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75 Best SNL Episodes Ranked

"Saturday Night Live" has been on the air for over four decades. Each episode produces a full 67 minutes of entertainment, including sketches, short films, and musical performances (or 90 minutes, if you count commercials). That is a lot of TV. When creating that much content over such a long period, not everything is going to land. Sometimes, entire eras of the show fail to click with the public. That's OK, because there's always another chance to hit it out of the park—and when "SNL" achieves that, it's guaranteed to go down in pop culture history and be shared and quoted for years to come.

While there's no such thing as a perfect "SNL" episode since comedy is subjective, we've rounded up and ranked 75 of the very best the show has to offer based largely on IMDb scores. These episodes rank so highly because the host worked exceptionally well with the cast or because there were one or two sketches that struck absolute gold. Apologies ahead of time if a favorite episode or sketch doesn't get a mention. The show has made an impact on multiple generations and it would be impossible to highlight and do justice to everyone's taste.

75. Season 5, Episode 3

Comedy doesn't always age well. What was considered acceptable at the time (even if it wasn't) won't stand with audiences today. This is a good thing as comedic sensibilities need to change with the times if there's going to be any progress. It's important to acknowledge problematic episodes of older shows and recognize why they're a problem.

In the Bill Russell episode of "SNL" from 1979, there is a lot of racial humor that today just looks like straight-up racism. "Black Shadow," the parody of the '70s TV series "White Shadow" (which also had its issues), relies heavily on Black stereotypes. Even the Weekend update features white Americans playing extreme Korean stereotypes that aren't funny in the slightest. If this is enough for you to avoid the episode, that is perfectly justified. 

Despite these serious flaws, this episode still makes the list because of the cast's performances in sketches that still work today. Jane Curtin is a particular standout for playing advice columnist Ann Landers in a sketch about a ridiculous letter written by a woman who thinks everyone is out to get her. Plus, Bill Murray gets to play his lounge singer character and that's always a treat. This is a funny episode that sadly gets bogged down in insensitive nonsense.

74. Season 47, Episode 15

Appearing in anticipation of the impending release of "The Batman" in March 2022, Zoë Kravitz does an excellent job of hosting the show. Not every host, regardless of their usual acting ability, has the ability to appear natural and comfortable on live television. Kravitz turns in a strong performance in each sketch she appears in, which is saying something, since she's utilized in nearly every one.

Right from the start, she excels as Cecily Strong's best friend delivering a totally inappropriate speech at her wedding. Even when she sits next to Kate McKinnon playing a nerdy teenage boy who has no idea how to handle her compliments or make a move, Kravitz is 100% present and committed to the bit. A major highlight of the episode is a commercial parody for an Amazon Go store that invites its customers to simply pick whatever they want off the shelves and leave without visiting a cashier. The juxtaposition between white shoppers who are perfectly comfortable with this idea and non-white shoppers who are understandably suspicious is honest and hilarious. Overall, this is a strong episode with far more hits than misses.

73. Season 35, Episode 11

You never know what you're going to get when an athlete comes to host "SNL." Sometimes they surprise you with their acting ability and comedic timing. Other times, they come off as uncomfortable and stiff. Basketball star Charles Barkley isn't a great actor. His timing is off as well. However, he is so game for the experience that it works. Writers are planted in the audience (including comedian Hannibal Buress) to help him out during his monologue by playing characters he can make fun of. Usually, that's a sign of the host not having a strong enough presence to carry the opening on his own, but Barkley's having so much fun with it that it's charming.

The episode features a funny series of "MacGruber" sketches where the titular hero has to cope with sensitivity training after continuously making racist comments to Barkley's character, Darrel. Barkley also has the chance to play himself in a sketch with Andy Samberg playing a sick child whose wish to commentate on a basketball game is granted. Unfortunately, the kid doesn't understand the game and nothing he says makes sense. Samberg's performance got Barkley to crack and that's always fun to see.

72. Season 37, Episode 22

Legendary rocker Mick Jagger hosts this May 2012 episode. No stranger to acting or performing live, Jagger fits in nicely with the cast. For the most part, the episode is harmless. During a gameshow parody, Jagger plays a closeted gay actor who leans into predatory stereotypes and that's unfortunate. Thankfully, though, those kinds of lazy tropes are limited compared to earlier seasons.

The episode opens with a ridiculous Italian version of the Lawrence Welk show featuring Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig's bizarre character Dooneese, who makes everyone uncomfortable with her outrageously tiny hands. The show also features Bill Hader as the giggly Stefon. Then there's a "Californians" sketch. A soap opera parody where the cast speaks in drawn-out accents and spends most of their time discussing traffic, this installment stands out thanks to an unexpected cameo by the fantastic Steve Martin.

71. Season 13, Episode 3

Dabney Coleman is an incredibly underrated comedic actor. Perhaps best known as the boss in "9 to 5," Coleman has been mastering the art of portraying the average, generic American man who is also a bit of sleaze for decades. At the height of his career, he hosted this Halloween episode of "SNL," featuring a guest appearance from another underrated performer, Cassandra Peterson, as Elvira.

Coleman brings his usual energy to the episode. He excels as a Boy Scout troop leader who turns ghost stories around the campfire into the bitter rantings of an angry man trapped in a miserable marriage. He's perfect as a misogynistic marriage counselor who would rather drink beer and talk golf with his male patient than listen to his wife. As is the case with any episode of "SNL," not every sketch hits (like the high school mascot bit), but the strength of the cast and charisma of the host shine through enough to keep you watching.

70. Season 36, Episode 13

Following the release of "The Social Network," Jesse Eisenberg hosted "SNL," where he actually came face-to-face with the real-life Mark Zuckerberg. The opening monologue gets things off to a bumpy start, but the show quickly starts to pick up steam. A parody of "Mr. Wizard" sees adolescents learning about static electricity and unintentionally discovering puberty. Bill Hader plays the out-of-touch reporter Herb Welch, who often abuses interviewees with his microphone. The Lonely Island gives us a video for their song "The Creep," featuring cameos from musical guest Nicki Minaj and creep-master John Waters.

Eisenberg also plays the assistant to a mad scientist creating a spouse (Minaj) for his monster, the always-excellent Kenan Thompson, in an imaginary sequel to the 1979 blaxploitation film "Blackenstein" called "Bride of Blackenstein." The skit is a funny lampoon of racist tropes. Then there's the send-up of the MTV series "Skins." In the segment, "Skins" gets into trouble for inappropriate depictions of their young characters and loses all their sponsors. The show must resort to awkward product placement from places like Kennedy Fried Chicken and The Sweater Dump. It's a pretty strong episode that holds up fairly well, minus outdated depictions of the trans community.

69. Season 33, Episode 7

The Amy Adams episode from 2008 has all the same outdated jokes that other episodes from that time had, but the sketches that shy away from those topics really shine. Right away, the show kicks into gear with a sketch called "Mirror Image" where Kristen Wiig and Adams play twins who used to look so similar that they could trick anyone into believing they're the same person. Unfortunately, as they got older, Wiig's character took a different path. Seeing them play out a tired plot from classic sitcoms when the differences between them are so obvious is hysterical and worth a rewatch.

Wiig and Adams also work well together in "Traffic School," a sketch featuring the character Penelope, who consistently one-ups everyone regardless of the topic. Adams stars in an excellent couples counseling sketch. She's the counselor while Will Forte plays an oblivious husband who doesn't understand that his wife, played by Amy Poehler, just married him to become an American citizen. Although the joke is obvious, the progression of their meeting keeps it feeling fresh. 

68. Season 34, Episode 6

Jon Hamm made a name for himself in such a renowned and hyper-serious drama ("Mad Men") that you can't quite imagine him being any good at comedy, but the actor shattered any misconceptions about his comedic abilities when he hosted "SNL" in 2008. Although his monologue pokes fun at the fact that "Mad Men" wasn't quite the ubiquitous critical and commercial smash it would later become, it's obvious that the audience knows exactly who he is and he is very good at leaning into that fact.

He actually gets to play his star-making character Don Draper in a "Mad Men" sketch where Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig play two "a-holes" in an ad agency. He reprises the role in a PSA educating men how to be as heartless and womanizing as he is. He also nailed it with characters unrelated to his famous role. In one of the episode's first sketches, "Trick-or-Treat," Hamm plays a local man trying to figure out if the man at his door (Will Forte) is actually a registered sex offender or just dressing like one for Halloween. 

This is a much better than average episode that also stands out thanks to an unexpected announcement. During "Weekend Update," Seth Meyers lets everyone know that Amy Poehler was in the process of having her baby (something she details in her memoir "Yes Please"), making this one of his first times hosting the segment alone.

67. Season 5, Episode 1

Steve Martin is a natural choice for "Saturday Night Live." He hosted or appeared on the show so often that you almost can't believe he was never a cast member. In the opening episode of Season 5, Martin puts his goofy style on full display by playing a Pope that Garrett Morris won't allow anyone to see. His monologue features composer Howard Shore conducting a band that interrupts his bit about becoming a male model, allowing him to dance like the corniest man alive.

