The 14 Best Tony Soprano Moments On The Sopranos

Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) is hardly the first gangster to appear on television. When HBO's "The Sopranos" introduced Tony into our homes, it was clear he was no ordinary gangster. He was a family man, a history buff, a cinephile, a jokester, and an anti-hero. Tony likened himself to Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) from Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" trilogy and reminded audiences that mobster movies have been popular since the 1930s. The self-aware and hit television series dared to ask: what final consequences should Tony pay for his criminal life?

Gandolfini's performance in "The Sopranos" is one of the greatest of all time. The late Gandolfini showed how Tony's differing attributes are brought out by other people. Tony is constantly putting on a persona: he wants to appear strong in front of his family, ruthless near his adversaries, collected in front of his underlings, and honest to his therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). His performance was so legendary that casting anyone else in the role now seems like an impossible task. Although in 2021, "The Sopranos" showrunner David Chase cast Gandolfini's real-life son, Michael, as a younger version of Tony in his prequel film, "The Many Saints of Newark." Thankfully, Michael didn't impersonate his father's Tony: He found his own way to show how traumatic events in Tony's life shaped him into the complicated character he'd later become. 

In memory of the star and his role, here's a list of the 14 best Tony Soprano moments.

Tony attends therapy for the first time

While some aspects of "The Sopranos" haven't aged well, the series respectfully addresses Tony's mental illness. In the HBO series' pilot episode, Tony has a panic attack. He's referred to a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi. Tony is uncomfortable about attending a therapy session because he perceives it as a sign of weakness. Even though he lies to Dr. Melfi — saying he's only a waste management consultant — she's aware of his mob-boss reputation.

After discovering anything he tells Dr. Melfi technically falls under a patient-doctor confidentiality clause, Tony begins discussing his issues. Written by show creator David Chase, "Pilot" was a great way to start the series, as it forces Tony to be vulnerable in front of someone new. What's interesting is that Tony has enough things he's worried about that have nothing to do with the mafia. He argues with his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco). He's stressed about sending his daughter, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), to college. He's unable to form a connection with his son, A.J. (Robert Iler). Tony struggles to care for his sick mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand). Surprisingly, Tony's troubles are relatable, and his earnest conversations with Dr. Melfi build the groundwork needed for their relationship to grow throughout the series.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Tony and Meadow confess some dark secrets

"College" is one of the most important episodes of "The Sopranos." Season 1, episode 5 shows the difficulties ahead for Tony as he struggles to navigate his life as a father with his career as a mob boss. Viewers see Tony taking the time to bond with Meadow on a college tour. Although Tony expects their conversations to be focused on Meadow's future, she surprises him when she asks a question about his affiliation to the mafia.

Shocked, Tony tries to talk around her question. Although he does not admit he's in the mafia, Tony tells Meadow that not all of his endeavors are strictly legal and that he has made money from illegal gambling. He is equally shocked when Meadow shares some surprising facts: She admits to her father that while studying for her SATs, she took "speed" to enhance her focus. For both characters, this is an embarrassing moment. Tony doesn't want Meadow to know about his darker attributes, and Meadow knows her father doesn't want her using drugs. However, they appreciate each other's honesty.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Tony almost kills Livia

Throughout "The Sopranos," Tony is not a likable character. However, we learn critical information within the show about his backstory that helps explain why he is such a dangerous man. While "The Many Saints of Newark" explored Tony's early descent into the criminal world, critical flashbacks of a younger Tony's life also appear throughout "The Sopranos." From the viewer's perspective, it's clear Tony didn't get the love and support he needed from his mother, Livia.

In the season 1 finale, "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano," Tony visits his mother in the hospital. Tony knows Livia had spurred his uncle, Junior (Dominic Chianese), to put a hit on him. As a result, Tony is furious. Tony attempts to confront Livia, heavily implying he intends to smother her to death. However, Livia is recovering from a stroke and isn't in her hospital room. Despite all of his power and influence, this episode shows that Tony is still a child that is angry at his mother. He even angrily shouts to the hospital staff that his mother is smiling as she's rolled away.

