By Ryan Pike
On December 17, 1989, an animated short from the Tracey Ullman Show debuted as a half-hour animated sitcom following three seasons as a recurring feature on the program. Featuring the adventures of dim-witted nuclear technician Homer Simpson, his wife Marge and their children Bart, Lisa and Maggie, the Simpsons became a huge hit. Nearly two decades later, the world’s favourite animated family is primed to make the leap to the big screen Fri., Jul. 27. To prepare you, the reader, for the release of the Simpsons Movie, we have compiled a list of the best Simpsons episodes of all-time.
10 “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk”
written by Jon Vitti
Dec. 5, 1991
A bored Mr. Burns sells the power plant to German investors, then scrambles to buy it back when he discovers that nobody fears him anymore. The episode features one of the three-or-four dozen times Homer gets fired from his job (only to get it back by the end of the episode), Mr. Burns’ less-than-stellar business acumen and joke upon joke at the expense of Germany. Above all else, though, the episode is remembered for Homer’s “Land of Chocolate” fantasy sequence.
Homer: “Oh, I’m sorry. We were talking about chocolate?”
German: “That was ten minutes ago!”
9 “Homer at the Bat”
Feb. 20, 1992
Mr. Burns makes a million-dollar bet with a rival power plant over a softball game and–after discovering most of his suggestions have been dead for decades–assigns Smithers to hire “good, living players” to work at the power plant and play on the team as ringers. The show has done gratuitous guest casting before, but never have so many big names made fun of themselves in such a great way. The show-closing “Talkin’ Softball” song is also quite spectacular.
“I get $50,000 to play one game?”
“That’s right Mr. Canseco.”
“Well, it’s a pay cut, but what the hey. It sounds like fun.”
-Smithers recruits Jose Canseco
8 “Marge vs. the Monorail”
Jan. 14, 1993
Mr. Burns gets fined $3,000,000 by the town for dumping nuclear waste and the town is swindled into investing the money in a monorail (despite Lisa’s protests that the town’s too small for one). Homer gets the job as the train’s conductor, prompting a worried Marge to investigate the venture. One of two writing credits for late night magnate Conan O’Brien, this episode features a fantastic musical number extolling the virtues of the monorail and great voice acting by the late Phil Hartman. Plus, Star Trek‘s Leonard Nimoy shows up for the monorail’s dedication ceremony.
“…and let me say, ‘May the force be with you!’”
“Do you even know who I am?”
“I think I do. Weren’t you one of the Little Rascals?”
-Mayor Quimby and Leonard Nimoy dedicate the monorail
7 “You Only Move Twice”
Nov. 3, 1996
Homer gets a job with Hank Scorpio’s Globex Corporation and moves the family to Cypress Creek. Homer turns out to actually be great at his job, although the rest of the family is miserable and Homer’s new boss (voiced by Albert Brooks) turns out to be a super-villain hellbent on taking over the east coast. The result is a glorious 22-minute parody of the Bond films and a brief glimpse at what Homer’s life would be like if he were at all competent.
“For the first time in my life, I’m actually good at my job. My team is way ahead of the weather machine and germ warfare divisions.”
-Homer describes his job
6 “Homer Goes to College”
Oct. 14, 1993
After failing a routine inspection, Homer is forced by Mr. Burns to enroll in Springfield University to avoid losing his job. Once there, Homer befriends some nerds and feuds with the university’s fun-loving dean. The entire episode parodies college comedies like Animal House and showcases just how unqualified Homer is to be a nuclear safety inspector. The highlights include Homer hitting a man with his car as a prank, Homer sharing a case of malt liquor with a pig and Scratchy finally getting even with Itchy.
Homer: “Actually, I’ve been working on a plan. During the exam, I’ll hide under some coats and hope that somehow everything will work out.”
Nerd: “Or, with our help, you can cram like you’ve never crammed before.”
Homer: “Whatever. Either way is good.”
5 “Who Shot Mr. Burns (Parts 1 & 2)”
Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
May 21 and Sept. 17, 1995
When Springfield Elementary strikes oil and Mr. Burns drills it out from underneath them, the entire town is gunning for him. Soon after, Burns is shot in town square after blocking out the sun and everyone is a suspect. Arguably the peak of the Simpsons‘ popularity, the two-part cap-off to Season 6 spoofs the popular Dallas “Who shot J.R.?” mystery. The mystery itself kept fans guessing all summer and the show actually produced several alternate endings to ensure nobody leaked the identity of the real shooter.
“People, take it easy. We’re all upset about Mr. Burns’ plan to, uh, block out our sun. It is time for decisive action. I have here a polite but firm letter to Mr. Burns’ underlings, who with some cajoling, will pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it.”
-Mayor Quimby addressing the town
4 “I Love Lisa”
Feb. 11, 1993
Lisa feels bad for lonely Ralph Wiggum on Valentine’s Day and gives him a valentine out of pity. Unfortunately, this causes him to fall in love with her. When her subtle hints to Ralph that she’s not interested fall on deaf ears, Lisa must take drastic action. This was one of the first episodes to expand on the supporting cast, giving Ralph Wiggum a chance to shine on a large stage and opening up a whole field of characters for the writers to centre episodes around in the years following.
Homer: “I’ve heard ’em all. ‘I like you as a friend.’ ‘I think we should see other people.’ ‘I don’t speak English…’”
Lisa: “I get the idea.”
Homer: “‘I’m married to the sea.’ ‘I don’t wanna kill you, but I will…’”
-Homer explains rejection to Lisa
3 “Bart Sells His Soul”
Oct. 8, 1995
Bart sells his soul to Milhouse for five dollars, then discovers his dog doesn’t recognize him, automatic doors don’t open for him and that he can’t laugh anymore. Desperate to get his soul back, Bart discovers that Milhouse sold his soul to the comic book store for Alf pogs. The humour is a bit dated (pogs), but Bart’s frantic search for his soul is surprisingly touching. In the B-plot, Moe changes his bar into a family restaurant, only to discover that he hates children.
“If you like good food, good fun and a whole lot of crazy crap on the walls, then come on down to Uncle Moe’s Family Feedbag.”
-Moe’s sales pitch
2 “$pringfield (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling”
Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein
Dec. 16, 1993
To bail out the town’s struggling economy, Springfield legalizes gambling and Mr. Burns promptly opens a casino. Homer becomes a blackjack dealer, Marge develops a gambling problem, Mr. Burns slowly turns into Howard Hughes and Bart opens his own casino in his treehouse.
“Things just aren’t as happy as they used to be down here at the unemployment office. Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors. Useful people are starting to feel the pinch.”
-Kent Brockman, reporting on Springfield’s dismal economy
1 “Last Exit to Springfield”
Mar. 11, 1993
When Homer discovers that the new union deal doesn’t include a dental plan, he leads the power plant workers in a strike to avoid paying for Lisa’s braces. The result is Homer negotiating with Mr. Burns, followed by a drug-induced fantasy sequence and an episode that Entertainment Weekly named the show’s best ever.
“Lisa needs braces!’ “Dental plan!” “Lisa needs braces!’ “Dental plan!”
-Homer’s train of thought