Written by Katie Rivara.
On October 1, Netflix released one of the best series to come out of the WB: Gilmore Girls. For seven years we followed where Lorelai and Rory Gilmore led, showed up to Friday night dinner at Richard and Emily’s, and drank copious cups of coffee with Luke. And now that the series is available for binge-watching (which is, by the way, so Gilmore-y) we thought we’d take a look at our thirty favorite episodes.
Full disclosure: There are no episodes from seasons six or seven on this list. Why? Because nothing good came of seasons six and seven. Well, okay, one episode: “I Get a Sidekick Out of You.” Lane gets married! We’re treated to two ceremonies, a rocking reception in the town square, and Zach in traditional Korean robes. And Logan falls off a cliff and almost dies. That’s nice too.
30 Best Gilmore Girls Episodes
The Pilot (Gilmore Girls 1×01)
Where better to start than the beginning? The best part is that before we even meet Rory, we’re introduced to the rampant coffee addiction of our heroines. It’s pretty much the most vital aspect of the Gilmore girls. Everything we love is in this episode: the witty banter, the local color of Stars Hollow, the awkwardness and angst of Friday Night Dinners. And who among us hasn’t looked at someone in an oversized sweater and thought, “What’s with the muu-muu?”
The Deer Hunters (Gilmore Girls 1×04)
If you are a fan of Gilmore Girls and you’ve driven in a rural area, you’ve undoubtedly wondered, “Will I get hit by a deer?” You already know that no one but your mother will believe you if you do. The scenes were Rory and Lorelai take turns putting blankets on each other during their big Shakespeare study night are adorable. And then there are the two meltdowns. Rory’s fit is both horrifying and delicious. She puts Paris in her place (“Why so silent, quippy?”) as well as Tristan (“And for the last time, the name is RORY!!!” Pure comedic gold!). Lorelai’s fit is equally satisfying (“Wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with Il Duce over here”). And then Rory looks for the deer who hit her. Adorable.
Rory’s Birthday Parties (Gilmore Girls 1×06)
People learn a lot in this episode. Emily learns that a twelve-dollar set of bracelets is a better present than a Mont Blanc pen. Lorelai learns that if you carry a guitar-shaped purse, people will think you’re an axe murderer. Rory learns that eating your own face is weird, even if it’s cake (also, having classmates obligated to show up to your party sucks). And Richard learns he’s an Autumn, according to Cosmo.
Kiss and Tell (Gilmore Girls 1×07)
Rory gets kissed!…And she shoplifts! Lorelai contemplates murdering Dean over it, but Luke stops her (“It’s double coupon day. You’ll bring down the town”). We also feel for Rory when her mom sets up her first date with Dean. Sorry, Lorelai, but that’s never okay. Also not okay? Babette holding Dean hostage and making him late. And Sookie showing up to check Dean out. It’s kind of amazing Dean didn’t run far, far away from Stars Hollow after that date.
Rory’s Dance (Gilmore Girls 1×09)
Everyone wishes their mom could make a dress as pretty as the one Lorelai made for Rory. Nobody wishes their mom would make a toast-and-banana snack as gross as the one Emily made for Lorelai. We also get to savor the poetic justice of Paris leaking her own embarrassing cousin-date secret and we get to see Dean almost fight Tristan, that prick. It’s a shame all those good feelings had to be left on Miss Patty’s yoga mats.
Double Date (Gilmore Girls 1×12)
Oh, Roon. Where did you even come from? Rude out-of-town cousins aside, this episode is adorable because it’s Sookie and Jackson’s first date, and of course that means awkwardness all around. Unfortunately for Lane, it’s a non-adorable awkwardness for her as she realizes she should probably learn a little more about a guy before begging her BFF Rory to set her up on a date with him. And NEVER, EVER, EVER DECEIVE MRS. KIM. EVER. God that woman is terrifying.
Concert Interruptus (Gilmore Girls 1×13)
Lorelai wins Mother of the Year right here. She gives up dream seats for the Bangles concert just so Rory can try to befriend Paris, Madeline, and Louise. Then she goes on a rampage when Madeline and Louise pull stupid shit. Also, why DOES Lorelai hang onto half of those clothes in her closet?
