Set in the quaint town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, “Gilmore Girls” follows the iconic mother-daughter duo of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel. Viewers experience the highs and lows of life in this multigenerational story and become rather attached to the eclectic and lovable people of Stars Hollow.
Picking my top ten was rather difficult, but in the end, I chose to go with episodes that have stuck with me over time. This is not in order from best to worst or worst to best, these are simply my top favorite “Gilmore Girls” episodes. Do not ask me to rank among them, I cannot do it. A lot of spoilers are presented, so please proceed with caution.
1. Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Partially for sentimental reasons, but also because it is undeniably an excellent episode, the pilot of “Gilmore Girls” clearly deserves a place in the top ten best episodes. The song “There She Goes” plays as the camera pans over the bustling streets of Stars Hollow, and the viewer is introduced to Lorelei in her classic form: on her way to Luke’s Diner to get coffee. We are then introduced to the unconventional mother-daughter relationship of Lorelei and Rory as a blissfully ignorant man accidentally hits on both of them and is promptly scared away with a hilarious retort from the two. I have seen the pilot more times than I would like to say, but I stand by classifying it as one of the best opening episodes of any show. We are introduced to the electictic, but tight-knit community of Stars Hollow, the complex relationship between Lorelai and her parents and the close bond between Lorelai and Rory.
2. Season 1, Episode 6: “Rory’s Birthday Parties”
The episode opens with a classic Friday night dinner scene at Emily and Richard Gilmore’s house where, as usual, Lorelai cracks jokes and Emily rolls her eyes. In this episode, Lorelai and Emily plan for Rory’s birthday party and have some unexpectedly sweet moments. Rory celebrates her birthday with two parties. Emily throws one of the parties, and the primary guests are middle aged, upper class people and Rory’s classmates from Chilton. Unsurprisingly, at one point both Lorelei and Rory are hiding upstairs and Emily is not pleased. The second party is at Lorelai and Rory’s house. The house is filled with laughter and the lovable Stars Hollow riff-raff. A disgruntled Emily and Richard appear at their granddaughter’s party, a bit taken aback by the scene. But Rory is thrilled to have so many of her loved ones around her. A certain tall and gangly Dean Forester makes an appearance to see Rory as well. Do we sense a crush? Clearly the answer is yes. My favorite part of the episode is near the beginning, where we find Lorelai at Luke’s Diner. Luke interrupts her rambling suddenly with “Will you marry me?” This is followed quickly with the line “Just looking for something to shut you up.” If my fellow viewers are anything like me, you will yell, “HE LOVES YOU, YOU IDIOT” to the screen.
3. Season 1, Episode 7: “Kiss and Tell”
This episode shows us Stars Hollow in its finest form – endearingly decked out for a holiday. At the center of this episode, however, is a groundbreaking event: Rory’s first kiss. This event takes place at Doose’s Market with Dean who is sporting his green Doose’s Market apron. Rory, taken aback, responds to the kiss with a breathless “Thank you” and proceeds to run away to tell her best friend, Lane Kim. Uncharacteristically, Rory does not tell her mother, who has to find out from the holier-than-thou Mrs. Kim. Lorelei has to decide between playing it cool, asking Rory or spying on Dean. She chooses the last option. She skulks around in the market with a vaguely amused Luke and we get the iconic line: “That lothario over there has wormed his way into my daughter’s heart and mouth. For that he must die!” Dean, of course, does not die at the end of this episode. Rather Lorelai and Rory figure things out and Dean comes to their house for a movie, a lot of commentary and of course, copious snacks.
4. Season 2, Episode 4: “Road Trip to Harvard”
As “Gilmore Girls” is seven seasons long and follows Lorelei and Rory through many phases of life, there are inevitably a good number of relationships as well as breakups. “The Roadtrip to Harvard” marks the end of Lorelai and Max Medina’s relationship, as Lorelei, in true form, takes Rory and runs away with no map and not much of a plan. Lorelei is concerned by the fact there is no music playing on the road trip, while Rory is mostly preoccupied by the fact that neither of them have the vaguest idea where they are. While some viewers may be disheartened – I admit, I was – over Lorelei’s dash from the altar, this episode is more of a celebration of who we are all here for – Lorelei and Rory. While driving, Lorelei decides to surprise Rory with a visit to Harvard, Rory’s intended college. This episode has lighthearted moments as the two tour Harvard and avoid the nosey bird-watchers at the bed-and-breakfast alongside difficult and bittersweet moments as Rory confronts Lorelai to explain her decision to leave Max. For me, one of my favorite parts of this episode is when we see a cross and sulking Luke quickly turn to the happiest of men after he receives the news of Lorelai and Max’s broken off engagement.
5. Season 3, Episode 9: “Deep Fried Korean thanksgiving”
This episode features a frenzied day of Thanksgiving dinners as Lorelai and Rory scramble to make it to their four different obligations. There is, of course, tofurkey from Mrs. Kim where Dave, Lane’s secret boyfriend, is faking being a Christian guitarist. It is chaotic and adorable. For once Sookie is not cooking the meal. Her husband Jackson insists on cooking the turkey and thus Sookie is stressed and then turns hilariously tipsy. Emily and Richard’s dinner involves pretension and bickering, so no surprises. Luke’s Thanksgiving dinner involves a rant and an entertaining argument with Taylor. At this point Rory is dating Jess, and we see their relationship unfold. Jess is trying to avoid an enraged Dean. There is drama, laughter and copious amounts of food – a Thanksgiving classic.
