Every Stranger Things Episode, Ranked By Scariness

Stranger Things may be the best original show on Netflix, and one of the reasons it's been so successful is it's packed with enticing scares.

Every episode has something in it to haunt its fans, but some are definitely more frightful than the others. We rewatched them all so we could rank them, from least to most terrifying.

And if you haven't seen both seasons of the show yet, don't even think about reading this list unless you want to see some major spoilers.

17. Season Two – "Chapter Seven: The Lost Sister"

This controversial episode doesn't quite feel like it fits in with the Stranger Things vibe for a few reasons. One of them is that it doesn't have the haunting appeal of the rest of the show. While we do get bad vibes from Kali's crew, the scariest moment is when Kali makes Axel think his arm is crawling with spiders. Since Axel isn't very sympathetic to begin with, it doesn't have much of an impact.

Stranger Things - The Lost Sister - Imaginary spiders crawling on Axel's hand

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


16. Season Two – "Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak"

"The Lost Sister" set the bar pretty low, so things get a lot scarier from here on out. This episode includes Eleven waking up in the Upside Down after defeating the Demogorgon and making her way back to Hawkins. After it was established in the first season that Will is still connected to the Upside Down, his mind is also transported there while he's trick-or-treating—but we're most disturbed by Will's first drawing of the Mind Flayer, foreshadowing some terrifying moments to come.

Stranger Things - Trick of Treat, Freak - Will's drawing of the Mind Flayer

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


15. Season Two – "Chapter One: MADMAX"

After we thought most of the freakiness in Hawkins was resolved in season one, the first episode of the second season tells us immediately that things aren't actually going great. Scientists are still trying to close the gateway between the normal world and the Upside Down, and Will continues to see glimpses of that haunting other world—and it's even scarier that the Hawkins Lab team knows about it and are basically using him as a test subject.

Stranger Things - MADMAX - Will is still seeing The Upside Down

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


14. Season One – "Chapter Seven: The Bathtub"

This episode includes some seriously tense moments—including a potentially deadly van chase before Eleven flips over the vehicle with her mind. But we're still terrified of Eleven's psychic sensory deprivation expedition. While in this black, haunting world, she finds Barb's body (complete with a grotesque Upside Down slug squirming out of her mouth) and sees that Will's barely holding on, just before the Demogorgon approaches his fort.

Stranger Things - The Bathtub - Eleven sees Barb's body in sensory deprivation

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


13. Season One – "Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat"

"The Flea and the Acrobat" is also full of some unforgettable moments. Hopper really shines in this episode, essentially breaking into Hawkins Lab in search of Will and finding the entrance to the Upside Down, and later demolishing his mobile home to find the bug implanted there.

Eleven also sees the Demogorgon clearly for the first time in this episode—but the shining moment comes toward the end when Nancy unwittingly wanders through a tree into the Upside Down. There, she finds the terrifying Demogorgon feasting, and at the end of the episode she still hasn't managed to find her way back. We were sure she was a goner!

Stranger Things - The Flea and the Acrobat- Nancy crawls through a tree trunk into the Upside Down

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


12. Season Two – "Chapter Four: Will the Wise"

Poor Will. As this episode opens, a ghastly force from the Upside Down is still invading his body, and it winds up making him super sick. Dart also breaks out of his cage, eating Dustin's cat, and Hopper digs a hole into the Upside Down and starts exploring. But it was actually Jonathan and Nancy's scenes that filled us with the most fear. When they head to the park and it's clear they're being followed by spies from Hawkins Lab, it feels like their lives are in immediate danger. It was all a fakeout, but our hearts are still pounding.

Stranger Things - Will the Wise - Jonathan and Nancy in their car being followed by Hawkins Power

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


11. Season Two – "Chapter Five: Dig Dug"

When Hopper gets knocked out by horrible spores in the Upside Down tunnel, he's basically done for. Only because Bob was able to decipher Will's "map" are he and Joyce able to travel there and rescue Hopper before it's too late. In this episode, it also becomes totally clear that Dart is related to the Demogorgon somehow. However, the episode's closing moments are the ones that stick with us. Will writhes and shakes on the ground as Hawkins Lab workers torch the tunnels, showing that the two are eerily linked.

Stranger Things - Dig Dug - Will shaking

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


10. Season One – "Chapter Four: The Body"

In this episode, we're only starting to get an idea of what the Upside Down really is, and the mystery adds to the spookiness. A guy in a Hazmat suit is devoured offscreen by the Demorgon, and Eleven manages to find Will's frequency from the Upside Down via a walkie-talkie, only for us to discover he's being pursued by something evil. Of course, the biggest scare factor comes from the creepiness of Will's "body." We're only positive it's a fake when Hopper takes a leap of faith and cuts into it, pulling out a bunch of cotton stuffing. Eek.

Stranger Things - The Body - Hopper pulls stuffing out of Will's fake body

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


9. Season Two – "Chapter Six: The Spy"

Things are definitely coming to a head in "The Spy." Steve and Dustin team up to find Dart, leading to a massive junkyard confrontation between a majority of the gang and a pack of hungry Demodogs. Of course, this episode is really about what's going on with Will. He's connected with the Upside Down now, and any harm done to it also badly hurts him. The doctors say they're losing him and will probably be dead by the end of the day, but the most haunting moment comes when we learn that Will is basically a spy for the Mind Flayer. This character we know and love is under its control, and can't help sending a bunch of Hawkins Lab grunts to their deaths.

