10 best Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, ranked

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buffy the vampire slayerWarner Brothers / WB/Fox

We’re abiding we could agitation all day about whether or not Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a superhero show, but if it is, it’s the best one ever. The adventure of aerial academy apprentice (and later, academy dropout) Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her bifold activity as the magically empowered Slayer still holds up as one of the abundant action-adventure alternation in American TV history. The appearance bankrupt arena in several ways, including its user of anxiously advised melancholia arcs, its explorations of gender and sexuality, and its different and arbitrary dialect.

Contents

  • 10. Chosen (season 7, adventure 22)
  • 9. Earshot (season 3, adventure 19)
  • 8. Becoming, Parts 1 & 2 (season 2, episodes 21 & 22)
  • 7. The Wish (season 3, adventure 9)
  • 6. Surprise/Innocence (season 2, episodes 13 & 14)
  • 5. Restless (season 4, adventure 22)
  • 4. The Body (season 5, adventure 16)
  • 3. Once More, With Feeling (season 6, adventure 7)
  • 2. Hush (season 4, adventure 10)
  • 1. Graduation Day, Parts 1 & 2 (season 3, episodes 21 & 22)

As Buffy and her best accompany Willow (Allyson Hannigan) and Xander (Nicholas Brendan) grew up, so did the series, acceptable added emotionally and structurally complicated. It’s a determinative argument for an absolute bearing of admirers and storytellers, to the admeasurement that its common access has absolutely become a problem. (Must all heroes be superintelligent badinage machines?)

Its bequest has additionally developed added complicated, as allegations of architect Joss Whedon’s casually atrocious and amateurish behavior against his casting — decidedly its changeable actors — has blah his bequest as a television innovator and feminist ally. TV is a collaborative medium, but Whedon is absurd to abstracted from his assignment — he wrote and directed the absolute top bisected of our account of admired episodes and a lot of the basal half, too. Make no mistake: There is no akin of affection that Whedon’s assignment could attain that would alibi his declared abusage of his subordinates and co-workers. However, speaking for ourselves, the assignment still holds up abundantly well, and it’s a alternation we can’t advice but revisit afresh and again.

Editor’s note: Spoilers ahead.

10. Chosen (season 7, adventure 22)

Buffy swings her scythe through a vampire in the final action of Buffy the Vampire Slayer20th Century Television

While no division of Buffy is front-to-back perfect, every distinct one of the show’s yearlong storylines ends on a aerial note, and it’s this adeptness to consistently stick the landing that has anchored it as one of the best shows of its time. Audiences will absolve a lot of abashed or middling installments if the afterpiece can accolade their investment, and in this regard, Buffy never fails. This is never added accurate than in its seventh and final division on television, which brings the appearance abounding amphitheater and gives the adventure of Buffy Summers a close and absolute ending.

Here, Buffy rallies the abeyant Slayers she’s been training (alongside adolescent Slayer Faith and the blow of the Scooby gang) for a final action adjoin the First Evil. The affray takes abode central the Hellmouth itself and boasts Lord of the Rings-level calibration (if not Weta-level beheld effects), the brand of which the alternation had never apparent before. Beloved characters accommodated their end (at least, for now), and the survivors are offered a new beginning.

Appropriately for Buffy, the ballsy ambit of the afterpiece goes above the applied or beheld to allege to above capacity about activity and womanhood. Throughout the series, Buffy Summers has struggled with the accountability and abreast of actuality the Slayer, “one babe in all the world” who is magically able with the ability to action the armament of darkness. Most seasons accept concluded with Buffy powering through some aching affecting balloon that saves the world, but costs her added of herself.

In the alternation finale, Buffy break this cycle, enlisting Willow to adapt the actual rules by which Slayers accept operated for 1,000 years. The subtext of the alternation becomes argument as, rather than ache beneath altitude set by long-dead old men, our heroines set their own altitude and bang a abstract for a added candid world. Buffy’s action may not be over (as aflame by the aftereffect comics series), but aggregate has changed. For the aboriginal time, Buffy has a best in the matter.

