Perry with 90210 co-star Jennie Garth and Brian Austin Green (left), clowning around with Krusty, and running for mayor of Riverdale
Photo: Mikel Roberts/Sygma (Getty Images), Dean Buscher (The CW), Screenshot: The Simpsons

In the wake of Luke Perry’s death, there will be plenty of encomiums to the actor’s many works. From his international stardom thanks to Beverly Hills, 90210 to his most recent turn on Riverdale, along with numerous films and TV series in between, Perry built up a résumé of performances that endeared him to successive generations of fans. It seems fitting, then, to pay tribute to the actor by tuning in to watch him in some of his most iconic roles. Below, The A.V. Club has assembled five of Perry’s performances that most resonated with us over the years—all of which are currently streaming online.


Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990)

Currently streaming on Hulu

On any other show, the boyfriend who goes after his girlfriend’s best friend while she’s in Paris for the summer would be an irredeemable cad. But such was the charisma of Luke Perry’s Dylan McKay, and Jennie Garth’s Kelly, that even Brenda-Dylan die-hards couldn’t help but root for the fling that kicked off 90210’s third season in the summer of 1992. Frankly, the golden couple of Dylan and Kelly just made sense, more so than the motorcycle rebel’s relationship with Midwestern-fish-out-of-water Brenda. The Beverly Hills natives both had rocky childhoods and troubled parents, yet still had the self-confidence to both be voted “Best-Looking” in their West Beverly graduating class. The two tried to quash the burgeoning chemistry that emerged during beach tug-of-war matches and volleyball games, but a viewing of Casablanca clinched the couple for good, even as they both felt guilty about Brenda. They even tried to do the right thing by telling Brenda the truth together—it didn’t go well. But in the final episode of the series, bridesmaid Kelly looks longingly at the recently returned Dylan at Donna and David’s wedding, and it’s clear that the two were endgame all along. After all, despite the motorcycle and sideburns, Dylan was only a bad boy on the surface. Perry even showed up on Garth’s sitcom What I Like About You years later, causing co-star Amanda Bynes to quip, “Let me guess, Brenda’s still in Paris.” [Gwen Ihnat]

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Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)

Currently streaming on Hulu and Amazon with a Starz subscription

Beverly Hills, 90210 may have made him a star, but the 1992 movie version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is where audiences first got to see Perry’s comic chops on full display. His character, a motorcycle-riding would-be “cool guy” named Pike, at first seems like a minor tweak on Perry’s brooding and morose Dylan. But Pike is quickly revealed to be as much bumbling burnout as badass outsider—getting wasted and almost killed by his friend-turned-vampire en route to falling for the title character and becoming her loyal supporter. Perry adds charm and some goofball humor to an uneven movie, arguably the actor who best embodies the qualities writer Joss Whedon would later move to the forefront of his beloved TV adaptation: multifaceted young people dealing with a difficult life through equal parts heart and humor, with plenty of relatable mistakes along the way. [Alex McLevy]

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The Simpsons, “Krusty Gets Kancelled” (season four, episode 22)

Currently streaming on FX Now

GIF: Frinkiac

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No matter where Perry’s career went after 90210, the memory of Dylan McKay was going to follow close behind. He showed a sense of humor about being a big TV star (yeah, on Fox) fairly early on, sidling up to Krusty The Clown at the end of the same Simpsons season that saw one pompadoured Dylan-alike inflating the Simpson-family phone bill and another showing his true age at a monorail gala. But Perry takes it all in stride and with soul, playing a sidekick who just wants to earn the respect of his half-brother and in return winds up the human cannonball in one of the show’s finest Looney Tunes sight gags. “Krusty Gets Kancelled” is made all the funnier by the fact that many viewers first got a look at Perry’s valuable face via a Thursday-night lineup that began in Springfield and ended with the latest exploits at West Beverly Hills High. [Erik Adams]  

John From Cincinnati (2007)

Currently streaming on HBOGo and HBO Now

John From Cincinnati is a tough recommendation. It’s obtuse, alienating, disorienting, and woefully incomplete. HBO’s 2007 one-season wonder (or, in the eyes of most, misfire) does, however, have a good deal going for it, from its offbeat humor to its compelling cast. Anchoring the ensemble’s ever-growing stable of weirdos, hysterics, and otherworldly curiosities was Luke Perry, who, as surf talent scout Linc Stark, served as a stabilizing force in a foamy, unnerving world, one that could gracefully pivot between the actor’s soap bonafides and the stony, amiable serenity he brought to much of his later work. If nothing else, John From Cincinnati gave us a true gift in finally offering Perry and Saved By The Bell’s Mark-Paul Gosselaar the tense tête-à-tête we’d longed for since their early days as opposing teen icons. [Randall Colburn]

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Riverdale (2017-present)

Currently streaming on The CW and Netflix 

For viewers of a certain age, seeing Luke Perry play a concerned-but-undeniably-hot dad on Riverdale might have caused a bit of whiplash, though not because the late heartthrob lacked range or versatility in previous roles, as this post proves. But watching the guy your parents warned you away from as an adolescent morph into the pillar of an admittedly warped community still came as a shock, if only because it made many of us wonder where our youth went. The role of Fred Andrews wasn’t especially showy in season one, but Perry made every furrow of his brow count. That rasp, once primarily deployed to make girls swoon, became a voice of wisdom among all these hormonal teens and their equally out-of-control parents. Who could forget the father-son bonding over a broken-down jalopy, or an early morning heart-to-heart with the son he felt slipping away? As the series has unfolded, Fred’s flaws have also come to light, but Perry’s performance ensured we never forgot the underlying goodness. So maybe trying to fight back the darkness as a handsome, albeit troubled, dad on The CW’s heir apparent to the teen drama that made Perry famous was really just his career coming full circle. [Danette Chavez]

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