Christopher Returns (Gilmore Girls 1×15)
We finally meet Rory’s dad, and even though I wasn’t a real big fan of Christopher in later years, the chemistry between Chris and Lorelai is undeniable and honestly really sweet. The best part might actually be the moment where their argument about marriage turns into a debate over rock bands. Also in this episode, we meet Christopher’s parents at one of the worst Friday Night Dinners in Gilmore history. To quote Emily, Straub Hayden is a big ass. And Lorelai has to try to rectify a ratty transgression when she realizes she completely forgot about helping Luke paint the diner.
The Road Trip To Harvard (Gilmore Girls 2×04)
Max Medina, you were a great guy. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t right for Lorelai, who takes off with Rory after calling off the wedding. They stay at the Cheshire Cat Bed & Breakfast, where they stare at frightening floral wallpaper and weather awful small-talk with their fellow B&Bers. Then, they step foot in the promised land: Harvard University, where Rory test-drives a lecture and Lorelai searches for nearby campus apartments because that’s the only way they’ll survive when Rory goes to college.
Presenting Lorelai Gilmore (Gilmore Girls 2×06)
There is a lot of tulle in this episode. Rory makes the mistake of going out on the patio when Emily and her friends are discussing the DAR Debutante Ball. Lorelai’s first instinct is to call the whole thing off, but eventually she settles on letting Rory know that sliding down the stair bannister is always an option. There’s more Lorelai and Chris sweetness as they reminisce over what might have been sixteen years ago if Lorelai had done the whole debutante ball thing, and Dean lets himself get dressed up in tails and white gloves as Rory’s escort.
There’s The Rub (Gilmore Girls 2×16)
FINALLY, we get to discuss the dark, moody perfection that is Jess Mariano. There are a lot of valid arguments against Jess, but the guy can stand toe-to-toe with Paris Gellar and debate literature. When did Dean ever talk about Bukowski? Oh, that’s right, never. And speaking of Paris, she actually behaves like a normal friend-type person when she defends Rory to Dean. Elsewhere, Lorelai and Emily find ways to be stressed out at a spa. They wear Vicious Trollop lipstick and steal bathrobes together in an effort to bond. Baby steps, right?
Teach Me Tonight (Gilmore Girls 2×19)
Rory and Jess spending quality time together. I rooted for them so hard in this episode, but as good as their study-buddy evening started, it all came to a screeching halt when they got into their car accident and Rory broke her arm. You feel for Lorelai when she screams at Luke for pushing Rory and Jess together, then calls Christopher in tears when she sees how wrecked Rory’s car is and how wrecked her daughter could have been. But this episode is really about one thing and one thing only: Kirk’s film debut at the Stars Hollow Movie in the Square Night.
Haunted Leg (Gilmore Girls 3×02)
There are so many feels in this episode. Lorelai in particular is put through an emotional wringer. She’s still reeling from the news that Christopher’s girlfriend is pregnant (news that arrives JUST as she and Chris attempt to revive their relationship). Rory starts her senior year of high school, which must be rough on Lorelai but is easily combatted with the humor of an itemized bill of what raising her daughter has cost her over the years. And on top of all that, Kirk asks her out on a date. Will the absurdities ever end? The big emotional peak of the episode is when Christopher corners Lorelai at Friday Night Dinner and she breaks down, unable to keep her cool about the situation any more. Props to Emily for saving the day in that scene, proving that her blue-blooded icy glare can be used for good.
They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They? (Gilmore Girls 3×07)
Stars Hollow has the best town events. You have to agree with Rory when she observes that taking away Kirk’s annual victory at the Stars Hollow Dance-a-Thon would be cruel, considering how little he has going for him. We also get to see a drunk Taylor Doose cuddle with a bullhorn. The big moment of the episode is, of course, Dean dumping Rory in front of the entire town because of her obvious crush on Jess. I wonder what scarred Rory more: that public breakup or the fact that she had to wake up before dawn to be Lorelai’s dance partner and then run around the high school gym in heels during The Runaround.
A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving (Gilmore Girls 3×09)
Lorelai and Rory’s nights of eating twice their body weight have prepared them for this episode: four Thanksgiving dinners in one day. At Lane’s, we’re introduced to tofurkey and Dave Rygalski’s second life as a Christian guitarist who might just earn Mrs. Kim’s respect. Second stop is Sookie’s house, where she deals with Jackson’s decision to deep-fry her turkey by drinking a lot of alcohol. Third is Luke’s, where both Lorelai and Babette weigh in on Rory and Jess’s tepid kiss hello (First Dean, now Jess. Rory’s love life will clearly always be under the Stars Hollow microscope). The dinner at Emily and Richard’s is, of course, awful. This is where we find out that Yale, not Harvard, is a real possibility for Rory.
