The 20 Best ‘Sex and the City’ Episodes

This post was originally published in July 2023. We’ve updated it to coincide with “Sex and the City” coming to Netflix April 1.

Seasons change, and so do cities. One thing that doesn’t? Fans’ enduring love for “Sex and the City,” the HBO comedy that premiered in 1998.

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Endlessly spoofed but also deeply, earnestly loved by millions, the groundbreaking series wrapped its original six-season, 94-episode run in 2004, with a not-terrible, not-great 2008 feature film and a truly terrible sequel following in 2010. In 2021, spinoff series “And Just Like That” — without Kim Cattrall’s iconic Samantha Jones — premiered on Max (née HBO Max). A second season of “And Just Like That” began airing in June 2023, following the misadventures of a 50-something Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda. The spinoff show has received mixed reviews from fans and critics — the less said about Che Diaz, the better —  but plenty still can’t stay away from their favorite girls, even after all this time.

Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and Kim Cattrall, the original run racked up seven Emmys, including a win for Best Comedy Series as well as individual wins for Parker and Nixon.

In honor of Season 2 of “AJLT” and the original’s 25th anniversary, we couldn’t help but wonder… what are the very best installments to rewatch? Below, IndieWire’s picks for the top 20 “Sex and the City” episodes.

Samantha Bergeson and Mark Peikert contributed to this list.

20. “Valley of the 20Something Guys” (Season 1, Episode 4)

What Happens: We’ve got our first big Big episode! Carrie and Big circle around each other while attempting to maybe, finally, set up an actual date. Meanwhile, the ladies explore the pros and cons of dating younger men.

Why It’s Great: Well, first of all, this is the one where Charlotte (Charlotte!) asks the ladies in the back of a cab for advice about anal sex. This kind of straightforward chat put “Sex and the City” on the map (“It’s not TV…it’s HBO!”) and was probably the first real buzzy moment of the original run. Carrie and Big’s white-hot chemistry is also on display. (Girl, he’s so bad for you and never going to get better.) Basically, this is the episode to watch when you’re indoctrinating someone new into the “SATC” cult. Hop in the cab, it’s time to dish. —ES

Best Line: “Sir, we’re talking up the butt. A cigarette is in order.”

19. “They Shoot Single People, Don’t They? (Season 2, Episode 4)

What Happens: The drive-by heard ‘round the world: When a friend of Stanford’s invites Carrie to be on the cover of New York Mag (sure!) for an article titled “Single and Fabulous!” she takes an all-time washed-up bad photo that they use. This awful incident makes all four women question their life choices and wonder if they should settle for “eh” relationships rather than being….alone.

Why It’s Great: A classic episode that confronted the age-old pressure women feel to settle down and get married, this episode let the core four try out settling in different ways — Miranda with a guy who couldn’t give her an orgasm, Charlotte with a dude handy around the house — and realize they are better off alone. It’s touching, funny, and, dare we say, even a little empowering. Plus: In one of his earliest roles, Bradley Cooper shows up for a brief cameo as a hot young guy Carrie almost sleeps with to validate herself — before ditching him on the street. —ES

Best Line: “They said single and fabulous exclamation point! They did not say single and fabulous question mark. That question mark is hostile!”

18. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (Season 3, Episode 12)”

What Happens: In the days leading up to Charlotte’s wedding, Carrie deals with her guilt over cheating on Aidan with Big. Miranda pretends to be a stewardess so she can have a date to Charlotte’s wedding to Trey, and Samantha is angry she has to be a bridesmaid.

Why It’s Great: Oh, this was never going to work. Carrie’s guilt eats her alive, and she finally tells Aidan she was cheating on him right after he is so kind to her friends. In a smart move, the show actually punishes her (temporarily, at least) and has Aidan break up with her moments before Charlotte’s big wedding. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s about-to-be-husband Trey can’t get it up, an all-timer reveal that jump-starts fun Charlotte plots for a whole other season. This is a heartbreaking one, especially for Aidan fans, but it’s also very sharp, pushing the whole idea of “likable” TV female protagonists forward. Carrie is often a monster, but we can’t stop watching.  —ES

Best Line: “Is it so much to ask that you don’t wear your dress up around your See You Next Tuesday?” “Oh my God!  Was that a ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ I missed?”

17. “The Good Fight” (Season 4, Episode 13)

What Happens: Aidan moves in, and he and Carrie have issues combining their stuff (metaphor alert!). Miranda goes on a date while pregnant, and Samantha and Richard get together.

