Here are some depressing figures: It’s been slightly more than 19 years since Futurama premiered on Fox in March 1999, and it’s been slightly under 15 years since Futurama first ended in August 2003. To make matters worse, it’s honest-to-goodness been a whole decade since Futurama returned, this time on Comedy Central, in March 2008. And it’s been just shy of five years since Futurama ended a second time in September 2013.
Much has changed in those years, both on television and in the world around it. We have iPhones now, solar energy is much more affordable and Facebook’s almost done destroying human civilization. There aren’t flying cars or suicide booths quite yet, but The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live are still going strong, depending on what you mean by “strong,” and thanks to this golden age of television, some of the most interesting shows right now are science fiction—even if the sci-fi comedy offerings are fairly slim. For all the pleasures of, say, Rick and Morty and The Venture Bros., there’s still nothing quite on par with the sublime pleasures of vintage Futurama.
Fortunately those pleasures are just a few clicks away, as Futurama is currently streaming on Hulu. We highly recommend watching all of it, but if you’re pressed for time—or if you’ve got a free couple days ahead of you—here are our picks for the series’ best 50 episodes. Because Futurama did not air in the order it was produced, we’ve classified these episodes by their broadcast numbers (as opposed to their production numbers), since that’s what Hulu uses. If Netflix ever snatches Futurama back and orders it differently, well, our apologies to the intern who’ll have to edit this. Also, we’ve counted each of the movies as a single episode instead of three episodes, because we can. Happy watching.
50. ”Rebirth” (Episode 7.01)
Faced with the difficult task of following up on yet another of Futurama’s many finales, the opening of season six handles it with aplomb, immediately killing off almost every character and forcing Farnsworth to “birth” them again with disgusting specificity. —Graham Techler
49. ”The Tip of the Zoidberg” (Episode 8.10)
Zoidberg’s status as Futurama’s funniest character often prevents him from getting a particularly personal treatment. Not so in “The Tip of the Zoidberg,” a flashback episode that filters Zoidberg’s past experiences with Farnsworth through his own reliably bizarre lens. —Graham Techler
48. ”Amazon Women in the Mood” (Episode 3.05)
This breathlessly funny outing also advances the unlikely and reliably entertaining romance between Amy and Kif, two characters otherwise used mostly as daffy comic relief. —Graham Techler
47. ”Less Than Hero” (Episode 5.06)
Never content to play within a single genre, Futurama here melds a traditional superhero story with a more grounded exploration of Leela’s relationship with her mutant parents. This is also the one where the Professor says, “Bad news, nobody!” —Seth Simons
46. ”A Clockwork Origin” (Episode 7.09)
Futurama tackled its fair share of contemporary-issues-but-with-robots, but rarely more successfully than in this riff on Creationism that rapidly escalates a relatively simple nanobot premise into total chaos. —Graham Techler
45. ”Lethal Inspection” (Episode 7.06)
Not the best Futurama heartbreaker (we’ll get to that), but not far behind. Nominally a Bender episode—wherein he tries to confront the inspector who overlooked a defect that renders him mortal—ends up providing more insight into Hermes, with tear-jerking results. —Graham Techler
44. ”Bender’s Big Score”
While fan reactions to the four movies that make up Season Five were, admittedly, mixed, “Bender’s Big Score” sticks the landing by honing in on the relationship between Bender and Fry. —Graham Techler
43. ”Game of Tones” (Episode 10.10)
What to say about “Game of Tones,” the episode that sends Fry Inception-style into a dream-reunion with his mother? It’s sad—real sad. But at least ends on a happy note (here’s looking at you, “Jurassic Bark”), allowing us the same closure it finally gives Fry. Futurama rarely turns on the waterworks, but when it does… —Seth Simons
42. ”Spanish Fry” (Episode 5.12)
In the midst of a search for Bigfoot, Fry gets kidnapped by aliens who harvest his aphrodisiac “human horn,” i.e. his nose. When he goes to retrieve it from the Omicronians, Bender talks them into taking his “lower horn” instead. Along the way they stop at a bustling alien bazaar, Leela sings “I Will Always Love You” and two hideous alien monsters find love again. As episode-length dick jokes go, this one’s the gold standard. —Seth Simons
41. ”Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV” (Episode 5.15)
A muddled commentary on political correctness in television, to be sure, “Bender Should Not Be Allowed on TV” is a fine showcase for Bender’s terrible acting talents, as well as two of Futurama’s most under-appreciated characters, Cubert Farnsworth and Dwight Conrad. —Seth Simons
40. ”Love and Rocket” (Episode 4.04)
It’s hard to imagine another show that would see a Valentine’s Day episode as an opportunity to do an extended 2001 parody, as Bender falls in love with the Planet Express ship’s updated AI. —Graham Techler
39. ”The Route of All Evil” (Episode 5.03)
Two charming stories about fatherhood converge as Cubert and Dwight start a delivery company to compete with Hubert and Hermes, who must ultimately come to their rescue. Meanwhile Bender brews his own beer-baby, Benderbraü, which he whips out to salve the conflict between the Planet Express gentlemen and a terrifying blob alien. Real heartwarming stuff, up until the alien’s son eats Cubert and Dwight. —Seth Simons
