‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Seasons, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes

When it comes to long-running TV shows, things don’t get much better than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It ran for a total of 144 episodes spread out over seven seasons, and was on the air between 1997 and 2003. The show follows the titular Buffy Summers, a teenage girl who has the power of a Slayer, which gives her superhuman strength and other abilities that make her able to combat all sorts of demonic forces. She’s sent to school in the fictional tale of Sunnydale, primarily because it’s located on a Hellmouth, which means it’s more highly populated with vampires and other supernatural monsters than most other areas.

Beyond being a fantasy/drama/action show about fighting demons, it was also frequently hilarious, served as a coming-of-age story for the title character and her friends, and also spent a good deal of time on the characters’ romantic relationships. It crossed between various genres at a breakneck speed, and was frequently unpredictable, entertaining, emotional, and a blast to watch, even during the odd dud episode here and there. For any newcomers to the show, all seasons are worth watching, yet not all were created equal. Below are all seven seasons, ranked in order of their approval ratings from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Season 6

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67%

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s sixth season is its most divisive, and it’s easy to see why. It features the characters of the show at their lowest points, with an almost overwhelming amount of bleakness spread throughout its 22 episodes. The show’s sixth season was never going to be easy to make, given the initial plan to end conclusively with season 5’s dramatic finale, and so that may also explain some of its rough patches.

Season 4

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%

Similar to how season 6 of Buffy had to deal with a sudden renewal, season 4 feels a little awkward because of another shift between seasons. Season 3 featured the title character and her friends during their final year of high school, which means that when season 4 starts, the setting shifts to a college campus. Additionally, season 1 of Angelbegan at the same time as season 4 of Buffy, with two main characters from Buffy making the jump to that show, necessitating the introduction of new Buffy characters.

It’s not quite as satisfying as the best of what came before, and the fact it takes some time to find its footing makes it – in some ways – a little weaker than the final three seasons. That being said, it’s still largely very entertaining television, and this is also the season that contains “Hush;” an episode that deservedly stands as one of the show’s most famous, centering around a group of demons who steal the voices of everyone in Sunnydale, leading to much of the episode being presented without dialogue.

Season 7

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

Season 7 had the challenge of outdoing the finality present in season 5, which had initially been conceived as an ending to the show. The characters here face off against the First Evil, which is established to be the most powerful (and original, obviously) evil force yet. This requires Buffy and her friends to organize an army of Potential Slayers (essentially a small group of girls younger than Buffy who show some degree of fighting prowess) if they’re to have any chance of winning the show’s final battle.

It leads up to a suitably large-scale and very satisfying final episode, even if the path there within season 7 isn’t perfect. Season 7 has more significant continuity between episodes than most other seasons, though a few episodes do feel like they’re just spinning the wheels, to some extent. In essence, there are traces of filler, which can be disappointing… but the destination is worth the journey, and in all honesty, the journey is mostly filler-free. It’s still very good overall, with the level of quality perhaps making the less vital moments stand out all the more.

Season 5

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%

Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fifth season proves to be far more confident and entertaining on an episode-to-episode basis than season 4. Buffy and her friends are here pitted against an exiled (and literal) God named Glory who’ll stop at nothing to return to her dimension, even though that will result in the Earth’s destruction. Important to this storyline is Dawn, a young girl who shows up early in the season, seemingly as Buffy’s younger sister… even though viewers have never been introduced to her.

However, all the characters treat her as if she’s always been there, which can prove confusing. It all comes together in the end, and stands as an overall bold storytelling choice that’s as frustrating as it is kind of gutsy and impressive. Season 5 ended in a way that felt conclusive for the show as a whole, but it was ultimately for the best that it continued, thanks to the high points of seasons 6 and 7. Still, season 5’s dramatic narrative, high stakes, and shockingly tragic moments leave a strong impact, making for what’s arguably Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s most explosive and emotional season.

Season 2

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first season of the show to run for 22 episodes (season 1 was the only one that ran for a much shorter 12), and the added length was utilized well. This second season introduces Spike and Drusilla into the show, who are perhaps the two most entertaining vampire characters the show ever had. After season 2, Drusilla’s role in the show is sadly limited, but Spike went on to become a main character from season 4 onwards.

Season 1

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%

…So that makes it kind of odd that season 1 actually has a higher approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to the superior season 2. When looking at all the seasons, season 1 has the second-best Rotten Tomatoes rating. Something feels off here, because there’s an argument to be made that season 1 is Buffy’s weakest season.

Now, that’s not to say it’s bad. It does a good job of introducing series mainstays like the title character (obviously), Willow, Xander, and of course, Giles. The unique premise of the show is established here, too, and it does manage to conclude in style, with season 1’s finale, “Prophecy Girl,” arguably standing as the show’s first near-perfect episode. But there are parts of season 1 that feel a little shaky, and it takes some time to establish its overall feel, meaning that for as fun and as creative as it can be at its best, season 1 isn’t always representative of Buffy at its greatest, regardless of what Rotten Tomatoes suggests.

Season 3

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%

Complaints about season 1’s Rotten Tomatoes score aside, at least the site gets it right when it comes to season 3. This third season of Buffy concludes the high school storyline of the show in style, and sees the title character pitted against a rival Slayer named Faith, who’s also associated with the nefarious Mayor Richard Wilkins, who has plans of taking over Sunnydale.

Buffy’s third season is scarily consistent. Every other season has at least a couple of weak episodes, but season 3 is strong from start to finish. Its consistency makes it more than worthy of having a 100% approval rating, and that it also contains an episode as classic as “The Wish” is only icing on the cake. The show’s highest highs may be reached in other seasons, but no other season has the same satisfying momentum as season 3, making its 22-episode run a classic one.






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