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Gilmore Girls' 10 Most Heartfelt Moments Ranked

From 2000 – 2007, and then again as a 2016 limited series reboot, "Gilmore Girls" was a series known for its lighthearted, rapid-fire dialogue, quirky characters, and over-the-top displays of absurdist excess. But it was always a show whose primary virtue was that it cared so deeply about its characters and their complicated relationships. 

While the on-again, off-again relationship between Lorelai Gilmore and Luke Danes served as the show's central romance, Lorelai's difficult relationship with her parents and evolving relationship with daughter Rory were every bit as plot-worthy, the emotional center of "Gilmore Girls." Then there was Lorelai's best friend Sookie St. James (navigating her own moments of heartfelt drama with eventual husband Jackson), Rory's high-strung frenemy Paris Geller (struggling to find an emotional center after a lifetime of trying to overachieve) and Rory's best friend Lane Kim (who hides her love for rock and roll and secular culture from her hyper-religious mother). Through all these storylines, connections were explored, life observations were made, and along with the uncovered truths came a few tears — even when shed while a smile was still on the viewer's face.

"Gilmore Girls" always kept its characters human and flawed, regardless of their social status. The intimacy of Stars Hollow brought with it a lot of nosy neighbors, and as in any small town, a heartbreak could mean choosing one side or another. Even as the show's quirk factor could dominate an episode with silly extremes (from Richard and Emily's high society functions to offbeat Stars Hollow traditions), there was always an emotional center. Below are the ten most heartfelt scenes from "Gilmore Girls," ranked in order of effectiveness.

10. Sookie and Jackson finally relax

Sookie St. James is Lorelai's best friend and the chef at the inn that Lorelai manages. Sookie has a crush on her vegetable guy, Jackson Belleville, but both of them are too shy and awkward to pursue it for a long time. Finally, in "Double Date," (Season 1, Episode 12) they agree to go on a date. The only problem is that Jackson's cousin Rune is staying with him and demands a double date. Lorelai reluctantly agrees to assist her friend, but Rune proves to be an incredible dud.

The punchline is that the bland but obnoxious Rune acts as if Lorelai was foisted on him, and not the other way around. Jackson and Sookie, who aren't ones to cause conflict, let Rune run roughshod over the entire evening — even when it includes making a scene at the fancy restaurant they go to because he doesn't want any of the food. 

Finally, they wind up at Luke's diner. The perpetually put-upon Rune says that he's "been very patient, but Sunday night's almost over and I wanna go bowlin." He demands that his cousin come with him. Sookie stands up for herself as Jackson is about to cave and says "Don't go!" Jackson replies "Really?" and tells Rune he's on his own. The date finally begins properly, as they share laughs and Luke sends them over some cheeseburgers. Luke and Lorelai have their own flirtatious moment playing poker, as they enjoy watching their friends' happiness and new relationship glow.

9. Paris sees the Bangles

From the moment Rory Gilmore walked into Chilton, the exclusive prep school that she hoped would get her into Harvard, Paris Geller identified her as a threat. With her party girl flunkies Madeline and Louise, she sets out to make Rory's life hell. In "Concert Interruptus," (Season 1, Episode 13), the four of them are assigned to work on a debate project together, and circumstances dictate that they gather together at Rory's house. 

While Paris wants to be all-business, Madeline and Louise are fascinated by Lorelai. In particular, they think it's interesting that Rory and Lorelai are best friends. It's strange to them, because all of their mothers are distant figures. Paris compensates through school, and Madeline and Louise compensate by being boy-crazy. Lorelai suggests to Rory that she invite the girls out with them to a Bangles concert, and Paris grudgingly agrees. 

During the concert, Madeline and Louise meet two older guys and leave with them to go to a party. Rory is indignant, but Paris is accustomed to such behavior. Slowly, it's clear that Paris realizes she has more in common with Rory than with her longtime friends. As Rory is freaking out, Paris calmly tells her, "I really like this band." When Lorelai hunts down the girls at the party, Paris is quietly delighted at seeing a parent figure who really cares. She stops Rory and sincerely says, "You know what? I think this is the best night I've ever had."

8. Rory graduates from Chilton and gives a valedictory speech

Rory graduates from Chilton in "Those Are Strings, Pinocchio." (Season 3, Episode 22). As the valedictorian of her class, she gives the final student speech at the graduation ceremony. She praises the people of Stars Hollow and acknowledges her grandparents as her "twin pillars," but her speech about her mother is a powerful moment. Lorelai and Sookie immediately start to tear up when Rory praises "my best friend, the dazzling woman from whom I received my name and my life's blood." Sookie utters "Uh-oh" and a weepy Lorelai says, "Hang in there."

