Having just wrapped its 15th season, Grey’s Anatomy not only holds the distinction of being one of TV’s longest-running dramas, but has also proven itself one the most compulsively watchable. The series features undeniably quotable dialogue, epic romances and insane medical cases, all backed by an unforgettable soundtrack. Let’s also not forget that it reminded a whole new generation that ‘80s heartthrob Patrick Dempsey was still a total dreamboat.
Fifteen years is quite a run, each of them brimming with the impressive mixture of laughter, tears and drama the show has become known for. That being said, some seasons were certainly better than others. Here’s how they stack up.
15 Season 10
This season was a pretty big letdown and not just because the series lost fan favorite Cristina Yang. In general, the characters were not at their best. The relationship between Callie and Arizona grew increasingly toxic. Plus, Dr. Bailey was trapped in a nonsensical OCD storyline that no one asked for.
Sure, we got some quality time with Jackson and April, which was nice. However, season 10 also chose to swap out the influx of new music that Grey’s had become known for, instead giving fans one awful 80s cover after another. Plus, no one likes to see Meredith and Cristina at odds for that long.
14 Season 7
Season 7 isn’t terrible, but it did have the misfortune of following what was probably the most stellar finale in the history of Grey’s Anatomy. Also, it gave us that cringe-worthy musical episode and Cristina Yang almost left her one true love (surgery) behind.
This season had plenty of drama, but much of it seemed out of character, making the show’s 7th outing feel a bit uneven. It sometimes felt as though the season was trying a little too hard to do what previous outings had done effortlessly.
13 Season 4
Season 4 further explored the biggest romantic misstep in Grey’s history with George and Izzie. The two had forged a pretty awesome friendship and it undermined the intelligence of the audience to assume that we needed them in bed together.
Mer and Der spent the whole season in limbo and even though it resulted in the candle house scene, the journey getting there wasn’t terribly enjoyable. Blame the writers’ strike if you like, but the most interesting plot points were Lexie’s arrival and Addison’s departure.
12 Season 15
It’s a huge bummer that the most recent season of Grey’s gets such a low ranking on this list, but season 15 just seemed kind of aimless. Jo learned about her mom, but wound up institutionalized because of it. Meredith finally moved on...to Andrew DeLuca. It was sweet that he took the blame for Mer’s insurance fraud, but there is zero sparkage between them.
The show lost both Arizona Robbins and April Kepner, and too much focus was spent on Maggie and Jackson’s painfully dull relationship. This season also had one of the most anticlimactic finales in Grey’s history. The romance between Nico and Levi is awesome though.
11 Season 13
Aside from a finale that reminded fans how awesome Dr. Stephanie Edwards was before they were forced to bid her farewell, season 13 wasn’t great. The biggest storyline was the hospital “civil war” and after a mass shooting and a plane crash, Eliza Minnick’s new residency program stepping on Richard Webber’s toes was fairly yawn-worthy.
Plus, viewers were forced to witness the lackluster romance between Minnick and Arizona. Sure, we all wanted our favorite pediatric surgeon to move on from Callie, but she deserved better. The most exciting plot point was the budding relationship between Meredith and Riggs, though it was muted by a ridiculous love triangle.
10 Season 11
Also known as the season that almost ruined Derek Shepherd’s character, season 11 had plenty of exciting moments, not the least of which was McDreamy’s final episode. It was the first season without mainstay Cristina Yang, and the writers did their best to distract viewers from that fact. Sometimes they succeeded. Other times, not so much.
This season broke fans' hearts with the dissolution of April and Jackson’s relationship, as well as the conclusion of the romance between Callie and Arizona. However, Derek’s last episode was not only riveting from start to finish, but Ellen Pompeo gave the performance of a lifetime.
9 Season 14
What this season lacked in character development, it more than made up for with the social commentary that it weaved into the story so organically. Season 14 focused on a myriad of important topics, tackling racial bias, cyber-terrorism and domestic abuse. The show also introduced a couple of really great trans characters.
It was a bummer to see Meredith’s romance with Riggs sidelined in favor of the rather soap-operatic twist to resurrect Megan Hunt from the dead. However, the classy way that the situation was handled between the two women involved almost made it okay.
