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30 Best Futurama Episodes Ranked

Matt Groening's record-shattering success with "The Simpsons" initially seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. But Groening and some of his most talented staffers (including "Simpsons" writer and "Futurama" co-developer David. X. Cohen) still had another masterpiece in them: "Futurama," one of the most bizarre, hilarious, and genuine shows to ever grace the idiot box.

The possibilities offered by the world of the future kicked the "Futurama" crew's imaginations into high gear. The adventures of unfrozen 20th century delivery boy Philip J. Fry and the Planet Express crew are unforgettably funny and satisfyingly intelligent. There's so much greatness going on in "Futurama," it's hard to decide which episodes serve as the series' highlights. But after combing through the entire show, we think we've arrived at a solid list. These are the 30 best "Futurama" episodes, ranked. Prepare to laugh, cry, and occasionally do both at the same time.

30. Mars University

The series' sci-fi setting offers golden opportunities to skewer the present and make tired old plots fresh once more. That's certainly true for Season 1's "Mars University," which satirizes college education and college movies. Fry enrolls in Mars University and rooms with Professor Farnsworth's experiment, a monkey named Guenter who gains superhuman intelligence from a mechanical bowler hat. Meanwhile, Bender takes over his old frat from its current loser occupants.

Bender's frat antics ramp up the cheesiness of college comedy tropes so intensely, they become funny again. This early episode also foreshadows the emotional gut punches coming later in the series with Tress MacNeille's tearful performance as, of all things, a talking monkey.

29. The Problem with Popplers

In this Season 2 episode, one of the show's most darkly hilarious, Leela discovers a deliciously addictive snack on an apparently deserted planet. She gets a contract with fast food tycoon Fishy Joe, and the little "popplers" become the most popular thing on the planet — just in time for Leela to discover they're living baby aliens. This leads to a debate over the ethics of, um, eating babies, which only gets more heated when recurring heavy Lrrr, ruler of Omicron Persei 8 and father to some of the devoured young, enters the mix.

28. Parasites Lost

Fry and Leela are the center of many beloved episodes of "Futurama," including this Season 3 gem. After some microscopic parasites from a truck-stop egg sandwich rebuild Fry into an ideal man from the inside out, it seems like the pair might finally get together. That's pretty much the last place you'd expect the plot to end up when you first see Fry swallow the tainted sandwich, and it is that unpredictability that makes "Parasites Lost" so memorable.

27. That's Lobstertainment!

"Futurama" wears its influences on its sleeve, but it always manages to make something new out of them. In this Season 3 episode, the show leaves the future behind to go all the way back to the golden age of silent film, resulting in an episode as funny as its inspirations. "Simpsons" star Hank Azaria guest stars as Zoidberg's long-lost relative Harold Zoid, a washed-up star of silent holograms. Each lobster-ish alien thinks the other is going to be their meal ticket, and before they realize neither of them has any money, they've gotten rolling on Harold's comeback vehicle. It's supposed to be a drama, but seeing him directing his actors to express every emotion at once is some of the funniest comedy "Futurama" has to offer.

26. War is the H-Word

"Futurama" may be a mashup of sci-fi and sitcom formulas, but that hasn't stopped it from skewering every other genre known to man. Case in point, war movies get a good kicking in Season 3's "War is the H-Word." Even the excuse to get the plot rolling is hysterical: Bender and Fry join the army just to get a 5% military discount at the corner store. The recruiting officer reassures them they can quit as soon as they've gotten their bargain, "Unless, of course, war were declared." Then a siren sounds, and he flatly intones, "War were declared."

This episode has plenty of classic moments from Zapp Brannigan, who acts as the boys' commanding officer. Memorably, Zapp's beleaguered assistant Kif finally gets to bully someone else for a change when Fry gets demoted to being his assistant. Things culminate hilariously in our hapless heroes' battle against the ball-shaped aliens, which is cartoon slapstick at its finest.

25. Space Pilot 3000

"Futurama" is strong right out of the gate with this unforgettable pilot episode, which sees Fry accidentally send himself to the future. It's New Year's Eve, 1999, and Fry is stuck in a dead-end pizza delivery job, answering crank calls from "I.C. Weiner" of Applied Cryogenics. As he dejectedly eats the pizza meant for no one, he accidentally locks himself in a cryogenic tube. When he wakes up, he's in the year 3000.

