Best 'Family Guy' episodes

Written by:
August 27, 2019

Best 'Family Guy' episodes

Saved not once, but twice from cancellation, Fox's "Family Guy" is now one of TV's longest-running sitcoms. Chronicling the exploits of the Griffin family, each episode dispenses with irreverent sight gags and unexpected cutaways at a breakneck pace. Because the writers and animators cram so many jokes into a given frame, not every single one lands. By extension, entire episodes can fall under the banner of "total misfire," to the chagrin of fans and delight of detractors. Nevertheless, when the show works, it definitely works.

Of course, no discussion of "Family Guy" is complete without the name Seth MacFarlane. When studying animation at the Rhode Island School of Design, he created a thesis film called "The Life of Larry." Interweaving animation and live-action, it featured the kind of whizbang pacing and crude humor that would later define so much of MacFarlane's output. At its heart was a boorish middle-aged man named Larry Cummings, who lived with his talking dog, patient wife, and teenage son. MacFarlane later released a sequel called "Larry and Steve," which aired in 1997 on the Cartoon Network. The seeds of "Family Guy" had thus been planted.

Jump ahead two decades and the show is still going strong. Call it derivative, random, or downright tasteless, but it still retains a loyal following and even churns out the occasional classic episode. The series also continues to irk TV watchdog group the Parents Television Council, which has been railing against MacFarlane's brand of anything-goes humor since it first hit the primetime airwaves. One might say that in today's increasingly sensitive climate, "Family Guy" delivers an old-fashioned jolt of uncompromising expression. That's not to mention the iconic gags, the onslaught of cultural references, zany characters, or infectious musical numbers, all of which respectively live on by way of reruns, memes, and viral videos.

As mentioned, not every "Family Guy" segment or episode is a triumph of execution. However, the show's best episodes inspire genuine laughs while satirizing various subject matters to prescient effect. It's the top 50 of those episodes that Stacker celebrates today. Each entry is ranked according to its IMDb user rating, and any ties are broken by IMDb user votes. The season, episode number, and airdate of each episode are also included.

Here are the best "Family Guy" episodes of all time as of Aug. 12, 2019.

You may also like: Best 'Simpsons' episodes of all time

#50. Something, Something, Something, Dark Side

- Season 8, Episode 20
- IMDb rating: 7.7
- IMDb votes: 5,401
- Aired on: May 23, 2010

The power goes out in the Griffin household and that can only mean one thing: another “Star Wars” parody. This time around, the show re-creates “The Empire Strikes Back” with a considerable eye for accuracy and detail. Featuring a swath of celebrity guest performances, the episode was released as a direct-to-video special before hitting the airwaves.

#49. Big Trouble in Little Quahog

- Season 17, Episode 4
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 591
- Aired on: Oct. 21, 2018

After scaling themselves down to microscopic size, Stewie and Brian embark on an adventure of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” proportion. Along the way, they flee from hungry dust mites and befriend a group of amicable water bears. A number of episodes built around Stewie and Brian’s misadventures are big hits with the fans and this one is no exception.

#48. HTTPete

- Season 16, Episode 18
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 751
- Aired on: May 6, 2018

Putting internet culture in its crosshairs, this latter-day episode follows Peter as he takes up the millennial lifestyle. His subsequent journey skewers everything from social media to cell phone dependence to vaping. Were it any other show, trigger warnings would apply.

#47. Roads to Vegas

- Season 11, Episode 21
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 918
- Aired on: May 19, 2013

Sending up a string of Old Hollywood road trip films, the “Road to...” series takes Stewie and Brian well outside the Quahog city lines. In this seventh installment, they plan a trip to Vegas by way of Stewie’s teleporter machine. When it turns out the machine is also a cloning device, Vegas-style sci-fi comedy antics ensue.

#46. Viewer Mail #2

- Season 10, Episode 22
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 979
- Aired on: May 20, 2012

Originally aired back to back with the season 10 finale, this penultimate episode breaks down into three fan-inspired segments. Targets include British sitcoms and Robin Williams before the episode closes out with the world through Stewie's eyes. Actress Cate Blanchett and comedian Jeff Ross guest star.

