In just a handful of seasons, “Rick and Morty” has gone from a relatively modest riff on interdimensional travel to a cultural force big enough to sustain an entire warehouse worth of merch possibilities. So far, these episodes have found its two central characters unleashing destruction on a galactic scale and — in their best-case scenarios — just barely managing to get things close to normal again. Along the way, they’ve managed to rope the rest of their immediate family into the ever-escalating mayhem.
The mythology of this Adult Swim mainstay gets deeper by the chapter, not just with the unlikely grandfather/grandson team, but the flurry of details that whoosh by as they meet new characters of various sizes, species, and forms of matter. So, with a dense back catalogue to sift through, one big question remains: Where’s the best place to start?
So, in a constant quest to help newcomers to the show find the ideal entry point into the series (and to prove to everyone the microverse car battery episode is vastly under-appreciated), we’ve collected every installment of the show and assembled them in a vaguely scientific ranking. Just so this isn’t a completely knee-jerk emotional exercise, we’ve also added a little bit of context to explain why each episode deserves its place in the show’s hierarchy.
And let’s be honest: 94 percent of the people who clicked on this story have already skipped down to see where “Pickle Rick” is, so let’s skip the pleasantries, say “Chuddily duddily ho ho ho!” and get to the list.
(We’ll continue to update this list as new episodes make their way to air. For each episode, we’ve also tossed in our picks for each episode’s best quote, some of which singlehandedly moved up their respective episodes a slot or two.)
46. “Promortyus” (Season 4, Episode 7)
“Rick & Morty” was always going to do “Alien” at some point. Apart from adding on a Mars Attacks Ex Machina, recasting Rick as an aggro conspiracy theory YouTuber, giving Summer a reign as an accidental empress of a planet of parasitic creatures, this is as straightforward a genre template as the show gets. Where this episode continually impresses is the massive scale of this civilization…at least until it’s all annihilated by Gundam swords and the Space Cruiser’s secret weapons cache. Is it all gratuitous? Of course. But when all else fails, “Rick & Morty” usually gives a feast for the eyeballs. (Also worth noting: When the two head back to the planet to pick up Summer, their plates of pancakes are on the dashboard. In this world, not even an interplanetary rescue mission can stand in the way of finishing breakfast.)
Best Quote: ”I know! It’s like, pick a lane: Are you face huggers or industrialists?” – Rick
45. “M. Night Shaym-Aliens!” (Season 1, Episode 4)
This probably isn’t the least-entertaining “Rick and Morty” episode, but it’s the one that has been most undercut by other episodes doing its standout elements better. Playing with reality as an illusion, nefarious alien entities trying to wrestle technological secrets away from Rick, and Jerry watching an alternate reality crumble around him have all been utilized elsewhere to stronger effect. But this still has a solid David Cross performance and “My man!” never gets old, no matter how many times the episode returns to it. Some “Rick and Morty” episodes are simply a collection of disparate, amusing component parts, and that’s OK.
Best Quote: ”You’re missing the point, Morty. Why would he drive a smaller toaster with wheels? Does your car look like a smaller version of your house? No.” – Rick
44. “Close Rick-counters of the Rick Kind” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Now that we’re well acquainted with some of the intricacies of this particular multiverse, it’s hard to believe that a gathering of Ricks was once a surprise for the show. But even with introducing the bevy of Citadel-bound alternate Ricks, it’s hard not to get over just how weird the rest of this episode is. Seeing a wall full of tortured Mortys is just as unsettling is any mutant Cronenberg, and the farewell Keyser Soze moment of a vengeful rogue Morty disappearing into the crowd is a fun twist on some of the other end-of-episode resets. But above all, let’s all take a second to appreciate the unadulterated commitment to the bit that the chair-pizza-phone combo deserves and gets. The rule of threes has rarely been so satisfying.
