“The Simpsons” has returned for its 30th season. If you wish to honor this momentous occasion like a Stonecutter, you can do so by having ribs! However, we have chosen to commemorate this unbelievable milestone by putting together a list of the 40 greatest episodes of the series, ranked worst to best. Click through our photo gallery above and see if your favorite episodes made it on to the list.
America’s favorite cartoon family was the brainchild of cartoonist Matt Groening, known at the time for his comic strip “Life in Hell.” He was asked to help create a series of cartoon shorts for Fox’s Emmy winning sketch program, “The Tracey Ullman Show,” by Oscar and Emmy winner James L. Brooks. Groening drew from his own upbringing to develop “The Simpsons,” including naming the characters after his own family members. The family first debuted on April 19, 1987, and their popularity took off, leading Groening and Brooks, along with creative supervisor Sam Simon, to produce their own half-hour series. “The Simpsons” premiered on December 17, 1989, to the biggest ratings Fox had ever seen at that point. To date, the series has aired 640 episodes and has overtaken “Gunsmoke” as the longest running scripted series in primetime.
Since then, the show has become a touchstone of American pop culture. It’s helped introduce several new words into the American lexicon including, “yoink,” the purposefully made up words, “embiggen” and “cromulent,” and, of course, Homer’s trademark phrase, “d’oh,” which appears in scripts as “annoyed grunt.” The show also inspired several recurring gags that still persist to this day including Bart writing lessons he’s forced to learn on the chalkboard, Marge’s trademark groan, Homer’s memorable drooling over things he finds delicious, Troy McClure’s resume of films you might remember him from and the iconic couch gags that open every episode.
The Emmys were quick to take notice of the show and have never shied away from their love for it. The series has racked up 90 individual nominations over its run including 27 for Best Animated Program, which it has won 10 times, more than any other program in that category. The show has also picked up six additional wins from their nominations including four trophies for Best Character Voice-Over Performance: Dan Castellaneta (2009), Anne Hathaway (2010), Harry Shearer (2014) and Hank Azaria (2015). The show has also collected 17 juried awards over the years including 12 for voice acting before the field got its own category. Castellaneta (1992-93, 2004) and Azaria (1998, 2001, 2003) each won three juried prizes. Other cast members who took home juried awards include Nancy Cartwright, Julie Kavner, Jackie Mason, Yeardley Smith, Marcia Wallace (all 1992) and Kelsey Grammer (2006).
On a personal note, I want to stress that this list was very difficult to make. I’m someone who basically communicates in references from “The Simpsons.” This has led to some amazing friendships, including one person where I ended up serving as a groomsman for his wedding. When I completed my first elimination round of the show’s 639 episodes, I had knocked off 84% of all their episodes. Unfortunately, this still left 103 episodes and the task of getting rid of an additional 63 episodes was a daunting one. I’m sure there will be episodes that aren’t on this list that will make you say, “How could he leave that one off the list? It’s essential!” You’re probably right and odds are that it was very tough for me to leave whichever episode you’re thinking of off the list. Rather than thinking of it as a snub, I prefer to see it as a testament to the amazing quality that the show has had over the years. You could make another list of 40 great “Simpsons” episodes, have only five of the same episodes as this one and it would still be a justifiable ranking.