A student at Hawkins High School, he was best friends with Tommy H. and Carol Perkins and the boyfriend of Nancy Wheeler. When Nancy's best friend, Barbara Holland, disappeared, she became distant and Steve thought she was cheating with Jonathan Byers. Following a few ignorant actions, Steve had a change of heart, told his friends off, and set out to make things right. By coincidence, he ended up heroically saving the day and reconciled with his girlfriend.
In 1984, following a falling-out with Nancy, Steve became a proper ally to the main party, especially Dustin, with whom he formed an unlikely friendship. He became a sort of authority figure for the party and solidified himself into becoming a major player in the battle against the Mind Flayer.
In 1985, Steve would get a job at Scoops Ahoy at the newly-opened Starcourt Mall, working with a former classmate of his, Robin Buckley. Steve would help Dustin translate a secret Russian transmission, along with Robin's help, and discover there were Russians in Hawkins, working underneath Starcourt. Working with Dustin, Robin, and Lucas' younger sister Erica, Steve discovered the Russians were trying to reopen a portal to the Upside Down. Steve would also form a friendship with Robin and later accept her sexuality. Steve later learned of the Mind Flayer's return and help the rest of the Party battle against it until the gate was closed again. Three months later, Steve continued to remain best friends with Robin as they applied for new jobs at Family Video.
Main article: Steve Harrington/History
Prior to dating Nancy, Steve was well known among his peers as a popular boy with a terrible personality. He is a pretty boy and was called King Steve as a title to his high popularity.
He displayed some insecurities, as he instantly believed Nancy was sleeping with Jonathan when he saw them together in her bedroom. Despite his flaws, Steve shows that he has a brave side and truly cares about Nancy, as he helped her beat the Monster. A month later, it is revealed that Steve and Nancy purchased Jonathan a new camera to replace the one he and Tommy broke.
Between his breakup with Nancy and Billy Hargrove quickly taking over his status as 'King Bee' and most popular boy, Steve was at a low point emotionally. While trying to make amends with Nancy, Dustin intercepted him and roped him into helping catch D'Artagnan. The boys quickly bond, and Steve is shown to have a more parental or mentoring side as he gives Dustin relationship advice. Steve took on the role of 'babysitter' for the kids and was willing to put himself in danger to protect them. He's far more kind and responsible than he used to be.
In 1985, Steve is a shadow of what he once was. Aside from his sarcasm and recklessness, a lot of his traits that he displayed in his high school years have disappeared from him. He's been shown to be incredibly awkward and unsuccessful with the girls he serves at Scoops Ahoy, and the only positive female relationship he seems to have is with his coworker Robin. His friendship with Dustin is still strong, if not stronger, and he seems to be on good terms with the rest of the Hawkins gang. Steve is also shown to be more kind-hearted and tolerant of things he used to poke fun of. Aside from engaging in nerd culture, he's also shed his homophobic views, which is shown when he still accepts Robin as a friend after she comes out to him.
- Staff Proficiency: One of Steve's incredible skills is his proficiency with his spiked bat. His adeptness with his bat was revealed when he displayed significant prowess in fend offing the vicious Demogorgon that was attacking the Byers house. Steve used his spiked bat again during the events at the junkyard where he was almost overwhelmed in an ambush by the demodogs, if not for defending himself with it.
- Combatant: He was also shown to be physically robust during his fistfight with Billy, dealing some quick blows to defend Lucas. And even though he received major injuries in the process, Steve was still able to help enter and guide the kids out of the demodogs' tunnel after setting it afire. He is also able to knock out a Soviet soldier with a phone in a fight.
It is implied Steve doesn’t have a close relationship with his parents, particularly his father. While inviting Nancy and Barb to his party, he mentions his mother attending his father's business trip because she doesn't trust him, possibly meaning Mr. Harrington is unfaithful, therefore causing tension. He throws a party at his home without his parent's knowledge, drinking beers, and smoking along with his friends. He later fears Nancy revealing this to the police, knowing he'll get in trouble, saying to Nancy that his father is a "grade-A asshole". When Nancy later asks Steve if he got in trouble with his parents, Steve says it doesn't matter and to "Screw them". In 1984, Steve struggles with his grades, not wanting to work under his father, but tells Nancy that maybe it wouldn't be bad since it means having insurance and "adult stuff". By the summer of 1985, Steve doesn't have the proper grades to attend college, and Mr. Harrington forces his son to get a job at Scoops Ahoy at the Starcourt Mall to teach him a lesson, angering Steve. After being drugged by Russians, Steve is asked by Dustin if he's on drugs, to which Steve sloppily replies, "How many times, Dad? I don't do drugs . . . just marijuana!", possibly Mr. Harrington confronting his son on his issues with partying too hard. By October of that year, Steve and Robin apply for jobs at Family Video, putting his mother down as a reference on his resume because she is "super well-respected".
