Some of us have spent nearly as much time in Springfield as we have in our own actual hometowns. So much has changed in the 30 years since The Simpsons debuted in 1989, but some things never grow old. Which led to an even more important conversation: Of the 670-plus episodes that have aired since its beginning, which would you show to the few who remain unconverted to the show’s genius? What, essentially, are the greatest Simpsons’ episodes of them all?
So after hours of arguing, several bouts of fisticuffs, many games of roshambo and much consulting of online forums, Rolling Stone has come up with the answer — the 150 best Simpsons episodes of all time. You can use this as a guide to binging, or simply something to end arguments such as whether “Bart the Daredevil” is better than “Bart the Lover” (yes, it is), which Treehouse of Horror is the best (we’re going with IV) and which one truly stands head and shoulders above the rest (read on). And why you should never miss the Ramones-cameo episode (“Rosebud,” for those of you playing at home). Regardless of where you land on The Simpsons spectrum, grab your Duff beer or Krusty Kola and dig in.
150. ‘Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder’
Homer decides to go bowling with the guys, and ends up bowling a perfect game. He becomes a local celebrity and a center-square occupant on Hollywood Squares, but fame is a fickle mistress. Homer then decides to use his spare time to bond with Maggie (“the forgotten Simpson”).
Best Visual Gag: The take-off on The Natural‘s super home run, complete with Randy Newman’s score, flying slo-mo balls, flashbulbs and explosions.
Best Line: “Kids, today we have to talk about Krusty Brand Chew Goo Gum-Like Substance…we knew it contained spider eggs, but the Honda Virus? Whoa-oh, that really came out of left field!”
149. ‘All Singing, All Dancing’
One of the stronger of the Simpsons‘ clip shows (no, it’s not a contradiction in terms), this collection of musical sequences rewinds through Homer’s barbershop quartet, Bart and Milhouse’s sugar-high tribute to On the Town, a church sing-along of “In a Gadda Da Vidda” and Lyle Lanley selling Springfield a monorail via song, among others. Bonus points for reminding us of the living hell that is the film adaptation of Paint Your Wagon.
Best Visual Gag: The look on Homer and Bart’s faces after they see Clint Eastwood break into song.
Best Line: “Here comes Lee Marvin! Thank god, he’s always drunk and violent.”
148. ‘Behind the Laughter’
The Simpsons get a tell-all special, where what we’ve been watching has actually been a TV show cooked up by Homer. Dad gets addicted to painkillers, the family fail to pay their taxes, and fame starts to sour. Fame…it plays hideous tricks on the brain.
Best Visual Gag: Fox’s failed Bart Simpson T-shirts — “You bet your sweet bippy, man” and “Life begins at conception, man.”
Best Line: “And that horrible act of child abuse became one of our most beloved running gags.”
147. ‘The Food Wife’
Homer takes Bart and Lisa to a video game convention. Marge takes the family out for Ethiopian food, trying to be a cool mom, and she and the kids start a food blog called The Three Mouthketeers. Marge, enjoying being the fun parent, gives Homer the wrong address to the molecular gastronomy restaurant, sending him instead a meth lab.
Best Visual Gag: Homer chokes on something, collapses by the fridge, and his ghost gives him the Heimlich Maneuver.
Best Line: “Pine needle sorbet?! My kids do not eat sorbet — they eat sherbet, and they pronounce it sherbert, and they wish it was ice cream!”
146. ‘Sweet and Sour Marge’
Homer discovers the Duff Book of World Records and tries to organize Springfield into a human pyramid. Instead they’re granted the title of world’s fattest town. Marge sets out to be the Erin Brockovich of the Motherloving Sugar Corporation, getting all sugar banned from Springfield. Homer teams up with Apu, Mr. Burns, and Count Fudgula to smuggle the sweet white stuff back into the town.
Best Visual Gag: Disco Stu snorts sugar through a dollar bill, throws himself a dance party.
Best Line: “So, say a bittersweet farewell to such old friends as Mud Pies, Bite ‘Ems, Eclairios, Chew ‘Ems, Kellogg’s All-Fudge, Big Red Snack Foam, Milk Chuds, Eat ‘Ems — and all sugar pills will be changed back to highly concentrated opiates.”
145. ‘The Debarted’
A new kid, Donny, steals Bart’s seat at school, and becomes the king of cool, he then starts playing double-agent for Principal Skinner, foiling all Bart’s pranks. Beware the liberal use of the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping up to Boston.”
Best Visual Gag: Groundskeeper Willie’s journal, a.k.a. a series of frequently updated tattoos on his arm.
Best Line: “Hey, Krabappel! Your name sounds like ‘crabapple.’ Did you go sour waiting for someone to pick you?” [Mrs. Krabappel, sighing] “Pretty much.”
144. ‘Homer to the Max’
A hot new TV cop show features a rule-breaking maverick named Homer Simpsons, which delights Homer to no end. The folks at work show him a new respect, until the show changes the cop from bad-ass to a buffoon who says “Uh-oh Spaghetti-O’s” every other line. There’s only one way for Homer to do in order to retain his dignity: change his name to Max Power.
Best Visual Gag: As Lisa explains that shows “change characters and drop others” to Homer, little-seen music teacher Dewey Largo and the Capital City Goofball walk by.
Best Line: “Your character provides the comic relief…like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.“
143. ‘Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade’
After watching a slew of reality TV, the Simpsons upgrade to satellite. Lisa skips a grade, Bart gets bumped back a year — and suddenly becomes the better student, having already completed third grade. They both get left behind on a field trip.
Best Visual Gag: Groundskeeper Willie adding Bart and Lisa’s names to the Vietnam Memorial–esque Field Trip Memorial.
Best Line: “Seems like I’m spending all my money on religious pay-per-view, or as I like to call it, pray-per-view.” “Damn your sparkling wordplay!”
142. ‘Bart’s Comet’
Bart discovers a comet, allowing him entry into the geek crew known as the Super Friends. Once it’s headed on a collision course with Earth. Professor Frink plans to destroy the comet with a rocket, but fails. The Simpsons head to the Flanders’ bomb shelter, the rest of the town joins, and the comet breaks up.
Best Visual Gag: A fighter jet destroying its fellow fighter jet with a missile, and then destroying itself in identical fashion.
Best Line: “Wait! You know, I may regret this when our air runs out and we can’t whistle or stay alive, but … oh, what the hey!”
141. ‘The Two Nashaspeemapetilons’
Apu gets into Springfield’s singles scene and, in order to get out of an arranged marriage, lies to his mom about already being married; when the elder Mrs. Nashaspeemapetilons shows up at the Kwik-E Mart, Homer convinces him to say that Marge is his wife. Luckily, all’s well that ends well.
Best Visual Gag: The barbershop where Apu has his haircut montage: Hairy Shears.
Best Line: “Is it me, or do your plans always involve some horrible web of lies?” “It’s you.”
140. ‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’
The first full Simpsons episode to air on TV begins at a Springfield Elementary Christmas pageant. Bart gets a tattoo, and the laser-removal costs the family Christmas money. Homer tries earning cash as a mall Santa, fails, tries at the racetrack, fails. Then father and son save Christmas with a pet dog, Santa’s Little Helper.
Best Visual Gag: Bart’s unfinished “Mother” tattoo. “Moth” forever.
Best Line: “Aside from the fact that [Homer] has the same frailties as all human beings, he’s the only father I have. Therefore he is my model of manhood, and my estimation of him will govern the prospects of my adult relationships. So I hope you bear in mind that any knock at him is a knock at me, and I am far too young to defend myself against such onslaughts.” “Mmhmm. Go watch your cartoon show, dear.”
139. ‘Simpsons Bible Stories’
A “Treehouse of Horror”–style anthology episode, in which a warm Sunday puts everyone in church to sleep, and the Simpsons dream their own versions of Genesis, Exodus, and David vs. Goliath. The episode famously ends with the Simpsons going to Hell, to the tune of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”
Best Visual Gag: The Simpsons‘ version of the Garden of Eden: Bacon peels off pigs, Ned is God, and Homer, wearing only a tiny leaf, belly flops onto a rock.
Best Line: “Man, captivity blows.”
138. ‘Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Three Times’
A triptych of revenge tales: Homer in 19th-century France, gunning for Moe after the bartender has Monsieur Simpson imprisoned for treason and steals Marge; Milhouse enlisting his fellow nerds and going after bullies involving a stop-hitting-yourself ray gun (one setting: “Genital Hospital”); and a Batman-ish tale in which Bart becomes — what else? — Bartman.
Best Visual Gag: The cardboard cut-out of Hitler in the school library: “Before I was a Nazi Leader, I was a Nazi Reader.”
Best Line: “I sentence you to life!” “You moron, I’m already alive.” “In prison!!!”
137. ‘Treehouse of Horror’
The first “Treehouse of Horror” episode set the tone for all the rest: Three quirky spoofs of timeworn horror and sci-fi stories. “Bad Dream House” plays up The Amityville Horror and “Hungry Are the Damned” shows The Simpsons’ take on the short story and Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man. But the most memorable is Homer star role in “The Raven” (narrated by James Earl Jones) – the bird for which just happened to be particularly annoying to Homer: Bart.
Best Visual Gag: The reveal that the aliens’ book was not How to Cook Humans but How to Cook for Forty Humans, in a twist on the cookbook To Serve Man.
Best Line: “Quoth the Raven…” “Eat my shorts.”
136. ‘How I Spent My Strummer Vacation’
Homer’s got no money for beer, causing him to seek other ways of altering his mind. His unhappy state lands him in The Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, where he meets a slew of rock stars. Not ready for camp to end, Homer tries stealing the show at a Springfield concert; he eventually gives up the rock & roll lifestyle for his family.
Best Visual Gag: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, and Brian Setzer chase Homer around in a giant devil head. (And then Homer drops his kids off at school with the devil head.)
Best Line: “Now, a guitar has many, many nicknames — an ax, a gitbox … well, I guess that’s it. Anyway, we’re gonna start with the fundamentals: playing a burning guitar with your teeth.”
135. ‘Treehouse of Horror VIII’
More Halloween-igans: Homer’s navigates a mutant-ridden apocalypse (“The HΩmega Man”). Bart reenacts The Fly and invents “CatDog” a year before CatDog premieres (“Fly vs. Fly”). Springfield gets the Salem Witch Trials treatment and accidentally invents Halloween and the concept of trick-or-treating.
Best Visual Gag: If it’s not Puritan Springfield as a whole, it’s the sight of Marge as a green, broomstick-riding witch.
Best Line: “Doesn’t the Bible say ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged?’” “The Bible says a lot of things — shove ‘er!”
134. ‘Moe Baby Blues’
Moe realizes how alone he is in the world and accidentally saves Maggie right before committing suicide. They become buddies. Maggie winds up in an Italian-American-Mexican standoff with the Mob, because why not?
Best Line: “Sorry, Moe. You can either walk out with dignity or I can push you down this muddy hill.” “I’d prefer that you push me, seein’ how I’m desperate for any human contact.”
Best Visual Gag: The episode-ending montage of Homer BFF-ing it up with Moe’s ham (yes, his ham) to the tune of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend.”
133. ‘Husbands and Knives’
A new comic book shop, Coolsville, opens in Springfield, run by a man with the voice of Jack Black. Marge opens a gym and becomes super successful; Homer gets gastric bypass and cosmetic surgery (hence the episode’s title) and, weirdest of all, a full head of hair.
Best Visual Gag: Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, and Daniel Clowes (all voiced by themselves) reveal their superpowered, shirtless alter egos — the League of Extraordinary Freelancers — and beat up a rampaging Comic Book Guy.
Best Line: “We’re gonna be rich! We can finally start a family!” “We have a family.” “A better one!”