Martin also plays a Spanish language tutor who shows up at Gilda Radner and Bill Murray's house volunteering to teach them Spanish free of charge. He impresses them at first, but overstays his welcome and refuses to leave. The three comedy greats are fantastic together here. He's also excellent as a Roman Centurion dealing with mildly inconvenient pranks pulled by a Germanic tribe considered to be the worst marauders in existence, despite their relatively low-key attacks.

In a commercial for a product called "Rise," Martin's silly demeanor perfectly sells this wild product that allows you to levitate above public toilets to avoid touching their dirty surfaces. Even when he plays a man suffering from a stab wound while Carole King finishes writing her famous song "Just Call Out My Name," you can't help but laugh at his over-the-top reactions. This episode is solid that even modern fans could enjoy it.

66. Season 41, Episode 9

It's always exciting when a former cast member returns to host the show. When those former cast members also happen to be two titans of the series Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, it is doubly exciting. Seeing as this was the Christmas show, it opens with a musical number meant to explain how different Fey and Poehler are despite their longstanding friendship.

A sketch in which Kate McKinnon and Poehler play past and present versions of Hillary Clinton did not age well since most of it focuses on current Hillary convincing 2008 Hillary that she's going to win the 2016 election—which obviously didn't happen. There's a fun music video with Fey and Poehler rapping about their amazing squad, which includes a shot of Gayle King firing a bazooka.

The real standout sketch, though, is "Meet Your Second Wife." It's a game show of sorts where three men married men are introduced to their future spouses. Each one of them will go on to marry significantly younger women, so the people they meet are children. When Cecily Strong comes out, Kenan Thompson is relieved that his second wife isn't that young compared to the others. Then it's revealed that she is actually three months pregnant with his future wife.

65. Season 37, Episode 21

This is another episode with an "SNL" legend coming back to host. When Ferrell left the show, he went on to a successful film career. He continues to try new things whenever he can, ensuring he remains relevant long after departing the show that gave him his big break. It is a treat every time he steps back into Studio 8H.

This 2012 episode is a Mother's Day episode. During his monologue, Will brings his mother on stage. He confesses that almost everything he's ever said to her has been scripted and he would like to speak to her from the bottom of his heart. When he tries, it goes horribly. After the opening, there's a commercial for a cold medicine called Nasaflu. Ferrell plays a man whose sneezes are obnoxiously loud. No matter what his wife Kristen Wiig does or where she goes, his sneeze is there.

Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte play sports commentators on ESPN covering ladies' golf. Sudeikis is desperate to keep to the topic at hand, but Forte is too clueless to comply. There's a celebration for the 100th "SNL" digital short, but it's mostly callbacks to other shorts. On "Weekend Update," Andy Samberg plays Nicolas Cage interviewing Liam Neeson, and he brings up a very good point: why wasn't Nicolas Cage in "Battleship?" The strangest and most dazzling sketch is the Funkytown debate, where nearly the entire cast takes part and everything is chaos. This episode really holds up.

64. Season 38, Episode 10

Martin Short is a performer who dives so deeply into a character, no matter how ridiculous it is, that you believe it. Not only that, but he knows just how far to push it to make others crack. This can be seen in this Christmas episode he hosts, when he plays an emissary to the royal family giving instructions to the OB/GYN played by Bill Hader.

Hader is trying his best to maintain his composure, but chuckles just keep coming through. At one point, Short just stares at him, milking the awkwardness for all it's worth. When the scene continues, his delivery is even more over the top, making Hader laugh even harder. There are two great characters on "Weekend Update" as well. First is Vanessa Bayer as Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, who can't hold a conversation without his scripted jokes. Then Cecily Strong plays a slightly inebriated woman at a party you wish you hadn't started a conversation with.

Plus, any episode featuring the sketch "What's Up With That?" is great. The sketch doesn't make a lot of sense, but Kenan Thompson always pulls off a tour de force in his role of a talk show host who would rather sing than give his poor guests a chance to speak. This isn't the funniest episode ever produced, but everyone seems to be having so much fun that you can't help but love it.

63. Season 45, Episode 7

Will Ferrell is back for Thanksgiving. This episode begins with Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump and a rare cold open host appearance. Ryan Reynolds is in the audience during the monologue and Will is starstruck. Once he finds out that Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively are fans of his, Ferrell can't function. Ryan tells him to do the monologue, but Will responds by impersonating Tracy Morgan, saying, "No! The monologue is terrible!" The real Tracey Morgan even pops in for a bit.

There's a fun commercial for a product called Heinz Relax: a ketchup bottle that sighs sensually when used. Then things move onto a star-studded Democratic debate. Rachel Dratch plays Amy Klobuchar, Woody Harrelson plays Joe Biden, and Maya Rudolph plays a Kamala Harris who is desperate for her own viral moment. Unfortunately, there's a sketch that puts modern conservative talking points in the mouth of Pocahontas. They try to make a joke about having non-Native people playing the character, but it's pretty weak.

The rest of the episode is solid, though. There's a music video about a teacher crashing a high school party, a family bickering while filming a pizza commercial, a sketch about an alternate ending to "The Wizard of Oz" where non-little people play little people, and a very funny bit about a ventriloquist who may be abusing his dummy. The episode is uneven but still strong.

62. Season 39, Episode 6

Lady Gaga hosts this 2013 episode. In "Waking Up With Kimye," Kim Kardashian and Kanye West host a talk show about how wonderful they are in almost every way. While Lady Gaga does a fine job playing an Apple Genius, the funniest moment comes from Jay Pharoah's West, who is so impressed by a pasta necklace made by Kim that he declares his wife has changed the game because "food is jewelry now." During "Weekend Update," Kenan Thompson is so upset by Christmas decorations in November that he runs around the city yelling at everyone and tearing things down.

In the back half of the episode, we get a strange bit of foreshadowing in a sketch about two potential tenants applying for acceptance into a New York City building. While the entire panel is weird and funny, Lady Gaga plays a woman who apparently inspired Marisa Tomei's character in the classic film "My Cousin Vinny." She looks remarkably close to her role of Patrizia Reggiani in "House of Gucci," which is startling at first but doesn't take away from the rest of the cast.

One of the standout sketches was "Spotlightz! Acting Camp for Serious Kids." Child actors learn their craft by recreating G-rated scenes from very serious movies and TV. Everyone radiates nervous kid energy and it's pure silliness. Another goofy sketch that works is the "Rosé Zone," a channel that curates the most extreme reality show moments for women who don't want to watch sports.

61. Season 12, Episode 1

The premiere of Season 12 starts with a cold open monologue that's clever but doesn't totally land. Madonna opens the show by apologizing for the entirety of Season 11. Since she hosted the previous year's episode, NBC thought she'd be the perfect choice to read their official statement claiming it was all a dream. Host Sigourney Weaver brings out playwright Christopher Durang to present some really heavy material, but the show cuts to commercials before they can get started. Again, two funny ideas that still somehow miss the mark.

Despite these false notes, the episode makes this list because of some classic sketches. For instance, Kevin Nealon does his subliminal messaging act. He's done it on "Weekend Update" and it always kills. Then there's "Church Chat" with Dana Carvey playing the sarcastic and condescending Church Lady. While it's structurally similar to every "Church Chat," Sigourney Weaver reprises her "Ghostbusters" role, and that's great to see. Plus, this episode sees the original airing of the "Chopping Broccoli" sketch, where Carvey plays a creatively bankrupt songwriter who freestyles a terrible song about the vegetable.

Also, the "Quiz Master" sketch has a nice arc to it. Carvey plays a game show contestant who is also psychic. While it serves him well at first, he starts getting visions of a meteor. Finally, the meteor crashes into the studio and takes out his opponent. It's refreshing to see a sketch with a strong beginning, middle, and end.

60. Season 3, Episode 9

Another fun Steve Martin episode begins with a chaotic monologue. The host is all over the place in the best way. Then there's a classic mineral water commercial. Swill mineral water is so fresh that it is bottled directly from a river and shipped to stores. Of course, this means it's full of litter and has a frightening consistency. Jim Belushi and Gilda Radner play a husband and wife with enormous feet that serve as the inspiration for Big Foot.

Martin and Dan Aykroyd bring out their questionable but funny Two Wild and Crazy Guy characters. Regardless of what happens within those sketches, their personalities and excitement over the lamest things are always funny. During "Weekend Update," the phenomenal character Roseanne Roseannadanna goes off on food after being asked a question about not having any heat. The best sketch though is "Family Feud." At first, it appears the humor will be coming from a family in the romaine lettuce business. Then The Coneheads come out and the comedy really kicks into gear. As far as early "SNL" goes, this one holds up very well.

