Entertainment

The 25 Best Episodes of 'New Girl,' Ranked

When you want to hang with Jess and co. at the loft, these are funniest episodes worth (re-)watching.

best new girl episodes
Maitine Romagosa/Thrillist

When FOX's New Girl first aired in 2011, it sounded like so many other sitcoms before it. About a quirky elementary school teacher who moves into an apartment full of man-children, the show from Elizabeth Meriwether (Single Parents) resembled more than a few series about 20-somethings, and received a fair amount of skepticism for shunting what looked like yet another Zooey Deschanel manic pixie dream girl role onto the world. But shortly after it premiered, it proved to be much more special than that. 

Led by Deschanel as the sunny Jessica Day, New Girl followed the lives and relationships of her and her roommates—the womanizing finance bro Schmidt (Max Greenfield), lovable jokester Winston (Lamore Morris), overconfident jock Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), and curmudgeon bartender Nick (Jake Johnson)—as well as her best friend, model Cece (Hannah Simone), and throughout its seven year run, it maintained the perfect balance of offbeat humor and sincerity. It wasn't about how quirky Jess and her revolving closet of polka-dot outfits were, but rather what it looks like when a variety of personalities try to "adult." Be it the titular young woman who was as ambitious as she was full of eccentricities, or one of the several dudes down the hall poisoned by toxic masculinity, New Girl moved you in next door to 4D to watch and find comfort in its residents making mistakes as they figured out how to become more fully formed in life and love. 

It's the friendship that's at the helm of their growth that makes the show both so hilarious and wholesome as they support, fall for, meddle and collide with one another. Those relationships, on top of the expertly crafted will-they-won't-theys have made this comedy one that fans return to, not only to relive, but to feel like a part of the gang. With 146 episodes in its 2011-2018 run, its quite an undertaking to re-watch the entire series, but more than a few episodes will bring you right back to the (semi-functioning utilities, sex mural encrusted, home of the Douchebag Jar) charm of the loft. We went ahead and ranked the 25 best. 

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25. "Santa"

Season 2, Episode 11
New Girl wouldn't be able to call itself a modern sitcom classic if it didn't include its own holiday specials; cue "Santa." As Winston calls it from the beginning with his hilarious "whether or not Santa's real" line, this one's got some holiday magic that helps Jess and Nick with the relationship drama that follows them from one holiday party to the next. It takes notes from Christmas movies for some fun moments, but the real spirit of the episode is how much Jess's friends want her to be happy and get back with Sam (David Walton). The jolliness in the air also inspires Nick to make a rare public gesture that includes a strip tease—which feels like a gift from the writers and the big man himself. 

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24. "San Diego"

Season 6, Episode 21
"San Diego" lands on this list for one reason alone: After six long seasons, it finally reveals what Schmidt's first name is. It's a tense confrontation between him and Winston where we learn why we've never known his name before; they're both named Winston, and there's only room for one Winston. Even as the episode is an important chapter in the Jess and Nick saga, with Nick breaking up with Reagan (Megan Fox) and Jess visiting her father (Rob Reiner) to sort out her feelings, it's the B story that steals the spotlight. The flashbacks and references of why the "one Winston rule" exists are incredible, like the show had been waiting to explain this all along.

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23. "Keaton"

Season 3, Episode 6
As longtime friends, the guys on New Girl have always been there for one another—in their own ways. "Keaton" dives into that dynamic when Schmidt is feeling down following his break-up with Cece, and Winston suggests it's time he gets a visit from an "old friend." Who, you might ask, as Jess did? Michael Keaton, or rather Nick masquerading as Schmidt's childhood icon in writing, as Schmidt's mother did before him. It's convoluted and, playing out against a Halloween party, especially goofy, but proves that your hero doesn't always have to wear a (Batman) cape to still do a great deal for you. The guys would struggle to admit this, and it's why their ability to be vulnerable and communicative here resorted to this heartfelt but odd mess.

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22. "Katie"

Season 2, Episode 2
There are a few early episodes of New Girl that bite back at criticism the series got for Jess's character. Season 1's "Jess and Julia" was a literal response from the showrunners, and "Katie" also feels like one, as Jess pretends to be somebody else when a guy mistakes her for his online date named Katie. Being Katie, she acts as if she's every man's good-time-gal dream, and it gets her into a sticky situation when she tries to get another guy's attention. Only, Nick sets her up with the wrong man—making for a great intro of Josh Gad's recurring character Bearclaw. That's on top of the show poking fun at the magical realistic turns sitcoms sometimes take, when Nick thinks he's visited by himself from the future. The bar had never seen so much absurdity, and it just goes to show that Jess ultimately contains multitudes.