132. ‘Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming’
For once, Sideshow Bob turns his attention from attempting to kill Bart Simpson to trying to take down television as a whole. Once he busts out of the joint, he steals an atom bomb and orders all television stations destroyed. But that doesn’t stop Krusty, who finds an emergency broadcast transmitter. The clever part of the episode, though, is how it’s all a takedown of TV on TV.
Best Visual Gag: A sign that says, “Duff and the Air Force: 50 Years of Flying High.”
Best Line: “I’m aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it. So don’t bother pointing that out.”
131. ‘There’s No Disgrace Like Home ‘
The Simpsons attend a company picnic at Mr. Burns’s estate, where their dysfunctionality accentuates itself. Homer pawns the TV and cashes in the kids’ college fund to attempt family therapy with Dr. Marvin Monroe. It’s a rough early episode, though you can see tiny hints of what the show would eventually become.
Best Visual Gag: All five Simpsons electro-shocking each other into oblivion.
Best Line: “Okay now, look. My boss is gonna be at this picnic, so I want you to show your father some love and/or respect.” “I’m picking respect.”
130. ‘Jaws Wired Shut’
After getting impatient for his screening of Shenani-Goats to start, Homer starts a mini-riot at the multiplex and ends up with a broken jaw. The inability to talk forces to Homer to become a good listener, much to Marge’s delight. Once the wires are taken off her husband’s jaw, Marge fears her husband will go back to being an obnoxious lout — so, naturally, she ends up in a demolition derby.
Best Visual Gag: The “Lesbians of the Caribbean” float in the Gay Pride Parade.
Best Line: “Duff Man can never die! Only the actors who play him. Oh yeah!!!”
129. ‘D’oh-in in the Wind’
In search of information regarding his middle name, Homer travels to the hippie commune where his late mother lived and ends up adopting the tune-in-turn-on-drop-out lifestyle. Having “gone granola,” he then tries to goad two Ben-and-Jerry-ish hippie entrepreneurs (voiced by George Carlin and Martin Mull) to let their freak flag fly again.
Best Visual Gag: After Ned drinks one of the hippies’ “personal vegetable” juices, he hallucinates the Grateful Dead’s dancing bears, the marching hammers from Pink Floyd: The Wall and Mick Jagger’s lips.
Best Line: “Stunned league officials say point-shaving may have occurred in as many as three Harlem Globetrotters games.”
128. ‘There’s Something About Marrying’
Bart and Milhouse terrorize a tourist who turns out to have a travel TV show. With Springfield facing a tourism deficit, Lisa suggests the legalization of gay marriage. Homer gets ordained and turns his garage into a chapel. Marge’s sister Patty is gay, but her fiancé is a man in disguise.
Best Visual Gag: Homer making out with himself in a vision.
Best Line: “What’s that thing called, when a guy is gay for a girl?” “Straight.”
127. ‘Lisa’s First Word’
It’s been three and a half seasons and Maggie’s still not talking. Flashbacks takes us to with Baby Bart and Newborn Lisa. Maggie eventually says “Daddy”…when no one’s there. Also, it’s an Olympics episode!
Best Line: “Wow, a baby and a free burger? Could this be the best day of my life?”
Best Visual Gag: Bart’s vision of using his baby sibling as a tricycle ramp and someone to wipe up spills with.
126. ‘Summer of 4 Ft. 2’
The Simpsons borrow the Flanders’ summer house, which gives Lisa an excuse to reinvent herself. She quickly falls in with the local cool kids (led by Christina Ricci), which angers Bart to no end. Out comes Lisa’s yearbook; away goes her new friends, or so she thinks. And for god’s sake, watch out for those illegal fireworks, Homer!
Best Visual Gag: While dreaming of library temptations, Lisa imagines Alice and the Mad Hatter…which quickly devolves into a Lewis Carroll hostage situation.
Best Line: “These are my only friends: grown up nerds like Gore Vidal, and he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.”
125. ‘Grift of the Magi’
Bart breaks his butt, and Fat Tony shows up to outfit Springfield Elementary with an elaborate system of handicap ramps. The indebted school gets purchased by Kid First Industries and turned into a “progressive” private school that’s really a market research hub for a toy company. The company uses student feedback to create Funzo, a Furby-ish toy set to dominate the Christmas season. By the end, we’re watching a sparkling anti-consumer holiday special.
Best Visual Gag: Moe’s WonderBread bag shoes.
Best Line: “I can’t wait till we’re teenagers, then we’ll be happy!”
124. ‘I Am Furious (Yellow)’
Stan Lee visits the Android’s Dungeon and encourages Bart, who makes a comic about Homer. Angry Dad becomes an internet series at BetterThanTV.com. Homer becomes unwittingly famous, tries to overcome his anger, and then totally Hulks out.
Best Visual Gag: All the kids doodle and name their new creations; Ralph just says “I’m called Ralph” and scribbles all over his own face.
Best Line: “Why does Danger Dog mean more to me than school or church?” “Because those things suck.”
Flowers for Homergernon: After volunteering as a medical test subject, Homer is found to have a crayon lodged in his brain. One procedure later, Homer’s IQ is 50 points higher and Lisa finally gets the dad she’s always wanted. If you think the effect is only temporary, however…bingo! If that’s not enough for you, there’s also numerous digs at cartoons and motion-capture technology, Julia Roberts movies, cameos from the Great Gazoo (that WTF martian from The Flintstones) and the best Leon-Uris-books-can-smash-turtles joke ever.
Best Visual Gag: Homer comes up with a mathematical formula that proves there is no God; Flanders agrees it’s “air tight” — then proceeds to burn the paper so it’ll never get out.
Best Line: [from the Davey and Goliath-like religious ‘toon] “Whatcha makin’ there, Gravey?” “A pipebomb, for to blow up Planned Parenthood!”
122. ‘Lisa the Iconoclast’
It’s the Springfield bicentennial, but Lisa discovers a lost ancient document revealing Jebediah Springfield to be a former pirate who had a silver tongue and made attempted to murder George Washington. No one wants to hear Lisa’s revisionist history/”herophobia,” and digging up Springfield’s skeleton is no solution. If you’re a fan of the continued uses of made-up words such as “embiggen” and “cromulent,” this one’s for you.
Best Visual Gag: Chief Wiggum doing an impromptu ventriloquism act with Jebediah Springfield’s skull.
Best Line: “Sounds like you’ve come down with a serious case of Jebeditis.” Lisa: “Just when I was getting over my Chester A. Arthritis.”
121. ‘Homer the Moe’
When a depressed Moe decides to take a trip to see the ol’ alma mater (Swigmore University), he puts Homer in charge of the bar. A mid-life crisis turns Moe’s Tavern into a swanky “weird for the sake of weird” nightclub, complete with fancy decor, a British bouncer, Russian models, rabbits hanging from the ceiling and R.E.M. Never mess with a drunk’s regular joint. Never.
Best Visual Gag: Lenny, Carl, Barney and Homer dance on the bar, Coyote Ugly-style, to a raucous tune…until the jukebox switches to a romantic ballad, at which point they all start slow-dancing.
Best Line: “After Cheronobyl, my penis is falling off.” “And ‘penis’ is Russian for…?”
120. ‘King of the Hill’
Homer decides he needs to get into shape, and ends up working out next to Rainier Wolfcastle at the gym. The Powersauce Bar marketing team soon realizes that Homer eating their bars while climbing the Murderhorn mountain would be great publicity.
Best Visual Gag: Homer imagines a giant escalator that takes him to a yeti, how gleefully cranks our climbing hero into the stratosphere via a tirejack.
Best Line: “If God didn’t want us to eat in church, he would have made gluttony a sin.”
119. ‘Bart to the Future’
After a failed camping trip, the Simpsons drop by an Indian casino. A vision quest takes Bart to his adulthood, where he’s a beer-bellied bum and Lisa is president.
Best Visual Gag: Milhouse as a balding, turtlenecked member of Lisa’s presidential cabinet.
Best Line: “Should we take the hover-bus or the non-hover bus?”
118. ‘Weekend at Burnsie’s’
The medical marijuana episode! Marge tries growing vegetables; Homer destroys her scarecrow and becomes lord of the crows, briefly, before being mauled by them. He then gets a prescription for Texas THC, which leads to a big promotion at work. Phish plays Springfield, and pot gets outlawed.
Best Visual Gag: Marge assembles a scarecrow with old clothes; Comic Book Guy appears, Pop-Up Video style, to explain the Simpsons reference behind each piece of clothing.
Best Line: “Hey! I got a question for you.” [pulls out scrap of paper] “Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?”
117. ‘The Computer Wore Menace Shoes’
Homer buys his first computer and starts up a local gossip site; he soon wins the Pulitzer, and starts printing made-up news. After he’s kidnapped, we find ourselves in a parody of the short-lived British cult series The Prisoner. While Homer’s gone, a German Homer-imposter joins the Simpson family.
Best Visual Gag: Digital tumbleweed blowing across Homer’s dying website.
Best Line: “Seymour, are you looking at naked ladies?” “No, mother.” “You sissy!”
116. ‘Brick Like Me’
In one of the show’s more ingeniously gimmicky episodes (and in season 25 to boot), Homer awakens to find that he lives in a world made of Legos — and viewers get to see what a movable Legoland version of Springfield and its inhabitants look like. After Lego-Homer realizes he’s living in an alternate reality, however, he decides to get back to his two-dimensional family by any means necessary.
Best Visual Gag: A post-coital Homer and Marge lie on their bed, their Lego body parts scattered willy-nilly across their bedroom
Best Line: “Give me back my wife’s [hand]! She needs it to reciprocate high fives!”
115. ‘Lisa the Tree-Hugger’
Lisa tries to impress environmentalist Jesse Grass by climbing a Sequoia Redwood. The tree gets hit by lightning, everyone thinks Lisa died with the tree, and a corporate giant plans to turn the forest into Lisa Land. The Lisa Land tower collapses, tearing through Springfield and the rest of America.
Best Visual Gag: The view past Springfield, where Paris, New York, and a snow-capped mountain range are all visible.
Best Line: “It’s day four for Springfield’s li’lest tree-hugger — excuse me, that’s littlest tree-hugger. And whether you love or hate her politics, you gotta go gawk at this craaazy idiot.”
114. ‘Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily’
It was bound to happen: Child Protection Services show up on the one day that Homer and Marge take a much needed day off, end up taking the kids away, and send the kids to a foster family…which happens to be the Flanders. If you want to see what stellar fatherhood looks like, fast-forward to the part where Homer takes a holy-water baptismal bullet for his boy. We’re getting a little choked up just writing that sentence.
Best Visual Gag: The title of the Itchy and Scratchy Show: “Foster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”
Best Line: “I don’t judge Homer and Marge. That’s for a vengeful god to do!”
113. ‘Bart Star’
Springfield is dubbed one of the most out-of-shape cities in America, causing the town to institute a sports program. With Ned coaching the pee-wee football squad and Nelson as his star quarterback, the team racks up wins. Then Homer takes over as coach and installs Bart as the starting QB. Bad move.
Best Visual Gag: That Hank Hill from King of the Hill cameo!
Best Line: “You shouldn’t pressure Bart like that.” “Well if you know a better way to live through my son, I’d like to hear it.”
112. ‘Eternal Moonshine of the Simpsons Mind’
Homer drinks Moe’s Forget-Me-Shot and can’t find his family or remember what happened with them. He floats through tons of old Simpsons memories and finds himself in an It’s a Wonderful Life–ish position. It turns out Marge has been planning a surprise party.
Best Visual Gag: Homer’s life flashes before his eyes, mirroring a famous photo-a-day YouTube video.
Best Line: [upon seeing Marge and Duff Man together] “The mother of my children with the reason for my children!”
