While The Simpsons was undoubtedly the defining cartoon for Gen X, the year 1999 ushered in a new king of the cartoon realm, Family Guy, which would become (arguably) the most memorable cartoon for the Millennial generation. Heavily inspired by The Simpsons, Family Guy was also a cartoon sitcom about a family led by an eccentric father, Peter Griffin. And, from the moment that Family Guy premiered after Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999, Peter began to make his way into the hearts of Americans with his iconic laugh, his massive belly, and his penchant for causing unnecessary chaos.
Family Guy has been so successful that the show is currently on its 22nd season, which is set to premiere in late 2023. However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for this beloved animated series. Family Guy experienced awful ratings during its third season, and it was eventually canceled by the Fox Broadcasting Network in 2002. But I suppose that absence makes the heart grow fonder because when Family Guy was eventually brought back for its fourth season, it came back with a vengeance. The fourth season experienced excellent ratings, and Family Guy has never looked back since.
Today, over 400 episodes of Family Guy have aired on national television. And, in my opinion, the lion’s share of those 400 episodes are laugh-out-loud hilarious. However, the reason we’re here today is to rank the very best Family Guy episodes of all time. So, let’s get into it: the best Family Guy episodes ever, ranked.
1. PTV (Season 4, Episode 14)
Personally, I would consider “PTV” (from Family Guy Season 4) the best episode of the cartoon to ever air. That’s because this episode was, for one, absolutely hilarious and, second, because it was a direct shot at the Federal Communications Commission. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has had a well-documented and contentious history with the FCC. And so making a whole episode that’s essentially exposing FCC loopholes was like flipping them the middle finger. And we loved it.
In this episode, Peter becomes outraged by the censorship of his favorite programs by the FCC. So, in response, with the advice of Tom Tucker, he starts his own fully uncensored television network called PTV. This is where we got the legendary “Peter Griffin Side-Boob Hour” cutaway. However, the FCC eventually shuts down PTV and starts censoring real-life behavior in Quahog, including farts, expletives, and sex.
2. FOX-y Lady (Season 7, Episode 10)
The “FOX-y Lady” episode from Season 7 starts out with the advent of HDTV, which exposes the wrinkles on the face of a Fox News Channel reporter, causing her to get fired. Lois eventually fills the reporter’s spot despite Brian’s warnings that Fox is an extremely biased and unscrupulous network. During one of her investigations, Lois discovers that Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are engaged in a homosexual relationship. However, upon further investigation, Lois and Brian discover that Rush Limbaugh is actually just Michael Moore in disguise and that Michael Moore is just Fred Savage in disguise.
This whole episode is entirely ridiculous and a major dig at Family Guy’s host network, Fox. Meanwhile, Peter and Chris are taking advantage of Lois’s connections at the network to release their own cartoon series called Handi-Quacks, which centers on a group of handicapped ducks.
3. And Then There Were Fewer (Season 9, Episode 1)
Family Guy has parodied so many pieces of popular media over the years that it’s hard to keep track of. But there’s perhaps no better parody in the series than the “And Then There Were Fewer” episode from Season 9, which plays on Agatha Christie’s famous mystery novel And Then There Were None. This episode runs like a classic whodunit mystery as the Griffins and other residents of Quahog attend a dinner party at James Woods’s mansion (which, of course, goes horribly wrong).
The party begins in a delightful and cordial manner, but before long, the party’s attendees begin to drop like flies. This episode, despite being absurdly comical, is actually a compelling mystery that keeps you on the edge of your seat. And you’ll never guess who the murderer is…
4. McStroke (Season 6, Episode 8)
The “McStroke” episode from Season 6 begins with Peter deciding to grow a mustache because he believes it will improve his overall quality of life. However, when a fire breaks out at a local McBurgertown fast food restaurant, Peter is mistaken for a firefighter (because, you know, all firefighters have mustaches) and ends up saving the life of the owner. Sadly, Peter loses his mustache in the process. In repayment for saving his life, the owner of McBurgertown offers Peter free burgers for life.
Then, as you may have expected from the title of the episode, Peter eats so many burgers that he has a stroke, leaving the left side of his body entirely numb for months. Meanwhile, Stewie makes a bet with Brian that he can become the most popular kid at James Woods High School. So, he puts on a disguise and tries to have sex with Connie DiMico, who mocks him for having a small penis, which is all pretty uncomfortable considering Stewie is a baby.
5. To Love and Die in Dixie (Season 3, Episode 12)
The whole premise of the episode “To Love and Die in Dixie” from Family Guy Season 3 is that Chris witnesses a robbery at a convenience store and is brought down to the police station to identify the criminal. However, Peter, being the buffoon that he is, comes to the station to look for Chris and accidentally shows the criminal a photo of his son. When the robber escapes from prison, he vows to kill Chris, leaving the Griffins no option but to enter the Witness Protection Program.
The Griffin family is then relocated by the FBI to the town of Bumblescum in the Deep South. Each member of the family has their own trouble acclimating to their new environment. But, after some time, the Griffins begin to assimilate. Peter even becomes the town’s sheriff, and Chris finds himself a girlfriend. Eventually, though, the robber is able to track Chris to the town of Bumblescum and tries to kill him.
6. Death Is a Bitch (Season 2, Episode 6)
In the “Death Is a Bitch” episode, Lois finds a lump on Peter’s breast that she fears is a tumor and forces Peter to go to the doctor to check it out. But, when the lump turns out to be benign, Peter decides that he’s going to avoid paying his medical bill by declaring himself dead. As a result, Death (or the Grim Reaper) appears at his door. However, when Peter tries to run from Death, Death breaks his ankle, putting him out of commission.
As a result, everyone in the world becomes immortal until death recovers and is able to do his job again. Then, Peter must take over Death’s job to prove to the world that people can still die and return things to their natural order. Strangely, Death requests that Peter kill all of the kids from Dawson’s Creek. Death is voiced by the late and great Norm MacDonald in this episode. And his character was such a smash hit that Seth MacFarlane brought back Death in many episodes to come.