"Futurama" fans love to point to the show's most shockingly sad episodes as proof of its worth, but "Futurama" excels at hitting other emotions too. Few episodes are as joyful as this one, which brims with a sense of limitless possibility. If the pilot fades a little in comparison to what comes after, it's only because the next seven seasons do such a good job living up to its promise.

24. Leela's Homeworld

Many of the best episodes of "Futurama" are its saddest. Its ability to touch viewers' hearts is even more amazing when you remember the handicap it operates under. The show's twisted humor often sees the lead characters get mangled, fried, and obliterated. Yet "Futurama" can turn on a dime and make you deeply care about those very same characters' well-being.

That's especially true in Season 4's "Leela's Homeworld," which explores Leela's childhood loneliness and finally reveals her real parents. As it turns out, they're sewer mutants who let their daughter think she's an alien orphan to give her a chance at a better life on the surface. "Leela's Homeworld" ends on a moment of shocking sincerity: Leela and her parents finally reunite, and a truly tear-jerking montage unfolds, showing mom and dad secretly guiding Leela throughout her childhood.

23. Anthology of Interest I

Some stories are too wacky, even for "Futurama." Following the lead of the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes from "The Simpsons," the show finds a place for those ideas too insane for actual continuity in siloed-off episodes like this one. Season 2's "Anthology of Interest I" introduces Professor Farnsworth's What-If Machine, which lets the Planet Express crew explore all kinds of possibilities. What if Fry had never been frozen? What if Bender were a Godzilla-sized monster? What if Leela wasn't so level-headed? The answer to that last one turns out to be particularly brutal: She'd feed Farnsworth to man-eating anteaters so she could get his inheritance. Is it grim? Yes. But that spirit just makes the episode all the more hilarious.

22. Time Keeps on Slippin'

This Season 3 episode introduces two of the series' most durable (and weirdest) ideas: The all-purpose time-altering substance known as chronitons, and the Harlem Globetrotters. "Futurama" reimagines the famous exhibition basketball team as smack-talking interstellar scientists with their own planet. To compete with them, Farnsworth clones a team of atomic supermen and sends the Planet Express crew out to collect chronitons, to get them up to regulation age. This turns out to be a bad idea when the chronitons cause time to skip ahead randomly. 

The writers milk this high concept for every gag imaginable. Hermes suggests a solution before we cut to a naked conga line and him admitting he has no idea how this was supposed to work. Fry and Leela jump from their wedding straight to divorce court. A time-tossed Farnsworth sends his crew off with a confused, "Off you go, apparently!" — a perfect summation of the episode's fantastically wacky approach.

21. Amazon Women in the Mood

"Futurama" introduced "snu-snu" to the English language in this hilarious Season 3 spin on the well-worn "planet of warrior women" trope. While attempting to woo Leela, Zapp Brannigan crashes a restaurant (yes, a restaurant) into the planet Amazonia. The Amazonians can't seem to find any use for the men ... until they remember "snu-snu," their word for heterosexual intercourse. The Amazonians' ruler, an enormous computer, sentences the men to "death by snu-snu." By all rights, this shouldn't have aged any better than the rest of the era's attempts to make sexual assault funny. But it's handled so well that cringes turn into guilty chuckles, which turn into belly laughs pretty quickly.

20. The Day the Earth Stood Stupid

Like "The Simpsons," "Futurama" features an incredibly dumb hero. But Fry's stupidity works out in his favor when an invasion of intelligence-sapping aliens make him Earth's smartest man by default in this Season 3 stunner. This is a comedic goldmine of an idea, and the writers use it for all it's worth. Alien newscaster Morbo mistaking the letter T on his teleprompter for "a little man in a hat" is a hysterical high point: "Hello, little man. I WILL DESTROY YOU!"

But "Futurama" is never content with low-hanging fruit. "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" also drops a major revelation that reshapes the rest of the series: We learn that Leela's adorable pet Nibbler is a spy from a race of omnipotent cosmic beings ... who are still adorable little critters that like to frolic under rainbows.

19. The Cyber House Rules

"Futurama" doesn't make shock comedy its bread and butter the way other adult cartoons do, but it never shies away from pitch black humor either. Look no further than this Season 3 episode for an example. Bender adopts the entire population of the orphanarium where Leela grew up for his latest scam. Bender gets charged with "child cruelty, child endangerment, depriving children of food, selling children as food, and misrepresenting the weight of livestock," but the orphans are adorably unfazed through all of it. They even enjoy Bender's bedtime stories (his arrest record) and his "Bender burgers" (stray cats). Awwww ... we guess.