111. ‘Lard of the Dance’
Homer realizes that companies will pay beaucoup bucks for used grease, and goes into the grease business; before you can say “you-know-what is the word,” he’s involved in a grease-thief war. Meanwhile, Lisa is assigned to show the new student Alex (voiced by Lisa Kudrow) around campus, and the chic girl soon has all of the kids acting like too-cool-for-school hipsters.
Best Visual Gag: The name of the shop where Lisa, Alex and their friends pick up decorations for the dance: “Donner’s Party Supplies.”
Best Line: “Used grease is worth money? Then my arteries are clogged with yellow gold!”
110. ‘Mayored to the Mob’
After saving Mark Hamill at a comic-book convention, Homer decides his life calling is to be a bodyguard for Mayor Quimby. He then stumbles upon a deal between the politician and Fat Tony to supply the school cafeteria with inexpensive rat’s milk. The mobster is busted, and the guess who wants to rub Homer out?
Best Visual Gag: Dr. Who, Godzilla and Gort from The Day Earth Stood Still sign autograph after autograph, while Neil Armstrong sits alone, dejected.
Best Line: “And as the rat milk is returned to the sewers…the circle of life is complete.”
109. ‘Treehouse of Horror X ‘
Werewolf Flanders! Bart and Lisa as Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl, facing off against Comic Book Guy, who’s causing mayhem as the Collector! Homer causes Y2K and is forced to board a sun-bound rocket with Bart and a slew of annoying celebrities! Oh Halloween, why must you only come once a year?
Best Visual Gag: Dick Clark melting, Raiders of the Lost Ark–style, when Y2K strikes, revealing a robot skeleton.
Best Line: “Wait a minute, Xena can’t fly.” “I told you, I’m not Xena — I’m Lucy Lawless.”
108. ‘Viva Ned Flanders!’
Pre-diddly-ictable Ned Flanders wants to live on the wild side, so he heads to Las Vegas to put himself through The Homer Simpson Program. Homer and Ned get sloshed, act out The Hangover 10 years before it comes out, and accidentally get married to some cocktail waitresses.
Best Visual Gag: The sign on the First Church of Springfield: “Today’s Topic: He knows what you did last summer.”
Best Line: [after encountering Siegfried & Roy’s white tiger] “Ah! A lion!”
107. ‘Das Bus’
Lord of the Flies, Simpsons style. After the school bus crashes on the way to a Model U.N. convention, Bart, Lisa and their fellow students find themselves stranded on a desert island. Who’ll get conch shell: Bart, Nelson, or Lisa, “the Duchess of Dork”? Meanwhile, Homer decides he wants to become an Internet mogul, which does not sit well with one Mr. Bill Gates.
Best Visual Gag: The Comic Book Guy tries to download a nude picture of Kate Mulgrew on a 28.8k modem…sloooooowly.
Best Line: “Do you kids want to be like the real U.N., or do you just want to squabble and waste time?”
106. ‘Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo’
The Simpsons has flirted Japanese pop culture before (see Mr. Sparkle), but this was the first time the family actually had to deal with it while actually in the land of the rising sun. The episode throws a few J-pop oddities at Homer and co. — seizure-causing kids’ TV shows, square fruit — and then forces them to endure a sadistic game show in order to win tickets home. And what goof on Japan would be complete without a Godzilla gag?
Best Visual Gag: The company loyalty song of the Osaka Seafood Concern, delivered by a happy squid who’s disemboweling himself. (“Knife goes in, ah-guts come out, that’s what Osaka Seafood Concern is all about…”)
Best Line: “C’mon, Homer, Japan will be fun! You liked Rashomon.” “That’s not how I remember it.”
105. ‘The Telltale Head’
Bart tries to impress the bullies at school by sawing off the head of a Jebediah Springfield, much to the chagrin of all Springfieldians, including the bullies. Feeling guilty, Bart confesses his act to Homer and the episode ends with a moral that shows just how easily stories from The Simpsons could become parables for future generations.
Best Visual Gag: Bart awakening next to the head of Jebediah Springfield, a la The Godfather.
Best Line: “Just a statue? Is the Statue of Liberty just a statue? Is the Leaning Tower of Pizza just a statue?”
104. ‘E-I-E-I D’oh’
Homer gets bit by the challenging-people-to-a-duel bug, glove-slapping anybody who steps to him. Then he smacks the wrong man — an old-fashioned Southern gentleman who demands satisfaction. So Homer does exactly what you’d expect: skirts the family off to the country, tries to become a farmer and grows “ToMaccoes,” a tomato-tobacco hybrid that’s the most addictive vegetable ever made.
Best Visual Gag: The slapping montage, set to the B-52’s send-up of their own hit “Love Shack” (“Glove slap/shut yer big yap/glove slap/I don’t take crap”).
Best Line: “This tomato will be Heinz Ketchup, and this tomah-toe will be Hahwnz Catsup!”
103. ‘Brother From Another Series’
Sideshow Bob is paroled early due to good behavior and placed in the care of his brother, Cecil. The fact that Bob is voiced by Kelsey Grammer and Cecil by David Hyde Pierce — his small-screen sibling on Frasier — adds a whole other level to the proceedings, and it might seem gimmicky were it not for the chemistry these two actors have. You almost forget there’s a storyline about dambuilding, Bart and Lisa snooping about and a plan to destroy Springfield, etc.
Best Visual Gag: The Fraiser-ish title card as the brothers walk in to a rather Fraiser-ish apartment.
Best Line: “What about the buffoon lessons? The four years at clown college?” “I’ll thank you not to refer to Princeton that way.”
102. ‘A Milhouse Divided’
At a dinner party at the Simpson’s house, Kirk and Luann Van Houten start arguing, and she declares that she wants a divorce. Kirk falls into a pathetic middle-aged bachelor lifestyle; Luanna starts dating Pyro, the blond hunk from the American Gladiators show; Milhouse bonds with Nelson over their broken homes; and Homer starts re-evaluating his own marriage. This episode’s ending may be the single most painful of the entire series.
Best Visual Gag: Stoner’s Pot Palace — a shop that sells pottery and has Otto mumbling about false advertising.
Best Line: “Homer, was this the way you pictured married life?” “Yeah, pretty much, except we drove around in a van, solving mysteries.”
101. ‘Marge in Chains’
Distracted by the demands of her sick-with-flu family, Marge accidentally shoplifts a bottle of bourbon; quicker than you can sew a scarlet “S” onto her green dress, she becomes a social pariah and is sent to the Big House. The inventions informercial that opens the episode, complete with Mobilier (the chandelier for your car) and the loudest juicer ever, is brilliant.
Best Visual Gag: Lawyer Lionel Hutz’s strip-mall set-up: “I Can’t Believe It’s Not a Law Firm!”
Best Line: “All right, come out with your hands up…two cups of coffee…an auto freshener that says Capricorn…and something with coconut on it.”
100. ‘Homer Alone’
Marge, stressed out of her mind, causes a traffic jam on the bridge and gets arrested. Marge heads to Rancho Relaxo to clear her mind; Bart and Lisa head to Patty and Selma’s while Maggie stays with Homer. Maggie escapes her crib — and house — to search for her mother.
Best Visual Gag: Homer stapling Maggie’s diaper shut — and, later, duct-taping Maggie into the car.
Best Line: “Hello, I’d like the department of missing babies?”
99. ‘The Crepes of Wrath’
Bart gets sent to a school in France after a cherry bomb prank, and the Simpsons welcome Adil Hoxha from Albania. Bart endures child labor, while Adil turns out to be a spy.
Best Visual Gag: Bart’s motorcycle ride from Paris to the farm takes him through paintings by Monet, Manet, and van Gogh.
Best Line: “I’m gonna miss you, son. And listen: while you’re seeing all those great sights, always remember that you’re representing your country. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t mess up France the way you messed up your room.”
98. ‘The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular’
The Simpsons blew out its 138th episode to make the corniest clip show, hosted by Troy McClure. But the trick was that it consisted mostly of tongue-in-cheek send-ups of the format, tracing the show’s roots from crude drawings on The Tracey Ullman Show, fielding viewer mail and showing outtakes from the series, like the “Robot Richard Simmons” from “Burns’ Heir.”
Best Visual Gag: Bart’s chalkboard scrawl: “I will only do this once a year.”
Best Line: “If that’s what they cut out [of The Simpsons], what they leave in must be pure gold.”
97. ‘The City of New York vs Homer Simpson’
Gotham jokes galore: Barney is forced to play designated driver, and he ends up driving Homer’s car to Manhattan. The Simpsons head to the “urban death maze” to retrieve it; while waiting for the traffic cop to show up and remove the boot off his vehicle, Homer explores both World Trade Center towers in search of a bathroom.
Best Visual Gag: Everything that happens to Homer’s car, from driving with the boot to getting in a Ben Hur–style battle with a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park.
Best Line: “New York is a hellhole, and you know how I feel about hellholes.”
96. ‘Bart Gets an F’
Bart fakes a book report on Treasure Island and tries to become a good student, but ends up faking sick to get out of a test. Facing a second year in fourth grade, Bart gets Martin to tutor him in exchange for lessons on how to be cool. Springfield has a snow day.
Best Visual Gag: Old Bart still struggling through the fourth grade.
Best Line: “He doesn’t care, mom.” “Sure I do. I just wanna have a beer while I’m caring.”
95. ‘Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy’
Horrified by the sexist drivel coming out of the mouth of a talking Malibu Stacy doll, Lisa creates her own doll for little girls. Meanwhile, Grandpa Simpson gets a job at the Krusty Burger.
Best Visual Gag: A sign at the mall reads: “Kidstown USA (Not affiliated with Kidstown Juvenile Correction Farm).”
Best Line: “I was forced out in 1974. They said my way of thinking just wasn’t cost effective. Well, that, and…I was funneling profits to the Viet Cong.”
94. ‘Homer’s Enemy’
Oh, Frank Grimes — we hardly knew ye. He had to struggle for everything, and when his inspirational rise becomes fodder for a human-interest story, Burns hires him at the nuclear plant. Then Grimes meets the laziest of his co-workers (guess who?) and declares war on this incompetent boob who seems to float through life on a cloud of stupidity and incompetence. This is the embodiment of the “deserve has nothing to do with it” concept taken to extremes; some people simply have bad luck no matter what they do, whole others don’t follow the rules and are rewarded. Life is unfair. Also, it turns out you can buy an abandoned factory for a buck at an auction.
Best Visual Gag: Ralph’s ideal power-plant model: a trumped up Malibu Stacey house.
Best Line: “God, he eats like a pig!” “I dunno, pigs tend to chew…I say he eats more like a duck.”
93. ‘Marge Be Not Proud’
It’s a Christmas episode, but don’t expect mistletoes and reindeer games. Bart is desperate to get the new Bonestorm video game — so desperate, in fact, that he tries to shoplift it from the local toy store. (Did Marge’s time in the clink teach him nothing?) Naturally, he gets caught, and by a security guard that sounds a lot like Joe Cabot from Reservoir Dogs.
Best Visual Gag: The Bonestorm commercial, featuring a bazooka-wielding Santa and airing during the KKK (Krusty Kinda Khristmas) special.
Best Line: “Shoplifting began here, in ancient Venicia. Thieves would literally lift the corner of a shop in order to snatch the sweet, sweet olives within. Oh Shakazaramesh, will you ever learn?”
92. ‘The Day the Violence Died’
Bart meets Chester J. Lampwick, a homeless man who says he created Itchy of Itchy & Scratchy. Lampwick wins his a court case, forcing Itchy & Scratchy to discontinue production. Before being brought back to life, Itchy & Scratchy gets replaced by a Schoolhouse Rock parody.
Best Visual Gag: Eliza and Lester, the early versions of Bart and Lisa.
Best Line: “Studio’s closed until Tuesday; animators have A.A. on Monday.”