59. Season 3, Episode 10

The very next episode this season has comedian Robert Klein return. After a cold open with Garrett Morris in drag, Klein comes out to perform some standup. Then they jump right into the cheeseburger place sketch. The comedy here really comes from the rhythm of the dialogue. Customers try to order typical diner food and drink, but the place doesn't serve any. All they have are cheeseburgers and Pepsi. The owners and operators of the eatery continually repeat the word "cheeseburger" until you can't help but chuckle at it.

There's a bizarre sketch where violent "X-Police" brutally assaults a couple. They're there because the couple is unmarried and the X-Police cannot abide that. Once they take things too far, they frame Robert Klein's character for murder. The punchline hits when you realize this was meant to be a snippet from a terrible drama series called, you guessed it, "X-Police."

While most of the sketches work well, the one everyone will likely remember is Bill Murray's lounge singer. If you've ever encountered the character before, it's probably from his rendition of the "Star Wars" theme song. This is where that sketch appeared and it still works today.

58. Season 4, Episode 8

Eric Idle from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" hosts this Season 4 episode. The monologue section is one of those where the host finds an excuse to walk around the studio looking for someone. In this case, he needs the writers because no one has given him the monologue. These bits can be dull, but it works here because everything is so cartoonish. Unfortunately, the payoff is underwhelming and potentially inappropriate.

Later on, there's a sketch that swings back and forth between funny and just plain bizarre. Idle plays Prince Charles, who has fled the UK to live in a trailer with a 13-year-old American. The idea of Prince Charles falling for a poorly educated American is funny, especially when she wants to mother future King Darryl, but making her so young is uncomfortable, particularly when viewed in light of the accusations against his brother, Prince Andrew. Ignore that aspect (if you can) and the sketch has some great moments.

During "Weekend Update," Gilda Radner does a spot-on impression of actress Valerie Harper. Singer Kate Bush is the musical guest and it's great to see her after her relatively recent resurgence in the public eye thanks to "Stranger Things." Later on, though, she stops the show as an energetic rockstar who's a little too inebriated to record, but gives it her all anyway.

57. Season 2, Episode 3

Chevy Chase began distancing himself from "Saturday Night" (as it was then called) during Season 2. This episode begins with Richard Belzer pretending to be Chevy Chase doing "Weekend Update." He gets a call from the real Chase giving him a hard time. It's an unusual cold open, but most of the episodes of the first few years of the show are strange when compared to what it would become.

Eric Idle of "Monty Python" fame hosts and fits right in. You might think that someone so closely associated with a legendary sketch series would steal the show. Instead, he comes across like another cast member, working well with the rest of The Not Ready for Prime Time Players (the collective name for the cast). Longtime fans of the series will likely have a fondness for the Killer Bees characters, though they don't hold up so well today. At least the episode has Gilda Radner's classic impression of journalist Barbara Walters.

Jane Curtin ends up hosting "Weekend Update" solo in this episode, as opposed to sharing those duties with Bill Murray or Dan Aykroyd. Another standout is Lorne Michaels himself following up on his offer to have The Beatles host. Apparently, Eric Idle said he would bring The Beatles with him, but some tailoring issues prevented them from coming. This leads to Idle's mockumentary about a Beatles parody band The Rutles.

56. Season 5, Episode 2

Eric Idle is back and this time he's sick. In the opening for Season 5's second episode, Eric Idle is strapped to a gurney because of an extremely high fever. They turn it into a bunch of sight gags that are pretty weak. Things pick up, though, when Eric Idle plays a shoe salesman who cannot give Bill Murray a straight answer. It plays like a "Monty Python" sketch with random free kisses from the salesman's daughters, his bafflement at the idea of Murray wanting to buy two shoes, and his constant arguing. It's a real bright spot that still holds up.

Something "SNL" doesn't do much anymore is inviting a comedian and just having them do their thing for a few minutes. In this episode, performance artist Andy Kaufman comes on stage and wrestles a female audience member. It goes on for a very long time and is only funny because of how awkward it is. Of course, that was Kaufman's gift: making the audience uncomfortable. While it may not make you laugh, it is a fascinating relic of the show's infancy and their willingness to just try things out.

55. Season 20, Episode 20

Season 20 is something of a transitional time for the show. The cast has a lot of recognizable faces who have gone on to become "SNL" legends, but there's a unique blend of '80s holdovers, '90s icons, and a glimpse at what was on the horizon. It's an underrated cast with the likes of the incredible Michael McKean, Kevin Nealon, Mark McKinney, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, and Molly Shannon. This season finale hosted by David Duchovny really highlights how solid this cast was.

There are great sketches with Farley and Sandler playing Hank and Beverly Gelfand, who can't decide what to watch. Jay Mohr plays an aging '80s rockstar who now works as a real estate agent. Norm Macdonald is great on "Weekend Update," and even the sketch where the cast is eaten by polar bears is fun just because everyone meshes so well. However, the best piece in the whole thing is the cold open where David Duchovny searches the studio for an elusive beast roaming its halls. It's a great sendup of both "The X-Files" and Duchovny himself.

54. Season 2, Episode 23

Early in the 20th season, John Travolta hosts "SNL" to promote the release of "Pulp Fiction." His monologue is about his career and how he didn't feel the need to reference old work—while, of course, referencing his old work. He's a fun host who appears willing to commit to whatever bit they throw at him. For instance, he plays a gangster who is hard of hearing. It's obviously a spoof of the classic "Goodfellas" scene where Joe Pesci goes off on Ray Liotta for saying he's funny, except this time, Travolta's character really does misunderstand what people are saying and gets everything turned around.

His real tour de force in the episode, though, is the "Larry King Live" sketch where he plays legendary actor Marlon Brando. He comes off just as aloof as the real actor. Larry just wants to talk about Marlon's new book about acting, but Marlon wants to play tricks on him and get him to rub his feet. It isn't exactly a kind portrait of the actor, but Travolta's willingness to really go for it makes the whole thing hilarious.

53. Season 2, Episode 22

The straight man is a necessary part of comedy that often gets overlooked. As funny as it is to have characters losing their minds with quirks, you need a grounded character to serve as the audience's surrogate. It is their reaction to the zany behavior of the wilder characters that viewers can relate to and that makes them laugh. In the finale of Season 2, actor and comedian Buck Henry plays the perfect straight man.

It's not that he isn't capable of acting like a living cartoon; he just really excels at playing someone who appears normal. For example, there's a very funny sketch where Bill Murray is hosting a pretend TV show from his shower. He invites his wife in and the two chat for a bit before he confronts her about her infidelity. When she denies it, he brings in the man she's been sleeping with, played by Buck Henry. The situation is ridiculous on so many levels, but it works because everyone in that sketch feels like a real person.

We see the host's goofier side when playing pilot Charles Lindbergh all alone in his plane, losing his sanity a little bit. However, he comes across as perfectly reasonable even when his actions are less so. The sketch is topped off by a great appearance from Land Shark. There's also a wild Coneheads sketch in this one that goes to some surprising places.

52. Season 17, Episode 14

Given the controversy surrounding Roseanne during the last few years, it is perfectly understandable if you're unwilling to give this episode a chance. However, if you're willing to appreciate the rest of the cast, then chances are very good that you'll have a ball with this episode. The early '90s cast was stellar. This was a time when Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Ellen Cleghorne, Julia Sweeney, and Chris Rock were walking the halls and it was fantastic.

Watching this episode will remind you how much fun this cast was, how strong their sketches were, and just how funny the show can be when everyone is firing on all cylinders. From Phil Hartman playing Jesus to Barbra Streisand showing up on an episode of "Coffee Talk" (that also happens to feature Madonna), from the always-great Stuart Smalley to "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handy, this episode is chock-full of excellence.

51. Season 17, Episode 6

An earlier episode from Season 17 is even better than Episode 14. It features Linda Hamilton as the host. There to promote "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," her monologue shows landmarks from her childhood exploding because she's an action star. The episode just goes from strength to strength with this cast melding so well together to produce both memorable characters and sketches.

Classic character Pat has a sketch where they are applying for a gym membership. The jokes about the character's androgyny don't hold up well now, but the character is still funny. Julia Sweeney just knows how to express herself under that costume and it always works. One shocking sketch that is just as hysterically gross as the night it aired was "Massive Headwound Harry."

Dana Carvey plays Harry, a man with a massive head wound who gets blood all over everything. There's a moment involving a dog that's too good to spoil here. Again, this was a second golden age for the show that doesn't get brought up enough. A lot of the sketches still work, the hosts are all committed, and everything comes together nicely.

50. Season 32, Episode 19

"SNL" superstar Molly Shannon takes over as the host in this really fun episode. There were some problematic sketches, like a fringe political debate, but the show really shines when they let Shannon loose. Her greatest gift as a comedic performer is larger-than-life characters. During her original tenure on the show, she created the fantastic Mary Katherine Gallagher, a character so funny that she got her own movie in 1999.

