There are few shows out there that can elicit quite as many emotions as Futurama. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry. You’ll cry from laughing so hard, and you’ll laugh from crying so hard. Above all else, though, you’ll be thoroughly entertained throughout each and every episode.
With 124 episodes in its arsenal, finding the best of the best that Futurama has to offer is no easy task. However, we here at Epicstream feel that we owe it to you to at least give it a try. So whether you’re a newcomer to the series or a longtime fan, here are the 10 best episodes of Futurama:
Brannigan, Begin Again
There’s always something special about a Zapp-centric episode of Futurama, and perhaps the most enjoyable of these is Brannigan, Begin Again. In it, we see Zapp forced to take up a job at Planet Express after he’s dishonorably discharged for destroying the new DOOP space station. It’s arguably the best example of Zapp’s utter incompetence, and furthermore, his inexplicable ability to weasel his way to the top of whatever situation he finds himself in (in this case, instigating a mutiny and taking command of the Planet Express ship). It’s almost disappointing when Zapp and Kif return to their previous jobs, because the exchanges between them and the Planet Express crew, particularly Fry and Bender, are pure comedy gold.
The Why of Fry
While Futurama is a comedy at its core, what separates it from most animated series is its ability to expand upon its own previously established mythos. The Why of Fry is a perfect example of this, as Nibbler reveals that Fry’s “accidental” millennium-long freezing in 1999 was no accident at all. Rather, it was a strategic play by Nibbler to get Fry to the future, as he was the universe’s only hope against the villainous Brains from The Day the Earth Stood Stupid – an episode that aired two years earlier. It also features heavy ties to other past episodes, including Space Pilot 3000, Jurassic Bark, and Roswell That End Well, which serves as a stunning example of the writers’ foresight and world-building expertise. Plus, like all good episodes, there’s a healthy dose of levity courtesy of a subplot focusing on Fry’s feelings towards Leela, and the lack of reciprocation that regularly plagues the man out of time.
Arguably the darkest and most visceral episode of Futurama, The Sting sees Leela mourn the apparent death of Fry after he saves her from being impaled by the stinger of a massive space bee. While the comedy in this episode is scarce, the emotional beats are as prevalent as ever, as a guilt-ridden Leela experiences chilling hallucinations of Fry that lead her to believe that perhaps she’d be better off living in a drug-induced sedation brought on by potent bee honey rather than live without her best friend. It’s a surreal, moving, and tragic episode, and it highlights the writing staff’s incredible range, sacrificing laughs for the sake of a compelling narrative.
The Late Philip J. Fry
When Futurama was revived by Comedy Central in 2010, fans were naturally skeptical about whether or not it’d be able to maintain a level of quality high enough to warrant its resurrection. And while it got off to a bit of a rocky start, The Late Philip J. Fry proved to be nothing short of an outstanding return to form for the series. After agreeing to travel one minute into the future in Professor Farnsworth's new time machine right before a big date with Leela, Fry finds himself shot forward to the year 10,000 with no way to get back. Seemingly stranded, the only option is to continue traveling forward in time until a backward time machine has been invented, naturally leading to Fry missing his chance to woo Leela. Once again combining elements of humor and sentimentality, The Late Philip J. Fry is a stellar story told across time, but with plenty of that quintessential Futurama flair to keep things level. When it comes to episodes with heart, this one is hard to beat.
Where No Fan Has Gone Before
Looking for the ultimate in fan service? Look no further than Where No Fan Has Gone Before. When Fry learns that Star Trek was banned on Earth centuries earlier, he embarks on a quest with the head of Leonard Nimoy to recover the lost episodes, leading him to the rest of the show’s cast, who are being held prisoner by an obsessive and powerful fan. There are plenty of nods to the original Star Trek series, and the voice-acting by most of the show’s cast is a welcomed addition. Whether you’re a hardcore Trekkie or a casual sci-fi fan, if you enjoy Futurama, you’ll definitely enjoy this episode.
The Luck of the Fryrish
Yet another example of Futurama’s ability to incite both laughs and tears, The Luck of the Fryrish alternates between various points in Fry’s past, as well as the present, to shed light on the complex relationship Fry had with his older brother Yancy. In search of his long-lost lucky seven-leaf clover, Fry eventually discovers that despite their differences, his brother truly loved him. So much, in fact, that he went as far as to name his firstborn son after the brother he mysteriously lost on December 31, 1999. Perhaps more so than any episode that came before it, The Luck of the Fryrish shows that underneath the witty satire and sometimes crude humor, Futurama is a series with more heart than you could possibly imagine.
The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings
Back in 2003, The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings was thought to be the final episode of Futurama. And while we now know that the series would eventually be revived, it certainly went down swinging, providing a massive step in the evolution of Fry and Leela’s epic romance. Hoping to finally win Leela’s affection, Fry turns to music, learning to play the Holophoner with the help of the Robot Devil’s hands. The Devil, however, is hell bent on sabotaging Fry’s happiness, and the episode culminates in an incredible operatic parody, as well as Fry being forced to give up the Devil’s hands and the talent that came with them. Still, the final image of a crudely drawn Fry and Leela walking hand-in-hand into the sunset is an immensely powerful moment and one that would have been an absolutely fitting end to the series.
Roswell That Ends Well
A hilarious examination of the late 1940s and a clever time travel paradox? What more could you ask for? In Roswell That Ends Well, a supernova sends the Planet Express crew back to 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, which just so happens to be home to the military base where Fry’s supposed grandfather is stationed. However, Fry’s paranoia results in his death, as well as the disturbing revelation that Fry is actually his own grandfather. Adding to the hilarity of the situation is the notion that the famed Roswell alien sighting was actually a result of Bender and Zoidberg, which was a clever way for the writers to tie the episode to real-world events. While not quite as poignant as some of the other familial-based episodes, Roswell That Ends Well is still one of the most memorable.
Largely considered to be one of the saddest episodes of all time, Jurassic Bark is what sets Futurama miles above similar animated shows. It’s a “man and his dog” story that sees Fry discover the fossilized remains of his canine companion Seymour, who he wants to clone so they can finally be reunited. However, Fry ultimately decides not to go through with it when he learns that Seymour lived a long and presumably happy life after he was frozen. The episode is intercut with lots of flashbacks showing the good times the duo shared in the past, but the real uppercut comes with the final flashback, which shows that Seymour’s life post-Fry was far from happy. In fact, he spent every day patiently waiting for his master to return, right up until he finally laid down and closed his eyes one last time. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching, and proof positive that dogs truly are man’s best friend.
Never one to shy away from asking the big questions in life, Futurama took the concept of thought-provoking subject matter to new heights in the episode titled Godfellas. The narrative focuses on Bender, who’s launched into space where he becomes a God-like figure for a tiny race of aliens that soon inhabit his body. It tackles incredibly dense themes, including religion, leadership, and existentialism, providing plenty of laughs and asking more of the audience than most animated shows would ever dare. It even leads to Bender meeting the actual God (or at least the show’s interpretation of God), who counsels him and sends him back to Earth after his reign goes horribly wrong. It’s an excellent standalone episode, requiring little (if any) baggage from newcomers to the series, but still offering a whole lot in return.
What about you? Did your favorite episodes make the cut? Let us know in the comments section!