One Tree Hill: Most Memorable Episodes RankedPublished on January 15, 2016. Updated April 3, 2020
When you fall in love with a show you are in it for the long run. You love the great moments and suffer through the moments you can’t believe were written and for fans of One Tree Hill, they are particularly aware of the roller coaster of emotions that one show can take you on. In it’s nine seasons from 2003-2012 we went through the ups and downs of Lucas, Nathan, Peyton, Brooke and Haley and many others and while we loved every minute of it, there are particular episodes that will always stand out. There is only one Tree Hill and here are the fifteen best episodes that took place within the quaint town in North Carolina.
15. “Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly” S6, E3
Shocking and tragic deaths are unfortunately one of the markers of One Tree Hill and the dark and heavy storylines are just another thing that make the show great. We first meet Quentin “Q” Fields played by Robbie Jones early in season five and he is essentially Tree Hill High’s new Nathan Scott – arrogant, cocky and quite rude – he is not our favorite but the show quickly develops him into a lovable character. Almost one season later in “Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly” Q’s death is confirmed after he is shot in a gas station robbery at the end of the previous episode. This episode begins with Sam’s voice talking about Quentin Fields in her essay and goes through everyone, especially Jamie, trying to come to grips with his death. The emotion is honest and true and the imagery of Jamie throwing the cape over Q’s casket and Q’s little brother putting on his basketball jersey and standing with the rest of the Ravens at the funeral is one of the most poignant scenes of the season.
14. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” S8, E11
This dark episode sees a lot of lives being threatened in Tree Hill in an intense and suspenseful episode which also makes it one of the most memorable. “Darkness on the Edge of Town” starts off innocently enough with Jamie, Chuck and Madison competing in a Spelling Bee, however an impending storm warns of much, much worse to come. The episode sees both Jamie, Brooke and Quinn almost die and has us believe for a few very tense moment that Brooke is indeed dead as she is trapped in a car submerged in water.
13. “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” S9, E10
Say your Nathan Scott and you are kidnapped, and your death is impending, who would you want to rescue you? Probably Lucas and hopefully Owen if he was still around but nope in “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” Nathan’s rescue team results in Dan Scott who is known to kill so that’s okay, but then Julian and Chris Keller. Thanks to this trio the episode is hilarious which is odd given that is without a doubt the most violent as 7 people are killed (4 by Dan), Dan is shot and later dies, and a lot of people get severely beaten. For being a teenage drama series, this show has seen some crazy and gruesome things in the form of Psycho Derek and Nanny Carrie, but this episode was almost like an action film.
12. “I and Love and You” S7, E7
Season 7 was a precarious for One Tree Hill because it would reveal whether or not the show could continue without the two “main” stars Lucas (Chad Michael Murray) and Peyton (Hilarie Burton). Episodes such as “I and Love and You” are exactly why fans had no problem with their absence and continued to love the show anyway. This episode exposes a lot of key relationships as Brooke opens up to Julian, we learn about the tragic death of Clay’s ex-wife Sarah whom he still sees and talks to while becoming closer to Quinn and of course Nathan’s cheating scandal comes to a head. Once again Dan Scott had us questioning how bad of a guy he really is after he takes it upon himself to prove that the woman claiming she is carrying Nathan’s baby is lying after he brings her on to his show and exposes her in front of a national audience. The intensity of each separate situation makes this a truly great episode of the show while also key to the remaining characters giving us what we expect and more from the show we love.
11. “Learning To Fall” S7, E20
“Learning To Fall” is one of the most memorable episodes of the show because through every episode and every season we see Haley as the strength, backbone and stability for everyone around her but in this episode it is finally Haley who can’t keep it together following her mother, Lydia’s death. The pain and reality of losing a parent is heartbreaking to watch as Haley tries to deal with it, and after everything she has done for Nathan, he now has to step up and be the one to bring her back to who she was. Fans of the show were used to shocking and dramatic behavior from other characters but to see it happen to Haley in such an emotional situation was truly memorable for fans.
10. “The Pilot” S1, E1
Usually the make or break for a lot of shows is how many people you can get hooked right off the bat, and One Tree Hill did just that with their very first episode. Being introduced to the characters and dynamics of a show is always interesting but the Pilot is even more memorable now that we look back on it as the beginning and knowing how the characters developed and where they ended up. We can’t imagine not liking Nathan now but in the first episode he was the villain, we get the beginnings of the friendship between Haley and Lucas and of course the unforgettable River Court basketball match. “This one is for my mom.” “I’ll be seeing you.” “Don’t worry dad, your dreams are safe” – some iconic lines that were just the start of something so much bigger.
9. “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most” S1, E2
Then of course, is the second episode because we had to make sure the rest of the series was going to be just as good as the Pilot, but it wasn’t, it was better. “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most” is where we first meet Sophia Bush as Brooke Davis and for that reason alone it is memorable enough. Of course it also launches Lucas right into the world of Nathan and the Ravens and we already see the budding of the romance between Lucas and Peyton, “Your art matters, it’s what got me here.” Not to mention also the romance between Brooke and Lucas and the drama we all know ensues. The second episode had us captivated with humor, drama and intrigue and we knew this was going to be one heck of a show.
8. “The Wind That Blew My Heart Away” S3, E13
Who can forget Lucas’s epic speech to Brooke in the pouring rain? Although we thought for sure Peyton and Lucas were destined, it was hard to pick a team when he and Brooke also made a great couple and when the power goes out in a huge storm leaving Brooke and Lucas, Nathan and Haley, Peyton and Ellie, and Rachel and Mouth together things were sure to get interesting. Lucas’s speech is amazing and something we all hope to hear from someone we love someday but this episode also marked the official reconciliation of Nathan and Haley.
