Saying Goodbye to Futurama: Our 10 Favorite Episodes

By Andy Daglas

Sep 03, 2013

Futurama has spent most of its life in the animated shadows of bigger shows. It debuted in 1999 as Matt Groening’s “other” show, never finding nearly as much support among audiences or Fox network executives as The Simpsons. After it was canceled in the mid-2000s by Fox, it found a new following through Adult Swim reruns and DVDs and was subsequently revived; even then, it was only the second-most notable show to tread that unlikely path, behind Family Guy. And so it’s only fitting that Futurama wraps up its final season in the same summer as the much more high-profile departures of Breaking Bad and Dexter

Because it's dabbled in so many tones and genre styles over the course of its 140 episodes, Futurama can be difficult to get a handle on. The series' quality has varied widely, occasionally content to lazily rehash familiar parodies, but it's often taken full and fruitful advantage of the imaginative possibilities offered by its setting. 

At the top of its game, Futurama balanced incisive cynicism with disarming sweetness, dark comedy with jaunty slapstick. These 10 episodes aren’t necessarily the series’ best, but they’re representative of the peaks the Planet Express gang frequently hit as they traversed the 31st century. Take a look, then share your own favorite episodes, moments, and characters from Futurama’s 14-year off-and-on duration in the comments. 

Note: The following season and episode listings are based on TV airing order, rather than production order. They may be numbered differently on DVD or online streaming services.

“Hell is Other Robots,” Season 1, Episode 9 

The series was frequently over-enamored of Bender-centric episodes, but its first one remains one of its best. If nothing else, it earns a place on this list for introducing a venerable returning character in the Robot Devil and giving us the Dante-inspired, Beastie Boys-featuring “Robot Hell.”

“When Aliens Attack,” Season 2, Episode 3 

The debut of Lrr and his cohorts from Omicron Persei 8 was precipitated, naturally, by the cancellation of that smash interstellar hit Single Female Lawyer. Spoofing David E. Kelley and Roland Emmerich in equal measure pretty clearly dates this episode to the late 1990s, but that winds up making a neat comment on what science-fiction has in common with parody: The future always looks like a version of the present, warped to varying degrees.

"The Luck of the Fryrish," Season 3, Episode 10 

Perhaps overshadowed by “Jurassic Bark” over the years, this early look back at the twentieth-century life of ol’ Philip J. Fry is equally affecting. It helped a high-concept series keep one foot in a small, sentimental place, paving the way for its future forays into character-based dramedy.

“Roswell That Ends Well,” Season 4, Episode 1 

What this episode lacks in sexy teen alien drama, it more than made up for in history-twisting and incest-centric time-travel paradoxes. Small wonder it took home Futurama’s first Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

“Godfellas,” Season 4, Episode 8 

Like any good work of sci-fi, philosophical questions always crept in around Futurama’s margins. The saga of how Bender becomes, then maybe meets, a deity shows the series at its most existential. (Plus, I’m pretty sure the First Amalgamated Church Fry visits is a model for the final episode of Lost.)

“Jurassic Bark,” Season 5, Episode 2 

Not gonna lie, I spent about 10 minutes considering omitting this episode just to watch the comments section explode in a hail of pitchforks and torches. The tear-jerking final minutes are perhaps the most memorable in the series’ entire run, but the episode constructs such a surprisingly sincere story that the emotion is fully earned, rather than easy manipulation. Now, if you’ll excuse me… I’m just gonna need a minute before we continue.

“Where No Fan Has Gone Before,” Season 4, Episode 12 

I’m not sure any TV show has ever Mary Sue’d itself into a work of fan fiction quite as thoroughly as this one, nor ever will again. With most of the cast of Star Trek: The Original Series represented, this episode is one of the purest, if one of the broadest, distillations of Futurama’s signature homage to/lampooning of its sci-fi roots.

“The Sting,” Season 5, Episode 9 

Part puzzle-box, part “what if” scenario, “The Sting” uses a series of off-kilter situations to take a deep, direct look at Fry and Leela’s relationship. It's a rare dual showcase for both the show’s penchant for genre fiction oddity and its ability to treat its core characters as genuine people.

“Lethal Inspection,” Season 6A, Episode 6 

Bender’s humanity was always a fluid concept throughout the series’ run; like Homer Simpson’s intelligence, it waxed and waned depending on the needs of a given story. But there’s nothing more human than coming to grips with your own mortality, as Bender does here. I’m sure the Hermes-Bender backstory revealed at the end is rife with retconning, but nonetheless it’s a sweet glimpse at one of the least-seen Planet Express relationships.