Why It’s Great: There’s Fun “Sex and the City” and there’s Real S*it “Sex and the City.” “The Good Fight” is the real shit, dealing with how you combine your life with someone as well as other practical, real-life questions: Is it OK to have sex with someone else when you’re pregnant with another’s guys baby? Just how awful an idea is it for Samantha to get involved with her boss? Aidan fans will point to the sweet ending of the episode as a classic Nice Guy moment, but for my money, the best scene is the awkward dinner party from hell at Charlotte’s. Trey’s terrible, no good, very bad idea of giving his infertile wife a cardboard baby remains Kyle MacLachlan’s Trey at his very best — which is the very worst. —ES

Best Line: “How would you feel if I gave you a cardboard cutout of a big, flaccid penis? It’s not so funny now, is it?”

16. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (Season 2, Episode 1)

What Happens: Carrie has just broken up with Big (for the first time) and rebounds with a hot new New York Yankee — before running into Big and realizing moving on is harder than she thought. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s new boyfriend can’t stop touching his balls. (This show rules.)

Why It’s Great: An all-time great ending fakeout earns this one a spot on our list. Miranda snaps when Carrie won’t stop talking about her breakup with Big, only to later find herself humiliated when she hides on the street after spotting her own years-ago ex-boyfriend. When Carrie has a breakdown on the street over how much she misses Big, she places a call: “I know things are really weird with us right now. But I really need to talk. Can you….will you meet me at our place in 15 minutes?”

There, at the diner, isn’t Big. It’s Miranda. The real big love story of the show. —ES

Best Line: “There we were: two single girls out on the town with our ball players.”

Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO

15. “The Baby Shower,” Season 1, Episode 10 

What Happens: Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte attend a baby shower.

Why It’s Great: One of the few episodes that give us a glimpse into the girls’ younger selves, “The Baby Shower” finds them traveling to (gasp!) the suburbs for an old club friend’s baby shower. There, they grapple with questions that still linger today about being a woman in the world and what that entails, weighing their own disappointment with the apparent happiness of wives and mothers… a happiness that is only surface, as we discover when Laney shows up to flash Samantha’s party. —MP

Best Line: “You see a sign. It says ‘two-headed snake.’ You pull over. Wild Laney is having a baby shower. You pull over.”

14. “The Real Me,” Season 4, Episode 2

What Happens: Carrie is asked to model in a runway show, where Stanford and Anthony have their meet-not-so-cute. Oh, and Carrie falls on her face wearing sequin panties and a trench coat.

Why It’s Great: Carrie has a moment of humility (and utter devastation) as she’s quite literally knocked down a few pegs. Despite being a “real person” in the runway show next to actual models, she is still mortified falling face first in front of fashionistas. Yet Carrie picking herself back up again is the crux of the series itself: No matter how many times fashion, journalism, New York, men, and yes, even sometimes friends, let Carrie down, there’s nothing stopping her from rising above it.  —SB

Best Line: “Oh my god, she’s fashion roadkill!”

13. “La Douleur Exquise!” Season 2, Episode 12 

What Happens: Carrie discovers that Big is going to Paris and has no intention of inviting her, while Charlotte indulges a foot fetishist for free shoes, Miranda ends up having a lot of sex in public, and Samantha takes the girls to an S&M club.

Why It’s Great: The B plots here are a window into why “Sex and the City” resonated so much at the time: Women were simply not publicly discussing fetishes or kinks in the way this episode does. But it deserves its place on this list because it’s the first unrepairable crack in Carrie and Big’s relationship. What does it mean when the man you’re with makes plans that don’t include you? In this case, a few more years of heartbreak before they get it right. —MP

Best Line: “Did I really love Big, or was I addicted to the pain, the exquisite pain, of wanting someone so unattainable?”

Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO

12. “An American Girl in Paris,” Season 6, Episodes 19-20

What Happens: The core four’s storylines are wrapped up in satisfying and surprising ways, culminating in Carrie and Big’s reunion.

Why It’s Great: Ignore that Carrie runs out of things to do in Paris in, oh, a few days. (Seriously, the timeline here makes no sense.) The series finale is a fitting conclusion to our quartet’s stories, with everyone getting their version of a happy ending that feels grounded in reality in ways the later seasons didn’t always. Carrie and Big end up together, of course, but their reunion is the apotheosis of their relationship: Sweet, moving, and slapstick. Samantha and Smith Jerrod find a way to move forward together, Charlotte gets the family she’s always wanted, and Miranda realizes that she understands love in a deeper way than when we first met her. Bonus points for Carrie’s passionate declaration of who she is and what she wants as she breaks up with Petrovsky. —MP

Best Line: “Go get our girl.”

11. “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda,” Season 4, Episode 11

What Happens: Miranda discovers she’s pregnant with Steve’s baby and thinks she wants to have an abortion; Charlotte learns she has just a 15 percent chance of conceiving a baby with husband Trey (Kyle MacLachlan).

