It’s been more than a year since the first season of Stranger Things was released on Netflix. It feels like a very different time, those days before Stranger Things, before every day of waking life was filled with some show-related promotion, a random cameo by Gaten Matarazzo, or a deranged online quiz about which Stranger Things kid you’d most want to
steal from their family adopt. It feels that way because the cast of Stranger Things has been able to stay busy and present on our screens, even without new episodes airing. You’ve probably seen them somewhere, whether you meant to or not; in a commercial, a movie, stealing the spotlight at a red carpet, or starring in an indie band’s music video. Each of the show’s young stars has vigorously abided by the axiom “strike while the iron’s hot,” flourishing in the wake of the mania Stranger Things left behind.
But which of these über-popular kids made the most of their offseason?
By breaking down the offseason into four categories—TV/film/music video appearances, commercial work, sartorial performance, and a bonus section for miscellaneous exposure—and rating the Stranger Things kids on a scale of 1-10 in each, I plan on answering that question. After accruing a somewhat creepy search history and making a ton of arbitrary judgments, I can now determine a Stranger Things kid offseason winner. And before you ask: No, this exercise doesn’t include Barb actress Shannon Purser. It’s nothing against Purser—congrats on the Emmy nomination—but we need to forget about Barb, who was ultimately the Demogorgon’s slug-infested chew toy. Now, let’s get started.
8. Natalia Dyer (Nancy)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: Dyer’s remained fairly quiet, starring in only a Vimeo short film about a Catholic girl’s sexual awakening—choice bit of dialogue: “Do you think cybersex is a sin?”—and a yet-to-be-released dystopian thriller starring Kyra Sedgwick about our sun slowly fading away. 4/10
Commercial Work: No commercials, either. Maybe she took this offseason off to finally mourn Barb? 1/10
Sartorial Performance: Dyer turned heads at the 2017 Emmys, even though her dress was the same color as edamame. 4/10
Miscellaneous Section: It’s widely rumored that over the offseason Dyer began dating costar Charlie Heaton, a.k.a. Jonathan, a.k.a. Will’s slightly sketchy but endearing older brother who has a big crush on Nancy. The IRL relationship seems far less creepy and I support it. They’re like the Netflix generation’s Adam Brody and Rachel Bilson. 6/10
7. Noah Schnapp (Will)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: The roles Noah Schnapp has landed after Season 1 are, honestly, quite strange. He starred in a short film … from a drone company … set in Depression-era America ... and costarring Ryan Phillippe. What even?
He’s also going to star in an indie movie about “a 12-year-old boy with a passion for cooking who has never known a family dinner without arguments,” which sounds like something that a computer algorithm designed to make bad movie plots would spew out. 5/10
Commercial Work: He has appeared in no commercials, which I guess is what happens when you spend almost all of the first season of the most hyped show of 2016 in an underground, mostly off-screen world. (While we’re on the subject: How did he survive in the Upside Down for so long? What did he eat, interdimensional slugs?) 1/10
Sartorial Performance: Schnapp was profiled in Esquire’s “Century of Style” piece and was dubbed “The Quick Study.” He wore Dolce & Gabbana, which I never wore when I was 13. 8/10
Miscellaneous Section: He spent 26 minutes live-streaming on Instagram in August, which sounds unnecessarily tedious, but you have to respect his commitment to the fans. 4/10
6. Charlie Heaton (Jonathan)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: Heaton starred in one of those critically panned horror movies that has a highly entertaining plot synopsis on Wikipedia. In Shut In, Heaton played Stephen, who’s in a vegetative state after being in a car accident that killed his father, leaving him in the care of his mom, Mary (Naomi Watts, who needs a better manager). Mary has also adopted a little boy, played by Jacob Tremblay. The trailers imply that this boy somehow dies and comes back to haunt Mary. But you see, the twist is that Stephen isn’t comatose—he was just weirdly obsessed with his mom and pretending to be paralyzed. Jacob Tremblay was living in their house’s crawl space. Unsurprisingly, Shut In has an 8 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
In actual good movie news, Heaton is going to star in The New Mutants, the latest X-Men movie, which looks pretty good from the first trailer. 8/10
Commercial Work: None whatsoever! 1/10
Sartorial Performance: I’m not a big fashion person, ergo, Heaton’s surreal video series with Gucci and GQ is way above my head. But it exists, and one YouTuber commenting on it called Heaton a “piece of walking art,” so that’s good. 4/10
Miscellaneous Section: Congrats to Charlie, as well, for probably dating his costar! 6/10
5. Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: Caleb’s been fairly quiet, but he was the most valuable player when the Stranger Things cast appeared on Lip Sync Battle in May. Look at him, all dressed up and lip-syncing “I’m Bad” like a little LL Cool J.
