There’s only one thing more iconic than The Office’s opening theme song, and that’s the scenes that come before it. The comedy series began gifting fans with these memorable cold opens a few seasons into the show’s run. They were opportunities to get to know characters in a fun, light-hearted way. They contributed to the show’s realistic workplace vibe. They gave us unforgettable interactions, hilarious one-liners, and invaluable insight into the show’s cast of distinctly weird characters.
In honor of the show’s 15th anniversary next week, here are some of the best cold opens from The Office, ranked.
15. “Here Comes Treble”
Season 9, Episode 5
Dwight decides to embrace the spirit of Halloween in the show’s final season by donning a pumpkin on his head. He scares Erin with it before asking Jim to help him remove the gourd but though his greased-up head went into the hollowed-out pumpkin fine, he just can’t get the thing off. Instead, we’re treated to a voice-over from Dwight who spells out all of his regrets while Jim finds increasingly lethal avenues for removing the pumpkin. Eventually, Dwight decides to let it rot off his head, which should only take a few months.
14. “Andy’s Ancestry”
Season 9, Episode 3
Another prank to add to the list, this one takes place in the show’s final season and while it’s still funny, it also makes us realize how Jim Halpert spent much of his career at Dunder Mifflin gaslighting his poor desk mate. Jim spends the morning at the dentist and recruits his actor friend named Steve (Randall Park) to pose as him, with Pam playing along. Fake Jim knows all the right passwords and former sales information to make Dwight question his own reality, but it’s the family photo of “Jim” with Pam and two little girls, both of Asian descent, that really f*cks with the salesman’s mind.
13. “The Chump”
Season 6, Episode 25
Michael had a deep, simmering hatred for HR rep Toby Flenderson, and he rarely passed on an opportunity to make his dislike of the man known to the entire office, but he takes things a bit too far in this opening scene that begins with Toby giving a rather boring safety lecture to his coworkers, one in which can’t even make fart jokes. Instead, Michael tells the office they’ll probably die of boredom before they die of radon poisoning, which earns him a laugh, but his follow-up joke that if he had two bullets and he was in a room with Hitler, Toby, and Bin Laden, he’d shoot Toby twice lands a little flat. Eventually, the scenario leads to Dwight explaining Michael could kill all three with a well-placed shot to the neck, and he recruits Phyllis and Andy to prove it. Toby plays himself in this demonstration.
12. “Company Picnic”
Season 5, Episode 28
When your boss consumes an entire, family-sized chicken pot pie for lunch and then promptly falls asleep at his desk, the only thing to do is to wind the clocks forward and convince him it’s quitting time. The office succeeds in creating their own summer hours during the season five finale by springing time forward and waking up a groggy Michael who tells them all to go home. Even Dwight, normally a stickler for rules, gets in on the fun because, as he explains, he’s got to see horse doctor.
11. “Golden Ticket”
Season 5, Episode 19
Before Michael dresses as Willy Wonka and hides discount coupons in customer shipments, he tries to get Pam to fall for a knock-knock joke. He bungles it, obviously, but Dwight is inspired to tell his own joke, one that ends with him posing as the KGB and slapping Michael across the face. When Jim gets in on the action, doing his own version that begins with the KGB ringing a doorbell instead, Michael and Dwight argue over who will answer the door before Jim clocks Dwight while yelling, “The KGB will wait for no one” in a fairly terrible Russian accent.
10. “Product Recall”
Season 3, Episode 20
Identity theft is not a joke, but it’s pretty damn funny when Jim impersonates Dwight in the show’s third season by purchasing his entire wardrobe and posing increasingly ridiculous questions about bears, beets, and Battlestar Galactica. It’s one of the less elaborate pranks Jim pulls on Dwight during the show’s run but it’s just as effective.
Season 8, Episode 15
When a handful of employees head down to Florida for a meeting about a new division of Sabre, Dwight uses the episode’s cold open to make sure his co-workers catch the worm. He explains his 4:00 am wake up call by listing out all of the time-wasting rituals of the group — Jim needs 50 minutes to style his hair, Erin will spend 40 minutes getting lost in the lobby, and Ryan needs a tight 90 to nurse his ecstasy habit — he then barges into everyone’s rooms to impersonate a personal alarm clock. He nearly kills Stanley by cutting off his oxygen supply and Erin tricks Ryan into thinking she’s snuck into his room for an early-morning booty call. Yet it’s Jim’s latest prank (setting up his space to convince Dwight he’d been murdered, and that Dwight did it) that really elevates this opening sequence.
8. “Baby Shower”
Season 5, Episode 4
In the show’s fifth season, Michael learns that Jan is pregnant via artificial insemination so of course, Michael decides to fill that fatherly role, preparing for the child’s birth with the help of Dwight. The episode opens with Dwight wearing an apron that masks a large baby bump, timing his contractions and alerting Michael when his cervix begins ripening. The two go through multiple scenarios before Dwight’s fake water breaks and he goes into labor, delivering a large watermelon covered in butter to the horror of the entire office, and all of us at home.