Why It’s Great: A TV character considering abortion is still a relatively rare occurrence, even more so 20 years ago. But in this straightforward, smart, and unflinching installment, the writers are brave enough to show a variety of reactions to pregnancy news, as well as each of the women’s complicated (or not-so-complicated) responses. The episode is an ode to friendship and support and the kind of Big Episode that changes everything. We’re having a baby! —ES

Best Line: “And just like that, three aunts were born.”

10. “I Love a Charade,” Season 5, Episode 8 

What Happens: When the girls attend the wedding of Bitsy von Muffling (Julie Halston) and Bobby Fine (Nathan Lane) in the Hamptons, could we have known that Bitsy would still be in their lives 20 years later? Even money would have been on Jack Berger and Carrie still going strong (since he was the best guy she dated, don’t fight me, they were perfectly matched) after he’s reintroduced as a newly single man who flees Carrie’s “emotionally slutty” confessions. Meanwhile, Charlotte realizes she has feelings for Harry, Miranda realizes she’s in love with Steve, and Samantha realizes that demanding to stay at an ex’s Hamptons house might result in a cantaloupe going through a plate glass window.

Why It’s Great: “Za za zu” strains the audience’s threshold for puns throughout, but a melancholy hangs over this midsummer night’s dream. No one is unhappy by episode’s end, but there’s a sense of setting things up for the next (and final) season. By the time everyone is dancing to “Is That All There Is?” (a very dark wedding song), the quartet has realized something deep about what they want and need. It also feels like the last episode where the stakes haven’t been raised in terms of their long-term happiness. —MP

Best Line: “Maybe we should go out on a date before we break up.”

9. “What Goes Around Comes Around,” Season 3, Episode 17

What Happens: Carrie takes a wrong turn south of Houston Street and quite literally loses her direction, only to get her Manolo Blahniks stolen at gunpoint after an icy run-in with a now-separated Natasha. Sam meets her sexual match in an NYU student unfortunately named Sam Jones, Charlotte comes to terms with the death of her marriage with Trey, and Miranda gets way too drunk trying to keep up with a date she’s convinced is too hot for her.

Why It’s Great: Any episode that lands Carrie and Natasha uncomfortably in the same room is an iconic one. In “What Goes Around Comes Around,” she’s convinced she has an open-and-shut case of karmic retribution after getting her strappy sandals stolen and falling down the stairs out of a college dorm party. But this penultimate Season 3 episode gave us The Newspaper Dress, with Carrie, resigned to never having closure with Natasha after her whole Big affair mess, slo-mo strutting in the street, musing on the universe’s hell of a sense of humor. —RL

Best Line: “Now not only have you ruined my marriage, you’ve ruined my lunch.”

8. “No Ifs, ands or Butts,” Season 3, Episode 5

What Happens: Carrie meets furniture designer Aidan Shaw for the first time and must decide whether she should give up smoking for him. Meanwhile, Charlotte is stuck with a bad kisser, Miranda doesn’t take Steve’s more blue-collar aspirations seriously now that they’re living together, and Sam finds herself dating a Black man much to the chagrin of his possessive restaurateur sister.

Why It’s Great: The racial politics involving Sam and the record executive and the ways in which the girls sexualize him are queasy by today’s standards. But “No Ifs, Ands, or Butts” — directed by IndieWire favorite filmmaker Nicole Holofcener! — is a great introduction to Carrie and Aidan’s charmingly mismatched chemistry. She’s a smoker who uses her oven for storage, and he’s a rustic, wholesome Paul Bunyan type (as Big will later describe him) with a dog and a cabin upstate. This episode is also about the caveats we have to either accept or move on from in the early days of a relationship.  —RL

Best Line: “You know I can’t handle hard news before noon.”

Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO

7. “I Heart NY,” Season 4, Episode 18

What Happens: Carrie plans the perfect final night for Big after he tells her he’s moving to Napa, California, since he’s tired of the Big Apple. Samantha goes undercover to catch the love of her life Richard cheating, while Miranda goes into labor…and ruins Carrie’s Big date night.

Why It’s Great: Carrie’s dedication to giving Big the best goodbye is one of the many reminders that this is the dawn of a new era — Samantha wanting a relationship, Miranda becoming a mother, and even Charlotte looking to date again after separating from Trey. Yet it’s Big leaving Carrie with a plane ticket and his favorite record in an empty apartment that reminds us why Carrie and Big are forever meant to be — distance doesn’t matter when it’s a timeless love story. —SB

Best Line: “If you’re tired, you take a nap-a, you don’t move to Napa!”

6. “A Woman’s Right to Shoes,” Season 6 Episode 9

What Happens: Carrie’s shoes are stolen at a baby shower, and she is shamed by host Kyra (Tatum O’Neil!) for how much they cost. Meanwhile, Miranda meets her Hot New Neighbor (Blair Underwood).

