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25 Best American Dad Episodes Ranked

Since its debut in 2005, Seth MacFarlane's "American Dad!" has remained one of the most popular adult animated series on television, with the show consistently delivering sharp (and often shocking) jokes built around absurdist plots. Unlike "Family Guy," MacFarlane's first hit show, "American Dad!" doesn't rely on cutaway gags to deliver its biggest laughs. Instead, the series derives much of its humor from its colorful main characters, the Smiths.

Led by Stan, the family's gun-toting CIA agent father, the Smiths are a dysfunctional bunch at times, but it's hard to be normal when you have an eccentric alien with a penchant for dressing up living in the attic. As wacky as "American Dad!" often is, the Emmy-nominated series has also been praised for tackling normal, everyday matters audiences can relate to, such as bullying, marital problems, and turbulent relationships between family members with differing world views.

With over 300 episodes and counting, "American Dad!" has carved out a place in pop culture history, but which episodes stand out as the best the show has to offer? Here are our picks for the 25 best episodes of "American Dad!" to date.

25. Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls (Season 6, Episode 3)

All Hallows' Eve in Langley Falls is always memorable. One of the funniest Halloween-themed "American Dad!" episodes to date is "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls," in which Stan excitedly prepares his annual haunted house for the coming holiday. Facing some unexpectedly tough competition from his neighbor Buckle, Stan uses his CIA contacts and installs five notorious serial killers as "attractions" in his house. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the idea backfires massively.

As that goes on, Steve develops romantic feelings for Toshi's sister, Akiko. Toshi isn't interested in going trick-or-treating with the guys, but he allows his sister to go in his place, so long as Steve has her back before dark. When that doesn't happen, Toshi slips into a samurai costume and begins hunting them down.

"American Dad!" has tackled numerous genres in the past, but it always excels when it comes to spooky episodes. Blending comedy with horror is a major strong suit of the show, with the combination almost always resulting in hilarity. "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls" is a prime example of this, an episode that mixes big laughs with the occasional scare.

24. Poltergasm (Season 9, Episode 2)

Like most sitcom couples, Stan and Francine are prone to the occasional marital spat. In Season 9's "Poltergasm" (which parodies the famous '80s horror flick "Poltergeist"), Francine's unfulfilled bedroom desires manifest into a physical, spirit-like presence that threatens to destroy the Smiths unless Stan finally manages to take Francine to "Satisfaction Avenue." When the spirit sucks Mauricio (Hayley's friend with benefits) into a vortex, Francine has no choice but to reveal the truth to Stan — that she's not satisfied.

Having considered himself a stud for the longest time, Stan is stung by his wife's admission. Ultimately, it works out for the best — they work together to improve the situation in the bedroom and rescue Mauricio in the process. It's a wholesome ending to one of the sauciest "American Dad!" episodes. "What this show can do is bring up sex within a certain set of sitcom parameters and pull at the edges, making it surreal enough to fit and serve the character-based comedy," said the AV Club in its review of "Poltergasm."

23. Bully for Steve (Season 5, Episode 16)

Sadly, bullying is a problem for many school children. A decidedly less common problem (in schools, at least) is a parent bullying their own kid, which is the main plot of Season 5's "Bully for Steve." Stan begins to worry that Steve is too passive in life and makes the drastic decision to bully him to toughen him up. Despite his intentions, his obviously-flawed plan goes very wrong.

Stan goes to extreme lengths to ensure that Steve will be able to survive in the dog-eat-dog adult world, going against the express wishes of Francine (who, for obvious reasons, doesn't want her son getting bullied at all, never mind by his own father). True to his character, Stan ends up greatly underestimating Steve's resourcefulness. The CIA man ends up getting a beatdown from his old school bully Stelio Kontos, arguably one of the funniest silent characters in television history.

22. Adventures in Hayleysitting (Season 8, Episode 6)

Stan and Francine arrange a romantic date night in "Adventures in Hayleysitting," with Hayley volunteering to look after Steve until they get home. When Hayley provokes Steve by calling him "lame," Steve decides to sneak out to a party with his friends, leaving Hayley and Jeff scrambling to track them down.

