One Tree Hill: All Seasons RankedPublished on October 13, 2017. Updated August 27, 2020
One Tree Hill ran for nine season from September 23, 2003 to April 4, 2012 and became one of the most popular teen dramas of all time. No matter how much time goes by, One Tree Hill fans remain as passionate as ever about the series and continue to rewatch it from start to finish. A lot changed over the course of nine seasons, but through the cast changes and challenging storylines, One Tree Hill persevered, so it goes without saying that some seasons were better than others overall. Take a look back on all the highs and lows of every One Tree Hill season with all nine seasons ranked from worst to best:
9. Season Two
Following One Tree Hill‘s incredible first season, season two was underwhelming for fans. The season of course had many highlights, but overall threw a lot at fans that wasn’t necessarily handled in the best way possible. Season two introduced fans to Chris Keller, who was incredible, and also introduced Felix and Anna, who may have kept things interesting for a few episodes but their storylines were abruptly wrapped up, and neither character was given the time they deserved. One Tree Hill desperately needed more of a representation when it came to LGBT characters, and Anna was a dismal attempt at incorporating a LGBT character. Of course, one of the things that makes season two the worst in fans minds is because it is when Haley leaves Nathan to go on tour with Chris Keller, which broke his heart and the hearts of One Tree Hill fans.
8. Season Eight
Although the series was able to forge on quite well following the exit of Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton as Lucas and Peyton, by season eight it was evident that the series was losing the magic that made it incredible. Although several other characters were brought in and stepped up as main stars, it was much more difficult to become engaged in storylines focused on Mia, Chase, Alex, and Clay and Quinn. Although season eight did have some highlights, which included Brooke’s dream wedding to her dream guy, and of course the birth of their twins, amid these storylines it was easy to sense the end was near for the show as old major moments were reworked which included another terrifying bridge accident during another huge Tree Hill storm.
7. Season Nine
While One Tree Hill had a fantastic series finale episode, the rest of the final season unfortunately left a lot to be desired. One of the biggest problems with the ninth and final season was that the show’s biggest male lead James Lafferty only signed on for half a season. The loss of Lafferty as Nathan for a part of the season was a big hit to the show, but also offered up some surprising entertainment after none other than Dan Scott, Julian Baker, and Chris Keller teamed up to rescue him. Although Dan Scott’s redemption story was great, the season also suffered with the focus on Clay Evan’s bizarre memory plot line which became a little too soap-opera-like when it turned out he had forgotten that he even had a son.
6. Season Seven
Before season seven even began, there was a lot of anticipation and some anxiety about how the series was going to go on without Lucas and Peyton. Fans were actually surprised by how seamlessly the show carried on and it became more obvious than ever how much more important the characters of Brooke, Haley, and Nathan had become to audiences over Lucas and Peyton. Although the season had some low moments which included a supposed cheating scandal between Nathan and Haley which actually turned out to be extremely intriguing and took many twists before a surprising conclusion thanks to Dan Scott. The season also focused on Haley and her sisters, offering some very memorable episodes as they dealt with the death of their mother, and some huge surprises such as the return of Rachel as none other than Dan Scott’s wife. While season seven wasn’t the best, it certainly succeeded in helping fans move on from Lucas and Peyton with some shocking and intense storylines.
5. Season Six
The sixth season of One Tree Hill was one of the series’ biggest seasons of all and there was a lot to keep track of. The return of crazy nanny Carrie served as one of the most intense and jaw-dropping storylines ever, and that was only a portion of the season. There were more than a few of the show’s most memorable episodes in season six which also included Brooke’s attack in her store, Q’s murder and, through all the highs and lows the season, it all led up to the one thing fans had been waiting for since season one: Peyton and Lucas’ wedding. The season included a lot of turning points for the characters which included Peyton and Lucas starting their family, and Nathan finally making it to the NBA, but also included unnecessary drama such as Peyton suffering from a serious pregnancy condition which is potentially life threatening. Fans had been through enough emotional trauma and just wanted their favorite Tree Hill residents to be happy for once.
4. Season Four
One Tree Hill provided some excellent drama for seasons one to three, but season four took it all to another level thanks to Psycho Derek. The addition of Derek/Ian cultivated one of the best season long plot lines which gave a twist in every episode. Not to mention season four is the huge “It’s you, Peyton” moment between Lucas and Peyton and, after so much drama and lies, Peyton and Lucas finally committed to being together. Then of course there was the importance of Lucas figuring out that it was Dan who killed Keith and Nathan and Haley finding out they are going to be parents. For the final season of the group as high school students, it couldn’t have been done much better; however, the only complaint is that Peyton and Brooke weren’t friends for so much of it.
3. Season Five
One Tree Hill took a big risk when it cut out four years between seasons four and five, but it definitely paid off. It was like entering a whole new show with fans not knowing what to expect from the characters after missing four years, and things certainly did change in a big way. The season was an excellent blend of flashbacks and the present in order to explain how things ended up the way they did, and took turns no one saw coming. While some of them were good such as Haley’s teaching career and Brooke and Peyton moving back to Tree Hill, others were disappointing even though they made for great storylines, such as Nathan’s injury and Lucas’s almost wedding to Lindsey.
2. Season One
Despite One Tree Hill being a teen soap opera, it was able to embrace the drama in a way that still made it feel real to viewers, no matter how ridiculous things got and it all started with season one laying the groundwork. If only for nostalgia’s sake, season one was one of the very best out of the nine, but for many other reasons as well. It introduced fans to the spectacular characters and the cast that were taking them on, and it dove right into the drama which had fans hooked from the very beginning. The chemistry between the cast made it very easy to fall in love with One Tree Hill and become invested in their stories, no matter how unbelievable some of the drama got.
1. Season Three
Season three of One Tree Hill packed a lot of punch from start to finish and is absolutely a representation of the show at its prime. While many of the other seasons were good, season three is what firmly established One Tree Hill as a popular show, and one that wasn’t going away anytime soon. There is a lot to wade through in season three, from Peyton’s journey finding her birth mother, to Haley and Nathan rebuilding their relationship, and the peak of the Peyton-Lucas-Brooke love triangle, but of course the one episode that holds all the weight for the entire series let alone the season is “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept.” When the season aired in 2006, it was still new for a major show to tackle a school shooting episode, and did so with rawness and realness that hit home for a lot of viewers. Of course, the event also culminates in the death of Jimmy Edwards, and most shockingly Keith Scott. The impact of the events in season three would be the ones that would influence many of the seasons to follow making the season not only the best but also the most important.