#45. The Blind Side

- Season 10, Episode 11
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 993
- Aired on: Jan. 15, 2012

Bearing no resemblance to the award-winning movie of the same name, “The Blind Side” follows Brian on his latest blind date. Not only does it turn out that Brian’s date is literally blind, but she happens to hate dogs. Writing for the AV Club, critic Kevin McFarland dubbed it a “decidedly above-average episode.”

#44. Petergeist

- Season 4, Episode 26
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 1,174
- Aired on: May 7, 2006

Ripped straight out of 1982’s “Poltergeist,” this season four parody finds Peter building a home multiplex theater atop sacred Indian burial grounds. As persistently edgy the episode might be, some of its original gags were deemed too inappropriate for television. Like a number of top “Family Guy” outings, this one features uncensored scenes on the DVD version.

#43. Patriot Games

- Season 4, Episode 20
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 1,234
- Aired on: Jan. 29, 2006

After making an impression on Tom Brady (voiced by the actual NFL star), Peter ends up as the starting center for the New England Patriots. When he’s traded to the London Silly Nannies, it sends him and the family on a trip to England. In addition to Brady, the episode guest stars Troy Brown, Carol Channing, Jay Leno, and Bob Costas.

#42. He's Too Sexy for His Fat

- Season 2, Episode 17
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 1,251
- Aired on: June 27, 2000

Thanks to the wonders of liposuction and other surgical procedures, Peter takes on an entirely different physical appearance. Along with the new physique comes new opportunities and a massive new ego, prompting him to join the Quahog Beautiful People's Club. IGN critic Ahsan Haque noted that the story line had “no redeeming moral value whatsoever,” though the satire is fairly self-evident.

#41. North by North Quahog

- Season 4, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- IMDb votes: 1,322
- Aired on: May 1, 2005

Three years after it was canceled (for the second time), "Family Guy" returned from the TV junkyard with this season four debut. While on a second honeymoon with Lois, Peter steals Mel Gibson's latest film, "Passion of the Christ 2: Crucify This." What follows is a direct parody of Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest," complete with a showdown on Mount Rushmore.

#40. Halloween on Spooner Street

- Season 9, Episode 4
- IMDb rating: 7.9
- IMDb votes: 1,093
- Aired on: Nov. 7, 2010

Halloween in Quahog is just as crazy as one might expect it to be in this classic episode. While Peter and Joe play vicious pranks on Quagmire, Stewie and Brian fall victim to a gang of candy-stealing teenagers. An accidental make-out session between Chris and Meg ranks among the show’s most iconic scenes.

#39. Road to Rupert

- Season 5, Episode 9
- IMDb rating: 7.9
- IMDb votes: 1,158
- Aired on: Jan. 28, 2007

Brian and Stewie hit the road yet again, this time in pursuit of Stewie’s beloved teddy bear Rupert. Their journey takes them to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, where Stewie competes in an epic ski race. Back in Quahog, Peter gains a newfound respect for Meg after watching her throw down in a fit of road rage.

#38. Barely Legal

- Season 5, Episode 8
- IMDb rating: 7.9
- IMDb votes: 1,161
- Aired on: Dec. 17, 2006

Considered one of the show’s best episodes by Seth MacFarlane himself, “Barely Legal” finds Meg developing an obsessive crush on Brian. Elsewhere in Quahog, Peter and his friends join the local police department. This is the second episode to feature Cleveland falling out of his bathtub, and the first to introduce Stewie’s unique inflection when he says the words “Cool Whip.”

#37. Road to Europe

- Season 3, Episode 20
- IMDb rating: 7.9
- IMDb votes: 1,199
- Aired on: Feb. 7, 2002

The second installment in the beloved “Road to...” series follows Stewie and Brian as they gradually make their way to Europe. Back home, Peter and Lois throw on the face paint and leather to attend a Kiss concert. Gene Simmons, Andy Dick, and director Jon Favreau guest star.

