Airing from 2003 to 2012 across both The WB and The CW, the teen soap One Tree Hill was a series that defined a generation of teenage television fans. Sure, it might not have had the best writing of any series ever, and it may have been filled with characters who were objectively terrible people most of the time, and then there's the whole matter of the scandals that went on behind the scenes. But with all of that aside, One Tree Hill still stands the test of time as one of the most beloved teen dramas of our generation.
One Tree Hill followed a group of friends from high school to adulthood, and also spent a fair amount of time on the adults in these teenagers' lives, too. With its core group of characters remaining mostly unchanged for at least two-thirds of the series, One Tree Hill was able to richly develop some friendships. But with a significant changing of the cast guard in its final three seasons, the series struggled to form friendships worth ever caring about. Here, we take a look at the best and worst friendships the series introduced.
10 Best: Deb and Karen
It couldn't have been easy for women like Deb Scott and Karen Roe to become friends, given the dark history that lingered between them and the pure evil that stood in their way in the form of Dan Scott. But despite Dan's many attempts at interfering, and the years of bad blood that had built up throughout their children's formative years, Deb and Karen managed to form a meaningful friendship in the series' earliest seasons.
They worked together on both Karen's Cafe and Tree Hill's night club, Tric, proving time and again that they were amazing business partners, in addition to close friends and confidantes. But over time, their friendship would sadly devolve, following Dan's murder of his brother, Keith, and Deb's subsequent spiral into depression and addiction.
9 Worst: Brooke and Rachel
One Tree Hill got a lot of things right about the teenage experience, even if it took some of those things to really dramatic heights. But what it definitely never, ever understood was friendship between teenage girls. Take, for example, the joke of a friendship that was the one between resident bad girls Rachel Gatina and Brooke Davis.
These two were meant to be considered friends, yet they spent the majority of their time exchanging insults, stealing each other's boys, and engaging in heated arguments. Brooke helped Rachel out financially as they got older, but Rachel was always too self-serving to respond in any meaningful way to the offers of friendship and support. Ultimately, their friendship, too, fell apart in the wake of Rachel's own addiction storyline. But unlike with Deb and Karen's bond, there was nothing to really miss when these two stopped sharing scenes.
8 Best: Skills and Mouth
For the majority of its run, One Tree Hill may have focused on its core group of five characters. But some of the series' real stars existed on the periphery, in the form of supporting standouts like Antwon "Skills" Taylor and Marvin "Mouth" McFadden. As members of the longtime loyal Rivercourt crew, Skills and Mouth were able to stand the test of time as quite possibly the series' longest lasting friendship.
They survived the heartbreak of fellow friend Jimmy's school shooting and suicide, countless career changes and breakups, a needless love triangle the series forced at the last minute in its final seasons, and so very much more. Through thick and thin, these best friends were always there for each other. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
7 Worst: Alex and Quinn
As we've already mentioned, One Tree Hill was really forced to scramble to find new, interesting characters starting with its seventh season, after the unceremonious departure of main characters Lucas and Peyton at the end of season six. Enter two of the series' blandest characters - Haley's sister, Quinn James, and yet another cliche bad girl, Alex Dupre.
Quinn was clearly meant, at first, to be an artsy replacement for brooding artist Peyton, while Alex was yet another sad carbon copy of Brooke's one note characterization. At some point, the show decided these two characters - who had never so much as shown any interest in each other before - needed to be best friends, because logic. None of their scenes work, or are worth paying any remote amount of attention to - not least of all because they usually involve childish and downright stupid adventures.
6 Best: Peyton and Haley
We've already discussed how One Tree Hill really struggled with its understanding of the friendships formed between teenage girls. So maybe that's why arguably the best female friendship in the series is one that really flourished in the series' adult seasons, even though the duo had shared a handful of scenes throughout their high school years.
