Before I begin, I’d like to note that all the episodes on this list are from Season 6 and before. This doesn’t mean that I dislike the episodes in Season 7+, it simply means that, when this list was written, Season 7 had yet to start.
25. “The Enchirideon!” (Season 1, Episode 5)
The perfect starting point for this list. “The Enchirideon!” was the first episode of Adventure Time produced and completed (though the fifth to air). Based around the quest for a legendary book, this episode features charming one-off characters and hilarious old-lady zapping. “The Enchirideon!” perfectly encapsulates the anything-goes milieu of Adventure Time.
Jake: Hey! Back off you gnomes. That kid just saved you! You should thank him, not destroy old ladies!
24. “Mystery Train” (Season 2, Episode 19)
This episode is a charming little whodunnit with an unexpected conclusion that you could ACTUALLY have guessed if you paid close enough attention throughout the episode. It just serves to highlight the huge diversity of styles Adventure Time is capable of showing without losing its zany ambiance. Finn’s hopelessly incompetent investigation of the murders on the train perfectly fits his character in a hilarious way.
Finn: What do you think, Dr. Donut? Any clues?
Dr. Donut: Hmm… I think it was the guy who screamed, ‘I’m gonna kill you!’
23. “Rainy Day Daydream” (Season 1, Episode 23)
I can imagine the storyboarding for “Rainy Day Daydream.”
Writer A: “So, we want to have an episode based around imagination, something needs to keep Finn and Jake inside.”
Writer B: “Alright… Let’s have it rain.”
Writer A: “Nah, that wouldn’t keep them inside”
Writer B: “Hmm… How about it’s raining… knives?”
Writer A: [pause] “Yeah. Sounds good.”
Seriously, the premise of this episode is that Finn and Jake are forced to stay inside because of a knife storm. The episode pushes Adventure Time’s absurdism and surreality to the limit by plunging us into Jake’s imagination. Finn’s “Imagination Band” and Jake’s imagining of an invisible monster showcase Adventure Time’s ability to develop simple concepts into powerful and creative results.
Finn: Imagine turning your imagination off!
Jake: I can’t, dude… But, I think I can imagine an imagination turning off machine… that is upstairs, surrounded by a crudload of traps, ghost, monsters, and poison fountains, and… and…. and girls! Cute girls! And hamsters!
22. “Wake Up”/”Escape From the Citadel” (Season 2, Episodes 1-2)
Certainly the most depressing episodes on the list, “Wake Up” and “Escape From the Citadel” feature the return of the biggest baddie in Ooo, the Lich, as Finn and Jake search for Finn’s elusive father. The Lich’s chilling monologue is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine, and you are sure to pity Finn as he tries to deal with his deadbeat dad. Encapsulated in a surreal package with a shocking conclusion that sets the tone for all of season 6, “Wake Up”/”Escape from the Citadel” is a pair of episodes that makes the most of every minute.
Prismo: Man, I’ve gotten a lot hairier, but also balder? Tell me how that makes any sense. I’m like a big ol’ hairy raisin.
“Escape From the Citadel”:
Finn: Listen, you don’t gotta worry about a thing, Jake ol’ pal. We just need to defeat those five space villains, hijack the shard they’re hijacking and sail it home to safety. Easy peasy.
21. “Marceline’s Closet” (Season 3, Episode 21)
Marceline, and the jokes surrounding her have always had an oddly sexual tone to them(Just watch “Henchman” and “Go With Me” if you disagree), and this episode takes that to the limit. Is this a good thing? I think so. It’s a different brand of humor that, although slightly jarring, doesn’t fall flat. Unfortunately, this is really the last time Marcy’s character is treated in this way, as relationship drama completely dominates her character after season 3. Marcy’s journal song is catchy, and the silent reactions to the spider are hilarious. A must watch if you’re a fan of Marcy.
Finn: I’ll fly the paper as an airplane down the bedroom ladder. It’ll triple barrel roll past the kitchen, open the fridge, and cook some eggs, then eat the eggs, and unfold itself as it lays in the carpet in front of Marceline’s door!
