It’s said that truly good TV shows age like fine wine, but even with a series as masterfully done and phenomenally funny as The Office, certain episodes tend to rise above the rest. Maybe they stand out because a beloved background character gets a chance to shine or a will-they-won’t-they couple finally makes good on some built up sexual tension. If you’re an Office fan, those stand-out episodes probably involve elaborately planned pranks, fire drills gone wrong, dinner party disasters, and a B-list action film that just happens to take place within a TV show.
We can’t expect a show to continuously operate on a nosebleed level of comedic excellence (though The Office went on a few tears in its early years where it seemed possible) so while it’s critical that you re-watch and binge this show from time to time (it’s on Netflix, at least for the time being) to awaken your appreciation for it, if you just don’t have the time right now, here are the 35 best Office episodes to rewatch first. Warning: spoilers abound.
35. Dwight K Schrute (Acting Manager) (Season 7, Episode 24)
With Will Ferrell mercifully in a coma — or, his character at least — The Office fans were finally treated to a promotion we’d all been waiting for. Dwight Schrute is named interim manager until the company can find a new branch head and the power immediately goes to the guy’s head. He sets up an antique time-punch clock, forces employees to use ridiculously long passcodes to access machines, has everyone recite the Pledge of Allegiance before the start of the workday, and accidentally fires a gun in the office. Basically, everything you’d expect to go wrong does and Jim makes him pay for it by forcing him to perform odd tasks around the office and say the phrase “Shagadelic, baby” too many times to count. If this episode taught us anything, it’s that some people just aren’t suited for managerial roles.
34. Money (Season 4, 7&8)
In the final two-part episode that helped kick off the show’s fourth season, Michael and Jan’s toxic relationship begins to weigh on his finances. Between a new Porsche and condo renovations, Michael finds himself in serious debt and forced to take a night job as a telemarketer, which he’s terrible at. When his performance at Dunder Mifflin begins to suffer, he’s forced to quit that job and declare bankruptcy, which he thinks means he must simply shout the word for everyone to hear. Meanwhile, Jim and Pam spend a romantic weekend at Dwight’s beet farm, which he’s turned into an agritourist B&B. In between beet wine-making, manure spreading, and Harry Potter bedtime stories, the couple discovers Dwight’s still missing Angela and Jim attempts to comfort him. Things end with Michael and Jan committing to face their finances together and Jim helping Dwight return to his old self. The trip to the beet farm is the highlight of this episode for many reasons — notably that midnight outhouse joke — but it’s the deeper relationships we get a glimpse of, between Jim and Dwight and even Jan and Michael, that really stand out here.
33. Business School (Season 3, Episode 17)
Michael had an unhealthy obsession with his temp, Ryan Howard, but every so often, he got to see him for the opportunistic corporate climber he always was. In “Business School,” Michael is invited to be a guest speaker in one of Ryan’s business school seminars. Ryan prefaces Michael’s speech by claiming his company and his job will be irrelevant in 10 years, something Michael doesn’t hear before he takes the stage to throw candy bars at students and rip out the pages of some poor kid’s textbook. Back at the office, Dwight tries to capture a rogue bat but falls prey to another of Jim’s pranks when he pretends to have been bitten by the winged menace. As Dwight suspects Jim is turning into a vampire, he vows to take care of the bat first (which he does at the expense of Meredith’s head) and then confront Jim. The best part about this episode, though, is its ending, when Michael shows up to Pam’s art show to buy her painting and restore her confidence. It’s the vulnerable, smaller moments packed between these larger, more absurd stunts that often elevate this show to something more than just a routine workplace comedy.
32. Secret Santa (Season 6, Episode 13)
Sure, three Christmas episodes on the same list might seem a bit excessive, but hear us out: this show knew how to throw down during the holidays. In this celebration, tensions mount between Phyllis and Michael who each believe they’ve been named the office Santa this year. When Jim announces that Phyllis can play the jolly old gift-giver, Michael throws a remarkably petty temper tantrum, first competing with her and suffering a sit-down visit with Kevin before changing up his costume and pretending to be Jesus. When he takes over the office’s microphone system, offering his own salty commentary during the exchanging of gifts and outing Andy as Erin’s Secret Santa — he’d been recreating the 12 Days of Christmas for her which, surprisingly, includes a lot of birds — things really go off the rails.