Kindred artistic spirits Peyton Sawyer and Haley James Scott have quite possibly the most in common out of any of the series' main characters. They bonded through their love of art, their love of music, and their love for all things Scott boys. They were always open and honest with each other, occasionally unflinchingly so, and could always count on each other at the end of the day to be a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold. They founded Red Bedroom Records together, and if Peyton had stuck around, we know that these two would have continued to be the strongest friendship the series ever had.
5 Worst: Clay and Nathan
So far, we've introduced you to two of the series' bland replacement characters that were introduced in the series starting with its seventh season. But arguably the blandest of them all was the character of Clay Evans, Nathan's agent and somehow best friend, who was clearly only introduced to fill the Lucas-shaped hole in the series after Chad Michael Murray's departure.
It was downright unfathomable, really, to imagine that Clay and Nathan would ever be friends. The Nathan of the later years of One Tree Hill was a mature, respectable, intelligent adult. Clay was never any of those things. The series' eventual addition of fellow unbearably dull character Julian Baker to this friendship mix just further revealed how incompatible these two were, since Nathan often seemed like he was forced to parent the two other men.
4 Best: Lucas and Nathan
No friendship that Nathan could have in the series' later years could ever possibly compare to the incredibly deep and meaningful friendship he formed with his half-brother, Lucas. When the series first began, these two couldn't have hated each other any more strongly than they so clearly did. But soon enough, they began to open their eyes to the truth of their shared father's many evils, and began to grow closer as a result of their time together on the Ravens basketball team and Nathan's budding relationship with Haley.
By the series' second season, these two were basically the best of friends. They would become each other's support systems both on and off the court, serving as the best men at each other's weddings and their sounding boards in times of struggle and success both. They were best friends, brothers, and teammates, becoming the family they both deserved but had always been denied the privilege of having.
3 Worst: Brooke and Haley
Nothing says meaningful, organic, naturally written friendship quite like a friendship that only exists because it would be uncomfortable for two main characters to hate each other forever. The friendship between Brooke Davis and Haley James Scott just might be the most farcical writing choice the series ever made - and given the list of ridiculous things One Tree Hill got away with, that's really saying something.
When they first met in the first season, Brooke couldn't be bothered to learn Haley's name, and routinely treated her like dirt. This behavior continued for years on end, with Brooke shaming Haley for her interests and belief system. But time and again, it was portrayed as Brooke's quirky kind of friendship, and Haley was forced to endure it all. The truest insult of them all came in the series' eighth season, when Haley said in her maid of honor speech at Brooke's wedding that she had always wanted to be popular, and always wanted to be just like Brooke. Years upon years of thoughtful characterization quite pointedly say otherwise.
2 Best: Lucas and Haley
No other friendship could possibly top this list. When One Tree Hill first began, the friendship between Lucas and Haley was one of its most winning aspects. It was basically unheard of for a teen drama series to allow a boy and a girl to be just friends, and never, ever compromise that relationship for the sake of romantic drama or shock value.
These two were almost always more like brother and sister than just best friends, and the show reveled in that, allowing them to bond over books and music and broken hearts and shared loves alike. Whenever something was wrong in their lives, they were their for each other. Whenever something went well, they were right there to celebrate, too. After Lucas's departure at the end of the sixth season, there was a major hole in the series where their friendship once resided - which made Chad Michael Murray's brief return during the ninth season, and the episode focusing on their friendship, all the more meaningful, no matter how brief.
1 Worst: Brooke and Peyton
If you haven't gotten the memo by now, we'll come right out and say it for you: Brooke Davis is kind of a terrible friend - legendarily one of the worst, even. From day one, her friendship with Peyton Sawyer is a head scratcher. They have absolutely nothing in common, other than Brooke's repeated need to go after boys that Peyton has explicitly expressed her interest in.
These two spend more of the series at odds with one another than they do actually being friends, and yet the series expects us to believe they're totally BFF goals. Given the sheer number of outright disgusting and offensive insults that Brooke hurls at Peyton, even in Peyton's most vulnerable moments, we're more than inclined to disagree. Brooke is nothing but a selfish, judgmental, terrible friend to Peyton all throughout the series. Peyton deserved better - and so did we.