious Demodogs, Bob, Joyce, Will, and Mike are trapped inside. The complex has gone into lockdown due to a power outage, and Bob volunteers to brave the Demodog infested hallways to restore it. He succeeds, but just when it appears he’ll escape with the rest of the group, he’s tackled and killed by the ferocious beasts.
6 THE BEST: Steve Shares His Secrets With Dustin
The immense amount of charisma and chemistry between the seemingly unlikely duo of Steve and Dustin threatened to steal the entirety of the show at some points, but none more so than when Dustin starts plying Steve for advice on wooing the ladies.
As the two are setting bait along a stretch of train tracks in order to track down Dart the wayward Demodog, Steve starts to give Dustin the low down, chief among which is his secret to maintaining such a gorgeous head of hair: exactly four puffs of Farrah Fawcett hairspray, while his hair’s still damp. Not wet nor dry, but damp. That part is crucial.
5 WE CRIED: “Goodbye, Mike”
For lack of better terminology, everything has completely gone to heck at the end of Season One. Hawkins Lab agents have stormed the school to recover Eleven, and attracted by Eleven’s defensive slaughter of several agents, the Demogorgon is running rampant inside. Amid chaotic spurts of gunfire and screaming, Mike, Dustin, and Eleven take shelter in an empty classroom.
However, the monster manages to track down and corner them. Left with no choice, Eleven focuses her psychic gifts, pinning the creature against the wall. She utters her humble goodbye to a tearful and distraught Mike, before apparently sacrificing herself to destroy the Demogorgon.
4 THE BEST: Nancy Dances with Dustin
Season Two comes to an end at the school dance, known as the Snowball, and it’s absolutely full of great moments for nearly every character. But one of its chief highlights occurs between the two unlikeliest characters: Mike’s beautiful older sister, Nancy, and perennial goofball Dustin.
Despite all of Steve’s sterling advice, Dustin still gets blown off by the ladies in attendance and ends up sitting alone to shed a few tears. Nancy notices this, and to Dustin’s utter shock, she approaches him for a dance. It’s an incredibly sweet scene, with Nancy reassuring him that in a few years’ time he’ll be a regular ladykiller.
3 WE CRIED: Hopper Officially Adopts Eleven
Hopper’s fatherly role in Eleven’s life is one of the series’ sweetest (and at times funniest) themes over the course of its second season. With Hopper having suffered the tragic loss of his daughter, and Eleven lacking in any concrete, healthy parental influence, they seem like two puzzle pieces destined to fit together.
As thanks for their efforts in shutting down the gateway to the Upside Down, Dr. Sam Owens pulls a few strings and presents Hopper with official documentation to legitimize their situation, allowing him to look after her without being stifled by secrecy. If this scene didn’t tug on someone’s heartstrings, chances are that they simply don’t have any.
2 THE BEST: Eleven Closes the Portal to the Upside Down
Season Two’s climactic final episode reaches a crescendo with this sequence, which sees Hopper and Eleven infiltrating the Hawkins Lab in a final, last-ditch effort to close the gateway to the Upside Down for good.
It’s gripping, visually impressive, and heavy with emotional tension as Hopper desperately fights off the multitude of monsters encroaching on the pair, valiantly protecting Eleven while she brings the entirety of her psychic might to bear against the gateway.
1 WE CRIED: Mike & Eleven Reunited
Fans may have had to wait for an agonizing eight episodes into Season Two before seeing the moment they’d all been waiting for, but it was well worth the patience. After Demodogs surround the gang at Hopper’s remote cabin and they prepare to fend them off, one of the monsters suddenly comes crashing through the window, already dead.
An unseen force unlatches and unlocks the door, and in steps Eleven, having dealt with the monsters already. Every fan watching shared in Mike’s heartfelt smile as he and Eleven met gazes for the first time over the course of the whole season.