31. Murder (Season 6, Episode 10)
Michael may have been an incompetent manager at Dunder Mifflin, but even he had his moments of brilliance, like in the show’s sixth season when news of the company’s impending bankruptcy caused a panic in the Scranton office. Instead of letting everyone stew in anxieties over losing their jobs, Michael forced the office to play a murder-themed boardgame that had everyone adopting Southern drawls and character profiles. It was a Savannah-set rip-off of Clue that played into Michael’s strengths: drama and his impressive ability to avoid doing actual work. It took Jim a while to catch on, but once he did, the game really got going — ending with a Mexican stand-off that lives on in GIF infamy.
30. Pool Party (Season 8, episode 12)
Steve Carell’s absence in season eight necessitated a change for The Office and James Spader filled that need, joining the cast as the impossibly confident and gifted Robert California (aka the f*cking Lizard King). Unfortunately, Spader’s tenure was mostly uneventful and none of the season eight efforts really stand out as slam dunk classics, but it felt wrong to ignore him entirely.
“Pool Party” gets the nod because it showcases Spader’s weird and seductive aura while, at the same time, painting a picture of a vulnerable-yet-bored titan who was willing to entertain the hoi polloi at his mansion because he really had nothing better to do. The episode also captures what it feels like to be held captive at your boss’s house for a party, though the tension doesn’t quite build like it does in “Dinner Party,” a season four classic that more artfully hits on that same theme.
29. Gay Witch Hunt (Season 3, Episode 1)
“Gay Witch Hunt” sticks in people’s minds for being another misbegotten foray into sensitivity training by Michael after he outs Oscar, but the execution doesn’t land as smoothly as “Diversity Day” and it doesn’t have its teeth. If not for the kiss that Michael forces on Oscar, “Gay Witch Hunt” might be more remembered for its efforts to establish a new normal in the office following Jim’s emotional confession to Pam in the season 2 finale and introduce his Stamford workmates.
28. Benihana Christmas (Season 3, Episode 10)
It’d be years before Michael started to realize that he romanticized things to death, but this episode serves as a prime example of that behavior. Michael drives his girlfriend away by photoshopping his face over her husband’s in a family photo that he used as a Christmas card and then builds his rapport with a Benihana waitress into his next great love story. On the plus side, Michael’s rejection by the waitress did lead to one of those rare adult moments of friendship that he and Jim would sometimes share, allowing the audience a glimpse into Jim’s head with regard to his relationship with Karen and sparking Michael to toss caution to the wind and invite Jan to Sandals.
While Michael’s love life gets most of the attention, this episode’s true charm comes from the fresh addition of a new challenge to Angela’s tyrannical party planning committee reign when Pam and Karen decide to throw a superior and less stuffy Christmas party. The Office missed an opportunity by doing little with the idea of Pam and Karen as friends beyond this episode.
27. Scott’s Tots (Season 6, Episode 12)
The Office often put Michael in a “sympathetic loser” box in the later portion of his run. “Scott’s Tots” is remarkable for how it blends that turn with a terrible act from the past that potentially wipes out the future dreams of a class full of students who had been sold a hollow dream about a free college education. Michael’s need to be liked and his baseless belief in himself is clearly responsible for this mess, but he fully gets that what he did was wrong. The episode plays with this more self-aware Michael by twisting the knife as the kids sing a song and offer testimonials on how his promise changed their lives before Michael’s confession and his poor attempt to make things right. Erin’s effort to soothe Michael’s conscience fall a little flat, but it’s an important moment of acceptance for her character.
There’s also a B-story about Dwight concocting an elaborate plot to oust Jim from his newly secured position of authority. And it’s… fine. Efforts to give Dwight more chances to take down Jim or otherwise play an aggressor role always felt off-key or over-the-top due to Dwight’s severity and this is an example of that.
26. Drug Testing (Season 2, Episode 20)
When a joint is found in the office parking lot, Dwight steps up to the plate, donning his volunteer deputy uniform and investigating each of his co-workers with increasingly funny interrogation scenes. For Michael, the threat of mandatory drug testing exposes his questionable decision-making at an Alicia Keys concert the weekend prior and he does his best to throw Dwight under the bus before requesting to use the guy’s urine. Meanwhile, Dwight questions everyone in the office, accusing Oscar of being a drug mule, dismissing Creed’s in-depth knowledge of different marijuana strains, and having the tables turned on him by Jim.
