25. “Hundred Dollar Baby” (Season 2, Episode 5)
Oh, Dee, secretly the funniest member of the whole ensemble. It’s always great when she gets a chance to shine, especially when it means she’s going off the rails. After being abandoned by the guys during a mugging, she decides to take up boxing and, naturally, steroids (all while Dennis and Mac start a fight club). Best part of the episode? Dee punching a hole in the wall.
24. “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” (Season 6, Episode 7)
In one of the series’ strangest moves that actually paid off, “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” begins with Dee spontaneously announcing that she’s pregnant and then revealing the father is one of the gang (which includes her brother and her father). The real good stuff is found within the Rashomon-esque flashbacks to a drunken Halloween party as they all try to figure out the mystery — and as Dee becomes increasingly birdlike, until she literally is a bird.
23. “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats” (Season 6, Episode 10)
One of many great Charlie episodes, “Charlie Kelly: King of the Rats” goes low-concept with the gang trying to figure out what the hell Charlie’s indecipherable, illiterate scribbles mean as they plan a party for him. The best recurring gag is, hands down, Charlie mixing up the words “spa” and “spaghetti.”
22. “The Gang Buys a Boat” (Season 6, Episode 3)
When they all go in on a boat, everyone predictably has different plans that all go awry but this episode makes the list solely for Dee’s “P. Diddy dance” which resembles a wacky inflatable tube man.
21.”Frank Sets Sweet Dee On Fire” (Season 3, Episode 8)
One thing most of these must-watch episodes have in common is Dee’s commitment to the joke, even if that joke involves her being set on fire — and violently throwing a box of kittens — as the gang embarks on a mission to get famous. Not to be outdone, Mac’s nervous “reporter” close-ups are just as great.
20. “How Mac Got Fat” (Season 7, Episode 10)
For Season 7, Rob McElhenney gained about 50 pounds for no real reason, other than the fact that they all thought it would be funny. For much of the season, It’s Always Sunny rarely addresses this directly. But near the end, Mac visits a priest to “confess” his sins (or, really, to explain how the gang made him gain weight): They plan on bringing in “avatars” to work in the bar, and Mac’s is much heavier due to muscle mass. The thing is, Mac gains a bunch of weight long after they’ve dropped the plan, just by continuing to overeat.
19. “The Gang Dances Their Asses Off” (Season 3, Episode 15)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is at its best when the gang is all together, conspiring either against someone they hate or against each other — both of which are at play in the Season 3 finale. The gang, plus the return of scorned characters Rickety Cricket and The Waitress, are all competing to win a dance contest. If they lose, they lose the bar. There is clever escalation here that leads to drugging Charlie and shattering Dee’s kneecap. That’s one way to end the season.
18. “The Gang Desperately Tries to Win an Award” (Season 9, Episode 3)
It’s perfectly understandable why It’s Always Sunny has never won an Emmy, but it’s also frustrating for obsessive viewers and, as this episode proves, the writers. This meta, self-aware episode finds the gang upset they didn’t win the Restaurant Bar Association’s Best Bar award and soon transforms into an intelligent critique of television, particularly sitcoms. A rival bar, Suds, is everything Paddy’s isn’t: brightly lit, colorful, populated with quirky characters who have just the right amount of sass (and a will-they/won’t-they couple). One great exchange remarks on typical sitcom casts: “What’s with the black friend that no one is acknowledging?” “It’s strange to have one black friend and not be constantly talking about it.”
17. “Who Pooped the Bed?” (Season 4, Episode 7)
I mean, with an episode title like this, of course this series hasn’t won any awards. Yet “Who Pooped the Bed?” is extremely funny, and obviously ridiculous, and it makes this list because any Artemis appearance is a great Artemis appearance.
16. “Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare” (Season 2, Episode 3)
Sunny manages to do “offensive” humor without actually offending, largely due to the complete idiocy of its characters and the intelligence of everyone behind the scenes. “Dennis and Dee Go on Welfare” is the best example of this, as the siblings get addicted to crack solely to try and beat the system. Plus, we get the memorable scene of them sitting on the stoop, drinking 40s, and singing “Just a Friend.” The perfect life to lead.
15. “Sweet Dee’s Dating a Retarded Person” (Season 3, Episode 9)
Two things: Best cold opening ever, and the introduction of “Night Man.” What could beat that?
14. “The Waitress Is Getting Married” (Season 5, Episode 5)
In one of the most delightfully gross episodes ever, Dee finds out The Waitress is about to get married, becomes jealous about getting beat to the altar, and tries to sabotage the wedding with a disgusting bachelorette party (featuring guests like Artemis and Mac’s mom). A heartbroken Charlie fails at online dating in the most spectacular way and later, upon learning that The Waitress’ fiancé was just screwing with her, Charlie hands him a wedding gift of a box of live hornets — which is pretty sweet, actually, in that fucked-up Sunny way.
13. “The Gang Gets Analyzed” (Season 8, Episode 5)
I can’t believe it took this long to get the gang into therapy, but thank God it finally happened. The reason they end up there isn’t because they are concerned with how utterly sociopathic they can be, but because they’re in a fight and want the therapist to decide who should do the dishes. This episode is full of amazing gags — Charlie’s dead pigeons, Mac’s fixation on the pen (the recurring bit being that everyone’s aware he’s gay), Dee’s desperation — that all speak to the individual characters.