#36. Let's Go to the Hop

- Season 2, Episode 14
- IMDb rating: 7.9
- IMDb votes: 1,297
- Aired on: June 6, 2000

When Peter goes undercover as Lando Griffin, he lives out the high school experience he never had growing up. Seizing upon her dad's popularity, Meg spreads the word that she and Lando will be attending the Winter Snow Ball together. Peter ditches Meg for mean girl Connie DiMico instead, because shut up, Meg.

#35. Death Has a Shadow

- Season 1, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 7.9
- IMDb votes: 2,413
- Aired on: Jan. 31, 1999

The episode that started it all, “Death Has a Shadow” first aired during the Super Bowl and then again after the series was picked up. While both the animation and characters would evolve over time, the subversive plotlines and cutaways are here in all their outrageous glory. Upon losing his job, Peter accidentally scores a welfare check worth $150,000.

#34. Switch the Flip

- Season 16, Episode 17
- IMDb rating: 8.0
- IMDb votes: 626
- Aired on: April 29, 2018

Fans went gaga for this season 16 episode, which proved that the show still had life in it yet. When Stewie and Brian swap bodies, it kicks off a series of disastrous events. Brian makes the pointed and somewhat meta observation that Stewie’s inventions always break down when they’re needed the most.

#33. A Lot Going on Upstairs

- Season 14, Episode 15
- IMDb rating: 8.0
- IMDb votes: 796
- Aired on: March 6, 2016

Actress Glenn Close (voiced by herself) keeps popping up in Stewie’s nightmares, as does a horrific monster with dark fur and big teeth. Stewie reacts by sleeping in his parent’s bedroom and even bringing Brian into his dream world. Forced to make other sleeping arrangements, Peter sets up a bachelor-style pad in the attic.

#32. Forget-Me-Not

- Season 10, Episode 17
- IMDb rating: 8.0
- IMDb votes: 984
- Aired on: March 18, 2012

Like something out of a horror movie, Peter and the fellas wake up in a deserted hospital with no memory of how they got there. So goes this season 10 episode, which explores the nature of true friendship in clever fashion. It earned writer David A. Goodman a nomination for Outstanding Writing in Animation at the 65th Annual WGA Awards.

#31. Death Lives

- Season 3, Episode 6
- IMDb rating: 8.0
- IMDb votes: 1,194
- Aired on: Aug. 15, 2001

It's a not-so wonderful life for Peter Griffin, who gets struck by lightning and confronts Death (voiced by Adam Carolla) once again. Taking a trip back in time, Peter realizes how neglectful a husband he's become over the years. Singer Peter Frampton appears as himself and performs a rendition of "Baby, I Love Your Way" toward the end of the episode.

#30. Stew-Roids

- Season 7, Episode 13
- IMDb rating: 8.0
- IMDb votes: 1,202
- Aired on: April 26, 2009

Stewie plus steroids equals one jacked up baby bully in this season seven episode, which dispenses with various cultural references. Over at James Woods High, Chris’ meteoric popularity comes crashing down by way of a disturbing video. Upon this episode’s debut, the Parents Television Council dubbed it the “Worst TV Show of the Week.”

#29. Fat Guy Strangler

- Season 4, Episode 17
- IMDb rating: 8.0
- IMDb votes: 1,278
- Aired on: Nov. 27, 2005

Hollywood legend Robert Downey Jr. provides the voice of Lois’s long-lost brother Patrick, who’s been locked away in a mental institution. Due to a childhood trauma involving his mother and Jackie Gleason, Patrick has developed some rather specific homicidal impulses. During one of the show’s most classic cutaways, Brian tracks down George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

#28. I Dream of Jesus

- Season 7, Episode 2
- IMDb rating: 8.0
- IMDb votes: 1,649
- Aired on: Oct. 5, 2008

The bird is the word in this wildly popular episode, which earned Seth MacFarlane a Primetime Emmy Award nomination and Annie Award nomination for his voice-over work. At the end of a ridiculous first act, Peter discovers Jesus Christ working at a local record store. After the episode aired on BBC Three, “Surfin’ Bird” soared to #50 on the U.K. charts.

