38. “The Rickshank Redemption” (Season 3, Episode 1)
A solid revisiting of the multiple Ricks concept, this also doubles as a half-hour refresher course for anyone who’d been away from the show for a few years. There’s daring, there’s danger, there’s a few Shoney’s jokes. Still, it’s almost impossible to separate this episode from the way it was released, appearing out of nowhere as every fan’s April Fools’ fever dream. The lasting impact of the Galactic Federation showed that the series wasn’t going for a hard reset and that it wouldn’t simply explain away the psychological toll that Rick’s actions have visited upon his family. But naturally, to cut through the interdimensional dread, it also unwittingly sparked a craze for impossible-to-find ‘90s Disney promotional fast food dipping sauce. Six of one.
Best Quote: “Okay, have fun in what’s left of my brain. I’m gonna transfer to yours. Oh, there’s not enough room for all my genius, so I’m leaving you with my fear of wicker furniture, my desire to play the trumpet, my tentative plans to purchase a hat, and six years of improv workshops. Comedy comes in threes.” – Rick
37. “Childrick of Mort” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Make a show about a genius scientist and before long, it’ll be brimming with God Complexes. Not only does this episode benefit from bringing the whole Smith family along for the ride, it makes the journey less about survival and what gets created in each person’s own image. Yes, the episode ends with everyone learning a lesson, but all Jerry really wants to do is skip rocks and roast some marshmallows. (This episode really fills out the rest of the “Rick & Morty” Main Characters Unwittingly Becoming Leaders of a Fledgling Civilization punch card.) It’s a classic five-way “be careful what you wish for” tale, one with arguably too much Zeus-punching. Beyond that, it shows how much this family starts to absorb each other’s anxieties the more time they spend with each other.
Best Quote: “I am! I am!” – The Clay Children
36. “Raising Gazorpazorp” (Season 1, Episode 7)
Ah, the miracle of life. Morty becoming an unsuspecting father brings with it all of the anxieties and short tempers you’d expect, along with a really adorable baby voice shouting “Destruction! Death!” The feminist infighting jokes sprinkled through Rick and Summer’s time on Gazorpazorp never quite lock in as a whole, but this episode proves that the series can withstand separating its two title characters for an extended period of time. Even something as simple as the possibility of a broken portal gun showed that not everything in this universe has an easy, one-size-fits-all solution. Plus, it also gives Jerry a rare chance to drink a very tall glass of “I told you so.”
Best Quote: ”I like to dance…on the graves of my enemies!” – Morty, Jr.
35. “Rickmancing the Stone” (Season 3, Episode 2)
After the greatest hits run of the Season 3 premiere, next on the show’s agenda was offering up a spin on the most beloved movie to come out over the show’s hiatus. Riffing on “Mad Max: Fury Road” gave Summer a chance to infiltrate the inner circle of adventures, taking charge in the midst of a desert hellscape. But like the show at its best, “Rick and Morty” still found a way to bring this post-apocalyptic timeline back to the perils of a quiet suburbia. Sure, Morty had to deal with the side effects of a sentient, bloodthirsty bicep before that. But a few extra sci-fi homages and a fun Joel McHale guest spot help situate this episode on some solid footing.
Best Quote: “Save it for the SemanticsDome, E.B. White!” – Rick (Note: also includes “Ooh, burn!” guy and Rick pointing.)
34. “The Rickchurian Mortydate” (Season 3, Episode 10)
Given that “Rick and Morty” has traveled out to bizarre distant dimensions, it’s hard to bring that same level of wonder and unpredictability to a story that sticks on Earth. Luckily, that’s where shrink rays, presidentresses, and twin tracksuited child assassins come in. “The Rickchurian Mortydate” may not have the conceptual insanity that previous Season 3 episodes did, but there’s a go-for-broke attitude in the Rick/President feud that seems fitting for a season sendoff. That lingering question about Beth’s true identity may never be answered, but ambiguity has always simmered under the surface of “Rick and Morty.” If this ends up doubling as a series finale, it’s a decent cross-section of melding the sweet with the twisted, the simple with the elaborate, and the heady with the low-brow. May the stirring memories of the music of Alan Silvestri guide this series to into a blissful and rejuvenating hiatus.
“All I can feel is how lucky I am to be loved by such a simple, honest…simple man.” –Beth
“Simple twice…” –Jerry
33. “Look Who’s Purging Now” (Season 2, Episode 9)
So many of the dustups that Rick leads Morty into come from a place of obligation or self-preservation. Rarely does curiosity drive things from Rick’s side, but stumbling on a Purge planet is good reason why it’s rarely a good idea. In its own devious way, it turns Morty’s murderous rampage into a satisfying experience, seeing him work out 20 episodes’ worth of pent-up aggression. (Who hasn’t wanted to throw someone down the stairs after getting sassed for giving solicited creative advice?) Even though Rick and Morty survive, the close of this episode nods to the idea that they rarely leave a system in better condition than they found it.
