The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (2024)

The story goes that when Fox entertainment chief Peter Chernin was putting together his schedule for the 1990-91 TV season, he had to decide between an adaptation of Heathers and an Aaron Spelling–produced series titled Beverly Hills High. Veronica Sawyer’s doom was our gain.

Beverly Hills, 90210 premiered on October 4, 1990 as a wholesome fish-out-of-water tale about Minnesota twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh (Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty) trying to adjust to a life of fast cars and loose morals in a luxe zip code. It was dumped on Thursday nights at 9 p.m., opposite Cheers. Expectations were low, as adults didn’t know what to make of it. Los Angeles Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg called it “a zip code for stereotypes and stock characters,” while Tom Shales of The Washington Post sniffed that the show’s producers “created a vacuum, a perfect void, a black hole in the already vast and empty TV schedule. Not so much a black hole as a beige one.”

This was no show for old men, anyway. 90210 (no fan ever referred to it by its full title) was the first small-screen entity to ever capture the attention of Generation X because it examined teens from the perspective of teens—with a healthy dose of sudsy melodrama thrown in. By the end of Season 1, Brenda slept with the soft-spoken rebel loner Dylan McKay (Luke Perry) without a shred of remorse; Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) shared her traumatic experience about being date-raped; Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris) shed her neuroses; Steve (Ian Ziering) raged because of his childhood adoption; Brandon got into a drunk-driving accident; and virginal Donna (Tori Spelling) started befriending freshman geek David Silver (Brian Austin Green). They were all influencers without the benefit of iPhones.

Once new episodes turned up in the summer of 1991, 90210 evolved into an addictive, must-see phenomenon. Priestley and Perry, with their retro-looking sideburns, became teen magazine cover staples—despite the fact that the actors were a combined 47 years old. Dolls and backpacks and pillowcases popped up in stores. There were CD soundtracks and an “I Hate Brenda” zine devoted to bad girl Doherty. If you watch Pearl Jam’s award-winning 1992 “Jeremy” video, you’ll catch “90210” scrawled on the blackboard along with “Genesis 3:6” and “ignored.” Fans mobbed the cast in public, treating Perry, Priestley, et al., as if they were John, Paul, George, and Ringo circa 1964. (Perry once had to escape throngs of fans by jumping in a laundry bin and hiding under the soiled linens.)

Back in the zip code, the West Bev teens had carte blanche to act like adults. AIDS, sex, pill-popping, alcoholism, and eating disorders were all on the metaphorical Peach Pit menu. Maximum time was also devoted to developing relationships among the characters, as the angst-ridden love triangle between Brenda, Kelly, and Dylan took shape years before the Riverdale stars were zygotes. Consider this: At its height, 90210 had a 58 rating share among adolescents.

And as the audience aged, the characters did as well. During the cast’s time at California University, conventional nighttime soap plots took over. And then came the behind-the-scenes drama: Doherty, who didn’t get along with the cast and crew and perpetually showed up late, was axed in 1994; Carteris and Perry exited in 1995; Priestley left the nest in 1998. By the time 90210 aired its final episode in May 2000, it was a pop culture afterthought compared to the edgier Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicity, and Charmed on the WB network. Then again, you could argue that without 90210, the WB never would have existed.

Thanks to the continual daily reruns (first on SoapNet, now on Pop!), it seems hard to believe that 19 years have passed since the cast signed off. But now here we are, with the world’s interest in the ’90s renewed, and with a reboot on the way. The original stars (minus the irreplaceable Perry, who died in March) have returned to reprise their alter egos in a cheeky meta-reboot that premieres Wednesday night on Fox. The six-episode BH90210 has the potential to be either a misguided fail or a nostalgia-dripping wonder. No matter what it is, 90210 is a legend worth celebrating. So before the reboot premieres, let’s look back at the trail-Blaze-ing—that’s a West Bev inside joke, duh—series and rank its 90 (you know, like the decade) greatest moments.