The best thing about "Adventures in Hayleysitting" is the emotional undertones of the episode. Steve tries to prove to himself and others that he can be a rowdy teen, while Hayley wants to illustrate to her family that she's a responsible and trustworthy young adult. In the end, the siblings work together to accomplish both of their goals, setting aside their differences and developing a mutual respect for one another.

It's one of those rare moments in "American Dad!" where the emotions outweigh the humor, though "Adventures in Hayleysitting" is far from unfunny. The episode contains a memorable appearance from Charlie Day as an unhinged meth dealer out to hunt Steve and his friends down.

21. Cops and Roger (Season 5, Episode 14)

It's fair to say that Roger is the strangest character on "American Dad!" (and considering how many oddballs appear in the series, that's certainly saying something). Brash, arrogant, and prone to bouts of violence and substance abuse, Roger's hijinks serve as the basis for many of the best "American Dad!" episodes. One such episode is "Cops and Roger," in which the unstable alien joins the local police academy and becomes a promising young officer in training. Within hours of his graduation, he becomes a dirty cop, leading Stan to confront him about his increasingly dangerous behavior.

Since the show's debut, Roger has been a big fan favorite, and "American Dad!" viewers are always appreciative when the creators dedicate an entire episode to him. "Cops and Roger" is one of the most memorable examples of this, an episode full of Roger's hilarious, paradoxical character traits. From his initial insecurity to his near-instant turn to corruption when given some power, it's classic Roger, and fans loved it.

20. Fart-Break Hotel (Season 6, Episode 9)

An episode that features Francine in a rare starring role, "Fart-Break Hotel" sees the Smiths leave their house and visit a fancy hotel for a week. Facing burnout and emotional exhaustion from constantly taking care of the family, Francine resolves to make a major change in her life. She assumes the identity of a deceased concrete saleswoman named Sarah Blanche, abandoning her family to pursue her professional and personal interests on her own.

Making clever use of time travel and featuring guest appearances from Héctor Elizondo, J.K. Simmons, Alan Tudyk, Missi Pyle, and Will Forte, "Fart-Break Hotel" has some surprisingly poignant moments. It's all about Francine's unhappiness at home and her desire to get away from the monotony of her everyday existence. In the end, her identity-stealing adventure makes her realize how much she loves her family and how they truly bring meaning to her life. It's heartfelt, existential, and a wonderful character study for Francine, perhaps the most underrated "American Dad!" character.

19. Persona Assistant (Season 13, Episode 16)

One of the things fans love about "American Dad!" is Roger's gallery of colorful personas, each of which has a unique appearance and personality. In "Persona Assistant," Roger's dedication to his many characters finally catches up to him, leaving him temporarily bedridden. Needing someone to complete his daily schedule for him while he recovers, Stan volunteers, failing to understand how deeply tied the city has become to Roger's schedule. Langley Falls is plunged into chaos without him, and to make matters worse, Stan becomes possessed by Roger's most infamous persona, Ricky Spanish.

"Persona Assistant" isn't just great because of its focus on Roger or the introduction of Rogu (Roger's pint-sized sidekick who serves as a parody of sorts for Grogu from "The Mandalorian"). What makes the episode so enjoyable is that it brings back some of Roger's most memorable alter-egos. On top of Ricky Spanish, we see his archenemy/estranged sister, the intrepid wedding planner, Jeannie Gold.

18. Finger Lenting Good (Season 8, Episode 8)

If there's one word you can use to describe the Smith family, "competitive" might be the most fitting. Time and time again, viewers have watched the Smiths take trivial competitions to unhealthy levels. This mutual competitive nature is on full display in "Finger Lenting Good," an episode that revolves around a bet made among the Smiths: The first one to break their New Year's Resolution will have a finger chopped off by Stan's boss, Avery Bullock.

