Bender Bending Rodríguez the real star of futurama

10 Best ‘Futurama’ Episodes, Ranked

Good news, everybody! You're going to cry over a cartoon dog again!

With 14 years and 124 episodes already streaming on Hulu, Futurama is making yet another comeback (complete with John DiMaggio returning as Bender!). A whole new season will start on July 24 and we’ll be watching eagerly with our buckets of Popplers and cans of Slurm. ⁠(Okay, maybe not those.) If you’re new to the world of the 31st century and looking to jump in, or if you’re a longtime fan who wants to revisit your favorites, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top 10 Futurama episodes, ranked!

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20. “The Prisoner of Benda”

An episode so good it has its own mathematical theorem! Yes really! This episode revolves around a body-switching machine that can only switch the same pairs of bodies once. Amy uses it to switch bodies with Professor Farnsworth, Farnsworth uses Amy’s body to switch with Bender, and so on to hilarious effect. By the end, every character is in a different body, and only by adding two extra bodies to the mix (those of Globetrotters/scientists Ethan “Bubblegum” Tate and “Sweet” Clyde Dixon, it turns out) can they all return to their original forms. It’s writer Ken Keeler, who has a Ph.D in mathematics, that we can thank for this episode. It’s funny and it managed to do what high school could not and get me intrigued by how math actually works.

19. “Leela’s Homeworld”

In the first episode of Futurama, Leela described herself as an alien, but she was very much mistaken. Turns out she’s actually a mutant, one of the hated underclass of citizens that live in the sewers under New New York. And that’s not all, the parents she assumed were dead are very much alive and gave her up so she could have a better and non-sewer-y life. A lot happens in this episode that changes Leela and indeed Futurama in general forever, but it all comes down to the beautiful ending that will have you crying happy tears.

18. “Fry and the Slurm Factory”

The final episode of Futurama’s first season and a great demonstration of how wacky the show could get. In this spoof of, ya guessed it, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Fry wins a trip to the bottling factory of his favorite drink, Slurm. But he slips away from the rest of the group and partying slug mascot Slurms McKenzie, and in the bowels of the factory he finds a terrible and absolutely gross secret about how Slurm is made. Alas, though, Fry is too addicted to the drink to do much about it. This episode gently chides its audience by asking if they really know what goes into the soft drinks they consume.

Fry drinking a can of Slurm (20th Century Television)
(20th Century Television)

17. “A Big Piece of Garbage”

A big ball of trash, the waste left behind by Old New Yorkers, is heading toward Earth and only Planet Express can stop it. How? Well, after an Armageddon-esque failed attempt to blow up the ball, Fry hits on the perfect solution: create another massive trash ball to fire into space and counteract the first one. What does it matter if it returns to Earth in a thousand years, they’ll all be dead by then. Yep, if you haven’t guessed, this episode functions as a satire about climate change and humankind’s ever-present willingness to just throw the problem further down the line.

16. “War is the H-Word”

This war film parody episode sees Fry and Bender join the military to get a discount on ham-flavored chewing gum, only to find “war was declared.” Leela joins up too in order to make sure they don’t die, but that doesn’t stop Bender from being turned into a bomb that will explode as soon as he says the word “ass.”  It’s made all the sillier by the fact that Earth has gone to war against a planet of bouncing balls. A funny episode, but the revelation about why Earth is fighting the bouncy balls in the first place makes it clear that war really is the h-word.

15. “Space Pilot 3000”

The episode that started it all. Luckless 20th-century pizza delivery boy Philip J. Fry falls into a cryogenic chamber after a pizza-based prank on the last day of the millennium, gets frozen, and wakes up in the year 3000. It’s a bit of a culture shock, to say the least, but luckily he encounters a friendly evil robot and an angry one-eyed purple-haired woman to help him through it. Of course, he still has to be a delivery boy in this wonderful new world, but there are some perks as well. Fry and the audience would find out all about them during the next 124 episodes and beyond.

Fry frozen in a cryochamber as UFOs destroy buildings behind him (20th Century Television)
(20th Century Television)

14. “The Sting”

One of the many Futurama episodes that rip at the heartstrings. In “The Sting”, Planet Express are sent to a planet of giant angry bees and, predictably, Fry is killed by them. Or is he? Leela mourns his death and feels crushing guilt, but then she starts to feel like Fry is still there by her side, even though he can’t possibly bee. Ur, be.

This episode goes into some dark territory, with Leela turning to the drug-like properties of “space honey” to try and deal with her grief and the feeling she’s going crazy. It has a happy ending and a beautiful Fry-Leela reunion (were you expecting anything else?) but the journey getting to that point is a hard one.

