When ITV announced a reboot of ‘00s reality TV relic Celebrity Love Island, which would ditch the famous people to focus on a group of ordinary(ish) singles attempting to find ‘the one’ over the course of a hot Mallorcan summer, no one expected that the show would go on to become one of the most talked-about fixtures in the UK’s pop cultural calendar.

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And yet that’s exactly what happened. Seven years on from its debut in 2015, the start of new season of Love Island now heralds the beginning of British summer time. When you hear that Iain Stirling voiceover, you know it’s time to put your social life on hold for two months in order to watch a new cohort of unfeasibly attractive contestants fall in and out of love (and/or lust) with one another.

The format has been tweaked a little since that first season (which culminated in a bizarre fake wedding ceremony, surely the kiss of death for any burgeoning relationship, that was mercifully ditched for future iterations of the show) but the Love Island blueprint remains simple, addictive and, as critics have pointed out, extremely heteronormative. A group of five girls and five guys choose to couple up with one another, aiming to work out whether or not they have a genuine connection; just when things seem to be going smoothly, a “bombshell” contestant arrives to stir things up. At stake is a £50,000 cash prize and, you know, the promise of long-lasting love.

Though cynics might point out that the show’s hit rate is a little patchy when it comes to enduring romances, there are a handful of Love Island couples who are still together, managing to keep the spark alive after the cameras stopped rolling — there have been Love Island weddings (real ones) and Love Island babies, too. And even if you’re not fussed by the soppier stuff, the series has delivered some of the most jaw-dropping drama and most hilarious moments in reality TV history.

Not all seasons of Love Island were created equal, though. From the ones we’d rather forget (and indeed, the ones so dull we can barely remember them) to the solid gold classics, here’s our definitive ranking. It is what it is.

8. Season 6 (2020)

Paige and Finn
Love Island's Paige Turley and Finn Tapp won the winter series ITV

When ITV bosses announced the news that a winter edition of Love Island would be airing on ITV2, filmed for the first time in a swanky villa in Cape Town, South Africa, it seemed like a brilliant idea. Yet when the time came for the sixth season to begin, with Laura Whitmore installed as the new presenter, it felt too soon: after all, it was only five months since we’d said goodbye to the last cohort of islanders. It also turned out that watching a bunch of genetically blessed 20-somethings ask each other to define their “type on paper” while lazing around a swimming pool wasn’t exactly the most appealing viewing material in the depths of January, when the majority of the nation was hibernating in layers of blankets, eating crisps on the sofa in a post Christmas-haze.

The sixth season saw producers double down on their attempts to cast celebrity-adjacent islanders, with Rochelle Humes’ half-sister Sophie and Lewis Capaldi’s ex-girlfriend Paige Turley, a former Britain’s Got Talent hopeful herself, among the contestants. Turley would go on to win the series with partner Finn Tapp (they’re still together today), with Luke Trotman and Siannise Fudge — who pulled off an impressive dance routine in the obligatory talent show episode, which would stand them in good stead for future TikToks — as runners up. However, much of the magic of early seasons was missing in action, and winter Love Island seemed to prove that you definitely can have too much of a good thing.

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Still, this was the season that gave us a deadpan Shaughna Phillips saying “congrats, hun” to Callum Jones after he returned from Casa Amor with new love interest Molly Smith, and for that, we’re forever grateful. Plus, ITV recently announced that the winter version of the show will be back on our screens at the start of 2023. Perhaps it’s worth a second chance after all.

7. Season 1 (2015)

When season 1 of Love Island landed on ITV2 in the summer of 2015 with little fanfare, drawing in an average of around 570,000 viewers per episode, few could have predicted that the show would go on to become such a runaway success, launching careers and filling endless newspaper columns — after all, it was just a reboot of an early ‘00s reality format that many viewers had forgotten about.

Watching these old episodes now, there is a pretty dramatic contrast in production values (you can tell it was filmed before the show had its pick of brand partnerships and advertising deals) and none of the couples even seem that fussed by one another, so the stakes feel spectacularly low, although season 1 did feature Love Island’s only proposal to date. One month into their relationship, Jon Clark got down on one knee to ask Hannah Elizabeth to marry him (their romance didn’t last for long after the show ended, and they never made it down the aisle).

Although the format feels a bit rough around the edges, it’s fun to see challenges which have gone on to become Love Island classics (such as the notorious fake baby episode, which has featured in every season since) in their early forms, while getting Calum Best to take the boys on a night out in Magaluf was a nice nod to Celebrity Love Island. Without this slightly dud debut season, we wouldn’t have any of the brilliant TV moments mentioned in this ranking — thank goodness the ITV execs decided to take a chance on Love Island after this undeniably shaky start.