In the beginning, Dustin, along with The Party, perceives Steve as a douchebag. However, in 1984, Dustin uses Steve as a last resort to help him tame a Demodog after Lucas, Will, and Mike remain unresponsive to his code red. While hunting for him using raw meat, Dustin asked Steve for advice on how to attract girls due to Dustin's crush on a new girl in his class. Steve explains that the key to attracting a girl is pretending you don't care, even if you do, and also reveals he uses Farrah Fawcett hairspray for his hair. They soon begin an unlikely friendship and are seen protecting Dustin and eventually his friends. Their relationship evolves to a brotherly relationship, joking around and poking fun at one other, but Dustin looks up to Steve as cool despite his dwindling unpopularity with his peers. After being brutally beaten by Billy, Dustin tends to Steve's wounds and they work along with the Party to destroy The Mind Flayer's underground caves. When Demodogs charge at them, Steve picks Dustin up to protect him, showing his fierce protectiveness. One month later, Steve drives Dustin (who has used the Farrah Fawcett spray for his overdone hair) to the Snowball and gives him a few more tips before sending him in.
A year later, Dustin and Steve are still shown to remain best friends, when they greet each other at Scoops Ahoy after Dustin returns from Camp Know Where. Dustin tells Steve about his new girlfriend Suzie and asks for his help with translating a Russian broadcast he picked up when trying to contact Suzie, which Steve accepts. When Robin hears of the message and translates it for them, Dustin and Steve work together, along with Robin, to find the Russians and get into the back room of the mall. After getting into the room with Erica Sinclair's help, Dustin stays by Steve's side as Steve opens a box of unknown chemicals, not wanting him to die, which touches Steve. When they are spotted by the Russians, Steve, along with Robin, help Dustin and Erica escape before Dustin tells him that he'll come back for him. Eventually, Dustin comes to Steve and Robin's rescue and helps them escape the Russian base while looking out and protecting them as they were drugged with truth serum. After Steve and Robin were cured, Steve reveals to Dustin that he told the Russians his name while being drugged, much to Dustin's shock, as Steve apologized. When Dustin revealed Suzie's existence by contacting her on Cerebro, Steve was shocked as he secretly did not believe that she existed and awkwardly listened to Dustin and Suzie singing Neverending Story together.
Steve and Nancy first began seeing each other shortly before the disappearance of Will Byers. While Nancy initially believed that Steve wasn’t serious about their relationship, this turned out to not be the case. In truth, Steve really loved Nancy, claiming she’s “not like other girls”. After having sex at a party held at Steve’s house, they officially entered a relationship. However, when Nancy became distant due to the disappearance of her friend Barb, Steve grew worried. When he visited her house to check on her, he witnessed Nancy and Jonathan together in her room, making him believe she was cheating. When Nancy confronted him, Steve gave her a chance to explain herself, though, due to the extraordinary nature of the events, she was unable to. After realizing his mistakes, he went to the Byers’ house in order to apologize. There, he unexpectedly helped Nancy and Jonathan fight the Demogorgon. A month after these events, Steve and Nancy had gotten back together.
The two had dated for nearly a year when their relationship was once again put in jeopardy; no longer being able to bear the guilt of Barb’s death, Nancy told Steve they should tell the Hollands the truth. Steve rejected this idea, reminding her that doing so would put them and their families in danger. At a Halloween party, Nancy became intoxicated, leading her to reveal that she did not have feelings for him. This emotionally crushed Steve, and he broke up with her the following day. Yet, Steve still had feelings for Nancy, and after being goaded by Tommy and Billy, attempted to apologize to her. He eventually came to terms with Nancy’s feelings for Jonathan and told her she should be with him instead. After dropping Dustin off at the Snow Ball, Steve spotted Nancy and accepted she will never love him.
A year later, in 1985, Steve confessed to Robin that he no longer loves Nancy and considers her a friend, as he's now looking for the perfect girl for him.
