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!
Space Pilot 3000
Season 1, episode 1
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
The Luck of the Fryrish
Season 3, episode 4
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
Time Keeps on Slippin’
Season 3, episode 14
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
Season 3, episode 20
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
The Why of Fry
Season 4, episode 10
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
Roswell That Ends Well
Season 3, episode 19
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
Season 4, episode 7
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
Fry and Slurm Factory
Season 1, episode 13
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
Why Must I be a Crustacean in Love?
Season 2, episode 5
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 quotes: “Fry, it’s been years since medical school, so remind me. Disemboweling in your species, fatal or non-fatal?” — Dr. John A. Zoidberg
The Late Philip J. Fry
Season 6, episode 7
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
The Prisoner of Benda
Season 6, episode 10
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 som