7. “The Other Half of Me” S8, E13
Brooke and Julian quickly became two of our favorite people (not to mention one of our favorite couples), so it goes without saying that their wedding day is one of the most memorable moments of One Tree Hill. After years of watching Brooke just want love and children and be the most generous and loving person, it was a satisfying day to watch someone as awesome as Julian, give all that love back. It was great focusing on the real dramas of big events and families as Julian deals with his parents and Brooke deals with hers. Then of course it is also hilarious watching Skills enforce serious security protocols because of all the things that have happened at other weddings, like Jamie getting kidnapped by crazy nanny Carrie. Another epic moment in the episode: Jamie’s best man speech. Amazing.
6. “When It Isn’t Like It Should Be” S3, E18
Although this episode is the first episode that sees the group back together since Rachel admitted she opened the time capsule and the tragic deaths of Uncle Keith and Jimmy Edwards, “When It Isn’t Like It Should Be” recaptures the fun the show can have and reminds us these are still teenagers. The entire gang takes off to Rachel’s amazing cottage where we find out Nathan is going to propose again, Pete Wentz as the actual Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy shows up as Peyton’s new fling and we get the hilariousness of Bevin and Skills getting lost, and of course the term “Brookeing” yourself. Watching them get back to their old selves was good for fans and good for the show and even though they had the most unbelievable lives we still found them relatable although no one we know ever had a rock star show up for a camping weekend trip with a bunch of high schoolers.
5. “Danny Boy” S9, E11
Although considered a teenage drama, the adults played a major role on One Tree Hill and none more than Dan Scott (Paul Johansson) which is reflected in his final episode landing as the fourth highest rated of the series. After Dan killed Keith we never thought we would like him again, but somehow it happened. Dan lost his mind, attempted suicide and eventually rebuilt himself out of the grief of his actions. Although knowing he was not welcome by his family or sons, he continued to love them any way he could and his relationship with his grandson Jamie was truly endearing. His death after saving Nathan and killing most of his kidnappers was actually heartbreaking and the forgiveness shown towards him only makes it more impactful. Then of course there comes the scene where Keith shows up to lead him to the “other side” and also shows forgiveness when he reassures Dan that he loves him and tells him, “Don’t worry little brother, you’re my plus one.”
4. “4 Years, 6 Months, 2 Days” S5,E1
In a surprising decision, creator Mark Schwahn decided to skip the group’s four years of college and life after high school and has us catch back up to them as 22-year olds and the actors were finally portraying characters around their own age. The season five premiere episode allows us to catch back up to all of them, showing the realities of growing up and growing apart. It also introduced us to the adorable and smart son of Haley and Nathan, played by Jackson Brundage, and of course we soon realize this season is going to be a doozy as Nathan is confined to a wheelchair and his NBA career is seemingly gone. Meanwhile, Peyton and Lucas are no longer together and Brooke is a multi-millionaire businesswomen. Just when we thought this show had given us everything, it gave us even more.
3. “The Show Must Go On” S3, E22
To the dismay of all we only saw Nathan and Haley’s first marriage ceremony through flashback sequences but in the season finale for season three, our favorite Tree Hill couple decided to renew their vows finally in front of friends and family. This episode is chalked full of the good feelings with adorable moments between brothers Lucas and Nathan and of course between Haley and Nathan. Of course, it is peppered with drama from the fallout between Peyton and Brooke, and the breakup between Cooper and Rachel, little did we know of course just how dramatic it was going to end. The musical placement of Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” makes this episode especially memorable as the limo crashes into the river and Nathan jumps in to rescue Cooper and Nathan and Haley screams Nathan’s name as she cries on the edge of the bridge in her wedding dress before her bracelet from Nathan floats to the surface of the water. Gives you goosebumps all over again just thinking about it.
2. “One Tree Hill” S9, E13
Back to where we started. The final episode of One Tree Hill finally gives us the namesake episode and is memorable for very obvious reasons. Although we didn’t know what we were getting into with the Pilot, we knew exactly what this one meant and as each minute ticked by we knew we were coming closer to shutting the door on a ten year chapter of our lives with the residents of Tree Hill. We already had to say goodbye to some important characters, but this was it for all of them, making it very emotional. Nothing was more hard hitting than Nathan stating, “It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re 17 and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.” That’s exactly how we felt watching Jamie play his first high school basketball game and watching our remaining favorites sing along to Gavin Degraw’s “I Don’t Want To Be.”
1. “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept” S3, E16
The highest rated episode of the entire series and the most memorable without a doubt goes to the school shooting episode of “With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept.” After first knowing Jimmy Edwards as the lovable color commentator along with Mouth for Ravenshoops.com, his reintroduction saw a much darker and bitter Jimmy resulting in him bringing a gun to school to confront those who had been bullying him. The emotion, shock and terror felt very real in this episode with Peyton bleeding out in the library and telling Lucas she loves him, Nathan going back to rescue Haley and of course the emotion behind what Jimmy has been suffering. Then of course, the most shocking death scene we would have never imagined occurred when beloved Uncle Keith who tried to talk down Jimmy Edwards was shot and killed by his own brother Dan Scott who used Jimmy’s gun after he had committed suicide. Season 3 is often regarded as the show’s strongest and this powerful, and heartwrenching episodes is one of the major reasons why.