Best Quote: “So a few thousand versions of me had the ingenious idea of banding together like a herd of cattle or a school of fish, or… those people who answer questions on Yahoo! Answers.” – Rick
43. “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty” (Season 4, Episode 4)
This show’s guest star balance is a precarious thing. Sometimes, all the glory goes to the newcomers and the Smiths’ contributions just seem empty by comparison. So as much as Liam Cunningham and Matthew Broderick add their own delightfully odd seasoning to this D&D riff, it’s the most forgettable of the first-half Season 4 batch. The show’s trolling of people’s desire for 90’s pop-culture ephemera, Jerry’s ever-expanding pitifulness, and the soul-bonding gag all have a bit of an autopilot feel to them. Still, it’s absolutely 15 times funnier that the talking cat’s mouth doesn’t move and the non-reveal reveal of its intergalactic war crimes works as a tiny self-contained short on its own.
Best Quote: “Power of Twelve Feet!” – The Wizard
42. “Something Ricked This Way Comes” (Season 1, Episode 9)
Has anyone had more fun playing the Devil than Alfred Molina? (Him singing along with some fierce violin playing indicates “no.”) The rapid fire O. Henry-ish set-ups of cursed charms ends up being a little more fleeting than the premise hints at, but this episode does provide some of the shows most GIF-able moments: Rick setting fire to his trinket-cleansing store and a bulked-up Rick and Summer pummeling some Nazis, to name a few. Sprinkled in among the inventive new ways to curse at unsuspecting customers, we get a tiny glimpse into what Rick is like when he’s really lonely and that he may have more affection for his immediate family than he lets on.
Best Quote: “Some voids can’t be filled with Jamba Juice…” – Mr. Goldenfold (Close runner-up: him gleefully shouting “I haven’t learned a thiiiiiiiing!” as he exits the store after Rick cures him.)
41. “Rickdependence Spray” (Season 5, Episode 4)
An episode that’s a testament to all the different horse-civilization terms you can come up with if you really put your mind to it. The horse half is the only one that really works here, but if you’re going to be beholden to blockbusters from the ‘90s for major plot points, you could do worse visually than people riding sentient sperm on a mission to save Las Vegas from total destruction. And actually, with a well-crafted trebuchet joke and a new catchphrase, there’s still plenty here to like.
Best Quote: “I always knew your hormones would cause a world war between humans and cannibalistic horse people, I just didn’t know it would be like this.” – Rick
40. “Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate” (Season 2, Episode 8)
Let’s get one thing clear: Werner Herzog deserved an Emmy for this. Both halves of this episode have their share of laughs, such as Jerry fighting back and forth on whether to sacrifice a specific part of himself for the good of the universe and a Jan Michael Vincent-heavy reboot of “Rixty Minutes.” The two never quite mesh all the way (Rick’s “We pretty much nailed it the first time…” says it best), but the non-Herzog guests are also stellar. (How has Gary Cole never been the star of his own medical drama?) And some extra plumbus knowledge always comes in handy.
Best Quote: It isn’t a quote, but Justin Roiland laughing at his improv in both of the cable episodes is pretty delightful. (Oh, and the whispered “Lil’ Bits.“)
39. “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender” (Season 3, Episode 4)
A fun superhero team-up gets inverted when they face the biggest enemy possible: a drunk, nihilistic Rick. Morty gets the chance to play hero, but this is another episode that’s been more satisfying in slightly different iterations. Much like “Pickle Rick,” there’s a shocking amount of detail in the Rube Goldberg experiments that come before each of the Vindicators’ untimely horrific deaths. Even if this felt like a slight missed opportunity to truly upend the superhero squad subgenre, it still did give us the absolute delight that is Lance Reddick as Alan Rails. Toss in Gillian Jacobs’ brilliant Supernova monotone and you have an ideal example of why the more pedestrian “Rick and Morty” episodes have more to offer than most shows’ alternatives.
Best Quote: “Really, you don’t say? You would’ve used a ghost train? Hey, everybody, the ghost train guy would have used a ghost train.” – Rick
Up next: Armothy, a little purging, and the garage monologue that kicked everything off