When Rory says, "As she guided me through these incredible 18 years, I don't think she realized that the person I most wanted to be was her." At that moment, Sookie and Lorelai say it's okay to cry a little, but not to blubber. A weeping Luke says, "You're freaks! I'm blubbering!" Even Rory starts to break down when she concludes her speech by saying, "Thank you mom, you're my guidepost for everything." It's the culmination of a journey that brought Rory to the height of success. 

What was even more heartfelt was not the speech, but a silly moment they shared afterwards. After Emily says that Rory looks so solemn walking up, Richard adds, "Like a Gilmore." However, after she gets her diploma, Rory looks over at her mother and makes a goofy face, and Lorelai replies in kind, saying to Emily, "I taught her everything she knows."

7. Lorelai graduates and sees her parents

In "Lorelai's Graduation Day," (Season 2, Episode 21) Lorelai is set to graduate from business school. Lorelai dropped out of high school when she was pregnant with Rory, one of many ways that she both defied and disappointed her rich parents. They had a vastly different course in mind for her, one that involved college and eventually marrying into another rich family. 

When Rory learns that there's going to be a graduation ceremony, she insists that Lorelai should go. Unbeknownst to Lorelai, Rory secretly invites Richard and Emily as well. She wants to make sure that they want to go, and if they don't, no hard feelings. 

Emily is unable to resist making a production of this, hiring a camera crew to record the event. She shows up hours early to make sure everything is planned properly, and runs into Lorelai, who is also there early. Lorelai is bemused to see her mother, putting her usual stamp on things, but she soldiers on. Even getting up as her name is called, she's annoyed by Raul's camera following her. 

When she gets on stage and takes her diploma, she takes a moment to find her parents in the audience. What she sees on their faces is something she's never seen before: pride. Emily even tries to disguise a tear or two. Afterwards, Lorelai insists on a photo together and even calls Richard "Daddy" when he gives her a gift.

6. Mrs. Kim keeps the band together

Lane Kim and her mother have a long, contentious relationship. Rory's childhood friend Lane has to pretend to be a perfect, devout Christian girl like her mother, but the reality is that she dreams of nothing less than being a rock drummer, and she becomes part of a local group. She hides forbidden CDs in the floorboards of her room, and uses Rory to help sneak out from time to time. Like any double life, it's only a matter of time before she's discovered, and Mrs. Kim is predictably furious. Initially, Lane is essentially a prisoner in her own house, except for school. 

Eventually, Lane decides to rebel, moving into a tiny place with her three male bandmates. Mrs. Kim is not pleased, but realizes that Lane is an adult. In "A House Is Not A Home," (Season 5, Episode 22) Lane thinks this will work out great, but she soon realizes that the band is disorganized and are either slacking or focusing too much on their day jobs. She tells her mother the band isn't working out and begs to come back, knowing that a Seventh-day Adventist college is in her future. 

Surprisingly, Mrs. Kim says, "You are not the daughter I raised!" and tells her that a Kim never gives up. She comes to the band's house, gives them an itinerary of church theaters to play in, and supports her daughter's dream in a way that Lane never could have imagined. 

5. Lorelai calls Emily with a memory about Richard

In the "Fall" episode of "Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life," Emily shuts out her daughter after Richard dies, in part because Emily can't comprehend why Lorelai's feelings for Richard are complicated. At his wake, Emily goes around the room and asks everyone to recall a favorite memory of Richard. When she gets to Lorelai, she's unable to think of anything to say. Her grief is extensive, but it is mixed up with other emotions and she can't process it at the time.

However, Emily takes this as her daughter trying to embarrass her in public once again, and she is furious. In an effort to find herself, Lorelai goes on a backpacking trip, which is pretty much a disaster. However, she has a moment of clarity about her father and immediately calls Emily. Without even saying hello, she goes into a story about being 13 years old and heartbroken by her boyfriend dumping and ridiculing her at school on her birthday. She goes to the mall and sees her father, and when he demands to know why she's not in school, she just starts bawling. 

Instead of yelling at her, Richard buys her a pretzel and takes Lorelai to the movies. She eats popcorn and candy, and he tells her mother he picked her up at school. She says it was the best birthday she ever had, and that she wants Emily to know. Emily smiles and thanks her. 

4. Two interactions after Richard's first heart attack

In "Forgiveness And Stuff," (Season 1, Episode 10), Richard Gilmore suffers a heart attack during their annual Christmas party. This leads to not one, but two of the most heartfelt moments in the show. The relationship he has with Emily seems a little distant at times, as he's a workaholic and she finds ways to pass the time through charity work and other high-society engagements. However, this early episode highlights how much she needs him, and his normally stubborn persona melts away when she makes her feelings known.

