The 14 Spookiest Episodes Of Buffy The Vampire Slayer Ranked

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is one of the most iconic horror shows of all time. The series followed Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a teenage girl who was called to be her generation's vampire slayer — the one girl who could slay, "the vampires, demons, and forces of darkness." Throughout high school and beyond, Buffy faced plenty of vamps and other big bads. All the while, she tried to be a normal girl and date, spend time with her friends, and take care of her family. 

"Buffy" is a fantastic watch for fans of the horror genre, so we've gathered the spookiest episodes from the show's seven season run, ranked from least to most scary. Whether you're a long-time fan or just looking for something scary to watch, this list will have something for you.

14. Conversations with Dead People

"Conversations with Dead People" functions as a creepy kind of ghost story. This episode from the final season sees Buffy and her friends talking to those from the beyond as they fight the First Evil, an amorphous force that can take the form of anyone who has died — which they discover in this haunting episode, as they're visited by those they've lost. While it may seem like a dream to have your mother or former lover suddenly reappear, the First Evil soon makes it clear that these reappearances are in fact a complete nightmare. 

As the Scoobies are separated and each deals with their own visitor, Buffy talks to a former high school classmate who's reawakened as a vampire in the cemetery. Throughout the episode, each member of the group has to figure out the truth hiding behind the figure before them, as well as how to get out of the fight unscathed. This episode isn't the scariest episode of the show, but is definitely spooky and fun in terms of Buffy's take on the ghost story.

13. The Pack

This season 1 episode finds Xander and a group of popular kids transforming into hyena-like humans, thanks to an incident during a school field trip to the zoo that causes them to become possessed with the spirits of the carnivorous creatures. When the animal instincts kick in, the goofy and affable Xander transforms into a vicious and mean-spirited bully, egged on by his new packmates. As Willow and Buffy try to figure out what's wrong with him, it's hard to determine whether he's possessed, or just embracing the worst aspects of behaving like a teenage boy. 

"The Pack" showcases the horror of what happens when your best friend turns into a different person overnight, becoming a literal monster. This episode is also a great example of the show's early reliance on strong episodic storytelling, inspired by series like "The X-Files" and "The Twilight Zone." The possession story combined with the high school dynamics creates a compelling episode that's eerie and epitomizes the underlying strengths of the show's basic premise.

12. Listening to Fear

Season 5 finds Buffy's beloved mother, Joyce, dealing with a brain tumor. In "Listening to Fear," she's released from the hospital after a surgery, and recovers with strange symptoms. All the while, Buffy and her younger sister Dawn deal with the emotional implications of their mother's health crisis. At the same time, an alien that feeds on the neurodivergent has crashed to Earth. While Joyce sees the alien following her, Buffy and Dawn chalk it up to hallucinations, until the alien finally makes itself physically known. 

"Listening to Fear" meshes the best parts of "Buffy" as the real and extraordinary collide in a terrifying manner. While Buffy deals with the fear of her mother's health prognosis, she doesn't realize that Joyce is under attack from something she can actually fight — a disgusting alien that shoots poisonous goo onto its victims, making this a tragic and fantastically spooky episode.

11. Halloween

In the world of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Halloween is typically the one night of the year when nothing happens — demons find it too on the nose. This season 2 episode subverts that with a surprising twist after a mysterious new costume shop shows up in town just in time for All Hallow's Eve. After shopping and buying new costumes, Buffy and her friends go trick or treating, ready for a night off, but things take a turn when they transform into their Halloween costumes. Buffy becomes a defenseless Victorian woman. Willow morphs into a ghost who is suddenly able to walk through walls. Xander is suddenly an experienced combat soldier. 

As they work to figure out what's happened to them, they have to survive the night amongst the other transformed kids and teens — easier said than done, since Buffy down for the count thanks to the spell on her costume — all while finding a way to undo the enchantment. "Halloween" is a fun episode that provides a twist on traditional seasonal fare, while also providing insight into the characters through their costume choices.

10. Killed by Death

Buffy is an extraordinarily strong teenage girl who can face nearly anything that comes her way, so when she's sick or otherwise weakened, that's scary in and of itself. "Killed by Death" sees Buffy with a case of the flu so bad she nearly dies at the hands of a vampire during a routine patrol, landing her in the children's ward of the hospital. 

