EastEnders 35th anniversary: 35 iconic moments from the last 35 years

From Sharongate to 'You ain't my mother'

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It’s been 35 years to the day that EastEnders started on our screens and the drama has never stopped.

From shock affairs, to surprising deaths, sweet proposals, and huge revelations, here are the 35 most iconic moments in EastEnders history.

Read more: EastEnders’ Peter Beale returns with a new face

35. Alfie Moon is ‘killed’

EastEnders' Alfie Moon killed by Hayley Slater in Christmas shock
Hayley sent Alfie flying (Credit: BBC)

In 2018’s big Christmas cliffhanger, Alfie Moon was sent flying down the stairs by Hayley Slater.

He was presumed dead and as Kat sobbed over his body, things took a dramatic turn when he then suddenly disappeared.

Alfie wasn’t dead, in fact he was very much alive. He’s since left Walford, but will he ever reunite with his one true love, Kat?

34. Ronnie and Roxy drown (2017)

EastEnders Ronnie Roxy drown Credit: BBC/YouTube
The deaths should never have happened (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

On New Year’s Eve 2017 Ronnie Mitchell married the love of her life Jack Branning. Hours later she had drowned alongside sister, Roxy.

The pair were drinking Champagne and larking around at the hotel swimming pool. Roxy, who’d taken cocaine, jumped into the pool, but suffered a heart attack and drowned.

Ronnie dove in to save her sister, but the weight of her wedding dress was too much and she drowned alongside Roxy.

Neither Ronnie or Roxy actresses Samantha Womack or Rita Simmons agreed with their characters’ deaths, and fans have often called the loss of the sisters one of the biggest mistakes the show has ever made.

33. Sonia gives birth to Bex (2000)

EastEnders Sonia Fowler gives birth to Bex Credit: BBC
Sonia gave birth at 15 (Credit: BBC)

In 2000, 15-year-old Sonia discovered she was pregnant – moments before she actually gave birth!

After a one-night stand with Martin Fowler, Sonia had no idea she was about to become a mum until she started having terrible stomach pains.

Big Mo Harris was on hand to tell her she didn’t just have a tummy bug, she was in fact in labour and helped Sonia give birth to Bex.

Although initially called Chloe and given up for adoption, Sonia regained custody when Bex’s adoptive parents were killed.

32. Linda is raped by Dean (2014)

EastEnders Dean rapes Linda Credit: BBC/YouTube
Linda was raped by Dean Wicks (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

In 2014, Linda Carter was being nice to Dean Wicks, who was struggling emotionally.

Dean took her kindness the wrong way and raped her on the kitchen table in The Vic.

It took Linda months to confess to her husband, Mick, what had happened and it was only when Dean attempted to rape Roxy Mitchell that he was locked up.

Although he ended up getting off the charges of attempted rape and was paid off to leave the country.

He hasn’t been seen since, but Linda is arguably still dealing with the trauma as she descends further into alcohol addiction.

31. Ian is shot by a hitman (1996)

EastEnders Ian is shot Credit: BBC/YouTube
Ian’s wife Cindy ordered a hit on him (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Ian Beale’s first wife Cindy cheated on him left, right and centre.

When they finally split up, he won custody of their twins Lucy and Peter.

After making Cindy’s life a misery, she hired a hitman to kill Ian, but as he was shot by a moving car, the bullet only clipped him and he survived.

Cindy was eventually caught and jailed, and she died in prison during childbirth with her daughter Cindy Junior.

30. Sharon returns to The Vic (2001)

EastEnders Sharon returns credit bbc youtube
No one expected to see her back (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Sharon Mitchell has had more EastEnders comebacks than we’ve had hot dinners, but 2001 definitely wins for the most iconic.

The Mitchells had sold the pub to a mystery buyer, but assumed it was Mel and Steve Owen.

Peggy Mitchell’s face was a treat when Sharon emerged from behind the bar and said: “Hello Peggy, bet you never thought you’d see me again.”

Poor Peggy couldn’t even shout the legendary: “Get outta my pub,” because it wasn’t her pub anymore.

29. Danielle dies in Ronnie’s arms (2009)

EastEnders Danielle dies Credit: BBC/YouTube
Ronnie lost her daughter all over again (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Ronnie Mitchell had given birth to a daughter when she was 14, who her father, Archie had told her died.

When Danielle Jones turned up in Walford and was revealed to be Ronnie’s long-lost daughter, Archie tried to do all he could to stop the truth coming out.

Eventually Danielle revealed who she was to Ronnie, who at first didn’t believe her. But when she realised Danielle wasn’t lying, Ronnie chased her out into the street.

Sadly, just as they were about to be reunited, Janine Butcher ran Danielle over with her car. Danielle died in a distraught Ronnie’s arms.

