After making its Adult Swim debut in December 2013, Rick and Morty seemingly rocketed to fame overnight. And with only a few seasons under its belt so far, the nihilistic comedy has already found itself ranked alongside South Park, Futurama, and The Simpsons as one of the best animated classics of all time with no signs of the show losing its razor-sharp wit anytime soon.
The series revolves around alcoholic genius/mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson/sidekick Morty as the two attempt to juggle family life while literally ripping holes through time and space in pursuit of, well, mostly sticking it to Rick’s detractors and/or discovering new forms of trans-galactic sex. There’s clearly a riff on Back to the Future going on, but Rick and Morty takes many of its cues from sci-fi staples like Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There’s also a bit of Lovecraftian of horror underpinning the show’s madcap plots, which only adds to its fan-favorite blend of existential bleakness and absurd comedy.
With every frenetically-paced episode packed with visual gags, narrowing down the ten best episodes is almost certainly going to be a subjective task. But we think we’ve nailed down a pretty solid list that’s comprised of the best Rick and Morty has to offer. And if we didn’t, let us know in the comments.
10. Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat (Season 4, Episode 1)
The Story: In the fourth season premiere, Rick brings Morty on an expedition to harvest “death crystals,” so right off the bat, what could go wrong? The crystals allow whomever holds them to see their future, which results in Morty learning there’s a way to spend the rest of his life with his crush Jessica, so naturally, he jams one in his skull, and it’s off to the races. Rick dies, comes back as a wasp, a hologram and various other clones while Morty goes on a murder spree to ensure a future with his one true love. Don’t worry, everything works out in the end.
Why It’s On The List: With the introduction of Wasp Rick, Shrimp Rick, and a new take on Mr. Meeseeks, this episode sets aside any doubts that the show might’ve lost a step during a long, two-year hiatus since the third season. It’s all the Rick and Morty goodness that fans love while moving the series in new directions. Plus it has some sweet Akira references.
9. Rixty Minutes (Season 1, Episode 8)
The Story: After finding normal television boring as hell, Rick allows the Smith family TV to watch an endless array of shows from infinite realities. Unfortunately, one of those shows is a reality series that shows Jerry, Morty’s dad and Rick’s son-in-law, living the sweet life as a rich and famous actor, which makes everyone in the family curious to see how their lives could’ve played out in other realities. It goes very badly, and soon, Jerry and his wife Beth are barreling towards a divorce while their daughter, Summer, plans to run away after learning she wasn’t exactly a “planned” addition to the family.
Why It’s On The List: While trying to convince Summer to stay, Morty shows her the secret graveyard in the backyard where alternate versions of him and Rick are buried, and he delivers this classic line: “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?” It sounds bleak as all get out, but it plays perfectly in the episode and is probably one of the best examples of the show’s absurd, existential humor.
8. The Ricks Must Be Crazy (Season 2, Episode 6)
The Story: How to explain this one? So Rick’s flying car won’t start, and, of course, it’s powered by a battery that actually contains a “microverse” where an advanced species is unknowingly having its electricity siphoned by Rick. However, that species has now invented a microverse of its own, which is the source of aforementioned car trouble. Rick and Morty inevitably get trapped inside the microverse inside a microverse, and it becomes a whole thing. Meanwhile, in the real world — well, actually, a movie theater parking lot in an alternate reality — Summer is sitting inside Rick’s car that’s wreaking mayhem on the populace after taking Rick’s instructions to “Keep Summer safe” a little too far.
Why It’s On The List: On top of having all the hilarious sci-fi weirdness you want in a Rick and Morty episode, both Stephen Colbert and Nathan Fielder provided voices for Rick’s microverse adversaries. The ice cream gag at the end was pretty great, too.
7. A Rickle In Time (Season 2, Episode 1)
The Story: In the second season premiere, Summer and Morty’s squabbling breaks the very fabric of reality, and it puts Rick square in the sights of two testicular-looking time cops voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. Turns out, some of Rick’s methods aren’t exactly legal. For example, using a stolen time crystal to freeze time for six-months because he’s too lazy to clean up a house party from season one. That’s apparently frowned upon and will land him in Time Prison for all eternity — if the time cops can catch him across a cascading number of realities first.
Why It’s On The List: Did you catch the part about time-traveling testicles voiced by Key and Peele? That’ll do it right there.
6. Meeseeks and Destroy (Season 1, Episode 5)
The Story: In an effort to get everyone to stop asking him to complete basic tasks all of the time, Rick gifts the family a “Meeseeks Box,” which unlocks exactly one Mr. Meeseeks who will perform a task of your choosing, and then immediately perish. Unfortunately, Jerry doesn’t listen to Rick’s instructions to keep the tasks simple, and soon, a hostage situation breaks out involving hundreds of Meeseeks who can’t die until Jerry takes two strokes off of his golf game or dies in a hail of gunfire and has “all of the strokes” taken off of his game. Meanwhile, after winning a bet with Rick, Morty gets to pick the adventure this time, and things take a very dark turn. You’ll never look at jellybeans the same way again.