13. “Lethal Inspection”

Hermes Conrad, an oft-overlooked member of the Planet Express crew, gets to take center stage in this episode about Bender’s origins. It’s a dense episode that revolves around the question, what can you do with the one short life you have? Bender always thought he was immortal and is devastated to learn that isn’t the case, but his adventure with Hermes causes him to have a new outlook on things. Then there’s the twist ending, set to Elizabeth Mitchell’s rendition of “Little Bird, Little Bird,” which will have you sobbing.

I always thought the Comedy Central run of Futurama got off to a bit of a shaky start, but this episode (the sixth in the season) proved it was in good hands after all. Critics likewise praised it as a triumphant return to form.

12. “The Luck of the Fryrish”

Do not, I repeat DO NOT watch this as a two-parter with the famously sad “Jurassic Bark,” because it’s just as depressing. This episode deals with Fry’s obnoxious older brother Yancy, the jealousy Fry always harbored towards him, and a four-leaf clover Yancy allegedly stole. It’s one of many episodes that humanize Fry’s family, who didn’t exactly come off great in the pilot episode of the show, and the ending is an absolute tear-jerker. Futurama really knows how to put its fans through the wringer, jeez.

11. “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”

A crossover episode! Well, sort of. “Where No Fan Has Gone Before” saw most of the original cast of Star Trek—William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, and Walter Koenig, as well as Jonathan Frakes – show up to voice themselves and lovingly mock the Star Trek fandom. (Which Fry is a part of, of course.) It’s absolutely packed with references that only true Trekkies will get but non-fans will still appreciate how funny it is. Because it’s very, very funny. Arguably the funniest William Shatner has ever been in fact, you sure can’t see him reaching these heights anymore.

The Star Trek cast in Futurama (20th Century Television)
(20th Century Television)

10. “Brannigan, Begin Again”

No Futurama ranking would be complete without Zapp Brannigan, the starship captain whose smarm surpasses legend and rockets straight into myth. In this episode, Brannigan attends the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new headquarters of the Democratic Order of Planets (or D.O.O.P. for short). His ego gets in the way of his common sense, though, and he wreaks havoc by capturing and interrogating members of the Neutral Planet—and then trying to cut the ribbon with a space laser which destroys the entire headquarters. After that, Brannigan and his lieutenant Kif are dishonorably discharged and end up on the Planet Express’s crew, where Brannigan messes up an easy mission delivering pillows and then leads Fry and Bender in a mutiny against Leela.

9. “The Problem with Popplers”

The Planet Express crew gets hungry while out on a mission, and they happen upon a planet filled with piles of what look like popcorn shrimp. It turns out they’re not just edible, but addictively delicious, and the crew members gorge themselves. Then they decide to open a business selling the things, calling them popplers. It turns out that the popplers are actually the larva of the people of Omicron Persei 8, who demand revenge on humanity for eating vast quantities of their young.

Brannigan in futurama
(20th Century Television)

8. “Godfellas”

Bender decides to take a nap in a torpedo tube, but the problem with that plan is that a torpedo tube is where you launch torpedoes. That’s exactly what happens to Bender when the Planet Express ship is attacked by space pirates. Bender accidentally gets launched while the ship is going full speed, which means that there’s no way Fry and Leela can catch up with him. Bender finds himself destined to float through the void of space forever and picks up a tiny civilization on his stomach when he drifts through an asteroid field.

The inhabitants of his torso (and later, butt) think Bender is an omnipotent God, and begin to demand all sorts of favors from him, like making their crops grow or smiting their enemies. Like the other best Futurama episodes, this one makes you think. What if the god you’re praying to is real but just as clueless and inept as you are? What if we’re all just tiny people clinging for dear life to a rock floating through space? Oh, crap, we ARE!

7. “The Devil’s Hands are Idle Playthings”

Fry decides to learn to play the holophoner, a notoriously hard instrument to master, so that he can impress Leela. He sucks at it, though, so Bender suggests that he get help from the Robot Devil. The Robot Devil tries to trick Fry into a Faustian bargain but accidentally ends up trading away his own hands. With the Robot Devil’s hands, Fry becomes a holophonor virtuoso and writes an opera about him and Leela. The Robot Devil wants his hands back, though, and he refuses to give up on trying to get them, which leads to all kinds of shenanigans in the lead-up to Fry’s opera debut. This episode, which was the final episode of the original four seasons, also features Hedonism Bot, a golden robot built right into his chaise longue who’s always a decadent barrel of laughs.