90. The ’60s flashback (Season 4, Episode 25)

Oh, right, I forgot to mention that the West Bev gang also delved into the issues pertaining to . . . the Vietnam War. In a writers’ room circa 1994, married showrunners Charles and Karen Rosin thought it would be groovy if the cast took it all the way back to 1969—complete with era-appropriate hippie garb. They couched it as a stand-alone episode in which Brenda unearths a diary in her room and envisions her friends in the roles of the teens described on the page. It is watchable only for Brian Austin Green’s p*rn ’stache.

89. Steve plays golf with Barry Bonds (Season 4, Episode 24)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (1)

The man may not have a Hall of Fame plaque, but he does own a SAG card. In 1994, the then–San Francisco Giant outfielder portrayed a famous MLBer named “Barry Larson” who, along with his pops, vied against Steve Sanders and his old man, Rush, in a father-son golf tournament. (Weirdly, Bobby Bonds does not appear.) The twist in this episode was that Steve’s dad—not Larson—was the one caught cheating.

88. Jim Walsh has the hots for his young secretary (Season 3, Episode 13)

How nice that in Season 3, papa bear Jim Walsh (James Eckhouse) was allowed his own story line. How cringey that it involved him fantasizing about his new gorgeous young secretary putting the moves on him after-hours at the office. Mercifully, this daydream never came to fruition. (It would have on The O.C.)

87. Kelly the amnesiac (Season 8, Episode 4)

Stay with me here. At the start of Season 8, Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) was shot in a parking lot. She had no physical injuries, but the magic bullet cut off blood supply in her brain and erased her short-term memory. “Who are you?” she asked the cute guy in her hospital room who happened to be Brandon Walsh. However, she did recognize her mom. Weird!

86. Emily comes back—with a terrible haircut (Season 5, Episode 13)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (2)

Why, Christine Elise? Why?!

85. Donna is held hostage (Season 7, Episode 18)

It happened during a live broadcast of the California University TV news. Brandon was co-anchoring; Donna was doing the weather. Her stalker— not to be confused with the stalker she had two years earlier—held everyone hostage at the TV station and caused mass chaos. Donna took his gun and saved everyone. Tori Spelling dated the actor IRL.

84. Carly and Steve go to Splitsville (Season 8, Episode 17)

Fun only in retrospect: Steve Sanders—he of the I8AFRE license plate— was just not cut out to date a working-class single mom played by Hillary Swank. Carly had to go; something about moving to Seattle, I think. A few months later, Swank was cast in Boys Don’t Cry.

83. Brandon and Clare try out for College Jeopardy! (Season 5, Episode 25)

I’ll take “Brandon Has Never Been Book Smart For $2000,” Alex.

82. “Hava Nagila” at the Peach Pit (Season 4, Episode 20)

Mazel Tov! Nat played the Israeli folk song on the jukebox during the reception for new bride Andrea Zuckerman (Gabrielle Carteris) and her husband Jesse Vasquez (Mark Damon Espinoza). Because nothing says “let’s celebrate a shotgun wedding between a college freshman and a bartender” than the hora.

81. Donna’s mom bribes Ray (Season 5, Episode 15)

A moment of appreciation here for the great Felice Martin (Katherine Cannon), who probably gave Candy Spelling herself a run for the money when it came to being a stuck-up, ultra-controlling Beverly Hills housewife and mother. In her pièce de résistance, she hands Donna’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks boyfriend, Ray Pruit (Jamie Walters), a check for 10 large to ghost her daughter. No dice, much to her dismay.

80. “Squash It!” (Season 5, Episode 27)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (3)
79. Hey, is that Adam Levine playing at the Peach Pit After Dark? (Season 8, Episode 3)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (4)

Yes, it is! This was in 1999, when he fronted a group called Kara’s Flowers. He has a shirt on, but I’m guessing he was not yet fully, absurdly tatted.

78. Rocking it with the Rolling Stones (Season 5, Episode 12)

The gang didn’t say boo about the death of Kurt Cobain, yet they were alllll about getting primo tickets to see the Stones on their Voodoo Lounge Tour. Thanks to the actual concert footage (with a wide-eyed Priestley and Carteris standing front row floor), “Voodoo You So Well” is unavailable to stream. Damn you and your music-licensing fees, Mick Jagger!