20. “Return to the Nightosphere”/ “Daddy’s Little Monster” (Season 4, Episodes 5-6)
A two-parter in the nightosphere? With a song by Marcy and a dope political rap? This pair of episodes was destined to succeed. The Nightosphere is the perfect setting to show off just how bonkers the atmosphere in Adventure Time can get. With monsters missing half their bodies, blood-vapor clouds, and banana-feces, things get weird. The panoramic shot of the nightosphere is one of my favorite visual moments of AT. Our favorite bad-dad, Hunson Abadeer, also gets some screen time. All in all, this is just a fun set of episodes, with new settings and characters that make me giddy.
Return to the NIghtosphere:
Finn: Hey, guy, are you the teller?
Boat Demon: No, no, no, this is the line to meet the teller.
Finn: No, man, are you for real? How long’s the wait?!
Boat Demon: I dunno. I just like to row around on top of their heads.
Daddy’s Little Monster:
Hunson: You should put this amulet on. It’ll grant you wishes for, like, ponies. Or whatever kids like.
Marceline: Dad, I’m a thousand years old.
Hunson: Ha! Yes you are, sweetie. Daddy’s little monster!
19. “Death in Bloom” (Season 2, Episode 17)
What happens when you leave two young bachelors to take care of a precious plant? They party so hard that the plant dies, of course. How will they fix this problem? By going to the land of dead and having a musical contest with Death himself, of course. A brilliant twist on the classic tale of seeking out death to retrieve the soul of someone you love, “Death in Bloom” introduces Death, one of the most interesting side characters Adventure Time has to offer. See if you can spot the Simpsons reference in the title card of this episode.
Jake: Ugh… They’re trying to peel me! I’m. Not. A. BANANA!
18. “Dad’s Dungeon” (Season 3, Episode 25)
There’s not much to “Dad’s Dungeon.” A fun little adventure with a touch of family drama; we get to see Finn kick butt, give advice to smelly beasts, and fight monsters. We also get to see the awesome Dog family sword, crafted from demon’s blood. The final scene, where Finn fights a remarkably creepy monster with Jake’s remix of the holo-message in the background is way cool.
Blood Demon: Joshua! Return my blood to me, or by demon’s law, I will cut off your love handles!!! Joshua, we go way back. Come on! Just give me back my blood!
17. “Puhoy” (Season 5, Episode 16)
“Puhoy” is delightful, but also substantial, persuasively reflecting on the way our lives might be different if we spent less time worrying and dwelling on mistakes. We see Finn trapped in a pillow dimension where he lives out a long life trying to return to his normal world. He eventually comes to accept his life within the pillow world, but not before spending his years attempting to return to a home he can hardly remember. This Emmy-winning episode manages to create genuinely touching interactions between characters introduced only moments before, no simple feat.
Finn: Man, having a girlfriend is hard.
Jake: No! Being crazy is hard.
16. “Burning Low” (Season 4, Episode 16)
Another romance episode. After skipping all the “getting-together” drama for Finn and Flame Princess, we get to see their relationship take a more serious turn. Jake gives advice to Finn on how to get to what he deems “tier 2” in what is possibly the most overtly sexual joke in Adventure Time. Princess Bubblegum is upset about this development and decides to intervene. Drama aside, this episode features some classic gags. The timeless song, “Bacon Pancakes” is sung by Jake, and we meet President Porpoise. On top of all that, we get to witness the development in Finn and FP’s relationship, which is resoundingly cute.
Jake: What? Where am I?
Mini-Snowman: Jake, you’re president now!
Jake: Oh my glosh!
15. “Evicted!” (Season 1, Episode 12)
This episode introduces my favorite character: Marceline the Vampire Queen. Built around the premise that Marcy is evicting Finn and Jake from their treehouse, the episode follows their attempts to find a new home. Prominently featuring the hilarious “House Hunting Song” which is jam-packed full of visual gags and musical charm, “Evicted!” is fun from beginning to end.
Marceline: Wow, I’m exhausted, and I’ve seen some stuff that would really make you say ‘like what?’
Finn: Like what?
14. “Mortal Folly/ Mortal Recoil” (Season 2, Episodes 24-25)
Certainly the best action/plot-driven mini-arc, the pair of episodes that closed of season 2 showcase the power of “l-l-liking someone a lot!” With the introduction of the only truly evil character in Ooo, The Lich, Finn and Jake are given their first quest for the sake of the fate of the world. Always the comedic foil, the Ice King tags along, trying to get the dynamic duo’s blessing of his marriage to Princess Bubblegum, only to escalate the central conflict. Zombified Princess Bubblegum is a delightfully creepy foe, and gives Ice King a chance to redeem himself. The episode closes with a shocking, yet charming plot twist that sets up the emotional development of the characters for the next three seasons.
