The Simpsons would be a hard act for anyone to follow. But Matt Groening, David X. Cohen, and a host of talented writers were up for the challenge with Futurama. In 1999, the series launched on Fox when pizza delivery boy Philip J. Fry found himself stuck in suspended animation for 1,000 years. Awakening in the future, Fry quickly made friends with a robot called Bender and a mutant cyclops named Leela. Together, they joined up with Fry’s distant relative, Professor Farnsworth, and the rest of the Planet Express crew for 140 episodes of sci-fi comedy.
Futurama’s greatest gift was its ability to occasionally make its audience feel genuine emotions and even cry. That helped the series escape its first cancellation on Fox, but not its second cancellation in 2014 by Comedy Central. Regardless, all seven seasons are on Hulu now that the show is owned by Disney. And we’ve picked out the 20 best episodes of this under-appreciated classic. Now, that’s good news!
In hindsight, it’s interesting that the first episode of the series pits Fry and Leela against each other. After his unplanned one-way trip to “the world of tomorrow,” Fry lacks a purpose or even a career. It was Leela’s duty to track down job deserters and force them to accept a career chip for life. After fleeing from Leela, Fry encounters a suicidal robot, Bender, and finds a kindred spirit. Eventually, Leela realizes that she is more like Fry and Bender than she initially believed. That’s why she sides with her new friends before they take on the future together.
Notable quote: “My God! It’s the future. My parents, my co-workers, my girlfriend; I’ll never see any of them again … Yahoo!” — Philip J. Fry
Almost every Futurama fan will tell you that Jurassic Bark is the most emotional episode … and we’ll get to that one! But The Luck of the Fryrish is the series’ first true tearjerker, thanks to its stunning conclusion. In the future, Fry becomes obsessed with reclaiming his lucky seven-leaf clover. Fry believes that his older brother, Yancy, stole the clover after Fry disappeared for 1,000 years. But the flashbacks to the past eventually reveal the truth to Fry, and it’s a powerful moment for the show.
Notable quote: “No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it.” — Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth
The Harlem Globetrotters make their first appearance on the show as an antagonistic world of elite basketball players who are also gifted with immense scientific knowledge. But Time Keeps on Slippin’ is also a key Fry and Leela episode. The Professor’s attempt to defeat the Globetrotters in an exhibition game literally breaks time, which skips everyone forward into the near future without any memory of the events in-between. Somehow, Fry managed to win Leela’s heart during one of the time skips. But the only way that he’ll win her back is if he figures out how to do it again.
Notable quote: “Don’t be so hard on yourself, Fry. You lost the woman of your dreams but you still have Zoidberg. You all still have Zoidberg!” — Dr. John A. Zoidberg
After Bender is hopelessly lost in space during a battle, he finds himself inhabited by tiny people he calls Shrimpkins. The Shrimpkins worship Bender as if he is their creator, but he soon discovers that he’s not cut out to be a god. Meanwhile, Fry and Leela move heaven and earth for the slight chance of recovering their friend. And out in space, Bender comes across a galactic entity that may actually be the almighty.
Notable quote: “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” — Galactic entity
Four seasons after the series began, The Why of Fry explained the mythology of Futurama. There was a purpose behind Fry’s 1,000-year journey to the year 3000 AD, which sharp-eyed viewers may have already picked up on before this episode. As Fry despairs about his life, Nibbler reveals his true purpose and sends Fry on a one-way mission to save the universe. However, Fry gets an unexpected chance to either embrace his destiny … or change it.
Notable quote: “We live long and are celebrated poopers. You will meet me when I’m a thousand years older.” — Lord Nibbler
One of the best qualities of Futurama, and good sci-fi in general, is the ability to utilize alternate universes to answer unexplained questions in ours. The supposed differences between our modern-day society and the year 3001 couldn’t be more evident than in Roswell that Ends Well, an episode in which the Planet Express crew finds itself in the year 1947 due to a mishap with a supernova and microwaved popcorn. They end up having to rescue Zoidberg from Area 51, keep Fry’s grandfather out of harm’s way, and repair the ship while interfering with history as little as possible … or whatever.
