The beautifully bumbling, wonderfully weird, sometimes disquieting but always delightful brain child of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, Rick and Morty has it all: science-fiction fantasticism, a striking balance of inanity and intelligence, gags that are both goofy and gory, monologues that make you question your very existence, candy-coloured palettes over gorgeous old-school animation, and the lion’s share of alcohol-inducing belching. You name it, Rick and Morty can deliver it in kind.
Which means ranking the titular characters’ interdimensional-faring adventures isn’t just difficult, it’s practically impossible. A real Sophie’s choice. Or, perhaps more appropriately, a “who’s the more insufferable partner in the Smith marriage: Jerry or Beth?” scenario: whomever takes first place clearly triumphs, with the runners-up only a millimeter behind.
Though no easy feat, and to honor the next leg of the blue-haired scientist/wanted space criminal and anxious-as-all-heck teen duo, we’ve taken to picking the top five Rick and Morty episodes. Grab your portal gun (and some Kalaxian Crystals if you’re feelin’ extra frisky) and dive in.
5) “A Rickle in Time” — Season 2, Episode 1
Featuring funnymen duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as fourth-dimensional testicle monsters and a stacked-up timeline that’s as dense and delicious as the finest of sandwich-adjacent culinary creations, the season two premiere of Rick and Morty displays both the upped production value the second time around and the glorious mind-juices of creators Roiland and Harmon. Though the pair have been forthright about how difficult the episode was to create—given that the screen, at one point, is split into dozens of different versions of Rick, Morty, and Summer (Spencer Grammer) trying to stitch reality back together at the exact same time—the end product that is “A Rickle in Time” serves as a reminder of how fantastic the series is and as a cautionary tale to never, ever screw around with time—even if it is to spend six months cleaning your house and replacing a bank’s money with cookies while your frozen parents are growing mold in the front yard.
Best line: [Morty to Summer] “You shut up you big… female a**hole!”
4) “Get Schwifty” — Season 2, Episode 5
Massive floating heads, Summer becoming the poster child for perfect behavior, Jerry experiencing a full cycle of breakthrough-weird sex-breakdown-second breakthrough-crippling feelings of inadequacy, secret snake compartments, and an inexplicable appearance from an animated Ice-T that isn’t actually voiced by the man himself (co-creator Harmon lent his golden pipes instead). That’s the recipe for “Get Schwifty,” an episode of Rick and Morty that’s cemented itself as legendary for its ludicrousness of plot and of the lyrics to its titular song.
When the space craniums forcibly enter Earth into an interplanetary musical competition, Rick and Morty must trek to a not-so-secret stage in the States to perform the hilariously screwy tune “Get Schwifty,” which is entirely about stripping your pants off and, well, doing things a real-life human person should never do, in order to protect the world from being Death Star-ed.
As a series that’s become known for its off-the-cuff humor, thanks to its writers’ fine-tuned improv skills, Rick and Morty shows us what it’s got in this episode—and what that is is a whole lot of highly enjoyable wackiness and an ability to make a song about defecating super catchy.
Best line: [Summer] “May my chores complete me as I complete them!”
3) “The Wedding Squanchers” — Season 2, Episode 10
The dearly beloved gather in the season two finale, but the marital bliss turns sour before the reception’s finished, as Tammy Gueterman (Cassie Steele) reveals herself to be a Galactic Federation officer who only married Birdperson (Dan Harmon) as part of an elaborate sting to bust the universe’s most wanted criminals. While the mid-champagne toast twist was surprising in its own right, what elevates “The Wedding Squanchers” to nearly untouchable heights its its unexpected emotionality.
When Tammy unveils herself and makes public her once-secret identity, the scales fall from everyone’s eyes, and the consequences are messy and kind of heartbreaking: Birdperson is shot multiple times, Rick’s confidants and co-conspirators are in jeopardy, and the Smiths are finally realizing just how deep Rick’s criminal roots run. But more than that, Rick is presented with something he’s never had before, or at least never taken: an chance to sacrifice himself to save his family.
An astonishing episode for many reasons, “The Wedding Squanchers” marks a big-picture triumph in keeping the series fresh and snappy, and a small-scale victory in sparking in Rick the idea of selflessness.
Best line: [Rick] “Everything’s on a cob! The whole planet’s on a cob! Go, go, go!”
2) “Rixty Minutes” — Season 1, Episode 8
Widely regarded as Roiland and Harmon’s mangum opus in Rick and Morty, “Rixty Minutes” is the end-all, be-all example of what the series does best: blending together an engaging storyline with unplanned, spur-of-the-moment humor. The episode, which wound up being the first in the series’ “interdimensional cable” installments, offers up tender sequences in which Beth and Jerry contemplate the could-have-beens of their marriage as they watch themselves through alternate reality goggles and delivers the giggles with Roiland’s now-trademark ad lib television show spots, movie trailers, and infomercials for products no one in any dimension would ever buy. Filled with humor and heart, “Rixty Minutes” reveals it’s microcosm for society and the human condition as a whole in Morty’s weighty line to Summer, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody is going to die. Come watch TV?”
Best line: [Roiland improving] “It’s just called Two Brothers.”
1) “Total Rickall” — Season 2, Episode 4
If “Total Rickall” were to somehow be materialized into a tangible item (which Rick could undoubtedly make happen with some type of laser-gun hybrid), it would, without question, be sweet-and-salty trail mix. Packed full of delicious goodies that stick around longer than you’d expect (damn you, peanut shells), this not-quite-middle-of-the-season episode is the finest showing Rick and Morty has thrust forth thus far. Sure, the series swells in seriously incredible moments of improvisational comedy, in shockingly sentimental scenes, in loopy and crude jokes that have you exhaling sharply through your nose in little snorts, but where it truly works is in episodes like “Total Rickall,” in which an idea grounds itself into the narrative from the very first second of screen time and is carried through to its end, without flaking out on any of the characters’ lunacy. (Jerry makes out with a made-up man, whom he believes is Beth’s actual husband, on a play-pretend boat, if that serves as any benchmark of mania.)
“Total Rickall” strikes both while the iron is hot and a perfect balance between genuine and seemingly insurmountable pain that exists in the Smith-Sanchez family and rowdy, Rick-tastic fun that culminates in a guts-exploding bloodbath. While cutscenes introduce madcap character after madcap character (shout-out to Ghost in a Jar), Jerry, Beth (Sarah Chalke), and Summer face the truth of their personalities and shortcomings: the man of the house is unemployed, the supposed matriarch has made a mountain of bad decisions, the eldest child is the second favourite.
Though many would be quick to call this episode a stringing together of gags, goofs, and crazy characters, “Total Rickall” is far more than that. It twists the standard “Rick knows all” formula to pass the buck to Morty in just the same way it twists the family’s heartstrings in a final, unforeseen mistake.
Best line: [Rick] “Why don’t you make me, implausibly naive pubescent boy with an old Jewish comedy writer’s name?”