Choosing between Gilmore Girls' episodes can be as serious as choosing between mozzarella sticks and hot wings. With every episode at your fingertips, it is easy to go with the episodes that make you feel warm and cozy. Those episodes are not necessarily the best episodes from a critical standpoint, though. I truly believe each season of Gilmore Girls had a definitive best episode. Taken together, these seven episodes illustrate Gilmore Girls greatest strengths, most emotional moments, and funniest one-liners from each season.
These seven are not the overall best episodes the show ever did (there are of course multiple great episodes from every season, and I personally think Season 2 could take up the majority of a best of list), but, if you want to go with the best episode from each season, then these seven have the fans' vote. Yes, the fans. I sorted through the IMDB ratings for every episode of Gilmore Girls to find the top rated episode from each season. However, I'm not going to take IMDB's word for it. As a long time Gilmore Girls' viewer and a generally opinionated person, if I disagree with a rating I will offer up my favorite as an alternative.
Either way, this list will offer you a solid Gilmore Girls marathon with an outstanding outing from every single season.
The Top Rated Episode: "Rory's Dance"
Why Is It The Best? The actual dance going is nothing compared to Emily and Lorelai's long night in Stars Hollow. Thanks to Lorelai's aching back, Emily gets to do something for Lorelai that she hasn't been able to do in years: be a mom. Their bonding comes to an abrupt halt when Rory falls asleep with Dean at Miss Patty's, leading Emily to believe Rory is going down the same path Lorelai went down. The epic blowup between first Emily and Lorelai, and then Rory and Lorelai is electrifying, emotional, and everything that was great about these three headstrong women.
My Pick: I think IMDB users missed the mark here, just ever so slightly. For me, Season 1's best hour is without a doubt "Forgiveness & Stuff" which directly follows "Rory's Dance." Richard's health crisis doesn't just bring the Gilmores together, it stirs up long repressed emotions in a family that is by nature closely guarded with each other. Just think back to Lorelai walking into Richard's room to tell him she loved him, only to get interrupted and never say the words. If that doesn't make your heart crumble, it might be made of stone.
The Top Rated Episode: "I Can't Get Started"
Why Is It The Best? The finale featured both Lorelai and Rory's dreams for the future changing course. On the day of Sookie's wedding, Christopher drops the bombshell that Sherry is pregnant, while Rory kisses Jess before deciding to spend the summer in Washington D.C. The Rory and Jess kiss alone is probably what puts this one over the top for most fans, thanks to the season-long buildup. Add in an excellent performance by Lauren Graham when Lorelai realizes she doesn't have a future with Christopher, and you have a blockbuster outing.
My Pick: I think the episode immediately before "I Can't Get Started" was superior. "Lorelai's Graduation Day" had an outstanding Rory and Jess story that involved Rory doing something completely uncharacteristic when she skipped school to go visit Jess in New York. Meanwhile, Lorelai's graduation day led to some great moments with the grandparents, and her helping a distraught Rory realize she was falling for Jess makes this episode one of the show's very best.
The Top Rated Episode: "Those Are Strings, Pinocchio"
Why Is It The Best? Because Rory graduates from Chilton, and gives a speech so beautiful even Luke cries.
My Pick: I am not going to argue with perfection.
The Top Rated Episode: "Raincoats and Recipes"
Why Is It The Best? The Dragonfly Inn opens, leading to all kinds of shenanigans on the test night, including a naked Kirk. Nothing compares to Lorelai and Luke's big kiss though. After years of waiting, the moment when those two finally made out was actual television perfection. On the other side of the coin, Rory loses her virginity to a married Dean, resulting in the show's most devastating moment when Rory realizes the enormity of what just happened.
My Pick: I love all of Season 4 with all my heart, but "Raincoats and Recipes" is by far the best hour of the season, and possibly of the entire series.
The Top Rated Episode: "Wedding Bell Blues"
Why Is It The Best? The 100th episode is a doozy. Richard and Emily renewed their vows, which was lovely, Rory and Logan's make out session leads to a major dust-up between Christopher and Luke, as well as Luke and Lorelai's breakup. Then, there's the final line when Lorelai finds out about Emily's meddling and hisses "We're done," right before a picture of the happy family is taken.
My Pick: "Wedding Bell Blues" is great, but I have to hand the title of the best Season 5 episode over to "Say Something." The bleak follow-up to the wedding disaster should have earned Graham an Emmy, but, as it stands, it is a completely heart-wrenching hour of television that finds Lorelai hitting rock bottom before starting to climb out of the fog of losing Luke.
The Top Rated Episode: "Friday Night's Alright For Fighting"
Why Is It The Best: Because all of the Gilmores end up having a long, intense night of arguing with one another in the show's most honest Friday night dinner ever. The long, almost completely uninterrupted scene was hilarious, truthful, and a great relief for fans who were sick of seeing the Gilmores repressing all of their feelings.
My Pick: Nothing tops Jess' return in "Let Me Hear Your Balalaikas Ringing Out." Without him showing up to remind Rory of who she truly was, it would have taken her so much longer to find her way home. Add in Lorelai's Paul Anka breakdown, and you can't miss with this episode.
The Top Rated Episode: "Bon Voyage"
Why Is It The Best: Season 7 had a lot of downs and very few ups, but the series finale was pretty close to perfect. Saying goodbye to the Gilmores wasn't easy, but at least they went out with style.
My Pick: Same. "Bon Voyage" was a beautiful ode to one of television's greatest series.
Now you can have an official best-off Gilmore Girls marathon, so there are your weekend plans. You're welcome.