How I Met Your Mother is one of the highest-rated and most popular sitcoms of the 21st century. Even though it’s been off the air for a few years, fans still routinely return to what was initially dismissed as a Friends rip-off to re-watch the whole thing from start to finish.
Of course, as with any show, HIMYM had ups and downs over its nine seasons. There were strong seasons, with great character development and stretches of fantastic episodes, but there were also weak seasons, with out-of-character story arcs that dragged on and jokes that didn’t land. Let's take a look at some of the best and worst episodes ever.
10 Best: "Three Days of Snow"
Forget the plot hole that you’re not allowed to take liquids on a plane anymore, because “Three Days of Snow” is a wonderful episode. Not only does every character’s storyline land, they actually converge at the end. Ted and Barney take over MacLaren’s during a snowstorm before inviting their dates’ band upstairs to keep playing and drinking.
Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily both realize they want to uphold the tradition they’ve agreed to put to rest. Then, at the end, we realize all the stories were happening on different days, and Marshall returns to the airport to meet Lily with the band playing.
9 Worst: "Who Wants to Be a Godparent?"
A lot of sitcoms have done the episode where the new parents decide which of their friends they’ll choose to become the legal guardians of their kids if they die, but How I Met Your Mother’s version was terrible and had Robin and Barney acting out of character.
Ted, Robin, and Barney all fiercely compete to be made Marvin’s godparent, but the obvious choice is Ted. He’s always been ready to be a dad, he’s been Marshall and Lily’s best friend for years, and Barney and Robin have been very clear that they don’t want kids. Plus, the game show setup was just cringe-inducing, it wasn’t fun at all.
8 Best: "How Your Mother Met Me"
Although Season 9 on the whole was basically just a series of sucky filler episodes followed by a disappointing series finale, “How Your Mother Met Me” is excellent. It does a great job of telling its own narrative and simultaneously weaving in a bunch of callbacks. It’s interesting to see how close the Mother has been to Ted all these years, but it’s even more interesting to see how much we care about her by the time we’ve seen her life story play out.
She was previously in love and the guy died; she’s struggled to get back on the dating scene ever since. Before “How Your Mother Met Me,” we just saw Cristin Milioti as the Mother, but after it, we see her as the fleshed-out standalone character Tracy McConnell.
7 Worst: "Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra"
“Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra” is an entire episode about a slap. We see a whole made-up backstory about how Marshall was taught how to slap by three Asian masters, who were played by Ted, Robin, and Lily, which was completely insensitive and silly.
There’s a surprise appearance at the end by Boyz II Men singing the “You Just Got Slapped” song, which is completely absurd. We’re supposed to believe that Marshall hired Boyz II Men to appear in a random forest in Farhampton and give a performance of a song he wrote, which they would’ve had to rehearse from scratch? With what money? Several sharks were jumped at once.
6 "Best: The Time Travelers"
How I Met Your Mother has done a lot of lofty conceptual episodes, but “The Time Travelers” is the best one. It sees Ted and Barney conferring with their future selves as Barney tries to convince Ted to go to Robots vs Wrestlers with him, while Marshall and Robin argue over which one of them their favorite drink should be named after.
Without the twist, this would’ve been an okay episode. But the twist --where we find out the Marshall/Lily/Robin storyline happened months ago, Barney isn’t there, and Ted is sitting alone, imagining everything, with one Robots vs Wrestlers ticket while his friends are busy living their lives-- makes it a great one. The final moment, with Ted explaining that if he could go back to that night, he’d rush to the Mother’s apartment to spend some extra time with her, is an all-time great.
5 Worst: "The Autumn of Break-Ups"
Season 8’s “The Autumn of Break-Ups” saw more silliness from Marshall which was more offensive than funny, while Robin came closer to breaking up with possibly her most boring boyfriend to date, Nick. Fans of HIMYM had always loved Victoria and felt that she was right for Ted. The first time they broke up, it was because he was hung up on Robin. In “The Autumn of Break-Ups,” they break up again, and again, it’s because of Robin.
Victoria demanded that Ted and Robin not be friends anymore, ripped straight from the Emily/Rachel situation in Friends, and Ted refuses. The show once again forced a Ted/Robin hint and wrote Victoria out of character to do it.
4 Best: "Bad News"
This is the one that counts down on-screen numbers throughout the whole episode, leading us to a big moment, only to have Lily reveal to Marshall at the end that his dad had a heart attack and died. Marshall’s reaction is so raw and genuine that it breaks our hearts every time we watch it. We never get used to that tragedy.
The producers achieved this by writing in the script that Lily was going to tell Marshall she was pregnant, so even Jason Segel wasn’t expecting the news that Marvin had died. They managed to nail the scene in one take with an improvised reaction that hits you right in the feels.
3 Worst: "Zoo or False"
What a dreadful, pointless, repetitive episode. This episode begs the question, how many times can the phrase “mugged by a monkey” be uttered in 22 minutes? The answer is: a lot. It’s excruciating. Marshall gets mugged, then Lily gets worried and wants to buy a gun, then Marshall makes up a story about getting mugged by a monkey, then it turns out he might actually have been mugged by a monkey.
It’s a stupid premise with an equally mindless execution. After hopping back and forth between whether or not Marshall was mugged by a monkey, we don’t even get a definitive answer. It’s one long tease, teasing the most ridiculous pay-off, and then it’s not even paid off.
2 Best: "The Pineapple Incident"
Arriving just a few weeks into the first season, “The Pineapple Incident” was How I Met Your Mother’s first really great and memorable episode. It also still stands as one of the show’s all-time best. It’s an accurate representation of being hungover and trying to remember what happened the night before, as Ted tries to piece together who the woman in his bed is and where he got a pineapple from.
HIMYM would eventually become defined by its non-linear storytelling and use of flashbacks, and this is the first time these techniques were used effectively to tell a story on the show.
1 Worst: "Last Forever"
“Last Forever” is among the most controversial series finale episodes in recent memory. Its problem is that the series creators wrote the ending way back when they were doing Season 2, and worked from that when it came to making the actual finale in Season 9. Back in Season 2, the viewers still wanted Ted to end up with Robin, but this was before seven more seasons of forcing their on/off relationship and the audience realizing they definitely didn’t belong together.
Plus, Season 9 was all about Barney and Robin’s wedding, watching them get married and learn about the Mother, so it was very disappointing when the finale skipped over their divorce and the Mother’s terminal illness (and the fact that she was dead while Ted was telling his kids about the women he slept with before he met their mother).