77. Mrs. Teasley shows up at … Donna’s bachelorette party (Season 10, Episode 27)

Seriously, how hard up are you for friends when you invite your high school vice principal to play raunchy games at your bachelorette party? That said, it was good to see the suffer-no-fools Mrs. T (Denise Y. Dowse) appear in the series’ final episode.

76. Steve and Pauly Shore’s bar brawl (Season 6, Episode 32)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (5)

Technically, Pauly Shore wasn’t playing himself. He had a blonde wig and a Southern accent. But Ziering still took care of business at a strip club in the Season 6 finale that aired in May 1996—also known as the peak of the era of Pauly Shore being the butt of his own joke.

75. Casa Walsh gets destroyed (kind of) (Season 6, Episode 1)

Jim and Cindy Walsh served a dutiful purpose during the high school years of 90210. But as their kids grew up, there was little need for them to hang around and nag about missed curfew. So finally, the elders uprooted to Japan, leaving Brandon to lock up the spilt-level, Spanish-tiled Walsh home. Upon hearing that the new owners planned to demolish it, Steve (of course) suggested the mother of all parties. Brandon agreed, and chaos ensued. But everyone sobered up in a hurry when the realtor dropped by mid-bash and shrieked these dreaded words: “The house fell out of escrow.”

74. The Bill Clinton “cameo” (Season 4, Episode 31)

It’s not really 1994-era Bill Clinton shaking Brandon’s hand and giving a speech in the Rose Garden about the importance of higher education—it’s a random dude in a gray wig.

73. Andrea and Brandon bicker about condoms (Season 2, Episode 21)

The unrequited sexual tension between Andrea and Brandon came to a head during a 1992 episode about potential condom distribution at West Beverly High. Andrea didn’t understand the controversy given the AIDS statistics; Brandon the stud coldly reminded her that she was a virgin who’d never experienced “the feelings” of passion; possibly the harshest insult he ever could have thrown at her, and also just a bad take as far as condom takes go. Thankfully, Kelly soon soothed things over.

72. Mel Silver asks out Jackie Taylor (Season 2, Episode 5)

A good-old-fashioned parental hook-up, hell yeah! Too bad Mel had to ruin it two years later by shtupping his dental hygienist.

71. Donna becomes a French fashion model (Season 3, Episode 4)

I mean, sure ... it could happen.

70. Steve Young shows up to play touch-football (Season 6, Episode 12)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (6)

Apparently, the NFL star had nothing better to do on Thanksgiving 1995 than show up at the Walsh house and throw passes on the front lawn. All because unlikely California University quarterback Joe Bradley (Cameron Bancroft)—who had the body shape of a wire coat hanger—was down in the dumps.

69. Valerie does diaper duty (Season 7, Episode 7)

It seems hard to believe that we went four long years on 90210 without the presence of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen’s Valerie Malone, the Rebecca Howe of the show. The vixen even turned the throwaway arcs into gold—like this gem from 1996, when she slept with a married businessman and attempted to extort him by claiming she was pregnant. She even dumped a box of diapers on his front lawn to send a message.

68. The return of Dylan McKay (Season 9, Episode 8)

Three years after he drove off in a heap of grief, Dylan McKay rode back into town, his brooding attitude still intact. ’Tis a shame Perry rejoined the series just as it was gasping for air—and after Priestley and Thiessen had already exited.

67. Brandon and Kelly’s faux wedding (Season 8, Episode 32)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (7)

The longtime couple walked down the aisle, only to refuse the “I do’s” because they just weren’t ready. (In reality, Priestley was gearing up to leave the show.) It was a dagger in the heart to fans longing to see them make it legal—but a relief to Team Dylan.

66. Andrea does the cannonball (Season 4, Episode 7)

Andrea has a dilemma: How to go public with her romance with Dan Rubin, her English teaching assistant/dorm advisor? The correct answer is don’t; the advice she gets, from Brandon and Steve, is to do a “cannonball”—a dramatic display of affection that screams “I’m hooking up with an authority figure” to the world. She ends up kissing him in the center of the quad; he ends up somehow not losing his job.