91. ‘Bart’s Inner Child’
Celebrity self-help mastermind Brad Goodman may not have a lot of “credentials” or “training,” but according to the man himself, he has “a Ph.D in pain.” No wonder his courses are helping Marge control her anger at Homer for buying a dangerous trampoline, or for turning Springfield into a town of id-uber-alles copycats of Bart? Voiced by Albert Brooks, Goodman is every touchy-feely guru who’s recycled platitudes for a quick buck. He also helps prove that Springfield needs at least few adults around to keep things from going off the rails.
Best Visual Gag: Brad Goodman’s “feel-bad rainbow” of symptoms, guarded by the world’s angriest leprechaun.
Best Line: “And now I’d like to introduce the man who’ll put the ‘u’ in ‘impruovement,’ Brad Goodman!”
90. ‘The Boy Who Knew Too Much’
To snitch or not to snitch? That’s the question Bart faces when, after avoiding Principal Skinner while playing hooky, the boy sneaks into the Quimby residence and witnesses an altercation between fratboy-ish Freddie Quimby and a French waiter. (The reason for the fight: the correct pronunciation of the word “chowder.”) Moral dilemmas, Kennedy family jabs, a Terminator-like Skinner and the “director’s cut” of Free Willy — what more could you ask for?
Best Visual Gag: Quimby Manor sign: “Thursday is Ladies’ Night.”
Best Line: “Behind these doors, a federal judge will ladle out steaming bowls of rich, creamy justice, in a case the media have dubbed ‘Beat-Up Waiter.’ Pfft! This reporter suggested ‘Waitergate’ but was shouted down at the press club.”
89. ‘All’s Fair in Oven War’
Cooking contests. Vintage copies of Playdudes. James Caan getting gunned down in a toll booth again, this time by a hillbilly Mafia. Apu in a blond wig. Jokes about Fifties swinging-bachelor cool and Miles Davis. And, lest you think there simply isn’t enough random stuff in here, a rare cameo by Thomas Pynchon (!), voiced by the man himself.
Best Visual Gag: While we love a good Godfather gag, it’s hand down the appearance of the noted recluse and author of Gravity’s Rainbow, seen here with a bag on his head and eating snacks. (“These wings are V-licious!”)
Best Line: “So you wouldn’t mind if I cut out all the erotic nudes?” “Of course not. Why would I want to look a nude woman I’m not even married to? I mean, I wouldn’t even know how she could improve me!”
88. ‘King-Size Homer’
Homer blows up to over 300 lbs so he can live the American Dream, i.e. get disability pay, wear a muumuu all day and work for home. For those folks who’ve ever wondered how our man Homer could maintain his medium-sized girth while on a steady diet of beer and donuts, this episode will answer that question: because he wasn’t also gorging on Ham Ahoy, banana splits and pop-tart sandwiches as well.
Best Visual Gag: The sight of Homer in a muumuu.
Best Line: [regarding workers doing calisthenics] “I want to see more Teddy Roosevelts and less Franklin Roosevelts!”
87. ‘Bart the Lover’
Bart takes advantage of Miss Krabappel’s loneliness by responding to her personal ad with a picture of hockey player Gordie Howe. She falls for it and Bart learns a lesson about toying with a person’s emotions thanks to his family, except Homer who tells Bart to put “I am gay” in his “Dear John” letter to Krabappel.
Best Visual Gag: Gordie Howe!
Best Line: “Dear Baby. Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: You.”
86. ‘Simpson and Delilah’
Homer’s life turns around after discovering the Minoxidil-like hair serum Dimoxinil, earning him a promotion from Mr. Burns. The new job comes with a go-getter personal assistant named Karl (Harvey Fierstein) who just won’t let him fail, saving him from any number of social and professional gaffes. The one thing he can’t save Homer from, though, is Bart, who tries to grow a beard with Dimoxinil, causing Homer’s hair to fall out and face the consequences of being himself. Although the root of the plot lies in Homer embezzling the hair serum on the company’s health plan, it’s really Karl’s unwavering assistance that makes the episode a winner.
Best Visual Gag: Homer’s medicine cabinet full of hair serums, which include Gorilla Man, Hair Chow, U Wanna Be Hair E, Bald Buster and more.
Best Line: “You may find this hard to believe, but in my salad days, my crowning glory was a bright shock of strawberry blonde curls.”
85. ‘Mom and Pop Art’
Homer tries building a barbecue pit and mistakenly ends up being hailed as a talented outsider artist. For his final project, Homer gets Bart to help him flood the entire town. Yes, that is Jasper Johns who rows by in a boat.
Best Visual Gag: The modern art montage — Picasso’s Three Musicians are actually packing heat, Dalí’s clock melts on Homer’s head, and Andy Warhol gets aggressive with his soup cans.
Best Line: “I’ve always had an interest in art, dating back to my schoolgirl days when I painted portrait after portrait of Ringo Starr.” “That’s my life you’re describing!” Homer: “I think I remember my own life, Marge.”
84. ‘Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish”
One of the most action-packed Simpsons episodes ever — and it revolves around Grandpa Simpson?! It turns out that, back in WWII, “Raging Abe” Simpson was the Sgt. Fury of Springfield, leading a group of ragtag grunts called the Flying Hellfish across enemy lines to fight the Nazis. Not only that, Abe and his platoon hid away some priceless paintings — and the death of an old Hellfish means that either Grandpa or Monty Burns get to inherit the booty.
Best Visual Gag: A shoot-out between a machine gun-wielding assassin and a shotgun-toting retirement-home nurse.
Best Line: “Now they’ll never save your brain, Hitler!”
83. ‘Treehouse of Horror II ‘
The Halloween stories include: The family buys a monkeys paw that grants wishes; Mr. Burns puts Homer’s brain into a robot; and Bart enslaves all of Springfield with his telekinetic powers.
Best Visual Gag: Snowball II transformed into a fire-breathing creature with flowers for ears and an umbrella for a tail.
Best Line: “It’s alive! Oh, that fellow at Radio Shack said I was mad. Well, who’s mad now!”
82. ‘Kill the Alligator and Run’
In what’s surely a contender for the title of weirdest Simpsons episode ever, the family goes to Florida, inadvertently kill a beloved alligator and move into a trailer park where they devolve into hillbillies. It’s much, much more bizarre than it sounds.
Best Visual Gag: The statue outside of the courthouse in Six Toe County Florida is a Lady Justice statue holding a dog by the ears.
Best Line: “I’m getting used to this country life. Teacher says I’m whittling at a tenth-grade level.”
81. ‘Bart the General’
Bart just can’t handle Nelson bullying him anymore, so he seeks advice from the toughest Simpson he knows: Grandpa (back in the first season when Grandpa was tough). Together with military-antiques dealer Herman, Bart and Grandpa craft a plan to take on the bully via a water-balloon ambush. In another rare tone-setter for the series, it ends with Bart moralizing on war before the credits, urging viewers to go to the library and parse its seriousness.
Best Visual Gag: Bart slapping one of his “soldiers” and all the music surrounding it make for a funny homage to Patton.
Best Line: “You made me bleed my own blood!”
80. ‘Round Springfield’
Lisa reunites with jazz legend Bleeding Gums and rocks a school recital. Then Bleeding Gums dies, and Bart uses some newly won cash to buy Lisa a legendary album so the town can remember the musician via radio broadcast.
Best Visual Gag: Bleeding Gums appears in the clouds, Lion King–style. He’s promptly joined by Mufasa, Darth Vader, and James Earl Jones.
Best Line: “This isn’t a saxophone. It’s an umbrella.” “So I’ve been playing an umbrella for 30 years? Why didn’t anybody tell me?” “Heh, we all thought it was funny.”
79. ‘The Front’
Bart and Lisa write an Itchy and Scratchy episode – “Little Barbershop of Horrors” – but credit it to the only adult oblivious enough not to object, Grandpa. The elder Simpson unwittingly takes a job at Roger Meyers, Jr.’s studio only to become disgusted with the episodes featuring his name, (which he wins an award for). Meanwhile, Homer and Marge attend their 1974 reunion and learn that Homer never officially graduated because he failed science. The real coup de grace is the filler at the end: a wholly wholesome short titled The Adventures of Ned Flanders with a kicker that’s both corny and funny.
Best Visual Gag: The Kotter-ized reunion banner: “Class of 1974: ‘Heyyy…Sit on It’”
Best Line: “Hens love roosters! Geese love ganders! Everybody else loves Ned Flanders!”
78. ‘Radio Bart’
You’ve heard of the boy who cried wolf? This is the story of the boy cried “I fell down a well” — actually, it’s just Bart playing with the radio he got for his birthday. But that doesn’t stop Springfield from getting behind “Timmy O’Toole,” or from ignoring Bart out of anger when he actually does get trapped in a well. Showbiz self-righteousness and our exploitation-friendly media get caught in the crosshairs big-time here.
Best Visual Gag: The all-star “We’re Sending Our Love Down a Well” jam, featuring Rainier Wolfcastle, Sideshow Mel, and Sting.
Best Line: “I called my good friend Sting. He said, Krusty, when do you need me? I said, Thursday. He said, I’m busy Thursday. I said, what about Friday? He said, Friday is worse than Thursday. The he said, how about Saturday? I said fine. True story.”
77. ‘The Cartridge Family’
A soccer riot causes Homer to rethink his family protection strategy, causing him to buy a gun and join the NRA. Despite Krusty’s plea that guns aren’t toys (“They’re for keeping the King of England out of your face”), Homer uses his fiream to turn off the TV and open a beer, angering the other NRA members. The producers made this one surprisingly neutral, balancing the benefits of gun ownership with the overzealous nature of some of its owners.
Best Visual Gag: Tom Petty’s “The Waiting” soundtracking an impatient, gun-free Homer watching ducks, Flanders on a riding mower and other potential targets.
Best Line: “The law requires a 5-day waiting period. We’ve got to run a background check.” “Five days? But I’m mad now.”
76. ‘Alone Again, Natura-diddily’
R.I.P., Maude Flanders. Ned’s wife is the victim of a shooting by a t-shirt gun at a NASCAR race, and ol’ Neddy and the boys have to deal with life sans the lady of the house. It’s genuinely surprising to hear the show’s holy roller rage at God, albeit momentarily. That Kovenant song about finding Jesus after a motel-room bender, by the way, is a keeper.
Best Visual Gag: Ned’s remarkably impressive, er, physical attributes, pixellated out of a candid shower moment of his dating tape. Wow.
Best Line: “In many ways, Maude Flanders was a supporting character in our lives…she didn’t grab our attention with memorable catch phrases, or comical accents…” “Aye.” “Yarggh.” “Glaaaaaaa-vin!”
75. ‘Some Enchanted Evening’
Marge has lost that loving feeling; in order to bring the spark back to the marriage, Homer takes her out to a fancy restaurant and reserves a motel room. Problems arise, however, when the babysitter they’ve hired to watch the kids turns out to be notorious Babysitter Bandit.
Best Visual Gag: The babysitter service warning poster for Bart: “No no no no no!”
Best Line: “Garcon, another bottle of your second-least expensive champagne.”
74. ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner’
A potentially eyeroll-worthy concept — Homer becomes a food critic for the local newspaper — becomes one of the funnier dumb-Homer episodes. Tired of all the bad reviews, the town’s restaurant owners conspire to kill Homer via a poisonous éclair, yet only cries of “It’s low fat” save the day. Screw Flanders.
Best Visual Gag: Santa’s Little Helper substituting “Ruff” for “Chewy” to help Homer write his review.
Best Line: “Homer is outta control. He gave me a bad review. So my friend put a horse’s head in his bed. He ate the head and then gave it a bad review.”