Tony discovers Pussy's bertrayal

On "The Sopranos," loyalty means everything. Tony treats those who work for him like family and expects mutual respect. "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore) has been one of Tony's closest friends for years. He mentored A.J. and Meadow and gave Tony important advice before critical decisions. After waking up from a prophetic dream, Tony decides to confront Pussy. He knows Pussy has been angry with him, as Tony recently passed over promoting Pussy, and gave an equal role to his new associate, Furio Giunta (Federico Castelluccio). Pussy feels Tony has ignored him.

Tony has been suffering from food poisoning, so he fakes going to the bathroom to search through Pussy's possessions. After looking through Pussy's bedroom, Tony finds a wire in a cigar box — confirming his suspicions that Pussy has been a secret informant for the FBI. He acts swiftly. Tony, Paulie Gualtieri (Tony Sirico), and Silvio Dante (Steven Van Zandt) execute Pussy. It's a shocking moment, as it showcases just how seriously Tony takes betrayal. His quick decision shows that there is nothing that infuriates Tony more than being undermined.

Tony attacks Ralphie at the Bing

"University" contains a sequence so disturbing that it still sparks controversy amongst "The Sopranos" fans. The show has its fair share of violent moments, but those scenes rarely disturb Tony. But in "University," this all changes. This season 3 episode follows Ralphie Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano) discovering that one of Bing's exotic dancers, Tracee (Ariel Kiley), is pregnant with his child. After Tracee confronts Ralphie about his plans for their child, he mercilessly beats her to her death.

Tony learned about Tracee's pregnancy earlier in the episode. After noticing Tracee acting strangely, Tony tells her she should get an abortion. He's shocked when Ralphie murders a pregnant woman who is close to his daughter's age. Infuriated, Tony attacks Ralphie, even though he's a made-man — going against the mafia's rule to never fight one another. What makes this moment so important is that it showcases which lines Tony is willing to cross. Also, Tony knew that Tracee was innocent, showing an empathetic side of Tony. Later in the episode, it's even more heartbreaking listening to Tony alluding to the dark events with Dr. Melfi.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Tony gives Christopher and Paulie directions

While "The Sopranos" certainly has its fair share of dark moments, it was also frequently funnier than most comedies. Tony and his crew have a great sense of humor. Watching them hang out and talk is amusing as is. But the show hit a comedic high point with the season 3 episode "Pine Barrens." The episode follows Christopher Moltisanti (Michael Imperioli) and Paulie off on a wild goose chase in the icy woods. After a Russian mobster, Valery (Vitali Baganov), escapes their custody, they're tasked with tracking him down.

Tony is absent from the episode's main storyline, as his focus is on his rocky relationship with his girlfriend, Gloria Trillo (Annabella Sciorra). Tony receives a frantic phone call from Paulie at Gloria's house. Annoyed, he heads out into the woods with Bobby Baccalieri (Steve Schirripa) to find Paulie and Christopher. Tony's laughter at seeing Bobby in his outdoorsman gear is priceless. According to Schirripa, he pulled a prank on Gandolfini off-camera so the scene could capture his genuine laughter.

Tony kills Ralphie

In season 4 of "The Sopranos," tensions between Tony and Ralphie escalate. Ralphie reached a new low in season 3 when he ordered the death of Jackie Aprile Jr. (Jason Cerbone), Meadow's ex-boyfriend — giving "The Sopranos" fans even more of a reason to hate him. However, Ralphie is in a tragic position in the episode "Whoever Did This." His young son, Justin (Dane Curley), becomes critically wounded, and Ralphie is desperate to pay the hospital bills.