Futurama Crew cheering
(20th Century Television)

6. “A Fishful of Dollars”

Fry discovers that his old bank account from the 20th century has remained active for the past thousand years, and unlike any bank account in real life, has actually accrued a significant amount of interest! Now filthy rich, Fry buys the last can of anchovies in existence so that he can have anchovy pizza one last time. When he outbids the ruthless robot magnate, Mom, at the auction, though, Mom thinks that Fry has discovered the secret to making oil that can permanently lubricate robots, which would put her out of business. Mom hatches a scheme to get the anchovies from Fry by stealing all his money and then offering to bail him out by buying them. (Why she wouldn’t just steal the anchovies themselves is an excellent question, but don’t overthink it.)

5. “Future Stock”

Fry ducks out of a boring Planet Express shareholder’s meeting and finds a support group for people who have been cryogenically frozen. Although he’s really only there for the free food, Fry finds camaraderie in a Wall Street shark from the 80s. The ’80s guy—who’s only ever referred to as “That Guy”—promptly stages a hostile takeover of Planet Express, and things spiral out of control from there.

Mom is always a fantastic character, but she’s really at her best in this episode. Plus, “Future Stock” has classic moments like That Guy’s bizarre Planet Express commercial, which is a riff off of a classic Apple ad, and the Intergalactic Stock Exchange.

Leela Bender and Fry on the moon
(20th Century Television)

4. “Time Keeps On Slippin'”

The Harlem Globetrotters visit Earth in their flying saucer and challenge humanity to a basketball game. To beat them, Farnsworth unveils a team of mutant atomic supermen, but he needs to speed up their growing process to make sure they’re adults by game time. He sends the Planet Express crew to gather particles called chronitons to do the job. The chronitons work, but they lead to random jumps forward in time, during which everyone behaves normally but has no memory of what they did during the jump.

Coming to with no idea of where you are or what you’re doing is terrifying in real life, but comic gold in a sci-fi farce, and this episode succeeds in taking the premise to ridiculous lengths. The only problem with the episode is that it leans hard into Fry’s quest to “make” Leela love him, which was never funny to begin with. Other than that, though, watching the Planet Express crew deal with the hilarious consequences of the time jumps is a lot of fun.

3. “Parasites Lost”

Fry eats a rotten egg salad sandwich at an interstellar truck stop, and soon finds himself physically and cognitively enhanced. Farnsworth discovers that the eggs in the sandwich were actually worm eggs, and Fry has a full-on worm infestation throughout his body. The crew use micro-droids and VR to go inside of Fry’s body to rid him of the infestation, but Fry realizes that he likes what the worms have done to him—especially since Leela’s attracted to his new body and mind.

What makes this episode stand out is the fact that it raises some legitimately unsettling questions about the nature of our minds and personalities. If you could become artificially smarter and stronger, would you do it? What would you do if someone you were in love with loved you back, but only because parasites in your body were changing your personality? And when you get down to it, is this episode really all that far removed from the billions of bacteria that already inhabit our bodies and influence our minds? (The short answer is yes, because Fry’s worms build cities and have government officials and stuff, but you know what I mean.)

2. “Jurassic Bark”

Fry goes to a museum and finds his fossilized dog, Seymour Asses, from the 20th century on display. He manages to get Seymour back, and the Professor tells him that he can use DNA in the fossil to clone him, complete with personality and memories. Bender gets jealous, though, thinking that once Fry has his dog back, he won’t need Bender as a friend anymore.

This episode has some great comic moments in it, but what really makes it is the absolutely devastating ending. The best Futurama episodes are the ones where you lose track of whether you’re crying from laughter or pathos.

seymour a sad puppy on futurama
(20th Century Television)

1. “Roswell That Ends Well”

This episode got Futurama its first Emmy win, and with good reason! The Planet Express crew goes to watch a supernova, but when Fry puts a metal popcorn pan in the ship’s microwave, he triggers an explosion that sends the ship back in time to 1947. They crash-land in Roswell, New Mexico, where officials from the nearby air force base find Bender’s body and Zoidberg. The crew quickly realizes that they’re the infamous aliens found in Roswell, and they decide to steal a microwave antenna to try to get back to their own time.

This episode has some of the best gags of the whole series, from President Truman smashing his way out of a crate of canned eggs to the gang throwing Zoidberg’s internal organs around like they’re in a food fight. Plus, Fry’s hijinks with his grandparents lead to him having special brainwaves that become a plot point in future episodes.

What are your favorite Futurama episodes? Any you think should have gone into the top 10? Let us know in the comments!

(featured image: 20th Century Television)


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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>
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