The episode gave us some small insights into characters that still felt a bit unformed — Creed and Michael particularly — and it gave everyone a mystery to solve.
25. Branch Wars (Season 4, Episode 6)
When Karen, who now manages the Dunder Mifflin branch in Utica, makes Stanley an offer he doesn’t refuse in “Branch Wars,” Michael and Dwight trick Jim into tagging along on a quick road trip. Watching the guys don women’s warehouse uniforms, brandish oversized fake mustaches, and contemplate the usefulness of Molotov cocktails was fun, but the episode also reminded us that while Jim and Pam were always endgame, they left some broken hearts in their wake. Karen got the satisfaction of confronting Jim about his childish ways but the real highlight of “Branch Wars” is when Michael threatens to burn all of Utica to the ground if they harm a hair on Stanley’s head.
24. Threat Level Midnight (Season 7, Episode 17)
A wildly ambitious payoff for an occasionally mentioned inside joke about Michael’s attempt to create an action film, “Threat Level Midnight” doesn’t really land (perhaps, because it’s so counter to the rhythms of the show and so bizarre?), but there’s nostalgic value to consider since several long-lost characters return as bit players in the film. It’s also nice knowing that this episode sprang from Steve Carell’s want to revisit Threat Level Midnight before he departed the show at the end of the season. Fanservice and talent service all wrapped up in one weird episode.
23. Goodbye Toby (Season 4, Episode 18 and 19)
Michael’s exuberant (and, unbeknownst to him, temporary) send-off of his rival Toby (Paul Lieberstein) also serves as a high water mark for Andy (Ed Helms) and Angela’s (Angela Kinsey) uncomfortable (and doomed) courtship, the introduction of Michael’s future love interest (Amy Ryan), and a discovery, by Phyliss (Phyliss Smith), that would pay off down the line. There’s also a bit of back and forth for Jim, whose job security is bolstered by the delicious fall of Ryan the Temp/Ryan the VP (BJ Novak) and whose romantic gesture is thwarted by bad timing. Michael lost in the throes of victory and Ryan in cuffs — “Goodbye Toby” deals in extremes but it’s one of the better efforts during the show’s fourth season.
22. Moroccan Christmas (Season 5, Episode 11)
Office Christmas parties are historically boring affairs but in season five’s “Moroccan Christmas,” Phyllis spices up the annual snooze-fest by introducing the group to a different culture. Of course, Angela — who lost her role as party planning president — wholly disapproves of the whole thing which makes Phyllis’ small victory even more sweet to watch. The episode also sees Dwight price gouging parents in the market for unicorn princess dolls and the office staging an intervention after Meredith gets so sloshed she sets herself on fire. The whole fiasco makes you appreciate the bland, booze-free celebrations of your own workplace. Maybe.
21. Finale (Season 9, Episode 24)
A TV show’s final episode needs to offer longtime fans a bit of closure and it’s good when familiar faces pop up to help close things out. The Office did exactly that as the Dunder Mifflin team checked back in with updates on their lives a year (in the show world) after the documentary at the heart of it had aired.
The little catch in the throat (another finale staple) comes when Michael shows up for Dwight and Angela’s wedding and when Dwight finally fires Jim (and Pam) as a charitable gesture so they can be well funded in their new lives. But on the way to checking off those boxes, the show doesn’t have the time (or, possibly, the inclination) to deliver a truly funny send off. For a series that managed to merge the heartfelt and the awkwardly funny so artfully over the course of its run, that’s slightly disappointing, but something that can be forgiven thanks to all the feels and the effective goodbye.
20. A.A.R.M. (Season 9, Episode 22 and 23)
The less said about Andy’s stab at musical glory the better, but “A.A.R.M.” manages to artfully close the season-long rift between Jim and Pam. That arc was widely panned for the uncomfortable places it took the always-adorable couple, but it also helped make Jim’s romantic gesture — presenting Pam with a DVD calling back to a gift he gave her in season 2 and a note that alleviated her worries about whether they were made to be — feel more impactful. In fact, that exchange probably ranks as one of the most memorable “aw” moments between Jim and Pam in a series that was flush with them. And that’s a neat trick for a show that was at the end of its ninth and final season.