Tony discovers an electrical fire has broken out in the stable where Ralphie keeps his horse, Pie-O-My. Tony's love of animals has been a recurring theme throughout the series. Sadly, Pie-O-My is so badly burned that the vet had to euthanize him. Tony is heartbroken and quickly blames Ralphie. Tony knows the insurance money generated by the fire is enough to cover Justin's medical bills, leading him to suspect that Ralphie orchestrated Pie-O-My's death. Tony confronts Ralphie and strangles him to death. Although Pie-O-My's death may have sparked Tony's rage, this moment shows the brutal revenge he's been waiting to dole out to Ralphie for a while.

Tony and Carmela's explosive fight

Tony's loyalty to his immediate family never wavers, but he and Carmela certainly have had their disagreements. Carmela is one of the most complex characters in "The Sopranos." She's culpable for Tony's crimes, and her aura of normalcy doesn't mask the nature of Tony's work. After Carmela suspects Tony is having another affair, Tony attempts to please Carmela by taking her on a surprise trip to the Jersey Shore in "Whitecaps." For a brief moment, it appears that the couple may have happier days ahead of them, but that potential quickly disappears.

Tony's former girlfriend, Irina Peltsin (Oksana Lada), drunk-dials Carmela and tells her about Tony's marital indiscretions. Fed up with Tony's constant disrespect for her, Carmela screams at her husband. Tony eventually spends the night alone. But this isn't their only argument in the episode. After they reunite, Carmela reveals she's fantasized about sleeping with Furio, which sets Tony off. He pushes Carmela and smashes his fist into the wall near her head. This moment showed the fundamental differences in the couple's power dynamic. The mere prospect of Carmela loving another man is enough to enrage Tony, but he's been having affairs for years.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Tony kills Tony B.

Veteran character actor Steve Buscemi directed many of the best episodes of "The Sopranos," including "Pine Barrens." In season 5, Buscemi joined the series cast as Tony's cousin, Tony Blundetto, aka "Tony B." Tony and Tony B. were childhood friends, but Tony B. spent most of his life in prison. Tony B.'s story is a tragic one. He attempts to go on the straight-and-narrow path, but Tony soon brings him back into the fray to help pay for his massage parlor. After his cellmate is killed, Tony B. kills Billy Leotardo (Chris Caldovino), a member of Phil Leotardo's (Frank Vincent) crew. Tony B.'s crimes heighten the already tense situation between the Leotardo and Soprano crime families.

Afraid this will lead to war amongst crime families, Tony decides to handle the situation. He knows that Billy's brother, Phil, will brutally torture Tony B. if he gets his hands on him, so Tony decides to do what he thinks is the most ethical and safe decision. He executes Tony B., resolving the conflict and sparing his cousin from an even more gruesome fate.

Tony's dream of another life

Throughout "The Sopranos," Tony's extended visions and dreams have thematic implications that make the series even more profound with subsequent rewatches. In the first episode of season 6, "Members Only," Junior shoots Tony, critically wounding him. Before passing out from the blood loss, Tony manages to dial 911.

In the following episode, "Join the Club," Tony's family gathers in the hospital to care for him. Most of season 6, episode 2 takes place in Tony's subconscious: Tony has an extended dream sequence, imagining that he is a salesman named Kevin Finnerty in California. Hearing James Gandolfini speaking without a New Jersey accent is surreal. Like Tony, Finnerty is going through a midlife crisis. Contemplating his past and future life choices, he checks into a hotel. The moment where Finnerty sits alone in his room staring off into the distance is one of the most understated and beautiful moments in "The Sopranos." Don't let anyone tell you that "Stranger Things" has the best use of the Moby song "When It's Cold I'd Like to Die." "The Sopranos" got there first!

Tony kills Christopher

Tony's relationship with Christopher is one of the most complex ones in "The Sopranos." Tony has been training Christopher to take over the crime family when he's gone, and he wants to see him live up to his father's legacy. "The Many Saints of Newark" fleshed out the close relationship that Tony had with Christopher's father, Dickie (Alessandro Nivola).

