In October, Supernatural will launch its 15th and final season. For those of you looking to join the #SPNFamily without watching all 307 episodes — or for anyone who wants a refresher course that will take slightly less time than a full binge — EW has rounded up the 75 essential Supernatural episodes. These are the episodes responsible for some of the show’s biggest stories, twists, turns, and memorable hours. That’s not to say they’re the 75 best hours — you can find our favorites here. But it is to say that if you watched these and only these, you’d get a good sense of what this show is, how the mythology has played out, and why so many people love it — and just in time to watch the final 20 episodes, which premiere Thursday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
“Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Whether you’ve never seen Supernatural before or you’re about to start your millionth re-watch, no binge would be complete without the episode that started it all. Written by Eric Kripke and directed by pilot-whisperer David Nutter, the first hour of the series sets up everything you need to know (or remember) about who Sam and Dean are, why they do what they do, and why we care about them so much.
“Bloody Mary” (Season 1, Episode 5)
Back in the early seasons (and especially the first one), Supernatural used to be a lot scarier in the procedural stories it told. This hour is the perfect example of the kind of classic horror that used to dominate the show, as it explored the urban legend Bloody Mary to terrifying results.
“Faith” (Season 1, Episode 12)
The first appearance of a Reaper in this episode is absolutely essential to the boys’ history, as they’ll come into contact with these harbingers of Death (with a capital D) time and time again — usually with heartbreaking consequences.
“The Benders” (Season 1, Episode 15)
Supernatural is a story about two brothers saving people and hunting things — the family business. But what happens when the things killing people are just … people? This chilling twist brilliantly subverts everything the boys previously thought they knew about the world and what goes bump in the night.
“Devil’s Trap” (Season 1, Episode 22)
You can always rely on Supernatural to deliver one hell of a finale. The introduction of fan-favorite Bobby, John’s return, heartbreaking twists, and that pulse-stopping cliffhanger make this not only one of the best episodes of this season but also one of the best Supernatural episodes of all time.
“In My Time of Dying” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Supernatural giveth and Supernatural taketh away. A beloved character’s return is made all the more heartbreaking as he’s ripped away from the boys — and us — so soon. We’ll never forgive Azazel for a lot of things, but this one hurts the most, especially since it’s the first time (but hardly the last) that we almost lose one of the boys as Dean comes this close to dying.
“Croatoan” (Season 2, Episode 9)
One of the most important arcs in Supernatural history begins in this ominous hour that tells the story of the lost colony of Roanoke through a supernatural lens. It will be a long time before answers come but this episode is essential in the story of Sam’s complicated DNA.
“Tall Tales” (Season 2, Episode 15)
When the Trickster was first introduced, his powers of reality manipulation were already impressive. But fans had no idea just how powerful he truly is. That would come three seasons later.
“Hollywood Babylon” (Season 2, Episode 18)
By this point, Supernatural has proven its horror expertise. But what about comedy? The show kicks off its beloved tradition of meta episodes as Sam and Dean take a case on a haunted film set where every note given by the producer is a critique that had been leveled at Supernatural by the network/studio for the past season and a half.
“What Is and What Should Never Be” (Season 2, Episode 20)
Out of both Winchester brothers, it’s common knowledge at this point that Sam has a different vision for his life, one that doesn’t involve living on the road and hunting. But what does Dean’s dream for a life without hunting look like? This peek into his mind offers a deeper look at his fantasy — and how much he’s willing to sacrifice.
“All Hell Breaks Loose (Part 1)” (Season 2, Episode 21)
You thought Supernatural killed it with its first season finale? Season 2 is all, “Hold my beer.” Both hours of this rare two-part finale are necessary viewing for any binge-watch. Azazel’s half-demon champions’ brutal fight to the death in the first episode ends in complete disaster. And it’s only half of the finale!
“All Hell Breaks Loose (Part 2)” (Season 2, Episode 22)
How can Supernatural go on after death rocks the boys? Easy: fans see the first (of many) rash deals to trade one life for another, thanks to a crossroads demon. The clock starts ticking: one year until hell becomes home for one of the Winchesters. Plus, the conclusion of both Yellow Eyes and John Winchester’s stories make this finale crucial to the overall history of Supernatural.
“The Magnificent Seven” (Season 3, Episode 1)
Hell literally broke loose at the end of season 2, and Supernatural’s third season kicks off with a clever case spinning out of that finale: the seven deadly sins are now roaming the Earth once more. In the premiere, the brothers have to track down the sins, which have taken the form of demons and are causing all kinds of chaos. Hanging over all of this, though, is the knowledge that Dean only has a year to live because of the deal he made. This episode also marks the introduction the demon Ruby, here played by a pre-Arrow Katie Cassidy Rodgers.
