We’ve already given you our list of the top 20 best episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer so now it’s time for our list of the the best moments from the show. Those small moments that really define the series.
We’re going to be completely honest here, this was a hard list to write and even harder one to rank. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is full of amazing moments. Moments that make us smile, cry or just help us through our day and picking 15 of favorites meant that we were bound to miss a few that someone really thinks should make the cut. Once we established our initial 15, ranking them became even harder and a lot of it is down to personal preference. When a show has as passionate a fan base as Buffy does, there are bound to be disagreements over the rankings so if you disagree, feel free to let us know in the comments. This list is simply our opinion on some of the most important moments in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; for the sake of brevity, we will not be including the comic book series.
15. Telling Tara’s Relatives To Go To Hell
It could be argued that the central theme of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is female empowerment. The entire premise of the show is based around an inversion of a horror movie trope: the pretty blonde girl is always one of the first victims of the slasher. Buffy, both the show and the character subverts that trope, but the show also handles female empowerment in other ways. One of the best moments comes in the season five episode, Family where Tara’s relatives come to take her away claiming her bloodline is cursed and she’s part demon. It turns out this is just a con to control the women in the family and when it’s revealed Buffy and the Scoobies, as her allies are occasionally called, promptly tell the McClays to to straight to hell. They declare themselves Tara’s true family over her abusive blood relatives.
14. Sending Angel to Hell
Being the Slayer can make a person’s love life more than a little complicated. Between blowing off dates to save the world and breaking up with boys to keep them safe, it can be a bit difficult to find a steady boyfriend. Buffy’s solution was to simply date a vampire; Angel knew she was the Slayer, and could take care of himself. It wasn’t a bad plan except for the fact that Angel was cursed to lose his soul if he ever experienced true happiness which, in this case, meant having sex with Buffy. This resulted in Angel reverting to his evil alter ego Angelus who promptly teamed up with Spike in an attempt to suck the world into hell forcing Buffy to make an impossible choice: kill the man she loved and damn him to hell, or let the world be destroyed. In the end, she chose to kill Angelus, but not before Willow’s spell restored his soul turning him back into the man Buffy loved. Like we said, it’s complicated.
13. Killing the Master
Buffy has faced hundreds of monsters, demons and vampires during her tenure as the Slayer, but one of her first real, and arguably greatest, challenges was an ancient vampire known as the Master. When Buffy first arrives in Sunnydale, she wants nothing to do with being the Slayer. She just wants to live a normal life, but when the Master attempts to open the Hellmouth beneath Sunnydale, thus destroying the world, she has no choice but to face her destiny.
The Master was the oldest living vampire in the Buffy-verse and had a reputation for being all-but invincible and had a cult of loyal followers known as the Order of Aurelius. That, combined with a prophecy predicting he would kill the Slayer, often caused Buffy to doubt herself and her mission. In fact, we would argue that it was her victory over the Master that truly helped her accept her destiny as the Slayer.
12. Class Protector
Sunnydale High is a really bad place to go to school. Between the vampires, witches, and awful principals, it’s a miracle there were enough students to bother hosting a prom let alone fight over being queen and king. Luckily for the students of Sunnydale, that miracle had a name and it was Buffy Summers. During the awards ceremony at prom, Buffy is called to the stage where the students admit that they know that something is off about the town, but that Buffy always seems to be there to make sure everyone survives. In fact, they even mention that the class of 99 had the lowest mortality rate of any recent graduating class. That being said, it does make us wonder what the previous mortality rates were. For that matter, why anyone is still living in a town where the high school students track the mortality rate?
11. Blowing Up Sunnydale High (The First Time.)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer can be roughly divided into two halves. The first half is seasons 1-3 and is centered around high school. The stories in the first few seasons were a bit less serious than the latter seasons and were more strictly focused on plots involving Buffy and her friends whereas later seasons would occasionally change the focus, and the stories grew darker. This isn’t to say the first half of the show didn’t have it’s dark moments; the death of Jenny still brings tears to our eyes. It’s just that the latter seasons had more of them. Nearly every show that’s focused around high school students will have a graduation episode, but Buffy took this rite of passage a bit further by actually blowing up the high school. It was a great moment that really highlighted the fact that the show’s status-quo would be changing from here on out since so many stories were focused around high school issues.
10. The Appearance of Dawn Summers
Buffy’s little sister Dawn is a controversial character for a couple of different reasons. A lot of fans found the character to be kind of whiny and annoying, though, considering her origins and youth, it’s understandable that she would be a bit emotional. Another big problem some fans had with her was that she just showed up in season five as if she’d always been there. It was a twist with relatively little foreshadowing that was a bit jarring at first and more than a bit convoluted. Despite these complaints, Dawn introduced a new dynamic for Buffy to deal with, shaped the events of season five and beyond, and gave us some truly touching moments between the sisters. Love her or hate her, Dawn’s appearance changed the course of Buffy’s life.
9. Awakening The Slayers
In the show’s final season, Buffy and her allies were forced to go head to head with the First Evil. While the First wasn’t as physically powerful as someone like Glory, it proved itself to be a worthy final threat for the Slayer by destroying the Watcher’s Council, unleashing an army of ancient vampires and hunting down the slayers-in-waiting. That last bit might have been where it messed up as it was these potential slayers that proved to be a key part of its defeat. Buffy, with the help of Willow’s magic, was able to awaken the power within all the slayers in order to help fight the First. This moment would have ramifications past the show’s lifetime as the season 8 comic picks up with Buffy leading a slayer army in her fight against darkness.
