Love it or hate it, Family Guy is one of the most enduring animated sitcoms to grace (or defile) our screens. Seth MacFarlane's raunchy brainchild follows the misadventures and oddball dramas of the Griffin family, staunchly led by titular family guy Peter, dissenting wife Lois, awkward teens Meg and Chris, and talking dog/evil baby duo Brian and Stewie.
With a keen pulse on pop culture and a satirical outlook on just about everything, Family Guy has remained relevant since its genesis in 1999 across hundreds of episodes. But which ones stand out from the herd? If you're ready to spend a few hours with the unhinged residents of Quahog, here is EW's guide to the best episodes of Family Guy, ranked.
25. "McStroke" (season 6, episode 8)
As the name implies, much of this episode focuses on Peter Griffin having a burger-induced stroke and then attempting legal action against the fast food chain that sold him the greasy goods. While that storyline is humorous (especially the inciting event that involves Peter's love of mustaches), the real standout narrative involves Stewie trying to prove to Brian that he, a baby, can become a popular high school student in less than a week. Despite not having Seth MacFarlane on as a writer due to the WGA 2007–2008 strike, this episode quickly became one of Family Guy's very best.
24. "Stewie Loves Lois" (season 5, episode 1)
Despite the epsiode's title, the story of Stewie realizing his mother really does care for him does not take center stage here. Instead, that honor goes to a bizarre tale of Peter organizing the town against a local doctor because he believes his recent prostate exam was a sexual violation. Fortunately, each narrative is a home run: It's difficult for any parent not to sympathize with Lois as Stewie suddenly tries to monopolize her attention, and it's just as difficult for any aging male to not let out an empathetic giggle at Peter's medical discomfort. These two otherwise unrelated arcs create a fun comedic synergy that helps each one shine that much brighter (even when serving up jokes about areas where the sun doesn't shine).
23. "FOX-y Lady" (season 7, episode 10)
From the very beginning, there's been a clash between the raunchy liberal sensibilities of Seth MacFarlane and the extreme conservative politics of the Fox network. In "FOX-y Lady," these worlds collide when Lois is given a chance to become a reporter for Fox News, learning firsthand that she is not allowed to report on anything that makes prominent right-wing figures, like Rush Limbaugh, look bad. This episode sparkles in part thanks to guest stars like Seth Rogen, Fred Savage, and even Fox executive Peter Chernin being willing to poke fun at themselves. If that's not enough; the B plot concerning Peter trying to successfully pitch a cartoon called Handi-Quacks is guaranteed to pick you up if you're feeling down.
22. "To Love and Die in Dixie" (season 3, episode 12)
We like to think "To Love and Die in Dixie" could make just about anyone laugh, and if you've ever spent much time in the American South, you'll realize how pointed some of these jokes really are. In this episode, Chris observing a crime causes the Griffin family to be placed in witness protection, thus relocating deep into the heart of the titular Dixie. What follows next are rapid-fire jokes that take aim at everything from who won the Civil War to the complexities of same-sex relationships. Rather than just relentlessly dunking on redneck culture, this story still helps to evolve both the characters and general storytelling of Family Guy as a whole.
21. "Petarded" (season 4, episode 6)
The fourth season of Family Guy was its triumphant return after previously getting canceled, and "Petarded" is proof the show didn't lose its ability to colorfully dance on the edge of what is appropriate. The episode finds Peter diagnosed as intellectually disabled. While the premise will obviously still offend quite a few people, the comedy never directly sets out to make light of those experiencing genuine developmental issues. Instead, it mostly lampoons Peter as the kind of guy who would twist his diagnosis into some kind of proof that he is superior to everyone else.
20. "Emmy-Winning Episode" (season 16, episode 1)
Over the years, Family Guy has been nominated for a number of Emmys, though most of its wins are for the world-class voicework and inventive animation. In "Emmy-Winning Episode," Seth MacFarlane vents his frustration at the show never winning Best Comedy via Peter. The entire installment is structured as different types of Emmy bait, with the patriarch and his crew becoming increasingly desperate to rip off the qualities of award-winning shows and finally bring home the coveted gold. The premise may sound like nothing more than MacFarlane's sour gripes, but the writing consistently brings laughs while forcing us to question the nature of what comedy we do (and do not) consider worthy of major praise.
19. "Leggo My Meg-O" (season 10, episode 20)
On a long enough timeline, no major franchise is safe from getting a Family Guy parody. And "Leggo My Meg-O" has Peter Griffin doing his best Liam Neeson impersonation when Meg is kidnapped from the streets of Paris. The episode is a loving sendup of the Taken films, but in addition to being an amusing homage, it also offers some fun commentary on the revenge genre as a whole. Plus, as much as we dig the running "Meg is the worst" gag, it's enjoyable to have a storyline that puts Meg center stage, if only because it helps Mila Kunis truly shine.