Alliances get formed and underhanded tactics come into play, with the Smiths trying to trick each other into breaking their resolutions. The bet itself may have grim repercussions for the family, but the episode illustrates just how distinct the characters are. Their respective resolutions are unique and true to their personalities, with Stan trying to give up yelling, Steve trying to stop crying, and so on. It's also one of Bullock's best episodes, with the CIA head honcho at his most unhinged.

17. Ricky Spanish (Season 7, Episode 17)

According to Roger, Ricky Spanish is "a lying, thieving sociopath" and "the worst persona" he has ever dreamed up. There isn't a person in Langley Falls that Ricky hasn't wronged. From burning down petting zoos and assaulting the elderly to murdering Bullock's wife on her birthday, he's a ponytailed thorn in the side of the townspeople. Ricky is hated so much that his reappearance causes a full-scale riot in Langley Falls.

In the Season 7 episode "Ricky Spanish" — the first time fans got to see the now-infamous character — Steve convinces Roger to reassume the persona and apologize to all the people Ricky hurt. Steve has faith in Roger, but he doesn't know Ricky. It seems like his plan is working at first, but in a twist that everyone but Steve saw coming, Ricky stabs him in the back, leaving him to take the fall for a heist. It's one of the most memorable Roger episodes to date.

16. Death by Dinner Party (Season 13, Episode 8)

A spoof of Agatha Christie-style whodunit movies like "Murder by Death" and "Clue," "Death by Dinner Party" finds the Smiths holding an elegant soirée for the most frequently recurring "American Dad!" characters, despite a so-called "dinner party killer" being on the prowl in Langley Falls. When one of the party's guests turns up dead, the characters begin to suspect that someone among them is secretly the killer. Fingers are pointed at Colonel Withersby, a mustachioed, monocle-wearing gentleman who has apparently known the Smiths for years.

Seth MacFarlane is no stranger to murder mystery plots, having wonderfully lampooned the genre in the Emmy-nominated "Family Guy" episode "And Then There Were Fewer." "Death by Dinner Party" is in the same vein, creating a suspenseful atmosphere that builds throughout the episode. The tension reaches boiling point as the bodies start to pile up, but in the end, it's revealed that it was all an elaborate prank to teach Roger a lesson.

15. Old Stan in the Mountain (Season 7, Episode 11)

"Old Stan in the Mountain" revolves around Stan dealing with a curse, one that rapidly ages him. A spoof of the Stephen King novel "Thinner," the episode actually contains a wholesome message underneath the outwardly ridiculous premise: Only after Stan himself reaches an advanced age does he realize that everyone, no matter how old they are, is capable of accomplishing anything they set their mind to. It's a cathartic realization for Stan, who sees the error of his ways, though many of his transgressions — such as nearly killing Hayley and Steve after falsely believing they're trying to euthanize him — go unchecked.

As enjoyable as the main plot of the episode is, it's the B-story that supplies most of the big laughs here. Roger sets his sights on stealing the hair of a former flame so he can create a glorious red wig, and Francine is along for the ride.

14. In Country... Club (Season 5, Episode 1)

Season 5's "In Country... Club" parodies multiple war films, with homages to everything from "Platoon" and "Apocalypse Now" to "The Deer Hunter" and the "Rambo" movies. The episode kicks off with Steve getting asked to perform the national anthem at a local veteran's function, leading Stan to volunteer them for an intense reenactment of the Vietnam War at a nearby country club.

The funniest aspect of "In Country... Club" is just how serious the reenactors take themselves. They make great use of the golf course setting, with golf carts doubling as helicopters and the caddy shack becoming a POW camp. Steve adopts a hardened, cynical worldview from the "horrors" he witnesses during the reenactment, leading to some hilarious moments. It's ridiculous and all over the place, but the scope of the battle and the rousing soundtrack really suck you in.

13. The Vacation Goo (Season 3, Episode 1)

The Smiths will sometimes have heart-to-heart conversations just before the credits roll, reminding viewers that they love each other deep down. However, "American Dad!" derives many of its plots from the family's argumentative nature, stemming from an unwillingness to spend time with each other. "The Vacation Goo" is an example of this, an episode built around Francine and the kids realizing that Stan has secretly been inserting the family into an artificial reality so that they believe they're on vacation. When they're in the "goo," Stan spends time alone.

