The best of Dawson's Creek
After reviewing all 128 episodes of Dawson’s Creek, we’ve managed to come up with the 12 best installments (though, admittedly, we counted two sets of double-episodes as one. You’ll forgive us, right?). Click through to see if you agree, and make sure to check out PeopleTV’s entire Dawson’s Creek reunion special here.
"Pilot" (Season 1, episode 1)
Pilots are always tough: They have to introduce a bunch of characters and make an audience fall in love with them, they have to set up enough story to make you want to keep tuning in, and they have to have enough of their own beginning, middle, and end to land as a piece of the story rather than just a flood of information. The debut of Dawson’s Creek managed to do all of that. Three minutes in and it was clear that Joey was going to be everyone’s new TV BFF (and Katie Holmes Hollywood’s latest “It” girl), and rooting for her to get together with Dawson was going to be our new favorite pastime.
"Beauty Contest" (Season 1, episode 12)
Capeside’s annual Miss Windjammer beauty pageant drew a pair of unlikely contestants: tomboy Joey and actual boy Pacey. While the latter’s entry was something of a joke (though some of the issues his presence brought up were exactly the opposite), it was Joey singing “On My Own” from Les Miserables, a song about a woman pining for an unrequited love, that forced Dawson to see her as if for the first time (and us to cry our faces off).
"Sex, She Wrote" (Season 2, episode 11)
Episode 10 of season 2concludes with the possibility of three couples having sex for the first time — Joey and Jack, Dawson and Jen, and Pacey and Andie — and this one kicks off with pot-stirrer Abby Morgan finding a hand-written note about the evening. After Abby sends all six characters into a whodunit tailspin, it’s revealed that Pacey wrote the note to Andie about taking a step back because sex changes everything. Ultimately, though, this episode makes this list for a pair of iconic scenes in its final moments: when Pacey tells Andie he’s falling in love with her (and that he got an A!) and when Joey and Dawson, both relieved the other hasn’t yet lost their virginity, leave the school in the rain as Joey says, “I like the way you see me.”
"To Be or Not to Be..."/"...That Is the Question" (Season 2, episodes 14 and 15)
When Jack reads a deeply personal poem in class, the rumor mill kicks into overdrive translating it to mean that he’s gay. Though he denies it at first, Jack opens up about his sexuality after his nasty, homophobic father says awful thing after awful thing. The pair of episodes also features the world’s worst English teacher, who totally deserves it when Pacey spits in his face, and a killer monologue from Grams about “love and tolerance.”
"The Longest Day" (Season 3, episode 20)
The Roshomon-style episode shows the reactions to Pacey and Joey’s blossoming romance from the perspective of each of the four main characters. It was a risk format-wise but worked to show just how much the new coupling would change things forever. In the last act, we pick up after Dawson sees Joey and Pacey, only for them to find out he already knew about them. And Dawson’s devastation and anger ultimately make fans wait just a little bit longer for Joey and Pacey to get together officially.
"Anti-Prom" (Season 3, episode 22)
The gang throws an “Anti-Prom” at Leery’s Fresh Fish after their classmates won’t sell Jack a ticket to take a boy as his date. Dawson hopes to rekindle his relationship with his date Joey, who’s supposedly chosen her friendship with him over her budding romance with Pacey. But when Joey and Pacey dance together, it’s clear there’s still a boatload (see what I did there?) of chemistry between them.
"True Love" (Season 3, episode 23)
The season finale capped off an excellent run of episodes with a closer that was all about grand gestures for love. There was Jen seeking out Henry on his way to football camp to tell him, in front of his whole team, that she wanted to be with him. There was the milestone scene where Jack kissed Ethan in what was primetime television’s first gay male kiss. But most memorable moment of the episode is when Joey finally chooses to be with Pacey (does it get more romantic than the Ask Me to Stay wall?). An lest we forget, the episode also spawned the greatest crying meme of all time after Joey ditched Dawson to go get her guy.
"A Winter's Tale" (Season 4, episode 14)
As Dawson must decide whether or not to take Mr. Brooks of life support, his friends are off on their senior ski trip, where Jack and Jen find comfort in each other during a drunk and lonely night, and Pacey and Joey have sex for the first time in a scene that’s romantic and sweet and a callback to that epic “Stolen Kisses” kiss.
"Coda" (Season 4, episode 23)
As the high school chapter of the series comes to a close, the episode opens where it all began, in Dawson’s bedroom, but this time he and Joey are watching the horror movie they made in season 1. Although the episode comes on the heels of Joey and Pacey’s earlier, devastating, breakup, there’s an element of closure between the show’s other core relationship: Pacey and Dawson. Pacey, who takes off for the Caribbean, says his goodbyes on the phone to Dawson, who is finally able to say, “I’m proud of you.” But the most pivotal moment comes during the finale’s closing moments with Joey and Dawson finding themselves back in his bedroom, watching ET just like they did in the pilot, and then sharing a goodbye kiss with their song, “Daydream Believer,” playing in the background.
"The Long Goodbye" (Season 5, episode 4)
The tragic episode opens with the shocking reveal that Mitch Leery has died. (PSA: Never drive and eat ice cream!) Throughout the hour, each character experiences their own flashback memory of Mitch, and we watch Dawson try to grieve while believing he’s responsible for his dad’s death, which happened the night he and his dad were arguing over him dropping out of USC. It also features a standout performance from Mary-Margaret Humes as Gail Leery.
"Castaways" (Season 6, episode 15)
Joey and Pacey are locked in a store all night and came thisclose to rekindling their relationship after a fleeting kiss, reminding us why we love them together so much. (Plus, Joey did everyone the favor of shaving off Pacey’s horrific goatee.)
"All Good Things..."/"...Must Come to an End" (Season 6, episodes 23 and 24)
The near-perfect two-part series finale brought us five years into the future, reuniting Dawson, Jen, Joey, Jack, and Pacey in Capeside for Gail’s wedding. While heartbreaking to watch Jen die (try not to be destroyed by her video for daughter Amy set to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel”), the tragic event leads Joey to make her final decision. Joey and Pacey get their happy ever after together, but so does Dawson, who reveals in the final moments of the series that he’s about to meet his forever idol, Steven Spielberg.