20 Movies About Childhood Friendships That Will Fill Your ‘Stranger Things’ Void

In between fighting monsters and discovering Russian codes, the kids on Season 3 of Stranger Things reminded viewers of what it was like to be 13 and have unlimited opportunities to spend time with friends. While Stranger Things‘ core friend group was scattered throughout Hawkins in the newest season, the show’s depiction of young friendship has always captured the highs and lows of these childhood bonds. If you still can’t get over the relatable emotional changes in Stranger Things’ friendships, ease your growing pains by watching movies about childhood friendships.

This post contains spoilers for Season 3 of Stranger Things. The first season of Netflix’s Stranger Things began with a jarring upset to the tight-knit quartet of Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Will (Noah Schnapp) when Will was taken into the Upside Down. The remaining boys loyally began their own investigation about Will’s whereabouts, contributing to Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) more hands-on role in the search. Season 2 saw the boys re-assimilating to life as a foursome again, but Mike’s attachment to a MIA Eleven and Caleb and Dustin’s shared feelings toward Max (Sadie Sink) signified the characters’ transitions into teenagers.

The sci-fi drama’s third season tackled the heartbreaking realization that Will’s friends were moving on without him. As his posse faced troubles in young love and began adventures with other friends, Will was stunted, wanting to play Dungeons & Dragons with the boys as the show also implied that he was gay. Regardless of which character reminds you of your younger self, Stranger Things’ trajectory of childhood friendship is painfully real. People grow up, change, and drift apart, but nothing is ever quite as powerful as the friendships you form before you truly became someone.

As Season 3 of Stranger Things ended with the kids separated once again, their group dynamic may become even more complex in a possible Season 4. Until then, take a step back from Hawkins and revisit movies’ takes on the childhood friendships that you just can’t forget.

1. ‘Now and Then’ (1995)

As adults, longtime friends Samantha, Roberta, Chrissy, and Teeny reunite in their Midwestern hometown as Samantha feels particularly disillusioned about her life. She flashes back to the summer of 1970, when the girls experienced changing bodies, family secrets, and the strengthening of their friendship. Given how many nostalgic friendship movies there are starring boys, Now and Then stands out as the rare take on adolescent female friendship.

2. ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ (2007)

While the kids of Stranger Things become obsessed with the alternate dimension of the Upside Down, Jesse’s friendship with new girl Leslie leads to the creation of their own secret world called Terabithia. Leslie also introduces him to new beliefs and perspectives of the world before tragedy forces Jesse to learn how selfishness may negatively impact a relationship. Not every childhood friendship is able to translate into adulthood, and sometimes the reason why is sadly out of kids’ control — Bridge to Terabithia explores that.

3. ‘The Goonies’ (1985)

Before Sean Astin was Joyce’s beau Bob the Brain in Stranger Things, he was a child actor starring in The Goonies as one of several boys who discover an old treasure map. With their homes in danger of being foreclosed, the group try to seek out the treasure for themselves and become enveloped in an epic adventure they never could have anticipated. From riding bikes through woodsy areas to older teens tagging along with the kids, The Goonies includes similar details to Stranger Things, but its reputation as a legendary ’80s adventure film makes the boys’ friendships just as poignant as the bonds within the Party.

4. ‘Harriet the Spy’ (1996)

With New York City as her playground, 11-year-old Harriet has limitless opportunities to spy on her neighbors in Harriet the Spy. While her unflattering notes on classmates eventually gets her into trouble, Harriet’s best friends Janie and Sport support her eccentricities and she does the same in return. Being different in middle school can be tricky, and while Harriet has to learn that having quirks doesn’t negate feelings, she finds her way back to her friends in a way that might make you a tad nostalgic for junior high.

5. ‘The Sandlot’ (1993)

Perhaps one of movies’ most beloved portrayals of young friendship, The Sandlot is to baseball as Stranger Things is to Dungeons & Dragons. In 1962, shy new kid Scotty Smalls decides to crash the local boys’ ongoing baseball game despite lacking athletic skills. Still, the others grow to accept him, and their summer turns into a quest to retrieve a baseball signed by Babe Ruth from a backyard with a terrifying dog. The movie’s end reveals that the boys drifted from each other as they grew, but it leaves viewers with the sense that the characters recognize the impact these friendships left on their adult selves.

6. ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ (2010)

Based on the popular book series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid follows protagonist Greg as he and best friend Rowley begin middle school and try to navigate being small fish in a large pond. The boys of Stranger Things had a rude awakening when they realized that dressing up for Halloween wasn’t cool anymore, but in Greg and Rowley’s case, they’ve entered junior high already in the depths of nerdiness. Sometimes you only have your closest friend to rely on, and these two are proof of that.

7. ‘Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey’ (1993)

You’ll never find a more loyal friend than a pet. When three family pets fear their owners have left them behind in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, they resolve to trek together to their humans’ new home in San Francisco. As the movie shows, friendships are often situational, and these pets living in a house together truly don’t bond until they’re out on the road together.

8. ‘Stand By Me’ (1986)

Another 1980s adventure classic, Stand by Me sends four friends in the 1950s on a journey to find the body of a missing boy. As it’s based on a novella by Stephen King, it has a darker side, but it emphasizes the purity and devotion of young friendships in a way that particularly fits Stranger Things‘ mix of severe drama and childhood joy. Enjoy singing the titular song on a loop after you’ve watched the movie.