Due to Jonathan and Steve being polar opposites, both in popularity and personality, Steve viewed him as an outcast. While he, Carol, Tommy, Nancy, and Barb watched Jonathan hang up missing posters for Will, Steve called him depressing, but he did smack Tommy on the arm and told him to shut up after he insinuated that Jonathan might have killed his brother. But when Nicole informs him and the others that Jonathan took pictures of them during the party at his house (including a lewd photo of Nancy in her underwear), Steve proclaimed him to be a pervert and broke his camera in retaliation. When he sees Jonathan and Nancy together in her room (not realizing the situation), the next day he, along with Carol, Tommy, and Nicole, wrote horrific slurs about them in graffiti on the theatre's marquee and an alleyway. When Jonathan and Nancy confront him, Steve begins to brutally bully him about his home life, his mother, and his brother's "death" until Jonathan's rage consumes him and beats Steve to the ground. After escaping from the police beaten and bruised, Steve comes to the realization that Tommy and Carol are horrible people and drives to the Byers to apologize, only to get sucked into Nancy and Jonathan's fight with the Demogorgon. A month later, Steve and Nancy give Jonathan a new camera for Christmas, showing they're on good terms.
A year later, in 1984, Steve and Jonathan were shown to still get along. During a party on Halloween night, Nancy drunkenly admits that she doesn't love Steve, causing him to storm out and ask Jonathan to take her home, showing that he trusts him. He accepts that he wasn't right for Nancy and allows her to pursue her feelings for Jonathan.
In 1985, Steve and Jonathan were still on friendly terms, as Steve finally got over Nancy. The two worked together as a team to protect the Party from the Mind Flayer.
Tommy, Carol, and Steve were a trio of friends throughout high school, though it's obvious the couple was more interested in his popularity than his compassion and actual love for Nancy. He invites the couple, along with Nancy and Barb, to his home for a party, and the quartet has fun wading in his pool (while Barb tended to her knife wound inside). Tommy and Carol join in on ripping apart Jonathan's photos and enjoy watching Steve break his camera. When Steve, Tommy, and Carol drive to Nancy's home one night, the two tease Steve for caring about Nancy. When he yells at them to shut up, they quickly do but chuckle quietly in amusement. After Steve sees Jonathan up in Nancy's bedroom, he, Tommy, Carol, and Nicole spray paint slurs of Nancy and Jonathan on the Hawkins theatre's marquee and in an alley the next day. Soon, Jonathan and Steve get into a fight, while Tommy, Carol, and Nicole watch. The cops arrive and arrest Jonathan while the other teens run away. Tommy, Carol, and Steve stopped at a convenience store where Tommy gives a bloodied-faced Steve a cold soda can and pills for his pain. When Carol and Tommy once again make fun of Nancy and Jonathan, Steve snaps and tells Carol to shut her mouth. Tommy asks what his problem is, and Steve calls them "assholes", saying Nancy isn't miserable like the two of them. Carol calls Nancy "the slut with a heart of gold", causing Steve to yell at her to watch her mouth. Tommy grabs Steve by the collar and tells him he doesn't talk to Carol like that and attempts to instigate a fight, but Steve silently climbs into his car and drives off, all while Tommy calls Steve a "pussy" and yelling at him to run away.
A year later in the fall of 1984, Tommy still holds a grudge against Steve, tormenting him alongside Billy about Nancy skipping school alongside Jonathan. In July of 1985, Steve mentions to Robin how he regrets not paying attention to her in high school out of fear of being made fun of by people like Tommy.
Billy Hargrove was an antagonist to Steve and quite provocative from the day they met. After Billy's arrival to Hawkins High School, he was quick to gain a reputation from the other students and ignited a rivalry with Steve after breaking his keg standing record. Even though Steve didn't bother much about his fame, Billy was always quick to taunt him for his failures, such as losing against him in basketball and failing to deal with his broken relationship with Nancy. Ultimately, Steve realized Billy's violent nature when he came to the Byers residence to forcefully take Max and threatened Lucas. This prompted Steve to intervene and a fistfight ensued. While Steve managed to protect the boys, Billy brutally wounded him before he was sedated by Max.
In 1985, after learning that Billy was one of the very people possessed by the Mind Flayer, Steve protected the kids from him by crashing into Billy's car before Billy could ram over the kids as they tried to escape Starcourt Mall. After the Mind Flayer's defeat, it is unknown how Steve felt about Billy's sacrifice to protect the kids.
Around 1984, Steve attended Miss Click's history class alongside sophmore Robin Buckley in Hawkins High School. Though Steve didn't know her during his years in school, Robin disliked Steve incredibly due to him being late to class, making a mess by eating food, and causing her crush, Tammy Thompson, to ignore her. A year later, in the summer of 1985, Steve is forced by his father to be employed at the newly-built Starcourt Mall's ice cream parlor, Scoops Ahoy, alongside Robin, due to not having the grades to go to college. Initially, Robin takes joy in watching Steve fail to impress female customers and failing school while Steve disliked Robin for snarky behavior and attitude towards him. But when Steve's friend Dustin claims that to have intercepted a secret Russian communication, Robin assists the pair by decoding the Russian language. Throughout the next few days, Dustin keeps suggesting to Steve to make a move on Robin, believing she's cool, but Steve holds onto his high school mindset, believing her alternative personality could jeopardize his image.
