Television constantly provides us with moments that keep us on the edge of our seats, desperately waiting for the next episode, and scenes we just can’t stop thinking about. It’s time to relive the best scenes in television history that had fans quickly hitting the pause button, and scrambling to rewind and watch again. But show fans, be forewarned: there’s spoilers galore up ahead!
1. Friends: “The One With the Proposal” – Season 6 Episode 24
Few shows have the ability to retain a mass following decades after the last episode the way Friends does. With its quirky characters and quotable moments, the hilarious sitcom fast became a fan favorite. While audiences adored the romantic story arcs between the ensemble cast, one relationship stood out: Monica and Chandler. Their touching proposal scene had fans hitting pause to take in the perfectly-scripted moment.
Audiences were shocked when Chandler walks through the door to find Monica waiting in a dark room, filled with candles. When Monica begins to propose, Chandler interrupts and proposes to her. The audience shrieks and whistles with delight as the emotional actors embrace. The scene, artfully lit by the warm glow of candles, was a rare intimate moment on the otherwise light and funny show.
2. Buffy: “The Body” – Season 5 Episode 16
Before the Twilight saga gripped the fantasy-fandom world, there was another teen dealing with vampires while making sure she got to homeroom on time. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Buffy, a teen tasked with protecting the world from vampires and other dark forces. Despite her superhuman powers, nothing could have prevented Buffy, and audiences, for the shock they would receive in the episode, “The Body”.
In the episode, Buffy finds her loving mother dead from a brain aneurysm. Gilles, Buffy’s mentor, attempts to revive her to no avail, prompting Buffy to yell: “We’re not supposed to move the body!” Fans interpreted the line to symbolize Buffy’s acceptance of her mother’s death. The episode, shot without music, and with special effects meant to mirror the disorientation of extreme shock, continues to be considered one of the best scenes in television.
3. Lost: “Pilot” – Season 1 Episode 1
Beginning with a literal bang, the drama Lost provided fans with countless twists and turns each week. Considered one of the most expensive pilots in television history, the opening scene of the series shows the survivors of a plane crash panicking in the chaos of the explosion.
In the fast-paced terror, viewers don’t know where to turn their attention. In one pivotal scene, Jack, a doctor, is seen trying to revive a woman when he notices another survivor in need of help. The chaotic scene introduced viewers to the story line and characters, while planting hints and clues as to how the story would progress. The critically-acclaimed opening scene would continue to be re-watched by fans eagerly searching for answers.
4. Game of Thrones: “The Battle of the Bastards” – Season 6 Episode 9
Having watched Jon Snow go from orphan to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, fans were left distraught when they saw their beloved hero stabbed in the heart by his own men in the icy snow. Jon’s death showed that loyalty didn’t have a home on the fantasy epic Game of Thrones. Audiences were blindsided and devastated during close-up shots of Snow tragically staring into the wintry void as his life fades away.
Bewildered fans kept pausing the scene in disbelief, and then were sent on their own quests to find out more about the fans favorite’s untimely death. Rumors of him being resurrected, or glimpses of Kit Harrington (real-life Jon Snow) being spotted on set sparked of excitement. Thankfully, Snow is resurrected later in the following seasons, much to the joy of fans and proving “what is dead, may never die”.
5. Game of Thrones: “The Dragon and the Wolf” – Season 7 Episode 7
Diehard fans were wincing when they saw their favorite King in the North Jon Snow and the Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen, as they stripped off their armor and climbed into bed. Fresh off the revelation that the two were related, fans were shocked. But that didn’t keep them from being intrigued and feeling the need to take a second look.
While the show has never shied away from showing nudity, this intimate love scene was particularly pause-worthy because it showed the show’s two most popular characters finally getting together. Under the warm glow of candles, fans were treated to the sight of their favorite characters in a steamy situation.
6. True Detective: “Seeing Things” – Season 1 Episode 2
The gritty murder mystery show True Detective got a healthy dose of life after a particularly racy scene had viewers replaying it over and over. In the show, Detective Hart and Detective Cohle are solving the mystery behind murders in a small Louisiana town. The bleakness and dark tones of the drama are broken up during a very daring scene involving Hart and his mistress.
In the scene, Hart is handcuffed by his mistress as she painfully teases him while she strips her clothes off. The scene was eye-opening for the obvious reasons, but also because it highlighted the Hart’s hypocrisy in having a mistress, in direct contrast to his otherwise “good guy” appearance. The moment was just one of many riveting scenes in the dark series.