18. "The Thin White Line" (season 3, episode 1)
"The Thin White Line" is the rare precursor of a two-part episode that is notably better than its follow-up. The plot involves Brian trying to get out of an emotional and psychological rut by volunteering to be a drug-sniffing dog for the local police force. However, when he becomes addicted to some of the substances, Brian's experiment in community service threatens to unravel his entire life. While this Family Guy episode does a predictably good job sending up old police movie tropes, the real standout comedy comes from Peter's attempt to infiltrate a rehab facility because he thinks it will be just as fun and swanky as a cruise.
17. "The D in Apartment 23" (season 16, episode 6)
As one of the more recent features on this list, "The D in Apartment 23" is proof that Family Guy is still capable of producing the occasional banger of an episode. Here, Brian's attempt to attract attention on Twitter unsurprisingly leads to him getting canceled due to a bad, racially charged joke. The subject matter feels woefully modern, culminating in Brian trying to convince a literal mob of his progressive credentials. While brief, the gag points to the extreme side of identity politics, where hurling accusations against others for their online transgressions is all too common.
16. "Death Is a Bitch" (season 2, episode 6)
"Death Is a Bitch" is one of those Family Guy episodes that is conceptually simple but expertly executed. When the personification of Death breaks his leg due to Peter's shenanigans, he must recuperate at the Griffins' home, leaving Peter to try his own hand at reaping human souls. While the writing is top-notch, what really makes this story stand out is the late, great Norm Macdonald voicing Death. His lines and deliveries are just as lethal as any scythe, capturing this late comedian at his very best.
15. "Blue Harvest" (season 6, episode 1)
As anyone who has watched The Orville can tell you, Seth MacFarlane is a huge fan of Star Trek — but he still jumped on the opportunity to make "Blue Harvest," a loving parody of that other major science fiction franchise, Star Wars. The episode was a major success, giving us shot-for-shot spoofs of certain scenes in A New Hope while answering the age-old question: How would Peter Griffin have handled things differently than Han Solo? Whether you consider yourself more a fan of Quahog or partial to that galaxy far, far away, you'll find something to love in this ambitious reimagining.
14. "Road to the North Pole" (season 9, episode 7)
"Road to the North Pole" is — and we say this with love — a clear mashup of the previous stories in "A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas" and "Stewie Kills Lois." It's another Brian and Stewie road show, with the latter setting off to kill Santa Claus. Along the way, they learn more about both the joys of helping others and the dangers of rampant human greed. It's a surprisingly uplifting Family Guy episode that doesn't sacrifice any of the show's raunchy appeal to spread its unique message of holiday cheer to audiences far and wide.
13. "Three Kings" (season 7, episode 15)
Even though Family Guy has a successful and established formula, it's a blast to see the show try something entirely different in "Three Kings." With the blessing of famed horror author Stephen King, MacFarlane used this episode to put a Family Guy spin on three famous adaptations of his work: Stand by Me, Misery, and The Shawshank Redemption. High-profile cameos from Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider help these parodies retain the spirit of the original tales, and in a true indication of quality, King is rumored to have praised it. Quite frankly, if it's good enough for the King of Horror, it's certainly good enough for us.
12. "Road to Rhode Island" (season 2, episode 13)
In retrospect, "Road to Rhode Island" was a trailblazer for the series, seeing Brian and Stewie's first of many epic trips. Their journey involves Brian learning more about the puppy mill where he was born so he can have closure about his past. Despite the grim premise, the writing still packs in plenty of classic gags, including a musical number that you'll likely be humming for the rest of the week, making it one of our undisputed faves. Plus, helping to establish the recurring "Road to" adventure format makes this episode a major part of Family Guy history.
11. "Yug Ylimaf" (season 11, episode 4)
The oddly named "Yug Ylimaf" is another great episode that puts Brian and Stewie on an epic adventure. Things kick off when Stewie discovers Brian has been using a time machine as a way to impress women from the bar for hookups. However, after Brian's horny hijinks threaten the entire spacetime continuum, the two must team up in order to save the world as we know it. Longtime viewers will enjoy some fun references to previous episodes, and the entire thing serves one of many love letters to the Star Trek-style storytelling Seth MacFarlane treasures.
10. "Airport 07" (season 5, episode 12)
The beauty of "Airport 07" is that it puts a Quagmire in the kind of career drama that his character doesn't normally face. After Peter gets Quagmire fired from his job as an airline pilot, he tries to help his friend break into another line of work. Once Peter initiates his plan, though, it sets off events that will put countless lives in danger. This episode is classic Family Guy, boasting a memorable cameo from Playboy guru Hugh Hefner, plenty of cutaway comedy, and even more cultural references that will leave you laughing.
9. "Meet The Quagmires" (season 5, episode 18)
While "Back to the Pilot" is arguably the best send-up of Back to the Future that Family Guy ever gave us, "Meet the Quagmires" is a worthy second-place contender. In this episode, Peter laments getting married so young and ends up going back in time to soak up more of the single life. But when this accidentally results in Quagmire marrying Lois instead, Peter must attempt to restore the timeline or lose his marriage altogether. Along the way, we get plenty of the lowbrow humor the show is known for — but we also get surprisingly sweet scenes of Peter realizing (perhaps for the first time) how lucky he is to have Lois as his partner.