Though Stan is the first family member to use the "goo" to gaslight everyone into thinking they are spending quality time together, he's not the last — both Hayley and Steve use the machine for their own benefit later in the episode. It's played for laughs, but it's also a poignant story that shows how important it is to spend time together as a family.

12. Virtual In-Stanity (Season 7, Episode 5)

Alongside Roger's eccentric and petty nature, Stan's insecurities provide "American Dad!" with many of its episode arcs. In "Virtual In-Stanity," both Roger and Stan's character traits are on full display. Stan begins to worry about his relationship with Steve when he realizes how absent he's been in his son's life. In an attempt to spend more time with Steve, he begins using a young female android with the outward appearance of a high school girl to hang out with him, though he grows uncomfortable when Steve expresses romantic feelings for the android.

The main plot of "Virtual In-Stanity" is easily one of the strangest in "American Dad!" history, but it ends with a wholesome moment as Stan is finally able to comfort Steve and provide a shoulder to cry on — even if Stan is the person responsible for hurting him in the first place. As good as the main story is — featuring guest appearances from Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan — Roger's B-story easily steals the spotlight. When Roger starts a limo service and gets short-changed by vulgar college frat bros, he begins hunting them down like a slasher villain. In typical Roger fashion, it's completely over-the-top and perfectly illustrates the alien's tendency to overreact to minor offenses.

11. Hurricane! (Season 7, Episode 2)

The Smith household is torn from its foundations in "Hurricane!" and it forces the family to pull together. They have to battle bears, man-eating sharks, and Stan's constant attempts to save them, all of which end up doing more harm than good. "Hurricane!" was the product of Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly wanting to do a crossover with Seth MacFarlane's other animated properties — Peter Griffin and Cleveland Brown both pop up in the episode. "It was something that Kevin Reilly brought up to us and said, 'We haven't really seen this kind of thing on television in a while; it might be kind of cool,'" MacFarlane told The Hollywood Reporter.

Each show released its own hurricane-themed episode as part of Fox's "Night of the Hurricane" crossover event. Of the three episodes, the "American Dad!" offering received the most positive reviews, earning a rating of 8.0 on IMDb ("Family Guy" episode "Seahorse Seashell Party" scored 6.6 and "The Cleveland Show" episode "The Hurricane!" got 6.4 ). Many critics praised the episode's disaster film plotline and the standoff between Stan, Peter, and Cleveland in the final scene. As Peter states in the closing moments, this is "classic 'American Dad!'"

10. The Unincludeds (Season 11, Episode 11)

In "The Unincludeds," Snot and Steve throw a party that they hope will elevate their social standing. When rich versions of themselves travel back in time to warn them that their popularity might mean less successful futures, they try and hopelessly fail to appear "lame" in the eyes of their classmates. The irony of "The Unincludeds" lies in the fact that — despite appearing as awkward nerds in practically every episode of "American Dad!" — Steve and Snot can't help but appear as "cool kids" in front of their fellow students. "As silly as all of this seems (and the constant future jokes keep it light), it's nice to see this rather heavy question get dealt with as these kids try to negotiate through a somewhat serious situation," Den of Geek said in its review.

It's an amusing plotline that would make for a strong standalone episode, but the B-story is even better. The secondary plot is about Roger's petty attempts to get even with a waitress who failed to compliment his "amazing" meal order. When he goes back to the restaurant in disguise and still doesn't get the reaction he's looking for, things get heated in true Roger fashion.

9. Blood Crieth Unto Heaven (Season 8, Episode 10)

Season 8 episode "Blood Crieth Unto Heaven" is another example of "American Dad!" lampooning genre tropes. Designed as though it was written for the stage, "Blood Crieth Unto Heaven" is a melodrama about hidden secrets, forbidden romances, and tragic revelations told in the manner of a 1950s stage play. An exercise in style, "Blood Crieth Unto Heaven" might not be the most laugh-out-loud funny episode, but it's one of the most memorable, enjoyable, and unique "American Dad!" entries to date.

