Much loved sitcom Malcolm In The Middle might have had one of the most dysfunctional families to ever appear on television. Told from Malcolm’s point of view for most of its 150 episodes, the series followed four (and later five) brothers as they fought for dominance in their suburban household. In reality, their mother was in control of everything.
For seven seasons, Lois did her best to plan every aspect of her children’s lives, but she couldn’t plan out every best episode. According to the Internet Movie Database, these 10 episodes rank as the best of the series. Ranging from an 8.5 to a 9.3 out of 10 stars, all of them beat out the eight star average for the series as a whole.
10 Red Dress S1E02: Score 8.5
Only the second episode, “Red Dress” happened to be the most-watched episodes of the first season when it aired. It’s not a perfect episode, but it’s a great snapshot of what the show had in store.
Lois and Hal are supposed to celebrate their anniversary. While Hal waits at the restaurant, Lois finds her perfect red dress burned in the bathroom. So sure that one of the boys did it, she spends the entire night punishing them instead of going to dinner. For their part, Malcolm and Reese call their older brother Francis for help dealing with her. Of course, it was Hal who accidentally ruined the dress, though no one finds that out.
The war between Lois and her sons, while Hal is oblivious, and Francis off on his own adventure is a template for the entire run of the show.
9 New Neighbors S2E13: Score 8.5
For once in the series, the hostility and backstabbing isn’t directed at one another but instead, outside the family. When “New Neighbors” move in, almost all the members of Malcolm’s family have new enemies.
The kids and the moms can’t stand one another and continually make one another’s lives miserable. Hal, however, makes friends with the new dad. The two have to keep their friendship a secret from everyone in a twist on a clandestine affair. The story could have made for a great recurring theme in the series, but the new family left town by the end of the episode when one of their secrets came to light.
8 If Boys Were Girls S4E10: Score 8.6
It wouldn’t be a sitcom without a wish-fulfillment episode, would it? Here, it’s Lois who imagines a new world that the fans get to watch play out. After a stressful trip to the mall with her sons, Lois wonders what it would have been like to have daughters instead.
What she imagines reveals that her daughters might not have been physically destructive, but they’d become even more emotionally manipulative than the boys she’s raising. It’s an interesting window into Lois’ imagination, especially considering she still hopes she’s going to have a daughter at the end of the episode.
7 Rollerskates S1E13: Score 8.6
This season one episode reversed a bit of the usual dynamic. While Hal was often unaware of what activities the boys got up to, this time he was responsible for punishing Malcolm.
Tired of running during hockey games, Malcolm decides to ask his father to teach him to skate. His temper gets the better of him during lessons, leading him to yell at Hal and use a curse word. Lois has no time to deal with it, despite Hal asking for help, because she injured her back and Reese has been slipping medicine into her drinks to keep her calm. Hal eventually comes up with a creative way to get Malcolm to understand his actions - making him recite insults and curse words directly to his father.
The episode is a nice change from the norm and demonstrates that Hal isn’t so hapless, while Malcolm gets to best Reese at a sport.
6 Traffic Jam S2E01: Score 8.6
The season two premiere had a lot for fans to watch.
While on the way home from a water park, the family ends up stuck in a massive traffic jam. Hal lets a car pass them, and that car ends up in an accident that brings all traffic to a standstill. As a result of the accident, Lois spends her time yelling at officials trying to do their jobs, Hal freaks out that it could have been their car, Malcolm develops a crush on a girl stuck in traffic as well, and Reese goes to war with an ice cream vendor.
If all that wasn’t enough to entertain the audience, Dewey’s on his own adventure home. There is so much to keep the audience laughing that it isn’t surprising it ranks as one of the best episodes of the series.
5 Family Reunion S4E03 Score: 8.7
As miserable as Lois typically makes her boys, they’re still family. In “Family Reunion”, the audience gets to see what happens when the boys decide to be on the same side as Lois.
The family attends a reunion of Hal’s side of the family. While there, Lois is treated horribly by Hal’s father and everyone else. They dislike her because she doesn’t have as much money as them - or at least, that’s their excuse to ridicule Lois and keep her from the family photo. Her sons unite to terrorize the adults assembled at the reunion in revenge.
It’s always nice to see the family come together.
4 Water Park S1E16 Score: 8.7
Season one ended with a family trip. Lois, Hal, Reese, and Malcolm went to a water park for a day of fun in the sun. Of course, because it’s Malcolm in the Middle, the day doesn’t go as planned.
Hal and Lois just want to be young and carefree again, so they sneak some adult beverages into the park, intending to spend some time away from the kids. Malcolm and Reese, however, ruin that by attempting to pull pranks on one another.
The bright spot in the episode might be Bea Arthur’s guest-starring appearance. She plays the woman babysitting Dewey while he’s home with an ear infection. Golden Girls fans loved seeing her back on TV.
3 Lois Strikes Back S7E16 Score: 8.8
Though Lois usually spends her time trying to discipline her sons, in season seven, a surprising turn of events had her on the side of at least one of them.
In “Lois Strikes Back,” Reese is the target of a prank by several girls at school. When Reese becomes depressed, Lois decides to get revenge for him. Only Malcolm figures out she’s the one making the girls’ lives miserable, and he attempts to stop her.
It’s unsettling to see a mother of five picking on teenage girls, but perhaps fans like it so much because it’s one of Emma Stone’s earlier roles.
2 Graduation S7E22 Score: 9.1
The series finale keeps all of the tropes of Malcolm In The Middle in place. As Malcolm and Reese graduate from high school, they’re in for life changes, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Both Reese and Francis find new paths in life, but they keep them from Lois so they can pursue their happiness without interference. It’s a lesson Malcolm probably should have learned by this episode. He would have received an offer for his dream job, but his mother turns it down on his behalf, leaving him to put himself through college because the family can’t afford to pay for it.
As usual, Lois finds a way to make Malcolm’s life more difficult. Also, as usual, Malcolm finds a way to keep going in spite of her.
1 Bowling S2E20 Score: 9.3
The top episode of Malcolm In The Middle comes from early in the run. Near the end of the second season, the writers took a creative risk with an episode fans clearly loved.
“Bowling” sees Malcolm and Reese go, you guessed it, bowling in a Sliding Doors style set up. The audience gets to see what would happen if Lois took them, but also what would happen if Hal took them. The episode highlights their different parenting styles incredibly well and demonstrates that no matter what, Malcolm and Reese never get exactly what they want.