Notable quote: “You mustn’t interfere with the past. Don’t do anything that affects anything. Unless it turns out that you were supposed to do it; in which case, for the love of God, don’t not do it!” — Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth
If you have any friends who are fans of the show, you’ve no doubt heard them speak of the infamous “Fry’s Dog” episode in an endearing, but cautious manner. It isn’t the funniest episode of Futurama, relying heavily on flashbacks of Fry before he fell into the cryogenic freezing chamber, but what it lacks in laughs it makes up for in heart. No matter how resilient you think you are to sadness, you better buckle in and get some tissues for this one.
Notable quote: “Fry, I’m sorry. I should have understood how someone can love an inferior creature … because I love you … not in the way of the ancient Greeks, but the way a robot loves a human, and a human loves a dog, and, occasionally, a gorilla loves a kitty.” — Bender Bending Rodriguez
In this not-so-subtle spinoff of the 1971 film Willy Wonka & Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder, Fry and Bender set out to find the golden ticket packaged in a can of their favorite soda, Slurm. They later join the company’s mascot, Slurms MacKenzie, on a tour through the factory, where they party and learn a terrible truth regarding the popular brand of pop. The episode is loaded with fantastic jokes — along with some disgusting humor for good measure — but the episode’s real joy lies in how well it parodies the classic story with which we’re all acquainted.
Notable quote: “This is nothing. Back in high school, I used to drink 100 cans of cola a week, right up until my third heart attack.” — Philip J. Fry
When Doctor Zoidberg starts to experience mood swings and violent tendencies, the crew convene to try and decipher what’s wrong with him. After the professor determines that it’s simply the mating season for Decapodians, they take Zoidberg back to his home planet to participate in the mating frenzy. Zoidberg and Fry ultimately end up locked in a fight to the death for the affection of a Decapodian woman after a misunderstanding, but as you’ll come to find out, there are more elements at play than any of the denizens of Decapod 10 initially let on. If you’re into Zoidberg-heavy episodes, there are few that rival this one.
Notable quote: “Fry, it’s been years since medical school, so remind me. Disemboweling in your species, fatal or non-fatal?” — Dr. John A. Zoidberg
Among the professor’s array of time-traveling options, his new machine stands out for its ability to travel strictly into the future. While Fry starts out a mere minute late for a dinner with Leela, the professor falls over and sends the two of them thousands of years into the future, leaving them with no other option than to travel further into the future in the hope of finding someone who has invented a means of traveling backward in time. As they fly through history and Fry becomes even more late for dinner, they lose hope and decide to find another way back.
Notable quote: “This time machine only goes forward in time. That way you can’t accidentally change history, or do something disgusting like sleep with your own grandmother.” — Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth
Professor Farnsworth is perpetually known for his ill-fated and questionably-useful inventions. In The Prisoner of Benda, the Professor uses his latest concoction to switch his body with that of Amy, while keeping their brains intact. The culminating snowball effect eventually leaves everyone in someone else’s body, and as you might expect, the gang has to call in the Harlem Globetrotters to perform high-level math in order to set everyone set straight. The episode is actually based on a mathematical theory by Ken Keeler, a writer for Futurama, and the plot is an expression and practical example of the logic.
Notable quote: “We’re just the people this mind-switcher was made for by us!” — Dr. Amy Wong
After Bender makes out with Donbot’s daughter and witnesses a violent robot crime involving the mafia, he finds himself in the witness protection program so he can testify against the Donbot. One of the robot mafia members, Clamps, then joins the planet express crew undercover in an effort to find Bender, which enrages Zoidberg. When the crew makes a delivery to the moon, they find a robot with a new life who looks suspiciously like Bender, but Clamps still has to go through Zoidberg in order to complete the job.
Notable quote: “I’m scared and great at sex!” — Bender Bending Rodriguez
When a swarm of floating brains attacks Earth and starts turning everyone into incompetent idiots, there’s only one man for the job — Philip J Fry. Given Fry doesn’t emit the normal brainwaves that other beings do, he is uniquely equipped to fight the brains without falling prey to their mind-numbing effects. The ancient and powerful Nibblonians explain to Leela what must be done, but she still has to communicate the instructions to Fry once stupefied and back on Earth. The result is an epic battle between one of the smartest beings in the universe, and well, one of the dumbest.
Notable quote: “Welcome, Lord Nibbler ambassador to Earth, homeworld of the pizza bagel.” — Ken
After Fry consumes a bathroom sandwich, the crew finds a melange of microscopic parasites inhabiting his body. The Professor shrinks the Planet Express crew so they can deal with the problem, but as they quickly find out, the worms are actually responsible for improving Fry’s physical health, intellect, and basic functions. He can even heal his own wounds. Leela quickly realizes the positive ramifications, too, and goes in to stop the crew from going through with it because she likes the new-and-improved Fry.