73. ‘Homer Badmen’
Homer is accused of sexual harassment in an episode that’s less about political correctness gone mad (though Marge does meet with an “indignation coordinator”), and more about America’s insatiable desire for lurid tabloid journalism circa 1994 — Hard Copy, Sallie Jesse Raphael, made-for-TV movies and Letterman monologues.
Best Visual Gag: The community center sign: “Welcome/Candy Convention Room 1/Also/Candy-Shaped Rat Poison Convention Room 11”
Best Line: “It’s just hard not to listen to TV: It’s spent so much more time raising us than you have.”
72. ‘Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?’
Homer is reunited with his half-brother Herb (voiced once more by Danny De Vito) when he needs money to build a baby chatter translator. Slowly, the estranged duo get over their differences and become a family again.
Best Visual Gag: Homer’s “lazy sperm” incompetently bouncing off one another when observed under a microscope.
Best Line: “There’s an empty spot I’ve always had inside me. I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service, but those were dead ends.”
Times change, and so does rock & roll — but don’t tell that to Homer, who still wants to kick out the jams like it’s 1973. To prove he’s still capable of rocking and/or rolling all night, he gets tickets to Lollapalooza, and ends up joining the touring festival as the “Pageant of the Trans-Mundane”‘s resident cannonball catcher. Ever wonder what Cypress Hill, Sonic Youth, Peter Frampton and Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig would look like in the Simpsons‘ world? Wonder no longer.
Best Visual Gag: The “Bungee Jump Against Racism” booth.
Best Line: “Nobody knows the band Grand Funk [Railroad]? The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Shacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer?”
70. ‘Scenes From the Class Struggle in Springfield’
Marge finds a discount Chanel dress at an outlet, which she wears when the family visits a country club; after Marge attracts the attention of a group of ladies who lunch, she becomes obsessed with fitting in with her new rich friends. Then her facade and her outfit (literally) starts to come apart at the seams. Goodbye, snooty high society.
Best Visual Gag: Different aspects of Marge’s conscience residing in different levels of her hair. (“Don’t ask me, I’m just hair! Your head stopped eighteen inches ago.”)
Best Line: “But Marge, valets! Maybe for once someone will call me ‘sir’ without adding, ‘You’re making a scene.’”
69. ‘In Marge We Trust’
Reverend Lovejoy has grown tired of manning the phones for spiritual counseling (especially regarding Ned Flanders), so Marge takes over as the “Listen Lady” — and finds she has a knack for it. Homer discovers a box of Japanese detergent at the dump, and notices that he bears a strong resemblance to the logo. Viva Mr. Sparkle!
Best Visual Gag: That strange, David Lynch-esque commercial for Mr. Sparkle.
Best Line: “I’m in some hot soup here, Marge…there are some teenagers hanging out in front of the store, I think they could start slacking at any moment.”
68. ‘Treehouse of Horror III’
Another Halloween episode: Zombies attack Springfield, Burt gets an evil talking Krusty doll and Mr. Burns captures the mighty giant ape known as King Homer.
Best Visual Gag: The tombstones at the beginning include long-forgotten shows like Drexel’s Class, Capitol Critters and Fish Police.
Best Line: “The, aw, zombies that plagued our town are now just corpses rotting in our streets.”
67. ‘The Way We Was’
The Simpsons’ first-ever flashback episode introduced Homer’s high school rival for Marge’s affection, Artie Ziff (Jon Lovitz), as he tries to impress her enough to take her to prom. Ziff wins out but his “busy hands” ultimately push her into Homer’s arms always and forever. Of course the whole story grosses out their kids. The episode is also notable for Homer’s rendition of the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker,” complete with a “woo-hoo” for “some people call me Maurice.”
Best Visual Gag: Homer’s shaggy head of luxurious, flowing hair.
Best Line: “English? Who needs that? I’m never going to England.”
66. ‘Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie’
Bart is forbidden from seeing an Itchy and Scratchy movie after getting in trouble at school. Mortified by being the only kid in town that hasn’t seen it, he attempts to sneak into a screening — and tests Homer’s Draconian laws of punishment.
Best Visual Gag: The old and obese crew of the USS Enterprise in ‘Star Trek XII: So Very Tired.’
Best Line: “Homer: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. What great men [Bart] would join. John Marshall, Charles Evans Hughes, Warren Burgher… Mmmmmmm… Burgher…”
65. ‘Three Men and a Comic Book’
Bart and Lisa attend a comic convention. Bart, Milhouse, and Martin pool their money to buy Radioactive Man No. 1, which becomes a tense situation when sharing comes into play.
Best Visual Gag: A soldier in World War I holding onto a grenade a smidge too long.
Best Line: “I think it’s sad that you equate friendliness with wimpiness, and I hope it’ll keep you from ever achieving true popularity.”
64. ‘Bart the Genius’
The first proper episode — not counting the Christmas pilot — inserts underachieving Bart into a school for the gifted and talented. The entire episode dances on the lines between high-brow and low-brow — naughty lyrics to Carmen, jokes that require calculating a derivative, and a discussion of the “acceptable ethic variant” of “wiener.”
Best Line: “Now, I don’t want you to worry, class. These tests will have no effect on your grades. They merely determine your future social status and financial success… if any.”
Best Visual Gag: One of the students at the Enriched Learning Center for Gifted Children has an Anatoly Karpov lunchbox.
63. ‘I Love Lisa’
On Valentine’s Day, Lisa Simpson, always the beacon of compassion, has to deal with an unwanted suitor. Conversely: Ralph Wiggum gets friendzoned.
Best Visual Gag: The Krusty Home Pregnancy Test. “Warning: May Cause Birth Defects.”
Best Line: “Bart, do you want to play John Wilkes Booth, or do you want to act like a maniac?”
62. ‘Lisa’s Substitute’
Eight-year-old Lisa struggles with her identity after substitute teacher Mr. Bergstrom (played by Dustin Hoffman) proves to be a more desirable role model than her father. The climactic scene where he leaves Springfield by train was the most heart-tugging moment in animated television history up to that point.
Best Visual Gag: Bart’s class-president campaign sign: “SEX! Now that I’ve got your attention, vote for Bart!”
Best Line: “Hey, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand!”
61. ‘Itchy & Scratchy & Marge’
Marge goes full Tipper after Maggie brains Homer with a mallet. The violent Itchy & Scratchy cartoons are protested with clumsy picket signs and — once the show is toned down — Springfield’s children learn what “outside” is like.
Best Visual Gag: The 27-second tribute to the Psycho shower scene.
Best Line: “Hello, I’m Kent Brockman, and welcome to another edition of Smartline. Are cartoons too violent for children? Most people would say, ‘No, of course not, what kind of stupid question is that?”
60. ‘Bart the Murderer’
The first appearance of local mobster Fat Tony (Joe Mantegna) is also the funniest, as Bart crashes his bike and ends up at the Legitimate Businessman’s Social Club, picking horses and mixing Manhattans for the Mafia. The supporting characters do the heavy lifting, with the writers getting laughs out of both Skinner’s science experiment-cum-escape plan and Mantegna satirizing every Mafia capo stereotype. Extra points for the meta-joke of Bart accidentally picking the horse Don’t Have a Cow, only to find all the other horses are also named after cartoon catchphrases.
Best Visual Gag: The conspicuous “Flowers By Irene” FBI truck.
Best Line: “A job’s a job’s. I mean, take me. If my plant pollutes the water and poisons the town, by your logic, that would make me a criminal.”
59. ‘Who Shot Mr. Burns, Parts 1 and 2’
Never mind J.R.; who gunned down Monty Burns after the town’s resident 104-year-old steals a new oil well and all of the town’s electricity? (His next move: destroy the sun.) Was it Principal Skinner? Grandpa Simpson? Smithers? Springfield’s new music teacher Tito Puente? It’s the rare Simpsons two-parter, bridging the Season Six finale and the Season Seven premiere.
Best Visual Gag: The credits to Speedway Squad, the fictional Sixties drag-racing undercover cop show starring Burns and Smithers.
Best Line: “Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead. He was then transferred to a better hospital where doctors upgraded his condition to alive.”
58. ‘Sideshow Bob Roberts’
Mayor Quimby releases Sideshow Bob from prison, and how does the shrub-haired clown sidekick repay him? He runs against him for mayor – and wins by a particularly sizable landslide (100 percent of the vote for Bob and 1 percent for Quimby, with a one percent margin of error). Bart and Lisa mount an investigation and uncover a conspiracy that includes even Lisa’s deceased cat Snowball I.
Best Visual Gag: Voter records showing Sideshow Bob votes from Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.
Best Line: “The dead have risen and are voting Republican.”
57. ‘Hurricane Neddy’
A hurricane destroys the Flanders’ home, leaving Ned in a Job-like spiritual crisis that eventually leads him to check in to the local asylum. One of the best examples of the fleshing out of peripheral characters, Hurricane Neddy shows Ned’s no-rules beatnik parents as the cause of his happy-go-lucky personality, which is really anger expressed through “nonsensical jabbering.” Laughs always come first, but Neddy doubles as one of the more psychologically probing character studies in the series. Look for the Babysitter Bandit and Jay Sherman cameos.
Best Visual Gag: The lone appearance of The Happiest Man in Springfield.
Best Line: “Where have I gone wrong, Lord? I’ve done everything the Bible says, even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff.”
56. ‘The Otto Show’
Otto is fired as the school bus driver after getting into an accident. Completely broke, he moves in with the Simpsons.
Best Visual Gag: Bart’s t-shirt readers “Spinal Tap World Tour: London, Paris, Munich, Springfield.”
Best Line: “If something’s hard to do, then it’s not worth doing! You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short-wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle, and we’ll go inside and watch TV.”
55. ‘Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song’
Flanders becomes the new principal of Springfield Elementary after Skinner is fired. Chaos reigns, and Bart feels guilty over his role in what happened, and tries to get Skinner’s job back before he re-enlists back in the Army.
Best Visual Gag: The box in the Springfield Elementary cafeteria readers “Assorted Horse Parts – NOW with More Testicles.”
Best Line: “More testicles means more iron.”
54. ‘Homer’s Triple Bypass’
Homer suffers a near-fatal heart attack after getting in trouble at work. He needs major surgery to recover, and the family is forced to turn to Dr. Nick when they can’t afford a proper doctor.
Best Visual Gag: Dr. Nick’s former patient Mr. McGreg, with a leg for an arm and an arm for a leg.
Best Line: “When I first heard about the operation, I was against it. But then I thought, if Homer wants to be a woman, so be it!”
53. ‘Eight Misbehavin’
Apu and Manjula try to conceive a child; they succeed beyond their wildest dreams, and end up with octuplets. Exhausted by caring for eight kids at once, they make a deal with a zoo owner, who lets them live in a state of the art nursery if they agree to take part in an “eight wonders of the world” spectacle. This is the only episode to end with Homer and Butch Patrick fighting off cobras on a stage…to date, that is.
Best Visual Gag: The “Eight Wonders of the World” finale, complete with lasers, blimps, John Cougar Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.” and Uncle Sam riding an ostrich.
Best Line: “Kids are great, Apu. You can teach them to hate the things you hate, and they practically raise themselves, what with the Internet and all.”
52. ‘Colonel Homer’
Never underestimate the power of a humiliated husband or a country-and-western siren. Homer hits up a C&W bar after a fight with Marge; upon hearing waitress Lurleen Lumpkin sing a sad song that hits close to home, Homer becomes her manager. Fame and an appearance on Ya-Hoo! (a pitch-perfect parody of Hee Haw) are in the cards, though Lumpkin wants to take things to a more romantic level. Luckily, Homer stands by his Marge.
Best Visual Gag: The sign outside Lurleen’s trailer park: “14 Days without a tornado.”
Best Line: “Hey, you, let’s fight!” “Them’s fightin’ words!”