#27. The Big Bang Theory

- Season 9, Episode 16
- IMDb rating: 8.1
- IMDb votes: 1,119
- Aired on: May 8, 2011

Stewie’s arch-rival Bertram (voiced by Wallace Shawn) returns, hijacking a time machine and going all the way back to Renaissance Italy. A deadly showdown involving Stewie’s ancestor, Leonardo da Vinci, ensues. Seth MacFarlane tricked astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson into consulting on this episode, which deals with time ripples and paradoxes.

#26. Emission Impossible

- Season 3, Episode 11
- IMDb rating: 8.1
- IMDb votes: 1,278
- Aired on: Nov. 8, 2001

Long before he tried to kill off Leonardo da Vinci, Bertram first appeared in this episode from season three. When Stewie discovers that Peter and Lois are vying for another baby, he shrinks down to microscopic size and starts killing off Peter's sperm. Bertram is the one sperm crafty enough to evade Stewie, and this won't be the last time the two characters cross paths.

#25. The Thin White Line

- Season 3, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 8.1
- IMDb votes: 1,317
- Aired on: July 11, 2001

Season three kicked off with the first half of a two-part episode, in which Brian signs up for the Quahog Police Department. His role as McGriffin the Drug Dog is jokingly inspired by McGruff the Crime Dog, who delivered various PSAs in the 1980s. This episode was penned by one-time showrunner and executive producer Steve Callaghan, who’s credited with writing more episodes than any other staff member.

#24. Road to Germany

- Season 7, Episode 3
- IMDb rating: 8.1
- IMDb votes: 1,410
- Aired on: Oct. 19, 2008

Mistaking Stewie’s time machine for an outdoor toilet, raging Jewish stereotype Mort Goldman travels back in time to Nazi Germany. While the episode includes various cultural references and a revised opening credits sequence, it’s the first “Road to…” installment not to feature a complete musical number. Elevated storytelling and a conscious aversion to political correctness help make it a fan favorite.

#23. I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar

- Season 2, Episode 8
- IMDb rating: 8.1
- IMDb votes: 1,442
- Aired on: March 28, 2000

As if culled from today’s headlines, this early episode follows Peter through sensitivity training on the heels of a tasteless joke. Under the guidance of lawyer Gloria Ironbachs (voiced by Candice Bergen), Peter takes his newly discovered femininity to cloying extremes. In Canada, a mock feminist by the name of “Gloria Dawn Ironbox” later filed a lawsuit against A&W for discriminatory practices.

#22. The D in Apartment 23

- Season 16, Episode 6
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 996
- Aired on: Nov. 12, 2017

The D in Apartment 23 is Brian Griffin, who gets kicked out of the house after his offensive tweet goes viral. Grappling with a range of prescient themes, the episode satirizes political correctness and disproportionate mob outrage. It ends on a cliffhanger, with Brian living on his own in a dangerous part of town.

#21. Stewie Loves Lois

- Season 5, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,290
- Aired on: Sept. 10, 2006

Stewie's typical hostility toward Lois undergoes a dramatic transformation, to the point that he's soon smothering her with affection. As he becomes more and more insufferable, Lois begins fantasizing about a different type of smothering. Over at the doctor's office, Peter's prostate exam leaves him feeling violated like so many well-known movie characters before him.

#20. Three Kings

- Season 7, Episode 15
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,305
- Aired on: May 10, 2009

Three famous Stephen King stories get the “Family Guy” treatment in the show’s second anthology episode. At the end of the final segment, Peter thanks Stephen King and jokes that he’ll see the author in court. In reality, the show’s producers shared their ideas with King and gained his approval long before the episode aired.

#19. Emmy-Winning Episode

- Season 16, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,324
- Aired on: Oct. 1, 2017

While “Emmy-Winning Episode” wasn’t exactly that, it still makes for one of the show’s best outings. Featuring a host of celebrity guest voices, it follows Peter as he tries to make his show more like award-winning shows. When comedy spoofs don’t work, he moves on to aping dramas such as “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos.”

