12 Essential ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Episodes

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The WB; 20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection; Courtesy: Everett Collection

In honor of Buffy the Vampire Slayer claiming the top spot in our Best Shows of the ’90s list, we’re taking a look back at the episodes that made it must-watch TV (remember when you had to tune in live and didn’t have DVRs or next-day streaming options?).

From the introduction of Sarah Michelle Gellar’s titular character and the Scooby Gang to the heartbreaking episodes (not just the tragic deaths!) to its musical episode, watching Buffy more often than not meant being entertained for an hour each week. From the first fight to the last, it’s still an enjoyable rewatch.

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That being said, there are 144 episodes over seven seasons, so we’re making it a bit easier to figure out where to start to get your Buffy fix. Scroll down for the most essential episodes.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Streaming, Hulu

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection

"Welcome to the Hellmouth" (Season 1, Episode 1)

It’s our introduction to the world of Buffy. The slayer starts at Sunnydale High and meets her new Watcher Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), soon-to-be friends Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander (Nicholas Brendon), frenemy Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), and the mysterious Angel (David Boreanaz) — and we begin to get to know the vampire Darla (Julie Benz) and Big Bad The Master (Mark Metcalf) — and they to her.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, David Boreanaz in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection

"Angel" (Season 1, Episode 7)

Until this episode, Angel was the stranger who mysteriously helped Buffy and was set up to be her love interest — until she discovered he was a vampire. We learned about how he was cursed with a soul, he killed his sire Darla, and Buffy and Angel parted ways … leaving quite the mark as her cross burned his chest.

Mark Metcalf, Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection

"Prophecy Girl" (Season 1, Episode 12)

A prophecy said that The Master would rise and Buffy would die — and she did! (Xander resuscitated her.) That not only set her on her journey at the beginning of Season 2 but also was why there was no longer just one slayer at a time.

in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The WB

"Becoming, Part 2" (Season 2, Episode 22)

Right after Angel’s moment of happiness with Buffy, his curse was broken and the soulless vampire terrorized her and her friends. Then, just as they came up with a way to stop Angelus and the demon Acathla, Willow restored the vampire’s soul. The only problem? To stop Acathla, Buffy had to send Angel to hell. Hearing “close your eyes” has never been so gut-wrenching.

Seth Green, Alyson Hannigan, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection

"Graduation Day, Part 2" (Season 3, Episode 22)

After watching Buffy and her friends fight evil for three seasons, there was just something special about seeing the Sunnydale High students reveal they were part of the plan — and armed — to stop the Mayor once his ascension began during their graduation. Plus, the episode sent Boreanaz to his Angel spinoff.

The Gentlemen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection

"Hush" (Season 4, Episode 10)

“Hush” was one of the most memorable episodes with one of the series’ most memorable and terrifying villains: The Gentlemen, ghouls who stole everyone’s voices and cut out their victims’ hearts. For a show with so much great, snappy dialogue, the silent episode shined .

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kristine Sutherland in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The WB

"The Body" (Season 5, Episode 16)

Perhaps the most memorable episode of Buffy didn’t deal with vampires or demons at all. This one dealt with Buffy finding her mother, Joyce (Kristine Sutherland), dead, not from any of the evils threatening the slayer and her loved ones, but something natural: a brain aneurysm. It features some of the cast’s best performances of the entire series.

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Courtesy: Everett Collection

"The Gift" (Season 5, Episode 22)

To save Buffy’s sister (and the key) Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), Buffy and her friends faced off with the god Glory (Clare Kramer), used the Buffybot, made difficult choices (like Giles killing Charlie Weber’s Ben, who shared his body with the god), and made the ultimate sacrifice — Buffy sealed a portal between dimensions by jumping into it rather than let Dawn do it. “She saved the world. A lot,” indeed.

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
UPN/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

"Once More, With Feeling" (Season 6, Episode 7)

Musical episodes are usually hit or miss, and Buffy‘s was definitely the former. There’s a valid reason for the singing (a demon), brutal revelations (Buffy reveals she was in heaven not hell before her friends brought her back from the dead), and solos and group numbers with catchy lyrics. And it all ends with a kiss (Buffy and James Marsters’ Spike).

Alyson Hannigan, Sarah Michelle Gellar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Courtesy: Everett Collection

"Two to Go"/"Grave" (Season 6, Episodes 21 & 22)

When Buffy went dark, it went dark — and such was the case with Dark Willow, as the witch sought vengeance for Tara’s (Amber Benson) murder. Giles returned from England to join the fight to stop her (and found out what he’d missed), but it was Xander who was able to bring his best friend back by refusing to leave her side as she tried to destroy the world.

Alyson Hannigan, James Marsters, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Eliza Dushku in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
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"Chosen" (Season 7, Episode 22)

How can anyone forget the final battle against the First Evil, from Buffy deciding to have Willow activate all potential slayers to Spike’s sacrifice (and Buffy’s goodbye) to the escape from Sunnydale in the bus? It was one hell(mouth) of a series ender.