Who would have believed that an animated series from the creator of Community that initially looked like a crude Back to the Future rip-off would go down in history as one of the most worshipped sci-fi shows in recent memory? After dropping just 31 episodes in its first four years, such has turned out to be the case for Rick and Morty.
The darkly comic half-hour Adult Swim hit from co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland (the voice of both Rick and Morty) about the dimension-hopping adventures of a boy and his alcoholic genius grandfather just recently saw the premiere of Season 4. This has us wondering, of the first three seasons, which Rick and Morty episodes are the best.
Ranking Rick and Morty episodes is an undertaking that not even enlisting Mr. Meeseeks could alleviate, considering the series’ reputation for the enduringly inventive methods of storytelling it has kept consistent since it premiered in 2013. Thus, I figured it best to base my rankings on the episodes I found to be the most unique and memorable, in hopes that I can trust my memories as truth, of course (wink wink).
Well, without future ado, these are my picks for the top 10 Rick and Morty episodes, ranked from worst to best. Wubba lubba dub dub!
10. Get Schwifty (Season 2, Episode 5)
Of the countless parodies that American Idol has been subjected to since it first debuted, I think it is safe to call this Season 2 Rick and Morty episode the clear winner. When a giant alien head forces Earth into showing him “WHAT THEY GOT” for an interplanetary singing competition, it is up to Rick and Morty to come up with a perfect hit tune as the planet’s representation.
The ridiculous premise could only come from a show like Rick and Morty, and thankfully so, as it gave birth to one of TV’s funniest musical moments. The performance of the title song “Get Schwifty” also marks a major highlight of Justin Roiland’s improvisational brilliance.
9. Rest and Ricklaxation (Season 3, Episode 6)
Known for its relentlessly dark and deeply emotional story elements, this Rick and Morty episode is a particularly shining example of that. After another intergalactic adventure proves particularly exhausting for our heroes, they visit a spa that releases their inner toxins, even their behavioral toxicity, which turns out to be a bigger problem than it sounds.
While relatively light on comedy, “Rest and Ricklaxation” is one of the more thought-provoking and even tear-jerking Rick and Morty episodes, as Rick’s honest feelings for his grandson are revealed through the personification of Rick’s bad side. Its deep meditation on what defines an individual’s personality provides great evidence to the show’s complexity.
8. Lawnmower Dog (Season 1, Episode 2)
Rick and Morty race through the subconscious of Morty’s teacher in an effort to convince him to change the boy’s grade. Meanwhile, the rest of the Smith family face the wrath of their dog Snuffles who, thanks to Rick, is rapidly growing in intelligence.
Part Inception parody, part A Nightmare on Elm Street parody, and fused with a hilariously grim canine revolt storyline, there is so much going on in this episode, but it never loses steam. In just its second episode ever, Rick and Morty proved that it can juggle multiple unique storylines, whilst keeping the ideas refreshingly clever, with ease.
7. Meeseeks and Destroy (Season 1, Episode 5)
This episode saw the introduction of fan favorite character Mr. Meeseeks, Rick’s joyful, sentient solution to any person’s problems, complete with his own catchphrase: “I’m Mr. Meeseeks. Look at me!” Of course, as happens with all Rick and Morty episodes, nothing positive lasts very long.
First, the Smiths' lives get overrun by an overwhelming amount of Meeseeks clones, who won’t disappear until all problems they have been assigned to are solved, and then one infamous scene features Morty being sexually assaulted by a giant bean. “Meeseeks and Destroy” is a testament to how quickly a Rick and Morty episode can change its tone on a dime.
6. A Rickle In Time (Season 2, Episode 1)
The premiere episode of Rick and Morty’s sophomore season picks up right where Season 1 ended, with Jerry (Chris Parnell) and Beth (Sarah Chalke) frozen in time. After time is restarted, an argument between Summer (Spencer Grammar) and Morty accidentally splits their reality into disparate timelines, threatening the fabric of the space time continuum.
