Despite its decline in quality in the past few years, The Simpsons still has a claim for the greatest TV series ever made. After all these years of mediocrity in the later seasons, there’s a chance that the show will never return to its former glory. It’s not that the post-Golden Age episodes are bad; it’s just that compared to the dizzying heights of the Golden Age episodes — some of the finest installments of television to ever hit the airwaves — they seem that way. The show had some perfect seasons in the early days. So, here are The 10 Best Seasons Of The Simpsons, Ranked.
10 Season 14
Although it arrived past The Simpsons’ prime, there’s a lot to love in the show’s fourteenth season. “Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade,” in which Bart is dropped down a grade and Lisa is bumped up a grade, forcing them into the same class, is a hilarious and heartfelt study of their relatable sibling relationship. In “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation,” Homer attends rock ‘n’ roll camp with hysterical caricatures of such iconic rockers as Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz, and Tom Petty. “Moe Baby Blues” is a poignant look at Moe’s depression, as he finds a renewed sense of hope in his friendship with Maggie. Season 14 plays around interestingly with the audience’s familiarity with the characters, without using it as a crutch.
9 Season 8
In its eighth season, The Simpsons moved into more ridiculous, far-fetched storylines, like Bart getting his own credit card under the name Santos L. Halper, Homer becoming the third main cast member in The Itchy and Scratchy Show, and Mulder and Scully visiting Springfield in a crossover with Fox’s other hit ‘90s show, The X-Files.
Still, as far as ridiculous, far-fetched storylines go, Season 8 is still just as sharp, insightful, and hysterical as the show has ever been. And it has the all-time classic “You Only Move Twice” and the heartfelt Bart/Lisa episode “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson.”
8 Season 10
Widely regarded as the end of The Simpsons’ so-called “Golden Age,” Season 10 has a number of standout installments. It might have been the end of the show’s reign as television’s gold standard — as evidenced by such lazily written storylines as Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger hiring Homer as their personal assistant — but it went out with a bang. Season 10 has Mark Hamill’s hilarious guest appearance in “Mayored to the Mob,” Homer showing Flanders a good time in “Viva Ned Flanders,” and Homer’s new name Max Power in “Homer to the Max.” It’s a hilarious and sadly underrated season.
7 Season 5
With such classics as “Cape Feare,” a hysterical pastiche of Martin Scorsese’s chilling thriller Cape Fear, and “Bart Gets an Elephant,” in which Bart is gifted a live elephant that the Simpson family can’t take care of by a radio station, The Simpsons’ fifth season is brilliant. This season also includes such beloved episodes as “Deep Space Homer,” in which Homer goes to space and gets overshadowed by an inanimate carbon rod, and “Homer’s Barbershop Quarter,” the Beatles-inspired biopic of Homer’s old barbershop quartet, the Be Sharps. It’s not without a few duds, but it’s a mostly terrific TV season.
6 Season 2
In its second season, The Simpsons was still grounded in our reality and hadn’t segued into its own skewed reality yet. There were also still a lot of Bart-focused storylines, because Homer wasn’t yet the lead character. But it’s still a great season, containing “Lisa’s Substitute,” which established Homer and Lisa’s relationship as one of the sweetest, most complex and important relationships in the family, and “Bart the Daredevil,” which series creator Matt Groening has described as a turning point for the series. When Homer went over Springfield Gorge, the writers realized that he was the heart of the show, not Bart.
5 Season 15
Perhaps the last truly great season of The Simpsons, Season 15 has such classic storylines as the family’s ill-fated trip to London in “The Regina Monologues,” the Star Wars-skewering, booze-soaked “Co-Dependent’s Day,” and Lisa’s starring role in a catchy musical parody of Evita in “The Princess Wore Pearls.” It played around with the show’s well-established formula in interesting ways, right before it would drop off a cliff and land in the realm of relying on storytelling gimmicks. The season also made great use of guest stars, with Simon Cowell playing a parody of himself and Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols appearing in “Simple Simpson.”
4 Season 7
Season 7 kicked off with the thrilling conclusion to The Simpsons’ first and, so far, only two-parter, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” and grew into one of the show’s most interesting and experimental years. Episodes such as “Lisa the Vegetarian” and “Bart Sells His Soul” explored the characters in more depth than the average installment, while “22 Short Films About Springfield” tried out an intriguing new format and “Radioactive Man” made Milhouse a movie star. Plus, with the episode “Two Bad Neighbors,” the writers of The Simpsons settled a score with ex-President George H.W. Bush, who insulted the show during his one Presidential term.
3 Season 3
During the third season of The Simpsons, the writers transitioned from the grounded nature of the first couple of seasons to the absurdist comedy that would go on to define the show. From “Colonel Homer” to “Radio Bart,” Season 3 hits the sweet spot between having storylines that are relatable, whether it’s Moe stealing Homer’s cocktail idea or Homer jealously sabotaging Flanders’ new business, while telling them through a surreal prism to give the show its unique style. And episodes like “Homer at the Bat” show The Simpsons using high-profile guest stars right, as opposed to the lazy overuse of celebrity guests in modern installments.
2 Season 6
The sixth season of The Simpsons has all-time classic episodes revolving around every major character, from Homer leading a secret society called the Stonecutters in “Homer the Great” to Marge joining the police force in “The Springfield Connection.” It also ended on a cliffhanger, with the first part of The Simpsons’ only ever two-part episode, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” and introduced the show’s signature future-set episodes with the tear-jerking installment “Lisa’s Wedding.”
Among the season’s other fantastic episodes are “Lemon of Troy,” “Bart vs. Australia,” and “The PTA Disbands.” The Simpsons’ sixth season is one of the greatest seasons of television ever aired.
1 Season 4
The Simpsons’ fourth season is when the show really hit its stride. What makes the show so great is its blend of grounded, relatable family situations and outlandish, surreal, absurdist humor. Season 4 is the pinnacle of this beautiful comic style. It has “Marge vs. the Monorail” and “Last Exit to Springfield,” which each have their fair share of fans claiming they’re the best episode of the entire series, as well as episodes that explore serious ethical issues, like “Whacking Day,” character-focused installments, like “Mr. Plow,” and episodes that test the Simpson family dynamic, like “Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie.”