28. Mark announces he has HIV (1996)

EastEnders Mark has HIV credit BBC YouTube
Mark told the pub he was HIV positive (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Viewers at home knew Mark Fowler was HIV positive, and his parents Pauline and Arthur also knew.

But the Square didn’t, until Peggy Mitchell found out and thinking it was a disease that could easily be caught, she chucked him out of her pub.

But Mark fought back and told the entire Vic that he was HIV positive and explained exactly what that meant.

Prejudiced Peggy eventually came round when Mark offered her support during her breast cancer diagnosis.

27. Bubbly’s in the fridge (2011)

EastEnders bubbly's in the fridge]
Bubbly’s in the fridge (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Every now and then it doesn’t have to be the biggest named characters who create the greatest impact and that’s true of Vanessa Gold.

Zoe Lucker’s incarnation was only on the Square for a short time, but when she found out about boyfriend Max’s affair with his ex-wife Tanya, she created one of the most shared scenes in EastEnders history.

After reading a note between the pair saying: “Bubbly’s in the fridge” Vanessa lost it, screaming the phrase over and over again while smashing up Max’s living room.

26. Phil burns down The Vic (2010)

EastEnders Peggy exit credit BBC YouTube
Peggy just let it burn (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

After years battling alcohol addiction, Phil Mitchell went one further in 2010 and started taking crack.

When Peggy locked him in The Vic to try and beat the addiction, he ended up setting fire to the place.

As Peggy starred at the burning remains of her beloved boozer, she screamed: “Let it burn.”

Dame Barbara Windsor left the soap a few days later, but returned on several occasions until Peggy’s death in 2016.

25. Jamie Mitchell dies (2002)

EastEnders Jamie Mitchell dies credit BBC YouTube
Jamie tragically died (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Jamie Mitchell and Sonia Jackson were love’s young dream, but their future happiness was tragically snatched away from them at Christmas 2002, when he was hit by a car.

Martin Fowler was driving the car and had taken his eyes off the road to read a text.

He hit Jamie, who was rushed to hospital and seemed okay.

But on Christmas Day, he died with Sonia by his side.

She went on to marry and then divorce Martin.

24. Jim proposes to Dot on the London Eye (2002)

EastEnders Jim proposes to Dot credit bbc youtube
Jim popped the question in style (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Every now and then EastEnders delivers a scene that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

That happened when Jim Branning took Dot Cotton on the London Eye and got down on one knee.

“Dorothy, will you marry me?” he asked. “Yeah, yeah I will,” she replied.

23. Pauline Fowler dies at Christmas (2006)

EastEnders Pauline dead credit BBC YouTube

Pauline Fowler had made plenty of enemies by the time Christmas 2006 came.

Having alienated her son, Martin and his other half Sonia, Pauline was walking her dog, Betty, in the Square on Christmas Day when she collapsed and died.

Dot found her body and Martin ran over, soon realising his mum was dead.

Sonia was at first arrested for her murder after it was revealed a blow to the head caused her death, but it had been Pauline’s second husband Joe, who had hit her over the head with a frying pan during a Christmas Day row.

22. Bianca learns Tony is a paedophile (2008)

EastEnders Bianca Whitney rape credit bbc youtube
Bianca tries to make Whitney understand she was raped (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

When Bianca Jackson returned to the Square in 2008, it looked like she had it all. Despite being homeless, she had a happy family of kids and a kind boyfriend (who was serving time, but was still an angel in her eyes).

However when said boyfriend, Tony King, returned from prison, he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be and it was soon revealed he had been sleeping with her stepdaughter Whitney, who had been 12 when it began.

Whitney believed they were in love and on her 16th birthday revealed the truth to Bianca.

As the truth dawned on Bianca, she tried to make Whitney see it wasn’t some big love affair.

Whitney insisted she was 16 so it was fine, but Bianca replied: “You weren’t 16 yesterday… it means you were raped.”

21. Kathy returns from the dead (2015)

EastEnders Kathy return credit bbc youtube
Phil knew Kathy was alive (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Kathy Beale moved to South Africa in 1998, and was killed  off-screen in 2006.

Only she wasn’t.

In one of the biggest shocks the show has ever pulled off, Kathy returned from the dead during the live special of the show to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015.

It turned out she had faked her death alongside her abusive husband Gavin – who also turned out to be Sharon’s biological father.

Kathy eventually made a permanent return to the Square and has bought the Prince Albert bar, while still working in her beloved cafe.

20. Ian finds out Bobby killed Lucy (2015)

EastEnders Ian finds out the truth credit bbc youtube
Ian knew Jane was lying (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

At Easter 2014, Lucy Beale was sensationally killed off.