Throughout the series, Tony attempts to bond with Christopher. He even helps him get revenge on the retired police officer responsible for his father's death. However, Tony gradually learns that Christopher isn't prepared to be a leader. Despite many attempts to enter recovery, Christopher heavily uses drugs and alcohol.

In "Kennedy and Heidi," Tony and Christopher get into a car crash due to Christopher driving while intoxicated. Although Tony is not seriously injured, Christopher is. He tells Tony they can't call the police because he would fail a drug test. Tony seemingly is helping Christopher, but he then stares at the child's car seat in the back — leading him to change his mind. He suffocates Christopher. Of all of Tony's decisions, this is one of the most heartbreaking ones.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Tony saves A.J.'s life

Tony's relationship with A.J. has always been strange. A.J. doesn't really fit in with the rest of his family. While Meadow claims to not follow a criminal lifestyle, she's just as sociable with crime families as her mother. In season 6, A.J. goes through a mental health crisis. Feeling alone, A.J. reads the W. B. Yeats poem "The Second Coming." Feeling that there is no happier future for him, A.J. attempts to die by suicide.

However, Tony finds his son in the family's pool and saves him. At this moment, it's impossible to judge Tony for his past crimes. He's not a criminal, a mobster, or a murderer: He is a heartbroken father who wants to do everything he can to save his child. While A.J.'s behavior has annoyed him over the years, Tony has nothing but love for his son. His angry cries at A.J. aren't tears of anger but tears of fear. The scene in the hospital where A.J. discusses his depression is moving. Unfortunately, Tony and Carmela are so frightened that they blame each other.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Tony flees with his family

"The Sopranos" reaches an exciting climax in its penultimate episode, "The Blue Comet." Phil wants to wage war against Tony, so he orders his hitmen Albie Cianflone (John Ciarcia) and Butch DeConcini (Gregory Antonacci) to take out Tony, Silvio, and Bobby. Thankfully, Tony still has some friends in law enforcement. He receives a warning from the FBI Supervisor Agent Dwight Harris (Matt Servitto). Unfortunately, Tony's attempt to whack Phil goes disastrously wrong when the cousins accidentally kill the wrong man.

As a result, Phil's men shoot Silvio and Bobby before they can reach Tony's safe house. Again, this is another instance where Tony looks to his family first. He tells Carmela what happened and drags A.J. out of bed to bring him to safety. Tony gathers Paulie, Carlo Gervasi (Arthur J. Nascarella), Walden Belfiore (Frank John Hughes), and Dante Greco (Anthony Ribustello) at a hideout. Tony sleeplessly clings to the same rifle that he had given Bobby. This moment shows Tony in his most vulnerable state.

Tony's final scene

"The Sopranos" is widely known for its bold series finale. Tony finally tracked down Phil. He gets revenge by ordering Benny Fazio (Max Casella) and Walden Belfiore to execute him. Although he wants to make amends with Junior, his uncle's dementia has progressed too far for them to reconcile. Once a powerful figure in the criminal world, Junior is now a sad and confused elderly man.

Fittingly, Tony spends his last moments on screen with his immediate family. He and Carmela have had an argument-free evening. A.J. appears to be recovering from his traumatic experience. Meadow joins them — even if she claimed she'd walk away from her family's legacy. We learn she's now engaged to Patrick Parisi (Daniel Sauli), the nephew of the DiMeo crime family's Philly Spoons (Dan Grimaldi). "The Sopranos" creator David Chase has discussed A.J. and Meadow's future: Meadow won't be a housewife like her mother, and A.J. will never be a killer like his father. Rather than give viewers a clear-cut answer about Tony's fate, "Made in America" ends with a shocking fade to black.

Throughout the series, Tony is always on edge, as he's never sure which moments could be his last. Although Chase confirmed Tony's death in 2021, the ambiguous nature of the ending shows that there are no clear getaways for Tony.