I know what you’re thinking. How on earth can someone narrow down the best episodes of show like Gilmore Girls? There are too many good ones to choose from, and even the episodes that are less than fabulous manage to have their loveable moments.
Still, as I re-watch the series for maybe the hundredth time, I’ve come to determine that there are are some obvious winners.
Okay, a lot of them, and that’s why my list of the best episodes of Gilmore Girls includes not 5, not 10, but 30 favorites. Here they are, in honor of the 16th anniversary of the first one on the list — the pilot.
1. “Pilot” (Season 1 Episode 1)
Welcome to Stars Hollow. The pilot episode of Gilmore Girls introduces us to the world of Lorelai and Rory, which differs from the world we see when Lorelai is forced to go back to her parents’ home to ask for help so Rory can go to Chilton.
And seriously, how could you not fall in love with Lorelai and Rory right from the start?
2. “The Lorelais’ First Day at Chilton” (Season 1 Episode 2)
“The Lorelais’ First Day at Chilton” is just as important as the pilot in introducing us to the world(s) that Lorelai and Rory are a part of. It’s particularly interesting to see more of Lorelai’s relationship with her mother on this episode as well.
Plus, not only are we introduced to Paris, but Lorelai has to wear that ridiculous outfit in front of the Headmaster. And in front of her mother. Whoops!
3. “Rory’s Birthday Parties” (Season 1 Episode 6)
Just as Lorelai sees her mother warming up and trying to get to know more about her and Rory (the pudding!), Emily makes the “polite” decision to invite everyone from Chilton to a fancy party for Rory — without her permission.
This episode is a pretty perfect example of how different those two worlds are. Rory’s second party definitely looks more fun, and it offers more insight into the life Lorelai has created for her and her daughter.
4. “Forgiveness and Stuff” (Season 1 Episode 10)
Gilmore Girls Season 1 Episode 10 is especially heartbreaking to watch now that Edward Herrmann has passed away. Richard winds up in the hospital and gives his family a major scare, and it’s Luke who stops everything to help Lorelai get to her dad.
Maybe most importantly, Emily is maybe the first person to pick up on a spark between Luke and Lorelai. Plus, Luke shows his soft side when he makes Lorelai a Santa Burger.
5. “Concert Interruptus” (Season 1 Episode 13)
Gilmore Girls Season 1 Episode 13 is a really pivotal episode. It includes preparation for a town rummage sale, the first we hear about Rachel, and the beginnings of a friendship (sort of?) between Rory and Paris.
And somehow, Sookie isn’t angry that Lorelai just gave away those amazing Bangles tickets without asking.
6. “The Road Trip to Harvard” (Season 2 Episode 4)
On “The Road Trip to Harvard,” Lorelai blows off her wedding day after realizing that Max isn’t the one, and she and Rory take off on a road trip — showcasing their friendship more than their mother/daughter relationship in a lot of ways.
The road trip itself is fun to watch, and way they react to the bed and breakfast they wind up at says a lot about their characters. Ultimately, the two end up at Harvard where Rory, of course, already fits right in.
7. “Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy” (Season 2 Episode 5)
I don’t really need to tell you about this one, do I? It’s the arrival of Jess Mariano to Stars Hollow! Luke does his best to welcome his troubled nephew into his home on Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 5.
Of course, Lorelai tries to help him feel welcome by inviting Luke and Jess for dinner, but that doesn’t exactly go as planned. Jess also makes quite the impression on Rory.
8. “The Bracebridge Dinner” (Season 2 Episode 10)
It’s a crazy, over-the-top dinner and sleepover at the Independence Inn, and everything about it is wonderful.
On Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 10, “The Bracebridge Dinner,” Lorelai and Sookie don’t let their plans for The Bracebridge Dinner go to waste when the guests are forced to cancel, and instead, they invite everyone from the town to stay at the Inn and enjoy an Elizabethan-themed feast. Oh, and a sleigh-ride!
9. “A Tisket, A Tasket” (Season 2 Episode 13)
You know, I love any episode of Gilmore Girls that includes a quirky town tradition. The picnic basket auction causes drama for the existing couples and serves as a turning point for Rory and Jess.