8. "Lois Kills Stewie" (season 6, episode 5)
In this follow-up to "Stewie Kills Lois," she has already told the world about how her son tried to murder her. Soon, Stewie becomes a fugitive ready to kill anyone who stands in his way, going so far as to take over the entire nation. Along the way, there are some fun American Dad cameos and hilarious character interactions (we particularly loved Brian and Stewie debating how audiences should ideally react to fake-out endings). Ultimately, though, the real treat is seeing just how chilling and downright weird it would be if Stewie decided to take over the world, finally fulfilling the kind of evil he always warned us he would become.
7. "Stewie Kills Lois" (season 6, episode 4)
While the provocative title of "Stewie Kills Lois" may raise eyebrows, it's hard to say that the content of this story is surprising. After Stewie gets called out for never following up on his years of threats against Lois, the psychopathic baby ends up shooting and seemingly killing his mother, launching off a series of events that eventually make everyone think Peter killed his wife for insurance money. Overall, the episode has plenty of amazing character moments, particularly for Stewie, and it's interesting to see how achieving his life's ambitions threaten to unravel his identity, especially by the time the credits roll.
6. "The Simpsons Guy" (season 13, episode 1)
As the two most popular cartoons in the history of the Fox network, a crossover between The Simpsons and Family Guy was inevitable. This episode wastes little time getting the Griffin clan to the Simpsons' turf: When Peter's offensive comic strip turns Quahog against him, he tries to take his family somewhere safer, and they end up in Springfield after their car breaks down nearby. Once the two families bond (sort of), Homer and Peter obviously end up at each other's throats in a dispute over beer. While this episode has plenty of comedic moments with both families, we can't get over how it brought us one of the most enduring Simpsons memes: a frightened Ralph chuckling to himself before saying "I'm in danger."
5. "And Then There Were Fewer" (season 9, episode 1)
The theme for this ninth season premiere was seemingly "go big or go home" with one exception: Instead of being set in Quahog, most of this story takes place at a dinner party in James Woods' cliffside mansion. The new setting is perfect for the murder mystery plot, but the real fun comes from the army of guest stars ranging from Drew Barrymore and Ashley Tisdale to Patrick Stewart and, of course, James Woods. And the host is surprisingly game to poke fun at his own prickly Hollywood reputation, lending the entire hour-long episode a kind of comedy synergy that elevates it above the usual collection of reference jokes.
4. "Road to the Multiverse" (season 8, episode 1)
Long before Marvel took over the concept, "Road to the Multiverse" gave us a plot involving Stewie and Brian visiting alternate universes before realizing they can't go back home. Soon enough, the episode becomes a fun excuse to see what the world of Family Guy and its quirky residents would be like in other dimensions. And if you aren't cackling by the time our characters are navigating a reality where dogs rule the world, you might need to replace yourself with a version who has a sense of humor.
3. "Da Boom" (season 2, episode 3)
It's easy to forget how old Family Guy really is until you return to early episodes like "Da Boom." Here, Peter is warned about how Y2K will be the end of the world as we know it, and in typical fashion for his character, he forces the family to wear hazmat suits and hide out in the basement. Unlike what happened in reality, Y2K turns the world into a post-apocalyptic nuclear hellscape, one which gets temporarily better — and then infinitely worse — after Peter becomes the mayor of New Quahog. While this episode is a favorite for introducing long-running bits like Peter's nemesis in a chicken suit, it's also notable for introducing Mila Kunis as the new voice of Meg.
2. "PTV" (season 4, episode 14)
"PTV" is an early example of Family Guy embracing meta-humor to devastating effect. The episode sees Peter reacting to new FCC censorship mandates by launching his own television network (the titular PTV). As the business grows into a big success, Lois becomes concerned about the effects of Peter's programming on children — even as regulations become even more stringent than they were before. While this story allows Seth MacFarlane to lampoon the FCC changes made in the wake of Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction," it also serves as a funny meditation on the relationship between censorship and entertainment as only Family Guy can deliver.
1. "Back to the Pilot" (season 10, episode 5)
"Back to the Pilot" is many things: a cheeky take on Back to the Future, a weird homage to Star Trek, and a spiritual sequel to "Road to the Multiverse." As the name of the episode indicates, the plot has Brian and Stewie travel back to the year 1999 when Family Guy first premiered. But Brian can't resist warning his past self about the impending 9/11 attacks, and this results in a ripple effect that eventually transforms our characters' world into a post-nuclear hellscape. Things get worse before they get better, and audiences are treated to a multitude of Easter eggs for longtime fans to enjoy. (Seriously: If you like to play "spot the reference," this is the episode for you.)