Notable quote: “It’s like a party in my mouth and everyone’s throwing up.” — Philip J. Fry
The Professor’s newest invention almost kills him, so he gives it to the crew to throw into the sun, concealed within a box he warns them not to open. Of course, curiosity gets the best of Leela, and she soon discovers the package contains an entire universe that’s identical to theirs, except with every coin flip outcome reversed. As they discover more boxes, and in turn more universes, the crew find themselves on a chase through a number of worlds nearly identical to theirs. It’s another fun exploration of the laws of science and physics in the year 3000, with a number of hysterical jokes pertaining to multiple realities.
Notable quote: “Like Granny said, ‘If you want a box hurled into the sun, you got to do it yourself.’ God rest her zombie bones.” — Hermes Conrad
It’s no secret that Fry is in love with Leela. Nonetheless, there are few instances when she’s reciprocated those feelings, one of which was when Fry learned to play the Holophoner in Parasites Lost. Desperate to regain Leela’s affection, Fry makes a deal with the robot Devil for a pair of new hands, which end up being the Devil’s. Fry later lands a recording deal and a series of major gigs with his new-found Holophoner expertise, and furthermore, is even commissioned to write an opera for Hedonism Bot. When you make a deal with the devil, though, there’s always a catch.
Notable quote: “Your lyrics lack subtlety! You can’t just have characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!” — The Robot Devil
The Planet Express crew takes on its most dangerous mission yet in The Sting, setting out to collect honey from humongous space bees. Leela takes a baby queen with her, and during their escape, it wakes up and tries to stab her with its stinger before Fry throws himself in front of her. As one might expect, a grief-stricken Leela resorts to eating spoonfuls of royal jelly from the space bees, causing a series of vivid dreams and hallucinations featuring Fry. As the rest of the crew grows increasingly concerned with her mental state, it becomes clear to her that only being with Fry will make her truly happy. But reality begins to slip away when all the ends start to wrap up…
Notable quote: “All those times I said ‘Kill all humans’, I always whispered ‘except one.’ Fry was that one. And I never told him so.” — Bender Bending Rodriguez
After conquering the Spiderians of Tarantulon 6, Earth finds itself with a surplus of money and resources, so Nixon distributes $300 to each Earthican citizen in response. Each member of the crew follows their desires with the money, living out dreams they couldn’t have paid for otherwise. Fry attempts to drink 100 cups of coffee. Kif purchases nice presents for Amy. Zoidberg goes after a taste of the good life. In the process, each member of the crew learns an important lesson about life and themselves, while having a bit of fun along the way.
Notable quote: “Of course I’ve been up all night! Not because of caffeine, it was insomnia. I couldn’t stop thinking about coffee. I need a nap.” — Philip J. Fry
One of Bender’s many dreams is to become a chef, but considering he lacks a sense of taste, his cooking is often terrible and the rest of the crew considers drastic measures to avoid eating it. Nonetheless, when Bender’s cooking hero Elzar refuses to teach him, he goes to Bumbase Alpha in search of the classic TV chef Helmut Spargle. After learning to properly cook, he challenges Elzar to a cooking competition on the aptly-titled show Iron Cook, on which he then uses the vial of perfect flavor Helmut gave him before dying to ensure a victory against Elzar.
Notable quote: “It’s a perfect scale model of the universe’s largest bottle. I put a tiny spaceship inside to keep it from being boring.” — Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth
A series finale is always a fitting opportunity to tie up the loose threads, to reunite old characters, and maybe enjoy a few final moments with the cast. However, the Futurama series finale is a bit different. The professor invents a time button that sends the world backward 10 seconds at a time, but only 10 seconds. When Fry leaps from a building and gets the universe stuck in a 10-second loop, the crew takes drastic measures to set things right. Things don’t go according to plan, though, and the result is a touching conclusion to the story of the Planet Express crew — one that’s better left unsaid.
Notable quote: “Listen. I know who stole the button. I wasn’t gonna tell, ‘cuz I don’t like bein’ helpful, but I do like ratt’n’ people out.” — Bender Bending Rodriguez
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