Over the course of eight seasons, the show evolved from being about two vampire brothers in love with the same human girl to being about family and sacrifice.
Thanks to the show’s penchant for mystery, romance, and innovative stories, it has proved itself to be one the best supernatural dramas to grace our screens.
Although it was tough narrowing down the 16 favorite episodes, we managed to list the ones that exemplified what the show did best, and that’s keeping us at the edge of our seats, holding our breath, and feeling everything there is to feel, good and bad.
Here are our top 16 in chronological order.
1. “Lost Girls” (Season 1 Episode 6)
This episode is what got us hooked on The Vampire Diaries in the first place. While Stefan reveals himself as a vampire to Elena, we get our first flashbacks of the Salvatore brothers as humans. This is also the first time we meet the notorious, illustrious Katherine Pierce.
Meanwhile in present day, Damon proves his sadistic side by turning Vicky into a vampire, but not before dancing with her half-naked in the Salvatore mansion in one of the most iconic scenes ever.
2. “Bloodlines” (Season 1 Episode 11)
Damon and Elena fans will surely look back on this episode fondly, as this is arguably the breakout episode for this ship. When the two go on a road trip, Elena sees for the first time that there is more to Damon than his murdering, villainy tendencies. Downing shots and eating fries, the bickering pair genuinely bond and enjoy each other’s company.
3. “Founders Day” (Season 1 Episode 22)
“Founders Day” is a great episode from start to end, but it really is the end that solidifies this episode as one of The Vampire Diaries’ most surprising and entertaining season finales.
In the final moments, we are all fooled when Katherine makes her long-awaited arrival to Mystic Falls. She impersonates Elena, kisses Damon, and gives Uncle John one hell of a greeting as she stabs him nearly to his death.
4. “The Return” (Season 2 Episode 1)
Above all else, the show excelled at depicting heartache. In the Season 2 opener, Damon angrily snaps Jeremy’s neck after his feelings are rebuffed by Elena. Not only does this incident wound Damon and Elena’s relationship, but it is also a huge development in the core love triangle. As you may remember, this is the time Elena tearfully tells Damon, “It’s always going to be Stefan.”
Meanwhile, Katherine’s starts a cat-and-mouse game with the Salvatores and makes a game-changing move: She suffocates a sleeping Caroline while she has Damon’s blood in her system, thus beginning Caroline’s awesome vampire journey.
5. “Masquerade” (Season 2 Episode 7)
Jam-packed with action, suspense, and emotion, “Masquerade” is a classic episode. The gang executes a plan to stop Katherine once-and-for-all, but not before things get messy for Tyler, who triggers the werewolf curse at Katherine’s hands. And while the Salvatores eventually detain Katherine, the bigger threat looms out there.
Any episode where the whole cast is dressed up and together is a fun one, but this episode matched its thrill with high stakes and twists.
6. “The Sun Also Rises” (Season 2 Episode 21)
Remember when Klaus was a scary and threatening force in the The Vampire Diaries world? This is also back when death had finality.
In this one episode, we lose both Aunt Jenna and Uncle John in the most brutal, and heartbreaking ways, Bonnie steps up like the badass that she is in a confrontation with Klaus, and Damon gets a fatalistic werewolf bite that triggers an irrevocable chain-of-events. All of this with Birdy’s rendition of “Skinny Love” playing over the coda. Perfection.