“Bad Day at Black Rock” (Season 3, Episode 3)
Sam and Dean chase after a thief named Bella (The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan), who hired some men to steal a rabbit’s foot from their father’s storage. Unfortunately, the occult object is pretty dangerous. If you have it, you’re blessed with good luck; however, if (and when) you lose it, you’ll suffer a string of bad luck that takes the form of hilarious Rube Goldbergian-like set-pieces that ultimately lead to your death. This is one of the rare instances where Supernatural fully embraces slapstick humor, which makes it stand out from the rest.
“Mystery Spot” (Season 3, Episode 11)
When Sam finds himself stuck in a time loop, he’s forced to watch his brother die over and over again. To this day, “Mystery Spot” remains one of Supernatural’s best and most inventive episodes because it uses a simple and gimmicky premise to dig into the brothers’ relationship and breaks away from Supernatural’s usual formula.
“Ghostfacers” (Season 3, Episode 13)
“Ghostfacers” is like every other “Sam and Dean investigate a haunted house” episode, except in one major way: It’s shot almost entirely like a ghost-hunting reality show. See, when Sam and Dean travel to Wisconsin to check out the home of a leap year-loving ghost, they cross paths with amateur hunters Harry Spangler (Travis Wester) and Ed Zeddmore (A. J. Buckley), who are also there filming the pilot for their new show. Thus, we get a hilarious spin on a typical case.
“No Rest for the Wicked” (Season 3, Episode 16)
The clock is starting to run out on Dean’s time on Earth. In a last-ditch effort to prevent him from going to hell, Sam and Dean go into their final confrontation with Lillith. You can probably guess what happens after that…
“Lazarus Rising” (Season 4, Episode 1)
One word: Angels. The introduction of Castiel not only changes the makeup of the series as a whole (what used to be a two-hander with just the Winchester boys is now a trio) but also alters the mythology forever. Angels are real, God exists, and He’s got work for Dean to do. This episode is an absolute game-changer.
“In the Beginning” (Season 4, Episode 3)
Time travel allows Dean to meet a young Mary and John and get crucial details on their family history with Yellow Eyes, a.k.a. the demon Azazel. It’s also the first time we realize that there’s a reason why Supernatural’s version of the biblical creatures don’t wear halos.
“Yellow Fever” (Season 4, Episode 6)
One of the most GIF-ed moments of Supernatural (and there are many, so that’s saying something) comes from this episode when Dean, infected with a ghostly sickness that escalates his fear to fatal levels, lets out an instantly iconic scream … all because of a kitten.
“I Know What You Did Last Summer” (Season 4, Episode 9)
After eight episodes of mystery surrounding what happened to Sam all those months that Dean was in Hell, we finally get the real story told via flashbacks. It helps explain why Sam trusts Ruby so much and also shows why Dean ultimately decides to trust her as well. Plus, the ominous easter egg reveal that Dean knows major demon Alistair from his time in Hell will prove important in later episodes (and Anna’s introduction will also be important, although it’s not clear why just yet).
“Heaven and Hell” (Season 4, Episode 10)
Angels and demons fighting it out makes this hour epic. But it’s really the emotional brother moment at the very end when Dean confides in Sam about his time in Hell that makes this episode truly essential viewing. It’s one of the best “Sam and Dean having a conversation on the side of the road after working a case” scenes of the entire series.
“The Monster at the End of This Book” (Season 4, Episode 18)
The introductory hour of Chuck Shurley and the Supernatural books is not only a hilarious meta episode worth watching just for the laughs, but it also holds more importance to the larger mythology of Supernatural than anyone realized (for years!). Honorable mention: While it didn’t make this essential episodes list, a good follow-up to this episode is season 5’s “The Real Ghostbusters,” as both Chuck and the Supernatural books make a glorious return in the form of a Supernatural convention — a brilliant love letter to the real-world Supernatural convention circuit that helped catapult this show to international levels of fame.
“When the Levee Breaks” (Season 4, Episode 21)
Sam’s consumption of demon blood has been a slow-burn story that finally comes to a head in the season’s penultimate hour. The impending apocalypse actually pales in comparison to the knock-down, drag-out fight between Sam and Dean that ends in absolute disaster.