7. You: “What Are Friends For?” – Season 2 Episode 3
Just when fans of the erotic thriller You thought they’d seen everything, Joe meets his match in the form of Love. Newly transplanted in Los Angeles after a series of grisly murders in New York, Joe meets a riveting woman named, aptly, Love. The two begin their tumultuous affair after much deliberation on Joe’s part, finally engaging in what was one of the show’s most sensual scenes.
Joe, who had sworn off women after the unfortunate ending of his previous relationship, just couldn’t keep his mind — and hands — off of Love. Viewers were fixated on Joe’s unusual emotional vulnerability when faced with Love’s passion. They felt that the intimate scene would hint at possible transformation for Joe, from killer to lover.
NEXT: Which controversial television scene had parents up in arms?
8. Gossip Girl: “Victor, Victrola” – Season 1 Episode 7
Fans of the CW show Gossip Girl knew each episode would be filled with drama, fashion, and adolescents up to no good. The show focused on the scandalous escapades of wealthy teens in Manhattan. Despite the often outlandish story-lines, the union of Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass made the bad behavior of their classmates seem downright saintly.
In what became one of the most important moments of the series, Blair had just finished performing a particularly raunchy strip dance routine, when, buzzing with energy (and a few drinks), she hops into the limo of Bass. Their smoldering chemistry quickly turns an innocent car ride into so much more. The racy moment raised eyebrows for parents, but for fans, it was just one sexy chapter in the saga of TV’s naughtiest couple.
9. M*A*S*H: “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” – Season 11 Episode 16
When the first episode of M*A*S*H aired, no one could have predicted the show’s massive success. The show, which revolved around a mobile army surgical hospital (known by the acronym MASH) during the Korean War, attracted millions of devoted fans. The final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” became the most-watched episode in television history.
The final episode of the military-themed dramedy ended with 125 million viewers glued to their television screens. The last scene, one of the best scenes in TV history, shows Hawkeye, who played the lead surgeon in the hospital, being flown out of the base. As the helicopter ascends, viewers see the “note” that Captain B. J. Hunnicutt left: the word GOODBYE spelled out with large rocks.
10. House of Cards: “Chapter 14” – Season 2 Episode 1
Washington D.C. became even colder with the appointment of Frank Underwood as president in the gripping political drama House of Cards. In the Netflix series, based on the acclaimed British show of the same name, there is no shortage of heart-stopping moments. One scene in particular, Underwood’s confrontation with mistress Zoe Barnes, had fans completely in disbelief — and hitting pause.
Underwood and Barnes play a short lived cat-and-mouse game along the Washington D.C. metro. Hiding behind a wall, Barnes begins to question Underwood over his role in a suspicious death. After Barnes begins chasing Underwood, he suddenly grabs his young lover and throws her in front of a moving train. In typical fashion for his coldblooded character, Underwood walks away as if nothing had happened, leaving viewers to retrieve their jaws from the floor.
11. Baywatch: “Forbidden Paradise” – Season 6 Episode 19
Centering on a very busy lifeguard tower in Malibu, Baywatch became every man’s favorite show thanks to the introduction of blonde bombshell Pamela Anderson. While Anderson was known for her racy pictures and rocker ex-husband, above all the Canadian actress really made a name for herself when she slipped into that famous red bathing suit.
In the show, Anderson plays CJ, a lifeguard and sometimes model. She and fellow lifeguard Cody soon find themselves diving into a relationship, and entering a particularly steamy shower together. Cameras slowly pan over the two as they engage in some R-rated bath-time. The scene had viewers feeling like they needed a cold shower even as they hit pause and replay, and cemented Anderson’s place in men’s fantasies everywhere.
12. Breaking Bad: “Face Off” – Season 4 Episode 13
Just when viewers though that Breaking Bad had already raised the bar on graphic depictions of violence, the show’s creators reached new levels with the murder of drug lord Gus. In a final attempt to get even, Walt plants a bomb in the hospital room where he knows rival Gus will be. What results is one of the most graphic and gruesome moments of the show, yet possibly one of its best scenes.
The scene begins with Gus preparing to administer a lethal injection to wheelchair-bound Hector. Suddenly he hears a ticking sound, and before he can act, the hospital room explodes. As nurses frantically run towards the explosion, Gus exits the room seemingly intact. As the camera shifts from a side view to frontal, audiences are left aghast at the sight of Gus missing half his face. He arranges his tie before hauntingly collapsing in the wreckage.
13. Scandal: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” – Season 2 Episode 14
In ABC’s Scandal, Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn bring the passion back into politics, one spicy encounter at a time. Washington plays communications expert Olivia Pope, the immaculately-dressed tour-de-force who is brought onto President Fitzgerald’s team. The two instantly hit it off, making the White House their little love nest.
