We’ve had the date circled on our calendars for months: in just 15 days, we’ll be blessed with four brand-new episodes of Gilmore Girls. If you’re really committed and not too fond of sleep, you might be able to watch all 153 episodes before the Nov. 25 premiere. If don’t have that kind of time, we picked the 15 episodes you have to binge before settling in for A Year in the Life.
Season 1, Episode 1
Why it’s essential: The first episode of Gilmore Girls is the perfect introduction to the whimsical world of Stars Hollow. The love between Lorelai and Rory is clear; their strained relationship with Richard and Emily makes sense even without all the background. The romantic tension between Luke and Lorelai is palpable! Then, Rory meets Dean. Also, coffee! The pilot has all the makings of what makes Gilmore Girls…well, Gilmore Girls.
Season 1, Episode 15
Why it’s essential: Lorelai getting pregnant at 16 is a major part of Gilmore Girls’ storyline (hello, it brought us RORY!), but it takes a little while to actually meet Rory’s dad. Christopher’s first episode — also probably the one where he is most likable — lays a lot of important groundwork for different Gilmore dynamics: Rory’s adoration for her father, Lorelai and Christopher’s lasting bond, Emily and Richard’s resentment that the two never married. Add Luke’s thinly veiled jealousy and Christopher’s terrible parents to the mix, and you get some incredible drama.
“Nick & Nora/Sid & Nancy”
Season 2, Episode 5
Why it’s essential: Two words: Jess Mariano. Milo Ventimiglia’s first episode as Luke’s nephew and the intellectual bad boy who eventually woos Rory (and us) is a monumental moment in Stars Hollow history.
“The Bracebridge Dinner”
Season 2, Episode 10
Why it’s essential: It’s not often that Gilmore Girls puts basically every character in the same place. But when it happens, it’s magic. The Elizabethan-themed dinner at the Independence Inn (where Lorelai and Sookie work) is goofy, and watching Emily, Richard and Paris react to the Stars Hollow residents is always hilarious. Jess opens up to Rory about his mom, bringing newfound sincerity to their relationship. Plus, the snowy scenes and romantic sleigh rides make it the perfect episode to cozy up and watch on a cold fall day.
“I Can’t Get Started”
Season 2, Episode 22
Why it’s essential: Wayyyyyyy too much happens in this episode to sufficiently cover in a mere few sentences. But we’ll try. Luke and Lorelai move on from their first big fight (over Jess and Rory, naturally). Meanwhile, Lorelai considers giving a relationship with Christopher a real shot. But that’s not all: after Jess returns from NYC, he surprises Rory and shows up at Sookie’s wedding. Impulsively, Rory — who is still very much with Dean — literally grabs Jess, kisses him and then runs away. Luckily for us, this isn’t 2002 and we don’t have to wait months to watch what happens next (thank you, Netflix)!
“They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?”
Season 3, Episode 7
Why it’s essential: This is, objectively speaking, the best episode of Gilmore Girls ever made. The 24-hour dance marathon — which, really, is something only Stars Hollow could do without anyone questioning it — is beautiful to watch, especially when flirtation levels between Luke and Lorelai reach a whole new level of intensity when the two talk about having kids (hypothetically, of course). But the major drama happens when Dean, fed up with Jess and Rory’s obvious flirting, breaks up with the younger Gilmore — very publicly.
“The Big One”
Season 3, Episode 16
Why it’s essential: Rory’s friendship with Paris Geller is at best…complicated. But the sort-of-BFFs are ultimately always there for each other during the big moments. Rory helps Paris through her heartbreak over not getting into Harvard, and they also have a big talk about sex. It’s a huge episode for our two favourite Chilton students, setting them on the path of adulthood and towards a more mature friendship.
“Those Are Strings, Pinocchio”
Season 3, Episode 22
Why it’s essential: Rory graduates. Sookie cries. Luke cries. Lorelai cries. You will cry.
“The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale”
Season 4, Episode 2
Why it’s essential: Rory finally starts at Yale, which means moving away from home. Yes, it helps that Stars Hollow is just a short drive away and that Paris (to Rory’s surprise) is one of her roommates. But, no matter how hard they try to pretend, Lorelai and Rory are just not ready to say goodbye — and neither are we.
“Raincoats and Recipes”
Season 4, Episode 22
Why it’s essential: There’s a lot going on in this season-four finale. Rory loses her virginity to Dean, who is married. Richard and Emily admit they’re separated. BUT, Luke and Lorelai finally kiss and it is everything you’ve ever wanted and that is all that matters.
“Written in the Stars”
Season 5, Episode 3
Why it’s essential: Matt Czuchry makes his debut as Logan Huntzberger, a rich and charming Yale student who doesn’t make the greatest first impression on Rory or us. Meanwhile, back in Stars Hollow, Luke and Lorelai go out on their first date. Luke telling Lorelai he’s “all in” will forever go down as one of the show’s most romantic moments.
“You Jump, I Jump, Jack”
Season 5, Episode 7
Why it’s essential: Richard and Emily discover Lorelai’s new relationship and, of course, force their way into Luke’s life. It’s a test for Lorelai and Luke: can they survive elder Gilmores’ scrutiny? On campus, sparks continue to fly between Rory and Logan, who is exactly the type of boy Emily and Richard would approve of. Logan helps Rory with an article about a secret society and even encourages her to participate in the group’s stunt. It’s the beginning of Logan pushing Rory out of her comfort zone — one of the great things about their romance — and also features one of Gilmore Girls‘ most iconic scenes (which you can rewatch above).
“Wedding Bell Blues”
Season 5, Episode 13
Why it’s essential: Gilmore Girls went all out for its 100th episode, celebrating the milestone with a wedding. Although it’s not the one we wanted, ahem Luke and Lorelai, we get to see Richard and Emily renew their vows. Rory gets jealous when Logan brings someone else as his date, but then gets caught kissing him. Not content with a quiet, happy ceremony, Emily invites Christopher, hoping he’ll go after Lorelai. Cue all the drama.
“A House is Not a Home”
Season 5, Episode 22
Why it’s essential: Like many Gilmore Girls season finales, this one will — SURPRISE — make you cry. Rory, drowning in anxiety and insecurity for the first time in her life after Logan’s dad tells her she doesn’t have what it takes to be a journalist, steals a boat and then decides to drop out of Yale. Lorelai freaks out, goes to Luke for comfort and ends up proposing to him when she realizes he’s now the only person she truly trusts. It’s sweet and romantic, but any happiness we feel disappears when we think about Lorelai and Rory not speaking.
Season 7, Episode 22
Why it’s essential: Was the seventh season of Gilmore Girls good? No. Do we feel wrong about including a season seven episode on this list? Sort of. But the series finale is a perfectly sentimental episode that tugs on all the right heartstrings. It may not have been the farewell series creator Amy Sherman-Palladino planned, but it is a fitting one. Rory chooses herself over her relationship with Logan and lands a job as political reporter. Luke (long since broken up with Lorelai) secretly plans a going away party for Rory for everyone to come out and say goodbye. When Lorelai finds out about all of Luke’s efforts (he pulled an all-nighter to sew a bunch of tents together to shield the party from the rain!), she realizes she still loves him. The episode ends perfectly, with Lorelai and Rory sharing one last cup of coffee at Luke’s Diner.
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