The 14 Most Brutal Moments In Stranger Things Ranked

This article contains spoilers for "Stranger Things" Season 4.

"Stranger Things," Netflix's loving homage to 1980s science fiction and horror, is a genuine cultural phenomenon. It's been the tentpole title for the streamer ever since it was first released, to almost universal acclaim, and remains incredibly rewatchable. It's a behemoth of a show and one that is showing no signs of faltering. The penultimate season smashed Netflix's records, becoming the most-watched English language title and accumulating 883.30 million hours viewed within the first 24 days of its release.

While some fans might maintain that on the whole, the series is more science fiction than horror — with obvious touches from films like "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Firestarter," and "Gremlins" — it is increasingly veering more into overt horror territory, with more and more references to classic movies like "The Thing" and "The Exorcist." The following list ranks the most brutal, cold-blooded, and downright upsetting moments in the entire series so far. 

14. Junkyard dogs

The Demodogs of Season 2 might be the least scary monsters of the entire series, essentially a pack of demonic hounds. They do feature in one of the most sinister moments of the season, though, as Dustin hunts down his former pet Demodog Dart, tracking him to the local junkyard and recruiting Steve Harrington's help. Steve and Dustin's friendship is one of the most heartwarming elements of the entire series, and this is where the bromance begins in earnest. Steve volunteers himself as bait to draw Dart out, walking into the misty junkyard and brandishing his trusty baseball bat. It quickly becomes apparent that Dart isn't alone, and Steve finds himself surrounded on all sides by a whole pack of demon dogs. 

Steve often puts himself in danger, and this scene was the first time it felt like he could legitimately have been killed. Narrowly avoiding getting eaten on the spot, he lands one hit with his bat and sprints back to the scrapped school bus the younger kids are hiding in. The dogs surround the bus and are about to kill the group when they are called away by The Mind Flayer. The subsequent ambush in Hawkins Lab is a neat way of showing how dangerous the dogs are without killing off any of the main characters. Still, this remains a supremely tense sequence, and for once it feels like the heroes are in genuine danger — something that happens with less and less frequency as the series goes on. 

13. The Mind Flayer threatens Eleven

This isn't so much a brutal scene as an utterly chilling one. There are no effects nor gore in Billy's ominous warning to Eleven, but instead a terrifying feeling of powerlessness, both on the part of Eleven, who has been lured into a trap, and Billy himself. He isn't a sympathetic character by any means, but Dacre Montgomery's performance perfectly conveys the horror of being possessed. With The Mind Flayer essentially using him as a macabre ventriloquist's dummy, a single tear rolls down his cheek as he announces to Eleven that he knows where she is, and he's coming for her. 

Season 4 has been rightly lauded for upping the horror stakes, but Season 3 was already laying the groundwork for this, with a noticeable shift into truly unpleasant body horror, paying homage to '80s horror like "The Blob" and "The Thing," and even James Gunn's 2006 film "Slither." As Billy threatens Eleven, viewers see The Mind Flayer's plan begin to come together. His possessed victims (or "The Flayed") gather at Brimborn Steel Works where the monster has been hiding, lining up compliantly and walking towards the monster. Their bodies rapidly fall apart and they are assimilated into the mass of writhing tendons and tentacles. This is rendered in sickening detail and remains the most graphically nasty scene of the season.

12. Barb's death

Nancy's ill-fated best friend has almost become a byword for characters who are killed too early on in TV shows, and she casts a long shadow over the show. Nancy has flashbacks of Barb's death repeatedly, and the guilt she feels informs her more responsible, mature characterization in subsequent seasons. When Steve has a free house and invites Nancy for the evening, Barb accompanies her as a sort of chaperone, only to be inevitably dismissed as a third wheel. Sitting outside on her own while Steve and Nancy have a romantic moment together, she is stalked by the Demogorgon who drags her into the Upside Down, where she is quickly killed. 