9. Earshot (season 3, adventure 19)

Willow, Cordelia, Xander, Giles, and Oz angle in a circle, attractive bottomward at the camera, concerned.20th Century Television

At its core, aboriginal Buffy is about the awkward, abject action of adolescence, or added specifically, of American aerial schools. Many a monster of the anniversary was the clothing of some boyish hang-up, whether it be a apprentice activity so abandoned that she becomes airy or a awful bathe drillmaster who is axis his aggregation into accurate angle men.

Buffy’s finest absurd abstraction of aerial academy activity comes anon afore graduation, back an appointment with a clear-sighted demon grants the Slayer the ability to apprehend minds — a ability she can’t about-face off. Though the blink into the psyches of her ancestors and classmates is initially exciting, Buffy is abashed back she “overhears” addition affiance that tomorrow, the absolute academy would be dead.

The accountable of baleful academy abandon is not approached lightly, and the episode’s airing was alike delayed for months in teh after-effects of the 1999 Columbine shooting. Still, biographer Jane Espenson masterfully manages Buffy’s antithesis of amusement and pathos, cogent a adventure about boyish all-overs and accepted animal empathy. Meanwhile, the admirers gets to allotment in Buffy’s new insights into the blow of the cast. Buffy bottomward a bomb on Giles (“That is, if you’re not too active accepting sex with my mother!”) ability be the best best line.

8. Becoming, Parts 1 & 2 (season 2, episodes 21 & 22)

Buffy catches an advancing brand in Becoming, Part 220th Television

Season 6 is usually accustomed as the show’s best bleak and black year, but let’s not balloon that division 2 is brutal to our admired Buffy and the gang. Buff has to pale one of her adolescence friends, again is led to accept she murdered her mom’s boyfriend, and that’s all afore Angel loses his body and goes on a avenging killing spree. All of Angel’s schemes appear to a arch in the two-part division finale, Becoming, which sheds ablaze on the vampire’s origins while acutely abolition the Slayer’s future.

By the center point of the story, adolescent Slayer Kendra has been murdered and Buffy is on the run from the police. Before long, Joyce assuredly learns the accuracy about what her daughter’s been up to at night, Giles is actuality bent for information, and it appears that the alone way to save the apple from an ancient, apocalyptic demon is for Buffy to annihilate the man she loves.

Of course, it’s back all seems absent that bodies acquisition their truest selves. In an accomplishment to restore Angel’s soul, Willow takes her aboriginal austere accomplish into the apple of witchcraft. Xander, anytime the petty, afraid sad sack, chooses not to acquaint Buffy about this last-ditch accomplishment to save Angel (a slight for which he never absolutely atones). For her part, Buffy proves that she has aggregate it takes to be a superhero all on her own back she defeats Angelus in action and then, afterwards he transforms aback into his benevolent, ensouled self, still sacrifices him in adjustment to anticipate the absolute apple from actuality sucked into Hell. She’s a accurate hero, and it’s absolutely abominable to be her. By the time the end credits roll, alike the Mutant Enemy amulet is depressed.

7. The Wish (season 3, adventure 9)

Vampire Willow snarls as Vampire Xander bites Cordelia in "The Wish"20th Century Television

We abhor the appellation “filler episode” for a agglomeration of reasons, not the atomic of which is that belief that don’t advanced a after allegory arc can be aloof absorbing or as absolute of appearance as those that do. But in the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s decidedly arrant to abolish any adventure as skippable, as characters are developed gradually above seasons, not aloof in episodes with must-read Wikipedia summaries. Further, characters or concepts alien in episodes that are initially conceived as standalone generally become important abundant later, as storytellers apprehend that they’ve addled gold accidentally and should accumulate digging. There’s no bigger archetype of this than The Wish, a monster-of-the-week adventure that introduces two fan-favorite characters — Anya (Emma Caulfield) and Evil Vampire Willow — neither of which were accepted to appear again.

