The O.C. premiered more than two decades ago — but California keeps Us coming back for more.
The Fox series, which ran from August 2003 to February 2007, followed the secretly scandalous lives of families in affluent Newport Beach, California. After Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie), a teenager from the wrong side of the tracks in Chino, gets taken in by Sandy and Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan and Peter Gallagher), he finds himself bonding with their sarcastically offbeat son, Seth (Adam Brody), and falling in love with the mysterious girl next door, Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton).
Despite the sun setting on the Cohen family after only four seasons, The O.C. remains part of the pop culture zeitgeist. In a world of reboots and revivals, some members of the cast think the show could make a comeback.
“I’ve always said anything that [creators] Josh [Schwartz] and Stephanie [Savage] want to do, I’m on board for, but it’s kind of hard to figure out what you’d do with the characters and where they would be,” Rachel Bilson, who portrayed Seth’s love interest, Summer Roberts — and dated Brody in real life while filming — told Nylon in April 2021. “I will say if they ever wanted to do it, I would do it. But I just don’t know where you go [with the plot].”
Whether the series makes a return to the small screen or not, there’s no denying that The O.C. helped shape the genre of teen drama into what it is today.
Keep scrolling for The O.C.’s 10 most iconic moments:
Welcome to the O.C., Bitch!
There was no better way to introduce viewers — or Ryan Atwood — into the world of Newport Beach than through Luke (Chris Carmack) punching him in the face on the beach and yelling, “Welcome to the O.C., bitch!” in the series pilot.
While Luke eventually became a lovable, musically inclined Golden Retriever of a character, he started out as Marissa’s stereotypical water polo-loving jock of a boyfriend that cheated on her multiple times. Oh Luke, how we loathed thee.
New Year’s Eve with Ryan and Marissa – and Oliver’s Gun Moment
What’s more romantic than a New Year’s Eve kiss? One that’s under a timer. Iconic TV couple status was cemented in season 1 episode 14 when Ryan rushed to find Marissa before the clock struck midnight — and she was forced to share a smooch with creepy Oliver (Taylor Handley) instead. Cue the fireworks and the confetti!
But wait! Ryan and Marissa weren’t out of the woods yet. (Were they ever?) The twosome faced down Oliver with a gun mere episodes later when his overwhelming obsession with Marissa got the best of him. While the dramatic moment had viewers on the edge of their seats, everyone was mostly just happy to see Oliver gone for good.
The Tijuana Overdose
The gang’s trip to Tijuana in season 1 episode 7 cemented Marissa, Ryan, Seth and Summer as the core four of The O.C. — but they paid the price when Marissa, overwhelmed by her parents’ divorce and seeing her boyfriend, Luke, cheating on her, overdoses on pills.
The complex and delicate nature of Marissa’s story juxtaposed with the lighter moments of the episode proved The O.C. was something special — and gave fans a clear idea of who the characters would be moving forward. Ryan’s now-famous walk down the alley with a passed-out Marissa in his arms, which would also become a staple of the series, would also be revisited again during her season 3 death.
Marissa Shoots Trey
It’s the “whatcha say” heard around the world. In the climactic final moments of the season 2 finale, Marissa shoots Trey (Logan Marshall-Green) — who, while high on coke, tried to rape her in an earlier episode — to stop him from killing Ryan. While the moment kickstarted what would be a long, arduous and inarguably flat third season, it was quite the cliffhanger.
The scene itself — which played out to the sound of Hide and Seek by Imogen Heap — has lived on in the meme-ified internet culture for decades.
Marissa and Alex Get Together
While queer representation is on the rise in media today, seeing two women romantically linked on screen — in a way that wasn’t fetishized — was a defining moment for teen dramas and TV in general. The two girls, who developed legitimate feelings for one another in season 2, got a focus similar to any heterosexual romantic relationship in the series that didn’t involve two members of the core four.
Still, not everything about the Alex (Olivia Wilde) and Marissa story line was perfect. The show turned Alex into a jealous, unhinged girlfriend when it was ready to reunite Marissa and Ryan. The series also dropped exploring Marissa’s sexuality entirely after Alex’s exit. For its time, however, it was a refreshing approach from a cable TV series in an otherwise reductive media landscape.
Seth Declares His Love on a Coffee Cart
Let’s be honest — there are an endless amount of epic moments between Seth and Summer throughout The O.C.’s four seasons, but Seth’s initial, very public, declaration of love stands out as a classic.
While the pair started dating in the back half of season one after a turbulent love triangle with Anna (Samaire Armstrong), Summer feels uneasy about being open about her new romance. She initially asks Seth to keep the relationship on the down low, but he refuses, jumping on a coffee cart in the middle of school to announce his love for her. After asking Summer to join him, she climbs up with him and the two lock lips in front of their classmates.
Summer would later recreate the grand gesture in season 3 — but nothing beat the original triumphant moment where Seth officially gets the girl he’s been pining over for years.
The TV show that sparked an entirely new holiday. Not knowing how to raise him — Jewish or Christian — Kirsten and Sandy let Seth make up his own religion. That included Chrismukkah, a combination of both Christmas and Hanukkah that gets introduced in season 1 episode 13.
“Who wouldn’t want “eight days of presents, followed by one day of many presents?” Seth asks Ryan when showing him how the Cohens celebrate. The fun-filled festivities, like many of the other O.C. runners, would make a return in future seasons.
The Upside Down ‘Spider-Man’ Kiss
While the coffee cart was cute, Seth and Summer’s upside-down Spider-Man kiss may go down as the show’s most romantic moment. After being apart for most of season 2, Summer realizes she wants to be with Seth before leaving on a trip to Italy with boyfriend Zach (Michael Cassidy). Seth, for his part, is trying to fix the TV cable during a thunderstorm — classic Seth — and finds himself dangling upside down from the roof.
Summer eventually shows up to save him, but not before she peels down his Spider-Man mask, which Seth was wearing to stay dry, and emulates the famous Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst smooch from the 2002 movie.
“What are you doing here?” Seth asks as Matt Pond PA’s cover of “Champagne Supernova” plays in the background. “What do you think, Cohen?” Summer responds.
Seth and Summer’s Wedding
The duo’s nuptials only take up brief seconds of The O.C.’s series finale, but still feel like the ultimate payoff for fans of the couple who have watched them go from enemies to friends to lovers and back again.
The intimate ceremony — which was shot shortly after Bilson and Brody called it quits in real life — sees the pair reuniting after going on their separate journeys to pursue their dreams and even features. The scene even features Summer sticking her tongue out while walking down the aisle as Seth rolls his eyes – a sweet and sardonic moment that fits them perfectly. The wedding also sees Ryan and Taylor (Autumn Reeser) share a longing glance — hinting that those two might be endgame, too.
Marissa Cooper’s journey was always a tragic one, but her death was the series’ most devastating moment by far. With a hopeful future just ahead, Marissa gets tracked down by her vengeful ex Volchuck (Cam Gigandet) while en route to the airport with Ryan. The car chase ends in a fatal explosion which leads to Marissa dying in Ryan’s arms.
Marissa’s heartbreaking last words to Ryan? “I love you.” It’s OK, we’re crying, too.