18. Future Stock

A shareholders' meeting reveals that Planet Express is circling the drain in this Season 3 episode. Elsewhere, Fry discovers a support group for fellow cryogenic freezees, and meets That Guy, a sleazy businessman who promises to get the company back on track. This earns Planet Express the ire of their corporate rivals at Mom's Friendly Package Delivery Service, providing actress Tress MacNeille an opportunity to stun as the hilariously crotchety Mom. "Stuff a bastard in it, you crap!" is an immortal line in her capable hands.

17. How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back

Hermes' buttoned-up nature becomes hilarious in this Season 2 episode, in which he loses his job and is replaced by Morgan, an even more uptight bureaucrat. Bender is having none of it, but Morgan retaliates by sending his brain into the depths of the Central Bureaucracy (creating the greatest take on the "She's behind me, isn't she?" gag ever in the process). The insane tangle that is the Bureaucracy is surreally hilarious: You'll never forget the officer who flies in on a desk that is somehow crossed with an old-fashioned biplane. Things only get better when Hermes returns to save the day with a full-on musical number.

16. Love and Rocket

When Bender falls in love with the Planet Express ship's onboard computer in this Season 4 episode, tragedy is quick to follow. Notably, this episode contains one of the series' greatest-ever guest performances: Sigourney Weaver shows off her comedic range as the clingy computer.

"Love and Rocket" is a classic example of "Futurama" at its most wicked. Zoidberg offhandedly mentions that Leela obliterated "two gangster planets and a cowboy world" out of sheer laziness by dumping her cargo into a nearby star. Yet there's still room for sincerity in this installment, which sees Fry sacrifice his oxygen to save Leela's life.

15. A Pharaoh to Remember

This Season 3 episode shows Bender at his most human — which isn't necessarily a compliment. Bender undergoes an existential crisis about his legacy after a news show fails to give him credit for his daring water park heist. When Farnsworth sells the Planet Express crew into slavery on an Egyptian-style planet, Bender decides to allay his fears with a monument to his own greatness. No matter how awfully Bender behaves in pursuit of his goal, it's hard to hate him — his anxiety is simply too relatable. Fittingly, this episode about the fear of being forgotten is itself unforgettable.

14. Reincarnation

The series' love of parody gets a workout in this Season 6 episode. "Reincarnation" is split into three segments, each utilizing a different animation style. The first is a black-and-white '30s-style cartoon, the second is an '80s-esque video game, and the third apes anime.

This episode saves the best jokes for the last chapter, which features spot-on parodies of shoddy translation (skewering dubs and subs), excessively detailed backstories, and all the other foibles common to anime. That's not to say the other segments are lacking in any way: The video game section offers a perfect metaphor for "Futurama" as a whole, with the Professor filling up a "sadness bar." Simply put, "Reincarnation" is one of the series' most unique episodes.

13. Roswell That Ends Well

This wacky Season 3 one-off has unexpectedly wide ramifications for future episodes. Fry accidentally launches the Planet Express ship into the past, just in time to cause Roswell, New Mexico's famous UFO sighting. Fry gets paradox-paranoid when he realizes his grandfather Enos is stationed at Roswell and tries to keep him from dying, thus erasing Fry from the timeline. Fry being Fry, this backfires horribly: He becomes directly responsible for his grandfather's death and causes some seriously convoluted mix-ups in his family tree.

12. Three Hundred Big Boys

This Season 4 episode takes a dead-simple setup — a $300 tax refund — and spins it into one of the series' most dizzyingly complex episodes. Every character gets roped into the plot, yet they each enjoy their own individual storyline. Miraculously, all of them come together in a spectacular climax, the unpredictable payoff to Fry's quest to drink 100 cups of coffee being a particular highlight. That scene takes place in an exhibit featuring a Bayeux-style tapestry — a fitting metaphor for this episode's intricate weaving of plot threads.

11. The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings

If "Futurama" hadn't been revived in 2008, at least it would have gone out with a bang, courtesy of this stunning Season 4 finale. Fry is determined to win Leela's heart by playing the holophonor, a futuristic instrument — but his "stupid fingers" keep getting in his way. With Bender's help, he makes a deal with the Robot Devil, who accidentally ends up giving Fry his own virtuosic hands.

Fry quickly becomes a sensation, but the Robot Devil isn't about to let him keep his hands forever. It all culminates in a literally operatic showdown at the premiere of Fry's composition for Leela. Fry ultimately loses the Robot Devil's hands, but things don't go back to the status quo: Leela still wants to hear the composition. Thus, the series initially concludes with Fry's poignantly childish performance of his and Leela's happy ending.