Stranger Things - The Spy - Will reveals the Mind Flayer controlled him

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


8. Season One – "Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street"

In "The Weirdo on Maple Street," we get a glimpse into Eleven's creepy past. She's experimented on, and "Papa" totally gives us the creeps. Joyce also continues to hear Will over the phone from the Upside Down, and the tape deck in Jonathan's room keeps turning on by itself, accompanied by bizarre flashing lights. But we'll never forget the horrifying scene of Barb on the diving board. At the very last second, she gets grabbed by the Demogorgon, never to be seen in the real world again.

Stranger Things - The Weirdo on Maple Street - Barb sitting on the diving board over the pool

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


7. Season Two – "Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer"

We hate seeing little Will under the control of the Mind Flayer, and in this episode, he's almost completely lost to it—besides being able to communicate via morse code. His loved ones have to tie him up and hide his location from him, and when the phone rings and he discovers where he is, the Demodogs immediately go in for the attack.

Still, the most traumatizing moments come early in the episode. As everyone works together to escape from Hawkins Lab, Bob tragically forgets his gun. During his daring escape, he almost makes it out alive, only to be taken down and ripped apart by a Demodog at the very last second. R.I.P, Bob.

Stranger Things - The Mind Flayer - Bob runs from the Demodogs

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


6. Season One – "Chapter Six: The Monster"

As this episode begins, Nancy is still trapped in the Upside Down. She barely makes it out alive, resulting in a jump scare when she finally pushes her hand through. But this episode is scary in a different way from the others because the danger is so real. When bullies threaten Dustin with a switchblade, they say they'll only stop if Mike jumps off a high cliff, plummeting to the water far below him. Mike bravely does so—only to be rescued by Eleven's incredible abilities. He's saved, but the fact that this is something kids could do in real life totally terrifies us.

Stranger Things - The Monster - Mike looks over the cliff

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


5. Season Two – "Chapter Three: The Pollywog"

A lot of the scariness in this episode results from Will trying to keep his visions of the Upside Down to himself. Immediately, we're aware that Bob's clown story is providing Will with some terrible advice, and that his reaction to Dart means he's bad news. Joyce even sees an afterimage of the Mind Flayer in Will's camera footage from Halloween.

Still more disturbing is the final scene of the episode. Following Bob's advice, Will stands up to the evil following him in the Upside Down, only to have an awful curl of Upside Down smoke invade his body.

Stranger Things - The Pollywog - The Mind Flayer enters Will

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


4. Season Two – "Chapter Nine: The Gate"

We thought Billy might find redemption before the second season was finished, but he's an evil jerk through and through, and one of the more awful and terrifying characters in the show. While the entire team heading into the Upside Down together and Eleven closing the gate is scary, their success makes things more manageable.

It's also really frightening when Will's family heat him up to drive out the Mind Flayer, but the reason we've ranked this episode so high is poor Dustin at the dance. Rejection is truly scary, and we relate to that fear on a deeper level than we'll ever be able to relate to the horror elements of the rest of Stranger Things.

Stranger Things - The Gate - Dustin gets rejected at the Snow Ball

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


3. Season One – "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly"

There's almost too much creepy goodness going on in this episode. Barb wakes up in the Upside Down and is immediately attacked by the Demogorgon while we see flashbacks into Eleven's past in the lab, where she killed men to protect herself.

Will's "body" is also discovered right as this episode ends, but the shining moments involve Joyce's Christmas light alphabet setup. Through these lights, Joyce confirms that Will is alive just before he spells out "RUN," and a rampaging Demogorgon busts through the wall. Only three episodes into the show, this set the bar very high.

Stranger Things - Holly, Jolly - Joyce in front of Christmas light alphabet

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


2. Season One – "Chapter Eight: The Upside Down"

"The Upside Down" is all about resolutions, but that doesn't make things any less terrifying. Hopper and Joyce have to don hazmat suits to go searching for Will in the Upside Down. Nancy and Jonathan hatch a plan to trap the Demogorgon, only to be interrupted by the unexpectedly helpful Steve. Plus, there's the final showdown as the Hawkins Lab team tries to capture the kids and stop the Demogorgon, when only Eleven's incredible powers can destroy it—potentially destroying her in the process, too.

Still, the worst moment comes after we think everything is fine and dandy. Will's enjoying a meal with his family before he excuses himself to use the restroom, coughing up a nasty slug from the Upside Down and releasing more evil in the real world. That's before the world around him blinks out of existence, being replaced by the Upside Down version of his house. The season ends climactically with fans knowing that something is still seriously wrong—and we had to wait more than a year to find out what happened next.

Stranger Things - The Upside Down - Will still sees Upside Down after Demogorgon is defeated

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


1. Season One – "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers"

The first episode of Stranger Things is also the scariest because we had absolutely no idea what we were in for. Before we're even introduced to the main characters, we see a disaster at Hawkins Lab, where a scientist is dragged offscreen by an unseen monster. After the boys' Dungeons & Dragons game, we feel tense during Will's bike ride home even before anything spooky has happened. Of course, that's when Will sees the monster in the street, crashing his bike and running home in terror.

Then he gets home and hides in his shed, awaiting the creature—but instead of it attacking him, he simply vanishes from the room. Just thinking about it gives us goosebumps, but that's not all, because that's when we're hit with the haunting Stranger Things opening credits sequence for the first time. We don't know why it gets us every time, but it does.

Bonus points for the terrifying "social services" woman who shoots Benny as she's searching for Eleven, and for Joyce's phone fizzling out after her first call from Will in the Upside Down, followed by Demogorgon clicks. If that didn't totally suck you into the first episode, we don't know if the show is for you.

Stranger Things - The Vanishing of Will Byers - Will about to disappear

(Stranger Things via Netflix)


If you're hankering for more rankings, click HERE for a definitive ranking of the best Stranger Things characters.