When FXX announced a complete Simpsons marathon — as in airing all 552 episodes consecutively, from August 21st through Labor Day — there was much rejoicing among those of us who have spent nearly as much time in Springfield as we have in our own actual hometowns. Conversations started turning to what required us to set our DVRs and when the Ramones-cameo episode (“Rosebud,” for those of you playing at home) would grace our screens. And that led to an even more important conversation: Of the 552 episodes we’d be watching over the next 12 days, which would you show to the few who remain unconverted to the show’s genius? What, essentially, are the greatest Simpsons’ episodes of them all?
So after hours of arguing, several bouts of fisticuffs, many games of roshambo and much consulting of online forums, Rolling Stone has come up with the answer — the 150 best Simpsons episodes of all time. You can use this as a guide to the marathon, or simply something to end arguments such as whether “Bart the Daredevil” is better than “Bart the Lover” (yes, it is), which Treehouse of Horror is the best (we’re going with IV) and which one truly stands head and shoulders above the rest (read on). Regardless, grab your Duff beer or Krusty Kola and dig in.
150. ‘Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder’
Homer decides to go bowling with the guys, and ends up bowling a perfect game. He becomes a local celebrity and a center-square occupant on Hollywood Squares, but fame is a fickle mistress. Homer then decides to use his spare time to bond with Maggie (“the forgotten Simpson”).
Best Visual Gag: The take-off on The Natural‘s super home run, complete with Randy Newman’s score, flying slo-mo balls, flashbulbs and explosions.
Best Line: “Kids, today we have to talk about Krusty Brand Chew Goo Gum-Like Substance…we knew it contained spider eggs, but the Honda Virus? Whoa-oh, that really came out of left field!”
149. ‘All Singing, All Dancing’
One of the stronger of the Simpsons‘ clip shows (no, it’s not a contradiction in terms), this collection of musical sequences rewinds through Homer’s barbershop quartet, Bart and Milhouse’s sugar-high tribute to On the Town, a church sing-along of “In a Gadda Da Vidda” and Lyle Lanley selling Springfield a monorail via song, among others. Bonus points for reminding us of the living hell that is the film adaptation of Paint Your Wagon.
Best Visual Gag: The look on Homer and Bart’s faces after they see Clint Eastwood break into song.
Best Line: “Here comes Lee Marvin! Thank god, he’s always drunk and violent.”
148. ‘Behind the Laughter’
The Simpsons get a tell-all special, where what we’ve been watching has actually been a TV show cooked up by Homer. Dad gets addicted to painkillers, the family fail to pay their taxes, and fame starts to sour. Fame…it plays hideous tricks on the brain.
Best Visual Gag: Fox’s failed Bart Simpson T-shirts — “You bet your sweet bippy, man” and “Life begins at conception, man.”
Best Line: “And that horrible act of child abuse became one of our most beloved running gags.”
147. ‘The Food Wife’
Homer takes Bart and Lisa to a video game convention. Marge takes the family out for Ethiopian food, trying to be a cool mom, and she and the kids start a food blog called The Three Mouthketeers. Marge, enjoying being the fun parent, gives Homer the wrong address to the molecular gastronomy restaurant, sending him instead a meth lab.
Best Visual Gag: Homer chokes on something, collapses by the fridge, and his ghost gives him the Heimlich Maneuver.
Best Line: “Pine needle sorbet?! My kids do not eat sorbet — they eat sherbet, and they pronounce it sherbert, and they wish it was ice cream!”
146. ‘Sweet and Sour Marge’
Homer discovers the Duff Book of World Records and tries to organize Springfield into a human pyramid. Instead they’re granted the title of world’s fattest town. Marge sets out to be the Erin Brockovich of the Motherloving Sugar Corporation, getting all sugar banned from Springfield. Homer teams up with Apu, Mr. Burns, and Count Fudgula to smuggle the sweet white stuff back into the town.