That's not to say that Shannon can't play down-to-earth characters as well. It's just that she is so good at the more absurd roles. For proof, look no further than this episode's "Sopranos" sketch. Master impressionist Darrell Hammond plays Tony Soprano. He needs to let a new dancer audition for their club. The other dancers leave and the one and only Sally O'Malley walks out. This is a character in her '50s who is very proud of her age and doesn't mind how uncomfortable she makes people.

She goes so hard in this sketch showing off her kicks, bragging about her life experiences, and pulling her red pants up way too high that there's a moment where Darrell Hammond breaks. He hides it well, but he is definitely laughing. It can't be easy to make that comedic chameleon lose it on air, but Molly Shannon did it. There's also a great Amy Poehler sketch with Shannon as her mother and a lounge act with Maya Rudolph and Molly and they're both magic.

49. Season 32, Episode 10

Season 32 is another one of those transitional seasons. While most of the cast will go on to dominate the show over the next few years, there are a few veterans from the '90s and turn of the 21st century still performing. The most interesting aspect of this episode is seeing how their styles work together. Certain sketches feel like they would've worked well with a little help from Will Ferrell, while others would've definitely been smashes once the newer cast solidified themselves.

That's not to say the sketches don't work. You can just see the differences. The more surreal elements are obviously designed for the newbies, while the traditional sketches fit very well with heroes like Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph. For instance, the "Laser Cats" sketch looks rougher than probably intended because the primary parties involved (Andy Samberg and Bill Hader) were still finding their footing. Much of it is intentional, but the timing issues are likely a result of the pair being untested.

Then there's the "Law & Order" acting class. It's a polished sketch that still holds up today. Poehler is excellent as the acting teacher imparting her wisdom to students who wish to be cast in one of the "Law & Order" shows. Host Jake Gyllenhaal is fine in the scene, but if Will Ferrell had played the cocky actor who knows he's got what it takes to be a minor character, it might have been a classic.

48. Season 33, Episode 5

Following the end of the writer's strike, Tiny Fey returns to "SNL" as the host. Usually, when a former cast member drops by to host, we get to see their famous characters again. Although Fey did perform in sketches, she was primarily known as co-anchor on "Weekend Update." We didn't revisit any classic characters (because she didn't really have any), but she did guest anchor on "Update," which was nice to see.

By this time, ultra-specific references (like an entire sketch inspired by Daniel Plainview's milkshake speech in "There Will Be Blood") and more surreal jokes ("Grandkids in the Movies") are becoming the "SNL" norm. More traditional sketches are phasing out and the newer cast is rising to prominence. A lot of the more niche sketches are funny ideas, even if they don't always land.

One more traditional sketch about Jason Sudeikis giving a wedding toast holds up really well and probably has one of the best final lines the show's seen. Sudeikis points out that 50% of marriages end in divorce while the other 50 end in death. He then says to the bride and groom, "I hope you die."

47. Season 31, Episode 13

With Natalie Portman hosting, "SNL" spoofs the public's perception of her. They got started right away with questions from the audience. Everyone who stands up is dressed as a stereotypical nerd and they ask deep-cut "Star Wars" questions. However, Natalie crushes them with her own knowledge of the prequels, putting them to shame.

During "Weekend Update," Kenan Thompson comes out to play an exaggerated version of himself. He's there because two of the biggest movies in recent memory featured Black men in drag. To make money on this trend, he releases a fashion line specifically directed at male comedians of color dressing like women. The drag part isn't what's funny, it's the silliness of the costumes. Instead of making fun of men in women's clothing, they are laughing at how ridiculous the clothing itself looks.

Of course, if this episode is remembered for anything, it's Natalie Portman rapping. Again, playing with how the public perceives her as strait-laced and hyper-feminine, Portman is a hard-edged monster in this video.  

46. Season 34, Episode 22

You can't really go wrong with bringing back Will Ferrell as a host. Despite his incredible success in film, he's a performer uniquely suited for "SNL" because he knows how to work with the audience both in the studio and at home simultaneously. There's a confidence in his performances that is unparalleled. He seems to be constantly aware of what you're thinking about him while acting as though he doesn't care. It's a very unique skill that just plays like gangbusters on the show.

His presence here means we get the return of some classic bits. A real treat is "Celebrity Jeopardy." Not only is Darrell Hammond back as Sean Connery, but Tom Hanks plays himself in the sketch. Also, Norm Macdonald cameos with his impeccable and hilarious Burt Reynolds impression. On "Weekend Update," Ferrell brings back Harry Carey and it's just as great here as it's always been. This season finale really closed the year out on a massive high.

45. Season 35, Episode 16

Zach Galifianakis hosts this really strong episode that opens with him doing some of his standup bits during the monologue. Given Galifianakis' ability to play really absurd and strange characters, it's surprising just how subdued this episode is. The majority of sketches are simple and straightforward. For example, there's an early sketch where Zach and Kristen Wiig are obsessed with the bidet in their hotel bathroom. This could've gone over the top, but instead, it's very simple. The couple just keeps asking hypotheticals about the bidet, which might not sound funny on paper, but is great in execution. 

Another super simple sketch is one in which Galifianakis finds himself on the set of random television shows. First, he's in the background of "NBC News." Then, he's on "Dr. Oz" as a volunteer. He even wanders onto the sets of "30 Rock" and "Law & Order." Each time, he appears overjoyed at the fact that he's on television. He doesn't do or say anything crazy or cartoonish. He's just very happy about being on TV.

The one exception is "Pageant Talk," where Galifianakis plays the co-host of a talk show all about pageants. The idea that he's a closeted gay man with a daughter and an angry wife is tired, but his enthusiastic performance is hysterical. Even though his wife is giving him a hard time, he is so dedicated to this show and the topic that he presses on, and that saves the sketch from disaster.

44. Season 41, Episode 7

It's no secret that Chris Hemsworth can be a very funny performer. From "Ghostbusters" in 2016 to the later "Thor" and "Avengers" films, he's proven time and again that he is far more than just muscles. The guy is a charm machine who isn't afraid to look as stupid as possible to make you laugh. His return to hosting "SNL" in 2015 proves that. Right away, he's walking around backstage, rough-housing with the cast and acting like a jerk, but it's funny.

He fits right in with everyone. During the "Brother 2 Brother" sketch, he feels like a member of the cast. Every time he shows up, he crushes his delivery. Even when he's asked to play himself dressed as a woman to find out if women still find him attractive, the transition from terrible disguise to earnest performer is seamless. Not only does he shine here, but the rest of the cast is doing some phenomenal work feeding off of his energy as well. This is the kind of host you wish they'd get more often.

43. Season 38, Episode 1

Seth MacFarlane is the creator of "Family Guy," in addition to doing many of the voices for the show. He's also something of a song and dance man. He has a classic Hollywood sensibility about his on-stage persona that contrasts with his irreverent animated shows. Sure, he uses the songs to address taboo topics (like his controversial song from the Oscars), but he seems like someone who would be right at home on Broadway.

Interestingly enough, the Season 38 premiere he hosted actually works best when he's playing characters we've never seen him do before. The monologue leans into his "Family Guy" roots and his affinity for song a little too much, but the rest of the show places him in scenarios where he plays regular people, or slightly off people. Take the puppet sketch, where he plays an excited instructor who is a little quirky, but otherwise normal. This perfectly sets up Hader's tortured veteran character to go as extreme as he wants. Without Seth's grounded character, the sketch wouldn't have worked.

He primarily functions as a utility player in this episode. He doesn't mesh as well with the cast as other hosts, but he does a good job supporting them when they need it instead of the other way around, and that is great to see.

42. Season 17, Episode 17

Sharon Stone, freshly famous from "Basic Instinct," hosts this "SNL" from 1992. Many of the sketches she appeared in center around her effect on the male gaze. The approach is dated and very sexist. In one sketch in particular, she passes through a metal detector at the airport, where the security guards are overly eager to remove her clothing. The sketch is further hampered by Dana Carvey's stereotype-laden role as an Indian man.

The episode gets better the further it moves away from the easy sex jokes. Commercial parodies for Jiffy Pop airbags and a brush that clears your lungs of cigarette gunk are particularly great. A sketch about a chihuahua that likes to flip its way around town (before getting hit by Toonces the driving cat) is so weird it should be considered a classic. Chris Rock and Ellen Cleghorne also get a nice little sketch where they own a shop together.

41. Season 18, Episode 4

It's always a delight when Christopher Walken hosts "SNL." On the one hand, he is instantly recognizable. You know him the moment you see him. On the other hand, he's able to disappear in any role you give him as he simply becomes the character.

That makes him excellent in sketch comedy. While it is funny to see him acting so silly, you accept it after a few seconds and just enjoy the character. Like when he plays the Trivial Psychic in an obvious spoof of "The Dead Zone." As the sketch continues, though, you just see this new character and laugh at how mundane his predictions are.

The same goes for "The Continental." It's hilarious to see Walken with a thin mustache and long cigarette at first. After about 30 seconds, though, he's just this creepy dude who should really let that woman lead. Not every sketch is a home run, but Walken is so compelling you can't help but enjoy it.