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21. "Engram Pattersky"

Season 7, Episode 8 
New Girl ended with as flawless of a finale as it could have had: a final farewell to the loft, and Winston's "greatest prank" ever. Packing up the space and reliving the memories that took place there, the episode is a goodbye to the apartment for Jess and co. and a heartfelt send-off of the series and its characters for viewers. Full of reminiscing, it's bound to make you cry—or if that doesn't, the flash-forward showing the gang playing a G-rated version of True American with their children certainly will. Winston crosses a line making Jess and Nick believe they were going to get evicted, but it's hard to think that there could've been any other way to force them out of there.

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20. "Clean Break"

Season 4, Episode 22
The friendships on New Girl aren't just crafted for laughs; they're full of love, and the heart of the show. "Clean Break" is all about those relationships and what makes them significant, as everybody is prompted to reflect on their physical keepsakes as Coach packs, sparing no room for mementos, when he prepares to move to NYC with May (Meaghan Rath). For Schmidt, it's the $5 he put in the douchebag jar when he told Cece he'd marry her one day; for Jess and Nick, it's their "sex mug" that used to secretly signal when they were ready for a hook-up; and for Winston, it's having to say goodbye to a best friend. Despite Coach's wish for an easy, unsentimental move, it's obviously not a clean break because of how many feelings are wrapped up in that place and those characters. But with one door closing, another opens just before the episode is through with Schmidt's proposal to Cece, bringing on the tears with the perfect accompaniment of The Head and the Heart's "Rivers and Roads." It's sitcom sentimentality to perfection.

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19. "Road Trip"

Season 5, Episode 17
"Road Trip" definitely isn't the bachelor party you might've imagined for Schmidt, a man of lavish taste, but it's the bachelor party New Girl gave us. Instead of hitting up Vegas, they ride motorbikes into the desert for a trip of personal and literal detours that they can't help but see as challenges to their masculinity. On the way, they run into myriad of personalities you'd imagine one might meet on the road in the middle of nowhere, but no one would get into such an odd bar fight with as these guys. Airing right before "A Chill Day In," which shows what Jess and Cece are up to back at home, New Girl gave us a double whammy of LOL-worthy installments. This one's madness, and no Katy Perry needle drop before or after will compare.

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18. "Secrets"

Season 1, Episode 19
Even in the best friendships, people slip up or bicker. It's something that New Girl knows well, especially in "Secrets" where everyone is kind of shitty to each other, save for Winston. Tension culminates in the loft and between Jess and Cece when she finds out from Winston that Cece and Schmidt have been sleeping with each other for the two months. Thinking it'll clear the air, Jess requests everyone reveal whatever it is that they've been keeping from one another… and it turns out some things are better left unsaid. Essentially, everybody is at their worst until Winston can't take it any longer and erupts in a scene-stealing rant to get them all to shut up, and Jess takes a step back to realize why Cece wasn't ready to tell her. It's highly entertaining, and shows a side of the characters we don't always get to see.

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17. "Dance"

Season 3, Episode 22
This one might go down as one of the New Girl's cutest episodes. I mean, taking place at Jess and Coach's middle school dance, it's bound to be. Even though they don't sound great on paper, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston turn out to be wonderful chaperones, having to rally when one of Jess's students (a girl upset none of the boys will pay her any attention) sabotages the event. It makes sense that they would come through—with only a handful of kids pulled into their dangerous parking lot race—since they're essentially big children themselves and care a great deal about their roommate despite her breakup with Nick. It goes to show the lengths they're willing to go to make her happy, even if that means putting up with 12-year-old bullies for a night.

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16. "Landing Gear"

Season 5, Episode 22
One of the many things we can thank the writers on New Girl for is how they took their time developing characters, individually and in their relationships, so that when the big moments arrived, they stood out that much more. Schmidt and Cece's wedding is the big event in the Season 5 finale, and with Schmidt making the rash decision to hop on a flight to get Cece's mom to come to the ceremony, he misses it altogether. He insists they party on separately—him with strangers stuck on the tarmac, and her at the reception—which could've been a bummer but just allows for them to finalize their vows at the place where it all began: the loft. Seeing Schmidt break the glass with the douchebag jar? There's no way a huge grin wasn't plastered across your face. Mazel tov, indeed. 

