Starting in 1996, Buffy the Vampire Slayer ruled the airwaves for years and became a pop culture phenomenon. Known for its catchy mix of humor and horror, it also firmly established that a female action hero had a place in the television landscape. It gave us some of the best dialogue and action sequences audiences had ever seen in a one-hour drama, so much so that the show was studied in various academic establishments worldwide and classes are still taught about it to this very day.
While most fans believe Buffy to be a feminist parable that is simultaneously inclusive, one thing is for sure; the show was always honest about life. Life in Sunnydale was never depicted as easy; winning battles usually came with a price and the good guys didn't always win, but it also taught us that it's with the support of friends and family that we get through the tough times. Way before the age of social media, fans of the show had to wait for the next episode to air and were genuinely surprised by events that would've otherwise been spoiled today. Ironically, a show about supernatural creatures dealt with some serious issues like death, break ups and tragedy with genuine, life-like accuracy.
15 ANGEL DANCES WITH BUFFY AT THE PROM
Angel and Buffy are like the Ross and Rachel of the supernatural world. While a vampire in love with a slayer is rather poetic (see what we did there), their relationship was far from drama-free. Angel lost his soul and started killing off Buffy's friends after they slept together. She killed him after his soul was restored in order to save the world. In season three, we saw the strain on their relationship reach it's breaking point with Angel breaking up with Buffy so she can have a better life.
The breakup happens just before the high school's prom, but after crying on Willow's shoulder and exorcising some demons (literally and figuratively), Buffy understands the decision. Fans didn't think the episode couldn't get anymore emotional after Buffy is awarded her "Class Protector" award, but then walked in Angel wearing a tuxedo ready to give her one perfect high school moment.
14 WILLOW WORKS THROUGH HER SURVIVOR'S GUILT
Tara Maclay's death at the end of season six was one of the most shocking events in Buffy history, so it was natural for Willow to be hesitant to start a new relationship. So when Kennedy came on the scene as Willow's new love interest, fans were not pleased since only a few months had passed since Tara's death.
However, Kennedy eventually became a little bit more tolerable by softening her edge around Willow.
In the episode "The Killer in Me," we learn that the First has enlisted Amy Madison in its efforts to sabotage the Scooby Gang's plan to save the world. Amy casts a hex that makes Willow take on the appearance of the man who killed Tara, Warren Mears. It's only after Willow breaks down and admits her guilt over Tara's death that she is truly able to move on and begin a relationship with Kennedy.
13 GILES FINDS JENNY
The terror that Angelus inflicted on her friends throughout the course of season two culminated in the death of Jenny Calendar, Giles's love interest. Jenny was a part of the team, even if she hit a minor setback in trying to separate Buffy and Angel. She worked hard to make up for the betrayal, eventually deciphering the spell to restore Angel's soul, unfortunately Angelus would kill her before she could tell anyone.
Not only did Angelus kill Jenny, he placed her dead body in Giles's bed. When Giles enters his apartment, he believes Jenny has set the scene for a romantic evening, but as he walks up the stairs to his bedroom, he soon sees the horror that awaits him. The tears continue through Giles calling Buffy and Willow with news of Jenny's death, as well as Buffy and Giles breaking down at the end of the episode.
12 FAITH LENDS BUFFY HER STRENGTH
In season three, we're introduced to another slayer, Faith, who was called after Buffy briefly drowned at the end of the first season. Faith is sassy, aggressive and carefree; the exact opposite of Buffy. Soon, their methods create a rift between the two that is solidified after Faith accidentally kills a human bystander.
Faith fully embraces her dark side as she turns her back on Buffy and her friends in order to work for the evil Mayor Wilkins.
In the season finale, following a knock-down-drag-out fight between Buffy and Faith, Buffy forces Angel to drink from her in order to save his life. Angel drinks too much and ends up in the hospital next to a comatose Faith. In a shared slayer dream, we see a remorseful Faith give Buffy the key to defeating Wilkins and what strength she has left in order to help wake Buffy up.
