Breaking Bad still represents some of the best television ever made. It helped popularize the style of anti-heroic crime drama that was first pioneered by the likes of The Sopranos and The Wire.
Created by Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad featured breathtaking performances by Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, and Anna Gunn, all of whom brought their A-game and delivered some of the best scenes in TV history.
With Walter White as lead protagonist, most of the best scenes involve him to some degree—but one of the greatest aspects of Breaking Bad is how much development is afforded to side characters, and how these characters come to lead their own amazing scenes.
Here are our picks for the best scenes and moments in Breaking Bad, which will live on as one of the greatest TV series ever produced.
10. Walt Fighting for Family
While Walter is both intelligent and calculating, but there are various moments in the show when his anger rises to the surface and causes him to be reckless and impulsive.
In the very first episode, we're treated to one of the best moments in the series—when he sticks up for his family.
While out shopping, a trio of degenerates make fun of his son (who struggles with cerebral palsy). Walt disappears out the back of the store, then re-enters from the front of the store to take the bullies by surprise.
As he repeatedly stomps on one's leg, everyone in the shop is taken by surprise—including his family. The bully meekly cowers away and mutters: "Psycho." It's a characterization of Walt that ended up being... prophetic.
9. Gus Fring's Revenge
Breaking Bad is a show populated with men—driven by money, pride, or vengeance—who are always on the brink of killing themselves to get what they want. Gus Fring is a sharp example of that.
While Fring is an incredibly shrewd individual who has a keen understanding of risk and reward, in this scene, he simply can't forgo the opportunity to deliver a devastating blow to a former nemesis.
Fring risks his own life, swallowing the same poison that ends up in everyone else's bellies, only to regurgitate his while everyone else is dying. He stares down his dying enemy one final time before parting for good.
8. Stay Out of My Territory
This iconic scene shows us the dramatic moment when Walter embraces his alter-persona: the drug lord, Heisenberg.
One minute, he's simply a high school chemistry teacher trying to school someone who doesn't know what they're doing. The next, he remembers what kind of power he possesses.
Facing down an intimidating individual, Walter doesn't falter. If anything, he seems emboldened by the resistance. As the two scurry away, a wry smile appears on Walter's lips: he likes this feeling.
7. Tread Lightly
What made Breaking Bad great was never grand set pieces or expensive action sequences. The single strongest element that propelled Breaking Bad was its dramatic writing (plus the performances that brought it to life).
The scene where Hank finally meets Heisenberg is one of the best examples of this. Though Hank knocks him down with a huge punch, Walter gets up and maintains his composure. He's physically disadvantaged up against Hank, but Heisenberg has no fear.
In fact, Walter conveys that the only thing he fears is what he might have to do to Hank—and Hank Schrader hears him, loud and clear.
6. I Did It for Me
Pride. Purpose. Respect. These were all stripped away from Walter as he settled into the life of an unappreciated chemistry teacher who served ungrateful teenagers. It left him empty.
When he accidentally stumbled across his one true calling, he couldn't help but pursue it—at first for the money, then for the recognition.
Walter's confession to Skylar, that he did it all for his own glory, is one of the most powerful moments of the show. Firstly, we know he's being honest, and secondly, he's finally owning up to the truth that he ruined the lives of everyone around him for personal gain.
Breaking Bad shows us one man's desperate desire to find pride, purpose, and respect, and how far he's willing to go to hold onto that.
5. Jesse's Goodbye
The bond between Jesse and Walt was unusual and unexpected, but still very real and very deep. They respected and cared for each other, even though they each took turns trying to kill the other.
That moment when they say goodbye for the final time? It's a sad one. One is dying, the other has been living in hell for several months, but they've each come out on top: Walter has saved Jesse.
It's an emotional moment as they know this will be the final time they ever see each other. No words are spoken. Everything is communicated in a single glance, and we hear everything we need to hear in it.
While the two men became friends over the years, Walter and Jesse never fully outgrew their dynamic of teacher and student. No scene better represents this than the climax of season three's "Half Measures."
As Jesse attempts to take revenge on a pair of drug dealers who killed his friend, Walt arrives right on time to save the day. The Pontiac Aztek bursts on scene and steamrolls the drug dealers, then Walt gets out to finish the job.
The scene is shocking, yes, but it's also important in how it reveals just how much Walter truly cares about Jesse's welfare. Why else would he endanger the lives of himself and his family for him like this?
3. Walt Watches Jane Die
Easily one of the darkest moments of the entire series, not just for the subject matter but also for the glimpse we get into how cold and calculating Walter White can be.
After Jesse began his relationship with Jane, his relationship with Walt started experiencing tension and conflict. Walt initially goes over to talk with Jesse, but when he gets there, Jane begins to overdose in front of him.
Walter initially reaches out to help her, but he quickly realizes that all of his problems are about to disappear. Heisenberg takes over.
Bryan Cranston is such a superbly versatile actor. Even as we watch him commit an act so vile, he gets us to feel sorry for him. Tears roll down his cheek as he believes the only way to help Jesse is to let Jane die.
2. Gus Fring's Death
This scene is a top contender for most shocking scene in the entire Breaking Bad series. The impervious Gus Fring, who was always one step ahead of his opponents, finally made an error in judgment.
Walter White and Gus Fring had been playing their own game of chess for an entire season. Between the two master strategists, it appeared as though Gus had finally gotten the best of Walt and turned the tides for good.
But Walter is willing to do things that even Gus couldn't foresee, and that results in one of the most jaw-dropping moments in TV history.
1. The Lily of the Valley Reveal
At the end of season four, Breaking Bad gives us one of the finest moments in all of dramatic television. Personally, it left me speechless for an hour when I first watched it.
Right after watching Gus Fring's assassination, we sat back and reveled in Walt's genius. What we didn't know is that the show still had something left up its sleeve: Walt's expert manipulation of his best friend, Jesse.
The brilliance of this scene is how everything was communicated through a simple shot of the tag on a flower pot tag: Lily of the Valley.
In this perfect moment, we realize just how Machiavellian Walter really is. Always five steps ahead of everyone else, this moment truly demonstrated his intelligence and his willingness to do anything to survive.