However, as they discovered the Russians to be in Hawkins and operating in the mall, Steve and Robin started to form a friendship. While held captive for their interrogation by the Russians, Robin and Steve are clearly seen to care about each other’s well-being and enjoy each other’s company, talking and laughing together while alone. Once rescued, the duo shared an emotional moment on a bathroom floor where Steve decided to confess his love for Robin. Robin awkwardly tells him that while she really likes him as a friend, her romantic feelings belong to a fellow female classmate named Tammy Thompson. Though initially shocked, Steve is not upset in the slightest, rather saying that Tammy Thompson is a total dud to her hobby and lack of musical talent, causing the two to laugh as Steve accepts Robin for who she is. They remained best friends after the battle at Starcourt Mall and are seen three months later getting a new job at Family Video together, with Robin helping Steve get the job.
Erica was a frequent customer at Scoops Ahoy and Steve served her ice cream. It's possible that Steve was often irritated at Erica for taking advantage of Scoops Ahoy's free ice cream samples, much like Robin. However, when Robin asked for Erica's help to crawl through the air ducts to a secret room that the Russians occupied, Steve agreed to the idea and was willing to give Erica free ice cream treats, in exchange for her cooperation. Once Erica arrived to the room safe and sound, Steve gave out a sigh of relief. Despite that, after being trapped in the room which was revealed to be an elevator, Erica started to sassily berate Steve and the others for getting her in this situation, saying they would be in trouble with her mother. This caused Steve to snap at Erica, telling her that he doesn't care and they would be dead if they remain trapped in the elevator, much to Erica's shock. When exploring he secret Russian base underneath Starcourt, Steve helped Erica and Dustin escape when they were spotted by Russians, leaving him and Robin to be captured. However, Erica and Dustin managed to come to their rescue and escape the base together, protecting the older teens as they were drugged with truth serum until they were cured. Both Steve and Erica continued to work together in helping stop the Mind Flayer.
Due to his attitude towards Steve, it's likely Keith was a victim of his bullying in high school. In October of 1985, Steve and Robin apply for jobs at Family Video, where Keith works and interviews them. While Robin successfully gets the job, Steve does not, due to Keith's grudge towards his former bully. Robin eventually convinces Keith to hire him after saying Steve will attract girls as customers, something Keith can benefit from. Though he still finds Steve annoying, he reluctantly hires him.
|Season One appearances|
|The Vanishing of Will Byers||The Weirdo on Maple Street||Holly, Jolly||The Body|
|The Flea and the Acrobat||The Monster||The Bathtub||The Upside Down|
|Season Two appearances|
|MADMAX||Trick or Treat, Freak||The Pollywog|
|Will the Wise||Dig Dug||The Spy|
|The Mind Flayer||The Gate|
|Season Three appearances|
|Suzie, Do You Copy?||The Mall Rats||The Case of the Missing Lifeguard||The Sauna Test|
|The Flayed||E Pluribus Unum||The Bite||The Battle of Starcourt|
- "I'm stealthy, like a ninja."
- "I'm sorry? What the hell am I sorry for?"
- "…It’s finger-lickin’ good."
- "Hey! Dickheads! How come the only one helping me out is this random girl?"
Steve to Dustin:
- "How do you know it’s not just a lizard?"
- "You’re gonna slay ’em dead."
- "She's only gonna break your heart, and you're way too young for that."
- "Yeah, Farrah Fawcett. You tell anyone I just told you that and your ass is grass."
Steve to Mike:
- "Alright, Wheeler, we found your hub."
Steve to Billy:
- "Yeah, it’s me. Don’t cream your pants."
Steve to Nancy:
- "I may be a pretty shitty boyfriend, but it turns out I’m actually a pretty damn good babysitter."
Steve & Dustin:
- Steve: "So let me get this straight. You've kept something you knew to be dangerous in order to...impress a girl who you just met?"
- Dustin: "Okay, that's grossly oversimplifying things."
Nancy & Steve:
- Nancy: "You're pretending like everything's okay, ya know, like like we didn't kill Barb! Like it's great, like we're in love and we're partying. Yeah let's party, party, it's it's bullshit!"
- Steve: "'Like' we're in love?"
- Nancy: "It's bullshit!"