And Luke comes to Lorelai’s rescue when Ms. Patty organizes several suitors to bid on Lorelais’ basket. Even better? He gets them burgers from the diner since Lorelai’s basket doesn’t exactly have delicious homemade food.
10. “There’s the Rub” (Season 2 Episode 16)
A spa weekend for Lorelai and Emily could never go well, but despite the trouble they have, they do manage to turn it into a bonding experience. They even learn a few new things about one another in the process. That reason alone makes Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 16, “There’s the Rub,” one of my favorites.
11. “Lorelai’s Graduation Day” (Season 2 Episode 21)
Rory screws up big time on Gilmore Girls Season 2 Episode 21, “Lorelai’s Graduation Day.” She takes off to visit Jess in New York, which is a big move — she even skips school! What’s worse is that she doesn’t get back in time for her mother’s graduation, something that’s actually pretty painful to watch.
But Rory in New York with Jess, and then Lorelai graduating and getting that classic photo with her parents? That makes for a pretty special episode.
12. “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They” (Season 3 Episode 7)
Another quirky town tradition (that, unfortunately, we only see once) is the dance marathon that takes place on Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 7, “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?”
It’s a lot of fun until Dean finally breaks up with Rory after becoming tired of ignoring the fact that there’s something going on between her and Jess. It’s the end of an era! For now, at least.
13. “A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving” (Season 3 Episode 9)
This isn’t just one of my favorite Gilmore Girls episodes, but it’s also one of the best Thanksgiving episodes of any show. On Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 9, “A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving,” Lorelai and Rory manage to be a part of four Thanksgiving dinners, one of which includes a deep-fried turkey. Good times.
14. “Dear Emily and Richard” (Season 3 Episode 13)
“Dear Emily and Richard” gives us flashbacks of a young Lorelai and Christopher — their high-school romance, the news the pregnancy, the birth, and then Lorelai’s decision to leave her parents.
All of that occurs as it mirrors Sherry giving birth, since it works out that only Lorelai and Rory are present for most of her labor. It’s an emotional episode to say the least.
15. “A Tale of Poes and Fire” (Season 3 Episode 17)
The presence of The Poe Society at the Inn would be enough to make this one a great episode, but what makes Gilmore Girls Season 3 Episode 17, “A Tale of Poes and Fire,” most important is the fire at the Inn. The town comes together to help and take in the guests, and it becomes a turning point for Lorelai and Sookie’s dream of opening up their own place.
16. “Those are the Strings, Pinocchio” (Season 3 Episode 22)
On the Gilmore Girls Season 3 finale, Rory not only graduates from Chilton, but she does so as Valedictorian. With her family watching, she gives a pretty amazing graduation speech at the end of the episode, which, in particular, honors her mother.
Cue more tears. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it.
17. “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale” (Season 4 Episode 2)
On Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 2, “The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale,” Rory begins a new chapter when she starts Yale, and Lorelai offers all the support she can.
That support includes several trips back and forth in Luke’s truck (which she can’t really operate) a mattress that won’t go away, lots of takeout, and an impromptu party that helps Rory get comfortable in her new surroundings and even make some friends. Oh, and Paris is Rory’s roommate, because of course she is.
18. “The Festival of Living Art” (Season 4 Episode 7)
“The Festival of Living Art” is one of the most over-the-top events that we see in Stars Hollow, where the citizens dress up and pose as characters from famous paintings, and Lorelai is under particular pressure not to twitch this time! She manages, even though she hears the pager (a pager!) go off to let her know that Sookie is in labor!
19. “Ted Koppel’s Big Night Out” (Season 4 Episode 9)
Nobody knows how to tailgate like the Gilmores, and we find out why on Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 9, “Ted Koppel’s Big Night Out.” As usual, there’s some family drama involved, and that drama gives Lorelai just enough incentive to take Jason up on his dinner invitation.
In fact, their date, which winds up at a grocery store with a serious search for Pringles, is one of my favorite things about this episode.
20. “Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin’ the Twist” (Season 4 Episode 17)
Rory and Paris get a classic college experience when they take a road trip to Florida for Spring Break on Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 17, “Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin’ the Twist.” It’s actually almost a bit too cliche, but in a good way,
21. “Last Week Fights, This Week Tights” (Season 4 Episode 21)
Luke can Waltz! Liz and T.J’s wedding might be one of my favorite TV weddings of all time, and that’s not just because it features this sweet moment between Lorelai and Luke, which is ultimately the beginning of their relationship. Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 21, “Last Week Fights, This Week Tights,” is one of the most memorable episodes of the series.