51. ‘The Joy of Sect’
Homer joins a cult called the Movementarians, which brainwashes Springfield to join together with the hopes of boarding a spaceship bound for the planet Blisstonia. Marge escapes and joins up with Reverend Lovejoy, Ned Flanders and Groundskeeper Willie to impersonate the cult’s “Leader” and coaxes Homer back with beer. It all makes for an overarching commentary on brainwashing, right down to the family’s proclamation at the end of the episode, “We are watching Fox.”
Best Visual Gag: A sign reading, “Springfield International Airport: No crashes since ‘Tuesday.’”
Best Line: “And to think I turned to a cult for mindless happiness when I had beer all along.”
50. ‘Homer the Great’
After Homer joins a Masons-like secret club called the Stonecutters, he unwittingly becomes their leader, or the “Chosen One,” due to a birthmark. Unsurprisingly, he can’t hack it, and it all blows up in his face when the rest of the Stonecutters form a new group, the Ancient Mystic Society of No Homers, which mimics the No Homers Club of Homer’s youth. (As with the original club, one Homer is allowed, and that’s still Homer Glumplich.)
Best Visual Gag: Homer’s revenge list, which includes Grandpa, Billy Crystal, God, Emmys and “the Boy.”
Best Line: “Why won’t those stupid idiots let me in their crappy club for jerks?”
49. ‘Stark Raving Dad’
After letting Bart fill out his psychological profile, Homer gets committed to a mental institution, where he’s roomies with a man who believes he’s Michael Jackson. (He’s voiced, of course, by the real-life Michael Jackson.) Leon and Bart write a catchy tune for Lisa’s birthday.
Best Visual Gag: The sight of Michael Jackson’s voice coming out of Leon Kompowsky’s body.
Best Line: “Marge, I can’t wear a pink shirt to work. Everybody wears white shirts. I’m not popular enough to be different.”
48. ‘Burns’ Heir’
After a wet sponge nearly drowns him. Mr. Burns realizes he needs someone to leave his inheritance to and settles on Bart after the young Simpson proves he’s evil enough to be a Burns. The lad eventually experiences Richie Rich syndrome and gets lonely, so Mr. Burns lets him fire power plant employees until Bart refuses to fire Homer, leading him back to the Simpsons. The episode’s real triumph, however, is old man Hans Moleman’s Bart impression.
Best Visual Gag: The teeth-breaking, glasses-shattering, head-exploding sound event known as the THX demonstration before the show.
Best Line: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”
47. ‘Radioactive Man’
A Radioactive Man movie is shot in Springfield, starring Rainier Wolfcastle — and Millhouse is cast as as Fallout Boy, causing a rift between him and Bart. Production is shut down when he quits the movie and producers realize that the town is gauging them at every opportunity.
Best Visual Gag: An adolescent Moe kills the original Alfalfa during his brief stint as a cast member of the Little Rascals.
Best Line: “My eyes, the goggles do nothing.”
46. ‘The Last Temptation of Homer’
Homer may be our everyman, but he’s still a man — and susceptible to the charms of the comely new employee at the plant (voiced by Michelle Pfeiffer) who’s like a female version of Homer, only gorgeous. Smitten at first glance, he tries to avoid talking to her, and then they both get sent on a business trip. Will he remain faithful to his ever-loving wife? Can he stave off his lust? Can we ever get the sight of Barney in a bikini, dancing to the I Dream of Jeannie theme, out of our head?!?
Best Visual Gag: Homer imagining Mindy on the half-shell a la “The Birth of Venus.”
Best Line: “Moe, I’ve got a friend named…Joey Joe-Joe Junior Shabbadoo.”
45. ‘Like Father, Like Clown’
In a brilliant parody of The Jazz Singer, Krusty The Clown is reunited with his father, a rabbi that doesn’t approve of his career choices. Bart and Lisa conspire to bring peace between the pair.
Best Visual Gag: The warning on Krusty (non-toxic) Kologne: “Warning: Use in a well-ventilated area. May stain furniture. Prolonged use may cause chemical burns.”
Best Line: “A man who envies our family is a man who needs help.”
44. ‘Treehouse of Horror IV’
There have been some stellar Treehouse episodes over the years, but we’re going to go out on a limb [cue rimshot] and say that this three-fer is the best. We’re particularly fond of the show’s take on The Devil and Daniel Webster, with Flanders as Satan, but the other two chapters — a take on the classic Twilight Zone episode “Terror at 20,000 Feet” and a spoof of Bram Stoker’s Dracula — are equally great. Having turned a holiday-themed idea into an annual season highlight, the writers had refined the TOH format down to a science by this point. This is The Simpsons in free-riff mode and firing on all pistons.
Best Visual Gag: The Simpson-ized paintings in the “night gallery” intro sequences, from Dali to dogs playing poker.
Best Line: [upon seeing Homer scarfing donuts ad infinitum as torture] “I don’t understand it, James Coco went mad in 15 minutes!”
43. ‘Beyond Blunderdome’
The new Mel Gibson movie — a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — is being test-screened in Springfield; after the star reads Homer’s negative test card, he flies the Simpsons out to Hollywood to help him with rewrites. Watch out for that dog with the shifty eyes!
Best Visual Gag: Polystar Pictures sign: “No Artistic Integrity Beyond This Point.”
Best Line: “Before Lethal Weapon 2, I never thought there could be a bomb in my toilet…and now I check every time.”
42. ‘Deep Space Homer’
NASA seeks out an average Joe to become an astronaut after ratings dip on “boring” space shuttle launches. While in space, Homer jeopardizes everything by opening up a bag of potato chips, which could clog the instruments; thankfully, he proceeds to float into them, eating them and saving the day. In the end, the credit for saving the journey goes not to Homer or fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, but an inanimate carbon rod.
Best Visual Gag: Itchy bursting out of Scratchy’s stomach, like in Alien, in their clip, “Scar Trek: The Next Laceration.”
Best Line: “The only danger is if they send us to that terrible Planet of the Apes. Wait a minute. Statue of Liberty…that was our planet. You maniacs, you blew it up. Damn you! Damn you all to hell!”
41. ‘Homer Loves Flanders’
Homer and Ned Flanders form an unlikely friendship after attending a football game together. After spending too much time together, however, Flanders comes to the rather un-Christian realization that he hates his neighbor.
Best Visual Gag: A sign readers “Welcome to Lake Springfield. No mercury dumping without permit.”
Best Line: “What’s so special about this game anyway? It’s just another chapter in the pointless rivalry between Springfield and Shelbyville. They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world’s largest pizza, so we burnt down their city hall.”
40. ‘Brother’s Little Helper’
Bart is diagnosed with ADHD, and is put on a miracle drug called Focusyn. His grades and attitude improve greatly. Side effects, we soon find out, include acute paranoia about Major League Baseball using its satellites to gather personal information. (One can assume the NSA saw this episode and took notes.) Should you think this was a “special episode” about a social issue, Bart steals a tank, shoots down a MLB satellite, and Mark McGwire hits a few dingers so people won’t notice he’s stealing back data print-outs.
Best Line: As Bart’s tank is headed toward Krusty’s car, a half dozen clowns pile quickly out of it — sorry you didn’t quite make it, Sir Widebottom.
Best Visual Gag: [as the tank aims heavenward] “Not the sky! That’s where clouds are born!!!”
39. ‘Lemon of Troy’
Springfield’s lemon tree goes missing, kickstarting a battle with neighboring Shelbyville. The episode explores small-town pride, tradition and turnip juice — and not in that order.
Best Visual Gag: After Bart’s speech about crossing the Springfield/Shelbyville border “into mystery and danger, to step out of childhood and become men,” Lisa and a friend happily fly a kite between the two towns.
Best Line: “This whole raid was as useless as that yellow, lemon-shaped rock over there. Wait a minute… There’s a lemon behind that rock!”
38. ‘Selma’s Choice’
Selma worries she’ll die alone, so she tries her hand at parenthood by taking Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens (after Homer incapacitates himself as a parent by eating a spoiled sub sandwich). Lisa goes crazy, drinking moat water from a ride and hallucinating to the point of doing a Jim Morrison impression – “I am the lizard queen!” – and Bart needs to be rescued from a roller coaster. In the end, she takes care of her late Aunt Gladys’ pet iguana, Jub-Jub.
Best Visual Gag: The Little Land of Duff, Duff Gardens’ analog to “It’s a Small World.”
Best Line: “Aunt Selma, this may be presumptuous, but have you ever considered artificial insemination?” “Boy, I don’t know. You’d have to be pretty desperate to make it with a robot.”
37. ‘The Principal and the Pauper’
Who is the real Seymour Skinner? A missing-in-action army sergeant named Seymour Skinner returns to Springfield and outs the school’s principal as a no-goodnik named Armin Tamzarian, who stole his identity at war. Ultimately, the town wants the Skinner they know back and a Judge declares that no one will ever say the name Tamzarian again. Years later, this episode’s plot would echo in the Don Draper character on Mad Men.
Best Visual Gag: Seymour Skinner’s Apocalypse Now-like war flashback.
Best Line: “Hello, Edna. I know we had dinner plans tonight, but instead I’m leaving town forever.”
36. ‘El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer’
Out of 552 episodes, it’s rare to find one unlike any other. But “The Mysterious Voyage of Homer,” in which Homer goes on a hallucinogenic vision quest for his soulmate after eating too many (read: more than zero) Guatemalan insanity peppers, is trippy enough to take the honor. After an expository first third involving a chili cookoff, Homer’s pepper trip involves Flanders morphing into a gaggle of moustaches, a spiteful tortoise, a ghost train, Marge turning into dust and Johnny Cash as the coyote who spouts aphorisms such as “Clarity is the path to inner peace.” Simpsons fanatics have justifiably analyzed the episode’s religious and philosophical aspects, but there’s no better example for sheer psychedelic insanity.
Best Visual Gag: Homer breaking the sun by running back and forth too quickly.
Best Line: “That Simpson. He thinks he’s the Pope of Chili-town.”
35. ‘Bart the Daredevil’
Viva Bartnievel! Bart becomes a daredevil skateboarder after watching a show by an Evel Knievel-type figure at a monster truck rally. But Homer steps in when he attempts a super dangerous jump across Springfield Gorge.
Best Visual Gag: Homer repeatedly bumping his head on the side of Springfield Gorge as he gets life-flighted to a hospital.
Best Line: “This little boy broke his leg, trying to fly like Superman. His brother hit him with a wrench, mimicking a TV wrestling match. I won’t show the horrors of our Three Stooges ward.”
34. ‘Life on the Fast Lane’
Marge, angry that Homer bought her a bowling ball for her birthday just so he can use it, spites him by practicing at the bowling alley. She meets the French, smooth-talking Jacques (Albert Brooks), the anti-Homer who woos her with platitudes about bowling and romance until she almost commits adultery. The episode deftly examines temptation, domestic unrest and the effect of spousal tension on children without ever getting preachy or heavy-handed. Also, the bizarre discovery that Marge has never heard of brunch.
Best Visual Gag: A morose Homer getting nailed in the head with a baseball.
Best Line: “My mind says ‘Stop,’ but my heart, and my hips, cry proceed!”
33. ‘New Kid on the Block’
Bart falls in love with the neighbor girl, Laura Powers (Sara Gilbert of Roseanne) but when she babysits Bart and Lisa – so Homer can challenge the all-you-can-eat policy at a seafood restaurant – Laura develops feelings for bully Jimbo. Bart fingers his rival as the guy who’s been prank-calling Moe’s, and Laura breaks up with him. Because it’s a sitcom and needs a happy ending, Laura and Bart make up and decide to be friends, jointly pranking the bartender.
Best Visual Gag: A coupon offering a free tattoo with every tattoo removal.
Best Line: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, do these sound like the actions of a man who’s had all he could eat?”
32. ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish’
Homer is told he has 24 hours left to live after eating a poisonous piece of sushi. He resolves to live an extremely full last day of his life — actually paying attention to his kids, forgiving his dad, hanging with his friends at Moe’s, telling Mr. Burns to take his job and shove it. The death sentence is, as you might imagine, a false alarm.
Best Visual Gag: There’s an actual map to the hospital on the back of the menu at the sushi restaurant.
Best Line: “We haven’t missed pork chop night since the great pig scare in ’87!”
With the town desperately short on cash, they agree to let Mr. Burns open up a casino. Homer takes a job as a blackjack dealer, and Marge becomes hopelessly addicted to slot machines. If we were the betting types, we’d say things turn out well in the end. Care to wager?
Best Visual Gag: Ralph Wiggum’s homemade Idaho costume at the geography pageant.
Best Line: “Lisa, your mom still loves you. It’s just that she has a career now. She’s a slot-jockey.”
30. ‘A Star Is Burns’
Springfield tries to rehabilitate its flailing image by staging a film festival that doubled as the introduction of The Critic‘s Jay Sherman. Matt Groening famously tried to get the episode pulled, thinking it was just an extended advertisement for the other animated show, which was created by former Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss. Whatever the motivation, the combination of Barney Gumble’s poignant art-house film on addiction and Burns’ Cecil B. Demille-inspired historical biopic A Burns for All Seasons has made this a perennial favorite.
Best Visual Gag: George C. Scott getting hit in the groin with a football in the acclaimed short film, “Man Getting Hit By Football.”
Best Line: “Listen, Spielbergo, Schindler and I are like peas in a pod! We’re both factory owners. We both made shells for the Nazis, but mine worked, damn it!”
29. ‘The Last Temptation of Krust’
After realizing his material is outdated, Krusty The Klown re-invents himself as a slicked pack, cynical, Dennis Miller-esque comedian. But after getting an offer to endorse a new car, Krusty has difficulty sticking to his new principals.
Best Visual Gag: A headline in the Springfield Shopper: “Dog Kills Cat, Self.”
Best Line: “Ahh, Krusty the clown…that takes me back. Didn’t he die in a grease fire?”
28. ‘Homer’s Barbershop Quartet’
Bart and Lisa discover an album called Meet the Be Sharps at a swap meet — and realize their father was a member of a barbershop quartet with Chief Wiggum, Seymour Skinner, Apu and later, after Wiggum is kicked out, Barney. (The cop for making them way too Village People-y.) They scored a hit with “Baby on Board” and then proceed down one of the best send-ups of the Beatles’ career path. After Barney’s Yoko Ono–like girlfriend draws him away from the group, they drift apart, reuniting years later on the roof of Moe’s for a performance. George Harrison, who happens to be in a limousine driving by, mutters “It’s been done.”
Best Visual Gag: The cover of the Be Sharps’ Bigger Than Jesus album.
Best Line: “David Crosby? You’re my hero!” “Oh, you like my music?” “You’re a musician?”
27. ‘A Fish Called Selma’
Actor Troy McClure gets a career boost by hooking up with Selma – quelling rumors about his sexual attraction to fish. Despite having no real feelings for her, McClure proposes and lands a spot in a Planet of the Apes musical. The actor drunkenly spills his duplicity to Homer, who tells Marge after the wedding. Eventually, Selma comes to the realization it would never work with McClure anyway. She’ll always remember him, but not for his films.
Best Visual Gag: Everything about the musical Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off! (“You’ll never make a monkey out of me!”)
Best Line: “From now on, she’s smoking for two!”
26. ‘You Only Move Twice’
Homer accepts a job offer to work for the sweetest super villain on Earth, Hank Scorpio (Albert Brooks), who has built his own community called Cypress Creek.. When his family begs him to move back to Springfield, Homer relents and interrupts what looks like a battle royale with Scorpio brandishing a flamethrower. When they arrive home, the Springfield Shopper carries the headline “Supervillain Seizes East Coast”; Homer is too happy about Scorpio making his dream of owning an NFL team come true to care. Too bad it was the mid-Nineties Denver Broncos.
Best Visual Gag: The Denver Broncos bumbling around Homer’s front lawn
Best Line: “Hammocks, Homer, there’s four places… there’s the Hammock Hut, that’s on third….” “Oh, the hammock district!”
25. ‘Homie the Clown’
A billboard convinces Homer that the only right thing to do in life is to go to Krusty’s newly opened Clown College but later learns clown life is not all that it’s cracked up to be. When Fat Tony sees “Krusty” buying a car, he and his goons kidnap him. Just as Homer must ride a loop-de-loop for his life, the real Krusty stops by causing confusion and more command performances from the mobsters. In the end, Homer is freed and Krusty pays his debt…$48.
Best Visual Gag: Homer’s clown-centric hallucination at the dinner table.
Best Line: “That’s it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I’m going to clown college!”
24. ‘Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish’
When Bart catches a three-eyed fish and a related investigation of the power plant leads to the discovery of 342 violations, Mr. Burns needs a PR makeover and runs for governor on Homer’s suggestion. Much to Marge and Lisa’s disappointment, Homer covers the house with Vote for Burns propaganda and allows the tyrant to come over to their house for dinner so he can film a spot to cover up the fish fiasco. But it comes back to stare him in the face (literally), when Marge serves it up as dinner. It turns out, Burns can dish it out — but can’t take it.
Best Visual Gag: The Springfield Shopper headline: “Fishin’ Hole or Fission Hole?”
Best Line: “Take me home, Smithers. We’ll destroy something tasteful.”
23. ‘The PTA Disbands’
When the faculty of Springfield Elementary goes on strike, local town residents fill in as temporary teachers, including Marge. Realizing he was better off before the strike, Bart plots to resolve the situation.
Best Visual Gag: The banned books at the school library, which includes Tek War by William Shatner, Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman and Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss
Best Line: “Talking out of turn…that’s a paddling. Looking out the window…that’s a paddling. Staring at my sandals…that’s a paddling. Paddling the school canoe…ooh, you better believe that’s a paddling.”
22. ‘Homer’s Phobia’
John Waters makes a memorable turn as John, the Simpsons’ new friend who Homer believes is “corrupting” Bart and “giving him gay.” Homer starts sending Bart on a series of stereotypically masculine outings, including a hunting trip and a visit to a steel mill. Writer Ron Hauge perfectly uses Homer to represent the ignorance, misguided fear and backward arguments of those who oppose gays, with the life lesson learned balanced with a final, absurd tribute to the gay steel industry.
Best Visual Gag: The gay steel mill converting to the Anvil dance club with “Gonna Make You Sweat” plays in the background.
Best Line: “You know me, Marge. I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals flaming!”
Homer drinks too much after a Duff brewery tour; Homer gets pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence; Homer has to go to A.A. meetings and can no longer drink beer? To quote Moe: “Whaaaaaa?!?” Having had his social circle and self-medication of choice taken from him, Homer is left adrift, and temptation lurks around every corner and with every passing blimp. In a season full of standard-setting episodes, this one still stands out: It’s funny (Lisa’s science project to see if a hamster or her brother are smarter; the hamster wins), poignant without being preachy (the beer-or-Marge ending) and a nice counterpart to Season 11’s “Days of Wine and D’oh’ses,” in which his drinking buddy Barney gives sobriety a whirl.
Best Visual Gag: While Duff’s quality control supervisor is momentarily distracted, a jar containing Hitler’s head goes by the bottling assembly line, totally unnoticed.
Best Line: “Mrs. Simpson, you’re husband was found D.O.A.…oh, I mean D.W.I. I always get those two mixed up.”
20. ‘Mr. Plow’
In a rare show of initiative, Homer begins a snowplow business called Mr. Plow. It’s surprisingly successful — at least until Barney declares himself The Plow King and steals his customers. Sing it with us: “Call Mr. Plow/That’s my name/That name again/Is Mr. Plow.”
Best Visual Gag: A sign in Hawaii reads, “We’re not just for lepers anymore.”
Best Line: “I suppose you’re only familiar with the new Batman movies. Michelle Pfeiffer? Ha! The only true Catwoman is Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, or Eartha Kitt. And I didn’t need molded plastic to improve my physique. Pure. West. And why doesn’t Batman dance anymore? Remember the Batusi?”
19. ‘The Mansion Family’
After guest star Britney Spears awards Mr. Burns for being Springfield’s oldest resident, he heads to the Mayo Clinic to learn he is the sickest man in the United States. He also asks Homer to mansion-sit for him; cue a yacht party in international waters, a monkey knife fight, the Coast Guard using the Doobie Brothers’ music as a lure and an attack by pirates.
Best Visual Gag: All the signifiers of Mr. Burns’ incredible wealth — the inferno-replaceable bed, the mounted triceratops head, the clones in jars.
Best Line: “Set a course for Hidden Pirate Island, a.k.a. Hong Kong.”
18. ‘Homer the Heretic’
Homer stays home for church to watch football, and has such a great time that he vows never to return. Not even Ned Flanders and Reverend Lovejoy can bring him back to the Lord, though several dream sequences and a fire might. One of the show’s more extended (and pointed) digs at religion, written by lapsed Catholic and former churchgoer George Meyer.
Best Visual Gag: Unlike every character in the history of the show, God has five fingers.
Best Line: “Oh, Doctor! A 98-yard triple-reverse ties the score at 63–63! We have seen nothing but razzle-dazzle here today, three visits from Morganna the Kissing Bandit, and the surprising return of Jim Brown!”
17. ‘A Streetcar Named Marge’
Deciding she wants to go back to her theatrical roots, Marge tries out for a play: a musical production of A Streetcar Named Desire, with Ned Flanders playing Stanley Kowalski. She’s unable to locate her inner Blanche DuBois until Homer’s condescending attitude fills her with white-hot rage. Meanwhile, Maggie is put in the Ayn Rand School for Tots daycare center, where she has to stage a Great Escape-like operation to regain her pacifier. With the possible exception of the Planet of the Apes musical number in “A Fish Called Selma,” the performance sequence here is the show’s finest faux-Broadway moment. Streetcar!
Best Visual Gag: The homage to The Birds, as Homer walks through a nursery full of babies, sucking on their pacifiers ominously. And there’s even a Hitchcock cameo!
Best Line: “Yer a dame, and I’m a fella/Stanley, stop, or I’ll tell Stella!”
16. ‘The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show’
The Infinite Jest of animated television episodes, this sprawling piece of metafiction comments on jump-the-shark moments right around the season when TV shows start doing just that. Homer is picked to voice a new addition to the Itchy and Scratchy Show: Poochie, their rapping, skateboarding, self-consciously hip friend (“The name’s Poochie T and I rock the telly/I’m half Joe Camel and a third Fonzarelli!”). Simpsons staff members are drawn right into the episode, television executives who suggest things to animators are mercilessly taunted, and the very fan communities that would pick this episode apart are painted as didactic losers.
Best Visual Gag: An animation cel is tugged upwards to simulate motion for a hastily put-together final episode of Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie
Best Line: “Excuse me, but ‘proactive’ and ‘paradigm’? Aren’t these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I’m accusing you of anything like that… I’m fired, aren’t I?”
15. ‘Homer at the Bat’
In order to win a bet with the owner of the Shelbyville Power Plant, Mr. Burns assembles an all-star baseball squad packed with many of the best players in the world. This doesn’t sit well with Homer, who was previously the star of the team. Fans of Simpsons‘ sports-hero cameos had a field day with this episode: Jose Canseco, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, Daryl Strawberry, Roger Clemens and other MLB heavy hitters drop by in animated form. Also, never argue with Barney over who England’s greatest prime minister was. Never.
Best Visual Gag: A hideously distorted Griffey Jr., who foolishly agreed to drink a nerve tonic given to him by Mr. Burns despite hearing that it might cause gigantism.