The Wish is additionally a air-conditioned aberration on a allegiant “dark timeline” trope, in which one appearance finds themselves in a adaptation of their appearance area aggregate has gone awfully wrong, and the blow of the alternation audience are arena absolutely altered spins on their roles. For one thing, in such an episode, no one expects the angle appearance (in this case, Cordelia) to get murdered center through, and for the blow of the adventure to chase what is about a new accumulation of protagonists.

The blow of The Wish relishes in how troublingly altered this universe’s versions of Buffy, Willow, Xander, and Angel are from what we’re acclimated to (Giles is mostly the same, aloof added tired), as are their relationships to anniversary other. Buffy’s alienation during the acute action against the bodies we apperceive to be her abutting accompany is accurately disturbing. Above all, this adventure canonizes the appulse that Buffy has had back she accustomed in town, and the means that the bodies of Sunnydale accept kept her from bottomward into absolute darkness.

6. Surprise/Innocence (season 2, episodes 13 & 14)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer aims a rocket launcher at the Judge in "Innocence"20th Television

Originally airing on two after nights in November 1998, Surprise and Innocence mark an affecting axis point not aloof for Buffy’s additional season, but for the absolute series. Things had gotten abundant on the appearance afore (Prophecy Girl and Ted appear to mind), but this is the moment back the story’s claimed stakes both associate and beat the concrete stakes. In the bosom of a potentially world-ending attempt adjoin Drusilla and Spike, Buffy and Angel assuredly beddy-bye calm for the aboriginal time, accidentally appropriation Angel’s anathema and transforming him aback into the certifiable analgesic Angelus.

The acquaintance of a adolescent woman accident her virginity is already loaded with cultural acceptation and complicated animosity of answerability and transgression, but in Buffy’s case, accepting sex with her admirer has actually adapted him into a monster who intends to accomplish her and anybody she loves suffer, aloof for the fun of it. It’s not absolutely Buffy’s fault, of course, but that won’t accumulate her from backbreaking herself over it, and from this point on, she never absolutely stops.

At the aiguille of these acute emotions, Innocence additionally appearance one of the coolest action beats in the absolute series. Spike, Dru, and now Angelus accept teamed up with the Judge, a demon who “no weapon artificial can kill.” In a achievement of accuracy stemming from the best absurd abode (Xander!), Buffy stares bottomward the allegedly abiding demon in the avenue of a arcade capital … and again blasts him into a actor pieces with a rocket launcher. It’s a pyrrhic victory, as Angelus is still at ample and Buffy’s affection is still broken, but this much-needed fist-pumping moment elevates the two-parter out of its abasement for aloof continued abundant to assure admirers that, as austere as the alternation would get, it would consistently be appropriately as fun.

5. Restless (season 4, adventure 22)

The First Slayer confronts Buffy in the arid in Restless20th Television

Of all of Buffy’s abstracts in form, Restless may be the best audacious. First, it’s the sole Buffy division afterpiece that is not the big accomplishment for a admirable storyline, but rather a coda, a advisedly blurred aggravate of what’s to come. For another, it’s operating at a abundant college accurate articulacy akin than the blow of the series, or than best television alternation at the time. (Twin Peaks was treading this area a decade earlier, and The Sopranos adventure Funhouse — which may be the greatest “dream episode” of all time — aired bald weeks afore Restless.)

Restless consists about absolutely of close dream sequences, digging into the psyches of Willow, Xander, Giles, and Buffy while alms actual little in the way of absolute plot. The four heroes are actuality stalked in their dreams by the spirit of the aboriginal Slayer, but that’s not absolutely what the adventure is about; it’s about exploring what makes the show’s best admired characters beat through dream argumentation and beheld poetry. It’s not declared to accomplish accurate sense, but it can be best afar endlessly for apologue and is accessible to a array of interpretations.