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15. "Quick Hardening Caulk"

Season 2, Episode 19
"Quick Hardening Caulk" finds the two central romances on New Girl—Jess and Nick, and Cece and Schmidt—in precarious, contingent places. That's by New Girl standards, though, with Schmidt having unresolved feelings for Cece and coping with a symbolic lion fish, and Jess confessing to Nick that she wants to have sex with him while loopy on pain meds. It's a silly episode, as Schmidt ogles at an exotic fish, but it works because it shows a more vulnerable side to his character now that he's forced to assess his emotions and not be a womanizer who gets whatever he wants for once. It's the kind of episode crafted with bountiful awkward moments that are tough to watch, whether it's Schmidt's breakdown or Jess's uncontrollable lust for Nick that's laid bare when they're shopping for tools and after her head injury. They're developments that were inevitable in the course of these relationships, but played out in ways that couldn't be more unique to their bizarre yet lovable dynamics. 

prince new girl
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14. "Prince"

Season 3, Episode 14
Like the relatable king he was, Prince loved New Girl. So much so that the rock legend requested to be on episode, and he touched it with his purple power to produce one of the most stand-out episodes in New Girl history. His appearance is made seamlessly, as Cece and Jess get in a little car accident with his manager who invites them to a party at their boss's house. Annoying as they are, the guys weasel their way in, too, but the root of the episode is Jess's anxiety over Nick confessing his love to her. And who better than Prince to help them talk it out? He gets Jess glammed up, feeds her pancakes, and helps her sort out her feelings. Amazing! The story behind the episode is also incredible—as his team reached out to Deschanel with a cryptic email she couldn't believe, only to find out he was a massive fan of the show—which makes it even better. It's a testament to the magic of New Girl, and the late icon.

walk of shame new girl
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13. "Walk of Shame"

Season 4, Episode 18
"Walk of Shame" delivers exactly what it advertises, showing Cece and Jess hungover and struggling to get home after their blow outs did what they had to do (got them one night stands). The punchline of the episode isn't meant to shame and make fun of them, though. It instead looks at the experience through a women's lens, laughing at how all-too-relatable it can be; even while carrying their heels, they're both self-aware enough to remind themselves that they're still sensible women. It's the details in the episode that make it so memorable and cringe-worthy, from Cece's stolen "The Man, The Legend" tee to their run-in with one of Jess's exes, but the reveal that Jess didn't just hook up with Bearclaw (Josh Gad)—she wrote a fantasy musical with him—is an image that's hard to shake.

the landlord new girl
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12. "The Landlord" 

Season 1, Episode 12
Maybe you remember Jess and Nick's initial romantic encounter as their cinematic first kiss. That would've been lovely, but it wasn't the first time those two got physical. Here, early on in the show's run, they found themselves in a ménage à trois with their crusty landlord Remy. It's definitely not the result you'd expect when Jess goes to complain to him about their broken garbage disposal despite Nick's plea not to—but also of course this is where they end up, nearly naked with a man who keeps a bucket of gasoline around and "ferments things." Because Jess gets the loft into a kerfuffle when she lets it slip that 4D has more tenants than it should, pissing off Nick especially, she tries to prove her charm can win him over—and it sure does in ways Nick sees but she refuses to believe. Then, suddenly, Remy tells Nick he's "underpants captain," they're dancing to "Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root, and about to have a threesome because Nick and Jess want to make a point to each other. It's as hysterical as it is uncomfortable, and makes the tension of watching their relationship later unfold that much more satisfying.

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11. "Landline"

Season 4, Episode 5
Jess's attitude as a devout rule follower backfires when she takes it upon herself as vice principal to implement a curriculum of appropriate workplace behavior among her colleagues in "Landline." It's at first a stab at Coach for hooking up with the school nurse, but the "no fraternization" policy comes back to bite her in the butt when she gets the hots for a new hire, British dreamboat Ryan Geauxinue (Julian Morris). It's a great set-up, as Coach gets to do what he does best by playing Jess, and she, who's often Miss Perfect, gets weak in the knees over a crush. Plus, back at the loft, Nick hooks up a landline to play personal assistant—which is a wonderful concept. There's probably more than a few fans of the show who can hear Deschanel say, "Shut it down," in their head whenever they feel a new crush coming on.