12. “Mac and Dennis Break Up” (Season 5, Episode 9)
The genius of this episode lies within the glimpses it gives into the gang’s lives together outside of the bar. Charlie is a cat expert (meaning cats follow him) and informs Dee that the way to get a cat from out of her wall (of course there’s a cat in her wall) is to throw another cat in there. We learn of Frank’s disgusting toeknife and cat-food-eating ways, of Mac and Dennis’ movie nights — though they don’t even own a bowl — and how Dennis believes he’s not allowed to eat apple skin. These are all tiny and incredibly strange revelations, but they make so much sense.
11.”Charlie Wants an Abortion” (Season 1, Episode 2)
Somehow, an episode about Charlie trying to prove that a kid isn’t his son results in Mac and Dennis hitting up an abortion rally in order to hit on women. Pretty bold for only the second episode of the first season!
10.”Mac and Charlie Die, Parts 1 & 2″ (Season 4, Episodes 5-6)
This glorious two-part episode centers on Mac and Charlie faking their own deaths in order to avoid being actually killed by Mac’s father. In a series of escalating events, they pull out their teeth (this is horrifying), crash a car into a brick wall, do poppers, do poppers while wearing a wedding dress and shooting at a car’s gas tank, and so on. Every scene is funnier than last, and it continues for a full hour.
9. “The Gang Solves the Gas Crisis” (Season 4, Episode 2)
Spoiler alert: The gang does not solve the gas crisis, but we do get the introduction of their roles — notably, Charlie as the “wildcard.”
8. “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games” (Season 7, Episode 7)
In one of the most insular but creative episodes of Sunny, the gang are bored in the bar when they decide to break out an old drinking/board game they devised: Chardee MacDennis. It’s an insane game that involves rules like “A first aid kit must be present” and “No cursing until the second round” and also, of course, entails getting positively plastered in the process. What makes this episode so inventive is that it only features the five main players of the show and takes place entirely in one room of the bar, but it never stops being funny.
7. “The Gang Hits the Road” (Season 5, Episode 2)
Where to even start with this one? The fact that Charlie has never been out of Philadelphia… or eaten a peach? The part where he yells, “I eat stickers all the time, dude!”? The haggling with gypsies? Picking up a hitchhiker solely so they can all play a drinking game while in the car? Dennis and Frank spending the trip in the back of a U-Haul? Or how they never even get out of Philadelphia? A perfect episode, from beginning to end.
6. “Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack” (Season 4, Episode 10)
Based on the title, this should be Dee’s episode — and her quick addiction to fat burners and various other chemicals was certainly something — but Charlie steals the spotlight. When he and Mac get mail-room jobs in an attempt to get health insurance, Charlie quickly becomes overwhelmed and loses his mind, which results in, without a doubt, the best Charlie monologue in the history of the series. I don’t know anyone who watched this episode and didn’t hysterically yell “CAROL! CAROL!” for a month after.
5. “Charlie Goes America All Over Everyone’s Asses” (Season 2, Episode 9)
There’s a lot of weird happening in this episode (with the catalyst being Charlie wanting to ban smoking from the bar), including an appearance by Artemis, the return of the McPoyles (and a stabbing), and a Vietnamese gambling ring, all ultimately leading to a death in the bar. But by far the best part of the episode — and one of the best moments of the entire series — is Charlie’s patriotic “Rock, Flag, and Eagle” song, which was actually improvised by Charlie Day, who had forgotten the lyrics in the script.
4. “The Gang Gets Racist” (Season 1, Episode 1)
It’s rare for the pilot episode of a sitcom to be so high up on a ranked list, but “The Gang Gets Racist” was a brilliant episode of television and an accurate introduction to this fucked-up group of friends and the idiotic things that they do, showcasing the manipulation that recurs throughout the series (and quickly setting up Dee as the punching bag). Charlie’s attempt to prove he’s not racist by seeking out black friends lets the viewers know exactly what we’re in for here: hilarious but twisted, subversive humor. It’s also, in my opinion, the best-ever title for a pilot.
3. “Paddy’s Pub: Home of the Original Kitten Mittens” (Season 5, Episode 9″)
If I’m being totally honest with myself, most of my favorite episodes of Sunny are based on Charlie’s story. Charlie’s illiteracy is one of the greatest running jokes in the series, and I love when it’s brought up in random ways, like when he spells “Kitten Mittons.” The most golden scene here is the opening infomercial video (actually shot on a VHS camera!), which I re-watched no less than ten times when the episode originally aired. But all the other inventions — the gun shot, in particular — are downright hilarious, too.
2. “The Gang Gives Frank an Intervention” (Season 5, Episode 4)
Objectively, this isn’t the greatest episode of Sunny, but it’s certainly my favorite and the one that I’ve re-watched the most. Everything about it is funny, from the gang stealthily drinking wine out of soda cans (something that I adopted in college) to the way Charlie yells “intervention, intervention, intervention” when he really just wants someone to be quiet (another, much more annoying, habit that I picked up). It’s one of the best episodes to introduce to a new fan.
1. “The Nightman Cometh” (Season 4, Episode 13)
The episode so good it launched a stage show. Charlie’s rock opera with some very questionable lyrics is infectious, and it’s impossible for the songs to not get stuck in your head. Equipped with some amazing costumes and some not-so-amazing actors (who undermine his every move), the musical is actually all a ploy to get Charlie to propose to The Waitress, who swiftly shuts him down.