65. Jack McKay is alive (!!!!!!!!!) (Season 10, Episode 18)

In 2000, the show pulled off one last surprise. Turns out that crook-turned-FBI-informant Jack McKay (Josh Taylor) didn’t really die in that car bomb seven years earlier, which means Dylan should never have met mobster Tony Marchette—or have married his daughter only to later watch her die in his arms. Brutal.

64. Kelly’s Single White Female situation (Season 6, Episode 28)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (8)

Let’s just admit that Tara—the obsessed character who kidnapped Kelly and attempted to pull a murder-suicide—did look better as a blond.

63. Milton Berle does his shtick (Season 5, Episode 16)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (9)

Fun (and tragic) fact: Berle’s 1995 guest appearance—playing a former TV star addled with Alzheimer’s—led to the series’ one and only Emmy nomination. He didn’t win.

62. Brenda rebuffs jock Tony Miller at prom (Season 3, Episode 27)

Here’s the money line from Brenda: “Put the gun away, Miller. You won’t be needing it tonight.” I don’t think Walking Dead actor Michael Cudlitz, who played Tony, has ever properly addressed this stinging rejection.

61. Brandon leaves the zip code for good (Season 9, Episode 6)

Small-market journalist Brandon gets a job at the Washington Bureau of the New York Chronicle. On his last night in Beverly Hills, he goes night swimming with Kelly and assures her that he has no regrets. She believes him. Priestley and his perfectly coiffed hair were the bedrock of 90210, and the series never recovered from the 1998 departure.

60. Steve lands a half-court shot at the Lakers game (Season 3, Episode 25)

With Dyan Cannon sitting in the front row at the Forum, no less! (What, Jack Nicholson didn’t want to be caught on camera?)

59. Brenda gets thrown in jail (Season 4, Episode 24)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (10)

Toward the end of Doherty’s turbulent run, Brenda was saddled with a story line in which she protested CU’s medical testing on animals and broke into their lab. Sadly, “animal rights now!” did not carry the same gravitas as “Donna Martin graduates!” and Brenda was arrested and thrown in the slammer for a night. Papa Jim was not amused.

58. Donna runs into her priest in the X-rated section of the video store (Season 3, Episode 12)

That could be the most 1992 sentence ever. The actor, Gregory Itzin, would go on to play sinister President Logan in 24.

57. The palpably awkward Burt Reynolds cameo (Season 3, Episode 26)

56. Welcome, Jake Hanson (Season 2, Episode 27)

Hey, look who just pulled up by the beach in his motorcycle! Meet Jake Hanson (Grant Show), who taught Dylan everything he knows about being cool. Now he’s back in town, he tells Dylan and Brenda, and crashing at this apartment complex off Melrose. This wasn’t the flashiest entry point into Melrose Place—this was B.A., Before Amanda, mind you—but it did the job.

55. Donna’s mermaid dress thing (Season 2, Episode 13)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (11)

This was for a 1991 Halloween party episode, and trust me: the screen-grab really doesn’t do it justice.

54. Steve recruits a computer hacker to change his grades (Season 3, Episode 12)

Who does he think he is, Ferris Bueller? Matthew Broderick’s character from War Games? (To answer both questions: Steve 100 percent thought he was both of these characters.) Needless to say, the plan does not end well.

53. Brandon totals his car (Season 1, Episode 11)

It was a rare occasion for Brandon Walsh, a former Boy Scout, to lower his idealistic standards, but we get a rare glimpse of it in Season 1 when he threw a party, drank a few too many, and crashed his beloved car, Mondale. Oh right, I should explain: Brandon, a 16-year-old, nicknamed his car after a 1984 Democratic presidential candidate.

52. The West Bev pilgrimage (Season 5, Episode 30)

Kelly, Donna, and David say goodbye to a departing Andrea by throwing the former valedictorian a surprise party at West Beverly High. “This is quite a campus for a public school!” Clare (Kathleen Robertson) marvels, to which David replies, “This is quite a campus for any school.” Very meta.

51. Kelly gets sucked into a cult (Season 5, Episode 21)

Kelly survived the ordeal of being trapped in the basem*nt of a burning house, but the emotional scars remained. Still vulnerable from her near-death experience, she went to a weekend conference run by her popular, abnormal psychology professor, Dr. Patrick Finley (Alan Toy). With his tortoise-shell glasses and sweater vests and talk of “externs” and “the new evolution,” she quickly gets pulled into his web of lies. Dylan ultimately gets her out of it, but only after Finley persuades her move out of her apartment, dump Brandon, and fundraise on his behalf.