- Steve: "You don't love me?"
- Nancy: "It's bullshit"
Behind the scenes
Initially, the character of Steve was more of a stereotypical douchebag, which actor Joe Keery described as "more forceful and pushy, and kind of the '80s stereotypical jock you’d see in a John Hughes movie." In the pilot script for Montauk, Steve actually went so far as raping Nancy.
The character was reworked because the Duffer Brothers thought Keery had a different look and energy from how they imagined Steve, saying Keery was "incredibly likable and had this charisma about him." In the original plan, Nancy and Steve would not reconcile at the end of the show, but the Duffers decided to give Steve his own arc where he's in with the wrong crowd and Nancy turns him to her side.
During development, Keery and the Duffers spoke about “what kind of family life [Steve] comes from and maybe this girl Nancy is quiet and listens in a way that other people haven't listened to him at this point.”
Costume design and styling
As seen in the mood board Adams created for the character, his style was inspired by Tom Cruise’s characters Joel Goodson in Risky Business (1983) and Stefan "Stef" Djordjevic in All the Right Moves (1983). Both films are referenced by Steve in Chapter Five and he mentions how Carol said he looks like Tom Cruise, who Nancy has a poster of in her bedroom. Steve wears the same Nike shoes that Cruise wore in All the Right Moves. Other inspirations in the mood board were Johnny Depp as Glen Lantz in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and model John Sommi modeling knitwear in GQ. All of the aforementioned men were considered 80s jocks and heartthrobs.
The stylists spent a lot of time discussing the look of Steve – how they could make him look like "kind of a douche" that "really rubs people the wrong way."
They didn’t figure out Steve’s hair until the second and third episodes when they tried it as a joke style to see if it would go up. To get the look, they used a lot of shampoos a lot of hair spray, and a lot of meticulous grooming.
- Even though he was credited as a recurring character in the first season, Steve appears in all 8 episodes. He was later promoted to a series regular in the second season.
- In The Bite, Steve, in his drugged state, tells Dustin that he "doesn't do drugs . . . just marijuana!", though it's unknown if he's smoked previously or continues this habit.
- While the spiked bat he possesses has become synonymous with his character, it was originally created by Jonathan, while the bat itself originally belonged to Nancy.
- Steve is the first antagonist in the series to redeem himself, and would soon be followed by Billy.
- In Beyond Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers revealed that the Steve-Dustin partnership in Season Two was surprising because it was never planned before production and the pairing sort of came out when they began writing out the episodes.
- At some point during every season, Steve's face has ended up bloodied and bruised after someone beats him up. It has become a running gag in the series.
- While filming the fight between Steve and Jonathan, actor Charlie Heaton accidentally punched Joe Keery in the face, twice. 
- In the original Montauk pilot script, Steve Harrington was supposed to die in the first season. It was going to be Jonathan and Will's deadbeat father Lonnie Byers who was supposed to save Nancy and Jonathan and redeem himself.
- Steve, Nancy, and the Demogorgon were announced to be added as playable characters to the indie horror video game Dead by Daylight and were released in September of 2019.
- In early 2021, Jonathan Byers would be added as a Legendary skin for Steve, making him playable in the game alongside the others.
- Steve's favorite Star Wars film is Return of the Jedi, or as he refers to it as "the one with the teddy bears". It is possible that Dustin introduced him to the series and why they have pretend lightsaber fights.
- Steve was the first character in the series to make their debut as a recurring character before returning in a later season as a main character.
- He would be followed by Priah Ferguson's character Erica Sinclair, who made her debut in Season 2 before being promoted to main character in Season 3, as well as Brett Gelman's character Murray Bauman, who remained a recurring character through Seasons 2 and 3, before being promoted to main character in Season 4.
|For this subject's gallery, see Steve Harrington/Gallery.|
- "‘Stranger Things’: Joe Keery on Steve’s Perfect Hair and Going Beyond the Classic ’80s Bully" The Wall Street Journal. August 8, 2016.
- "Montauk Pilot" The Duffer Brothers.
- "The Stranger Things creators want some scares with their Spielberg" A.V. Club. July 13, 2016.
- "‘Stranger Things’ Finale: Duffer Brothers Talk Cliffhangers, Death and Season 2" Variety. July 18, 2016.
- "Stranger Things - Costume Designing 1980s Nostalgia" Tyranny of Style. November 15, 2016.
- "Eleven Got a Perm For Season 2 — & You Just Need To See it" Refinery29. February 10, 2017.
- 11 Insights Into the Making of Stranger Things 2
- 10 Strict Rules The Cast Of Stranger Things Must Follow