8 Season 12
As the first year without Derek, much of the show’s 12th season was about rebirth, both for Meredith and for the series itself. Standout episodes like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” really proved that Grey’s Anatomy still had plenty more fuel in the tank.
Watching the complex dynamics play out between Meredith and her sisters was fascinating and it was touching to see the way that Karev stepped up in the absence of Derek and Cristina. Although Penny Blake remains one of the show’s worst characters, the drama she brought to the table was both undeniable and awesome.
7 Season 9
Season 9 brought with it a new crop of interns, in the process, injecting some fresh blood into the series. Not all of them didn’t stuck around for long, but they were a great addition to the show.
Much of this season dealt with the aftermath of the plane crash and viewers were forced to say goodbye to fan favorite Mark Sloan. It was also the year that Richard lost his wife, Adele. The finale, which saw the former chief electrocuted in the basement, was classic Grey’s - sorry Brooks, RIP.
6 Season 5
Season 5 featured some of Grey’s Anatomy’s best storylines. It also introduced some of the absolute worst. It’s the year that brought in both Owen Hunt and Arizona Robbins. However, it’s also the season that gave us Izzie’s brain cancer, a plot point significantly worsened by her relationship with Denny as a ghost/hallucination.
Izzie and Alex got married, and Mer and Der wrote up their now iconic Post-It. The defining moment of season 5 though, is probably the one-two punch that Izzie survived her battle with cancer, combined with the revelation that George was the John Doe dying on the operating table after literally jumping in front of a bus to save a stranger.
5 Season 8
Season 8 rebounded from the excessive melodrama of the previous year in fine form. Viewers witnessed the soul-crushing conclusion of Teddy’s romance with Henry, as well as the romance blossoming between April and Jackson.
It’s also worth noting that Cristina terminating her pregnancy on prime time television was a big deal and a story that Rhimes had been wanting to tell since season 1. Of course, the season’s most memorable installment is the heart-stopping plane crash finale. Lexie, you’re still missed!
4 Season 3
There are so many unforgettable storylines in season 3. Cristina covering for Burke’s tremor, Meredith’s drowning, and of course, Burke leaving Cristina at the alter. Addison headed to L.A. to start her own journey on Private Practice - though we wish she could’ve stayed. Although Callie Torres and Mark Sloan were introduced in season 2, both characters really came into their own this year.
Grey’s had definitely hit its stride the previous season, but that winning formula continued throughout season 3. However, certain storylines, such as the Alex/Ava relationship and the beginning of the Izzie/George romance, dragged it down just a bit.
3 Season 6
It seemed as though Grey’s may have peaked with season 2. Season 6 reminded everyone what made it so fantastic in the first place. Aside from slowly building the tension that would explode into the most harrowing television finale of all time, episodes such as “I Saw What I Saw” brought some much needed changeups to what had become a very well worn - though incredibly successful - formula.
The merger between Seattle Grace and Mercy West introduced several new characters, some of whom would be quickly forgotten. Others that would become mainstays of the series. Seriously though, no one is ever getting over that finale.
2 Season 1
The season that started it all. Grey’s was pure, unadulterated fun during its first nine episodes. It was a phenomenon that no one saw coming. The word “seriously” found new meaning in the pop culture lexicon. Plus, the show quickly reminded the world that Patrick Dempsey was still incredibly dreamy.
Viewers quickly fell for the interns of Seattle Grace. Viewers became invested in both their love lives and careers. Grey’s Anatomy altered the way that people viewed medical shows in general. Let’s also not forget about that jaw-dropping cliffhanger that changed the entire game.
1 Season 2
After said cliffhanger, it would’ve been easy for Derek’s “leggy and fabulous” wife to be a two-dimensional character. But of course, Grey’s had other ideas. The series chose to mold Addison Montgomery into one of the show’s best characters. That made the love triangle that much more compelling. This season also gave us the gut-wrenching Izzie/Denny love story.
Few moments came close to the pulse-pounding action of Bailey giving birth as her husband lay on the operating table. Or Izzie cutting Denny’s LVAD wire and waiting for Burke to save the day, unaware that he’s been shot. Oh yeah, and Meredith stuck her hand into a guy’s gut to keep a bomb from going off. This season was utterly unforgettable.