50. Brenda dyes her hair (Season 1, Episode 6)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (12)

Doherty would later admit she was humiliated wearing the wig on set. Somehow, to this day no one has been prosecuted for this crime against her.

49. Andrea learns she’s pregnant (Season 4, Episode 17)

Carteris, who was 34 but playing 18, was pregnant with her first child and could only conceal herself in baggy overalls and behind lunch trays for so long. Enter a surprise freshman-year pregnancy, courtesy of Jesse the bartender/law school student. She’s convinced she has the 24-hour flu; a university doctor informs her it will last nine months. Ah, the unavoidable pitfalls of hiring a full-on adult to play a teenager!

48. A comatose Dylan hallucinates Donna as a hooker (Season 5, Episode 10)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (13)

There she is, cavorting around in skin-tight black leather and making out with Dylan while he lay comatose in the hospital. Somebody please get a psychiatric expert on the case (but not Dr. Finley).

47. “I don’t like alternative music, but these guys rock!” (Season 5, Episode 23)

Wayne Coyne recently admitted that he believed this “disaster” of an episode—in which the Flaming Lips play at the Peach Pit After Dark—would never air. Joke’s on him.

46. Clare, Lucinda, and Brandon in bed (Season 4, Episode 32)

It never actually happened, but Brandon did have a dream about the school chancellor’s randy teen daughter and his professor’s randy ex-wife (herself an anthropology instructor) during his trip to Washington, D.C., with the presidential task force. It’s a pretty salacious dream until he’s rustled awake by a knock at the door from ... surprise—his future girlfriend Kelly! Brandon says he’s never been so happy to see her. We don’t believe him.

45. David gets dropped by his record label (Season 3, Episode 23)

David Silver was bank in 1993. He skipped a year in school so he could graduate with his friends, he was still dating Donna, he had his gig as the West Bev DJ, and he had discovered his mad rapping skills. The latter was good enough to earn him a record deal with producer Serge Menkin. Alas, his first single, a slow jam called “Precious,” sounded like it came from the All 4 One reject pile.

44. D’Shawn threatens Brandon (Season 4, Episode 11)

During freshman year of college, Brandon is asked to tutor an NBA-worthy basketball player named D’Shawn Hardell (Cress Williams). They’d go on to become legit friends—but only after D’Shawn ordered Brandon to take his test for him, lest he reveal that Brandon slept with their professor’s wife, Lucinda. (This wasn’t true ... at the time.) Brandon refuses, prompting D’Shawn to sneer, “You’re asking for a world of hurt.” The point is: 90210 was ahead of the curve when it came to NCAA corruption.

43. Donna does the Texas Dip (Season 5, Episode 2)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (14)

It’s just a curtsy, people!

42. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” (Season 2, Episode 8)

For West Bev’s Hello Week, Brenda, Kelly, and Donna originally planned on performing a spoof of “Addicted to Love” called “Addicted to Clothes.” Then Emily Valentine joined the group and went rogue. The black costumes and blank faces from the Robert Palmer music video remained, for some reason.

41. Dylan throws a pie in John Sears’s face (Season 4, Episode 11)

The BMOC creep at the KEG house, played (fittingly) by Paul Johansson, had it coming.

40. Brenda becomes a 1950s waitress at the Peach Pit (Season 1, Episode 16)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (15)

Laverne, we barely knew ye.

39. Dylan gets scammed (Season 4, Episode 15)

When a woman named Suzanne showed up on Dylan’s doorstep on Christmas with a young girl and claimed to be his dead dad’s long-lost ex-girlfriend, we didn’t know she was secretly masterminding a plot to swipe his $8 million trust fund from under him and leave the country. It took almost a year for a destitute Dylan to recover the moolah; we still don’t have DNA proof whether the girl, Erica, was really his half-sister.