38. ”My Three Suns” (Episode 1.07)
The first effort from stalwart (and well-represented on this list) writer J. Stewart Burns sees Fry accidentally drinking the emperor of the planet Trisol, populated by sentient liquid. —Graham Techler
37. ”A Fishful of Dollars” (Episode 1.06)
When Fry learns that the 93 cents in his 20th century bank account has grown to a cool 4.3 billion, he spends his newfound wealth surrounding himself with relics of his old life. This includes a can of now-extinct anchovies he buys in an auction, outbidding Mom, who retaliates by stealing his riches. If you, like me, ever find yourself muttering “My secret PIN number!” whenever you type your PIN number, you’ve got “A Fishful of Dollars” to thank. —Seth Simons
36. ”A Big Piece of Garbage” (Episode 1.08)
So basically there’s a comet-sized ball of garbage on a collision course with Earth, thanks to our wasteful ways here in the modern day. After the Planet Express crew fails to blow it up, humanity must turn to garbage to save itself from garbage. More than any other episode in season one—“Love’s Labours Lost in Space” being a close second—“A Big Piece of Garbage” establishes the environmentalist point of view that would come to distinguish Futurama from its peers. —Seth Simons
35. ”Mars University” (Episode 2.02)
Later seasons may have lost interest in the bit where Professor Farnsworth is, you know, an actual professor, but we’ll always have “Mars University”: the touching story of Guenter, a monkey given human intelligence thanks to a hat invented by Farnsworth, who uses that intelligence to feud with Fry. Meanwhile in the B-plot, Bender and the robot fraternity do “Animal House.” —Seth Simons
34. ”The Cryonic Woman” (Episode 3.03)
Featuring Sarah Silverman as Michelle, Fry’s ex-girlfriend, and a wonderful gag wherein a apocalyptic future New York ends up being Los Angeles in the present, “The Cryonic Woman” does what Futurama does best: infusing classic sitcom tropes with an impossibly fresh energy. —Graham Techler
33. ”A Flight to Remember” (Episode 2.01)
Futurama’s take on Titanic makes a few choice emendations to its source material, namely a love triangle storyline where Amy tells her parents she’s dating Fry, while Leela tells Zapp Brannigan she’s dating Fry, and hijinks ensue. Meanwhile Bender falls for a robot aristocrat whom he later, uh, drops into a black hole. It’s a fine bit of world (universe?) building early in the series that also marks the beginning of Amy and Kiff’s long, stuttering romance. Plus it has this line from Kiff: “Sir, remember your course correction? Well, it’s proving somewhat more suicidal than we had initially hoped.” —Seth Simons
32. ”The Why of Fry” (Episode 5.08)
While having Nibbler be responsible for Fry’s cryogenic slumber may seem like a retcon, his shadow can be seen in the pilot—one of many ways in which this episode brilliantly ties itself into a larger Futurama continuity. —Graham Techler
31. ”I, Roommate” (Episode 1.03)
Like other episodes on this list, “I, Roommate” finds the perfect marriage between a relatable, grounded story and what Jerry Smith would call “high-concept sci-fi rigamarole.” On the relatable side, two friends are looking for an apartment; on the rigamarole side, one friend is a robot who already lives in a closet and the apartments they view include one that’s underwater and another that’s built like an M.C. Escher painting. It’s a concise, funny preview of the series to come. —Seth Simons
30. ”The Deep South” (Episode 2.16)
There is much to love about the gang’s journey to the sunken city of Atlanta, where Fry falls in love with a Mermaid and Hermes loses—then finds—his Manwich, but this episode earned its place in my heart with just a few short lines of dialogue:
Leela: I’m afraid Fry is suffering from ocean madness.
Fry: Every time something good happens to me you say it’s some kind of madness, or I’m drunk, or I ate too much candy. Well, I saw a real mermaid. And I wish just once my friends would have the decency and kindness to believe me.
[whispering to Professor Farnsworth] Ocean madness.
[Fry storms out.]
Professor Farnsworth: He may have ocean madness, but that’s no excuse for ocean rudeness.
29. ”Parasites Lost”
Fry buys an egg salad sandwich at a gas station and yada yada a civilization of worms takes up residence in his various organs. The worms make him smarter, which makes him more attractive to Leela, which leads to quite the moral dilemma for poor Fry. While Futurama had a bad habit of leaning too heavily on the Fry/Leela romance, “Parasites Lost,” which enlists most of the ensemble in an adventure deep into worm-land, strikes the perfect balance between rom-com and sci-fi romp-com. —Seth Simons
28. ”The Series Has Landed” (Episode 1.02)
And indeed it had. Futurama’s second episode is character overkill, introducing Zoidberg, Amy and Hermes without giving any of them short shrift. It also solidified one of Futurama’s primary thematic exercises: subverting Fry’s expectations of what the future should look like. —Graham Techler
27. ”Crimes of the Hot” (Episode 5.01)
Not only a great head-in-a-jar episode, “Crimes of the Hot” ties it’s global warming A-plot to a B-plot featuring Bender saving a turtle in one of the show’s more acrobatic narrative coups. —Graham Techler
26. ”Leela’s Homeworld” (Episode 4.05)
This introductory episode for Leela’s absent parents is yet another example of how Futurama can wreck us with a final montage, revealing how they have watched over and taken care of her throughout her entire life. —Graham Techler