10. The Sting

We learn in "Space Pilot 3000" that Planet Express' previous crew died on the job. In Season 4's "The Sting," we learn their last job was collecting honey from giant space bees. Leela's professional pride won't let her pass up the gig, and Fry gets skewered with a giant stinger in the process. No, "Futurama" doesn't really kill off its main character — but that's about where the predictability of this episode ends. 

Leela's grief-induced nightmares make it impossible to tell what, if anything, is real. Like the best "Futurama" episodes, "The Sting" never fails to mix tragedy with comedy. In most shows, this would undercut the drama. But in "Futurama," this results in unforgettable scenes like Bender tearfully shouting, "Who will make Bender waffles just the way he likes them now?" — or, more darkly, Leela muttering to herself, "I'll find Fry's corpse and keep it under my mattress to remind me that he's dead! That'll prove I'm not insane!" At one point, Farnsworth laughs at his own macabre joke before saying, "Oh, I made myself sad." If there's a better summation of what makes "Futurama" great, we've yet to see it.

9. The Farnsworth Parabox

"Futurama" makes another science fiction subgenre its own in this Season 4 parallel universe episode. After Farnsworth's latest experiment nearly destroys Planet Express — he prays to every god imaginable for help, topping it off with, "Satan, you owe me!" — he contains it within a mysterious box. No one, he dictates, is to look inside. Of course, Leela looks inside, and promptly discovers another universe with another Planet Express. 

Watching the characters interact with their alternate selves never gets old. This would have been a winner even if it never got beyond Farnsworth straightfacedly saying, "Now, now, perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything." But the writers go the extra mile when the Zoidbergs steal the box, forcing the rest of the cast to chase them through even more parallel universes.

8. Godfellas

Season 3's "Godfellas" starts with an all-time great run of rapid-fire gags and ends with one of the show's most philosophical moments. It's all summed up by an image as melancholy as it is hilarious: Bender floating alone in the void, playing piano.

When Bender becomes both home and god to a race of tiny aliens, he tries to do the right thing and fails miserably. Bender's struggle with godhood tackles many science fiction conventions, and though them, "Futurama" explores some pretty enormous metaphysical ideas. This introspective storyline is made all the more moving by the unconditional love Fry displays as he searches the vast reaches of the universe for his robotic friend.

7. The Prisoner of Benda

The hilarity of Season 6's "The Prisoner of Benda" starts in the cold open, when newscasters Linda and Morbo announce, "Tonight at 11 ... DOOOOOOM!" From there, we learn that Farnsworth has perfected his brain-switching machine, setting in motion a plot so complicated, an incredibly complex and totally real mathematical theorem (via Wired) is necessary to wrap things up. 

"The Prisoner of Benda" crams a season's worth of plot into its 22 minutes: Bender steals the Robo-Hungarian crown jewels, Fry and Leela's relationship is consummated (in Zoidberg and Farnsworth's bodies), the Professor embarks upon a circus career as the daredevil Nonchalanto, and a brief but hilarious forbidden romance takes place between Scruffy the janitor and his robotic wash bucket. It's a testament to the writers that the audience never gets lost. The animators deserve an enormous amount of credit as well: Though they've switched bodies, the characters retain their own physical tics, which are depicted with incredible precision.

6. Where No Fan Has Gone Before

In a way, every "Futurama" episode is a tribute to "Star Trek." But no episode honors the sci-fi forebear more than Season 4's "Where No Fan Has Gone Before." This episode reunites most of the original "Star Trek" cast, throwing in a "Next Generation" cameo to boot. Fry learns that while he was frozen, "Star Trek" fandom expanded into a religion that nearly took over the Earth. Fry takes Leonard Nimoy, now a disembodied head, to Omega 3, where the last "Star Trek" tapes reside. There, they discover that the show's cast has been imprisoned by Mellvar, an energy being and fanatical Trekkie. 

It's a beautiful tribute, though the writers never let their love for "Star Trek" overwhelm their acid wit (Fry describes the series as "79 episodes, about 30 good ones"). Even if you don't get the references, there's still plenty to love here. If nothing else, you seriously need to see what happens when Fry tries to make a bowstring out of caterpillars.