(Sidebar: Is it just me, or is it impossible to unsee Chrissy Teigen dressing up as Eleven?) 5/10
Commercial Work: No commercials! What the heck, Madison Avenue?! Get Caleb some work! 1/10
Sartorial Performance: This kid is a red carpet king. At the 2017 Emmys, he wore black slippers and a silk, flowery purple jacket that was so, so suave. Plus, at the more casual BET Awards, he pulled off a striking black and red jacket that could double as a Jackson Pollock painting. To cap it off, Esquire’s “Century of Style” feature also honored him, naming him “The Growth Prospect.” His fashion game is no joke. 10/10
Miscellaneous Section: He played in the NBA’s Celebrity All-Star Game, and did the splits in the middle of it like a goddamn champion. 5/10
4. Joe Keery (Steve)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: Keery will soon grace the big screen for Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game. I haven’t seen the movie, nor is it clear how big of a role he has, but still, it’s Sorkin. That’s something. 4/10
Commercial Work: Keery unquestionably had the strongest ad game of the Stranger Things kids. First, he recreated scenes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for Domino’s. They’re perfect, well-crafted commercials, and Keery’s hair in them is undefeated. I’m opposed to a Ferris Bueller reboot, but I have to admit that Keery’d make a good Bueller. He also starred alongside his lookalike—and if we’re going with the widely popular fan theory, his on-screen son—Ben Schwartz for Visa, producing an ad that’s surprisingly funny for an extended credit card commercial. 10/10
Sartorial Performance: He can rock a tux, but again, the real star of Keery’s persona is his effortlessly wavy hair. 4/10
Miscellaneous Section: Three points to Keery for that time he kissed Heaton, in front of Dyer, at InStyle’s 2017 Golden Globes after-party. 3/10
3. Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: There’s only one thing on Matarazzo’s résumé in the TV/film/music video space, and unfortunately it’s an appearance in Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” music video. I managed to avoid watching this video after hearing that it was a transcendental trainwreck, but I sucked it up and watched it for the sake of this ranking, and, yikes. “Swish Swish” is the music video equivalent of The Snowman: every famous person who appeared in it should’ve known better. That includes Matarazzo, otherwise known in this as “Tragic Johnson.” 1/10
Commercial Work: The good news: Matarazzo has starred in commercials by himself, like a real big shot! The bad news: The commercials are boring ads from boring companies—Verizon and BMO Bank—that don’t properly utilize his inherent adorableness. In fact, the Verizon commercial almost makes him seem creepy. Why is he so interested in the neighbors’ entertainment centers?! 4/10
Miscellaneous Section: He got a puppy:
Easy 10/10 right there.
2. Finn Wolfhard (Mike)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: Wolfhard basically got to relive Stranger Things—but with cuss words—by starring in the ’80s-set Stephen King adaptation It in September. More importantly, he stole the show as the foul-mouthed Richie. But that’s not all: Wolfhard also landed the role of Player in Netflix’s 2019 Carmen Sandiego reboot. Player! That’s, like, the second most important role in the Carmen Sandiego universe. And Wolfhard codirected a music video:
What did you do with your summer when you were 14 years old? 10/10
Commercial Work: Of all the brands that Wolfhard could possibly do a commercial for, he’s in one for Hellmann's Mayonnaise, and in it he creates a “Strangewich” with some random ingredients in his kitchen. He mixes mayo with maple syrup. It’s bad. 1/10
Sartorial Performance: Fashion-wise, my guy wore a solid tuxedo to the Emmys, but he was clearly overshadowed by his costar Caleb. Still, pretty good suit. 3/10
Miscellaneous Section: His Twitter is surprisingly witty for a 14-year-old. Also, The New York Times profiled Wolfhard as he shopped for vinyls, which is pretentious and annoying, sure, but it also solidifies the young actor’s status as a rising star. 9/10
1. Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven)
TV/Film/Music Video Appearances: While Brown hasn’t appeared in any shows or movies since Season 1, she was cast in the Godzilla sequel. She’ll be good in that—she is perfect for the Cute Kid Who Can Hold Her Own in a Monster Movie, à la Newt in Aliens. Brown also appeared in music videos for the xx and Sigma, skipping school in the former like a Real Cool Teen™. Overall, a very versatile post–Season 1 movie and music video portfolio. 7/10
Commercial Work: Brown had two big marketing campaigns with Converse and Citibank during the offseason. The Converse commercials aren’t much to write home about, but the Citibank ones are avant-garde horror. Brown—and a small posse of kids who follow her and giggle, totally not creepy—present a twisted “Would You Rather?” to unsuspecting pedestrians involving their personal finances. Example: “Would you rather tell her how much debt you have, or lick the subway pole?” It’s terrifying. 8/10
Sartorial Performance: Brown’s red carpet looks this year have had outlets declaring her a fashion icon at 13. Her VMAs look screamed “sentient chandelier.” She also had a front-row seat at Calvin Klein’s show during New York Fashion Week, which I assume is a pretty big deal. 7/10
Miscellaneous Section: Brown’s Instagram is continuously adorable, so I’ll give some extra points for that. 4/10
As was the case during the actual series, the kid whose star shined the brightest during the offseason was Millie Bobby Brown. Hopefully, she has no qualms with probably becoming the next Emma Watson.