The Simpsons first appeared on April 19th, 1987, as a series of sketches and shorts for the Tracey Ullman Show. The success of the shorts was so meteoric, that the now world-renowned yellow-skinned family got their series premiere two years later.
As of this writing, the most popular and longest-lived tv family has been making us laugh for 31 years over 32 hilarious seasons.
The Simpsons are so profoundly cherished by their fan base that Time Magazine named the show the best tv series of the 20th century and the medium’s crowning achievement by The A.V. Club.
However, like all works of such magnitude and scope, the show generates a rabid and perpetual debate about which are the most memorable episodes, and which are best forgotten.
With so many hours of footage, across so many different seasons, it can be a daunting prospect to decide which is which.
Nevertheless, we have made a concerted effort to rank
The best seasons of the Simpsons
Season 8 is considered by many one of the show’s last peak moments.
It is during season 8 that we see first see the showrunner’s audacity in the way they broke paradigms and altered the canon of the characters and their backgrounds. For example, the family moving away from Springfield, Mr. Burns going bankrupt, the appearance of a cabaret in the city, and the inclusion of an on-screen divorce.
My personal favorite moments of the iconic 8th season include our peak into Flanders’ dark past, the decline of Itchy & Scratchy, and the nuanced criticism of Homer’s mediocre lifestyle.
However, what truly stands out about season 8, is the masterful way in which the showrunners handled such socially significant issues as homosexuality, ecological awareness, alcoholism, and work ethic.
Some argue that season 8 is the overall best season. However, some episodes bring down the overall experience.
Best Episode of Season 8
Considered one of the best episodes in TV history, the 15th episode of the 8th season artfully, delicately, and hilariously explores Homer’s latent homophobia.
Season 4 is one of the most popular seasons, likely due to the increased screen presence of the Simpsons’ blue-haired matriarch, Marge. Additionally, Season 4 birthed one of the show’s longest and deepest conspiracies: Homer is in a coma.
This fan-theory posits the idea that everything that has occurred after episode 18, in which Homer is injured by a can of Duff beer and subsequently crushed by a vending machine, and ends up in a coma that lasts for weeks.
The theory hinges on a perceived tonal shift that occurred after the episode. According to the supporters of the theory, pre-coma episodes featured mundane storylines, with post-coma episodes featuring much more far-fetched plots such as Homer going to space.
Best Episode of Season 4
Marge vs The Monorail
The 4th season’s 12th episode was written by none other than Conan O’Brien and features a fantastic guest appearance by Leonard Nimoy.
Marge vs The Monorail is still considered by fans to be one of the best episodes of the entire series. It is replete with laugh-out-loud jokes, and expertly highlights the complete lack of sense that plagues the townsfolk of Springfield.
The 7th season of the Simpsons features twenty-five episodes of pure television comedy gold.
Highlights include former US president George Bush and his wife moving across the street from our beloved family and spanking Bart for his mischief, an emotionally charged episode when Homer meets his estranged mother, a socially relevant episode featuring Marge’s struggles in fitting in with Springfield’s high society, and Apu fighting against an anti-immigration movement.
Best Episode of Season 7
Lisa The Vegetarian
Not only was this episode a cornerstone of the family’s evolving relationships, one of the few permanent character changes in the show’s 32 seasons, but it gave us such iconic moments as Bovine University, Paul MacCartney’s cameo, and a pig soaring through the sky.
The 5th season of The Simpsons, which aired between September 1993 and May 1994, achieved a near-perfect mix between two of the show’s greatest strengths: parodies of American pop culture and sharp criticism of some of America’s most inane values.
Season 5 featured fantastic takes on Cape Fear, Citizen Kane, and Dracula. Moreover, we get to see Principal Skinner lose his job thanks to Bart’s antics, Homer’s journey to a Beatles’ like stardom as part of a barbershop quartet, Homer come close to being unfaithful to a sick Marge, Homer going back to college, Marge develops a gambling problem, and many other classic moments.
Best Episode of Season 5
One of the show’s recurring gags, the rivalry between Bart and Sideshow Bob, comes to a head in the fantastic second episode: Cape Feare.
The fantastic Kelsey Grammer returns as the ignoble Sideshow Bob with the vengeful mission to kill Bart once and for all. The episode deftly parodies the classic film Cape Fear.
The episode also references Hitchcock’s Psycho, Friday the 13th, The Night of the Nighthunter, and The Nightmare on Elm Street.
In my humble opinion, season 6 of The Simpsons cemented the show’s spot as the most relevant work of pop culture of the late 20th century.
The 6th season’s strength lies in its strong cast of guest appearances and famous one-liners that gradually entered our daily lexicon.
The 6th season is filled with the purest of clever comedy and it ends in one of the greatest cliffhangers ever made.
Best Episode of Season 6
It is impossible for me to pick just one episode out of so many timeless episodes. My favorites include:
Bart of Darkness: Bart isolates himself in his room, and what follows is a complex, and multi-layered study into an obsession.
Itchy and Scratchy Land: A trip to an Itchy and Scratchy-themed theme park ends in a robot revolution.
Sideshow Bob Roberts: Sideshow Bob becomes mayor and makes life miserable for our beloved yellow family.