The next months were spent teasing a long line-up of suspects and when EastEnders went live in 2015 for its 30th anniversary the killer was revealed.

Despite Lucy’s stepmum Jane Beale confessing to the crime, Ian knew she was lying.

One look at her phone and he connected the dots – 10-year-old Bobby Beale had killed his sister and called his mum, Jane, for help.

Jane moved the body and spent months covering up the crime – even convincing Bobby that he hadn’t killed his sister.

However when Bobby’s violent streak grew and he attacked Jane with a hockey stick, he confessed to his crimes and went to prison.

19. Frank’s cheeky bow tie stunt (2000)

EastEnders Frank bow tie
Cheeky! (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Frank Butcher and Pat Evans were having an affair behind their partners’ Peggy Mitchell and Roy Evans’ backs.

Pat was in for a cheeky treat when he turned up on her back doorstep wearing nothing but a spinning, flashing bow tie…

18. Bianca finds out David is her dad (1995)

EastEnders David Bianca credit bbc youtube
David was Bianca’s dad (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Back in 1995 the nation cringed as Bianca Jackson came on to David Wicks.

Why wouldn’t she? He was handsome and charming, but what she didn’t know was that he was her father.

As she tried to kiss him for the second time, David snapped and despite promising her mum, Carol that he wouldn’t tell her, he blurted out: “I’m your father.”

That’s one way to end a romance!

17. Kathy is raped by Wilmott Brown (1988)

EastEnders Willmott Brown rapes Kathy credit BBC youTube
James attacked Kathy (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Kathy was working at upmarket establishment The Dagmar in 1988, much to husband Pete Beale’s annoyance.

She got close to boss James Willmott Brown, who subsequently took it the wrong way and raped her when she refused his advances.

Sobbing Kathy was found by Dirty Den Watts, who got revenge on Willmott Brown by having The Dagmar firebombed.

Willmott Brown was eventually found guilty of rape and sent to prison, but he returned to destroy Walford and Kathy, with the help of Max Branning in 2017.

16. Arthur Fowler has a breakdown (1986)

EastEnders Arthur breakdown Credit@ BBc/YouTube
Arthur smashed up his living room (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

After unemployed Arthur stole the Christmas Club money to pay for a wedding for his daughter Michelle, his world started to unravel.

He lied that his house had been burgled and that’s how the money had been taken, but police saw through him.

He finally confessed and was arrested. His arrest saw him breakdown on Christmas Day, smashing up his living room in a violent rage.

Arthur was admitted to hospital for treatment and stood trial for his crime later that year. He was sent to prison for 28 days.

15. Dirty Den returns from the dead (2003)

EastEnders Drity Den Credit: BBC/YouTube
Dirty Den came back (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Den was presumed dead after being shot, but it turned out he was very much alive and in hiding.

When his long-lost son Dennis Rickman and his daughter Vicky Fowler tracked him down, he returned to Walford and uttered those iconic words to Sharon: “‘Ello Princess.”

Sadly, Den was killed for real two years later by his wife, Chrissie.

14. Archie murdered with The Queen Vic bust (2009)

Archie was murdered on Christmas Day (Credit: BBC)

Christmas Day 2009 Archie Mitchell had made an enemy of just about everyone on the Square.

As he sat alone in The Vic, which he’d managed to con Peggy out of, he was hit over the head with The Queen Vic bust.

His killer was kept a secret, until the big reveal during the 25th anniversary celebrations in February.

13. Dot helps Ethel to die (2000)

Ethel and Dot were friendship goals (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

It was a very sad day when Ethel asked her old friend Dot to help her to die.

Religious Dot was against the idea, but eventually agreed to put an end to her friend’s suffering.

“Do you know what you are? ” Ethel asked. “You’re the best friend I ever had.”

Sniff. We’re not crying, you are…

12. Peggy slaps Frank and Pat (2000)

Peggy was hurt (Credit: BBC/Youtube)

Peggy Mitchell wasn’t a woman you crossed and when you did, woe betide you!

Pat and Frank had been having an affair behind her back and when she found out, she read a letter left to her by Frank revealing his betrayal to the whole pub.

She then slapped Frank and slapped Pat one after the other, before running upstairs in tears.

11. Dirty Den is ‘killed’ (1989)

He didn’t spot the gun in the flowers (Credit: BBC)

For someone to return from the dead they have to be killed first. Dirty Den had got himself mixed up with The Firm, who decided he was expendable and had to die.

Den knew it was coming, but he never saw the gun in a bunch of daffodils being carried by a loved-up young couple during a walk by the canal.

The shot was fired and viewers heard a splash, presuming Den was dead.

But it turned out he wasn’t, he survived and came back years later to cause even more trouble.