Like much of the violence in Season 1, Barb's death happens abruptly, leaving a lot to the audience's imagination which is more effective than showing her death in graphic detail. What makes Barb's death so tragic is that she didn't want to go to this party in the first place, and tells Nancy this is a bad idea the entire time. She's only in danger at all because Nancy tells her to go home, and as a result, she dies alone and dejected, abandoned by her best friend. It's an especially cruel way to kill off a character who had gained quite a following during her brief screen time.

11. Billy's death

Billy Hargrove is one of the few characters in "Stranger Things" who doesn't have any positive attributes. He's just a bully. Yes, there are reasons for this (like his abusive father), but he is still fairly two-dimensional as a character, existing only to torment his step-sister Max, needle Steve, and seduce as many women as possible. Possessed by The Mind Flayer for most of Season 3, Billy becomes the host of the monster, incapacitating victims and bringing them to the steel mill where they can join the ranks of The Flayed. Imbued with the strength of The Mind Flayer, he is also able to match Eleven in a physical fight, coming perilously close to killing her in their first encounter, before Mike intervenes.

In the final showdown in Starcourt Mall, Billy overpowers Eleven and brings her to The Mind Flayer to be consumed. There is still a vestige of his former self in there, though, and when Eleven accesses a memory from his childhood, it's enough for him to momentarily break free of The Mind Flayer's grasp. In this brief moment, he puts himself between The Mind Flayer and Eleven, sacrificing himself and allowing the monster to impale him through the abdomen with its tendrils, before finally stabbing him in the chest. Billy apologizes to Max in his dying moments (in a way that was echoed in Dr. Brenner's fate in Season 4), and while this might not entirely redeem him, it goes a long way toward humanizing his character.

10. Benny's murder

The Duffers can be very cruel. In the first episode of the series, Eleven stumbles into a diner where she meets Benny, the owner/chef, who feeds her and looks after her. Benny is instantly established as a likable, friendly character, someone who decides to help Eleven the moment he sets his eyes on her and recognizes that she needs help. It's a huge shock when he is abruptly shot in the head by the ruthless agent Connie Frazier, posing as a child services representative.

It's an incredibly cold-blooded kill so early in the series, especially since it felt like Benny was being set up as a confidante and protector to Eleven, he seems so decent in his brief appearance. His execution immediately establishes the agents from Hawkins Lab as unscrupulous villains. It also makes Frazier's ultimate death at the hands of Eleven all the more satisfying. She is killed in a similarly abrupt manner when she tries to shoot Eleven in the season finale; Eleven kills her with a look, seemingly destroying her brain from the inside out.

9. Billy beats Steve

It's maybe telling that one of the most brutal moments in Season 2 didn't involve anything supernatural at all. The minute he arrived in Hawkins it's apparent that Billy is bad news, and he quickly sets his sights on Steve Harrington as a potential rival. All through the season, Billy outdoes Steve: beating his keg stand record, regularly outplaying him at basketball, and taking over his status as "King Steve." The culmination of Billy's series-long campaign to supplant Steve culminates in this brutal fight, in which Steve initially gets the upper hand, only to be overpowered and beaten to a bloody pulp by Billy.

Steve eventually turns into Hawkins' resident punching bag, and it becomes something of a joke, getting repeatedly beaten up and tortured (Dustin even cheers "You finally won a fight!" when the tide later turns, albeit briefly), but this is a genuinely nasty moment. The way the beating is shot and edited means you feel the weight of every punch that lands on Steve's head. It's an unsettling reminder that just because there are demonic, supernatural forces at work doesn't mean that danger can't come from a more human direction.

8. The massacre at Hawkins Lab

"What have you done!" The full ramifications of these words are not made apparent until the mid-season finale of Season 4, but the implication is clear enough. The utter carnage wrought on Eleven's fellow gifted children is a truly horrific sight. As Dr. Brenner regains consciousness and walks through the test facility, he sees the devastation that has been wrought on his young charges. Every child has been killed, in the same grotesque manner with limbs broken and eyes burned out of their sockets. Eleven is the only survivor, discovered covered in blood, with blood pouring out of her eyes and nose. By the end of the season, fans know that Eleven wasn't responsible for these deaths but the sight is no less disturbing.