Dear Emily and Richard (Gilmore Girls 3×13)
We’re treated to flashbacks of Lorelai as a pregnant teenager in the 80s. As it turns out, Lorelai and Rory’s plans to backpack across Europe after Rory’s graduation were inspired by Christopher’s plans to do the same (though it’s to be noted that sixteen-year-old Lorelai was not impressed by his plans to sleep on a park bench in Paris). The flashbacks are framed around the present-day events of Christopher’s girlfriend going into labor, so we get the real contrast of Sherry being so terrified of being alone that she wants Rory in the delivery room with her, to Lorelai stoically driving herself to the hospital and signing herself in with only a Walkman to comfort her. Basically what we’re saying is, Sherry is a whiny little bitch.
The Big One (Gilmore Girls 3×16)
There are many meltdowns in Gilmore Girls history, but Paris always has to top everyone, so her meltdown occurs on CSPAN. After hilariously blindsiding Rory with the news that she and boyfriend Jamie had sex, Paris finds out that she did not get into her choice college, Harvard University. She shows up to the Chilton bicentennial celebration completely disheveled and wearing that Paris Gellar glare we’ve come to both fear and love. There’s lots of yelling about Harvard and sex and Rory’s metaphorical chastity belt. It’s Paris at her best worst.
Keg! Max! (Gilmore Girls 3×19)
This is not Jess’s best episode. But it’s a pretty good one for Lane, whose band gets their first gig at a house party. Lane finds herself in a love triangle with Dave, her bandmate and non-Korean (read: will never be accepted by Mrs. Kim) boyfriend and her decoy boyfriend Young Chui, who has strayed from their plan and fallen in love with Lane for real. Lane’s solution? Get drunk. And call her mother. While she’s drunk. And tell her the truth. When this episode first aired, we all thought it would be the last time we saw Lane alive.
The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale (Gilmore Girls 4×02)
It’s all about the mattress that wouldn’t leave Luke’s truck with the anti-feminist stick shift. It’s also all about the utter shock of seeing Paris again, with life coach and craft table in tow. To this day, I respond to dumbfounding news with, “I can’t even feel my face.” And how cool was the first dorm party Lorelai threw? Copper boom, indeed.
The Hobbit, The Sofa, and Digger Stiles (Gilmore Girls 4×03)
We learn that Emily smells like guilt and Chanel Number Five. And as good a chef as Sookie is, she is woefully unprepared to feed children. She put gravlax on a kid’s party menu! Do you know what gravlax is? It’s salt-cured salmon. The food you’re looking for, Sookie, is fish sticks. Then she scares the crap out of a kid when she dares interrupt Sookie and Lorelai. Did we mention she’s like eight months pregnant at the time?
The Festival of Living Art (Gilmore Girls 4×07)
Sookie isn’t worried about her inability to feed her child anymore. Now she’s worried it will never leave her uterus. As she goes past her due date, poor Sookie interrogates Lorelai about how she managed to actually give birth on time (Says Rory, “Was she the one shaking me in the middle of the night yelling, ‘what motivated you to come out of your mother’ over and over?”). And we get to see the hilariousness of Kirk as Jesus while he prepares for his role in the living tableaux of The Last Supper. Finally, as Lorelai worries about flinching in her role as the Renoir Girl, Sookie’s baby pager goes off right in the middle of her pose. I mean, really, Lorelai. Leave the electronics backstage.
Ted Koppel’s Big Night Out (Gilmore Girls 4×09)
It’s always cute to see Emily and Richard get excited about anything. In this case, it’s the big Harvard/Yale football game. And it’s not just the game, Gilmore fans. It’s the toe and Handsome Dans past and present and the Whiffenpoofs and the Fun Flask. It’s also the day that Emily finds out Richard has been having an annual lunch with his ex, Pennilynn Lott. Lorelai manages to ditch that drama and goes on a singularly unique date with Jason. Who doesn’t wish their boyfriend would sneak them into the grocery stockroom for mini Pringles cans?
In the Clamor and the Clangor (Gilmore Girls 4×11)
This is a landmark episode for Lane and Mrs. Kim. Lane’s band books a gig at the legendary CBGBs and she can’t think of a good cover story to tell her super-conservative mom. So Lane doesn’t even try. She sneaks out only to have the gig cancelled and ends up at Rory’s dorm because she’s afraid to go home. Meanwhile, Mrs. Kim has the fire department and a handful of praying Koreans at the house searching for Lane when Lorelai calls and tells her what’s going on. That’s when Mrs. Kim goes up to Lane’s room and discovers everything her daughter has been hiding for all these years—every loose floorboard concealing every rock CD, all the makeup, everything. Lane finally comes home to see her secret life on full display, and she tries to talk her way to a compromise with her mother. But in the words of the indomitable Mrs. Kim, “Children do not make the rules.” And with that, Lane is kicked out. It’s just so sad.