Throughout the show’s seasons, the two share many illicit encounters, but one which really had eyes popping was their passionate quickie in an electrical closet. In the scene, the two are in the middle of a huge fight when Grant demands that Pope enter the closet. Not wanting to disobey the president, she enters, and the two engage in some very NSFW behavior. The passionate scene was powerful enough to make even politics kinky.
14. Walking Dead: “Pretty Much Dead Already” – Season 2 Episode 7
Fans of the AMC show The Walking Dead are used to graphic depictions of zombies and violence. The horror drama focuses on a group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse as they struggle to stay alive against a sea of zombies known as “walkers”. Despite their strong stomachs, fans were still horrified when young Sophia emerges from the barn, transformed into a zombie.
Sophia, who had previously been lost, slowly appears at the door of an old barn. The group is stunned to see the little girl turned into a bloodthirsty zombie, and are paralyzed with fear. The zombie is then killed in a scene that ultimately left fans wondering if the show had gone too far.
15. Carnival Row: “Kingdoms of the Moon” – Season 1 Episode 3
“Best Fairy Love Scene” isn’t usually a category most love scenes fall under, but for Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne on Carnival Row, history was made with their back-alley rendezvous. In the show, Delevingne plays a fairy moonlighting as a supernatural streetwalker in the mythical city of The Burgue. There, she meets Bloom’s human character, Philo. Their tension soon turns into untamed passion when they engage in some very hot supernatural romance in a dark alley.
The scene had fans of the show unquestionably fascinated by the portrayal of a fairy and a mortal consummating their relationship. The graphic scene retains its magical quality with close-ups of Delevingne’s wings, which glow in accordance with her pleasure. The moment left so many fans pausing, gawking, and then talking, that Bloom was questioned by a variety of media outlets to explain the mechanics behind it all.
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16. Dexter: “ The Getaway” – Season 4 Episode 12
Show creators were shocked when they realized just the strength of the emotional connection audiences had to the Miami serial killer main character of Dexter. On the Showtime thriller, Dexter is a forensic technician turned vigilante murderer. And for fans of the show, one murder scene in particular hit too close to home.
Dexter arrives home to find his wife Rita dead in a bathtub, and his son crying and sitting in a pool of blood. Audiences found the scene gripping, as it was reminiscent of Dexter’s own childhood in which he also witnessed a murder. Audiences pressed pause, and rewind, as the episode flashed from Rita’s death to the one Dexter witnessed as a child. The moving scene was so carefully crafted that producers even created decoy scripts in order to prevent spoilers from ruining the powerful ending.
17. Dallas: “A House Divided” – Season 3 Episode 25
Few television shows had such a cultural impact as the Southern-themed decade-defining ’80s soap opera Dallas. Containing a critical moment that’s considered one of the best scenes in television history, “A House Divided” sparked a media frenzy, prompting people around the world, and even politicians, to ask: “Who shot J.R.?”
The pivotal scene begins with J.R. Ewing, Texas oil baron, sitting in his darkly-lit office. Hearing a noise, he gets up to investigate — when he is shot twice by an unseen shooter. Fans of the show were left scrambling to find out who could have shot the tycoon. Bets were made, and even politicians voiced their theories on fired the gun. Not only did the show captivate the world, but it helped popularize the use of “cliffhangers” in the writing of television shows.
18. Mad Men: “A Little Kiss” – Season 5 Episodes 1 & 2
Fans of the show Mad Men praise the show’s attention to detail, historical accuracy, and strong acting. While the show has countless memorable moments, one that had viewers transfixed to their screens was the very sexy performance Megan gives to her new husband Don Draper at a company party.
In the scene, Megan appears in a very short black dress and captivates the room with her dances moves. Jessica Paré, who plays Megan, is French-Canadian, and belts out the very romantic “Zou bisou bisou” in her native tongue, leaving even ladies’ man Don Draper blushing. Her character exudes raw sensuality in a way that was usually seen as “unladylike” at the time. Don is aroused, embarrassed, and angry in what is one of Jon Hamm’s most powerful performances on the show.
19. Ellen: “The Puppy Episode” Season 4 Episodes 22 & 23
As the demand for more relatable characters and story lines soared in Hollywood, so did the idea of television being a place to start important conversations. In her sitcom Ellen, comedienne Ellen DeGeneres tackled one of the biggest, and most controversial, subjects at the time: her own sexual identity.