10. Stacey confesses she killed Archie (2010)

She did it (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

After Archie’s death the list of suspects was very long, but moments after her husband Bradley Branning plunged to his death trying to protect her, Stacey confessed.

She told Max: “He didn’t do it. Bradley didn’t do it… It was me.”

It was later revealed Archie had raped Stacey and she had killed him in revenge.

After years on the run, Stacey eventually went to prison for the crime, but when he appealed on the grounds of her biopolar disorder she was free to return to Walford again.

9. Bradley falls off The roof of The Vic (2010)

Bradley sacrificed himself (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Bradley was desperate to protect Stacey when he found out she’d killed Archie – even if that meant taking the rap himself.

As the police came knocking, he ran and ended up on the roof of The Vic.

Shouting down to his wife he said: “Stace, run,” before he plunged to his death in a very dramatic live stunt.

8. Little Mo hits Trevor with an iron (2001)

Little Mo had had enough (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

After years of abuse at the hands of her husband Trevor, Little Mo finally snapped in 2001.

As he tried to attack her again, she grabbed an iron and hit him over the head.

She thought she’d killed him and went to get help, but when she returned he’d gone.

Little Mo was later sent down for eight years for attempted murder, although was eventually released when Trevor retracted his statement.

Trevor died in a house fire in 2002.

7. Frank runs over Tiffany on New Year’s Eve (1998)

Tiffany died on New Year’s Eve (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Tiffany thought things were going to be okay after her abusive husband Grant Mitchell had been banned from seeing her after he pushed her down the stairs.

But he returned and snatched their daughter Courtney, causing Tiff to chase him into the icy Square.

It was New Year’s Eve and just as the clock struck midnight, Tiffany ran into the road and Frank Butcher who was driving around the corner crashed into her.

She lay dying on the road before breathing her last.

6. Janine pushes Barry off a cliff (2004)

If only he’d worn slip on shoes (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Poor Barry Evans had no idea his new wife Janine Butcher was only marrying him for his money.

She was in fact in a relationship with Paul Trueman and they planned to take Barry for everything, believing he had a life-threatening heart murmer.

When she discovered he wasn’t dying, Janine lost it and pushed Barry off a cliff in a fit of rage.

Pretending it had been an accident, Janine later sobbed: “If only he’d worn slip on shoes.”

5. Stacey and Max’s affair revealed (2007)

The tape doesn’t lie (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Max Branning can’t keep it in his trousers, but no affair was more shocking than his liaisons with son Bradley’s wife, Stacey.

Although the pair called it off, they kissed again at Bradley and Stacey’s wedding, and it was caught on tape.

Having seen it, vengeful Lauren Branning left the recording under the tree on Christmas Day and it was played to the whole Branning/Slater clan.

The fallout was huge, with Max’s wife Tanya burying him alive as punishment.

4. Who shot Phil Mitchell? (2001)

Phil was shot by Lisa (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Phil Mitchell was shot on his doorstep on March 1, 2001 and the culprit was revealed a month later on April 5.

His behaviour pre-shooting meant he’d made a number of enemies on the Square, but it was mild-mannered ex-girlfriend Lisa who had pulled the trigger.

22 million viewers tuned in to find out whodunnit and a televised football match was even postponed for 15 minutes to accommodate the reveal.

3. Den serves Angie divorce papers (1986)

You’ve been served (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

Arguably the most recognisable moment in EastEnders history came on Christmas Day 1986 when Den Watts presented wife Angie with divorce papers.

He’d just found out she was faking having six months to live and wasn’t happy.

Cornering her at the bottom of the stairs, he said: “Happy Christmas, Ange,” as he waved the papers in her face.

2. Zoe discovers Kat is her mum (2001)

Kat revealed the truth (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

It’s probably the most repeated line in EastEnders script history, when Kat Slater revealed she was ‘sister’ Zoe’s actual mother.

Zoe wanted to move to Spain with her ‘uncle’ Harry – who in fact was her father after he’d sexually abused Kat when she was a teen.

Kat stormed after her in the Square insisting she wasn’t going anywhere and Zoe screamed she couldn’t tell her what to do.

“You ain’t my mother!” she yelled.

“YES I AM!” replied Kat.

1. Sharongate: Sharon’s affair with Phil revealed (1994)

Sharon was exposed (Credit: BBC/YouTube)

The saga of Sharon, Phil and Grant has crossed decades.

Sharon was once upon a time married to Phil’s brother Grant, but she had a one-night stand with Phil.

It was kept secret, because Phil was also married to Kathy, until Sharon confessed to best friend Michelle and the whole thing was recorded on tape.

Grant found the tape and played it to the whole pub during a celebration.

“One minute we were talking, the next, ripping each other’s clothes off,” the punters heard Sharon say, in a moment that will forever go down in history.

Read more: EastEnders bosses argued over who would die

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