20 years ago today, the first episode of The Sopranos aired on HBO. The mob crime drama starring the late James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano was a revolutionary series that paved the way for many of the other great television shows in the years to follow and remains a timeless classic. In honor of the first time Tony, Silvio, Christopher, Paulie, and the crew hit the screen, here are the top moments from The Sopranos. [NOTE: Videos are NSFW.]
10. Tony kills Christopher
The relationship between Tony and Christopher might have been as complex as any on the show, so Christopher’s death was an anticlimactic moment that came out of nowhere after he was in an accident with Tony in the passenger’s seat. When the boss’ protégé told him he couldn’t take responsibility for the crash because he had drugs in his system, Tony simply had enough of his “nephew”/cousin and decided he could not be trusted if he couldn’t stay off drugs, forcing him to drown in his own blood.
9. A.J. attempts suicide
A lot happened by the Soprano pool throughout The Sopranos, starting with Tony’s ducks flying away in the pilot, but the most memorable moment was A.J. attempting to drown himself by putting a plastic bag around his head, attaching himself to a cinderblock, and jumping in the deep end of the pool. The suicide attempt was one of the most troubling scenes of the series, but thankfully Tony arrived to save his son, who realized he didn’t truly want to die.
8. Tony and Carmela fight
While probably not as complex as the relationship between Tony and Christopher, Tony and Carmela’s relationship was a thread that helped hold The Sopranos together. Everything they had held in over the years—which was a lot, given their situation with Tony as a cheating, hot-tempered crime boss—came to a head in the Season 4 finale, “Whitecaps”, when everything spilled out during their biggest fight.
7. Janice kills Richie
As already established with Christopher’s demise late in the series, there were some out-of-nowhere deaths in The Sopranos, and the most surprising might have been Janice Soprano killing Richie Aprile, the older brother of former family boss Jackie Aprile. It was a sudden end to Richie, and it eliminated a thorn from the side of Tony—you could see the slight pleasure on his face when he arrived to clean up his sister’s mess.
6. Dr. Melfi doesn’t tell Tony
Tony had many noteworthy encounters during his psychiatry sessions with Dr. Melfi, and it was undoubtedly a key part of the series. One of the best meetings was when the shoe was on the other foot, and Dr. Melfi had major issues of her own. She was thinking about telling Tony about how she was raped—which would have 100% meant Tony getting the rapist whacked, if not doing it himself—but ultimately did not cross the line and remained on the other side of the thin line she was on for much of The Sopranos.
5. “The Blue Comet” ending
The penultimate episode of The Sopranos was arguably the best, with many huge occurrences including Bobby Bacala’s death and Silvio Dante being put into a coma after getting shot by Lupertazzi hit men. The final scene perfectly sets things up for the finale, with everyone on edge in a safehouse—where Paulie, Carlo, Walden, and Dante all opt to stay with the Don. They order a pizza—with a reminder from Paulie: “and paper plates, too, we ain’t got no things in here”—and prepare for a run at Phil Leotardo, as Tony lays in the dark with his gun and has a flashback with Bobby talking about probably not even hearing it when you’re killed.
4. Interior decorator
“The Blue Comet” is great, but it’s hard to top “Pine Barrens” as The Sopranos’ best episode. Chris and Paulie get stuck in freezing and snowy South Jersey woods while looking for a military-skilled Russian mobster that got away, and the two delivered some of the show’s funniest moments during their dire situation.
3. Adriana gets whacked
Adriana Le Cerva’s death remains one of the most heartbreaking deaths in television history, and it shows how much power Tony Soprano and his crew have. The viewer was left in the dark after Adriana admitted to Chris that she was cooperating with the FBI, and we really thought Chris attempted to kill himself—Tony sounded convincing enough on the phone—but a trip with Silvio was one Adriana would never return from. In the final season, Chris telling Tony about Adriana, which led to her death, was revealed in a flashback scene.
2. Christopher’s intervention
There might not be any other show could pull off an intervention scene—with Adriana crying and desperately wanting to help Chris, while the gang does the opposite of what you should do during an intervention (nonjudgmental? “F*** that, let him take his medicine,” as Paulie eloquently put it), all while the audience is all laughing hysterically—like this one from The Sopranos.
1. The diner scene
The final scene of The Sopranos tops the list of the HBO classic’s best moments, and it’s a pretty easy choice. The show’s ending is highly controversial and is probably more talked about than any finale ever—show creator David Chase masterfully crafted the powerful diner scene with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as the backdrop as Tony scanned the room before the sudden cut-to-black. Tony was probably killed as Meadow walked in the door, but it’s left open for viewers to interpret it as they like.