Why It’s On The List: Mr. Meeseeks is easily one of the more memorable characters that Rick and Morty have thrown at the screen, and that really is saying a lot. The show is packed to the gills with off-the-wall characters, so it takes a little something extra to stand out in that crowd, and Mr. Meeseeks delivers.
5. Pickle Rick (Season 3, Episode 3)
The Story: Because he’d rather risk death than go to therapy, Rick conveniently turns himself into a pickle just as the family is getting ready to leave for counseling. However, Beth notices an elaborate setup with a syringe that will change Rick back into a human as soon as everyone leaves, so she takes it, which leaves Rick trapped as a pickle until they get back. Unfortunately, on her way out, Beth doesn’t realize that she knocked Rick into the sewer, where he’s forced to build himself a robotic body out of rat corpses that turns him into an unstoppable killing machine.
Why It’s On The List: Ask anyone to name their favorite Rick and Morty episodes, and there’s an almost guaranteed chance that Pickle Rick will end up on the list. The episode eschews the show’s usual sci-fi trappings, except for the cybernetic pickle, of course, for an insane send-up of action films with a touching family drama sewn in. Alright, maybe touching isn’t the right word, but there is binge-drinking!
4. The Ricklantis Mixup (Season 3, Episode 7)
The Story: So this one isn’t exactly about the main Rick and Morty, but it is definitely full of Ricks and Mortys. More commonly known as “Tales from the Citadel,” this episode is comprised of five short vignettes that focus on the interdimensional society where thousands of Ricks and Mortys from different realities do everything from work as crooked cops, run for office, and get turned into delicious wafers? It’s very reminiscent of The Twilight Zone but taken to outrageous extremes that fans of the show have come to expect.
Why It’s On The List: The Ricklantis Mixup is the writing team firing on all cylinders as they take a tiny pocket of the Rick and Morty mythos and turn it into a multiverse of stories packed with the show’s hilariously bleak sci-fi antics. After it aired, the episode received critical acclaim for shining its absurd light on police brutality and political corruption, and for the fact that almost every single character was voiced by Justin Roiland with the exception of one or two lines. Considering each short story was jam-packed with different variations of Morty and Rick with their own unique personalities, that’s no small feat, and it’s impressive as hell that Roiland pulled it off.
3. Total Rickall (Season 2, Episode 4)
The Story: While sitting around the dinner table, the Smith family slowly learns that every time they reminisce about the past, alien parasites reproduce and become part of their memories. But not just any part, the parasites manifest themselves as a strange assortment of characters from a talking pencil named Pencilvester, Tinkles the Fairy Lamb, Frankenstein’s monster, and the lovable Mr. Poopybutthole. But once the Smiths solve the key to figuring out who’s a real memory and who’s a parasite, well, that’s when the shooting starts.
Why It’s On The List: Mr. Poopybutthole. Full stop.
2. Rick Potion #9 (Season 1, Episode 6)
The Story: On the night of the school dance, Morty asks Rick to make him a love serum that will make his longtime crush Jessica be his date, which is a creepy thing to do, so fortunately, the whole situation wildly spirals out of control. Unbeknownst to Rick and Morty, Jessica has the flu, which bonds with the love serum and causes the entire population to become violently obsessed with Morty. After repeatedly disfiguring the whole world with failed antidote after antidote, Rick finally comes up with a Hail Mary solution that will haunt Morty for the rest of his life.
Why It’s On The List: Not only does Rick Potion #9 turn the gross implications of a love serum on its head, but the episode makes it abundantly clear that Rick and Morty isn’t afraid to go to some very dark places, and yet somehow be insanely funny while doing so. The episode also marked a notable push into bringing continuity into the mix, which is a very bold move considering Rick and Morty blow up reality almost every time they go on an adventure. But with Rick Potion #9, viewers learn a dark secret that gives future installment an added heft because, as much as it seems like nothing matters on the show, the duo’s insane romps are having lasting effects. It’s a delicate juggling act, for sure, but Rick Potion #9 set the ball in motion, and the writers have risen to the challenge every time.
1. Mortynight Run (Season 2, Episode 2)
The Story: After becoming displeased with Rick making an arms deal that will result in the assassination of a sentient cloud being named Fart, of course, Morty helps the wanted gas cloud escape. Unfortunately, in his attempt to save a life, Morty ends up getting several people killed, which he rationalizes as a means to an end. But when that end comes, things get very dark for Morty, as they so often do.
Why It’s On The List: Once again, Rick and Morty doesn’t shy away from putting poor Morty through the wringer. Just when you think the show can’t traumatize the kid anymore, he’s faced with an intergalactic Trolley Problem after already leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. And yet, somehow, each dark stare into the void is more hilarious than the last. Mortynight Run is also another classic example that you never know what crazy twist Rick and Morty is going to pull as their frenetic adventures come crashing to an end. Morty’s righteous jaunt to protect a fart cloud could’ve easily concluded with a laugh, but nope, the show took a sharp turn into “Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box” country that will leave you staring at your TV in disbelief. And that’s the magic of Rick and Morty.