“Lucifer Rising” (Season 4, Episode 22)
You’d think the apocalypse coming to fruition would be the headline here, but actually it’s who is behind it that’s truly the shocker. Turns out that Sam and Dean have been manipulated from the start, and they’ve got a much bigger part to play in the end of the world than they ever realized. It all leads up to season 5, a.k.a. creator Eric Kripke’s original idea for how the show should end.
“Sympathy for the Devil” (Season 5, Episode 1)
If the season 4 finale was all about Lucifer rising, this is the true beginning of his story on the show — as well as the introduction of Mark Pellegrino — and it’s not something you want to miss as both Lucifer and Pellegrino will be integral parts of the series moving forward.
“Good God, Y’all” (Season 5, Episode 2)
You can’t have the apocalypse without the Four Horsemen, and this episode serves as a wonderfully constructed hour that introduces one of those key players. (Hint: He loves chaos.)
“The End” (Season 5, Episode 4)
One of the series’ strongest hours gives Dean a glimpse into a potential future reality. Aside from it being a highly creative episode of the series, it also features notable performances from both Jensen Ackles — who plays opposite himself — and Jared Padalecki (in a white suit).
“Changing Channels” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Leave it to the Trickster to help create one of the show’s most memorable meta episodes in which he sends the boys to various alternate realities, all of which mirror well-known television shows. (Grey’s Anatomy, anyone?) But all fun aside, this episode also includes a crucial twist that we won’t spoil here.
“Abandon All Hope” (Season 5, Episode 10)
Welcome to an incredibly intense and highly emotional hour as Sam and Dean team up with their closest allies to try and take down Lucifer. Spoiler: Things don’t go to plan and not everyone makes it out alive.
“The Song Remains the Same” (Season 5, Episode 13)
Sam and Dean take a trip back to 1978 and come face-to-face with a young John and Mary Winchester. But more importantly, the archangel Michael makes his debut and asks to have a chat with Dean.
“Point of No Return” (Season 5, Episode 18)
The show’s 100th hour includes quite a few major plot points for the series’ overall arc, including Dean’s confrontation with Zachariah and a big decision on the part of Adam, the Winchester half-brother.
“Hammer of the Gods” (Season 5, Episode 19)
An all-around great episode introduces a number of different gods and ends with a brother-on-brother showdown between Lucifer and Gabriel.
“Two Minutes to Midnight” (Season 5, Episode 21)
There’s a lot to love in this episode, but nothing tops one of the greatest entrances in the show’s history: Everyone, meet Death.
“Swan Song” (Season 5, Episode 22)
Eric Kripke’s final episode as showrunner — and the end of his supposed five-year plan — sees Michael and Lucifer go toe-to-toe in the series’ finest hour … thus far.
“Weekend at Bobby’s” (Season 6, Episode 4)
Ackles makes his directorial debut on Supernatural with this episode, which answers a question you probably had at the back of your mind: What does Bobby do when he’s not aiding the boys? Well, it turns out he conducts research for his own problems, works with other hunters around the country, and handles whatever goes bump in the night in his neck of the woods. Jim Beaver has long been an asset to the show as Bobby and he makes the most of his spotlight hour.
“The French Mistake” (Season 6, Episode 15)
Odds are if someone has tried to convince you to watch this show, they’ve mentioned this bold and delightfully meta episode. In order to protect the boys from a band of angels trying to kill them, the angel Balthazar shatters the fourth wall and sends them to an alternate reality where they’re actually actors named Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles who play Sam and Dean Winchester on a show called Supernatural. Confused? Very few live-action shows would ever attempt something as daring and experimental as this, and that’s why fans love this episode oh so much.
“The Man Who Would Be King” (Season 6, Episode 20)
Told entirely from Castiel’s perspective, the sad antepenultimate episode of the season reveals exactly what our favorite angel has been up to all season — from his role in Sam’s resurrection to the genesis of Heaven’s civil war, and his uneasy partnership with Crowley — and puts a strain on his relationship with Dean.
“The Man Who Knew Too Much” (Season 6, Episode 22)
Heaven’s civil war comes to a dramatic conclusion in the season 6 finale, which also sees the Winchester brothers face off with Castiel, and Sam confront everything he did while soulless. You hate to see it, but you love it — especially because the episode opens a door to the hitherto unseen Purgatory, which has drastic consequences going forward.
“Death’s Door” (Season 7, Episode 10)
There aren’t many season 7 episodes that we consider a “must,” but for Bobby fans, this most certainly fits the mold. And that’s all we can say about that.
“The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” (Season 7, Episode 20)
All you need to know about this episode is that it’s important because it introduces Charlie, and Charlie is VERY important.