"A Rickle In Time" is one of the more ambitious Rick and Morty episodes, depicting the events of multiple timelines simultaneously via split screen. It gets a little confusing, but that’s part of the appeal.
5. The Ricklantis Mixup (Season 3, Episode 7)
In a clever bait and switch, the flash of this episode’s true title, “Tales from the Citadel,” revealed Rick and Morty’s Atlantis adventure to not be the show’s true plot. Instead, we get an anthology of slice-of-life tales from the secret society inhabited by Ricks and Mortys from differing realities known as the Citadel.
Featuring an intriguing role reversal that sees a hardened cop Morty partnered with a meek Rick and a terrifying payoff to the Season 1 reveal that Evil Morty is still at large, this episode is a thrilling and engrossing departure from the series more traditional adventures. It is yet another example of how Rick and Morty could master drama just as well as comedy.
4. Total Rickall (Season 2, Episode 4)
Our story begins with the introduction of Jerry's brother, Uncle Steve, before taking a brutal surprise turn when Rick kills him, revealing that he never existed and is a product of a memory-altering parasite. Now, Rick, Morty, and the family must figure out who in their overcrowded household is real, doubting each other’s familiarity at every turn.
This is one of those Rick and Morty episodes that cleverly riffs on pop culture favorites, this time by incorporating themes of paranoia a la John Carpenter’s The Thing, which has the inclusion of actor Keith David in common with this episode. The pique of “Total Rickall’s” brilliance is the shocking reveal that Mr. Poopy Butthole, a character long suspected as an imposter, was real all along, despite never appearing in the series before.
3. Rick Potion #9 (Season 1, Episode 6)
As a riff on the age old tale of an adolescent going to extremely unconventional means to win the heart of their crush, Morty enlists Rick’s help in getting his classmate Jessica to go the school dance with him. Rick’s love potion is a success, at first, until it spreads across the entire town and the antidote only makes things worse.
This Rick and Morty episode is already on fire when it becomes an apocalyptic B-movie pitting reformed badass Jerry against the “Cronenbergs,” but what really makes this one a classic is Rick’s disturbing solution to ditch the current reality for a new dimension, where he and Morty assume the identities of murdered alternate versions of themselves. It is one of the series most haunting twists and crucial to its reputation for cleverly inserting horror into its broadly comedic storylines.
2. Pickle Rick (Season 3, Episode 3)
With her marriage to Jerry ending, Beth hopes to smooth things out by taking the family to therapy. To avoid attending the session, Rick temporary transforms himself into a pickle, hence the title, “Pickle Rick.”
This of the most worshipped, meme-inspiring, and, above all, absurd Rick and Morty episodes, and Emmy voters seemed to agree. The secret is that, “Pickle Rick” is more than a violent battle between a vegetized Rick and a horde of sewer rats - it is a poignant exploration of the roots of the character’s deepest insecurities.
1. Rixty Minutes (Season 1, Episode 8)
In one of the few episodes that sees Rick and Morty not taking heat from otherworldly evil, “Rixty Minutes” is essentially a collection of random pop culture riffs within the framing device of Rick setting up the Smith’s TV with interdimensional cable. That is, until a docuseries from an alternate reality reveals what Beth and Jerry’s lives could have been had they chosen to abort Summer, inciting a deeply reflective discussion.
The reason I would credit this personal favorite of mine as the definitive Rick and Morty episode is, for one, it might be its funniest episode (Justin Roiland’s improvised Two Brothers trailer narration always cracks me up), and it shows no fear in exploring mature concepts in a dark, yet honest, manner. Not to mention, it spawned a hilariously meta sequel in Season 2.
Of course, there is no right or wrong answer in deciding which Ricky and Morty episode is the best. Like I said earlier, it’s no easy task to pick a clear favorite in a show of such profound versatility and razor sharp wit. It gives you the sense that TV this good can only happen by accident.
Now, with Season 4 now in progress on Adult Swim, the next chapter of Rick and Morty’s legacy continues to look bright. Be sure to check back for more updates here on CinemaBlend.
Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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