6. Season 7 (2021)

Love Island - Chloe Burrows
Love Island - Chloe Burrows ITV

When Love Island returned to our screens after an 18 month pandemic-imposed hiatus (remember all the rumours suggesting the show would have to move from Mallorca to, say, Anglesey or the Isle of Wight to get around the COVID-imposed travel restrictions?) expectations for season 7 were high. Following months of successive lockdowns, when single people were forced to channel their inner Jane Austen characters and embark on endless socially distanced walks if they wanted to go on a date, surely the seventh cohort of islanders would be ready to lay it on Factor 50 thick with their fellow beautiful people? Sadly, the season didn’t quite live up to our hopes, and instead of coming back stronger, the Love Island format ended up feeling a little tired and frayed at the edges, like a fast-fashion bikini that’s been put through the spin cycle one too many times.

Yes, there were a handful of truly memorable couples, most notably Chloe Burrows and Toby Aromolaran, with their perfectly matched chaotic energy, plus the unbreakable bond between day one besties Liberty Poole and Kaz Kamwi, and a few good memes (Millie Court playing her keyboard). The damp squib of an ending, however, when Millie and Liam Reardon won the £50,000 prize after she forgave him for snogging another girl over at Casa Amor, summed up a disappointing year for the show.

When there was genuine drama, it often made for slightly uncomfortable viewing, not least in the aftermath of the infamous ‘movie night’ episode, when contestant Faye Winters yelled at Teddy Soares after watching footage of him confessing that he was attracted to one of the Casa Amor girls. The incident prompted almost 25,000 viewer complaints to Ofcom, a record for the show.

5. Season 4 (2018)

By 2018, Love Island was a fully fledged social phenomenon, drawing in millions of viewers and firmly established as the most talked-about British reality show since Big Brother’s early ‘00s glory days. From the moment that Caroline Flack ushered them into the villa, it was clear that this cast of islanders had the potential for TV gold, and they delivered from day one, from Hayley Hughes, who pondered whether Brexit would result in the culling of Britain’s trees, to the perpetually sunburned Dr Alex, who always looked slightly shell shocked by the events that were unfolding in front of him.

On the opposite end of the cracking on spectrum to Alex, we had Adam Collard, who left a trail of chaos in his wake, and Megan Barton Hanson, an all-time top tier Islander who did the same and then some, sacking off Eyal Booker (using the immortal line “you’re not exactly Jim Carrey”) to crack on with Wes Nelson, despite the fact that he seemed to be happily coupled up with Laura Anderson at the time.

What about the actual romances? Jack Fincham and Dani Dyer, daughter of Danny, coupled up on day one and proceeded to become the nation’s sweethearts. Even an attempt on the part of the show’s producers to stir things up couldn’t break them: Jack’s former girlfriend turned up for Casa Amor, and back at the villa, Dani watched a video showing the exes together. Her tears were genuinely heartbreaking (and prompted thousands of Ofcom complaints) but once that misunderstanding had been cleared up, she and Jack were back on track, and when the season came to an end, their win seemed inevitable.

4. Season 5 (2019)

Tommy Fury and Molly Mae
This year's favourites to win, Tommy Fury and Molly Mae (ITV Pictures)

At this point in the show’s life cycle, Love Island contestants were well aware of the potential profile — and the lucrative #spon opportunities — that might come with a successful stint in the villa, meaning that there was less bad behaviour and the islanders’ antics were pretty PG compared to, say, the chaos of season 2. Case in point? There was a whole story arc devoted to a cuddly elephant, when Tommy Fury babysat Molly Mae Hague’s toy Elly Belly while she was in Casa Amor. And yet despite the fact that swathes of the guys and girls clearly had one eye on a future Boohoo deal or social media stardom, season 5 deserves its place in the Love Island hall of fame for the sheer quantity of quotable moments.

Michael Griffiths yelling that his former love interest Amber Gill was “chaldish” for daring to call out his behaviour? Season 5. Professional dancer and wannabe barista Curtis Pritchard claiming that he “also want[s] to be the person that gets up and makes everyone a coffee so everyone’s ready for the morning” when girlfriend Amy Hart asked him why he wasn’t showing her any affection? Also season 5, Ovie Soko shouting “Message!” instead of “I’ve got a text”? You know the drill.

This was also the year that Maura Higgins entered the pantheon of legendary Love Island bombshells (see also: Megan Barton Hanson), creating unmissable television from the moment she entered the villa and had to pretend to enjoy a toxic cheese sandwich cooked up by Tommy Fury, straight out of the Fyre Festival recipe book. And though their romance didn’t last for long in ‘the outside world’, has there ever been a more satisfying win than Amber’s victory, secured just days after coupling up with new boy Greg? It was the ultimate rebound.

3. Season 8 (2022)

A dramatic return to form after the lacklustre and perfunctory seventh season, this year’s competition is already one of the all time great series of Love Island, despite an inauspicious start that focused far too heavily on Gemma Owen, who, as the daughter of former football star Michael, fulfilled the celebrity offspring quota this time around.