38. Donna passes out at the prom (Season 3, Episode 27)

The school board rules were clear: Anyone caught drinking or drunk at the senior prom would be suspended and not allowed to graduate. And yet Donna imbibed some champagne on an empty stomach anyway! Throwing up in the bathroom and passing out in front of Mrs. T was inevitable.

37. “I’d like to exchange an egg” (Season 2, Episode 15)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (16)

This was the passcode at the local liquor store to get directions to a secret underground rave. But Steve and Andrea got lost and asked to exchange the egg at the wrong location. Trust me, you had to be there.

36. Dylan saves Brandon’s life (Season 2, Episode 7)

This is what comes of wearing wet sneakers on a hike.

35. Valerie beds Colin (Season 6, Episode 24)

The second-rate painter (Jason Wiles) ran into Val’s arms after Kelly dumped him. Val’s arms were very much open.

34. Valerie beds Steve (Season 5, Episode 13)
33. Valerie beds David (Season 6, Episode 5)

Thiessen and Green were a rather adorable item when she joined the show in 1994. The pair broke up shortly thereafter but the sparks lingered: Their first hook-up was one of the steamiest scenes in 90210 history.

32. Valerie beds Dylan (Season 5, Episode 3)

“I … want … a … man … to … ache … for … me.” Our gal Val actually said this during her first encounter with Dylan.

31. Valerie beds Ray (Season 5, Episode 20)

Twice. His girlfriend Donna wouldn’t find out for almost a year.

Psych! The longtime friends and roommates only kissed. Brandon, ever the Boy Scout, put the kibosh on it before it could go any further.

29. Dylan meets Brandon, quotes Lord Byron (Season 1, Episode 2)

This was how we were introduced to Dylan McKay! Try to imagine anyone but Luke Perry getting away with this dialogue.

28. Mackenzie Phillips! Leads! An intervention! (Season 1, Episode 9)

Unlike, say, Will & Grace, 90210 never quite knew what to do with its guest stars (see: no. 89 and no. 57). The exception is this 1994 beauty featuring actress and ’60s love child Mackenzie Phillips, a real-life recovering drug addict. In the show, she played a counselor who leads an intervention on Dylan inside the Walsh house. She had the best intentions, even if her efforts failed. It’s not her fault that Dylan entered rehab with blow still in his pocket and checked out a day later—even if, within the 90210 universe, such behavior was extremely predictable

27. David cheats on Donna with Ariel (Season 4, Episode 32)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (17)

Donna’s worst suspicions were confirmed when she caught her boyfriend in a limo half-naked with Ariel (Kari Wuhrer), the trampy record label A&R rep. Cut to a shot of the condom wrapper on the floor. (I’m not just saying this—90210 literally cut to a shot of a condom wrapper on a floor.)

26. David reveals Ariel gave him an STD (Season 5, Episode 1)

In the immortal words of Brandon Walsh, “You stray, you pay, my brother.”

25. Jackie Taylor emcees the mother-daughter fashion show high on cocaine (Season 1, Episode 7)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (18)

Jackie Taylor, former fashion model and mom to Kelly, seemed like a dream baby boomer parent. The sad reality? She was a co*ke addict who went off the rails in front of her daughter and other assorted members of the Beverly Hills community during a mother-daughter fashion show. (The unveiling of once-private family dysfunction is a classic trope of shows like 90210.) Jackie entered rehab shortly after this, but the embarrassing fiasco would be a talking point between mother and daughter for years to come.

24. The gang rearranges the Hollywood sign on graduation night (Season 3, Episode 30)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (19)

The song that plays in the background of this scene, “Blood Is Thicker than Water” by the Triplets, was intended to be Don Henley’s “End of the Innocence.” But, evidently unimpressed with high-level vandalism, Henley wouldn’t give over the rights.

23. “I won’t be gone forever, Dylan” (Season 4, Episode 31)

22. Dylan and Brenda’s first date (Season 1, Episode 10)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (20)

Most teens in 1991 saw White Men Can’t Jump on a date. Dylan and Brenda, on the other hand, went to the swanky Bel Age hotel, where Dylan’s bully of a dad screamed at him. He ran out of the building and smashed the closest flower pot he could find to pieces. Brenda was smitten.

