One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (2023)

For nine seasons, fans explored the lives of the residents of a tiny town called Tree Hill through the young adult drama One Tree Hill. They watched high school students battling for attention and affection, then they watched teh same characters as adults struggling to find their place in the world.

The series originally centered on Lucas Scott, the son abandoned by town big shot Dan Scott. Lucas and his half-brother Nathan ended up competing for spots on the same high school basketball team. Although the two began as bitter adversaries, they became friends and made each other better people. Of course, when Chad Michael Murray left the show, the focus shifted completely from Lucas to Nathan. If something could go wrong in Nathan’s life, it did, leaving fans on the edge of their seats, waiting for more.

RELATED:One Tree Hill: Every Season Finale, Ranked

Of the 187 episodes of the series, we’ve assembled the best of the best and ranked the top hours of One Tree Hill.

Updated By Amanda Bruce On April 19, 2020: One Tree Hill ran for nearly 200 episodes before it reached its end, so stopping at just the 10 best episodes doesn’t seem like enough. More episodes have been added to this list since its original publishing to give a more comprehensive look at the drama series.


Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (S9E10)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (1)

This particular episodeis onethat allows a lot of storylines to receive closure. While Quinn and Clay get a handle on their pasts, Brooke takes on Xavier, the man who targeted her repeatedly, once again. The big story of the hour, however, is the odd team up to rescue Nathan Scott.

Julian, Dan, and Chris Keller form an unlikely trio to bring Nathan back to his family from kidnappers. The audience is reminded that Julian just wants to be a good guy, Chris still has feelings for Haley, and Dan, despite all of his faults, does love his family. Fans might never have thought the three could work together, but in the end, they save the day.

You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love (S4E16)

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Prom is supposed to be a fun time for high school students, but not so much for the Tree Hill teens. Lucas doesn’t get to spend his prom with Peyton while realizing that Dan knows more about Keith’s death than he’s saying. Nathan and Haley discover that they might not fit in as well amongst their high school friends now that they’re committed to their marriage. Much of the episode, however, is devoted to the tragedy and triumph of Brooke and Peyton.

The two friends have been on the outs, but reconcile in horrible circumstances. Peyton’s stalker holds her hostage, and it’s Brooke who discovers them. The two young women team up to take him down once and for all.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. (S6E03)

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Many Of One Tree Hill’s best episodes center on tragic circumstances. This one is no different.

While Brooke is dealing with the aftermath of being attacked yet again in the series, everyone else is dealing with the shocking death of Quentin Fields. It’s heartbreaking to watch Haley try to figure out how to talk about loss with her students and her son. It’s equally heartbreaking to watch Brooke try to keep herself together until the very end of the episode.

Hundred (S5E12)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (4)

When a drama series reaches 100 episodes, the writers tend to go all out for the fans that stick by them. In “Hundred,” the writers do just that, allowing the fans a few trips down memory lane as Nathan, Peyton, and Lucas all look back on past relationships.

Of course, Lucas is supposed to be marrying Lindsey, but Lindsey realizes that the most romantic story he’s ever written is actually about Peyton, and she leaves him at the altar. Not to be outdone on the drama front, Dan saves Jamie from his nanny, putting him on a path to reconnecting with his family.

Remember Me As A Time Of Day (S6E24)

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The season six finale works so well because it could have easily been a series finale. It ties up a lot of loose ends for characters, and despite nearly tragic circumstances, gives a lot of them what could be happy endings.

Brooke reconciles with her mother and finds love with Julian. Nathan makes it into the NBA. Dan begins what he thinks is a path to redemption. Peyton gives birth to her daughter. The episode is an end of an era as Peyton and Lucas also leave Tree Hill behind, setting the show on a new path.

The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most (S1E02)

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Some One Tree Hill fans might argue that the second episode of the series doesn’t deserve a spot in the top 10. Usually, the first few episodes of the series wind up among the worst as writers figure out their path. “The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most” truly sets the tone for the entire series.

This episode might as well have been the actual pilot for the show. The episode is the first to feature Sophia Bush as Brooke. It also doesn’t feature scenes with the original actress cast as Haley in the background. The audience also starts to really understand the rivalry between Nathan and Lucas before all of the stories speed into overdrive.

4 Years, 6 Months, 2 Days (S5E01)

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At the time of its airing, an episode like this one was unheard of for a teen drama. Instead of letting viewers see the characters going to college, the narrative skipped ahead four years so the main cast were now adults post-college.

“4 Years, 6 Months, 2 Days” gave the audience a leap into adulthood as everyone struggled to find their place in an adult world. Nathan and Haley’s son become a regular character and a major focus of the show for the next four years. It was a risky, but welcome, change for a teen drama.

Pictures Of You (S4E13)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (8)

The audience often saw the same characters interact repeatedly on One Tree Hill. With the season four episode “Pictures Of You” that changed, allowing for some really fun moments between unexpected character pairings.