#18. To Love and Die in Dixie

- Season 3, Episode 12
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,329
- Aired on: Nov. 15, 2001

Upon entering witness protection, the Griffins relocate to the Southern town of Bumblescum. That paves the way for a slew of politically incorrect jokes, nearly all of which come at the expense of the American South. Country legend Waylon Jennings and actress Dakota Fanning guest star.

#17. Wasted Talent

- Season 2, Episode 20
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,347
- Aired on: July 25, 2000

When Lois discovers that Peter plays a mean piano while drunk, she plies him with alcohol and enters him into a local competition. Listen closely and one will realize that each of Peter’s renditions is the theme music to a popular TV show. Early parts of the episode take direct cues from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” supplanting beer for candy.

#16. E. Peterbus Unum

- Season 2, Episode 18
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,349
- Aired on: July 12, 2000

Audiences are welcomed to the sovereign nation of Petoria, inhabited solely by the Griffin household. Rife with political satire, the episode finds U.S. President Bill Clinton imposing sanctions on Petoria after an illegal invasion of Joe's swimming pool. It all provides course material for a social studies class set 200 years from now, where the students are more interested in whether or not the family can understand Stewie.

#15. Road to Rhode Island

- Season 2, Episode 13
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,410
- Aired on: May 30, 2000

The first installment in the popular “Road to” series follows Stewie and Brian on a trip across America. Along the way, they visit Brian’s birthplace in Texas and learn the fate of his mother. Creator Seth MacFarlane cited this episode as being one of the show’s best, claiming it was the first to establish Stewie and Brian’s “unique relationship.”

#14. Road to the North Pole

- Season 9, Episode 7
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 1,525
- Aired on: Dec. 12, 2010

Wrapping a Christmas featurette and roadshow installment into a tight package, this classic episode sends Stewie and Brian to the North Pole. It’s there that they discover the horrible truth behind Santa’s workshop. Seth MacFarlane’s father Ron delivers occasional live-action narration and proves that the apple did not fall too far from the tree.

#13. Blue Harvest

- Season 6, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- IMDb votes: 6,299
- Aired on: Sept. 23, 2007

A semi-faithful parody of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” this hour-long episode occupies its own special space in the show’s lore. Lucasfilm gave Seth MacFarlane clearance on the condition that the “characters look exactly like they do in the movies.” Guest stars include everyone from Chevy Chase to Rush Limbaugh.

#12. Yug Ylimaf

- Season 11, Episode 4
- IMDb rating: 8.3
- IMDb votes: 1,315
- Aired on: Nov. 11, 2012

Due to a time machine malfunction, the episode’s story line and a number of the show’s most classic bits unravel in reverse. "Oh my God, we're getting closer to the beginning. You're Lacey Chabert!" Stewie screams at Meg. He’s making reference to the actress who voiced Meg’s character before Mila Kunis came onboard.

#11. Lois Kills Stewie

- Season 6, Episode 5
- IMDb rating: 8.3
- IMDb votes: 1,397
- Aired on: Nov. 11, 2007

A two-part saga concludes to downright zany effect, with Stewie enacting his plans for world domination. That brings him to Washington D.C. where he crosses paths with Agents Stan Smith and Avery Bullock of "American Dad!" Will Stewie finally conquer the world or will Lois stop her own baby in his tracks?

#10. Stewie Kills Lois

- Season 6, Episode 4
- IMDb rating: 8.3
- IMDb votes: 1,432
- Aired on: Nov. 4, 2007

In the first half of this two-parter, Lois and Peter take off for an embarrassing cruise ride. When Stewie arrives on board, he makes good on his promise to kill Lois once and for all. Peter is suspected of the crime and a ridiculous trial ensues, climaxing with a cliffhanger.