While it hints at a cardinal of storylines from the afterward division (“Be aback afore Dawn!”), Restless is not a bald addle box for admirers to pry open. Each of the episode’s capacity helps us to see its focal appearance as they see themselves, both carefully and subconsciously. Willow is advancing to agreement with her sexuality, but additionally disturbing to see herself as an adult. Xander’s acclaimed horniness belies a added admiration to feel at home somewhere, anywhere that isn’t his parents’ basement. Giles mourns the claimed activity that his duties as Watcher has denied him.

As for Buffy, Restless marks the alpha of her exploring the Slayer’s bloodthirsty nature, and the acute abreast of her duties. Or do these dreams beggarly article abroad entirely? Writer and administrator Whedon has antiseptic his intentions via the episode’s audio commentary, but the adventure has a activity of its own, and every eyewitness may accept their own interpretations, abreast by their own acuteness and baggage, which is what makes this adventure of Buffy, added than any other, a assignment of art.

4. The Body (season 5, adventure 16)

Buffy speaks to paramedics on the phone, shocked, in The Body20th Television

To activate with, we achievement that no one account this misinterprets The Body’s adjustment this low on the account as a assurance of disrespect. Like Restless afore it, The Body is an art piece, a complete outlier in the assize of “young developed television.” Set in the actual after-effects of Joyce Summers’ death, The Body is a quiet, uncomfortable, relentlessly astute brainwork on loss. Its aboriginal act, which follows Buffy in absolute time as she tries and fails to alleviate her mother and again waits for paramedics to arrive, is a arresting allotment of filmmaking, and holds up adjoin any delineation of afterlife on television. If we were to aces a distinct greatest arena in Buffy or from the absolute Whedon oeuvre, that would be the one, after question.

Working adjoin The Body is the actuality that the blow of the episode, while still able and poetic, can’t absolutely admeasurement up to the absurd ball of its aperture act, but this isn’t what landed the adventure at No. 4. When selecting our top 10 episodes, not alone did we acquisition annealed antagonism at the top of the pack, but we additionally bent that apropos the alternation meant giving antecedence to the candidates that best represented Buffy as a whole.

Four out of our top bristles picks are outliers, abstracts that breach from the accustomed architecture of the appearance to do article adventuresome on a assembly level. After all, Whedon and company’s alertness to booty such risks are allotment of why we adulation the show. However, if we were to try and abbreviate the alternation in a distinct story, there’s no way we’d aces this one. Since the top bisected of our account was so tight, this is the belief we’ve called to breach up the tie.

3. Once More, With Feeling (season 6, adventure 7)

Anya, Buffy, and Dawn sing at the Bronze in Once More, With Feeling20th Television

Buffy’s agreeable adventure may not avowal the accurate expressionism of Restless or The Body, but on a abstruse level, it is absolutely the show’s best arduous hour. On a accustomed week, bearing a television ball is both a chase and a sprint, decidedly in the canicule of the 22-episode season. It takes a crazy being to attending at that workload and ask himself, “What if I abstruse to juggle?” In an alarming affectation of arrogance, Whedon challenged himself to compose a agreeable adventure of Buffy, admitting accepting never accounting a song before. He asked the cast, some of whom were not accomplished singers, to accomplish their own vocals. This, frankly, should accept been a disaster. Instead, not alone is it one of Buffy’s finest hours, it’s still the “musical episode” adjoin which all others are judged.

Once More, With Feeling is as witty, fun, and able as any of the show’s best ball episodes, as the Scoobies and the blow of the bodies of Sunnydale acquisition themselves spontaneously breaking into song and dance. But, above actuality a adorable novelty, anniversary of the songs offers its characters the befalling to accurate themselves added candidly than they commonly would. Sometimes that’s played for laughs, as in Xander and Anya’s affiliation I’ll Never Tell, but aloof as often, the songs represent a moment of absorption or a difficult decision.

The agreeable architecture allows characters to actualize their clandestine thoughts and animosity with a accuracy that ability contrarily feel bargain or hurried, arch to affecting moments like Tara’s accommodation to leave Willow and, of course, Buffy’s acknowledgment that she wasn’t rescued from Hell, but abject out of Heaven. As with any of the show’s high-concept episodes, the gimmick serves the adventure and the characters rather than carnality versa.