11 BUFFY DOESN'T WANT TO DIE
Like many television shows, Buffy's first season contained episodes that were hit and miss while the show found its footing. You can definitely tell everything was coming together by the later part of the season, with the looming rise of the Master and Buffy contemplating a relationship with vampire-with-a-soul Angel. It's in the series finale that we really get to see the entire cast shine and have the show come together so perfectly.
Giles and Angel discover there's an ancient prophecy that states the slayer will die when she faces the master. Buffy overhears their conversation in the school library and proceeds to let emotions get the best of her. She argues with Giles over the validity of the prophecy, touches on denial by saying she'll quit slaying and finally tearful acceptance. Sarah Michelle Gellar's perfectly delivered, "Giles, I'm 16 years old. I don't wanna die," gets us every time.
10 WILLOW AND OZ BREAK UP
Willow Rosenberg has come a long way, in fact she is probably the character who's had the most development over the course of the series' eight years. She started out as a shy, computer nerd and gradually grew into a self-assured, powerful witch. We know that part of that growth is due in part to Willow starting a relationship with fellow student and musician, Oz, about midway through season two.
Oz would eventually become a werewolf, which wasn't such a big deal until a female werewolf, Veruca, came on the scene.
Oz is unable to control his animalistic urges, and cheats on Willow in his werewolf form with Veruca. Ashamed and desperate for a way to control the beast within, Oz leaves Sunnydale and a heartbroken Willow behind. If Willow cries, we all cry.
9 THE SCOOBY GANG STANDS UP FOR TARA
Amber Benson joined the cast in the recurring role of Tara Maclay as a member of Willow's on-campus Wicca group at UC Sunnydale. It isn't until a few episodes later that the audience seems something more than a friendship brewing between them. However, something seemed a bit off, as Tara would sometime purposefully sabotage spells she and Willow were performing, leaving us to wonder whether she was truly good or devilishly evil.
The answer would come when Tara's blood family arrives in Sunnydale for a visit that quickly turns into a plot to take Tara back home with them against her will. Although the Scooby Gang hadn't known Tara that long, Willow's affection for her is enough that they all stand up for Tara to stay with them. The episode is topped off by a touching and levitating dance between Tara and Willow at Tara's birthday party.
8 XANDER LEAVES ANYA AT THE ALTAR
Love isn't easy on the Hellmouth. The relationship between Anya and Xander started out awkward, since she was still adjusting to being a mortal again "with all these feelings" and Xander feeling like he was out of his league dealing with her. However, these two love birds make it, with Xander proposing to Anya at the end of season five.
We see both Anya and Xander experience their own versions of cold feet as their wedding day approaches.
The final nail in the coffin comes when a demon who had been cursed by Anya years ago pretends to be Xander from the future on their wedding day. The demon shows Xander a world where he and Anya are angry and bitter. It may have been a lie, but given his family's track record, Xander is unable to go through with the wedding.
7 BUFFY REVEALS SHE WAS IN HEAVEN
At the end of season five, we saw Buffy sacrifice herself to save the world by jumping into an energy-sucking portal instead of her sister, Dawn. With the lead character dead and the WB not renewing the show, the future of the series was up in the air. Fledgling network UPN swooped in and bought the rights to the show, renewing it for season six.
Writers had to think of a way to bring back Buffy, which involved Willow and the rest of the gang casting a spell to bring her back. While Willow's spell worked, something was wrong with the newly resurrected Buffy. It isn't until the third episode where Buffy's issue is revealed (ironically, to Spike first). She felt like she was in Heaven after she died and holds onto that secret until she reveals it to the rest of the gang during the musical episode.
6 XANDER SAVES WILLOW (AND THE WORLD)
Few characters on the show have as much of a connection as Xander and Willow. Childhood friends, they also become friends with Buffy at the same time, both becoming part of the supernatural world. Willow had believed she was in love with Xander and pined for him while he made moves on Buffy and Cordelia.
The two would remain close, however, with Willow serving as "Best Man" at Xander and Anya's debunked wedding.