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10. "Five Stars For Beezus" 

Season 6, Episode 22
The first two seasons of New Girl were anchored by the will-they-won't-they of Jess and Nick, which was so satisfying when they finally got together. It would've been too easy if they spent the entirety of the show together, though, so inevitably they broke up—but all the while it was nearly agonizing watching them slowly find their ways back to each other. After several long seasons, they finally do in the most cinematic, rom-com way possibly in "Five Stars for Beezus." After coming to terms with her feelings and a failed attempt to reveal them, Jess decides she's going to move out of the loft. Meanwhile, Nick is across town meeting with a publisher about his successful YA series and realizes he's already spelled it out for himself: It's always been about Jessica Night for Julius Pepperwood. What comes next includes an endearing cameo by the late great Fred Willard, and the show toying with fans just a little bit longer as Jess and Nick shuffle around to get to one another. It ends with the best elevator kiss (accompanied by Lorde's "Greenlight," no less). Again, it's a will-they-won't-they for the ages. 

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9. "Elaine's Big Day" 

Season 2, Episode 25
Winston loves a prank. Rather, Winston loves to go all in on a prank. So much so that his friends should know better than to ask him to do something like derail a wedding—which is exactly what Schmidt does on the day of Cece's wedding to Shivrang. With a plan involving a badger and Winston and Nick crawling around the air ducts above the ceremony, it's the kind of New Girl episode where absurdity makes what would already be an eventful episode even more watchable. As Nick spends all afternoon trying to stop the scheming because he knows how important the day is to Jess, it ends up being a pivotal episode in their relationship about the lengths Miller would go for her, even if it means lodging himself in the ceiling with a wild animal. It's of course also a special one for Cece and Schimdt, too—and it doesn't even end up being a bummer for Shivrang. The reveal of who the titular "Elaine" is ends up being totally out of left field, but makes this the happiest day for many. 

a chill day in new girl
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8. "A Chill Day In"  

Season 5, Episode 18
There's a lot of heart in each one of the friendships on New Girl, but Jess and Cece's relationship is one of the warmest, overall a stellar example of female friendship. With the guys more often than not the fuck-ups with the most punchlines, it's not often we get to see the comedy of their friendship, but it's a delight when we do—as is the case in "A Chill Day In." The episode is by no means a chill day. What was supposed to be an afternoon spent at home getting stoned turns into a super paranoid trip to the mall where they take it upon themselves to return an expensive bread maker from Schmidt's mother. It's ripe opportunity for Hannah Simone to crack jokes, and even though their mission is an utter disaster, it's proof of why this longtime, supportive friendship works. We should be so lucky to have someone we love and trust enough to scheme with regarding damaged cookware!

spiderhunt new girl
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7. "Spiderhunt"

Season 4, Episode 17
An episode about a teeny tiny issue in the loft being blown out of proportion, "Spiderhunt" follows the gang as they split up to track down and kill Schmidt's latest obsession, a spider. As most New Girl apartment trouble episodes go, it's not really about being on the lookout for their eight-legged enemy—Jess also learns that Cece has a new crush she's keeping from her, and is desperate to find out who it is. While it's obvious that she's yet again developed feelings for Schmidt, a bit of miscommunication leads Jess to believe Cece's pining for Nick, and a whole lot of miscommunication gives us one of the most well-written conversations on the show. Nick thinks Jess is telling him to trust Cece's suggestion to get a popcorn machine for the bar, and Jess thinks she's giving him the okay to get it on with Cece… despite "the smell." With their feelings wrapped up in just about everything that goes on in 4D, not even a spider hunt goes without complications. 

pepperwood new girl
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6. "Pepperwood" 

Season 2, Episode 14
This is where it all started—the dawn of Nick's alter-ego and future YA novel character, Julius Pepperwood. With a Chicago accent, a disguise of a trucker hat, sunglasses, and flannel, and an ex-cop, ex-marine backstory, he tries to come to Jess's aid when he's convinced a student in her adult writing workshop is plotting to kill her. It's a classic case of Nick spiraling out of control because he cares for Jess so much (and has nothing better to do), getting them wound up in a disaster that spoofs melodramatic thrillers. This one also gave us the term "pogo," too—and made everybody panic, wondering what theirs is—but largely, it's a key Nick episode that shows both the lengths he'll go for Jess and how damn funny he is. Thankfully, this was the first of many Pepperwood missions to come.

