Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (2023)

Since its 2016 premiere on Netflix, Stranger Things has become a quintessential piece of nostalgic 1980s-set television. A crucial factor in its staying power is the show's flawless use of music as both an anchor and a storytelling device. If you've gotten halfway through the first volume of Season 4, you know that music plays a key role in the latest installment of Stranger Things. It could be the 80s nerd in me, but Stranger Things has always had an excellent soundtrack, and a pretty spectacular score from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein to go along with it. And that's not even counting the epic remixes of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" or Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" for the Season 3 and Season 4 trailers.

The best needle drops in film and television history leave a mark on our memories — the scene and the song become forever linked in our minds, bringing it into our brains any time we hear the music. Max's (Sadie Sink) escape from Vecna is quite possibly the greatest moment from the series so far, and the scene was so impactful it's even shot Kate Bush's 1986 hit "Running Up That Hill" to number one on iTunes. Before we dive into how perfect that scene is, let's take a look back at some of the show's most well-done music moments.

"When It's Cold I'd Like to Die" - Moby, Mimi Goese

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (1)

Featured In: Season 1, Episode 8, "The Upside Down"

In the first season's finale, we simultaneously gain one friend and lose another. The melancholy strains of Moby and Mimi Goese's "When It's Cold I'd Like to Die" begin to play in the moments after Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) has banished the Demogorgon, and subsequently, herself, back to The Upside Down. The aching instrumental continues as Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) deliver CPR to an unconscious Will (Noah Schnapp), intercut with flashbacks to the day that Hop lost his daughter. The relief of these characters is palpable, but everything is also tinged with a feeling of great loss. The hopeful instrumentals and devastating lyrics perfectly capture those mixed emotions.

"Detroit Rock City" - KISS

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (2)

Featured In: Season 4, Episode 1, "The Hellfire Club"

It's impossible not to watch this moment from the Stranger Things Season 4 premiere and not be filled with a sense of absolute triumph. Though the song doesn't play directly over the moment that Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) simultaneously lead The Hellfire Club and the Hawkins Tigers to victory — that honor goes to Dixon and Stein's score — it serves as the soundtrack for the dual montages of the climactic games. While it's not necessarily the most groundbreaking or iconic song, it fits the tone of excitement and anticipation for the pair of events quite nicely.

"Rock You Like a Hurricane" - Scorpion

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (3)
(Video) the Vecna transformation is 🤯 #shorts #strangerthings #netflix

Featured In: Season 2, Episode 1, "Madmax"

Up to this point in the series, the soundtrack mostly featured some classic and alt-rock, with some oldies and 80s pop favorites mixed in. "Rock You Like a Hurricane" is distinctly more along the lines of hard rock, verging on heavy metal, making it a perfect introduction song for a pair of characters that both bring an injection of energy into Stranger Things' sophomore season. Its tonal differences instantly tell us that Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and Max are ready to turn this town upside down. Billy is introduced as a bad boy sex symbol, and Max is the enigmatic new girl with more cool than anyone's ever seen. Before we even meet them we know that Billy will step perfectly into the role of the season's real-world villain and that it's essential to invite Max to the party as soon as possible.

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"Psycho Killer" - Talking Heads

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (4)

Featured In: Season 4, Episode 2, "Vecna's Curse"

The use of "Psycho Killer" serves a dual purpose as the steady beats undercut newcomer Jason Carver (Mason Dye) firing up the basketball team to go after the wrong guy. As the captain of the team, Jason is an expert in inspirational speeches designed to get the team set on a goal — whether it be winning the championship game or wildly misplaced vigilante justice. As Jason convinces the boys that DnD is a game that rots your mind and that Eddie (Joseph Quinn) is the supposed psycho killer in question, the audience can see straight through his satanic panic to know that he's the one that's truly gone off the rails.

"She's Got You" - Patsy Cline

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (5)

Featured In: Season 3, Episode 1, "Suzie, Do You Copy?"