Of course, with "Buffy," even the flu isn't as it appears. Buffy already distrusts the hospital, thanks to her cousin's untimely death, which she witnessed as a child. So, when the children describe a creature who haunts the hospital at night, and who the adults can't see, Buffy believes them, even if no one else will. 

As Buffy and the Scoobies investigate, they begin to suspect that the demon may be Death itself. Buffy begins to recover, so she forces herself to get sick again so she can stay in the hospital and solve the mystery, which may mean standing against an ancient, Germanic, child-killing demon ... and confronting the same creature she faced when she was a child. "Killed By Death" is a haunting episode in the way it combines the real world, fairy tales, and horror.

9. Ted

By the time that the series begins, Buffy's parents have been divorced for a few years. That doesn't make the idea of her mom dating any less gross. In this season 2 episode, her mom brings home the seemingly perfect guy, Ted (played by the quintessential guest star, John Ritter). Everyone seems to love him, including Buffy's friends, as he takes them out for miniature golf and bakes cookies. 

Yet Buffy can tell that Ted is too perfect, and that somewhere below the surface, something is wrong with him. As she investigates and learns more about her mom's boyfriend, the two clash, and he drives a wedge between Buffy and Joyce. However, Buffy ultimately discovers a horrifying truth: Ted is a robot with some horrifying — and literal — skeletons in his closet. "Ted" is an especially terrifying episode, as it examines the intersection of horror and domestic violence, which leads to a chilling conclusion as Buffy has to reckon with her Slayer identity in order to protect her mother.

8. Prophecy Girl

The season 1 finale finds Buffy going up against her first Big Bad, an ancient, resurrected vampire known as the Master, who seeks to open the Hellmouth and devour Sunnydale. Part of his plan also involves a prophecy that states that the Slayer will die. Throughout the 1st season, Buffy reluctantly trains and embraces the world of vampire slaying even as she dreams of being a normal teenage girl. 

However, when she learns of the prophecy, her fear takes hold and she wants to abandon slaying more than ever — especially as it conflicts with the school dance. While Giles and the rest of the Scoobies desperately try to find a way out of the prophecy, Buffy faces her fears — and the Master — in her prettiest dress, hoping at least that her friends can have a good time at the dance. "Prophecy Girl" is one of the show's best, blending the horrors of high school with the Gothic fantasy of the vampire underground in a fantastically spooky episode.

7. Passion

Throughout the 1st and 2nd season, Buffy strikes up a forbidden romance with Angel, a vampire who has been cursed to live a tortured existence with a soul. He makes it his mission to undo the evils of his former life by helping Buffy and her friends as he reckons with his past. Unfortunately, after they consummate their relationship and Angel experiences one moment of bliss, the curse is reversed and Angel loses his soul — turning him into the most evil, vampiric version of himself, Angelus. 

Angelus is disgusted by his former relationship with the Slayer and seeks revenge on her and her friends, a mission that comes to a head in "Passion." As Giles' girlfriend Jenny seeks a way to restore Angel's soul, Angelus closes in on her, leading to a heartbreaking conclusion. "Passion" is an upsetting look at the monster made real, a horrifying and fantastical allegory of the abusive high school boyfriend that makes for one of the series' most devastating and disturbing episodes.

6. Nightmares

In this season 1 episode, it's an average day at school until Buffy and the Scoobies find their worst dreams coming true with no explanation. The nightmares are ordinary enough to begin with — spiders coming out of a textbook, for example, or a surprise history test that Buffy didn't study for. 

However, as the day progresses, things turn scarier and more dangerous. A murderous clown runs through the school. Buffy's worst fear comes true, and she finds herself transformed into a vampire. As the Scoobies work to figure out what's happening, they uncover the tragic cause of the disturbances: An abused boy who has been put into a coma is projecting his nightmares onto Sunnydale. "Nightmares" is the show's spin on the waking nightmare trope, crafting a spooky tale that will have viewers pondering what would happen if their worst dreams came to life.