5. Luck of the Fryrish

In the pilot, Fry celebrates when he learns he'll never see anyone he knew ever again. But there's still a lot of tragedy to his story, which is thoroughly explored in Season 3's "Luck of the Fryrish." After a trip to the racetrack goes badly for Fry, he attributes his unluckiness to the loss of his seven-leaf clover, which was highly coveted by his older brother Yancy. Flashbacks further reveal that Yancy regularly tried to take credit for everything Fry did.

When Fry goes back to the ruins of his home to recover the clover, he discovers it's missing. He goes on to learn that it ended up with another Philip J. Fry, who got to do everything Fry ever dreamed of. Fry is sure this Philip was actually Yancy, and goes out to recover the clover from his grave. But then he finds out the truth: This Philip was Yancy's son, named in honor of the uncle he never knew. It's one of the biggest emotional gut punches "Futurama" ever inflicts upon its viewers.

4. Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles

"Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles" gives "Futurama" a chance to explore Leela's relationship with her parents, Morris and Munda. This is meaningful stuff, but for the most part, it results in one of the most purely hilarious episodes of the entire series. We kick off with the Professor chasing after his pet gargoyle ("Pazuuuuuzuuuuuu!"), which leads to a string of great gags regarding his extreme age. Eventually, the Planet Express crew takes him to be "youthacized." Unfortunately, Bender's overenthusiastic pumping dunks the entire gang in de-aging goop. 

Watching our heroes endure the humiliations of youth is straight-up hysterical. Leela takes the opportunity to re-do her teenage years with her parents by her side, who seem a little unclear on their responsibilities ("No beer til you've had your tequila!"). Long before that plot can run out of steam, we get a whole new run of jokes as the Professor attempts to get the crew back to normal — Zoidberg's various stages of life truly need to be seen to be believed. The laughs don't stop until the end credits.

3. Meanwhile

After several close calls and revivals, "Futurama" finally ended for good in 2013 with Season 7's "Meanwhile." This episode takes Fry and Leela back to Luna Park, the site of their first mission. It also gets in some self-deprecation when Leela says, "Man, we sure used to try harder back then" — a clever dig at the series' purported dip in quality following the first cancelation of "Futurama." But mostly, "Meanwhile" showcases just how much these characters have grown — to the point that a near-death experience convinces Fry to finally pop the question.

Meanwhile, the Professor invents a "time button" that lets Fry travel 10 seconds into the past at a time. This eventually gets him stuck in a loop of jumping to his death off the Vampire State Building over and over again. The way he's driven to suicide may be contrived, but the raw emotion in Billy West's finest-ever performance as Fry makes it work. The whole bit is as grimly hilarious as "Futurama" ever gets, especially when he gets stuck in another loop that ends with him splattering on the sidewalk. It all concludes with the sort of beautifully melancholy ending only "Futurama" can pull off, as Fry and Leela grow old together as the rest of the world stands still.

2. The Late Philip J. Fry

Post-revival, Fry and Leela's will-they-or-won't-they relationship shifts closer to the "they will" side of things. In most shows, this would be a dead end, but on "Futurama," it sets up some of the series' best episodes, including this Season 6 triumph. The couple's dating life isn't the smoothest, especially once Fry turns up late to Leela's birthday lunch. He promises to make it up to her that night, but the Professor ropes him and Bender into a one-way time travel experiment and accidentally sends them to the year 10,000 A.D. 

The scenes portraying Leela's future life without Fry, including her eventual realization that he never meant to hurt her, are heartbreaking. There's sadness of a less concrete kind as well, as the guys land at the heat death of the universe and decide there's nothing to do but share a six pack and watch the end of everything.

1. Jurassic Bark

As any fan knows, we can't wrap this list up without the episode that convinced the world "Futurama" was more than just another funny cartoon. After an excavation reveals Fry's fossilized dog, Seymour, Fry tries to get him back from the museum so he can clone the beloved pooch. Dead dogs are a cheat code to viewers' tear ducts, but "Jurassic Bark" puts in the work to make us care about this particular mutt. Seymour isn't just a cute critter — he's individualized, with the sort of street dog traits most find unlovable, but Fry finds charming. Frank Welker's voice acting gives Seymour a real inner life, to the point that we feel his pain when Fry goes missing.

The episode juggles multiple emotional arcs, pushing Bender's childish personality to the brink when he gets jealous of Fry's devotion to Seymour. The surly robot nearly sabotages the whole thing, until the selflessness instilled by Fry's friendship wins out. But that's all just a warmup for the ending montage, which shows just how loyal Seymour truly was. It's one of the most powerful moments in animation history.