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SYFY WIRE Stranger Things

‘Stranger Things’: Netflix flips the piggy bank Upside Down for final season cast salaries

With so many stars, the streamer could spend $78 million or more to reunite the gang.

By Benjamin Bullard
Stranger Things Season 4 NETFLIX PRESS

Netflix may be turning the piggy bank completely Upside Down to assure the full Stranger Things acting ensemble makes it back to Hawkins for the smash supernatural series’ fifth and final season. Newly reported salary negotiations reveal the show may be spending upwards of $78 million just to return all the mainstay cast members this summer, as production on Stranger Things Season 5 ramps up.

According to industry-tracking outlet Puck News, Netflix has struck mind-flaying new agreements for every one of the main actors who’ve been with Stranger Things since the show’s freaky beginnings (as well as Max Mayfield actor Sadie Sink and Robin Buckley actor Maya Hawke, who joined the cast in Seasons 2 and 3, respectively). Via the report, the payout plan assigns each of the series’ actors a salary “tier” ranging from 1-4, with tier 1 commanding the most lucrative and high-value moolah. 

Grown-up stars Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers) and David Harbour (Chief Jim Hopper) sit atop the highest tier, which earns the duo each a reported $9.5 million per episode for their involvement in Stranger Things 5 — an enormous step up from the reported $2.8 million each star earned for the show's third season. 

Coming close behind are the kids from tier 2, including original Dungeons & Dragons addicts Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), and Noah Schnapp (Will Byers). Sink and the original quartet reportedly will each earn a one-year payout of “just over” $7 million for closing out the series. 

Just beneath the gaggle of long-timers who’ve basically grown up with the show are the older-teen regulars in the tier 3 salary range, which reportedly commands “just over” $6 million per episode. Those include Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Joe Keery (the sneaky-brave Steve Harrington), and Season 3 addition Hawke.

Tier 4 salaries for the show's fifth season reportedly include other regular cast members not named above and will compensate each of them at a rate “much less” than those of the top three tiers. Not specifically named among any of the reported tiers is a whole bevy of Stranger Things stars who’ve played crucial and memorable roles over the years, including Matthew Modine, Paul Reiser, Brett Gelman (the conspiracy-minded Murray Bauman) and Season 2 joiner Priah Ferguson (the precocious Erica Sinclair, aka Lucas’ bossy little sister) — each of whom may or may not be included in the lowest rung of the reported four-tiered payout ladder.

If you’ve noticed one name missing among that vast constellation of eye-popping numbers, it’s no illusion: Stranger Things pretty much doesn’t exist without telepathic teenage test subject Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Her reported salary structure resides in a separate (and valuable) overall Netflix deal that Brown — who also stars in the Enola Holmes films as well as the platform’s upcoming, Russo brothers-directed science fiction movie The Electric State — already has in place with the streamer. According to /Film, Brown earned a cool $10 million for her starring turn opposite Henry Cavill just for last year’s Enola Holmes movie sequel alone — so she’s definitely in an earning league of her own at Netflix. 

Of course there’s a veil of secrecy surrounding how the series will end in the wake of last season's seemingly untoppable showdown with Vecna (played by Jamie Campbell Bower) in the Upside Down. But series creators the Duffer brothers recently hinted that Stranger Things won’t stray far from its Steven Spielberg-inspired 1980s roots, with Ross Duffer framing Stranger Things 5 as “a culmination of all the seasons,” and teasing a series finale with the “tone” of Season 1 — but also the epic scale of the much pricier, effects-driven action of Season 4. “Hopefully,” he said, “it’s got a little bit of everything.”

Can't wait for Stranger Things to return to get your horror fix? Try SYFY's Chucky, now streaming on Peacock.