The latest season of "Stranger Things" has a much more overt horror aesthetic than previous seasons. There has always been a sense of the supernatural, of John Carpenter and Stephen King, but before Season 4 it felt very much like the emphasis was on science fiction rather than horror. This all changed with the fourth season, and this prologue sets the tone perfectly.

7. Will gets possessed

Noah Schnapp never gets enough credit for his performance of Will Byers. In Season 1, he manages to imbue his character with heaps of personality in limited appearances on-screen, perfectly conveying his character's resourcefulness and vulnerability. After the events of the first season, Will is still not 100% himself, haunted by what he calls "now memories," aka vivid visions of the Upside Down. Following the well-intentioned but misguided advice of his mom's new boyfriend Bob (Sean Astin), Will finally decides to confront his fears. What should be an empowering moment for Will is cruelly subverted as he is immediately possessed by the spiderlike Mind Flayer. 

The monster's smoky tendrils envelop him, pushing inside his mouth, nose, and eyes, taking him over. It's a truly disturbing sequence and sets up the stakes for the second season nicely. It's a horrible scene to watch, as Will is so helpless and utterly at the mercy of the creature. As he says himself, "I felt it ... everywhere." It's a remorseless attack and one that has long-term ramifications for Will, even into later seasons.

6. The hospital monster

As if to prove that they are not limited to just one kind of horror, the Duffer Brothers outdid themselves in this grotesque sequence where two possessed victims are killed and their bodies melt in sickening detail. The remains then merge together to form a horrifying creature in a gruesome transformation that wouldn't feel out of place in "The Thing."

The entire sequence is a masterclass in both suspense and gore. The lights go out just as the transformation is complete, and when they come back on, the monster is revealed in all of its glory as it begins it's frenzied pursuit of Nancy Wheeler through the deserted hospital. It's a supremely tense moment, and it genuinely feels like there is no way out for Nancy as she is trapped in a locked room, watching as the monster slowly squeezes itself through the gap underneath the door. The creature itself is a horrifying creation, part insectoid, part mammalian (the big gorilla arm), and entirely covered in viscous, glistening moisture, giving it a horribly wet, primordial look.

5. The Demogorgon vs the prisoners

The Demogorgon is a strange big bad in the first season. It has a memorably gruesome design, with its petal-like jaws filled with rows of teeth, but never appeared all that menacing. The monster presents a legitimate threat, but if it was too powerful, then it wouldn't be plausible that the kids could defeat it. This is reflected in the way deaths are shown in Season 1: quick, clean, and over and done with before you really know what happened. When the Demogorgon finally reappears in Season 4, it's managed to grow in strength, with increased blood lust. Contained in the Russian prison, it's given regular exercise and an endless diet, comprising of a walking buffet of convicts. 

When Hopper and the likeably corrupt guard Enzo are captured and dumped with the rest of the prisoners, they are fed and armed before being led into an arena to give the Demogorgon some exercise and a rich diet. As to be expected, the other convicts don't last long. The Demogorgon leaps out and immediately tears into them in a frenzied, graphically violent attack. Season 4 really accelerates the deaths and the gore, with the camera lingering on viscera and killings at a disturbing level. It bites down on an unfortunate prisoner's head, before massacring the rest of them. It's only quick thinking on the part of Hopper — and a flaming torch — that saves him and Enzo, using the Demogorgon's fear of fire to his advantage.

4. Eddie's death

The breakout star of Season 4, Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) is the most likable character to emerge from the series in quite a while, so it seemed inevitable that he would die. So inevitable, in fact, that it must have been a nifty bit of misdirection on the part of the Duffer Brothers, right? Sadly not.