Once the producers realised that we’d tuned in for Love Island, not Gemma Island, things got far more compelling. We have one woman to thank for that rapid uptick in quality, and her name is Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu. The spiritual successor of Megan Barton Hanson, this one-woman whirlwind was unafraid to, as the time-honoured Love Island phrase goes, step on toes when she arrived in the villa on day three. First she set her sights on Davide Sanclimenti (who was coupled up with Gemma at the time), then decided to pursue a clandestine romance with new arrival Jay Younger.

Going against the approved courtship ritual of ‘pulling Jay for a chat’ in full view of her fellow islanders, she invited him to join her on the terrace for a secret rendez-vous, crawling on all fours — wearing a body-con dress and stiletto heels — to avoid prying eyes. When Davide worked out what had been going on, his Italian-accented cries of “Liar! Actress!” reverberated around the villa, providing us with more entertainment than the entirety of season 7 put together. After that explosive row, though, they’ve been on a sworn-enemies-to-true-love trajectory that’s straight out of a rom-com, but their fiery temperaments mean that each new day in the villa could throw things off kilter.

The fallout from Casa Amor caused even more carnage than usual, after the boys decided to act like they were on a post-sixth form trip to Zante, and with only a handful of settled couples in the villa, there’s been a sense of unpredictability in the air that has made for addictive viewing. The decision to introduce season 4’s Adam Collard, marking the first time that a former islander has cropped up in another season, has been a masterstroke so far, too — and will surely stir up interest in a potential all-stars version of Love Island.

2. Season 2 (2016)

Zara Holland - Love Island

The second season of Love Island was pure, unadulterated chaos, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Looking back, the 2016 islanders’ antics make even the most scandalous goings-on in future series seem incredibly tame. Perhaps it seemed so explosive because our expectations were so low after a relatively dull first season. For better and worse, it’s hard to see the villa ever being this dramatic (or as smoky — these were the days before the producers cracked down on smoking on camera) again.

The biggest story of the series came when Zara Holland was stripped of her Miss Great Britain title shortly after spending a night in the Hideaway with Alex Bowen (let’s just say the show’s sex scenes were a bit more explicit back in the day) sparking a conversation about slut-shaming and sexual double standards back in the UK. Other unforgettable moments included Malin Andersson returning to the villa to confront a gobsmacked Terry Walsh, who’d proceeded to crack on with Emma Jane Woodham after her departure, despite promising to wait for her on the outside, and Malia Arkian’s zero to 180 row with Kady McDermott, which resulted in the former being booted out of the villa.

In terms of long-term love, this season is one of the most successful. After coupling up on the first day, eventual winners Cara De La Hoyde and Nathan Massey went on to get married and have two children, while Olivia Buckland and Alex tied the knot a couple of years after appearing on the show and recently welcomed their first child.

1. Season 3 (2017)

Olivia Attwood on love Island
Olivia Attwood on love Island ITV2

When it comes to Love Island seasons, this one is certainly the best all-rounder. In 2017, the show was in a real sweet spot, enjoying great ratings after the unexpected success of season 2, but not yet the pop culture juggernaut it would become. Contestants were prepared to act out in the name of finding love, and were less guarded than their successors, because they weren’t necessarily expecting to fly back from Mallorca to nationwide fame.

A brand new villa, decked out with neon lights and personalised water bottles, set the stage for the action, and thanks to producers’ decision to cast former rapper Marcel Somerville, the catchphrase “I used to be in Blazin’ Squad” soon cropped up in every conversation (and adorned countless Primark t-shirts). His musical skills would be put to good use when Chris Hughes and Kem Cetinay, aka the show’s best ever bromance, decided they wanted to compose a rap of their own.

Season 3 was crammed full of classic islanders, from no-nonsense Olivia Attwood, who would end the show in third place with Chris, to Theo “If Tyla really liked Jonny she should go as well” Campbell to Camilla Thurlow, the softly-spoken bomb disposal expert who ended up schooling the aforementioned Jonny Mitchell in the basic tenets of feminism. After Camilla endured a string of disappointing dates and friendship couples, the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief when she hit it off with model Jamie Jewitt (they’ve since got married, and have a baby daughter).

This was the first season to introduce the now-infamous Casa Amor twist halfway through, leaving the unsuspecting islanders genuinely shocked. Casa Amor would stretch some previously solid relationships, including Kem’s romance with Amber Davies, though the couple would eventually ditch their new Casa partners and go on to win. Romance aside, the islanders seemed to be having the time of their lives, just like a bunch of beautiful people on a free holiday should be — for sheer enjoyability, this was a season that remains unmatched.

Love Island airs at 9pm nightly on ITV2 and ITV Hub. Episodes are available the following morning on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial. If you're looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide. Visit our Entertainment hub for all the latest news.

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