40. Season 40, Episode 22

The 40th anniversary special is a giant celebration of all things "Saturday Night Live." Aside from all the clips from four decades worth of entertainment, it's a star-studded affair with an audience of famous people. Everyone seems to be having a blast in the studio and it really comes across on camera. This episode is like one big party where everyone is funny and very, very famous.

There are also original sketches written for the special itself. All of them are crowd-pleasing callbacks that work exceedingly well. Cast members of different eras to work together for the first time, unifying everyone. It gives the audience the impression that being on "SNL" really is special and even if you don't become a megastar, your participation was important. Of course, they can't fit everyone in, but there's enough representation to give a fan of any era a hit of nostalgia. 

One of the best moments comes from a montage of auditions. Not only do we get to see our favorite cast members try out for the show, but those who don't make it (like Jim Carrey and Kevin Hart) are there as well.

39. Season 17, Episode 9

It doesn't matter the decade or who the cast is, Steve Martin will always fit right in on "Saturday Night Live." The man is essentially an honorary cast member and never has a problem working alongside the current cast. That's what's so great about the cold open to this Season 17 episode. Martin is feeling down. His heart isn't into hosting anymore. The show used to mean something to him, but not anymore.

Then he decides to give it all he's got. He's going to go out there and give it his all. A massive musical number follows and it's impressive because nearly everyone working on the show is involved. He embraces his status and is a team player with all the young folks around him. Sadly, the rest of the episode doesn't live up to that opening. Some of the sketches are offensive (including the use of a homophonic slur that is really out of place) and did not date well at all. 

However, there are some really fun ones, like Steve Martin walking through the hall calling people cowards and slapping them across the face. It shouldn't be funny, but it is. Chris Rock's segment is mostly funny until he calls Michael Jackson a transvestite. This is a mixed bag, really. That cold open, though, is well worth a watch.

38. Season 16, Episode 4

If this episode has been remembered for anything, it's the "Chippendales Audition" sketch. It sees host Patrick Swayze and cast member Chris Farley both auditioning for the chance to be Chippendales dancers. The difference between them is obvious: Chris Farley is overweight and sweaty, while Patrick Swayze is Patrick Swayze. If you have any passing familiarity with this era of the show, you know this sketch.

Opinions amongst the folks involved are mixed. Bob Odenkirk (a writer on the show at the time) and Chris Rock both feel it played into Chris' fears and anxieties about his appearance. Robert Smigel (also a writer at the time) believes the sketch works because the audience is amazed at Farley's agility. Your view is your own. What can't be denied is that it has gone down in history and will likely be remembered for years to come.

Another sketch in this episode should also be remembered: a seminar all about mousetraps. The people in the class are confused about why they can't simply take the cheese from the trap if they want it. Kevin Nealon attempts to explain, but it doesn't get through. It's dumb but hilarious in its simplicity. Also, there are brief cameos from Bob Odenkirk and Conan O'Brien. 

37. Season 2, Episode 15

This is a strange episode. Sissy Spacek is the host and she's almost too good for the show. In a sketch where she and John Belushi play a recently married couple bickering over their lives together, the drama feels real, like they decided to throw a one-act play in the middle of an episode. Spacek pulls out all the stops, showing us the acting chops she wielded in "Carrie" and would use in "Coal Miner's Daughter" a few years later. The skit has some laughs, but the agony her character feels is so raw you almost miss the jokes.

Then there's this bit where two writers come out to improvise something. This is funny, but goes on so much longer than you'd expect. There's also a funny skit about three adult women suffer from being terminally cute. Luckily, Jane Curtin is there to tell us that the condition can be corrected, as she herself used to suffer from the same ailment.

A fast-food parody where the customers all want super-specific orders almost feels like it could have been an "All That" sketch it's so innocent. The end of the episode has an elongated sequence of clips showing Sissy Spacek on set provided by Robert Altman that is certainly interesting, but not funny. This episode should be seen just to witness how the show was finding itself.

36. Season 2, Episode 10

Candice Bergen was always a great "SNL" host. Like Steve Martin, she comes off like part of the cast. She has chemistry with everyone she performs with and always delivers on what the sketches need her to do. She's a pro, but also capable of losing it live on air. In one sketch with Gilda Radner, she forgets the character's name and starts breaking. Gilda leans into it by explaining to the audience that both she and Candice are extremely stupid. The whole time, Bergen is laughing like crazy and so is the audience.

The opening monologue is a real high point as well. Candice is distraught over some romantic falling out she's had with John Belushi and the whole thing turns into the ending of "Casablanca." During "Consumer Probe," Bergen calls out Dan Aykroyd's dangerous toys for kids, including a bag of glass simply called Bag O'Glass. As is the case with many of these early shows that made the list, a modern fan could watch this one and have a really good time. 

35. Season 1, Episode 22

This episode celebrates the successful first season of the show by bringing back Elliott Gould to host. Everyone is on fire in this episode. The cast is working together in a way that makes you remember why they continue to be legends in the "SNL" pantheon. While Gould's monologue was just him singing without any real jokes, when the sketches start, the episode hits its stride.

One skit where Aykroyd plays an oblivious Southern man in a game of cards with a man who doesn't speak English is a script you could produce today. The punchline that the man has been conning Aykroyd the whole time is obvious, but anticipating his reaction is what keeps you watching. By far the best sketch, though, is "Star Trek: The Last Voyage," where the Enterprise encounters an old car in space.

The crew tries to figure out what the aliens want, only to learn that it is an executive from NBC arriving to cancel the show and take the sets away. We learn that we haven't been watching Captain Kirk and Spock but William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy refusing to give up the adventure. Given the success "Star Trek" would continue to see over the decades, it's hilarious to see the network that originally ended it be satirized for its poor decision. One word of caution to those who may be sensitive to such things: the episode does contain a photo of a bare breast. 

34. Season 25, Episode 16

Christopher Walken is back as host. He's really great in a census sketch where he does not understand the questions. Tim Meadows plays the man asking the questions and his everyman persona in the scene balances out the absurdity of his lack of understanding. There's a huge musical sequence that is spectacular to see. It's just too bad there are so many white actors playing residents of Cuba.

However, this episode is all about the cold open. These can be tough to sit through sometimes because they're often reserved for the most current topics of the time. When watching these sketches in the future, a lot of the context gets lost. This time, though, it's two comedy greats having a ball together. It's about George W. Bush (as played by Will Ferrell) getting campaign tips from his father played by Dana Carvey. Both men were famous for the Bush impressions and seeing them together at the top of their game is nothing short of wonderful.

33. Season 4, Episode 6

A year following the release of "Star Wars," Carrie Fisher hosts "SNL" and fully embraces the cultural phenomenon of the sci-fi epic. After a cold open featuring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the Blues Brothers, Fisher comes out on stage dressed as Princess Leia. She tries to tell a joke that Obi-Wan Kenobi swears will crack everyone up, but he's the only one who seems to find it funny.

She then beams into a parody of "Beach Blanket Bingo" called "Beach Blanket Bimbo from Outer Space," where she plays Princess Leia meeting teenagers from the 1950s and learning about kissing. The rest of the episode holds up well also. It's a real shame that Fisher didn't host more often. She really dials into everyone's energy and feels like a natural addition to the show. Had she been asked back she could have easily become as legendary a host as Steve Martin and Candice Bergen.

32. Season 1, Episode 19

Madeline Kahn seems uniquely suited for "Saturday Night Live," especially in this early incarnation. As she demonstrated in many of her film roles, Kahn is an incredible singer and side-splittingly funny. During the first year of "SNL," the show was something of a hybrid between a variety show, a sketch show, and experimental theater. All of this is perfect for a performer who can carry a tune, act, and deliver expert comedic timing.

This episode is really her show. There are sketches not featuring her, like Chevy Chase having a chat with some Muppets, but most of them feature the host in some capacity. Not only that, but she's superb in each one. Whether it's a young kid inaccurately explaining sex to her friends at a sleepover, the Bride of Frankenstein singing a show tune, or a baby eating ice cream for the first time, she meets every challenge head-on and nails it every single time.

31. Season 32, Episode 16

Peyton Manning hosted "SNL" on his birthday. His family was there to celebrate the occasion. During the final curtain call, a cake was brought out and the band played "Happy Birthday." It was a surprisingly touching moment to cap off an episode that's uninterested in breaking new ground, instead content to be a solid collection of perfectly fine sketches. 

When an athlete hosts the show, there's only so much you can do. Delivering lines in front of people isn't what they were built for. So the sketches in this episode are pretty stripped down. We've got returning characters like those in "Bronx Beat" and Kristen Wiig's Penelope. New sketches play it safe by not requiring much of the host. He pretty much has to deliver standard lines while everyone else does the heavy lifting.