9. ‘My Girl’ (1991)

As the daughter of a funeral director, 11-year-old Vada has an obsession with death, so it isn’t too surprising that her only friend is allergy-prone Thomas J. With nothing but Thomas J. and her overactive imagination to fill the suburban summer of 1972, Vada roams the town with the same freedom that the kids of Hawkins have. Her friendship with Thomas J. takes a heartbreaking turn, which some people unfortunately have to experience at an early age.

10. ‘The Muppets Take Manhattan’ (1984)

Your favorite Muppets movie speaks volumes about your personality, but The Muppets Take Manhattan tackles a large friend group parting ways to try finding individual success and happiness. When their post-college musical act fails to find traction on a New York stage, the Muppets head in different directions, even singing a song about how difficult it is to say goodbye. Obviously, they eventually reunite, but I’d probably sob even more than I already did if "Saying Goodbye" played over the final scene of Stranger Things Season 3.

11. ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ (2001)

Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley are some of literature’s most beloved friends, but the bumpy path that solidified the Golden Trio is always sweet to revisit in the first of the book series’ film adaptations. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone captures how friendship can form both instantaneously and gradually regardless of your age. While the group’s bond is sidelined in later movies, this one emphasizes the three recognizing each other’s strengths, which is unique to see from such young characters.

12. ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ (2005)

The four teenage friends in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants were destined to be in each other’s lives from before birth, as their mothers met in a prenatal exercise class. The movie follows their first summer spent apart as the girls visit new places, confront family drama, and explore romantic relationships. Their history together fuels their desire to stay close, but they learn that as they grow, they may not understand or accept the others’ experiences as well as they did before. This also plays into the other boys on Stranger Things not quite recognizing what Will has experienced in the Upside Down.

13. ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ (2012)

In Stranger Things, Mike and Eleven’s friendship transformed into an innocent, kindhearted romance that first love dreams are made of. Their natural bond is similar to that of Moonrise Kingdom‘s Sam and Suzy, whose precocious personalities lead to an intense connection with each other. Their relationship is idealized in the same way that Mike and Eleven’s romance begins, and like summer vacation, it definitely has an endpoint. But the value of this story is the exhilaration of finding someone who gets you, whether that be platonic or romantic.

14. ‘Boyhood’ (2014)

Filmed over the course of 12 years, Boyhood follows a Texas boy’s childhood and teenage years that include his parents’ divorce and second marriages, starting at a new school, and trying to make friends. Its focus is more on family than friendship, and while it’s a time capsule of the 2000s rather than the ’80s, Boyhood reminds viewers that even the simplest memories may have played a part in who they are today.

15. ‘Lady Bird’ (2017)

Like with Boyhood, Lady Bird‘s selling point revolves around family, but part of the film also details Lady Bird’s friendship with Julie and their rough patch midway through senior year of high school. Chances are that you’ve known your high school friends forever and that growing pains are inevitable as the prospect of college appears. Sometimes people don’t quite fit into your future, but on the other hand, some are able to maintain strong relationships with childhood friends, and these two girls show viewers that doing so is worth it.

16. ‘Aquamarine’ (2006)

After growing up together, the kids in Hawkins see two of their own move away, a particularly devastating change in a reality without texts and FaceTime. In Aquamarine, best friends Claire and Hailey dread the latter having to move by the end of the summer, as they’ve clung to each other to the point of codependency. A mermaid who reaches land to avoid an arranged marriage is the girls’ inspiration to make the most of their remaining time together. Do you think the memories of the Demogorgon helped the Party give Will and Eleven a proper send-off?

17. ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ (2012)

Maybe you’re one of those kids whose childhood friendships never lasted and you didn’t find your people until high school. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie’s mental health has prevented him from feeling like a regular kid, but starting high school introduces him to step-siblings Sam and Patrick. The rest is history as seniors Sam and Patrick take Charlie under their wing and bring them into their eccentric friend group. Charlie’s time with them encourages him to confront his past and feel optimistic about the future.

18. ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’ (2002)

While a present-day storyline of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood features Siddalee’s conflicts with her mother Viviane, the movie also travels back to the 1930s to explore the childhoods and later lives of Vivi and her three best friends. The point of the flashbacks is to explain why Sidda’s adult perception of her mother is so negative, but Vivi’s friends are the ones to encourage Sidda to understand things from Vivi’s eyes.

19. ‘The Color of Friendship’ (2000)

Kicking off an era of iconic Disney Channel Original Movies, The Color of Friendship sends a white exchange student growing up in Apartheid-era South Africa to the home of an African-American family in the United States. South African Mahree accepts the racial divide of Apartheid without really questioning it, while American Piper is initially disappointed about not hosting a black student. The girls eventually bond after realizing how much they have in common, but the ongoing political tension in South Africa teaches them a lesson about the differences in their own experiences.

20. ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ (1986)

Everyone has that one friend who seems like they can do anything, and if you have to leave this friend behind as college approaches, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off reminds you to learn a thing or two about life from them. In it, the unstoppable Ferris convinces best friend Cameron to join him in cutting school and embarking on a Chicago adventure, and by the time the day ends, Cameron is encouraged to stand up for himself more. Life moves pretty fast, so take the time to appreciate these old friendships and what you can learn from them.

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