19. Product Recall (Season 3, Episode 21)
Chaos blooms when a tasteless watermark penetrates the Dunder Mifflin paper supply and everyone scrambles to negate the crisis. But nobody handles it with as much cunning and ruthlessness as Creed, who works to land on a scapegoat.
As a mysterious oddball character that often lurked in the background, Creed didn’t get nearly enough opportunities to shine but “Product Recall” was him at his finest.
18. The Delivery (Season 6, Episodes 17 and 18)
Another two-parter, these episodes marked the next step in the saga of Jim and Pam: parenthood. The first half is dedicated to Pam’s avoidance of the very real fact that she’ll be giving birth in just a matter of hours. She tries her best to delay the inevitable by having one last ultra-feast with Kevin, recruiting her co-workers to distract her from labor pains, convincing Jim just to wait a bit longer before going into a full-panic because they want the extra night at the hospital, but when she waits too long, we’re almost tricked into believing the baby might be born in the break room.
The second half of the two-parter focuses on the newly-minted parents trying to figure out how the hell they’re supposed to care for this baby with hilarious results. Pam accidentally breastfeeds the wrong kid, a male nurse feels her up with Jim forced to watch, Dwight destroys their kitchen after spending the night in their bed. Basically, everything that could go wrong for first-time parents does, and the show mines the most humor from it.
17. Broke (Season 5, Episode 25)
Michael lacks the dollars and cents know how to keep things afloat after The Michael Scott Paper Company screws Dunder Mifflin out of some of its biggest clients. Michael does, however, possess the steel in his spine to stand in against Charles Miner (Idris Elba) and David Wallace (Andy Buckley) and negotiate a return to the norm (that he had fled) when he has everything to lose. “Broke” is a nice reminder that Michael, who was often cast as a loveable buffoon, could also be quite formidable when it came to selling someone.
16. Customer Survey (Season 5, Episode 7)
Jim and Dwight align when their money is impacted by a surprising batch of negative customer surveys that were sabotaged by a vengeful Kelly (Mindy Kaling) after the guys miss her house party. It’s nice to see the two rivals pivot their energy away from torturing each other every so often, but there’s also some foreshadowing going on about the conflict between Pam’s budding art career and her want to be in Scranton with Jim. Knowing where the show wound up, it’s hard to not see a thread running from the moment when professional TV jerk (but probably real life nice guy) Rich Sommer’s character drops a hard truth on her in this episode to her struggles with Jim in the show’s final season.
15. The Injury (Season 2, Episode 12)
Michael’s panic after burning his foot on a George Foreman grill (the circumstances of which he explains with such assured logic that you almost forget the insanity of making bacon at your bedside) earns this episode a spot on this list but Michael’s realization that he can’t rely on any of the people in the office in his supposed time of need definitely raises this episode in terms of import.
14. The Dundies (Season 2, Episode 1)
Another inch closer to Pam and Jim’s relationship becoming a reality, “The Dundies” allowed Jenna Fischer a chance to shed Pam’s usually reserved shell after a fight with Roy and the decision to blow off some steam. So much steam that she winds up getting banned from Chilis. For life.
13. Booze Cruise (Season 2, Episode 11)
Jim tried to move past his crush on Pam by dating… a woman that seemed like a stand-in for Pam (Amy Adams) but everything nearly came to a head on an ill-advised booze cruise in the middle of winter before a drunk Roy had a moment of clarity and agreed to set a date (Jim never really had the best timing with proposals and romantic pronouncements). Jim’s backup plan came to an end shortly thereafter, but while he was down, an unlikely source picked him up — Michael. It’s not typical to get life-changing advice from an idiot cuffed to a boat after losing a power struggle with the boat’s captain (that led to someone jumping overboard), but Michael’s encouraging words were exactly what Jim needed.
12. The Duel (Season 5, Episode 12)
The Duel marked the long-awaited resolution to a particularly-complicated love triangle on the show between Angela, Dwight, and Andy. Angela and Dwight had a heated affair before Dwight euthanized her ailing cat Sprinkles, pushing her into the arms of the dim-witted, well-meaning salesman. It’s clear that Angela has absolutely no feelings for Andy, something Phyllis reveals at the office Christmas party when she outs the accountant for having an affair with Dwight while engaged to his coworker. Michael, unable to go a second longer without telling Andy the truth, decides to drop the bomb on the poor guy just before he leaves for a meeting in New York, which forces an angry Andy to confront Dwight with the two deciding to duel for Angela’s hand.
