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.
Of the 187 episodes of the series, we’ve assembled the best of the best and ranked the 10 best hours of One Tree Hill.
10 The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most (S1E02)
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.
9 4 Years, 6 Months, 2 Days (S5E01)
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.
8 Pictures Of You (S4E13)
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.
7 Darkness On The Edge Of Town (S8E11)
“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.
6 All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone (S4E21)
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.
5 The Wind That Blew My Heart Away (S3E13)
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.
4 With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept (S3E16)
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.
3 Danny Boy (S9E11)
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.
2 Some You Give Away (S4E09)
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.
1 The Show Must Go On (S3E22)
Fans were excited to see Nathan and Haley fully 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.