8. The Death of Joyce Summers
Throughout the show’s first five seasons, Buffy’s mother was a rock to her, and later, Dawn. She might not have always understood what her daughters were going through, but she always did her best to support and help them. Her death shook Buffy and Dawn to their core and led to some touching moments between the sisters. However one of the best reactions to Joyce’s death came from Anya, the former Vengeance Demon, who simply wasn’t able to cope with the loss of Joyce. It really showed us the girl underneath the selfish, slightly cold, aura she projected.
From the perspective of a viewer, Joyce’s death was a powerful moment simply because it came out of nowhere. One moment Joyce was fine and the next she wasn’t. It was a chilling reminder of how quickly our loved ones can be taken from us. It lent a sense of uncertainty to this season because if Joyce could die, then who else was fair game?
7. Spike’s Sacrifice
Despite Buffy’s rather clever plan of creating a Slayer army to fight the First Evil, it wasn’t Buffy or her Slayers that deserve credit for ending the First. It was actually Spike. In a moment that was the culmination of the past six seasons of character development, Spike sacrificed himself to defeat the First Evil saving Buffy, and the world, in the process. Redemption stories are a common theme in popular culture. Whether it be the story of Darth Vader or Jamie Lannister, there’s just something audiences really enjoy about seeing a former bad guy realize the error of their ways and fight the good fight. Spike will always be more of an anti-hero than someone like Buffy or Angel, but this scene proved that he was willing to give his life to protect the people he loved.
6. Willow Killing Warren
Season Six gets a bit of flack from some fans due to the bit obvious metaphor of using magic as a drug and we completely understand those complaints. It was a bit too much at times, but we’ll let it slide simply because it gave us one of the best, and most chilling, moments in the show with Dark Willow. After giving in to grief due to Tara’s murder, Willow goes full dark side and hunts down her killer, Warren. Willow finds him in the woods, flays him alive and then simply leaves after uttering her iconic line of “bored now.”
Dark Willow had several other good moments such as her defeat of Buffy and Giles, but we wanted to keep this list to the most iconic moments from the show, and this moment with Warren is one of the defining moments for Willow.
5. Buffy and Angel’s First Kiss
Ahh young love. Girl meets boy, girl kisses boy, boy turns out to be a vampire. That’s just how Buffy’s love life tends to go. It might be kind of a predictable plot point, but the Slayer falling in love with a good vampire had too much dramatic potential to pass up and the show would use that potential to good effect throughout its seven season run. Angel and Buffy’s first kiss, from season one’s “Angel,” had been building since the show’s pilot episode. The flirting and slow build-up of their relationship made that first kiss feel authentic and really got us invested in seeing these characters and their relationship grow.
Buffy and Angel’s relationship would have a lot of ups and downs over the years and fans would have plenty of arguments over whether she should be with him or Spike, but this kiss was the one that started it all.
4. Xander Redeeming Dark Willow
Xander and Willow were best friends long before Buffy came into their life. In fact, their friendship began the first day of Kindergarten when Xander found Willow crying over a broken yellow crayon. Over time, Willow would develop a crush on Xander, but aside from a brief affair nothing would come of it. That’s the truly great thing about Xander and Willow’s relationship, it’s clear that they love one another, but it’s strictly platonic. Also, it totally saves the world. At the end of season 6, Willow, hurt and angry over the murder of her girlfriend Tara, goes mad and attempts to destroy the world using her magic to overwhelm Buffy and Giles. In the end, it’s Xander’s profession of love that saves Willow and the world from destruction.
3. Spike and Buffy Break a House During Sex
There’s a long-running and fierce debate in the Buffy community as to whether Buffy should be with Spike or Angel. We can see both sides of the argument: Angel is sweet and kind and that’s what Buffy needs to deal with the hardships of her life; on the other hand, Spike is a bit dangerous, a bit riskier and, in a lot of ways, just more fun. The two scenes we picked to highlight these two competing relationships really show off the difference between them. Buffy’s first kiss with Angel is sweet romantic whereas this scene with Spike is passionate, violent and a bit dangerous just like the man himself. As Buffy said in the season 8 comic, Spike is her dark place.
2. Willow and Tara’s First Kiss
The season five episode The Body is full of great, powerful moments. Most of them are rather sad, which is understandable considering the nature and subject matter of this episode, but one of them stands out because it shows that even in the worst of times you can bits of joy with your loved ones. Willow and Tara’s first on-screen kiss is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, it was their first on-screen display of affection. Prior to this, their romance had been hidden behind allusions to magic such as the ritual in Who Are you. Secondly, it was so important moment that Joss Whedon actually threatened to quit the show if he wasn’t allowed to show it. Apparently his plan worked as not only did he get this kiss, but later on Willow, alongside her future girlfriend Kennedy, would appear in the first lesbian sex scene on primetime TV.
1. Buffy’s Gift
As mentioned above, Dawn’s appearance would significantly alter the course of Buffy’s life and nothing highlights that point more than when she realizes death is her gift. Dawn is a mystical construct known as the Key. Her bloods holds the power to open portals between worlds. The hell god, Glory, wanted to use Dawn’s blood to return to her home dimension. Once she had opened the portal, Buffy realized it couldn’t be closed until Dawn’s blood had been completely spent. It was then that she realized that Dawn’s blood and her blood was the same so Buffy sacrificed herself to save her sister. It was one of the show’s most powerful moments and truly demonstrated the love Buffy has for her family.
“You have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn, the hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.”
Alright. That’s our list – but we’re almost definitely leaving out your favorite moment. Let us know what we missed in the comments!