There's period-accurate clothing, a string-heavy background score, flawless stage setup and transitions, over-the-top performances, hard-hitting drama, plot twists galore, and even a tongue-in-cheek introduction by an accomplished Shakespearean actor, Patrick Stewart (who, of course, voices Bullock). "It may not have wall-to-wall jokes, but it packs an emotional wallop inside technical mastery, which can at times be more impressive," the AV Club said in its review of the episode.

8. Familyland (Season 9, Episode 10)

Have you ever imagined what a post-apocalyptic war confined to Disneyland would look like? The answer can be found in "Familyland," one of the funniest "American Dad!" episodes yet. The Smiths are torn into warring factions when the creator of a Disney-esque theme park awakens from his cryogenically frozen state and cuts the place off from the outside world. The episode is "Lord of the Flies" meets "Game of Thrones" set within a Disneyland knock-off, with MacFarlane and his writers mercilessly mocking the animation giant and its theme park properties.

As biting as the humor is and as violent as the "Familyland War" turns out to be, the episode once again touches upon Francine's desire to spend a happy vacation with her family. The Smiths do get some quality time together towards the end of this hilarious episode, even if they come very close to killing each other beforehand.

7. Great Space Roaster (Season 5, Episode 18)

There aren't many TV shows out there in which one of the main characters is a close friend in one episode and a crazed, homicidal killer in the next — but then again, Roger Smith is far from a "normal" sitcom character. In "Great Space Roaster," Roger asks the family to roast him for his 1,601st birthday party, only to swear brutal vengeance for their hurtful comments.

Roger's vindictive nature really has no bounds, and in "Great Space Roaster," we see him go to extreme lengths to make the family pay for jokes that he himself asked them to deliver. It's an episode that shows off Roger's often conflicting personality, someone who can transition from friendly and good-natured to murder-driven, psychotic, and wrathful in an instant. The entire second act of the episode also contains an entertaining parody of "Alien," in which the Smiths try to escape from Roger by launching themselves into space. They soon discover that Roger is aboard their spacecraft and ready to pick them off one by one.

6. For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls (Season 6, Episode 8)

A Christmas-themed horror episode, "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls" begins with Steve accidentally shooting what he believes to be a mall Santa and the family assisting him in covering up the murder. It's soon revealed that the Santa Steve shot was the real Santa Claus, who is alive and out for revenge against the Smiths.

"For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls" is equal parts "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "300." It mixes laughs with some suspenseful scenes involving the evil Santa, and the gory climactic battle in the episode's last act is one of the best "American Dad!" moments ever. Behind all this lies a more grounded story about Stan finally learning to accept Jeff into his family, concluding a storyline the show had been visiting on and off since Jeff's first appearance.

The evil version of Santa would later pop up in the episodes "Minstrel Krampus," "Ninety North, Zero West," and "Santa, Schmanta," though "For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls" remains his most iconic appearance.

5. The Two Hundred (Season 11, Episode 10)

For the 200th episode, "American Dad!" showrunners parodied the post-apocalyptic TV series "The 100," though it's closer to the likes of "Mad Max" in its art design. In the wake of a nuclear incident that has wiped out almost all life on Earth, Stan reflects on his failures as a father and husband in the ruins of Langley Falls, populated by cannibals, looters, and a mysterious, deadly group known only as The Two Hundred.

The entire episode is enjoyable, but the thing that viewers will remember the most is the reveal that the ominous Two Hundred are actually two hundred separate versions of Roger. To nobody's surprise, it was Roger who kickstarted the apocalypse in the first place after he accidentally stumbled into a particle collider. In a who's who of Roger's many personas, fan favorites like Dr. Penguin, Reaganomics Lamborghini, and, of course, Ricky Spanish all make appearances.

