3. Emily Gilmore
You could argue that Emily Gilmore is the best character on the show. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any three of the titular characters. There’s so much rich history that goes into each of their motivations as characters, which makes the title of the series so obvious and fitting. Kelly Bishop couldn’t have been more perfect for the role of Lorelai’s mother and Rory’s grandmother, a complicated woman who likes to keep up appearances lest the façade crack.
As much as she depends on Richard, Emily’s strong-willed and independent, capable of taking on the world should she so please. She’s funny and warm when she wants to be and ruthless and cold when she needs to be; an armor built up over the years in her cutthroat high society world. She’s intelligent and opinionated, so similar to Lorelai in way that neither of them might have ever realized. It’s why they lock horns and it’s why there’s a deep love between them, too. Without question, Emily Gilmore’s one of the greatest characters of all time.
2. Rory Gilmore
Now, there are a lot of fans who have trouble with Rory. That trouble starts in the original series and takes us to the revival miniseries, though I’d venture to say some of the hate bubbled back up in hindsight and in projection. Rory isn’t perfect, and I don’t think she thinks she is. But she’s told that she’s perfect, a prodigy, and with that praise comes privilege. She never really knew anything else. That’s a fascinating entry point for a teen character coming-of-age in a generational war.
What makes Rory most human as the series goes on is that she makes mistakes. She gets arrested, she leaves Yale, she takes part in affairs. To criticize her for making mistakes is to keep her pigeonholed as “perfect,” as so many people in her life have. Throughout Gilmore Girls, she’s just a girl trying to become a woman while focusing on her goals and finding love. She’s going to get it wrong, and she does. We could all see ourselves in Rory at least once, and that’s the mark of an amazingly built character. Perhaps the mirror was held up a little too close for some folks.
1. Lorelai Gilmore
You might not agree with Lorelai being named the best character in the show, but she’s hands-down one of the best-written, most complex, impossible to look away from characters in television history. Sure, she’s worthy of some of the criticisms that have been waged against her in recent years, but those critiques are part of what make Lorelai so fascinating to watch.
She’s a bundle of contradictions, as is any human. Becoming a mother at 16 and being on her own before she was even legally an adult built her drive and independence. A lot of her identity is in complete defiance of her parents and upbringing, and that’s where the contradictions really kick in. For Lorelai, being a daughter is harder than being a mother. That distinction is what I think makes her such a unique character. When it comes down to it, Lorelai is real.
In lesser hands, Lorelai wouldn’t have been nearly as funny and lovable in her worst moments, but Lauren Graham dug her heels into the character and found the beating heart of Lorelai Gilmore. She makes us believe Lorelai’s obscure sense of humor, her definitive personal constitution, and the teenage girl that still lives insider her. Without Lauren Graham or Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls just wouldn’t be the same.
All seven seasons and the revival miniseries of Gilmore Girls are available on Netflix!