Best Line: “Scour the professional ranks. The American League, the National League, the Negro League!”
14. ‘Bart Sells His Soul’
In an episode that expertly balances philosophy and comedy, Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five dollars. Suddenly, Santa’s Little Helper will no longer give him attention, automatic doors won’t open for him and nothing seems funny, including Itchy and Scratchy. Despite a change of heart, Milhouse won’t give Bart his soul back and even goes so far as to trade it to Comic Book Guy for Alf pogs. Eventually, all roads lead back to Lisa for a satisfying conclusion. Amen.
Best Visual Gag: The sign outside the First Church of Springfield: “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Salvation.”
Best Line: “Milhouse, there is no such thing as a soul. It’s just something parents made up to scare children, like the boogeyman or Michael Jackson.”
13. ’22 Short Films About Springfield’
Few primetime comedies would dare adopt something like Francois Girard’s obscure, art-house film Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould as the basis for an entire episode. Cinema nerds could nod approvingly; everyone else could enjoy the show’s broadest representation of Springfield’s vast universe to date. Only in the Simpsons can random, barely-there characters like Chesparito (A.K.A. Bumblebee Man) and Cletus Spuckler (A.K.A. Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel) get their own slice-of-life mini-episodes. “Sometimes I wonder about all the people in this town,” says Bart in the beginning of the episode. He’s not the only one.
Best Visual Gag: A rare photo of Sean Connery, signed by Roger Moore.
Best Line: “I said steamed hams. That’s what I call hamburgers. It’s a regional dialect.”
12. ‘Kamp Krusty’
An premise so rich that it almost became the plot of the first Simpsons movie: Kamp Krusty, “The Krustiest Place on Earth,” turns out to be a nightmare that the songs of Allen Sherman could never have envisioned. “Our nature hikes have become grim death marches,” writes Lisa in a letter home. “Our arts and crafts hut is, in truth, a Dickensian workhouse.” A mix of Lord of the Flies and Apocalypse Now, in which Bart gets to use his rebellious streak for political revolt.
Best Visual Gag: Once his son is revealed as the leader of a mutiny, Homer instantly loses half his hair and re-gains his familiar flat tire.
Best Line: “Now Bart, we made this deal because I thought it would help you get good grades. And you didn’t… But why should you pay for my mistake?”
11. ‘Burns Verkaugen der Kraftwerk’
No, Monty Burns, don’t sell the nuclear power plant! When the town’s resident cantankerous rich tycoon sells the plant to German businessmen, Homer begins to fear he’ll lose his job. There’s a current of anxiety that runs through this episode, concerning Homer’s ability to provide for his family, the American workforce’s inadequacy in a globalized market and the average Joe Lunchbox’s descent into obsolescence. Also, there’s a talking alligator puppet who doubles as a therapist and Homer skips through a land made entirely of German chocolate. Ich Bin Ein Springfielder!
Best Visual Gag: The brilliant “Land of Chocolate” sequence, an early example of Simpsons surreality — especially when the chocolate dog runs up and Homer takes a huge bite out of him.
Best Line: “We regret to announce the following lay-offs, which I will read in alphabetical order: Simpson, Homer. [Pause] That is all.”
1o. ‘Itchy and Scratchy Land’
The Simpsons‘ take on the biggest animation staple America has ever known (the Walt Disney Company) covers pretty much everything: chainsaw-wielding robots in a version of the Electric Light Parade, a violent rewrite of Fantasia with tiny axes, a visit to “Parent’s Island,” an exploration of the alleged anti-semitism of Walt himself, and the much whispered-about existence of “Disney jail.” It’s both vicious and loving in its send-up: What could a bunch of animators and L.A.-based writers love and hate more than Disneyland?
Best Visual Gag: The appearance of characters from the short-lived Itchy & Scratchy & Friends Hour: Disgruntled Goat, Uncle Ant and Ku Klux Klam
Best Line: “No, my son is also named Bort.”
9. ‘Flaming Moe’s’
Homer gives Moe the recipe for a “Flaming Homer,” a drink that contains Krusty’s Non Narkotik Kough Syrup and must be lit on fire. The barkeep starts serving a popular new drink called the “Flaming Moe,” and rival corporate bars try to figure out the ingredients; Moe gets a makeover and Aerosmith even stops by for a performance. A jilted Homer gets his revenge in a Phantom of the Opera–style siege on the bar, spilling the beans and leading the drink to become popular everywhere. Moe and Homer eventually reconcile. Did we mention that Aerosmith shows up?
Best Visual Gag: A store called “Famous Moe’s” (next to Flaming Meaux) that was “established last night.”
Best Line: “All right, according to the gas chromatograph, the secret ingredient is… love? Who’s been screwing with this thing?”
8. ‘Homer Goes to College’
Homer lives out his fraternity fantasies when Mr. Burns sends him to Springfield University to make good on a promise to an inspector. It turns out, even in Springfield, college isn’t all the hijinks that movies like Homer’s favorite, School of Hard Knockers, make it out to be. That doesn’t stop Homer from convincing his nerdy, reluctant tutors to steal the mascot of rival school Springfield A&M, Sir Oinks-a-Lot, and get it drunk. Once found out, the culprits (except Homer) are expelled and Homer lets them live at the Simpsons’ not-so-animalistic house, eventually convincing the dean to take them back. Any similarity between Old School and this episode is, of course, entirely coincidental.
Best Visual Gag: The Animal House–style closing montage featuring Homer taking a paddle pledge, flashing his graduating class and humiliating Richard Nixon.
Best Line: “I am so smart. S-M-R-T. I mean, S-M-A-R-R-T.”
7. ‘Cape Feare’
Two years after Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese remade the 1962 revenge movie Cape Fear, The Simpsons made their own version, complete with scene-for-scene references to the Scorsese movie. The Simpsons go into witness relocation after a recently released-from-prison Sideshow Bob threatens Bart. They all move to Terror Lake to live on a houseboat — including Bob, who rides under their car, through a cactus field. After tricking Bart, Bob asks the boy has any last requests. As it happens, wants to sing the entirety of the opera H.M.S. Pinafore, which they do —until the boat drifts past police who arrest Bob. Greatest. Gilbert and Sulivan reference. EVER.
Best Visual Gag: Sideshow Bob attempting to navigate a parking lot full of rakes.
Best Line: [explaining his “Die Bart Die” tattoo] “No, that’s German for ‘the Bart the.’”
6. ‘Whacking Day’
“Every May 10th, local residents gather to drive snakes into the center of town and whack them to snake heaven,” explains Kent Brockman of the annual holiday Whacking Day. Ostensibly dating back to 1775, the holiday is so popular, it inspired a visit by Richard Nixon (armed with pre-whacked snakes) and caused Reverend Lovejoy to lie about a Bible verse in order to justify it. Barry White stands in as the voice of reason, with the episode functioning as one of the best examples of the blind conformist nature of Springfield, and, by extension, us.
Best Visual Gag: A laser-focused, shirtless Homer engaging in ninja training to prep for the holiday.
Best Line: Courtesy of Barry White: “I love the sexy slither of a lady snake. Oh, baby.”
5. ‘Last Exit to Springfield’
In one of his most heroic moments, Homer becomes the leader of the “International Brotherhood of Jazz Dancers, Pastry Chefs and Nuclear Technicians” in a bid to keep the company’s dental plan. He convinces his coworkers to hold out, as temporarily uninsured Lisa undergoes a monstrous braces procedure – complete with Yellow Submarine–style laughing-gas hallucinations. When Monty Burns attempts to turn off the city’s power, the union stands strong, forcing the billionaire to concede on the condition that Homer steps down as union leader. With the power back on, Springfield can return to operating seedy strip clubs and producing fake vomit; more importantly, Lisa got her braces while the family and dentist get high on laughing gas. Somewhere out there, Jimmy Hoffa’s ghost is cracking up.
Best Visual Gag: The Big Book of British Smiles, which a dentist uses to scare Ralph Wiggum into brushing and contains images of Sherlock Holmes, a guardsman and Prince Charles, among others.
Best Line: “So what does the job pay?” “Nothing…unless your crooked.” “Woohoo!”
4. ‘Krusty Gets Kancelled’
More than just a season-closing all-star pile-up of A-list celebrities (Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson, Hugh Hefner, Luke Perry, Red Hot Chili Peppers), “Krusty Gets Kancelled” is a beautiful send-up of how we relate to television itself — the urban legend of a kid’s host signing off with “That oughta hold the little bastards” has likely been floating around since the Twenties. With a loving embrace and a meta flair, Krusty the Clown is run through a grinder that explores the cult of celebrity, censorship (the Chili Peppers go through a Doors-on-Sullivan scenario), and the catchphrase industrial complex that the show itself had exploited in seasons past. Gabbo’s “I’m a bad widdle boy” can only be responded to by Bart’s “Ay Caramba!”
Best Visual Gag: The blocky, Russian avant-garde look of Eastern Europe’s favorite cat-and-mouse team, Worker and Parasite.
Best Line: “If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you’re stealing my bit.”
Citizen Kane gets the Simpsons treatment, sort of. Montgomery Burns has everything an elderly, power-hungry billionaire could want: a huge mansion, millions of dollars, a simpering toady who worships him, the ability to say “Release the hounds!” and have many hounds be released. But all he really wants is Bobo, his old teddy bear — a totem of innocence from a happier time. (It’s no sled, but it’ll do.) After the Ramones sing him “Happy Birthday” at his party, Burns decides to put out an all-points bulletin for his beloved bear — now in the possession of Maggie Simpson. A perfect combination of what the show did best: a mix of sharp satire, film homages, a dash of emotional resonance, some great lines (Homer asks for “three Hawaiian islands…the good ones, not the leper ones”), highbrow references and lowbrow gags. It would smell as sweet by any other name.
Best Visual Gag: The Planet of the Apes ending, in which our future simian overlords examine Bobo and a cyborg Burns grabs his beloved bear, running away on mechanical legs.
Best Line: [after the Ramones finish their song] “Have the Rolling Stones killed.”
2. ‘Lisa the Vegetarian’
After a visit to a park petting zoo, Lisa renounces meat and proselytizes the virtues of vegetarianism to anyone in earshot. Unfortunately, Homer’s Flanders-spiting barbecue features a “pig de resistance,” which Lisa steals in the hopes that attendees will go meat-free. After a run-in with noted vegetarians Paul and Linda McCartney, Lisa doubles down on her commitment, yet reconciles with Homer and his carnivorous tendencies. Pointing out specific jokes is a fool’s errand, as David X. Cohen’s script contains a limitless barrage of one-liners, visual gags and set pieces that never miss their mark.
Best Visual Gag: The pro-meat educational film’s “Food Chain,” in which all animals (poodles, bats, monkeys, slugs) point directly to a human.
Best Line: “Good news, everyone! You don’t have to eat meat! I’ve got enough gazpacho for everyone.” ” Go back to Russia!”
1. ‘Marge vs. the Monorail’
Conan O’Brien was driving in Los Angeles when he saw a billboard that simply said, “Monorail.” Channeling The Music Man, O’Brien set to work writing what remains the most memorable episode. After conman Lyle Lanley (Phil Hartman) convinces the town to buy a faulty monorail, Homer gets tasked with being its first conductor. You know the rest. O’Brien’s Harvard-via-Monty Python absurd humor is at its peak, with more throwaway gags in a few minutes than most episodes had in 22. If the mark of a good Simpsons is the number of lines you can still quote today, “Monorail” is the clear favorite. It’s the show’s Thriller — a work universally admired upon its release and a piece of pop culture history that will be quoted back for decades to come.
Best Visual Gag: The Siamese twins who get miraculously separated by the monorail’s speeding anchor.
Best Line: “A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on.” “Does anyone want to switch seats?”