Best Visual Gag: Disco Stu snorts sugar through a dollar bill, throws himself a dance party.
Best Line: “So, say a bittersweet farewell to such old friends as Mud Pies, Bite ‘Ems, Eclairios, Chew ‘Ems, Kellogg’s All-Fudge, Big Red Snack Foam, Milk Chuds, Eat ‘Ems — and all sugar pills will be changed back to highly concentrated opiates.”
145. ‘The Debarted’
A new kid, Donny, steals Bart’s seat at school, and becomes the king of cool, he then starts playing double-agent for Principal Skinner, foiling all Bart’s pranks. Beware the liberal use of the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping up to Boston.”
Best Visual Gag: Groundskeeper Willie’s journal, a.k.a. a series of frequently updated tattoos on his arm.
Best Line: “Hey, Krabappel! Your name sounds like ‘crabapple.’ Did you go sour waiting for someone to pick you?” [Mrs. Krabappel, sighing] “Pretty much.”
144. ‘Homer to the Max’
A hot new TV cop show features a rule-breaking maverick named Homer Simpsons, which delights Homer to no end. The folks at work show him a new respect, until the show changes the cop from bad-ass to a buffoon who says “Uh-oh Spaghetti-O’s” every other line. There’s only one way for Homer to do in order to retain his dignity: change his name to Max Power.
Best Visual Gag: As Lisa explains that shows “change characters and drop others” to Homer, little-seen music teacher Dewey Largo and the Capital City Goofball walk by.
Best Line: “Your character provides the comic relief…like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.“
143. ‘Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade’
After watching a slew of reality TV, the Simpsons upgrade to satellite. Lisa skips a grade, Bart gets bumped back a year — and suddenly becomes the better student, having already completed third grade. They both get left behind on a field trip.
Best Visual Gag: Groundskeeper Willie adding Bart and Lisa’s names to the Vietnam Memorial–esque Field Trip Memorial.
Best Line: “Seems like I’m spending all my money on religious pay-per-view, or as I like to call it, pray-per-view.” “Damn your sparkling wordplay!”
142. ‘Bart’s Comet’
Bart discovers a comet, allowing him entry into the geek crew known as the Super Friends. Once it’s headed on a collision course with Earth. Professor Frink plans to destroy the comet with a rocket, but fails. The Simpsons head to the Flanders’ bomb shelter, the rest of the town joins, and the comet breaks up.
Best Visual Gag: A fighter jet destroying its fellow fighter jet with a missile, and then destroying itself in identical fashion.
Best Line: “Wait! You know, I may regret this when our air runs out and we can’t whistle or stay alive, but … oh, what the hey!”
141. ‘The Two Nashaspeemapetilons’
Apu gets into Springfield’s singles scene and, in order to get out of an arranged marriage, lies to his mom about already being married; when the elder Mrs. Nashaspeemapetilons shows up at the Kwik-E Mart, Homer convinces him to say that Marge is his wife. Luckily, all’s well that ends well.
Best Visual Gag: The barbershop where Apu has his haircut montage: Hairy Shears.
Best Line: “Is it me, or do your plans always involve some horrible web of lies?” “It’s you.”
140. ‘Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire’
The first full Simpsons episode to air on TV begins at a Springfield Elementary Christmas pageant. Bart gets a tattoo, and the laser-removal costs the family Christmas money. Homer tries earning cash as a mall Santa, fails, tries at the racetrack, fails. Then father and son save Christmas with a pet dog, Santa’s Little Helper.
Best Visual Gag: Bart’s unfinished “Mother” tattoo. “Moth” forever.
Best Line: “Aside from the fact that [Homer] has the same frailties as all human beings, he’s the only father I have. Therefore he is my model of manhood, and my estimation of him will govern the prospects of my adult relationships. So I hope you bear in mind that any knock at him is a knock at me, and I am far too young to defend myself against such onslaughts.” “Mmhmm. Go watch your cartoon show, dear.”
