The 21 Best ‘Criminal Minds’ Episodes, Ranked

For 15 seasons the members of FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (B.A.U.) profiled — and caught — some of the most gruesome and dangerous serial killers ever featured on scripted television.

During that time (324 episodes to be exact), viewers also gleaned insight into the main characters’ backgrounds through dark journeys to hometowns. They worked the term “unsub” into their everyday vernacular. And they witnessed beloved actors transform into unrecognizable killers in water-cooler-worthy, guest-starring roles.

They also watched the rise and fall of two short-lived spinoff series, “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior” and “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.”

Behind the scenes, there was plenty of drama to keep track of as well thanks to actor exits (and returns). Notably, Mandy Patinkin left in the show’s early days because of the dark subject matter; A.J. Cook’s contract wasn’t renewed after Season 5 but she was reinstated by Season 7 after fan outrage; Thomas Gibson was let go after a reported altercation with a producer on set; and fan favorite Shemar Moore left after 11 seasons to spend more time with his family (and eventually, to star on the CBS drama “SWAT”).

The result was a series full of ups and downs, on-screen and off, right up until its February 2020 conclusion. To commemorate the series while fans await word on any official movement on the potential revival at Paramount Plus, Variety selected and ranked 21 of the best episodes from the series. Wheels up!

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