Playing over the store speakers at Melvald's, Patsy Cline's "She's Got You" sets a wistful, romantic tone over Joyce helping Hopper figure out how to talk to Eleven and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) about boundaries. While most of the songs featured on Stranger Things are decidedly in the decade the show is set, this one being from 1962 lends itself to Joyce and Hopper's shared history. While they bask in the lightheartedness of the moment Hop asks her out on a date, and though Joyce is interested she's still not ready after losing Bob (Sean Astin). As Joyce walks away, the music swells, and it's as plain as day all over Hopper's face that he's hopelessly in love with her.

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"You Don't Mess Around With Jim" - Jim Croce

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (6)

Featured In: Season 2, Episode 3, "The Pollywog" and Season 3, Episode 2, " The Mall Rats"

"You Don't Mess Around With Jim" is essentially Hopper's theme song — it features in the show twice across Season 2 and Season 3. The first time it plays over Hopper fixing up his cabin with Eleven, he pulls out the record and does a little dance before they get to work. Following the show's second season, Hopper's little dance went viral on social media for its charm. The song appears again in Season 3 after Hopper believes he's effectively ended the obsession that Mike and Eleven have with each other. If it was charming the first time, it's doubly so the second time around as Harbour puts his whole chest into Hop triumphantly singing along in the car on his way to tell Joyce about his victory.

"Every Breath You Take" - The Police

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (7)

Featured In: Season 2, Episode 9, "The Gate"

Season 2's Snow Ball features several iconic 80s hits including Olivia Newton John's "Twist of Fate" and Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time," and as the kids dance the night away, we close out the season with The Police's "Every Breath You Take." All of these are classic 80s love songs that fit right in at a school dance, perfectly punctuating first kisses for Lucas and Max, a second kiss for Mike and Eleven, and the awkward happiness of childhood dances. Amid all that joy it would be easy to think the troubles in Hawkins were at an end. However, as the world turns upside down, and Bono promises that he'll "be watching you," we see the Mindflayer remains undefeated, hovering above the school.

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"Heroes" - Peter Gabriel

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (8)
(Video) Stranger Things 2 (2017) [PART 1 of 2] KILL COUNT

Featured In: Season 1, Episode 3, "Holly Jolly" and Season 3, Episode 8, "The Battle of Starcourt"

Peter Gabriel's "Heroes" is another song that features more than once on Stranger Things. While Gabriel's version of the song wasn't actually out until 2010, it's significantly more haunting and melancholy than David Bowie's 1977 original. The first time it appears in the show, it's over a moment of great perceived tragedy. Eleven believes she's leading her new friends to Will, on her way to being the hero they need, but instead, they find Hawkins PD pulling a body that looks like Will's out of the quarry. Meanwhile, Joyce has just made contact with her son since the first time he went missing before she's chased out of her home by the Demogorgon. It's devastating and discordant as the lyrics of triumph play over moments of heartache.

Because of its placement here, the song is even more effective when it pops up again in the finale of the third season. On the heels of Eleven finding and reading Hopper's heart-to-heart in the wake of his death, the song plays over the Byers family moving out of Hawkins. It feels like the end of an era, perfectly bookending the beginning, as the song comes on again. This time the kids have become heroes, saving Hawkins from total, otherworldly annihilation, but it's come at a great cost. The somber tone of this cover fits perfectly for bawling your eyes out after the end of Hop's letter and the Byers' goodbye.

"Should I Stay Or Should I Go" - The Clash

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (9)

Featured In: Season 1, Episode 2, "The Weirdo on Maple Street" and Season 2, Episode 8, "The Mind Flayer"

The use of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" is also twice as effective the second time around, but only because of its use in the previous season. In Season 1, we get a flashback to Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) playing the song for Will and giving him a pep talk while their parents argue in the background. Then throughout the rest of the season, Will can be heard singing the song while he's in The Upside Down.

Later, when the Mindflayer has possessed him in Season 2, his friends and family play the song while telling Will stories about how much they love him to try to get through to him beyond the monster. The song acts as an anchor point for Will to communicate with his loved ones even though he's trapped in the shadows. What Stranger Things did with "Should I Stay or Should I Go," intentionally or not, laid the groundwork for Season 4's "Running Up That Hill" moment by establishing music as a touchstone for these characters.