In typical DeGeneres fashion, she saw an opportunity to use her comedic talent to make the announcement that she is gay to the world on her terms. DeGeneres addressed the many rumors when her character accidentally broadcasts on the airport’s PA system: “I’m gay.” The scene caused immediate uproar, with threats to broadcast networks offended by the scene. For most viewers, the scene was memorable in that it addressed an important issue in a humorous and memorable way.
20. Homeland: “The Star” – Season 3 Episode 12
For eight seasons, Homeland kept viewers fixated on the unpredictable events that followed CIA officer Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes. In the show Carrie believes that USMC Sergeant Brody may have turned sides while being held as a prisoner of war by Al-Qaeda for eight years. Tasked with monitoring his every move, the two quickly become tangled in a fiery romantic relationship.
Romance becomes tragedy when Brody, on a mission for the CIA, is arrested by Iranian officials. Found guilty of treason, the Iranian government sentences him to hang. In a gut-wrenching scene, Carrie hopelessly looks at Brody being prepared for execution in a public square. As the camera zooms in, viewers see the agent take his last breath as his love powerlessly watches on. The tragic scene set a somber tone for the rest of the show.
21. The Simpsons: “Four Regrettings and a Funeral” – Season 25 Episode 5
Longstanding television staple The Simpsons is known for taking serious issues or characters and ingeniously sculpting them into hilarious animated comedy. In the signature opening scene of each episode, Bart, perpetual trouble maker, writes the show opening’s chalkboard gag. Only this time, instead of his usual promise to do better, he solemnly writes “we’ll really miss you Mrs. K”.
The heartfelt inclusion was a dedication to actress Marcia Wallace who had voiced the jaded and perpetually grouchy schoolteacher Mrs. Krabappel on the cartoon. Written by Marc Wilmore, the sentimental scene pulled on fan’s heartstrings, and forever immortalized Wallace’s talented contribution to the long-standing sitcom. Viewers hit pause to make sure they’d truly seen what they thought they’d seen.
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22. The Sopranos: “Made in America” – Season 6 Episode 21
Most shows end in a seemingly logical way, giving closure to long-term viewers after so many seasons and years with their favorite characters. Unfortunately, The Sopranos decided to go out with a bang, or rather to fade to black in the middle of the scene/sentence. In its final episode, the abrupt ending had viewers wondering if their television sets were malfunctioning.
The scene features Tony Soprano and his family at a local diner. Journey’s song “Don’t Stop Believin’” plays in the background as the mafia leader takes a bite of his calamari, and as the door to the diner swings open, the screen goes black. Entertainment news outlets couldn’t stop analyzing the mysterious ending, and fans wondered how their favorite crime show could just go cold on them.
23. True Blood: “I’m Alive and On Fire” – Season 4 Episode 4
The Louisiana summer wasn’t the only thing heating up the Bayou on the Southern vampire drama True Blood. The graphic show was known for its wild scenes that were heavy on the blood and light on the clothing. When the new werewolf on the block Alcide, played by Joe Manganiello, undresses in front of Sookie, viewers were left at last knowing whether werewolves prefer boxers or briefs.
Bon Temps’ newest supernatural resident goes commando when he strips off his human clothing and slips into something a bit furrier, as he morphs into a werewolf. The scene had fans howling for more, and helped launch Joe Manganiello’s career. The actor would eventually he put those impressive abs on display in another sexy drama, Magic Mike.
24. Suits: “War” – Season 2 Episode 16
Before she became royalty, Meghan Markle was gracing the small screen as feisty lawyer Rachel Zane on the hit show Suits. In the show, she plays a paralegal working at a prestigious law firm, where she begins an affair with lawyer Mike Ross. The electric chemistry and slowly-boiling tension between the two erupts in an extremely memorable love scene up against the filing cabinets.
The scene features the two embroiled in some adult activities as they knock over files, and yet they’ve got an eye on the clock: they manage to wrap things up before their lunch hour is up. This scene, surprisingly wild for cable television, showed fans the sexier side of justice.
25. Melrose Place: Season 2 Episode 28
Before nudity and violent depictions of gore became more commonplace on television screens, show creators had to find extra creative ways to shock their viewers. No scene worked better at horrifying fans than the infamous wig episode of Melrose Place, starring Marcia Cross as Dr. Kimberly Shaw.
The jaw-dropping scene begins with the show’s favorite villain going to the bathroom with what looks like a painful headache. The redhead is seen massaging her temples and downing a handful of painkillers. Suddenly, she begins to pull at something on her scalp, revealing a huge, jagged scar. The unexpected, gruesome reveal had fans struggling to catch their breath. Even decades later, it’s a spine-tingling moment.
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