5. Helpless

Given that she's the one girl in all the world with the powers to slay vampires and other nasties, anytime that Buffy can't fight back it's truly scary. The season 3 episode "Helpless" finds Buffy approaching her 18th birthday, and wanting to carry on the tradition she and her dad have of attending a local ice show every year. When he stands her up, she's heartbroken, but soon finds herself weakened while on patrol, unable to defeat vampires that she would typically have no problem slaying. 

As Buffy tries to solve the mystery of how to regain her Slayer powers, she learns that her abilities have been diminished thanks to an ancient Slayer ritual carried out by her Watcher and de facto father figure, Giles. As Buffy recovers from another betrayal, she finds herself facing a deadly serial-killer-turned-vampire, having to rely only on herself and her smarts. "Helpless" is a chilling examination of what happens when those you love the most let you down.

4. Buffy vs. Dracula

"Buffy vs. Dracula" is an entertaining season 5 episode that uses a classic monster of the week format to show what happens when Buffy faces down the one and only Dracula. While Buffy usually finds herself easily vanquishing any vampire, she and the Scoobies are soon under the thrall of the mysterious and renowned figure, usually to humorous effect. 

Though Buffy tries to resist Dracula, he easily and hilariously makes Xander his slave, worming his way into the Scooby Gang before sneaking into Buffy's room late at night and biting her. After the bite, Buffy finds herself drawn to him, and the two engage in a tête à tête as Dracula tries to lure Buffy into the darkness. While Dracula's argument that the Slayer is intertwined with death is true, Buffy ultimately refuses to give in and figures out a way to outsmart him to delightful ends. "Buffy vs. Dracula" is a great standalone episode that highlights the show's humor and the way it plays with genre, while also tackling the darkness that lurks below the surface.

3. The Wish

This season 3 episode finds things going horribly awry after Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. A new student named Anya, who also happens to be a former vengeance demon with the power to grant wishes to wronged women, overhears and creates a terrifying alternate reality. Instead of coming to Sunnydale, Buffy serves as the Slayer in Cleveland. As a result, Sunnydale is so overrun by vampires that the town has a nightly curfew. 

Meanwhile, Xander and Willow have been turned into vampires and serve the Master, while Giles manages a small group of anti-vamp vigilantes. Since Cordelia was the one who made the wish, she remembers what reality should be like, but struggles to find her footing in the new world. However, thanks to Cordelia's musings, Giles wonders if there could be a better world out there. 

"The Wish" is a bleak and scary look at what might happen if your deepest wishes were granted, while also deriving terror from seeing the show's familiar characters placed in unexpected and extremely dangerous circumstances.

2. Normal Again

In another kind of alternate reality twist, the season 6 episode "Normal Again" finds Buffy discovering that she's in a mental institution in Los Angeles, and that her entire life in Sunnydale, including slaying and all of her friends, has been a fantasy. In addition, Buffy's mom is still alive, and her parents are still married. 

However, this is all an illusion drummed up by a demon that's dosed Buffy with a powerful hallucinogen, and is drawing on a trauma from Buffy's past. See, when Buffy first told her parents about her destiny as the Slayer, they put her in an institution. That makes it much harder for Buffy to determine what's real and what isn't, as she fears that she may have never left. 

As the Scoobies try to pull Buffy back into the real world, Buffy falls further into her delusion, secretly wanting the safety and comfort of a non-Slaying life — and thereby making her even more of a danger to her loved ones. "Normal Again" is a scary episode that will make even the most confident viewer question their view of reality.

1. Hush

One of the most iconic episodes of the entire series, season 4's "Hush" finds a mysterious group of suited demons known as the Gentlemen arriving in Sunnydale. Shortly before, Buffy has an eerie dream that delivers a prophecy in the form of a fairy tale. The next morning, the entire town of Sunnydale wakes up with their voices gone, forcing Buffy and the Scooby Gang to silently solve the mystery of what's happening. 

Meanwhile, given that Sunnydale's residents have no way to scream, the Gentleman have free rein to proceed with their plan to steal seven human hearts and complete an arcane ritual. Thankfully, it doesn't take long for Giles to unlock the mystery of the rhyme, which says that a human scream will defeat the monsters — a task easier said than done when no one can make any noise. "Hush" uses sound, silence, and blocking to incredible effect, making for a fun and scary episode that ranks as one of the show's absolute best.