6. Season 3, Episode 22: “Those Are Strings, Pinocchio”
A lot goes down in this episode –– it is the end of an era. It is time for Rory to graduate Chilton and there is a bit of a scare as we find out that Rory did not receive financial aid and Lorelai considers postponing purchasing the Dragonfly. Thankfully, Richard and Emily and their limitless pocketbooks come in handy, and Friday night dinners are reinstated. While it may be a little unrealistic how everything falls into place, it is still precious. Rory’s valedictorian speech is heartwarming, and everyone is blubbering. This episode is a farewell to Chilton and the status quo of Stars Hollow between Lorelai and Rory. For after this, we experience college and an unknown world alongside Rory. It is also a clean break for Rory, who has been bouncing back and forth between Dean and Jess for a while. There is also a strange dream sequence where Luke imagines that Lorelai asks him not to leave and gets engaged on his summer trip with Nicole, his current love interest. The closing episode of the third season leaves the viewers anxious and excited to see how things progress between Luke and Lorelai and how Rory takes on her newest phase in life.
7. Season 4, Episode 2: “The Lorelais’ first day at Yale”
“The Lorelais’ First Day at Yale ” is all about familiar college angst and separation anxiety, as well as an unrealistic first-year dorm. The goodbye between Lorelai and Rory is hard, which is evident because the two do not actually say goodbye. Lorelai runs in between New Haven and Stars Hollow several times to make sure Rory has what she needs, but mostly because neither of them can bear to be without each other. While this episode brings a new environment for Rory, we do see a familiar face – Paris arrives and is suiting with Rory. Speaking of the rooming situation, Rory’s dorm room is incredible. It is enormous, has hardwood floors, a fireplace and a connected bathroom. It puts my first-year experience to absolute shame. In the episode, Lorelai consoles Rory by staying with her the first night and helping her make friends by trying and rating all the takeout places nearby – a very Gilmore move.
8. Season 4, Episode 21: “Last Week Fights, This Week Tights”
What would be completely ludacris in other towns is very normal in Stars Hollow. This is evident when this episode opens with small children dancing around a maypole directed by the iconic Miss Patty. It is Luke’s sister Liz Danes’ renaissance-themed wedding, and Jess, with his ever-present disgruntled attitude, is walking her down the aisle. Everything is simultaneously ridiculous, hilarious and endearing. There are several sweet moments between Luke and Lorelai, and it is what we have all been waiting for. Luke, who does not dance, asks Loreai to dance. After the wedding he walks her home and asks her to see a movie with him. Is this the start of all we have been waiting four seasons for? The less endearing part is the fiasco between Rory, a married Dean and a problematic and sad Jess. It is a bit much, so I like to focus on Lorelai and Luke. Mrs. Kim also makes an amusing appearance as Lorelai must also placate Mrs. Kim, who is about to pass out because Lane is living with two boys. “Think of them as girls?” Lorelai offers.
9. Season 5, Episode 3: “Written in the Stars”
This episode is classic. Lorelai and Luke are dating and the peanut gallery – me – cries “Finally!” Oddly enough, no one in Stars Hollow really seems to care, and Lorelai, knowing her incredibly nosey neighbors, is offended – not for long though. The matter of their relationship shows up in the town meeting as Taylor enters with “Now as you all know, the relationship we have feared for some time has emerged.” The town discusses that if a breakup ensued, it would be bad for the economy and bad for the town. Lorelai is amused and Luke, heavily annoyed, makes quite the speech. Lorelai and the rest of us are smitten. Over at Yale, Paris, who was dating the late Professor Asher Flemming, is morosely smoking his pipe and planning a wake. The wake, as it happens, turns into a bit of a party. The party-goers do not know it is a wake, but thankfully Paris also does not know it is a party.
10. Season 5, Episode 7: “You Jump, I Jump, Jack”
This episode follows Luke and Lorelai as they must deal with Emily and Richard, who have found out that Lorelai is dating Luke. The highlight of this episode is the dashing and charismatic Logan Huntsburger, who introduces Rory to the Life and Death Brigade. Rory is investigating the secret society for the Yale Daily News, and Logan is the inside man. This episode is all mystery, intrigue and obvious chemistry between Logan and Rory. Logan convinces Rory to participate in the elaborate stunt that the Brigade pulls at each event. Logan and Rory jump off a high scaffolding in a field and an exhilarated Rory says that it had been a once in a lifetime experience. Logan says, “Only if you want it to be.” And thus commences the whirlwind romance of Logan and Rory.
“Gilmore Girls” is a masterpiece and remains one of my favorite shows. Picking my top favorite articles was a trying task, as there are so many excellent episodes. Also, most of the episodes on this list are from the earlier seasons. The earlier seasons are superior – case closed.