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5. "Parking Spot"  

Season 2, Episode 17
As ridiculous as some of the conundrums on New Girl are, some of the best are episodes are the ones centered around issues that ultimately are minuscule, but elevated to an extreme in the world of roommates. In this episode, it's a parking spot they squabble over when Schmidt discovers there's one that belongs to 4D in their building's garage that they never knew about. Almost immediately, Winston and Nick take themselves out of the running, which leads to a chaotic showdown between Schmidt and Jess with one claiming finders-keepers and the other fed up over cat-infested street parking. As with all New Girl episodes about a problem in the loft, it's only slightly about the parking spot itself, and mostly the fallout of Jess and Nick having recently kissed, which is only complicated when Nick decides he's choosing who gets the spot and Schmidt finds out what happened. It brings out the worst in everyone, which just so happens to be very exciting to see.

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4. "Menzies" 

Season 2, Episode 7
If someone were to ask, "How weird is New Girl?" you could point them to "Menzies," because, well, it's real weird! That's what's so great about it, though, as it's the epitome of the show's offbeat humor. In the episode, Jess and Nick are foils to one another in the way that they deal with emotions—Jess being very sensitive while on her period and Nick in desperate need of dealing with his anger. The roommates unsurprisingly respond to Jess's candidness about menstruation uncomfortably, but the episode itself is a lighthearted conversation about that stigma and how crumby it can be to have a case of the menzies. The real winner of the episode, though, who brings the whole thing home and Nick back down to Earth? Tran, the elderly man of few words who becomes Nick's park bench pal. Their relationship is a meet-cute for the ages, and leads to one of the best, oddest scenes of the entire series when Nick chills out with him at a bathhouse. Pure sitcom bliss.

virgins new girl
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3. "Virgins" 

Season 2, Episode 23
Like many sitcoms, New Girl was a fan of showcasing the lives of its characters before the loft. No instance of that is as funny or as informative as "Virgins," though. Each one of the character's flashbacks and stories of having sex for the first time is tailor-made to them to perfection, from Nick and Winston's dorky teenaged run-in with sex workers set up by Nick's playboy father to Jess's fantasy encounter with a former crush (played by dreamboat Dylan O'Brien) gone wrong. Down to clearly over 30-year-old actors playing teenagers (like, what is with that voice Jake Johnson puts on tweenage Nick?!), each part of it is uncomfortable and laughable, as that experience often is. "Virgins" goes all the way with giving a campy glimpse into the gang's past, while shedding light on each of their sexual and relationship histories and the way it informs their present.

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2. "Background Check" 

Season 4, Episode 6
All throughout New Girl, the residents of 4D are forced to face a variety of conundrums, and it's often a marathon for them to resolve them. In "Background Check," everybody is confronted with their own ridiculous issue that they manage to make more outlandish than before when Winston tells them that he has a home visit for his acceptance into the police academy scheduled. It's because Jess thinks she's in possession of meth and needs help getting rid of it that panic ensues. She loses any remaining sanity, Nick becomes a sweaty, terrible liar, and Coach goes out cruising for kid to pretend to be Winston's totally made up sibling from the Big Brothers program. From the highly specific secrets Nick spews out to the officer visiting their home ("My sixteenth year I never got an erection. I thought they were done. I thought my penis was dead.") to the immaculately timed entrance of "DuQuan," everything here is out of hand because of what's at stake—knowing how much Winston deserves this—and therefore the funniest episode of all. It's frankly seriously masterful sitcom writing.

cooler new girl
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1. "Cooler" 

Season 2, Episode 15
"One, two, three, JFK, FDR!" "Cooler!" It's the absolute best episode of New Girl! Not only does it feature all of the eccentricities and pure romance that makes the sitcom as watchable as it is, the iconic episode has that energy turned all the way up like the rousing game of True American that plays out in it—and finally delivers on the show's promise of a kiss between Nick and Jess. It all goes down because the guys insist on going out without Jess for a night, since she tends to ruin their chances with women—until she begs them to come home where she'll help facilitate their hook-ups with a lawless game of True American. By the power of the stars and stripes, though, Jess and Nick end up behind "the Iron Curtain" where they're supposed to smooch. Having endured their will-they-won't-they up to this point, the anticipation of them finally kissing is enough to bring on heart palpitations. But thankfully, the writers and Nick Miller (who in the ladies' trench coat he stole from his neighbor memorably says, "no, not like this") don't allow for a no cheap first kiss: Later, after the game's over and everyone's gone to bed, Miller lays a fireworks-esque one on her like it's been written in the stars. It leaves you breathless, from their chemistry and being so laughable throughout, every rewatch is as exciting as the first time you saw it.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment editorial assistant at Thrillist. She's on Twitter at @mssadiebell.
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