21. Kelly does cocaine (Season 6, Episode 17)

20. Brenda pretends to be French (Season 3, Episode 4)

One word: Reek! Let’s never forget that glorious time when Brenda Walsh of Minneapolis spent the summer in Paris and pretended to be a Frenchie named Brenda DuBois while wooing a strapping American exchange student played by Dean Cain. Incredibly, lovestruck Rick fell for zee horreeeble accent.

19. Emily Valentine destroys the gang’s homecoming float (Season 2, Episode 16)

Pull up a chair and listen to a story about a troubled girl named Emily Valentine. New to Beverly Hills, she starts dating Brandon within weeks. But the budding relationship goes south when she slips him illegal drugs (more on that below) and he promptly dumps her. Our funny Valentine then goes full-on Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, going to extreme lengths to win him back. It doesn’t work. Her desperate behavior culminates in her tearing apart and pouring gasoline all over the gang’s homecoming float. But Brenda catches her toying with the lighter and convinces her to walk away.

18. “Damn, I wish I was your lover” (Season 5, Episode 3)

Sadly, proper video of 90210’s use of this Sophie B. Hawkins song does not exist due to licensing issues. But it’s still massively important, to the point that fans lovingly refer to it as The Scene. In it, Kelly and Dylan are sprawled out on the beach in front of a fire, his arms wrapped around her; she wants him but she can’t have him because he’s still dating her best friend; but then they hook up anyway! It’s as if Hawkins wrote her hit just for this couple’s illicit summer. Watch a rerun of this and you’ll hear canned-in, nondescript music. Blasphemy.

17. Donna Martin (finally) loses it (Season 7, Episode 32)

“It” being her V-card. Donna finally lost her virginity on the last night of college, in 1997, to David, in her bedroom, surrounded by SO MANY lit candles.

16. Brenda and Kelly wear the same dress to the spring dance (Season 1, Episode 21)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (21)
15. Kelly and Dylan kiss on rooftop pool of the Bel Age Hotel (Season 3, Episode 19)

14. Dylan’s dad explodes (literally, but also not really) (Season 3, Episode 21)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (22)

In my mind, Dylan’s dad really did bite it on that rainy February morning in 1993, when he took the keys from his son to move the car from a tow-zoned parking lot. (And just when Dylan was starting to refer to him as “Dad” instead of “Jack.”) Of course, Jack didn’t actually blow up in the car; we’d find out seven years later this was just a ruse to get him in the witness protection program. Tough break for Dylan.

13. Kelly breaks down at the slumber party (Season 1, Episode 12)

Jennie Garth’s finest acting moment during her 10-year tenure on 90210 comes in Season 1. I’ll set it up for you: The girls all get together at the Walsh house for a slumber party. Kelly brings a snobby friend named Amanda, who insists that they all play a rapid-fire-answer game called Skeletons in the Closet. During Kelly’s turn in the hot seat, she begrudgingly admits she lost her virginity to a guy on the football team, who raped her. “He didn’t even use a blanket,” she sobs, the mascara streaking down her face. For all the early-’90s frivolousness on the small screen, this was a genuinely and startingly affecting moment. Indeed, 90210 proved early on this was no standard-issue teen drama.

12. David and Donna exchange vows (Season 10, Episode 27)

Quite literally, this was the moment that 292 episodes had been building to.

11. RIP, Scott Scanlon (Season 2, Episode 14)

David and Scott (Douglas Emerson) started the series as a matched set, a pair of dorky freshmen who wanted to get in with the popular clique. David showed off his dancing abilities at the school dance and grew in stature; Scott was an appendage with an overbite who quickly reached the end of his utility as a character on 90210. And so producers killed him off in Season 2 in one of the show’s first ultradramatic turns. At his own birthday party, Scott starts twirling his dad’s loaded gun in the den like Wyatt Earp before shooting himself in the stomach while David watches in horror. “It doesn’t matter what you say about someone once they’re gone,” a mourning David later tells Brandon during a school newspaper interview. “What matters is how you treat them when they’re still alive.”

10. Valerie rolls into town—and then rolls a doobie (Season 5, Episode 1)

Valerie’s arrival to Beverly Hills caused a seismic shift. She was a Walsh family friend from Buffalo, we were told, who moved West in the wake of her father’s death. She seemed upbeat and friendly enough. But then the smile disappeared from her face as she sparked up a joint, right there in Brenda’s old bedroom.