7. “Todd Packer”
Season 7, Episode 18
All of us were guilty of laughing at Dwight’s doomsday scenario during the show’s seventh season but we’re all eating crow now, aren’t we? Dwight boasts that he has one of the most well-stocked shelters in Pennsylvania but every few years, he has to restock, so he spends his lunch break eating cans of eight-year-old tomatoes and water-buckets of cereal. When his co-workers mock his over-preparedness, Dwight predicts an apocalyptic future that doesn’t feel too far off — snowy ash drizzling from the sky, packs of rabid dogs, Pam being taken slave, Jim becoming a warlord’s jester, Meredith doing okay — before Jim interrogates his timeline for the disaster. Will it be 4 months or 494 months? We just don’t know.
Season 6, Episode 10
Dwight often tries to better his officemates by introducing them to interesting cultural practices but his yearly karate seminar goes off the rails in this episode when Jim challenges Dwight to best himself in a fight. While educating his co-workers on updates to the thousand-year-old fighting technique and posing relatable scenarios about Yakuza gangs visiting Lackawanna trolley museums, Dwight struggles to find someone willing to participate in his demonstration — the last teaching exercise left Kevin pantsless and choked by his own shoestring — Jim correctly points out that Dwight’s biggest opponent is himself. Well, besides measles. Cut two Dwight pummeling himself to the amusement of his coworkers, absorbing neck blows and punching himself in the junk. It’s the only self-defense seminar you’ll ever need.
5. “Threat Level Midnight”
Season 7, Episode 17
“Threat Level Midnight” is one of The Office’s biggest payoffs. Spawned from a throwaway line earlier in the season, the film is a passion project of Michael’s, one he’s spent years filming, editing, reshooting, and re-editing. It’s basically a home video, chronicling the evolution of the show over the years, set to the action-packed plot of a washed-up secret agent who’s roped back into the espionage game thanks to a terrorist plot involving an NHL all-star game. To say anything else would risk ruining your viewing experience.
4. “Casual Friday”
Season 5, Episode 26
Kevin celebrates the return of casual Fridays at Dunder Mifflin by bringing in his most famous dish: a big ol’ pot of chili. Kevin gets to the office early, towing the oversized pot up the stairs once he discovers the elevator is broken. Along the way, he explains the secret to his coveted recipe: undercooked onions. Everyone, as he explains, will get to know each other in the pot. Or, on the floor, because that’s where the chili ends up when Kevin spills it in front of Pam’s desk. He tries to clean up the mess with clipboards and office files but by the time this disaster is over and the opening credits roll, Kevin’s flopping around in his toasted ancho chiles and tomato slop… and we’re trying to keep it together.
3. “Fun Run”
Season 4, Episode 1
In the first episode of the show’s fourth season, Michael gives the documentary crew a run-down of all the wonderful things happening in his personal and professional life. He didn’t get the job in New York, but he did get domestic bliss as we see him praise a comatose Jan for making him breakfast — or at least, buying the milk for his cereal. He then drives to work, hyping up the coming year by revealing that Jim has returned, Ryan is now at corporate, and the sales team is performing well. He’s truly blessed… until he runs over Meredith Palmer with his car. It’s not so much Meredith’s flailing form or the dull thud of her body hitting metal, but Michael’s unbelieving reaction to steamrolling one of his employees on the first day back.
2. “The Injury”
Season 2, Episode 12
In season two, Michael is forced to suffer for his genius when he accidentally burns his foot on a George Foreman grill. It has something to do with enjoying the smell of bacon crisping in the morning and the lack of a personal man-servant but all we really need to hear is Steve Carrell moaning in pain and begging someone (read: Ryan Howard) from the office to pick him up for work. Of course, Dwight overhears and rushes to his liege’s aid but he has an accident of his own, crashing into a light pole just outside the building and vomiting across his back windshield. We’d later discover he’d suffered a concussion but not before Michael got a little fussy and needed Ryan to sneak some aspirin into his pudding cup.
1. “Stress Relief”
Season 5, Episode 14
We like to avoid dealing in hyperbole here at Uproxx, but sometimes, it just can’t be helped. Not only was this cold open from the fifth season’s two-part episode, “Stress Relief,” the best of the series, it may just be the most iconic opening sequence in the history of comedy on television. It begins with Dwight, the office’s safety officer, speaking to the camera crew while destroying locks and torching door handles around the office. He’d given a Powerpoint presentation on fire safety protocols earlier but failed to account for how boring slideshows can be. People learn in many different ways, as we find out when Dwight lights a fire in a small trash can, alerting his officemates to the presence of smoke, and then sits back to welcome the panic and chaos he’s caused. Michael chucks a projector out of a window, Angela retrieves a cat she’s had hidden in a filing cabinet, Oscar falls through the ceiling, and Stanley is attacked by his own heart before Dwight reveals it was all just a drill.