139. ‘Simpsons Bible Stories’
A “Treehouse of Horror”–style anthology episode, in which a warm Sunday puts everyone in church to sleep, and the Simpsons dream their own versions of Genesis, Exodus, and David vs. Goliath. The episode famously ends with the Simpsons going to Hell, to the tune of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”
Best Visual Gag: The Simpsons‘ version of the Garden of Eden: Bacon peels off pigs, Ned is God, and Homer, wearing only a tiny leaf, belly flops onto a rock.
Best Line: “Man, captivity blows.”
138. ‘Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Three Times’
A triptych of revenge tales: Homer in 19th-century France, gunning for Moe after the bartender has Monsieur Simpson imprisoned for treason and steals Marge; Milhouse enlisting his fellow nerds and going after bullies involving a stop-hitting-yourself ray gun (one setting: “Genital Hospital”); and a Batman-ish tale in which Bart becomes — what else? — Bartman.
Best Visual Gag: The cardboard cut-out of Hitler in the school library: “Before I was a Nazi Leader, I was a Nazi Reader.”
Best Line: “I sentence you to life!” “You moron, I’m already alive.” “In prison!!!”
137. ‘Treehouse of Horror’
The first “Treehouse of Horror” episode set the tone for all the rest: Three quirky spoofs of timeworn horror and sci-fi stories. “Bad Dream House” plays up The Amityville Horror and “Hungry Are the Damned” shows The Simpsons’ take on the short story and Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man. But the most memorable is Homer star role in “The Raven” (narrated by James Earl Jones) – the bird for which just happened to be particularly annoying to Homer: Bart.
Best Visual Gag: The reveal that the aliens’ book was not How to Cook Humans but How to Cook for Forty Humans, in a twist on the cookbook To Serve Man.
Best Line: “Quoth the Raven…” “Eat my shorts.”
136. ‘How I Spent My Strummer Vacation’
Homer’s got no money for beer, causing him to seek other ways of altering his mind. His unhappy state lands him in The Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp, where he meets a slew of rock stars. Not ready for camp to end, Homer tries stealing the show at a Springfield concert; he eventually gives up the rock & roll lifestyle for his family.
Best Visual Gag: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Lenny Kravitz, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, and Brian Setzer chase Homer around in a giant devil head. (And then Homer drops his kids off at school with the devil head.)
Best Line: “Now, a guitar has many, many nicknames — an ax, a gitbox … well, I guess that’s it. Anyway, we’re gonna start with the fundamentals: playing a burning guitar with your teeth.”
135. ‘Treehouse of Horror VIII’
More Halloween-igans: Homer’s navigates a mutant-ridden apocalypse (“The HΩmega Man”). Bart reenacts The Fly and invents “CatDog” a year before CatDog premieres (“Fly vs. Fly”). Springfield gets the Salem Witch Trials treatment and accidentally invents Halloween and the concept of trick-or-treating.
Best Visual Gag: If it’s not Puritan Springfield as a whole, it’s the sight of Marge as a green, broomstick-riding witch.
Best Line: “Doesn’t the Bible say ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged?'” “The Bible says a lot of things — shove ‘er!”
134. ‘Moe Baby Blues’
Moe realizes how alone he is in the world and accidentally saves Maggie right before committing suicide. They become buddies. Maggie winds up in an Italian-American-Mexican standoff with the Mob, because why not?
Best Line: “Sorry, Moe. You can either walk out with dignity or I can push you down this muddy hill.” “I’d prefer that you push me, seein’ how I’m desperate for any human contact.”
Best Visual Gag: The episode-ending montage of Homer BFF-ing it up with Moe’s ham (yes, his ham) to the tune of Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend.”
133. ‘Husbands and Knives’
A new comic book shop, Coolsville, opens in Springfield, run by a man with the voice of Jack Black. Marge opens a gym and becomes super successful; Homer gets gastric bypass and cosmetic surgery (hence the episode’s title) and, weirdest of all, a full head of hair.