The US version of The Office began its stint on NBC as an imitation of the original British version, which makes sense when you consider that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's original series was critically acclaimed, culturally significant, and outright hilarious.
But after the US version's first season, the dynamic between the characters began to change: Michael Scott stopped being such a close rendition of Gervais' David Brent; Dwight Schrute took off in his own direction; the whole cast relaxed into their roles.
It created a new atmosphere for the audience. From there, the show went from strength to strength, with its own identity and style that didn't just lean on what had come before. That move led to some of the best comedy writing and performances in television history.
With 201 episodes comprising the show's full run, it's near impossible to pick our favorite 20, let alone 10, and certainly not 7. But we're giving it a shot. Here are the best episodes of The Office!
7. "Broke" (Season 5, Episode 25)
Michael Scott's finest hour comes in "Broke."
After Michael left Dunder Mifflin to start his own paper business with Pam and Ryan, they find that they're great at stealing Dunder Mifflin's customers because they undercut them on price.
However, those prices are putting them out of business because they're too low. Dunder Mifflin's David Wallace—not knowing of Michael's price perils—decides to buy the company out to stop his branch from bleeding.
When Michael walks into the negotiation room, he looks like a child who has turned up for a duel—that is, until he proves himself savvy in making David Wallace believe that Dunder Mifflin would review his position as CFO should the best branch keep losing customers.
The episode is funny, expertly written, and marks the end of Michael's independent paper business when he negotiates his old job back with Pam and Ryan following him.
Best scene of the episode? Michael Scott verbally sinking David Wallace in their negotiation. It's a blast to watch.
6. "Stress Relief" (Season 5, Episodes 14/15)
"Stress Relief" is one of the few two-parter episodes of The Office.
When Dwight causes chaos in the workplace by conducting an impromptu fire safety drill, Stanley has a heart attack. This forces Dwight into a disciplinary procedure, and Stanley has to wear a stress monitor, which worsens whenever Michael is near him.
As a result, Michael organizes a comedy roast of himself—which, as expected, ends with him being very hurt. Meanwhile, Pam and Jim deal with Pam's father leaving Pam's mother, which is made worse by Jim's comments to Pam's dad.
The double episode is more insightful than most episodes of the series, as it shows how much Jim loves Pam and how the workers of the office can go too far in their harsh assessment of Michael (thankfully, Michael recovers from the comments and roasts each of them in revenge).
Best scene of the episode? Dwight's fire safety massacre.
5. "The Return" (Season 3, Episode 14)
Dwight left Dunder Mifflin in the previous episode, where helping his secret girlfriend Angela out with a problem caused Michael to believe Dwight betrayed him to corporate once again.
Well, as it turns out, it was Andy Bernard—who drives Michael insane with his persistent presence and servile demeanor. Michael realizes he made a huge mistake and heads for Staples in the snow to re-hire Dwight.
Meanwhile, Jim hides Andy's phone in the ceiling as a prank, resulting in Andy punching a hole in the wall out of frustration.
Dwight's return was never in doubt, but the episode is so great because we see Andy get his comeuppance via Michael.
Best scene of the episode? Andy punching a wall in frustration, and then trying to play it off afterwards.
4. "Product Recall" (Season 3, Episode 21)
Few episodes are as out-and-out funny as "Product Recall," which sees the whole office having to apologize after a disgruntled worker at the paper mill drew a graphic watermark on the paper shipped to customers.
Michael's handling of the crisis—holding a pathetic press conference, which leads to a woman calling for his resignation—is wonderfully witty. Furthermore, the realization that Andy is dating a high school student comes as a shock to him and Jim.
However, the best storyline belongs to Creed, who attempts to cover up his mistake—since he is quality control for the office—by framing an innocent woman at the paper mill. He collects some cash for her after she's fired, but keeps it for himself instead.
Best scene of the episode? Michael's refusal to quit video.
3. "Goodbye, Michael" (Season 7, Episode 22)
Michael's final full episode is as emotional as the show ever got. As Michael prepares to leave Dunder Mifflin and go to Colorado to be with Holly, he tries to find a way to say goodbye to everybody on his last day without letting them know he's leaving.
He manages to get around to everybody except for Pam, and Jim figures out that Michael is lying and is indeed leaving that day. The two share an emotional goodbye before Michael heads to the airport, and Pam catches up to Michael at the airport to say goodbye and share one last hug.
"Goodbye, Michael" was a purely emotional experience for the audience, who didn't want to see Michael go. However, we also knew that he got his happy ending with Holly, which is all he ever wanted.
Best scene of the episode? Michael calls Holly to tell her he can't come, only for her to unknowingly calm him down and tell him how much she's looking forward to seeing him, which reminds us why he has to leave.
2. "The Injury" (Season 2, Episode 12)
"The Injury" is the tale of Dwight Schrute and Michael Scott, one believing themself to be injured and the other genuinely injured.
When Michael cooks his foot on a George Foreman grill, he demands that a staff member come and bring him into work—which Dwight, thinking that it's a real emergency, does. In so doing, he crashes his car.
As Michael goes through the day thinking he's disabled and trying to teach his workers a lesson, Dwight has a concussion and makes friends with Pam (to a shocked Jim). Only when Dwight collapses is he taken to the hospital, where Michael tries to get an MRI for his foot.
The whole episode is so much fun, with the performances and script all weighted to shake up the dynamic due to Dwight's genuine injury.
Best scene of the episode? Dwight sharing a hug with Pam, while she knows that their friendship will change back when he recovers.
1. "Dinner Party" (Season 4, Episode 13)
No episode is better than "Dinner Party." It shows off Michael's scheming, Dwight's desperation to be included, Jim and Pam's reluctance to hang out with their coworkers, and Jan's insanity.
Michael tells his workers that they all have to work late—meaning they'll need to cancel social plans—only to let them go and invite Jim and Pam to dinner (as they no longer have an excuse not to go). Dwight isn't invited but turns up anyway with an old woman as his date.
Jan shows off the house (and her candle business) to the guests, all while being passive-aggressive with Michael all night and making the whole evening uncomfortable. It culminates in a massive argument between the two as she smashes Michael's new plasma TV.
This isn't just one of the best The Office episodes—it's one of the best episodes of comedy TV ever. The balance of the script and performances harmonize perfectly scene after scene after scene.
Best scene of the episode? Michael showing off his 12-inch plasma TV that's mounted to the wall.