After becoming the chief suspect in Chrissy's death, Eddie spends the majority of the season in hiding before helping the heroes in the final attack on Vecna's lair, providing an essential bit of distraction for Steve, Nancy, and Robin. Breaking out a truly epic guitar solo, he and Dustin are quickly besieged by Demobats in the Upside Down version of his trailer. Intent on buying more time, Eddie races off, drawing all the creatures to him, before making a final stand. Eddie takes out several Demobats before getting overwhelmed. He eventually succumbs to his wounds, but not before saying a tearful farewell to Dustin. It's an unnecessary death and an underwhelming end for an incredibly charismatic, fan-favorite character, and even more tragic when you realize that the general population of Hawkins thinks he died a murderer.

3. Will's exorcism

Will Byers is the most unlucky character in the entirety of "Stranger Things." After being trapped in the Upside Down, he's haunted by his experiences. After being plagued by "now memories," of the Upside Down, Will is possessed by The Mind Flayer, and it quickly becomes apparent that he has some kind of telepathic connection with the creature. Possessed Will reacts adversely to hot water, and later he convulses in pain when the creature's tentacles are burned. As he begins to lose his memories, Will's family and friends try a last-ditch effort to rid him of the monster that is taking him over.

The whole treatment of Will in Season 2 is reminiscent of "The Exorcist," from the way he is tested by the scientists with a callous indifference, to the final exorcism in the Byers' house. Joyce's love for Will is challenged by the grief she is feeling for the deceased Bob, and her anger towards the monster possessing her son. It's with grim determination that she forces The Mind Flayer out of Will by chaining him to a bed and turning up the heat to an unbearable temperature for the monster. The exorcism is harrowing; Will's voice deepens into something more demonic, and the tendrils that have possessed him visibly rise to the flesh on his face. It's one of the rawest, disturbing sequences in the entire series, and Noah Schnapp makes his screams of pain, anger, and anguish scarily authentic.

2. Bob Newby, superhero

Throughout Season 2, Bob's true motivations remained cloudy, and he seemed particularly concerned about Will, leading some to believe that he was maybe working with the scientists in Hawkins Lab. As it turns out, Joyce's boyfriend was just a nice guy. During the fateful mission to the lab, Bob proves his worth by putting his life on the line to turn the power back on and save his new family. With the lab swarming with Demodogs, he manages to elude the creatures with the help of Owens until he inadvertently knocks a broom over, alerting the hounds to his presence. Bob sprints through the corridors in a heart-stopping sequence, just about making it, only to be caught unawares by a Demodog. The pack surrounds him and proceeds to eat him alive.

It's a heart-wrenching sequence and made even more poignant due to Sean Astin's depiction of small-town decency. He's not an action hero; he's a mild-mannered radio shack manager. But he realizes that he is the only one who can save them, showing true bravery in the face of his fear. The Duffers themselves liked Bob so much that they delayed his death scene throughout the season, and when they finally got to this moment they were still on the fence as to whether he could survive. Ultimately, while it's the most upsetting scene in the series, it established that nobody is safe. If only the Duffers had kept this truly ruthless streak in the subsequent seasons.

1. The death of Chrissy Cunningham

Season 4 establishes itself as the most purely horror-driven season in the very first episode. Chrissy Cunningham (Grace Van Dien) is the focus of the episode as she is haunted by visions of a gothic grandfather clock, which chimes ominously. Attempting to keep herself awake, she arranges to buy drugs from the school outsider Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) only to go into a deep trance in Eddie's trailer. Confronted by nightmarish versions of her parents, playing on her insecurities, she is eventually confronted by the demonic Vecna, who kills her, while Eddie watches in horror. She levitates off the ground, her arms and legs snapping violently before her eyes get pulled inward by an unseen force.

It's a truly horrendous method of killing that echoes "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "It" in the way Vecna puts his victims through the wringer emotionally before killing them. His targets are forced to endure psychological torture before he finally slaughters them in a viscerally nasty way. The death itself feels like an homage to Lucio Fulci in the way Chrissy's body is rendered just a piece of meat, broken into bits. Of course, this is only the first death at the hands of Vecna, and the later killings are just as vicious. Chrissy's death, however, signifies a definite shift in tone for the series, upping the stakes in a big way and kicking off the storyline for Season 4, preparing fans for the horrors to come.