I understand that Futurama isn’t a perfect series—jokes often fall flat in ways that they probably shouldn’t, and there are some episodes that are entirely forgettable—but it is far and away one of my favorite shows of all time. No other sitcom in recent memory wears its heart on its sleeve quite like Futurama. For me, the episodes that contain both humor and sentimentality are usually my favorites. Lots of animated comedies make me laugh, but very few make me truly care about the characters in the way that Futurama does. Without further ado, I’d like to take a look at my 10 favorite episodes of the series so far.
10. The Duh-Vinci Code
In which the crew travel to Rome and discover the incredible secret of Leonardo da Vinci.
This episode contains a lot of laughs and also features an interesting theme–that all intelligence is relative. Fry may be dumb compared to the rest of his planet, but when stacked up against the inhabitants of the planet Vinci, even the professor seems like an idiot.
In which Bender becomes a deity and comes face to face with the God Entity.
One of the most philosophically deep episodes of Futurama, “Godfellas” is nothing less than a spectacular, hilarious meditation on the role of God in the universe.
8. The Series Has Landed
In which the Planet Express crew visits the moon…to find that it’s been turned into a tacky amusement park.
Only the second episode of the series, “The Series Has Landed” showed Futurama at its satirical best—once a symbol of mankind’s exploration, the moon has since been turned into a tacky, Disney-esque amusement park. The “Whalers on the Moon” song is one of my absolute favorite jokes in the entire series.
7. The Devil’s Hands Are Idle Playthings
In which Fry makes a Faustian deal with the (robot) devil in an effort to finally win Leela’s love.
I’ve always loved the holophoner as a symbol of Fry’s affection for Leela—he’s not particularly good at playing it, but damned if he doesn’t try his best—and this episode, the onetime series finale, features it to great effect. Had the show never been brought back, this would’ve been a terrific note to end on.
6. The Sting
In which Leela suffers hallucinations after Fry is mortally wounded by a space bee.
“The Sting” is an exquisite look at the ways we cope with loss—Leela’s hallucinations of Fry begging her to wake up take on a whole new meaning with the brilliant twist ending. As a bonus, there are also jokes referencing those Honeycomb commercials from the 70’s and 80’s.
5. Roswell That Ends Well
In which the crew accidentally travel back in time to the Roswell UFO sighting of 1947.
The first episode to deal with time travel, “Roswell That Ends Well” is one of the more creative, hilarious episodes of the entire series. The way the episode tackles the Grandfather Paradox is an absolute stroke of genius.
4. Time Keeps On Slippin’
In which a disruption in the space-time continuum causes time to skip forward at random.
This is one of those episodes that ends on a beautiful, melancholy note—which as I mentioned earlier, is a trademark of the show that I absolutely love. Fry momentarily wins Leela’s heart, although he cannot remember how. The ending reveal—as well as the closing credits version of “Sweet Georgia Brown”—is a genuinely perfect capper to a great episode.
3. The Late Philip J. Fry
In which a forwards-only time machine leaves Fry, Bender, and the Professor looking for a way back to the present.
By far the best episode of the series’ second run, “The Late Philip J. Fry” is packed to bursting with fantastic ideas and genuine emotion. There may not be a line I love more in the history of the show than Fry—after having traveled by time machine to the end of the universe—“You know, all in all, I had a good life. What do you say the three of us grab a six pack and watch the universe end?”
2. Jurassic Bark
In which Fry must decide whether or not to clone his long fossilized dog from the 20th century
This episode…man, this episode… I’m convinced that the ending to “Jurassic Bark” is the absolute saddest moment in the history of network television. If the sight of Seymour living out his days after Fry’s departure doesn’t make you at least a little teary-eyed…well there’s probably something wrong with you. Full disclosure: It’s hard for me to bring myself to watch this episode whenever I see it on TV—the emotional gut punch is so incredibly devastating. If anyone ever tries to claim that animated shows are just mindless entertainment for little kids, show them this episode. Then grab them a box of tissues.
1. The Luck of the Fryrish
In which Fry searches for his old seven-leaf clover and makes a discovery that forces him to reconsider his relationship with his long dead older brother.
Why is “The Luck of the Fryrish” my favorite episode? Well for starters, the ending is one of the most beautiful, bittersweet moments in the show’s history—Fry’s discovery of Yancy’s true intentions transforms the episode from a story of a bitter sibling rivalry into one of brotherly love. Maybe it’s because I have two older brothers, but man this episode is just a complete home run for me. I’ve found that I’m a sucker for episodes dealing with Fry’s life in the 20th century, and this one is a sterling example as to why that is—as crummy as Fry’s past life was, there are moments in the present when he realizes that which he once had, and will probably never have again. Fry’s relationship with Yancy was by no means perfect, but by episode’s end, he’s developed a newfound admiration for his older brother—an admiration that he will never get to express to him. It doesn’t get much more poignant than that.