“Survival of the Fittest” (Season 7, Episode 23)
The season 7 finale puts an end to the Leviathan story and launches the show — as well as Dean and Castiel — in an entirely new direction.
“We Need to Talk About Kevin” (Season 8, Episode 1)
Dean’s shocking friendship with a new character after his time in Purgatory adds a complex layer to his philosophy on trusting “monsters” (something that he’d always been strictly black-and-white on before). This premiere is also incredibly important in establishing one of the few unforgivable acts in Sam and Dean’s relationship and delivering one of the most heartbreaking moments of the series.
“Trial and Error” (Season 8, Episode 14)
A lot of season 8 is filler, but what’s most important boils down to the mission to close the gates of Hell, locking in all demons before they can do the same to Heaven and angels. Thanks to prophet Kevin translating the instructions for the three trials to close the gates, Sam and Dean must complete the first trial: killing a Hellhound. Get ready to see the most amazing pair of glasses on the Winchesters along with one of the coolest action scenes yet on the show.
“Sacrifice” (Season 8, Episode 23)
It’s an understatement to say that Supernatural knows how to craft a brilliant finale. But nothing tops the final image of season 8. It’s both figuratively and literally beautiful as the brothers again choose each other over the greater good, again with disastrous consequences. Bonus: Crowley’s impassioned speech when Sam almost cures him of being a demon is one of the character’s best moments.
“I Think I’m Going to Like It Here” (Season 9, Episode 1)
With Sam literally on Death’s door, Dean makes a risky deal to save his brother’s life yet again, because there’s nothing these boys won’t do for each other. Meanwhile, Castiel adjusts to life as a human, which isn’t as easy as it seems.
“Holy Terror” (Season 9, Episode 9)
One of Sam and Dean’s allies perishes at the hands of Ezekiel, who turns out not to be who he says he is.
“First Born” (Season 9, Episode 11)
Meet Cain (Timothy Omundson), you know, of Cain and Abel. Dean crosses paths with history’s first murderer when he and Crowley go searching for the one weapon to kill Abaddon, a Knight of Hell. Unfortunately, the weapon they need, the First Blade, can only be used if Dean agrees to take the Mark of Cain, which comes with dire consequences that affect the show for multiple seasons to come.
“Do You Believe in Miracles” (Season 9, Episode 23)
Sam and Dean Winchester hunt demons. That’s their thing. Unfortunately, in their climactic fight against Metatron, who’s trying become the new God, one of them becomes the very thing they hate, pushing the show into uncharted territory.
“Soul Survivor” (Season 10, Episode 3)
Demon Dean doesn’t last long, and it’s the final hour that deserves attention as he comes face-to-face with Sam for the brutal, chill-inducing confrontation in the Men of Letters bunker. And keep your eye on that red-haired woman in the final scene as she will ultimately become an important character in the Supernatural universe.
“Fan Fiction” (Season 10, Episode 5)
The monumental 200th episode is another whimsical foray into meta storytelling as the boys encounter a high school production based on Chuck Shurley’s books (which are based on their lives). There are so many incredible easter eggs in this hour along with hilarious and touching musical tributes to the show. It’s a standalone episode but still delivers a game-changing shock in the final moment, as Supernatural seems to confirm a long-believed rumor with a cameo that no one saw coming.
“The Executioner’s Song” (Season 10, Episode 14)
A season and a half has led to this moment: Dean and Cain’s final battle. It’s also a major turning point for Crowley, who has become “the Winchesters’ lap dog,” according to his mother Rowena and is no longer fit to be the King of Hell after Dean successfully manipulates him.
“Dark Dynasty” (Season 10, Episode 21)
It may not be enjoyable, but this episode contains one of the biggest (and most hated among fans) deaths in Supernatural history.
“The Prisoner” (Season 10, Episode 22)
There are so many reasons why this is essential viewing: it’s the aftermath of an important character’s death. It features the culmination of Crowley and Rowena’s toxic mother/son relationship. And it sees Dean nearly kill someone close to him as he gives in to the darkness of the Mark of Cain.
“Brother’s Keeper” (Season 10, Episode 23)
This finale has everything. Another epic season-ending image, another heart wrenching brother-bonding moment as they choose each other over the fate of the world, and another shocking piece of mythology subverted. The shocks just keep on coming.
“Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire” (Season 11, Episode 1)
The season 11 premiere introduces a new, very powerful face into the mix: Amara, who will come to play a major role in the season (and potentially more).