"Running Up That Hill" - Kate Bush

Featured In: Season 4, Episode 1, "The Hellfire Club" and Season 4, Episode 4, "Dear Billy"

Once again, "Running Up That Hill" hits maximum effectiveness the second time it plays in the series. The song first appears in the Season 4 premiere, playing through Max's headphones as she self-isolates in the wake of Billy's death. Max's journey in the first half of the season is incredibly well done and remarkably realistic for a show with so many fantastical elements. Even though their relationship was never exactly good, the loss of her brother in such a brutal way has had a serious impact on Max's mental health. As she separates herself from the people who care about her most, she becomes vulnerable to this season's big bad. But Max has always been a fighter. When Vecna comes for her, she gives him a run for his money, wildly fleeing her nightmare and walking into his.

As Vecna makes his move to add Max to his collection of dead Hawkins teens in The Upside Down, her friends put her favorite song into her walkman and blast it through her headphones. The music swells as Max fights to break free of Vecna's clutches holding on to the memories of the people she loves. In a run akin to the No Man's Land scene from Wonder Woman, Max makes the harrowing run away from Vecna, out of The Upside Down, and back into the arms of her friends. As they hold each other close, a somber instrumental version of the song plays out through the end of the episode. It's one of, if not the most powerful moments from the series so far, and the music combined with Sadie Sink's performance will keep this scene on our minds for a very long time.

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"Running Up That Hill Remix" - Kate Bush

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (10)

Featured In: Season 4, Episode 9, "The Piggyback"

This is one of the most epic and triumphant moments in a season finale filled with a hefty dose of heartbreak. In a concerted effort across the whole party — and the whole globe — our heroes unleash an epic onslaught against Vecna and the various monsters of the Upside Down. As the strains of this epic remix build and mix with the Stranger Things theme Robin, Steve, and Nancy launch their attack of Molotov cocktails and Nancy's now-iconic sawed-off shotgun against an entranced Vecna. Meanwhile, in Russia Hopper picks up a sword right out of Conan the Barbarian and slices the menacing Demogorgon to bits. The moment definitely reflects that same feeling from the first episode of Season 4 when Erica and Lucas both win their big games, as our heroes knock Vecna down a few pegs.

"Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) Remix" - Journey

Best 'Stranger Things' Needle Drops So Far From "Heroes" to "Running Up That Hill" (11)

Featured In: Season 4, Episode 8, "Papa"

This heart-pounding rendition of Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" was used in the epic full-length trailer for Season 4, when it comes back as the party prepares to battle the greatest evil they've ever faced you're already filled with a mix of foreboding and adrenaline. In order for their plan to succeed, the party in Hawkins must split off into even smaller groups, with Max, Lucas, and Erica heading into the haunted Creel House. The lyrics of the song have been edited specifically to emphasize the lines about love, with the verses "Some day love will find you," "True love won't desert you," and "You know I still love you," all playing out as we head into the finale. Though our heroes are in dire circumstances when we leave them in the Season 4 finale, maybe this is one small indicator that their love for each other will indeed save them all by the end of the series.

Featured In: Season 4, Episode 9, "The Piggyback"

In what is without a doubt the "most metal concert ever" dungeon master turned bard Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) takes to the top of his trailer in the Upside Down to provide the most epic distraction for Vecna's Demo-bats so that Nancy, Robin, and Steve can sneak into the Creel House. It is certainly a hero moment for the ages from our dearly departed Eddie, as he delivers an incredible guitar solo intercut with moments of terror as the party deals with all manner of horrors, from Max fighting to stay in her happy memories, the Sinclair siblings dealing with the unhinged basketball players, and the ever-encroaching swarm of monsters headed straight for them. Eddie's hero moment will definitely live forever in infamy, with Metallica even getting together to duet the moment on TikTok. Eddie, this one is for you!

Stranger Things Season 4 is now available on Netflix.

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Read more about Stranger Things:

  • 'Stranger Things' Season 4 Volume 1: What Happened to Hopper?

  • ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4: Why Nancy and Steve Shouldn't Get Back Together

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