Best Quote (Non-Screenplay Narrating Edition): “Jeez, you working on your tight five for The Comedy Store, Morty?” – Rick
32. “Amortycan Grickfitti” (Season 5, Episode 5)
The two seemingly unconnected threads here — one half of the family goes on a “Hellraiser”-inspired adventure to a demon colony, and the other half on an interplanetary spree aboard a homicidal spacecraft — line up quite nicely. There’s enough in the Opposite Day logic of Hell to sustain an entire episode, and the mere existence and execution of Space Tahoe is a gift that keeps on giving. And what the Smith family finds in these very different locales is that there’s little reward in trying to please other people (or beasts from the netherworld with forks gouged in their eyes). So go for all your favorite oblique karaoke picks or offer up a bowl of whatever fruit you most feel like giving to a stranger, and do it with a clear conscience.
Best Quote: “Don’t tell Ross, but I got this little ditty from Kohl’s!” – Jerry
31. “Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri” (Season 4, Episode 10)
This show has had plenty of people voice multiple characters, but Citadel of Ricks aside, Sarah Chalke’s two-fer here as Beth and Space Beth might be the strongest double duty in the entire run. Her subtle distinctions between the two not only make it a more believable case of Nature over Nurture, it also makes the melancholy ending to the season pack an even bigger punch. It might be the closest Rick has come to accepting death, even if it comes a minute or so after revealing the existence of a tiny metal heartguard operating inside his body. When a show closes a door by shooting one of its longest-simmering villains in the head at point-blank range, it opens a Phoenixperson-sized window, by keeping him around “Shaun of the Dead”-like.
Best Quote: “She died the way she lived: over-serialized.” – Rick
30. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
It’s all there, right at the beginning: Rick’s cranky esoteric insults, Morty’s penchant for bearing the brunt of horrific situations, even Jerry’s troubled past. A journey across distant planets, and inter-dimensional bureaucracy all wrapped up with the infamous “Forever 100 Years” monologue, it’s a perfect encapsulation of the way that the show has been able to wring its most iconic moments from stream-of-consciousness strokes of genius. Watching an alien being be born, grow up, and perish in the span of a handful of seconds? That’s a show immediately at its funniest and most tragic; an overlap that “Rick and Morty” camps out at more often than not.
Best Quote (That Doesn’t Also Have the Words “Dot Com”): “So everyone’s supposed to sleep every night, now? You realize that nighttime makes up half of all time.” – Rick
29. “The Old Man and the Seat” (Season 4, Episode 2)
Full disclosure: I underrated this one back in the fall of 2019 when it first aired. Yes, there’s something a tiny bit frustrating about watching this show use its full powers for a half-hour treatise on wanting to poop in silence. (At the time, it seemed like using a hand-crafted Ferrari engine to power one of those trains that runs through a mall that 4-year-olds can ride around the first floor.) But the Glootie subplot is more suited for B-plot chaos than I realized at the time — Taika’s delivery in that first Jerry back-and-forth is a fantastic setup — and Jeffrey Wright kind of does the impossible here. The machinations of Rick’s toilet planet and the logistics of the robot wars are right up there with the best of this show’s collection of “even better when left unexplained.” Sometimes, “Rick and Morty” trades the destination for the journey and that’s OK.
Best Quote: “He quit his job, started living life to the fullest. He crashed into a tree spaceskiing down Mt. Space Everest.” – Receptionist
28. “Get Schwifty” (Season 2, Episode 5)
“Rick and Morty” is the best show on TV at colliding the sensational with the ordinary. Maybe the perfect distillation of smashing these things together is a giant head in the sky proclaiming “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT.” Taking it the next step to a dystopian interplanetary Eurovision would be enough, but adding in the Earth perspective around the creation of a new head-worshipping religion fundamentally throws everything into flux. It also gives the show a chance to use coincidences to its advantage and toss in some truly absurd Ice-T heroism for good measure. Also, with an appearance as both Reverse Giraffe and here as the President (“Raised up posterior!”), Keith David might just be on the Mount Rushmore of “Rick and Morty” guest stars.
Best Quote (Non-“SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT” Edition): “For God’s sake, Nathan, the man turns people into snakes. He can use Google Maps.” – President
Up next: Multiple timelines, Tiny Rick and “I’m in!”