The high school seniors were paired up for a school assignment, and they had to spend an hour with someone and then report back on what they learned from the experience. It gave a lot of the characters the chance to open up to one another in ways the audience hadn’t seen yet.

The episode also gave us a great segment where all of the actors got to do celebrity impressions, a lighter moment the show wasn’t exactly known for.

Darkness On The Edge Of Town (S8E11)

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Not a ton of episodes from One Tree Hill’s second half make it into the top 10. Many fans believed the final two seasons lacked some of the charm of the early episodes. That being said, there were a few episodes that felt like the original One Tree Hill.


“Darkness On The Edge Of Town” brought another big storm to Tree Hill... and another big car accident. After saving Jamie's classmates, Brooke and Jamie wound up stuck in a sinking car when another vehicle hit them right off the bridge and into the water. It was up to Julian to pull them out. Though Julian and Brooke always seemed like an ill-fitting couple, this episode proved that the two of them had something special.

It also provided some closure for the Quinn-Katie story. Quinn got the upper hand on her stalker, and got the other woman arrested.

All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone (S4E21)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (10)

As high school drew to a close, both Haley and Karen went into labor. The episode saw Karen experience an emotional dream sequence with Keith, while Haley and Nathan had to truly figure out what it meant to be young parents.

Of course, in a teen drama, high school can’t end without a huge party. Rachel hosted a party that also included a memorable dance sequence to the Spice Girls song “Wannabe” that fans loved. Bringing the show back to where it first began, eventually the entire group of friends wound up back at the river court for a Nathan-Lucas rematch.

It’s the kind of episode that could have worked as a series finale if needed.

The Wind That Blew My Heart Away (S3E13)

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Weather played a significant role in One Tree Hill. Specifically, storms. In this season three episode, a storm brought a power outage and a lot of confrontations with feelings.


Throughout the episode, all of the major characters had to deal with things they previously avoided. Brooke and Lucas talked about the past and started to figure out their relationship. Nathan and Haley started talking about their plans for the future. While the discussions between the couples were interesting for the audience, it was Peyton’s storyline that was the most impactful. Peyton dealt with the reality of her birth mother’s illness - and lost her birth mother in the same episode.

With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept (S3E16)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (12)

This is the episode that proved One Tree Hill wasn’t just a teen soap, that it could tackle more complex issues with its high school plot lines. In this season three hour, a classmate brought a gun to school and opened fire, creating a major turning point for the show.

While events like these happen in real life, at the time, high school dramas didn’t often include them in their storylines. This episode actually won several awards for its portrayal of the complexities involved. It’s also the episode where Dan Scott took his brother’s life, an event that would continue to shape the show until its series finale.

Danny Boy (S9E11)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (13)

Most of the audience hated Dan Scott. There’s no denying that. It is, however, hard to argue against how big of a presence he was on the show. Sometimes, he was a guy who just wanted the best for his son. Other times, he was a stone-cold killer who made everyone miserable. “Danny Boy” saw his time on the series come to an end.

Following Nathan going missing, Dan rescued his son and returned him home to Tree Hill. In Nathan’s eyes, despite all the things Dan did in the past, he was still his father, and he still loved him. As the show said goodbye to Dan, it revealed him reuniting with his brother Keith in the afterlife. The two reconciled their differences in death, though they never could in life. The emotional sendoff ranks as a highlight of the show for the fans that stuck with it for nine seasons.

Some You Give Away (S4E09)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (14)

This is the kind of episode that could have been a season finale. The Tree Hill Ravens made it to the championship game, only for obstacles to nearlytear them apart.

Nathan was supposed to throw the game for a bookie. Though Lucas wanted to stop him, his heart condition meant he couldn’t play long. As a result, the team wasn’t at their best. To top it off, the cheerleaders took Haley to the hospital to check on her baby when she was in pain.

It seemed like all of the obstacles were over when Haley found out she was having a boy and Nathan got his head back in the game. They were only just starting though as a championship win led to the bookie trying to run Nathan down. He hit Haley instead, and Lucas suffered a heart attack getting her into the ambulance. It was a tense and heartbreaking end to a jam-packed episode.

The Show Must Go On (S3E22)

One Tree Hill: 15 Best Episodes, Ranked (15)

If writers wanted a lesson in giving the audience a happy ending, only to leave them helplessly dangling on a cliffhanger at the end, this is the episode to watch. Season three ended with Nathan and Haley renewing their vows in a formal wedding ceremony - and then with a horrible crash.

Fans were excited to seeNathan and Haleyfully commit to one another with a wedding. Unfortunately, fans were also left to spend the hiatus wondering if Nathan would survive after he dove off a bridge to save his uncle and Rachel. Add in a surprise pregnancy, and there was a lot for them to talk about while they waited months for the show to return.

NEXT: 10 Episodes Of Grey’s Anatomy That Aged Poorly

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