9. “I choose me” (Season 5, Episode 30)

8. Ray pushes Donna down the stairs (Season 5, Episode 31)

Or did she fall? Or was it an owl?

7. “May the bridges I burn light the way” (Season 5, Episode 8)

A drunk and emotionally tormented Dylan McKay was always the best version of Dylan McKay.

6. A wedding and a funeral (Season 6, Episode 10)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (23)

What a heartbreaking send-off for Dylan. First he married his beautiful bride, Toni Marchette (Rebecca Gayheart), who happened to be the daughter of the man who organized Jack’s murder. (It’s a testament to Gayheart’s chemistry with Perry that fans didn’t care that she wasn’t Kelly or Brenda.) Then Toni’s embittered father (Stanley Kamel) put a hit on his new son-in-law, which goes south when goons shoot into Dylan’s car on a dark and stormy night, unaware that it’s Toni behind the wheel. Left with nothing, all a grieving Dylan can do is ride off on his motorcycle with Toni’s pet cat. Her name: Trouble. No, seriously.

5. Color Me Badd, color us glad (Season 2, Episode 26)

They weren’t the Beatles. They weren’t New Kids on the Block. Hell, they weren’t even Roxette. But Color Me Badd is treated like pop star royalty in this 1992 episode as Brenda, Donna, David, and Kelly attempt to crash their hotel and meet them. Kelly succeeds (of course) and eventually the guys end up at the Peach Pit to serenade Donna with “I Adore Mi Amor.” (I’m assuming “I Wanna Sex You Up” was too inappropriate for the diner crowd.)

4. “Donna Martin graduates!” (Season 3, Episode 28)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (24)

I swear this 1993 episode—in which Donna is immediately suspended and not allowed to participate in high school graduation ceremonies because she broke the school board’s no-drinking-at-prom rule—wasn’t a big deal at the time. But somehow, it became lodged in pop culture infamy. I, for one, would just like to point out again: She did break the rules?

3. Emily slips Brandon U4EA (Season 2, Episode 15)

This is your brain. This is your brain on a drug called U4EA (great name, as far as drugs go) after Emily Valentine mixes it in a drink and serves it to you at some dirty underground rave. Brandon is peeved about being drugged, but as Emily pointedly reminds him, “What’s done is done, babe,” which is a statement you just can’t argue with. From there, Priestley sells the high life brilliantly, slurring his words, cracking nonsensical jokes and asking Emily what those little white dots on his tongue are called. Unfortunately, this incident scared Brandon straight, and afterward he turned into a holier-than-thou straight arrow. (The senior-year gambling doesn’t count.)

2. Brenda learns the truth (Season 3, Episode 19)

1. Dylan and Brenda at the spring dance (Season 1, Episode 20)
The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (25)

Let’s end the party on a happy note: the 1991 spring dance, when Dylan takes Brenda up to a hotel room and sleeps with her for the first time. (So much for the stress of the matching dresses!) The act leads to a pregnancy scare, which leads to a break-up, which leads to a make-up, which leads to angst when Brenda leaves for Paris, which leads to a romance with Kelly, which leads to the love triangle, which leads to Brenda hating them both. But, oh, how glamorous and blissfully unaware they looked on that fateful night. And what an important moment for a show that would go on to become so iconic that its stars would appear in an odd meta-series multiple decades later.

Mara Reinstein is a New York City–based film critic and entertainment journalist who contributes to Us Weekly, Billboard, The Cut, HuffPost, and Parade.

The 90 Most Important Moments of ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ms. Lucile Johns

Last Updated:

Views: 6192

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ms. Lucile Johns

Birthday: 1999-11-16

Address: Suite 237 56046 Walsh Coves, West Enid, VT 46557

Phone: +59115435987187

Job: Education Supervisor

Hobby: Genealogy, Stone skipping, Skydiving, Nordic skating, Couponing, Coloring, Gardening

Introduction: My name is Ms. Lucile Johns, I am a successful, friendly, friendly, homely, adventurous, handsome, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.