Following the murder of her girlfriend Tara, Willow spiraled into darkness wishing nothing more than have revenge on the person who killed her. In the season six finale, Dark Willow is trying to raise a deity to help end the world and its pain, but it's Xander who saves the day by reminding Willow of her humanity, forcing her to finally acknowledge her own pain and grief over Tara's death.
5 BUFFY AND DAWN FIGHT OVER RESURRECTING JOYCE
Joyce's death of natural causes is probably one of the most defining moments of the series. Her death was tragic and sudden, but the Scooby Gang was there for Buffy and Dawn when they needed it. Even Angel showed up the evening of Joyce's funeral to support Buffy. However, the strain already on Buffy and Dawn's relationship came to head after Dawn attempts to resurrect Joyce.
After finding out what Dawn is plotting, Buffy at first chastises Dawn for her actions. Dawn, in turn, accuses Buffy of not caring, that she just sees it as another burden. This comment leads to the slap heard around the world as Buffy did what many viewers had wanted to do to Dawn since she first appeared. What follows is Buffy's tearful confession that she is trying to stay busy because when she stops having anything to do, she remembers her mother is dead.
4 DEATH IS HER GIFT
Season five abruptly introduces us to Buffy's previously unknown sister, Dawn. It takes a few episodes to get an explanation as to why all the characters on the show acted like it was normal for this new character to be without any backstory.
Turns out Dawn is an inter-dimensional key of energy made into human form for Buffy to protect from the hell god, Glory.
Towards the end of the season, we find out that Glory plans to drain Dawn's blood in order to break down the barriers between dimensions so that she can return home (destroying the world in the process). Buffy figures out that the monks who made Dawn used part of Buffy to do so. After an epic fight with Glory, Buffy leaps to her death to save Dawn, her friends and the rest of the world. Her final words being "Be Brave. Live. For me."
3 WILLOW CRADLES TARA
Season six was meant to be so horribly depressing that viewers would get that life itself is the Big Bad of the season. Buffy begins an abusive relationship with Spike, Xander leaves Anya at the altar and Giles goes back to England. The only good thing that happened was Willow finally getting her addiction to magic under control and reuniting with Tara in the episode "Entropy."
Unfortunately, it is a short-lived reunion, as Tara is shot dead by a stray bullet in the very next episode. Tara is shot right in front of Willow, her blood spattering across Willow's white blouse. Tara collapses, Willow rushes to her side and cradles her dead lover, begging her to come back. Willow would call upon Osiris again to help revive Tara, and it's his refusal that starts Willow down her dark path of revenge.
2 BUFFY KILLS ANGEL TO SAVE THE WORLD
In season two, we learn that Angel's curse to restore his soul is broken by his one moment of true happiness with Buffy. This leads to a period in Buffy's life where Angel starts tormenting and killing off her friends. It's only after Willow and Buffy find Jenny's translated ritual of restoration spell that they attempt to devise a plan to get back.
Buffy faces off with Angelus who is trying to wake the entombed demon Acathla in order to destroy the world while Willow attempts the powerful spell.
Just as Buffy is about to strike Angelus down, Willow's spell works, restoring Angel's soul. However, it's too late as the portal to suck the world into hell is already open. Knowing what she has to do, Buffy kisses Angel one more time and then plunges a sword through his chest, sending him through the portal and closing it.
1 ANYA DOESN'T UNDERSTAND
There's no question that season five's episode "The Body" is one of the finest hours in television history. Exquisitely shot and painfully realistic, Buffy and her friends deal with the immediate aftermath of Joyce's death. Buffy is in shock, Xander is angry and Willow can't stop crying. As the newest members of the Scooby Gang, Tara and Anya mainly hang back and offer support where they can.
After arriving at Willow and Tara's dorm room with Xander, a confused Anya wonders if they're going to be in the same room as the dead body. Her line of questioning upsets Willow, who lashes out at her with Anya finally admitting she doesn't know how people mourn. At the end of the monologue, she gives voice to the fact that Joyce will no longer be alive to have fruit punch, eggs or brush her hair or yawn. Cue the tears.