4. Tearjerker (Season 3, Episode 10)

"American Dad!" tackles the spy thriller genre in Season 3's "Tearjerker," a parody of the James Bond franchise. Taking place outside the regular continuity of the show, the episode follows Stan as he goes undercover to investigate the villainous Tearjerker, a Blofeld-like character "played" by Roger. His evil plan is to make a movie so sad that millions will cry themselves to death watching it. "Tearjerker" contains many references to classic Bond movies, from the villain's extravagant hideout and his over-the-top plan to the laughably-explicit innuendos.

The episode was met enthusiastically by fans, resulting in "Tearjerker" receiving a favorable IMDb rating of 8.5 and later getting a sequel episode, Season 9's "For Black Eyes Only." It also made it clear that "American Dad!" was capable of lampooning different genres, paving the way for many of the episodes on this list. "A lot of people consider 'Tearjerker' [...] to be one of the show's most enjoyable efforts," said Den of Geek.

3. Rabbit Ears (Season 14, Episode 4)

Anyone who's seen "Rabbit Eats" knows it's completely unlike any other "American Dad!" episode. The jokes are notably dialed back, with the writers instead focusing on building a tense, eerie atmosphere. Stan stumbles across an old TV during garbage day and begins watching it regularly in the family's basement, discovering a program that has no record of ever existing. He becomes obsessed with the mysterious show and is soon drawn into the black-and-white television world it exists in.

"Unsettling" is perhaps the word most fitting for "Rabbit Ears," which more closely resembles a forgotten episode of "The Twilight Zone" than it does an episode of "American Dad!" A good deal is left unresolved, and the episode even has a downbeat twist ending reminiscent of Rod Serling's seminal anthology series. As outside-the-box as "Rabbit Ears" is, it earned it high praise from critics. It ranks as the second highest-rated "American Dad!" episode on IMDb at 8.8, and many fans consider it the best "American Dad!" episode since the series moved to TBS.

2. Lost in Space (Season 8, Episode 18)

Arguably the worst thing that Roger has ever done is sending Jeff into space after he discovered the truth about him being an alien. Jeff's separation from Hayley would last for two whole seasons, with several episodes dedicated to the emotional turmoil it caused her. "Lost in Space" almost exclusively focuses on Jeff and his extraterrestrial adventures aboard a mall-like spaceship inhabited by various alien races and captained by a group of slavers (all of whom are the same species as Roger).

In many ways, it's an episode that feels more like the pilot for a spin-off series starring Jeff, something we'd definitely be down for. The stunning sequence in which Jeff realizes how much he took Hayley for granted is an achievement in itself, but critics also responded positively to the meticulous details and world-building accomplished by the team behind the episode. "'Lost in Space' was a great episode that showed exactly how willing 'American Dad!' is to mess with its format, and how capable it is of succeeding while doing it," said TV Equals.

1. Rapture's Delight (Season 5, Episode 9)

The best episode of "American Dad!" to date, "Rapture's Delight" contains everything fans love about the series and more. Set during the Rapture, it follows a distraught Stan, who learns that he isn't allowed access to heaven and is instead forced to remain on Earth alongside Francine. Feeling betrayed, Francine leaves him for the recently resurrected Jesus, who is destined to fight the Antichrist during the coming Armageddon, with the fate of mankind hanging in the balance. "Rapture's Delight" is pure post-apocalyptic fun, featuring intense sequences of demonic creatures battling humanity, cheesy '80s action one-liners, and a Riddler-like Antichrist played by a shrill-voiced Andy Samberg.

The production value and resemblance to a hard-hitting apocalyptic movie make the episode stand out as the series' best ever. It's the highest-ranked episode of "American Dad!" on IMDb, and it earned universal acclaim from TV critics. "The way the show started out as a fairly standard 'American Dad!' episode and then just gradually went more and more bats*** insane was definitely worth it," said the AV Club. "What other show would reconcile the marital rift between its two main characters by turning to an elaborate parody of every post-apocalyptic film ever made blended with a very literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation?"