"The Late Philip J. Fry,” Season 6A, Episode 7 

Nabbing Futurama its second Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 2011, this is another Fry-Leela episode that's more poignant than its preposterous inciting incident might suggest. Like many of Futurama's best stories, it revels in huge, convoluted sci-fi notions and tropes, but all in service to an intimate story about a central relationship.

Other contenders:
“Brannigan, Begin Again” (Season 2, Episode 6), “Xmas Story” (Season 2, Episode 8), “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back” (Season 2, Episode 11), “The Cryonic Woman” (Season 2, Episode 19), “Anthology of Interest I” (Season 2, Episode 20), "Parasites Lost" (Season 3, Episode 4), “The Day the Earth Stood Stoopid” (Season 3, Episode 7), “That’s Lobstertainment!” (Season 3, Episode 8), “Love and Rocket” (Season 4, Episode 4), “Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles” (Season 5, Episode 7), "The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings” (Season 5, Episode 16), “Reincarnation” (Season 6B, Episode 13), “Game of Tones” (Season 7B, Episode 10).

What episodes would make your list?

  • Comments (58)
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  • johartung Aug 02, 2014

    Hey Fellow Futurama Fans!
    I've made a petition asking T.V networks like FOX and Adult Swim to pick Futurama back up!
    Here is the link if you are interested in signing it:

    You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter at " Save Futurama 2014 " (categorized under TV SHOW on FB).
    There we can discuss all the different ways we can help to get Futurama renewed for an 8th season (or 10th, whatever)
    Thanks guys! Keep your fingers crossed!

  • alienzed Dec 21, 2013

    Game of tones made tear up at the end. I love you mom!

  • BugRadio Sep 07, 2013

    This list is a little heavy on the schmaltz for me. Jurassic Bark is a less successful version of Luck-O-Fryish. And when it comes to exploring mortality w/Bender, A Pharaoh to Remember does it better (and funnier) than Lethal Inspection.

    The biggest omission: Parabox. It didn't even make the runner-up list (but Lobstertainment and 'Hermes...Groove' did?? - Oof!)

    Ah, but I just re-read the intro and remembered it's a FAVES list, not a best-of. Who am I to tell the reviewer what his favorites should be?

    Guess I really just wanted to say "Parabox." So...Parabox! Parabox! Parabox!

    Also, wolf-man.

  • simonsoderman Sep 05, 2013

    What, no "War is the H word"?

  • Dandeleo Sep 05, 2013

    I'm a sucker for Zoidberg and one of my favourites is "Roswell That Ends Well" because he's in it being as awful as ever, Bender gets to be a smart arse, and the time paradox which is the bone of so many other sci-fi shows gets so screwed over - it's great. Sci-fi spoofery at it's best.

  • ToddMurray Sep 05, 2013

    Nice send up, Andy... I guess I'll be pulling out my DVDs for a marathon sometime very soon.

  • rgpearson1 Sep 05, 2013

    I will miss my favorite animation friends! And my fun on the bun Buddy ( bender) ! Roswell that ends well !

  • Gizma Sep 04, 2013

    I'll miss you Bender :(

  • Ouji-San Sep 04, 2013

    but season 7 was little off for me..
    It came out last year with half then ended then other half came out strong then very very week 2-3 episodes then strong again.. now this..

    I know i was feeling worse when watching Season um 22 i think it was or 21 when the entire season felt like they just wanted to make it instead of cared.

    but picked up stronger than ever.

    Luckly The Simpsons will never end (hopefully) its amazing to watch a show since your a kid till now.

    I think Futurama Is that show for the generations born in the late 90s that remembers How Fry first got frozen till the day he finally played that Hologram song for Leela.

    but before Season 8 maybe make few Movies again those were EPIC..

    Hopefully the show comes on again.

  • Ouji-San Sep 04, 2013

    oh refereing to The Simpson when i said Season 22 etc

  • pbblair1 Sep 04, 2013

    I have to say my favourite episode of all time is "300 big boys". It showed everyones story and how they spent the money, with Fry's being the most hilarious, getting jacked on 100 coffees. Then ending with Fry in some kind of euphoric caffeine state and time halting. It was amazing....

  • Spoontown Sep 05, 2013

    That=true, best ep worst omission from the list.

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