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Best Simpsons episodes of all time

  • Best 'Simpsons' episodes of all time

    When “The Simpsons” aired its 636th episode on April 29, 2018, it surpassed “Gunsmoke” to become the longest-running primetime scripted series in TV history. That’s but one among a legion of accomplishments for this animated smash hit, which began in 1987 as a series of short sketches on “The Tracey Ullman Show.” Bringing each character to life was cartoonist Matt Groening, whose previous work included a satirical comic strip called “Life in Hell.” Two years later, Groening—along with producers James L. Brooks and Sam Simon—developed “The Simpsons” as a half-hour sitcom. Television and popular culture alike have never been quite the same since.

    To call the series epoch-making in the 1990s would be an understatement, as it was more like a megaton bomb of pop-culture iconography and enduring influence. Striking a deft balance between satire and endearment, the show’s best episodes hold up a mirror to American society that’s too prescient and hilarious to deny. The town of Springfield becomes a stand-in for Everytown, USA, with each of its citizens representing a familiar archetype. At the heart of every story is the Simpson family itself, comprising Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Homer, and Marge, whose unique personalities are delivered with exacting precision.

    There’s so much to “The Simpsons'” lore that one could dedicate an entire college course just to the show’s timeless characters and philosophical themes. Oh wait, they did. That’s not to mention the multi-layered jokes, omnidirectional story lines, or unforgettable catchphrases like “d’oh!,” which became so integral to the Western lexicon that it ended up in the dictionary. It’s then no surprise that the series has spawned merchandise, best-selling albums and books, video games, theme park rides, memes, a blockbuster movie, and billions of dollars in profits. Winner of 31 Primetime Emmy Awards, it was also named the Best TV Show of the 20th Century by Time magazine in 1999. Meanwhile, staff members like Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels, and Brad Bird became high-profile creators in their own right. The list of achievements goes on and on.

    Despite the show’s seemingly endless production run and a slew of accomplishments, most fans would agree that its first nine seasons are far and away the best. To prove as much, Stacker surveyed all “The Simpsons” episodes’ IMDb user ratings as of August 2019 and ranked them accordingly. In the case of a tie, the episode with more user votes was ranked higher. As one will soon discover, there’s only a single episode on the list that wasn’t from the first nine seasons. But what a nine seasons they were, better known as the show’s “Golden Age.” Here are the best of the best.

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  • #50. Homer's Barbershop Quartet (1993)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.5
    - Votes: 2,170
    - Season: 5
    - Episode: 1

    Homer harkens back to his time in the Be Sharps, a barbershop quartet that rocketed to success and then split up for archetypal reasons. The episode is riddled with Beatles references, including a few Yoko Ono jabs. George Harrison and David Crosby make voice cameos as themselves.

  • #49. Trilogy of Error (2001)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,650
    - Season: 12
    - Episode: 18

    A high point for the show in the wake of its “Golden Age,” this season-12 episode tackles the same series of events from three different perspectives. Inspired by films like “Go” and “Run Lola Run,” the episode was originally titled “Go, Simpson Go.” Frankie Muniz of “Malcolm in the Middle” appears in a guest speaking role.

  • #48. Bart on the Road (1996)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,731
    - Season: 7
    - Episode: 20

    After scoring a fake driver’s license, Bart and three friends rent themselves a car and embark on a wild road trip. When the car gets destroyed, the boys must figure out how to get back home without revealing their misdeeds. Loaded with classic one-liners, the episode references “Naked Lunch” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

  • #47. Mountain of Madness (1997)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,745
    - Season: 8
    - Episode: 12

    Set during a company-wide competition, this eighth season episode finds Homer and Mr. Burns getting stranded together inside a log cabin. As the isolation and desperation mount, so too do their respective states of dementia. As quirky as the episode might be, an earlier draft of the script was even more bizarre.

  • #46. Homer Loves Flanders (1994)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,816
    - Season: 5
    - Episode: 16

    The show departs from one of its most recurring themes in this season five episode, which finds Homer taking on an obsessive affection for Ned Flanders. It was reportedly the last episode pitched by famous funnyman Conan O’Brien, who departed to headline his own late-night TV show. Homer’s iconic rendition of “Nacho Man” lives on in TV history.

  • #45. Mother Simpson (1995)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,836
    - Season: 7
    - Episode: 8

    Homer reunites with the mother he never had in this classic episode, with actress Glenn Close providing the voice of Mona Simpson. Episode writer Richard Appel was married to author Mona Simpson at the time, though the character was moreover based on real-life radical Bernardine Dohrn. Because the final scene between Homer and his mom is so emotional, producers requested that the network leave it up during the closing credits.

  • #44. Two Bad Neighbors (1996)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,874
    - Season: 7
    - Episode: 13

    It’s Homer Simpson versus former U.S. President George Bush, voiced by series regular Harry Shearer. Both the real-life George and Barbara Bush had previously made disparaging public remarks about the series, making the episode a joke-fueled rebuttal of sorts. Long before it aired, the writing staff and Barbara Bush engaged in a comical letter exchange.

  • #43. Homie the Clown (1995)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,899
    - Season: 6
    - Episode: 15

    After becoming Springfield’s foremost Krusty the Clown impersonator, Homer finds himself in hot water with the local mob. The action culminates with both Homer and Krusty performing tricks for a purposefully stereotypical mafia don (voiced by Hank Azaria). Dick Cavett and Johnny Unitas both appear as themselves in guest speaking roles.

  • #42. $pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling) (1993)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,946
    - Season: 5
    - Episode: 10

    Abandoning her role as the voice of reason, Marge takes on a massive gambling habit at Mr. Burns’ new casino. After getting kicked out of the very same casino, Bart starts his own and even books singer Robert Goulet (voiced by his real-life counterpart). The episode comes loaded with cultural references to real-life figures such as Howard Hughes and movies like “Rain Man” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

  • #41. Treehouse of Horror VI (1995)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.6
    - Votes: 1,950
    - Season: 7
    - Episode: 6

    The “Treehouse of Horror” episodes are nearly always laden with big laughs and classic cultural references, and this one is no exception. Its three segments respectively parody “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “The Twilight Zone” episode “Little Girl Lost.” The final segment famously renders Homer in computer-animated 3-D before sending him into an even stranger dimension.

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