Not only was it incredibly satisfying to see Andy finally clued into the affair, but the resolution to this mess also felt earned. Andy sneaking up on Dwight in his Prius, Dwight angrily beating the hood of his car with a whip, both men telling Jim to stay the hell out of their business — the fight exceeded expectations in every way.
11. Goodbye Michael (Season 7, Episode 22)
When sifting through the best episodes of The Office you’re bound to find a lot of moments where Michael terrorizes his employees with his ineffectiveness and complete lack of self-awareness, but through good times and bad, he was a part of that weird family. That’s the takeaway from Steve Carell’s last episode (save for that finale cameo) and his parting interactions with Jim and, most poignantly, Pam.
10. Beach Games (Season 3, Episode 22)
As is his way, Michael goes all in at the slightest glimmer of a life change, selling his condo and using a team building beach trip as a kind of gladiatorial showdown among the staff of Dunder Mifflin to determine who will succeed him as regional manager once he goes to New York to work for corporate. Because he’s totally going to get the job he’s interviewing for, right?
“Beach Games” isn’t so much a great story in its own right as it is an able place setter for what comes next and a collection of standout moments like Andy floating away in a sumo suit and Pam walking across hot coals before cutting through the awkwardness with Jim (and, at the same time, making things more awkward for Karen) to let him know that she misses their friendship.
9. Diversity Day (Season 1, Episode 2)
Michael was a wince-inducing villain early on with slicked-back hair and few redeeming qualities. That was never more clear than in “Diversity Day.” The episode is a genuinely uncomfortable half hour of comedy that follows Michael’s desperate attempts to justify his use of wildly inappropriate humor and encourage the use of stereotypes to get people talking about diversity in the office.
Rarest are the sitcom episodes that get better with age, but the satire at the heart of this certainly feels more relevant when weighed against the abundant toxic white male privilege in our present state of being.
8. Golden Ticket (Season 5, Episode 19)
Michael’s flights of whimsy could often be a distraction but they rarely caused lasting damage. That’s what makes “Golden Ticket” so delightful — the existence of a massive screw up (due to Michael’s careless distribution of massive discount coupons in the Dunder Mifflin paper supply in an effort to mimic Willy Wonka), the potential for big consequences, and Michael’s shady efforts to evade them. But while it’s fun watching Michael squirm, it’s even better watching Dwight step out from his shadow for a moment; first to help Michael and then to seize on the opportunity to garner some praise from David Wallace when the whole thing swings around in Dunder Mifflin’s favor.
7. The Surplus (Season 5, Episode 10)
Another episode that showcased Michael at his most selfish, “The Surplus” also pits two warring factions in the office against each other, busting up the happy home of Jim and Pam as they each dig in on separate sides of the great new chair/copier debate while Michael hides in his office, hoping that the hard work of leadership will take care of itself. Like “Golden Ticket,” this episode allows Michael no reward for his cowardice with an 11th-hour compromise resulting in a misspent bonus that Michael would never get, a vandalized fur coat, and a lot of regret.
6. Fun Run (Season 4, Episode 1)
The season four premiere marked some big changes for the show, so it’s only right that the first episode is defined by an ill-fated hit-and-run. An optimistic Michael accidentally runs over Meredith in the office parking lot after gushing about his relationship with Jan to the camera crew. With Meredith in the hospital, the employees decide to visit her together during their lunch break where Michael makes things more awkward by trying to force her to forgive him, and Dwight contemplates unplugging her for the good of humanity. The second part of the episode focuses on Michael trying to raise money for a cure for rabies – something the doctors discover Meredith has, probably because of the bat that terrorized the office episodes prior. He launches the “Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure,” a race that end with a giant check being presented to a “rabies doctor” and Michael puking his guts out after carbing up on fettucine alfredo and purposefully dehydrating himself.