“Baby” (Season 11, Episode 4)
Eleven seasons in and the show delivers one of its best hours with this episode, which is told entirely from the perspective of the boys’ 1967 Chevrolet Impala.
“Don’t Call Me Shirley” (Season 11, Episode 20)
Chuck is back and he’s … writing an autobiography? After years of speculation, this episode provides multiple answers surrounding Chuck’s identity and what he’s been up to.
“All in the Family” (Season 11, Episode 21)
Amara goes head-to-head with Lucifer in this episode, but here’s the twist: Lucifer is now in Castiel’s vessel. In other words, meet Cassifer.
“We Happy Few” (Season 11, Episode 22)
It’s the brother-sister showdown we’ve been waiting for as Chuck finally tells Amara why he locked her away all those years ago.
“Alpha and Omega” (Season 11, Episode 23)
The conclusion of the Chuck-Amara storyline isn’t the show’s strongest finale, but it does include crucial information for future seasons. Plus, there’s a very surprising return that will change everything for Sam and Dean.
“Keep Calm and Carry On” (Season 12, Episode 1)
The season 12 premiere is all about a major character return and the introduction of this season’s villains, the British Men of Letters.
“Stuck in the Middle (With You)” (Season 12, Episode 12)
Another creative hour, this episode tells a monster-of-the-week story Reservoir Dogs-style.
“All Along the Watchtower” (Season 12, Episode 23)
In terms of the show’s mythology, this episode cannot be missed as it involves the introduction of the Apocalypse World — where Sam and Dean were never born — a major character death (or two), and the birth of a Nephilim.
“Lost and Found” (Season 13, Episode 1)
Lucifer’s son Jack was born in the season 12 finale but instantly became a teenager. It’s not until the season 13 premiere, however, that fans get to see him for the first time with the reveal that while his body aged, his mind did not. That makes his limitless power even more dangerous, as he’s basically a baby with no knowledge of the world or his place in it. Thankfully he’s got Sam, Dean, and Castiel as his surrogate fathers — talk about an upgrade from Lucifer.
“The Big Empty” (Season 13, Episode 4)
After 13 years, there’s not much supernatural real estate that this series hasn’t tackled. But it’s not until this episode that the show attempts to explain what happens to angels and demons after they’re killed through the lens of deceased killed Castiel — after Jack unknowingly uses his powers to wake him up. Meet: The Big Empty.
“Advanced Thanatology” (Season 13, Episode 5)
Castiel’s return in this episode is big, but it’s actually Billie’s level up from Reaper to Death that makes this hour essential viewing. Plus, Dean’s willingness to literally kill himself shows just how dire things have gotten for him after many, many years of losing.
“Scoobynatural” (Season 13, Episode 16)
This epic animated crossover with Scooby-Doo deserves to be watched over and over … and over … and over …
“Unfinished Business” (Season 13, Episode 20)
Never trust a Trickster. If there’s one lesson that Supernatural’s Gabriel has taught over the years, it’s that one. But Sam and Dean constantly have to relearn it every time Gabriel comes back into play, and this time, they learn the true story about his history, his “death,” and his identity. This episode is the perfect companion to season 5’s “Hammer of the Gods.”
“Beat the Devil” (Season 13, Episode 21)
Years and countless death scenes still don’t make watching a Winchester die any easier. And this episode’s bloody, violent, and sudden death scene ranks as one of the most brutal ways a Winchester has died yet. Supernatural went full gore for this one, earning its legacy as an essential episode.
“Let the Good Times Roll” (Season 13, Episode 23)
It took seven seasons but this finale finally delivers payoff for an idea first introduced back in season 4 … with horrible consequences. This episode proves that Supernatural isn’t above playing the long game with Chekhov’s gun.
“Nihilism” (Season 14, Episode 10)
Come for the very metal episode name, stay to watch Ackles’ best performance as Michael-possessing-Dean.
“Lebanon” (Season 14, Episode 13)
It’s the reunion you’ve been waiting for: Jeffrey Dean Morgan returns as John Winchester in Supernatural’s 300th episode. Watching Sam, Dean, John, and Mary share a meal together after all these years will definitely leave you in need of some tissues.
“Absence” (Season 14, Episode 18)
Supernatural pays tribute to another one of its fallen hunters as Jack spins further out of control and becomes even more estranged from the Winchesters.
“Moriah” (Season 14, Episode 20)
God is back in the house! The question of “how much God actually cares about his creations” has hung over the show since angels and the apocalypse were first introduced in season 4. Now, the show has finally decided to answer that question and deliver one hell of a twist as Sam and Dean race to stop Jack.