Almost a decade on, Rick and Morty is still a pop culture behemoth. From Pickle Rick to meltdowns over Szechuan sauce, everyone’s favorite portal-hopping duo have reinvented the sci-fi wheel (and deconstructed it) dozens of times over.
But what is the best Rick and Morty episode? With season 7 just around the corner, we’ve taken a moment to revisit and re-rank the Adult Swim series’ greatest adventures. There’s some mind-blowing picks, meta humor galore, and maybe even a vat of acid of two. It’s time to get schwifty.
10. “Mort Dinner Rick Andre”
Spoiler alert: the majority of this list hails from the first three seasons. While seasons four, five, and six remain consistently funny, they often fail to reach the heights of all-time classics. That’s not the case for season 5’s “Mort Dinner Rick Andre.”
The best episodes have a simple concept and run with it. Same deal here: Morty’s date night with Jessica is continually interrupted by the demands of Rick’s police-controlling nemesis, Mister Nimbus.
While fetching some wine for Nimbus through a portal in Rick’s garage, things spiral out of control. Time runs different in that dimension; seconds for Morty are often decades-spanning grudges for those the nervy grandkid inadvertently affects.
A potent blend of high concept wizardry and hilarity, the season five premiere feels like the show is back to its best.
9. “The Vat of Acid Episode”
No guesses for what this episode is about. In truth, it’s classic Rick and Morty: a so-dumb-it’s-kinda-clever premise of a fake vat of acid to fake their own deaths. After refusing to commit to the bit, Morty is gifted a button that resets time – which leads him into life-affirming and life-altering choices. Featuring a trickling of multiversal humor and several fantastic rug-pulls, this is proof that Rick and Morty can keep subverting viewers’ expectations – no matter how jaded they get with certain sci-fi tropes.
8. “Morty’s Mind Blowers”
“Morty’s Mind Blowers” reveals that Rick routinely wipes Morty’s mind to save his grandson from the harrowing memories of their adventures together. This episode, from season 3, opens up a Pandora’s Box of pain and acts as a fake clip show for the random and downright hilarious situations that the dimension-hopping duo have gotten themselves into over the years.
The highlights? Morty experiencing truly level ground for the first time undoubtedly stands out, though Rick’s tongue-in-cheek meta jab at the Mind Blowers totalling more than three segments – unlike The Simpsons’ iconic Treehouse of Horror series – is characteristic of the show never punching down, just punching whatever the hell it feels like.
7. “The Rickshank Redemption”
“The Rickshank Redemption” is one the most plot-heavy episodes in the series. Where most concepts are one-and-done, the season three premiere continues where season 2 left off: with Rick’s captured by the Galactic Federation. It’s here where that Szechuan sauce meme was born, but it should perhaps be best remembered for the rollercoaster ride of a finale that sees the mad scientist escape his predicament by body-hopping into different Ricks before booting Jerry out of the Smith/Sanchez household.
6. “Meeseeks and Destroy”
“Meeseeks and Destroy” marks the moment where Rick and Morty transforms from oddball Adult Swim comedy into the animated sci-fi behemoth that has taken over the world. Fed up of dealing with his family’s rudimentary requests, Rick gives them a Meeseeks Box. Every time a big red button is hit, a member of the Meeseeks race – a species whose only goal is to complete the task they are given before dying – is spawned.
Of course, this being the Smith-Sanchez clan, it’s never going to go smoothly. Jerry’s golf game is a particular stick in the mud, and eventually causes the Meeseeks to go into a frenzy. It’s silly, random, and a whole lot of fun – a successful blueprint Rick and Morty continues to use.
5. “The Ricklantis Mixup”
When is a Rick and Morty episode not about Rick and Morty? “The Ricklantis Mixup” gives us a glimpse at such a show, taking focus away from the C-137 pairing we know and love to instead focus on the many, many Ricks that make up the Citadel.
The anthology episode goes from the silly (the twisted tale of Simple Rick has a wonderfully barbaric punchline) to sowing the seeds for some of the more story-intensive and fan-favorite serial adventures to come. All in, this is Rick and Morty at its most malleable and flexible, constantly chopping and changing viewpoints to pepper in joke after joke after joke.
It could be argued that the show’s over-determination to bring in Rick Prime into the fold started here, but the meta humor and goofy premise makes this stand out as one of Rick and Morty’s best standalone episodes.
4. “Mortynight Run”
Like Rick’s own portal gun, the show isn’t scared to go on detours to avoid running out of steam if a certain premise isn’t landing. This frenetic, restless energy has never been more successful than in “Mortynight Run.”
Moments after being introduced to the fantastic concept of a Jerry daycare, we are whisked away to the arcade of our (and Morty’s) dreams. A sideshow involving Morty living an entire virtual life takes time to gain traction but eventually ranks among the series’ best one-shot gags.
The actual meat of the episode involves Morty trying to protect a gaseous being named Fart. But Morty’s moral compass again points in the wrong direction, as Fart is trying to bring about the end of all carbon life forms. The final scene sees Morty shooting Fart, rendering the events of the episode pointless and showing that Rick and Morty can juggle humour and heartache effortlessly in the same 20-minute span without missing a beat.
3. “Rixty Minutes”
Better known to fans as “Interdimensional Cable,” this episode sees the series stretch its comedic muscles with a series of irreverent, improvised TV shows and commercials. While a second instalment came a year later, the original is still the best. There’s Ants In My Eyes Johnson, Real Fake Doors, and the ridiculously OTT trailer for Two Brothers.
Even when it’s literally making it up as it goes along, Rick and Morty still manages to provide enough meta humour and laugh-out-loud moments that you wish Interdimensional Cable would become its own spin-off. It’s that good.
2. “Pickle Rick”
The episode that spawned a million memes. On the surface, it’s a send-up of a John Wick-style revenge tale, but it’s actually hiding an emotional core – one that the show doesn’t mine very often but, when it does, it really hits home.
Sure, the action scenes involving Pickle Rick taking down guards and even a rat in one grisly scenes are bound to catch the eye, but it’s all a distraction for us and for Rick. His family are waiting for him at therapy and, yet again, he’s doing anything to get out of it.
For once, Rick owns up to his reckless behaviour and you get the feeling that, even if he would prefer to go off on wacky adventures, he still cares deeply about his family. For an episode that revolves around a pickle, that’s not bad going.
1. “Total Rickall”
Ooo-eee! Here it is: the best Rick and Morty episode – and god bless the animators who worked on it. When the Smith-Sanchez household is overrun by parasites who invent memories of made-up friends and family, Rick must root out the dozens of potential fakes to save the day.
The concept really allows the creative team – from the creators to the artists – to have a lot of fun, and it shows. They range from the tragic (Sleepy Gary), to the weird (Amish Cyborg) and the intentionally lazy (Ghost in a Jar). Each parasite that’s unrooted in the absurd vignettes that take place in the episode – such as Reverse Giraffe saving Ghost in a Jar’s life in Vietnam – brings the family back together again, even if it comes at a tragic cost.
The kicker is Beth assuming that the peppy Mr. Poopybutthole isn’t real and shoots him. Of course, he’s been real this whole time. Beth just didn’t have any bad memories of him so assumed he was a parasite. Awww? At least we’ll always fondly recollect Mr. Poopybutthole’s first appearance.