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100 best 'SNL' episodes

  • 100 best 'SNL' episodes

    “Saturday Night Live” is the benchmark of sketch TV. The show, which has been on the air for more than four decades, pairs a celebrity host with a rotating cast of comedians performing live and taped sketches, and also features a musical performance. It has become an inescapable part of the cultural conversation. “SNL” has brought humor to countless elections, has poked fun at pop culture trends, has been subject to major controversies, and has created some of the most indelible TV moments of all time.

    "SNL" has also kept up with the times. After a brief hiatus due to COVID-19, the show resumed with a "quarantine version" in mid-April 2020. These broadcasts function as live shows via Zoom with cast members calling in and running skits remotely. That first episode back was hosted by Tom Hanks and featured musical guest Chris Martin of Coldplay.

    Viewers have the show to thank for classic movies like “The Blues Brothers,” “Coneheads,” and “Wayne’s World,” all of which were based on “SNL” sketches. Some of the most well-known comedians of the past 40-plus years (Bill Murray, Tracy Morgan, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Dan Aykroyd, to name a few) jump-started their careers as writers and actors on “SNL.” It’s also been known to make or break political careers. Never one to shy away from poking fun at politicians on both sides of the aisle, “SNL” boasts a long history of impressions that shaped how Americans perceive candidates and elected officials. Gerald Ford’s allies even concede that Chevy Chase’s famous impersonation of the president may have influenced his narrow loss in the 1976 election.

    With all this history, curating a list of the best “Saturday Night Live” episodes is a nearly impossible task; in truth, it comes down to a matter of taste. Stacker has compiled the top 100 episodes as rated by IMDb users. Only episodes with 50 or more votes were counted, and in the case of ties, the episode with the most votes was ranked higher. The end result is an eclectic collection of episodes from every era of the show's history and a reminder of why “SNL” remains an essential viewing after all this time.

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  • #100. Season 33, Episode 7 - Amy Adams/Vampire Weekend

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 111
    - Air date: March 8, 2008

    Andy Samberg's digital shorts were still fresh in 2008, as he proved with a music video that found him channeling his inner Batman. Meanwhile, Amy Poehler continued to hone her Hillary Clinton skills as she introduced an attack campaign ad against Barack Obama.

  • #99. Season 34, Episode 6 - Jon Hamm/Coldplay

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 118
    - Air date: Oct. 25, 2008

    Famously, Amy Poehler had to miss this episode because she went into labor on Saturday night. She still managed to make an appearance thanks to a pre-taped segment featuring host Jon Hamm.

  • #98. Season 34, Episode 5 - Josh Brolin/Adele

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 128
    - Air date: Oct. 18, 2008

    It's not easy to overshadow Adele, but the real-life Sarah Palin came close during her guest appearance. After several episodes of parodying the politician, the show invited her onto the show to defend her honor; Palin put forth an objectively fearless performance.

  • #97. Season 38, Episode 19 - Zach Galifianakis/Of Monsters and Men

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 145
    - Air date: May 4, 2013

    “Game of Thrones” hadn't wavered in popularity since it premiered, and for proof, look back to 2013 when a surprise guest appearance from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau made this “SNL” episode one to remember. A.V. Club writer David Sims called this episode the best of a “weak season,” attributing much of the standout nature to the episode’s skilled host, Zach Galifianakis.

  • #96. Season 38, Episode 21 - Ben Affleck/Kanye West

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 149
    - Air date: May 18, 2013

    This finale episode saw the departure of two "SNL" greats: Bill Hader and Fred Armisen. Their final official episode as cast members was bittersweet, as it offered Hader's classic character Stefon the opportunity to have one more well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

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  • #95. Season 37, Episode 6 - Emma Stone/Coldplay

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 171
    - Air date: Nov. 12, 2011

    “SNL” is arguably at its best when it's skewering politics, as this episode’s take on the Republican presidential debate brilliantly demonstrated. Additionally, Emma Stone more than held her own in an episode where she took on everything from a Spider-Man kiss to a nightmare guest at a bridal shower.

  • #94. Season 37, Episode 18 - Sofía Vergara/One Direction

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 172
    - Air date: April 7, 2012

    Airing at the height of One Direction's popularity and during an election year, this episode had something for a wide variety of viewers. In between skits about Mitt Romney and a show-stopping boy band set, Sofia Vergara served up a memorable, but random, Fran Drescher impression.

  • #93. Season 39, Episode 19 - Andrew Garfield/Coldplay

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 183
    - Air date: May 3, 2014

    Coldplay's fifth appearance coincided with Andrew Garfield's first time hosting, and included a cameo from Garfield’s “Spider-Man” co-star and girlfriend Emma Stone. Garfield happily poked fun at his web-slinging character's history with life-saving kisses.

  • #92. Season 38, Episode 7 - Anne Hathaway/Rihanna

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 187
    - Air date: Nov. 10, 2012

    As the 2012 election cycle came to an end, Jason Sudeikis stepped into Mitt Romney's shoes one last time as the politician drowned his sorrows in a wholesome glass of milk. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway appeared in a buzzy “Homeland” sketch that poked fun at Claire Danes' cry face.

  • #91. Season 38, Episode 6 - Louis C.K./Fun

    - IMDb user rating: 7.6
    - Votes: 206
    - Air date: Nov. 3, 2012

    In addition to a memorable sketch portraying “Fox and Friends,” Louis C.K. also played Abraham Lincoln in a segment titled, “Lincoln,” meant to parody his eponymous television show, “Louis.” Fun performed their hits, “Some Nights” and “Carry On.”

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