All that is absolutely fine. There's nothing wrong with a breezy episode. That's not to say there weren't any surprises. Dan Aykroyd showed up on "Weekend Update." It was cool to see him back. If you're a fan of Manning, you may end up enjoying this one more than others. If not, it's an easy episode for kicking back and escaping for an hour.

30. Season 39, Episode 21

Andy Samberg hosts the finale of Season 39 and it is something of a rehearsal for the 40th anniversary. They bring back Samberg's old castmates Seth Meyers, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Fred Armisen. Not only do they show up to wave at the audience and surprise everyone, but they also appear in multiple sketches, including a healthy dose of digital shorts (Samberg's trademark) and old favorites like "Kissing Family."

Martin Short makes an appearance during the monologue and Paul Rudd is there for "Weekend Update." Rapper 2 Chainz brings in the Samberg character of Blizzard Man for a sketch in which he does a terrible job laying down a rap track. With all those cameos going on, the best sketches are the ones featuring predominantly new cast members. "Camp Wicawabe" with Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon is a particular standout that holds up very well today. Also, Jay Pharoah was phenomenal as both Jay-Z and Kanye West in the cold open and "Waking Up With Kimye."

29. Season 41, Episode 15

If you're someone who grew up on Nickelodeon programming, the opening of this episode is for you. During her monologue, host Ariana Grande talks about getting her start working for the only network for kids. Then Kenan Thompson joins her on stage to reminisce about launching his career on Nickelodeon with "All That" and the sitcom "Kenan and Kel." He mentions people ask him "Where's Kel?" twice a week. When Ariana mentions that she loved them together and asks if they keep in touch, he snaps at her, "A little bit!"

They could've left things there, but then they go to a "Kids' Choice Awards" sketch with Taran Killam, who also appeared on Nickelodeon at an early age. The bit is that the countdown clock indicating the start of the award show is busted and the hosts don't know what to do. It's a funny and nostalgic piece. The rest of the show has far more hits than misses. A mermaid sketch where McKinnon plays a blob fish mermaid is hysterical and creepy, and the celebrity "Family Feud" is full of really stellar impressions from the cast and Grande herself. 

28. Season 43, Episode 21

Season 43 ends in a huge way. The monologue is nothing but cameos from celebrities. Jerry Seinfeld, Benedict Cumberbatch, Donald Glover, and Anne Hathaway all make appearances. Past cast members Fred Armisen and Tracy Morgan also show up to show support for their friend, host Tina Fey. The joke is that the show has become obsessed with cameos and the new cast doesn't get enough time on screen. It's a simple premise, but it's funny.

Sketches in the show include a Royal wedding reception and a parody of "Morning Joe" from MSNBC. A digital short chronicles Fey's struggle to take part in the "Mean Girls" musical with a nice cameo from Lin-Manuel Miranda. "Pervert Hunter," a spook of "To Catch a Predator" where the director is a little too involved, is a hilarious take on some very dark subject matter. The acting profession takes another hit when we see a promo for the gritty drama "Dick Wolf's Chicago Improv." It's a big, silly episode.

27. Season 42, Episode 6

Shortly after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, Dave Chapelle hosted "SNL." The episode dedicates a fair amount of time to the fallout of the election but leaves room for regular sketches. His monologue stresses the importance of patience. A sketch in which a group of white Americans who are shocked by the election results while Chapelle and Chris Rock aren't surprised at all really highlights why no one should've been stunned by what happened. There's also a sketch where Vanessa Bayer talks about politics with children, but it's really just a setup for a punchline about the name of Dave Chapelle's cat.

It's no surprise that Chapelle does such a stellar job as host. His own series "Chapelle's Show" intertwined topical material and the absurd effortlessly. After witnessing the backlash over his insensitive material regarding the trans community, it's nice to take a step back and remember when he was once one of the funniest sketch performers around with little to no baggage. The episode plays into his strengths, including a scenario where he still breastfeeds. It's a pure "Chapelle's Show" sketch and he's great in it.

26. Season 12, Episode 8

In December of 1986, not long after the release of "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, celebrated the holidays by hosting "SNL." Shatner tends to be overly theatrical, so he's right at home on the show. This episode is probably best known for taking a swipe at "Trek" fans. In a sketch where Shatner attends a "Star Trek" convention, he becomes incensed and demands that the audience "Get a life!" While the moment did go on to serve as the title for his memoir, it has seen a modicum of controversy since it originally aired. 

The episode also features a bit where Shatner is in love with himself. While his wife is getting ready to attend a party, he begins complimenting her looks. Then you realize he's talking to himself. He poses in front of the mirror and bathes himself in compliments. The actor is going all out and really hamming it up, which is pure Shatner at his best.

25. Season 3, Episode 5

Calling an episode of an irreverent comedy show pleasant probably sounds like a criticism. The show is meant to be bitingly funny, not necessarily agreeable. In the case of this Season 3 episode, however, it's a glowing endorsement. 

Musicians, like athletes, can be tricky hosts. Yes, they're used to performing live in front of people, but that doesn't make them actors. Ray Charles' blindness is also a potential complication since it's not like he can easily walk through sketches or read cue cards. For the most part, he needs to remain stationary. Most segments in the episode rely a little more on his scene partner, but Charles is so energetic and willing to play that he pulls his own weight with ease. Many of the sketches surround his piano and feature songs, but all of them are genuinely funny and everyone is bringing everything they have to the table.

Also worthy of note is an amazing skit with the cast playing marionettes. They're attached to strings and move like lifeless dolls while carrying out a funny scene. It must have been a technical nightmare, but well worth it. This episode could have been just a bunch of songs with no real substance, but it manages to deliver the Ray Charles goods while also creating some legitimately funny material.

24. Season 4, Episode 4

It's Steve Martin's sixth time hosting the show (according to his own dialogue in the episode) and by now he's basically a cast member. He has hosted so frequently and become so identified with it that there's a whole sketch about it. The final piece of the episode is one where Steve and Gilda Radner play themselves going out to eat. They're the only diners in the restaurant and the waiter (played by Dan Aykroyd) is a huge fan of their work. 

While serving them, he quotes famous lines from their sketches. They ask him politely to give them some space, but he's not letting up. It ends with Steve Martin losing it on him. It's incredible to watch these young performers dealing with their sudden fame and the show was smart to address it. The rest of the episode is really strong as well. Everyone is working off of each other's energy and working completely in sync. It's a great example of the first few years of the series at its best.

23. Season 40, Episode 16

Dwayne Johnson has always been a compelling performer, and once he started appearing in more movies, he became a bonafide movie star. He's one of those people you're compelled to watch when he's on screen, not only because he's so physically imposing, but also because his big personality and sense of humor draw you in. The same applies when he hosts "SNL" for the fourth time in March 2015.

Most of the sketches require him to play larger-than-life characters, which he excels at. There's nothing subtle going on here. Dwayne Johnson lets it all out on the stage. From a territorial boyfriend who loves to flaunt his girlfriend to a wrestler who doesn't know how to talk trash very well, Johnson convinces you that these wacky individuals actually exist.

The bit that really takes the cake, though, is a fake trailer for a nonexistent live-action remake of "Bambi." The action star plays the eponymous deer, who is out for revenge after the murder of his mother. It's "Bambi" meets "Fast and the Furious" and it is infinitely hilarious, just like the rest of the episode itself.

22. Season 43, Episode 18

As mentioned in his opening monologue, John Mulaney was a writer on "SNL" for five years before returning to the show in 2018. What immediately becomes obvious when watching this Season 43 episode is that he easily could have been a performer on the show during those writing years. The standup comedian isn't afraid of live audiences and he's excellent in scenes.

Watching this episode makes you wonder what it would've been like if he was a cast member. How many more strange and hilarious characters would he have created and brought to life? Would we have seen the sassy waiter more often? The boy who becomes easily aroused in class could have been a recurring character; just put him in more situations where the call of puberty was awkward and inconvenient. This episode is an excellent glimpse at that alternate history. It even began a small tradition of dramatic musical numbers about strange topics—in this case, diners serving lobster.

21. Season 42, Episode 4

This episode is startlingly good. For one thing, Tom Hanks is the host. It's his ninth time in the role and he is as fantastic as ever. The brilliant opening monologue plays into the kind and gentle image we have of him in our minds. He is playing America's dad and he's trying to console us by letting us know that everything is going to be okay. Yes, it's funny, but it's also kind of soothing.

Of course, the most popular sketch is the introduction of one David S. Pumpkins. This bizarre sketch is pointless in the best way possible. A couple rides a spooky elevator ride at an amusement park and is confused by this character who dances and smacks two guys dressed as skeletons on the rear. No, it doesn't make sense, but it's so much fun. Another great Halloween-themed sketch is "A Girl's Halloween": a digital short where Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, and Aidy Bryant play young women ready for an easy night out but who end up getting messy-drunk.

Then there is the phenomenal "Black Jeopardy" sketch with Tom Hanks as a MAGA man who is surprisingly similar to the host and other contestants on the show until, of course, a particular question comes up. Honestly, this episode is really fantastic and should be viewed every year.