#9. Petarded

- Season 4, Episode 6
- IMDb rating: 8.3
- IMDb votes: 1,496
- Aired on: June 19, 2005

The political incorrectness doesn’t get much more incorrect than this beloved episode, in which Peter is deemed mentally disabled. Subtlety is not the show’s strong suit, and there’s no beating around the bush as Peter proceeds to wreak all sorts of havoc. The title pretty much says it all.

#8. Death Is a Bitch

- Season 2, Episode 6
- IMDb rating: 8.3
- IMDb votes: 1,565
- Aired on: March 21, 2000

The character of Death first appears in this season two episode, with Norm Macdonald providing the voice. When Peter takes over Death’s job, he wastes little time in spreading the word and abusing his powers. In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, “The Simpsons” later featured a similar premise during one of its “Treehouse of Horror” segments.

#7. Da Boom

- Season 2, Episode 3
- IMDb rating: 8.3
- IMDb votes: 1,715
- Aired on: Dec. 26, 1999

Heeding the threat of Y2K, the Griffins lock themselves in a bomb shelter and emerge to a post-apocalyptic landscape. To assure viewers that Octopus Stewie and other mutants aren’t here to stay, the story ends with “Dallas” regulars Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal revealing it was all just a dream. This is the first episode to introduce the ongoing battle between Peter and a giant chicken, one of the show’s longest-running and most widely cherished gags.

#6. Meet the Quagmires

- Season 5, Episode 18
- IMDb rating: 8.4
- IMDb votes: 1,389
- Aired on: May 20, 2007

Peter travels back in time to enjoy the single life and ends up restructuring the course of history. Upon his return to the present day, he discovers that he's now married to Molly Ringwald and Lois is married to Quagmire. If he can just stop dancing to the "Beverly Hills Cop" theme music—a task much easier said than done—he might be able to make things right.

#5. And Then There Were Fewer

- Season 9, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 8.5
- IMDb votes: 1,951
- Aired on: Sept. 26, 2010

The show’s first episode to air in the HD 16:9 format, this hour-long premiere comes straight out of Agatha Christie’s famous novel. A dinner party at James Woods’ mansion turns into a plot-twisting murder mystery, as familiar characters die off one by one. In atypical fashion, the episode largely eschews irreverent gags in favor of streamlined storytelling.

#4. The Simpsons Guy

- Season 13, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 8.5
- IMDb votes: 3,813
- Aired on: Sept. 28, 2014

A ratings smash, this crossover episode appeased more fans than it did critics. It sends the Griffins to Springfield, where they shack up with the Simpsons and later defend themselves against charges of copyright theft. It all leads to an epic fight sequence between Homer and Peter, two of animation’s most iconic patriarchs.

#3. PTV

- Season 4, Episode 14
- IMDb rating: 8.6
- IMDb votes: 1,760
- Aired on: Nov. 6, 2005

When Peter launches his own television network, it prompts a gnarly showdown with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Awash with pointed jabs and crude humor, the episode was directly inspired by the staff’s own grievances over censorship issues and FCC double standards. The cultural references fly as early as the revised opening credits sequence, which pays tribute to the “Naked Gun” movies and ends with Stewie chasing Homer Simpson into the garage.

#2. Back to the Pilot

- Season 10, Episode 5
- IMDb rating: 8.8
- IMDb votes: 1,813
- Aired on: Nov. 13, 2011

Stewie and Brian hop into a time machine and head “Back to the Pilot” in this episode of the same name. Not only does the show resurrect certain aspects of its old animation style, but actress Lacey Chabert reprises her role as the voice of Meg. Throughout the episode, Stewie points out former mistakes such as the TV being unplugged and Peter’s eye appearing over his nose.

#1. Road to the Multiverse

- Season 8, Episode 1
- IMDb rating: 9.0
- IMDb votes: 2,587
- Aired on: Sept. 27, 2009

Peter Griffin might be the show's heart and soul, but the fans just can't get enough of Stewie and Brian. The highest-ranking episode follows these two lovable characters through a host of parallel universes, where they encounter alternate realities and alternate animation styles alike. In one universe, various "Family Guy" regulars take the form of treasured Disney characters.

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