2. Hush (season 4, adventure 10)

One of the Gentlemen smiles bottomward at us in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer adventure "Hush."20th Television

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was acclaimed for its snappy, characteristic chat that captured the way teenagers blend about with language. “Buffyspeak” became one of the show’s signatures, but to Whedon, that additionally meant it risked acceptable a crutch. In an accomplishment to advance the boundaries of the alternation — or perhaps, to prove article to himself — Whedon conceived of an adventure in which no one would allege for best of the runtime.

In Hush, Sunnydale is visited by the Gentlemen, a accumulation of slim, animated ghouls in active apparel who abduct the choir of anybody in boondocks so that they can cut out the hearts of bashful victims. Beyond the applied claiming of acquisition the monsters after speaking to anniversary other, Buffy and the assemblage acquisition that the disability to avert or conceal with a able about-face of byword armament them to acquaint added candidly and directly. Words can be clumsy, but accomplishments are clear.

Though absolutely falling into the chic of “gimmick episode,” Hush is additionally quintessentially Buffy, absolute in every across the alternation is accepted for. It’s amid the show’s scariest episodes, acknowledgment to the Gentlemen’s eerie, chaste architecture architecture and the adept mimery of their performers (including the allegorical Doug Jones). The simple conceit of actuality clumsy to scream for advice evokes adolescence nightmares bigger than any of the Buffyverse’s added complicated villains, and Christophe Beck’s account fills out the soundtrack’s abrogating amplitude brilliantly.

The adventure is emotionally complicated, with Buffy and Riley (Marc Blucas) advertent anniversary others’ bifold lives after the accommodation to explain themselves, Giles agreeable adherent Olivia (Phina Oruche) into his complicated life, and Willow and Tara’s wordless, absolutely PG yet absolutely mild aboriginal team-up. Of all the show’s groundbreaking, format-shattering hours, Hush is the one that best represents Buffy as a whole.

1. Graduation Day, Parts 1 & 2 (season 3, episodes 21 & 22)

Buffy stands up with her absolute admission chic abaft her in Graduation Day, Part 220th Television

Why did Buffy the Vampire Slayer booty so abounding agrarian swings in its after seasons? Why was it all-important for the storytellers to accumulate arduous its blueprint with blatant high-concept experiments? Because, put simply, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer amateur kit peaks appropriate here. The two-part afterpiece of Season 3 is a structurally absolute ending, not aloof to Buffy’s chief year of aerial school, but to the absolute alternation up to this point. She faces bottomward the Mayor, the man who complete Sunnydale on top of the Hellmouth and sets the absolute alternation into motion. She defeats Faith, her aphotic reflection, reestablishing herself as the one, accurate Slayer. She quits the Watcher’s Council, asserting herself as an developed who makes her own choices. Buffy is a coming-of-age story, and this is area she comes of age.

Graduation Day ratchets up its astriction altogether over the advance of two episodes, ascent the accident at every about-face while additionally alms characters abounding time to reflect on the alley abaft them and the action ahead. At the aforementioned time, it pays off years of advance in the apprentice anatomy of Sunnydale High at large, the bodies whose lives Buffy has spent the accomplished three years extenuative over and over again. There is no greater fist-pumping moment of celebration in the absolute alternation than back the absolute admission chic pulls off their graduation gowns to acknowledge that they’re armed for battle, accessible to action alongside Buffy to save the boondocks from a behemothic snake demon and his army of vampires.

Yes, Buffy stayed acceptable afterwards this aboriginal era of the appearance came to an end. Half of the episodes on our account were fabricated afterwards Graduation Day. But booty a attending aback at those picks, at Nos. 2-5, and accede aloof how abundant harder Whedon and aggregation had to assignment to move the aggravate afterwards this point. Every one of those episodes had to briefly breach the appearance to be great. This is the show; it’s why we came aback to watch it anniversary afterwards week. In our book, that makes it the best Buffy adventure of all time.

All seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are alive on Hulu.

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