20. Season 42, Episode 13

During her opening monologue on this episode, Kristen Stewart addresses the fact that she doesn't seem like the type of person who would want to do "Saturday Night Live." She points out that most people view her as thinking too highly of herself to perform on a live comedy show. Addressing this early on eases the audience into accepting her as a willing participant. She winds up proving herself in each sketch.

While most of the skits play into the fact that she's known for playing moody, tortured characters (like to commercial parody where an overworked wife has an affair with her on "game day"), there are more than a few bright spots where she just gets to be goofy, and those are fun to see. She is an excellent Charlie Bucket in a scene where Charlie reacts to the fact that his bed-bound grandparents (except one) aren't sick and have just been lazy.

As entertaining as the episode is, the moment that really knocks it into the stratosphere is Melissa McCarthy as former Press Secretary Sean Spicer. She is so aggressive and her logic so backward that it feels both true to the man she portraying and outlandish at the same time. It makes sense that they didn't open with this one; it would have overshadowed the rest of the show.

19. Season 34, Episode 21

Say what you will about his music, but Justin Timberlake knows how to work an audience. That must be why he hosted "SNL" multiple times and made surprise visits. He sings, he dances, he acts, and he's got a sense of humor about himself. Of course, he got started from an early age as a young performer on the "All-New Mickey Mouse Club," so this kind of showmanship is in his bones.

This episode is all about that. His monologue song details his experiences hosting the show. He walks around backstage helping everyone he sees. There aren't a ton of memorable sketches here, though. All of them are funny and he's good in them, but none of them leave a lasting mark, which is totally fine. Sometimes it's nice to have a show go well with no weak spots, even if it's not groundbreaking.

One moment that is surprising and memorable is an appearance from Leonard Nimoy during "Weekend Update." Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine are on to address fan backlash over the upcoming "Star Trek" reboot and Nimoy steps out to put their fears to rest. He even makes sure to call the fans Trekkers instead of Trekkies as a sign of respect before insulting the angry ones.

18. Season 41, Episode 12

Larry David is no stranger to sketch comedy or "Saturday Night Live." In the early '80s, he worked on a rival sketch comedy show called "Fridays." When this ended, he became a writer for "SNL." He didn't love his time there and actually had a fit and walked out one day, a story he's told many times but is always funny. However, as he mentions, that doesn't qualify him for the job of host. He considers himself more of a guest. Despite whatever doubt he has, though, his work here makes for a great episode.

A lot of the sketches center around his trademark crabby persona. A fantastic spoof of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" sees David playing himself playing Bernie Sanders. The dialogue and scenarios depicted are pitch-perfect—so much so that there could easily be a "Curb" storyline where Larry runs for public office and screws it up. He comes face to face with Sanders (who happens to be David's real-life distant relative) in a bit where the two men are arguing policy on a crashing ocean liner. One bit where he's able to step out of his usual schtick for a bit is a writing class where he doesn't understand the instructions and is fixated on frogs. It's a top-notch episode.

17. Season 44, Episode 14

Mulaney continues to prove that he's got what it takes to perform on "SNL" with this next entry. Monologues can be tough to nail, but since he's such a great standup, his feels like a mini comedy special. He tells a story about his girlfriend pushing their dog in a stroller and having an awkward encounter with Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn and that itself could have been a sketch. The game show parody where he and Cecily Strong have to guess the names of celebrities and people they've met is agonizingly honest (read: funny), and features Bill Hader as the host.

The episode also features a gross but hilarious commercial for a product called "Toilet Death Ejector." It posits that dying in the bathroom is the greatest fear of all senior citizens. To save them the embarrassment, they've created a toilet that will eject the person sitting on it so they can be found in a less compromising position. However, the power of the ejector is so intense that it often leaves them looking even worse. All that, plus a massive musical number about a bodega bathroom, makes this episode a modern classic.

16. Season 40, Episode 3

This episode is rough at first. The cold open features a stage full of non-Korean actors portraying citizens of North Korea. True, it's meant to be satire, but it already hasn't aged well. The monologue is a little iffy as well, although it ends with a fun appearance from raspy-voiced Harvey Fierstein. Once the show gets rolling with more sketches, though, the quality shoots way up. A real signal of the change came in the form of a parody of young adult dystopian movies called "Group Hopper," which nails several tropes of the genre.

Hader gets to play his grumpy and bitter old reporter character Herb Welch in a bit about teens promising to be abstinent. Then there was the "Cat in the Hat" sketch where Hader plays the cat and Cecily Strong portrays the mother of the kids who imagined him. He and the mother had a relationship years ago and running into each other now is difficult for both of them, especially when the cat discovers that one of the kids is his. It takes a while for the episode to really get going, but once it does, there's no going back.

15. Season 36, Episode 22

The show brings out some real classics for this Justin Timberlake-hosted May 2011 episode. For instance, we get another appearance by Herb Welch. No matter how many times that guy hits people with his microphone, it never stops being funny. Then there's "Secret Word." It's a spoof on the game show "Password," where celebrities try to get their teammates to guess a secret word by using synonyms. Of course, these celebrities (a former Broadway star and a hypnotist) are terrible at the game and have no idea how to play.

Jimmy Fallon and Timberlake team up for the "Barry Gibb Show," and there's a digital short with Andy Samberg where, after having slept with each other's mothers, two friends agree to a threeway and sing about how sharing a sexual partner at the same time doesn't call their own sexualities into question. The star of the episode, though, is "The Merryville Brothers." It's about a couple who gets stuck in a tunnel of love ride and encounters creepy animatronic men. Seeing Timberlake, Killam, and Hader play rickety robots is hysterical, and the progression of the sketch is perfect.

14. Season 37, Episode 10

When Jimmy Fallon comes back to host, the show wastes no time in reminding you of his best sketches and characters from his time as a regular on the show. The cold open is usually reserved for topical sketches, but they decide to start this episode off with a "Boston Teens" sketch. Back when Fallon was on the cast, he and Rachel Dratch played a couple of Boston teenagers recording some kind of video. This time, they're adults with kids trying to get back into their high school for a party. The exaggerated Boston accents are hilarious and Fallon and Dratch make a great team.

"Weekend Update" sees previous anchors Fallon, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler join Seth for a joke-off. Each one of them tries to come up with the best joke about a strip club offering lap dances for anyone who brings in a donation for Toys for Tots. More "SNL" alumni show up for a Christmas number, and everyone seems to be having a ball. That's the overall tone of this episode: unbridled joy. Everyone is enthusiastic, the sketches are light and energetic, and the whole thing is like a giant party.

13. Season 21, Episode 20

Jim Carrey hosts this "SNL" episode from 1996. Not only is he a massive movie star, but, as seen during the 40th anniversary special, he'd also auditioned for the show years ago. Of course, he eventually went on to become part of "In Living Color," where he showed his sketch show chops anyway. Still, it must have felt like walking out on that stage was a long time coming for the comedy legend.

Opening monologues are where the hosts reference something about themselves and get some jokes about themselves out of the way. Carrey tries to turn that on its head by doing an original character, but an audience member (director Adam McKay) isn't impressed, so Jim says some of his famous lines and the crowd goes wild. It's a surprising bit of commentary that accuses the audience of only appreciating familiar material while indulging in it themselves.

Since this is Jim Carrey, he doesn't half-commit to anything. He is going full-on in each sketch in which he appears. As the hot tub lifeguard, he's the most intense lifeguard you've ever seen. As an elderly Jimmy Stewart, he's the oldest and bitterest Jimmy Stewart you've ever seen. Even in the strange fitness sketch, he is the most unhinged and demented fitness guru who ever lived.

12. Season 44, Episode 19

This episode could have easily been a rehash of Adam Sandler's schtick or recreations of sketches he did back in his early days on "SNL." Instead, they save most of that for the "Sandler Family Reunion" sketch, where cast members play various members of Adam's family who inspired his characters. Opera Man makes an appearance during "Weekend Update," but most of the material is original and funny.

This probably would not have made this list had Sandler not performed his touching tribute to his friend Chris Farley. To cap off an already great episode, Adam brought tears to everyone's eyes as he played his guitar and recollected all the great times he had with Chris during their friendship, accompanied by a screen displaying images from Farley's time on the show, his movies, and even performing at Second City. It's a moving reminder that even though some titans fall to their demons, they're never forgotten by those who loved them. 

11. Season 1, Episode 7

This is an astonishing episode for two major reasons. The first should be no surprise, given the title of this list: it's great. Richard Pryor is hosting and there's great energy to the show. During the first few seasons, the pacing and atmosphere of the show would change depending on who the host was. In the case of Pryor, an energetic and exciting comedian, that means the sketches move at a clip and are very surprising. That alone makes this a fantastic episode.

