‘The O.C.’: 4 of the Show’s Most Iconic Moments and the Songs That Made Them

One of the most popular TV shows of the early 2000s, The O.C. became known not only for its dramatic scenes but for its soundtrack. 

‘The O.C.’ opening credits featuring Phantom Planet’s ‘California’

'The O.C.' cast in 2003
The O.C. cast | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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Not a scene in the teen drama but still an iconic part of the show just the same, the opening credits of The O.C. feature Phantom Planet’s “California.”

Years since The O.C. went off the air, the song is still synonymous with the series. According to The Washington Post, Stephanie Savage, an executive producer of The O.C., still hears people hum “California” when boards a flight. 

In a 2018 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Josh Schwartz, the creator of The O.C., opened up about “California” and its journey to becoming the show’s theme song.

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Schwartz said he came across the song while putting together a trailer for executives. 

“We were worried that that song had been overplayed but we thought it would be effective for the trailer,” Schwartz said. “What we came to realize was a lot of people hadn’t heard the song when it first came out. So it became the obvious choice for the main title song.”

Ryan Atwood leaves Orange County while ‘Honey and the Moon’ plays 

One of the first big music moments in The O.C. comes at the end of the pilot, which aired on August 5, 2003. Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher) gives Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie) a ride back to Chino, California.

As they’re pulling out of the driveway, Ryan sees Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton) standing outside while Joseph Arthur’s “Honey and the Moon” plays. Schwartz said the scene shot at sunset always included Arthur’s song. 

“It was always how we wanted the end of the show to feel before even knowing what exactly the end of the show was going to be,” he told Entertainment Weekly. 

Marissa Cooper and Ryan Atwood share an epic New Year’s kiss to Finley Quaye’s ‘Dice’

In The O.C. Season 1 Episode 14: “The Countdown,” Marissa and Ryan share an incredible kiss as New Year’s Eve becomes New Year’s Day.

After Marissa tells Ryan she loves him and he doesn’t know what to say, Ryan tries to profess his feelings for her before the clock strikes midnight.

Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton attend 'The O.C.' premiere party
Ben McKenzie and Mischa Barton attend a premiere party for The O.C. | Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

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While he races the clock and climbs flights of stairs, Finley Quaye’s “Dice” plays in the background. Ryan makes with barely a few seconds to spare and he and Marissa share a kiss made even more epic by “Dice” and confetti.

Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ plays during Marissa Cooper’s death

When Barton left The O.C. at the end of the show’s third season, the writers killed off Marissa in a car crash. To this day it remains one of the most controversial TV deaths of the early 2000s.

Despite fans being upset with losing one of The O.C.’s “core four,” Marissa’s death is one of the series’ most iconic moments. Ryan carries Marissa from the wreckage while Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” plays.

What makes the song choice even more special is Ryan and Marissa’s history with the song that started in The O.C. Season 1 Episode 2: “The Model Home.” 

These are just some of the iconic moments and memorable songs The O.C. features.

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