Scene in a Mall (Gilmore Girls 4×15)
After a long stretch of phone tag and nervous breakdowns, the Gilmore girls finally get together for a day of shopping. Window shopping. Because that’s fun, right? As it turns out, not so much. What is fun is watching Emily Gilmore race around the mall spending money on everything. Department store décor isn’t even safe. It doesn’t even matter that Lorelai doesn’t want a watch; she’s buying her the damn watch. And a wedding dress. And Manolo Blahniks. It just goes to show you’re never too old for retail therapy.
The Reigning Lorelai (Gilmore Girls 4×16)
As sad as this episode is, it’s also got its hilarious moments. Richard’s mother, the original Lorelai, passes away and while going through old papers, Emily discovers the carbon copy of a letter she sent begging Richard to leave Emily at the altar. From there, we see Emily completely run out of fucks to give. And it’s hysterical. Lorelai and Rory also learn what New England blue-bloods and backwoods Kentucky hicks have in common (Gran married her cousin, people!).
Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin’ The Twist (Gilmore Girls 4×17)
The two girls least likely to go to Florida for spring break jump into a minivan and beach it up—in a decade-old one-piece and a hat that could provide a small country with shade. When they find themselves in their hotel room with The Power of Myth, Rory and Paris start to wonder if they’re really doing spring break right. That pretty much leads to Paris kissing Rory at a nightclub (whaaat?). It’s the most awkward spring break ever. And then there’s Glenn, who emerges from the ocean, mutters something about hot dogs, and runs off screaming. And in case you thought things were mellower in Stars Hollow, this is also the episode where Luke beats up a car. Twice.
Raincoats and Recipes (Gilmore Girls 4×22)
This episode is huge for Lorelai. First and foremost, she hosts a test-run for the Dragonfly Inn, and thus achieves her career dreams. Even if it does include the guests following their door up to their room. And then, the big moment. After years and years of sexually-tense banter and longing looks, Luke and Lorelai FINALLY KISS. And are promptly interrupted by a screaming, naked Kirk. I wouldn’t have planned it any other way. It would have been a perfect evening for Lorelai if she hadn’t gone back to her house and found Rory stumbling out of her room with married ex-boyfriend Dean. Ugh. Stop with the Dean, Rory. He’s boring. And married. But mostly boring.
You Jump, I Jump, Jack (Gilmore Girls 5×07)
Okay. Logan Huntzberger is a jackass. If he had just stayed the rich, entitled friend that Rory sometimes hangs out with to remind herself why her mother ran away at the age of sixteen, it might have been okay. I actually appreciated the way Logan challenged Rory to take risks at the Life & Death Brigade event, because everyone needs that person in their life. I just wish she didn’t have to completely derail her life for this douche. That said, the L&DB shindig Rory crashes to write her article is pretty freaking awesome. I want to play lawn polo in a ball gown. I even want to jump off scaffolding with only an umbrella, a harness, and a prayer.
The Party’s Over (Gilmore Girls 5×08)
Who did Emily and Richard think they were kidding? Their meat market of an alumni party was beyond obvious. This episode represents the beginning of the end to me. They deck Rory out in a tiara, for Christ’s sake. Dean can tell this is a new, scary direction for Rory and dumps her in her grandparent’s driveway. And as Emily and Richard are defending their actions to Lorelai, a limousine pulls up to the house and out waltzes Rory, looking more like a Hilton sister than the girl Lorelai raised. From there, it all just goes to hell. Rory gets in deeper with the whole douchey Huntzberger clan, steals a yacht, drops out of Yale. It’s just too painful.
The party really is over. So I’m just going to go back to the pilot episode and remember when Rory was a role model. RIP.
So there you have it: 30 of the greatest Gilmore Girls episodes. Truth be told, it was nigh-on impossible to pick and choose. We didn’t even talk about the importance of wallowing, or how Emily thought Rory would enjoy an *NSync poster in her room, or that time Lane ran her fingers through a guy’s hair without his permission. Leave a comment with your favorite Gilmore moment!