22. “Raincoats and Recipes” (Season 4 Episode 22)
In another opportunity to bring the whole town in for a sleepover, this time, it’s the test run for The Dragonfly Inn. It’s as quirky as you’d want it to be, and things *almost* aren’t finished in time. You have to feel excited that Lorelai and Sookie have finally made their dream come true.
This one is also a pivotal episodes because Luke and Lorelai finally have their first kiss! AND Rory loses her virginity. To Dean. Who is married… And Lorelai catches them.
23. “Written in the Stars” (Season 5 Episode 3)
On Gilmore Girls Season 5 Episode 3, “Written in the Stars,” Luke and Lorelai finally have their first official date, where Luke takes Lorelai to what is basically his version of Luke’s.
The date goes so well that they spend the night together, leading to that awkward moment in the photo above. The diner is still open, Lorelai!
24. “You Jump, I Jump, Jack” (Season 5 Episode 7)
Whether you like Logan or whether you don’t, you have to admit that he was important part of Rory’s growth in her college years. He broke her out of her shell in a way that no one else could, and it pretty much started with this insane Life and Death Brigade stunt.
25. “Wedding Bell Blues” (Season 5 Episode 13)
The most important part of “Wedding Bell Blues” is that Emily and Richard celebrate their reconciliation by renewing their vows. It makes for a beautiful second wedding and thoughtful toast from Richard to his wife. “For tonight, my name is Bill, and this is our song.”
Of course, it’s not without some Gilmore drama. Emily schemes for Chris to show up and get between Lorelai and Luke, and Rory makes a bold move with Logan. It’s definitely a memorable episode.
26. “Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out (Season 6 Episode 8)
At this point, the whole boat-stealing incident is behind us, Rory’s quit school and moved in with her grandparents, and she’s shown her skills in planning DAR events.
While most of this episode is pretty awkward (Jess and Logan butting heads) it’s important because Jess shows up having written a book, and then manages to talk some sense into Rory, inspiring her to go back home, go back to school, and get herself back on track.
27. “Friday Night’s Alright For Fighting (Season 6 Episode 13)
“Friday Night’s Alright for Fighting” is one of my favorite Logan episodes. When Paris loses it and the staff at the Yale Daily News protests, Rory jumps in to help get the paper out on time. Logan comes to the rescue to help as well, and the team effort (plus a few charming phone calls) pays off.
Then Rory and Lorelai go to a Friday night dinner where everything comes to a head, and the montage of fighting — with intermittent silence and out-of-control laughter — is pretty much amazing.
28. “I Get a Sidekick Out of You” (Season 6 Episode 19)
Lane and Zack get married on Gilmore Girls Season 6 Episode 19, “I Get a Sidekick Out of You,” and it’s the perfect funky wedding with a performance by Hep Alien. Mrs. Kim even leaves early and tells Lane she’ll be wearing earplugs all night, essentially giving her blessing for her daughter to party hard.
29. “French Twist” (Season 7 Episode 7)
I know. This one is going to be controversial, because let’s face it, Season 7 isn’t the best. It was without the original creators of the show, and the show suffered without them.
But that doesn’t mean this season didn’t have its great moments, and “French Twist” (even though I am team Luke) is one of my favorite episodes. Lorelai and Christopher have this crazy trip to Paris where they suffer jetlag, and ultimately, they get married.
30. “Bon Voyage” (Season 7 Episode 22)
While this wasn’t the finale we deserved, and while much of it felt forced (Christiane Amanpour’s appearance and Rory’s reaction to it, for example) it still manages to wrap up the show and provide an emotional send-off for Rory.
Bonus points for that final shot, where we see Rory and Lorelai through the window at Luke’s before Rory takes off on her new adventure.
That finale didn’t give us the final four words Amy Sherman-Palladino had always planned to end on, but we’ll find out what those are and see what the Gilmores are up to in just a little less than two months!
What are your favorite episodes of Gilmore Girls? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premieres Friday, November 25th on Netflix.
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