Why It’s Great: Give it up for unmarried ladies! Not everyone can relate to buying $485 shoes (and that was the 2004 price!), but most single women can relate to the feeling of being judged for a lifestyle that doesn’t include marriage and kids. When Carrie calls up Kyra to inform her that she’s getting married….to herself, it was both silly and a radical TV moment. It was one of those statements that viewers may have thought to themselves as they bought yet another wedding or baby gift, but to see it onscreen, well, it’s no wonder that “I’m registered at Manolo Blahnik” delights to this day.  —ES

Best Line: “I’m getting married…to myself! I’m registered at Manolo Blahnik.”

5. “The Man, The Myth, The Viagra,” Season 2, Episode 8

What Happens: Carrie wants Big to get to know her friends better; Miranda meets and sleeps with Steve; Samantha goes home with a senior citizen.

Why It’s Great: If you’re looking for “SATC” at its most romantic, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better contender than this early charmer. Carrie is in full delusion that Big has changed, and strident Miranda uses that as an excuse both to sleep with a goofy bartender and then — when he’d like to continue to see her — to push him away. By the end of the episode, Big has shown up to meet Carrie’s friends (in the rain!), and Miranda decides to give it a real go with Steve. All together now: Awww. —ES

Best Line: “And just like that, Miranda left Denial.”

Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO

4. “Running with Scissors,” Season 3, Episode 11

What Happens: Carrie admits to Miranda that she’s having an affair with Big even though he’s married to Natasha and she’s dating Aidan. Natasha comes home early from the Hamptons to find Carrie in her apartment and chases her down the stairs, only to fall and break her tooth.

Why It’s Great: Sure, Miranda is stalked by an adult man dressed as a sandwich who repeatedly says “Eat me” and Samantha must face her fears and get an HIV test. But “Running With Scissors” lives up to its title, literally, with the most horrific confrontation probably in TV history. Natasha falling down the stairs after catching Carrie in her home is not only cringe but heartbreaking — and humanizes the perfect 20something Natasha as Carrie is forced to see the woman she has become.  —SB

Best Line: “We’re so over, we need a new word for over.”

3. “The Post-It Always Sticks Twice,” Season 6, Episode 7

What Happens: After being abruptly dumped by Berger via the titular Post-it, Carrie drags the other three to Bed, where she melts down and almost gets arrested for smoking pot on the street.

Why It’s Great: That Post-it is one of the most immediately recognizable moments from the entire series (shoutout to the PA, whose handwriting can be seen on multiple notes from men throughout the seasons), but when it comes to dealing with the ravages of dating, nothing could be more relatable than a wounded and tipsy Carrie delivering a tirade aimed at Berger’s friends before fleeing the club. —MP

Best Line: “New York City is a great place to be engaged … And it’s an even better place to be enraged.”

courtesy of HBO
courtesy of HBO

2. “My Motherboard, My Self,” Season 4, Episode 8

What Happens: Miranda’s mother dies unexpectedly and Samantha loses her orgasm. Plus, Carrie’s computer crashes and she learns a valuable lesson about relying on others.

Why It’s Great: Oh man, this one really sneaks up on you. Carrie is pondering potential domestic bliss with Aidan (they exchanged keys!), but she struggles with letting him fully into her life. Cutting straight to the heart of the matter, this emotional episode unpacks what support really looks like and why we’re sometimes afraid of it. When Carrie’s computer breaks down (“Is everyone else backing up?”), she must wrestle with her own independence against Aidan’s desire to be a team. (Man, he was really not the guy for her.) Miranda, meanwhile, breaks down in a fitting room while buying a bra, one of the most quietly devastating moments the show ever produced. Some viewers (this one) still can’t watch the funeral scene where Carrie supports Miranda and Steve and Aidan quietly show up to support them without tearing up. —ES

Best Line: “When I RSVP for a party I make it my business to come.”

1. “Ex and the City,” Season 2, Episode 18

What Happens: Carrie finds out (unceremoniously over a boozy lunch) that Big is engaged to Natasha — just one episode after Carrie, scantly clad in her best hoedown-themed wears, projectile vomits into the Atlantic Ocean after running into the two of them at a Hamptons party. “Ex and the City” centers around the girls trying to overcome their fears: Carrie facing the bitter music of Natasha (“What a bullshit name!”) and Big’s over-the-top engagement party at the Plaza; Charlotte getting literally back on the horse after parting ways with one in her childhood; Miranda considering whether Steve might actually have been right for her despite their class differences; and Sam trying to mount a horse of her own, care of “Mr. Too Big’s” generously sized penis.

Why It’s Great: An all-time “SATC” scene finds the girls at a bar adjacent to the Plaza, crying into their cosmos over the lyrics to Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were,” with Carrie realizing she is in fact a Katie girl (“c-c-c-curly!”) and that Hubbell’s (i.e. Big) girl is, also, in fact, lovely.   —RL

Best Line: “I miss James.”

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