The second reason is its self-awareness and relevant subjects. Only seven episodes in and the show is already deconstructing itself. The cold open has Garrett Morris and Chevy Chase arguing over who gets to perform the traditional fall. Then there is the topic of race. In a famous sketch where Pryor is interviewed using word association, Chevy Chase's character delights in saying racial slurs. When he says a certain word, Pryor asserts his dominance and Chase backs off. It is an affecting look at the power words have.

Then there's a sketch in which Dan Aykroyd is nervous about Black people replacing whites. Each time a member of his family leaves the room, they come back Black, showcasing the lunacy of such beliefs. But there are a few goofy sketches as well. The best is probably "The Exorcist II," where Richard Pryor plays a priest sent to exorcise a possessed girl but winds up strangling her instead for talking too much trash.

10. Season 28, Episode 16

It's a real shame that the late Bernie Mac didn't host "SNL" more. He is tremendous. It isn't that he's a great actor capable of disappearing into roles; he just has this commanding presence about him that steals the show. From his opening monologue to the "Boston Teens" sketch, he simply demands your attention. There is an intensity to him that is relatable and hysterical. 

The sketches this time around are pretty good. None of them are amazing (a few of them have aged horribly), but he elevates them all. Bernie and Amy Poehler are great together in a sketch where they learn they can't smoke in bars anymore. Their voices are low and raspy and it's virtually impossible to understand what they're saying have the time. Still, Mac is so dedicated to this performance he even outshines Poehler, who is doing a much funnier voice. Watch this one as soon as you can to appreciate what a gifted performer Bernie Mac really was.

9. Season 32, Episode 9

There are two massive sketches in this episode. One is still referenced today; the other features a somewhat recurring character. The latter is Justin Timberlake in a cup of soup costume trying to raise money for charity. He dances, sings, strikes a pose, and implores people to "give it on up to homelessville." His methods aren't exactly traditional, but the routine is catchy and it gets the job done.

The other sketch is a digital short that almost anyone reading this probably remembers: "D*ck in a Box." It's a take on '90s R&B songs about romance gone wrong. While most of these tracks talk about sensuality and taking things slow, the title of this song tells you everything you need to know. An underrated sketch is called "Hip-Hop Kids." It's a show about kids dancing to hip-hop while trying to escape a mine. It doesn't have the broad appeal of the previous sketches mentioned, but if you like surreal comedy, you'll probably love it.

8. Season 38, Episode 16

Justin Timberlake joins the Five-Timers Club in this 2013 episode. He is greeted to the club by members Paul Simon and Steve Martin. Dan Aykroyd is the bartender since he only ever hosted once. There are portraits of Drew Barrymore and John Goodman, and Chevy Chase is just there making a phone call. This allows them to reunite the "Three Amigos" when Martin Short arrives to deliver hors d'oeuvres. When Tom Hanks and Alec Baldwin pop in, they watch Bobby Moynihan and Taran Killam battle each other to the death. Candice Bergen tops the whole thing off. It's great that there is a pseudo-mythology going on within the show itself.

The hits keep coming with the episode. Timberlake and Samberg play their R&B characters and the two Wild and Crazy Guys participate on a dating show. These go a long way in maintaining your interest when other sketches don't quite land. The feeling of love and appreciation for the show's history and the people who helped make the show what it is overwhelms everything else. There are some weak skits sprinkled throughout, but you forgive it and anticipate the next one.

7. Season 39, Episode 10

This is how great this episode is: both Barry Gibb (the real one) and Madonna show up and they're not even the best part. Normally, monumental cameos like that would be the main talking points of the show. Not this time, though.

Even if he's not hosting, you can't stop Justin Timberlake from making his way onto that "SNL" stage. He's in the cold open (a fact that made one audience member scream so loudly Aidy Bryant acknowledged it), he's in a "Family Feud" sketch, and he does "The Barry Gibb Talk Show." Plus, it's some of the best work he's done on the show. The other cast members are also phenomenal.

The funniest moment of the show by far is the song "(Do It On My) Twin Bed." Several of the lady cast members sing a pop song about how difficult it is to get intimate with your significant other when visiting your parents over the holidays. The only choice they have is to sleep together on their childhood bed. The song is catchy and the video is packed with incredible images, but the moment that brings the house down is when the ladies dance in front of actual childhood photographs of themselves. This idea is funnier than it has any right to be.

The episode has problems (like white actors in non-white roles), but the pros vastly outweigh the cons.

6. Season 3, Episode 18

This episode shows off Steve Martin's showmanship. Not only does he open the show with a great bit where he repeatedly steals from Bill Murray (with expert timing), but he also dances with Gilda Radner in a sweeping skit that doesn't feature a single line of dialogue while communicating everything you need to know. Then there's the performance of "King Tut."

To get this out of the way: the song caused some confusion a few years ago regarding whether or not it was cultural appropriation. Since then, it seems as though the public's view is that the song was meant to be a parody of America's fascination with the ancient pharoah. The song is funny, but it's Martin's facial expressions that really sell it. He's playing someone who is in love with their own performance and you believe it.

The rest of the show is mostly great as well. The show was really finding its stride at this time and the seeds for what it would become over the next few decades are planted here.

5. Season 35, Episode 21

TV legend Betty White hosts the Season 35 finale. As discussed in her monologue, she got there thanks to a Facebook campaign. Satisfying the desire of their audience to see White on the "SNL" stage isn't enough, though. The actress appears in as many sketches as possible and really leans into her kindly old lady image.

This juxtaposes her usual politeness in wonderful ways. Seeing her as MacGruber's over-sharing grandmother is hilarious. Giving her the chance to work with the incredible Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer in their "Delicious Dish" sketch, where she gets to deliver unintentionally filthy dialogue, is a stroke of genius. The best, of course, is "Scared Straight." White and Kenan Thompson also play inmates trying to scare teens out of a life of delinquency. Betty's so perfect in it, that she makes Bill Hader break.

4. Season 45, Episode 16

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down in 2020, there was no way for "SNL" to perform live. To keep their cast and audience safe, they decided to produce their first 100% remote episode. At a time when a lot was uncertain, the show did its best to give its fans a distraction for a little while. The episode makes the cut because of how different it is and how well it turned out despite having no precedent.

It's also nice to see the cast members having to work from home, as many Americans did. For the first time, we get a slight glimpse into their personal lives, and it humanizes them in a new way. Instead of being performers on a stage, they're employees trying to make their home office work. While it isn't the funniest episode of the show, it's the boldest, and an important piece of modern pop culture history.

3. Season 35, Episode 14

Ashton Kutcher may not be in the same pantheon of hosts as Justin Timberlake or Steve Martin, but his invigorating energy explodes off the screen when working in front of a live audience. In fact, the entire monologue is about his trademark verve. It's his fourth time hosting and he's there to promote the film "Valentine's Day," but all he wants to talk about is how he's matured since he first hosted. It doesn't take long to get him excited, though, and Kutcher gets so pumped that he rips his pants off.

That's not to say that every sketch features Ashton losing his mind. There are several in which he just plays a person, but he knows how to fill the screen. That same zaniness must've been in the writer's room, because these sketches are a riot. The sketch in which Kutcher plays the lover of a recently deceased woman who was only sleeping with her for her money escalates very quickly. The same goes for an "Access Hollywood" bit where he and Nasim Pedrad react to the Oscar nominations. Overall, this is a fun, fast-paced episode with no real weak spots.

2. Season 37, Episode 15

It would be easy to dismiss this 1993 episode as the Matt Foley episode. While that sketch is definitely the funniest thing about it, the rest is superb as well. Christina Applegate is a strong host and holds her own in sketches. On "Weekend Update," Adam Sandler sings his song for Mother's Day. Then there's the "Gap Girls" sketch where Sandler and David Spade play catty employees at the Gap trying to show Christina Applegate the ropes.

Of course, as just mentioned, Chris Farley's "Matt Foley: Van Down by the River" is the standout here. It's so good, you almost wish they saved it for the end of the show. Farley is gold in this bit. His character, all hopped up on coffee and depression, is determined to change David Spade and Christina Applegate's lives. His mannerisms just hit you in the gut. It's an endlessly quotable high point for the show and reminds you how sad it is that we all don't have Chris Farley in our lives longer.

1. Season 45, Episode 10

There are no episodes from the early to mid-'80s on this list because those are strange years for the show. Lorne Michaels had left and the series was under new management. It's not a completely awful period, but there's not a lot of true greatness—except, of course, for young Eddie Murphy. People will often mention his name when listing the show's greatest cast members, and it's easy to see why. He seems somehow more at home on the show than most other cast members. His style of performing perfectly suits the format.

Decades later, he finally returns to host the show. From top to bottom, this is a superb episode. It has everything that makes an "SNL" episode great. There are returning cast members (not just Murphy), great satire, and legitimately funny sketches. Murphy is so great as a host, it's like he never left the studio. He brings back classic characters like Mr. Robinson and Gumby while starring in original sketches as well. You can tell everyone is thrilled to have him and he's happy to be there. You'll be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining and satisfying episode than this one.