Fun Run not only gave us confirmation of a long-awaited ship — Jim and Pam are secretly dating when the episode premieres — but it also doubled-down on the kind of humor Steve Carrel is innately good at. Michael’s a bumbling idiot, sure, but his best moments come from a place of misguided sincerity coupled with a hint of selfishness. Watching him reckon with how unimportant his contribution to the cause of rabies vaccinations truly is while also seeing him try to avoid responsibility for injuring an employee are the highlights of the episode.
5. The Job (Season 3, Episodes 24 and 25)
The season three finale of The Office threatened some big changes for the Scranton Branch. Michael, Karen, and Jim were all interviewing for a position at corporate — which just happened to be Jan’s old job — and Dwight was preparing to begin his reign of terror as Regional Manager.
Throughout the series, Rainn Wilson did some of his best work when Dwight was given even a modicum of power on the show and “The Job” proves that point as he begins exacting a new rule of law that includes a monetary reward system utilizing Shrutebucks and occupies a blacked-out office that is meant to instill fear in his subordinates. There’s also the surprising team-up with Pam, an alliance that never got enough screen time throughout the show’s run.
While Wilson shines throughout and Michael’s view of himself is partially dented, the thing you’re most likely to remember from this episode is that part, at the very end, where Jim crashes Pam’s talking head interview to ask her out, thus signalling the official end of a three-year “will they/won’t they” dance which had certainly endured its share of slight starts and breathtaking stops.
4. Casino Night (Season 2, Episode 22)
Speaking of… “Casino Night” moved the saga of Jim and Pam forward in an unexpected and heartbreaking way, so of course this episode registers as a standout.
With the office participating in a charity gambling night (which is totally a thing that happens in real offices, right?) Jim and Pam’s potential romance seems to fizzle out. Granted a parking lot isn’t the best place to profess your love for an engaged co-worker, but John Krasinski brought all the feels when, as Jim, he pours his heart out to Pam who frustratingly gives him the “I value your friendship” response. Later the two share a kiss but with Jim considering transferring to another branch and Pam still committed to marrying Roy, it feels like the final goodbye for the couple.
3. Stress Relief (Season 5, Episodes 14 and 15)
The Office had a unique brand of humor, one that relied on quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes as much as awkward pauses and drawn out camera panning, but when it did employ physical humor, like in the two-part “Stress Relief” episode, it didn’t disappoint. Dwight, unsatisfied with his coworkers’ fire readiness knowledge, decides to put them through his own simulation which quickly spirals out of control and ends with Oscar falling through the roof, cats being thrown, Michael chucking equipment out of glass windows, and Stanley having a heart attack.
The second half of the episode is just as bonkers, with Dwight facing punishment for the damage he inflicted and the group learning proper CPR techniques. Most of the show is rooted in reality, but every now and then it’s fun to watch the group go batsh*t crazy.
2. Niagara (Season 6, Episodes 4 and 5)
“Niagara” marked an event every Office fan had been waiting for — Jim and Pam’s wedding.
The couple decides to have the happy nuptials outside of Niagra Falls, hoping that will deter their officemates from attending but when Michael gives everyone the day off, the resulting celebration takes a turn for the worst. First, Jim spills the beans about Pam’s pregnancy to her conservative grandmother, then Andy tears his scrotum during a dance-off, and finally, in order to avoid any more snags, Jim surprises Pam with a vow-sharing boat ride to Niagara Falls. It was the best payoff viewers could hope for and the entire episode was a testament to how well the show could blend outrageous humor with heartfelt moments.
1. Dinner Party (Season 4, Episode 13)
The Office never failed to utilize the strained, chaotic, downright abusive relationship between Michael and Jan but in its fourth season, the show lit a match to years of mounting tension and hostility between the two with “Dinner Party.” Over a few glasses of wine, an uncomfortable album listening session, and (possibly/probably) poisoned osso bucco, we uncomfortably watch a relationship implode alongside a group of co-workers who are near-literally clawing at the walls to escape what might be the most awkward experience of their lives. Really, there’s only so much one needs to know about their fellow cubicle mates.
Jason Tabrys also contributed to this article.
Updated: November 7th. Originally published on June 2018. (Previous versions did not feature “Money,” “Secret Santa,” “Dwight Schrute (Acting Manager),” “Business School,” “Murder,” “Fun Run,” “The Duel,” “Drug Testing,” or “The Delivery.”)