Emily tells him, "I did not sign on to your dying, and it is not going to happen... In fact, I demand to go first. Do I make myself clear?" All a chastened Richard can say at that point is, "Yes, Emily, you may go first."

Upon hearing about her father, Lorelai immediately drives to the hospital. This is despite a still generally-cold relationship with her parents and a screaming match with her mother that got Lorelai uninvited from the party. While Emily is shocked that her daughter is there, Lorelai simply says, "Of course I came," even if Richard was always a distant and sometimes frightening figure for her. When Lorelai enters his hospital room, he's asleep. His eyes flutter open to see his daughter, and there's a look of wonder and gratitude on his face as they simply look at each other for a moment, saying nothing, before the doctor comes back in. 

3. Paris breaks down after being rejected from Harvard

Paris Geller, Rory Gilmore's somewhat-friendly rival, has a long family tradition at Harvard. As she described it, "Five generations of Gellers have gotten into Harvard." Every moment she spends at the exclusive prep school Chilton is dedicated to getting her into her dream school. Prior to a huge speech with Rory at a Chilton function about the importance of education, a bedraggled Paris arrives and immediately goes off script in "The Big One" (Season 3, Episode 16). 

She reveals on stage that she "got the tiny envelope, the one that reads, 'Dear Paris, we're not interested. Try again next year. Love, Harvard.'" She launches into a diatribe decrying the unfairness of it despite her hard work, then she really immolates herself when she starts ranting "I had sex, but I'm not going to Harvard," referring to losing her virginity with her boyfriend Jamie. 

Rory steps in and says, "Thank you, and goodnight!" even as Paris decrees "I'm being punished. I had sex, so I don't get to go to Harvard." She even starts ranting at Rory, "She's never had sex, so she's a shoo-in. Pack your chastity belt, Gilmore, you're going to Harvard!" After years of bared-teeth aggression toward Rory, Paris not only lets her guard down, but she also allows Rory to comfort her. Rory tells her she's going to blaze a new path and start a new tradition, and Paris cries on her shoulder, as a new friendship begins.

2. Luke's parting words to Lorelai in the series finale

In the final season of "Gilmore Girls," various misunderstandings and miscommunications lead to Luke and Lorelai calling off their engagement and then breaking up. Rory graduates from Yale and weighs an offer from her boyfriend Logan to get married. Unwilling to tie herself down at a young age, she gets a job offer out of the blue that requires her to leave Stars Hollow in a hurry in "Bon Voyage" (Season 7, Episode 22). 

As someone who's been a bit of town royalty since she was a young girl, the town decides to throw her a huge, elaborate party. If Luke Danes wouldn't scoff at the concept of such a thing, his love language would be "acts of service." He expresses his love through using his hands, either by cooking food or building things. He once built Lorelai a chuppah for a wedding, an ice rink, and somehow put together enough tarp, lights, and wood to cover an entire town's worth of people. He does this for Rory, whom he's always thought of like a daughter, but he does this for Lorelai too.

While the party's going on, Lorelai finds Luke. She thanks him and he says, "It's no big deal." She refuses to be brushed off and replies with a heartfelt, "Luke." He stops minimizing what he did and simply states, "I just like to see you happy." They end the series on a kiss.

1. Lorelai asks Luke to marry her

In "A House Is Not A Home," (Season 5, Episode 22) things come crashing down for first Rory, and then Lorelai. Rory is devastated by being told by her boyfriend Logan's father, Mitchum Huntzberger, a newspaper publishing magnate, that she doesn't have what it takes to be a journalist. Being a journalist has been her dream her entire life, and with that dream dashed, she steals a yacht with Logan and goes to jail. 

Her confidence shaken, Rory tells Lorelai that she wants to take a year off from college. Lorelai is resolute that Rory should stay in school, that this goes against the plan they've made together. Lorelai turns to her parents for support, and they agree that Rory must stay in college, and the three of them will convince her. Meanwhile, Luke and Lorelai are on shaky ground as Lorelai ponders taking a job elsewhere. 

Rory visits Richard, begging for help. When Lorelai turns up for dinner, Richard and Emily tell her that Rory will stay with them as she takes time away from Yale. Lorelai walks out, feeling betrayed.

She turns to the one person she can count on: Luke. As he starts ranting about highly unworkable solutions to keep Rory in college, Lorelai simply looks at him. There's a growing realization on her face that Luke is the one for her. He interrupts him, mid-rant, and simply says, "Luke, will you marry me?" It's a pure distillation of loving warmth.