Jake: There! Out over the lake!
Finn: After his butt!
Jake: I’m your Dinghy Dog!
Nurse Poundcake: What’s her Condition, Dr. Ice Cream?
Dr. Ice Cream: She’s totally gross over 90% of her body. The other 10% is crazy nasty.
13. “The Pajama War” (Season 6, Episode 23)
In a break from the romantic drama that surrounded the pair for much of seasons 3-5, we get to see Finn and PB just hanging out together. At the same time, we get to see what would happen in the Candy Kingdom if the princess wasn’t around. Utter chaos. The dichotomy between the two plotlines, combined with the nice, simple, friendly nature of PB and Finn’s interactions make an unforgettable episode. I mean, come on, how can you not love an episode featuring Timmy the giant adorable cat?
Colonel Candy Corn: This is a brutal new society. For a society to function, it needs rules. 1. You must drink tea with your pizza. 2. Pizza can only be eaten alone. 3. If a pizza is found in a field, you must make the next person you see holding a glass of milk eat it.
12. “Freak City” (Season 1, Episode 20)
This episode introduces my favorite Adventure Time villain, Magic Man. While he may lack the sheer evil of the Lich and the tragedy of the Ice King, Magic Man has his own hilarious brand of being a jerk that sets him apart in my mind. Finn, after being turned into a foot by the aforementioned jerk, throws a fit while Jake inexplicably tries to convince him that being a foot isn’t all that bad. After a series of crotch-kicking and mud-and-rat-wallowing antics, Finn conquers the Magic Man and learns a valuable lesson: some people are jerks. Constant gags and Jake’s odd enthusiasm for life as a foot give this episode its charm.
Finn: No! Change me back!
Magic Man: Not until you appreciate what a jerk I am! Whaaa zoo!
11. “Incendium”/”Hot to the Touch” (Season 3, Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1)
The first part of this pair mines comedy from Jake’s ability to pick up chicks for Finn, before everything escalates in both hilarious and touching ways. After that we get to watch as Finn tries to balance his need to save the people of Ooo with his pursuit of a fiery new crush.
While the plot is cool and has some fun little character development, it’s not really the strength of the episodes. Like any vintage AT episode, the plot is just there to set up funny situations, of which, in these two episodes, there are countless. From the giant fire-extinguishing mechs to BMO’s harassment of heartbroken Finn, these episodes are non-stop comedy.
Jake: BMO, you look after him with your camera-eyes.
BMO: If anyone tries to hurt Finn, I will kill them.
Jake: Ok, good.
“Hot to the Touch”:
Finn: Oh, Jake… look at her. She’s innocent. Like the steam off a puppy’s nose, searching for ham in the snow.
Jake: Guy drops one piece of ham in the snow and he never hears the end of it!
10. “What Was Missing” (Season 3, Episode 10)
This episode is probably the emotional peak of Season 3. With two heartfelt musical numbers (plus… whatever you’d call Bubblegum’s song…) and some interesting character development, “What Was Missing” is a fan favorite. We get to see Marceline and PB airing their dirty laundry, Jake become the jerk in the band, and Finn embrace his feelings for P-Bubs. I’m a sucker for the more emotional episodes, so I love this one, but some might find it a bridge too far from the first season’s antics.
Finn: Jake, you’re back!
Jake: Shut yo’ face. I came back for the music.
9. “Time Sandwich” (Season 5, Episode 33)
“Time Sandwich” is about a tragedy. The tragedy of when a man gets a sandwich stolen from him. Not just any sandwich. Jake, with divine inspiration, makes the perfect sandwich, featuring such ingredients as “Lobster Soul,” and “Bird from the window”. After Jake demonstrates his shocking culinary skill, Magic Man shows up to ruin the party, stealing Jake’s sandwich and forcing him to solve a riddle or have his sandwich eaten by another. The beauty of this episode is how each character’s personality is perfectly demonstrated in how they help Jake get his sandwich back. BMO showcases his backwards thought process, Marceline her reliance on brute force, and P-Bub her scientific genius.
Magic Man: Look, if you really want your sandwich, you’ll have to solve my little riddle. When your face shows 7:20, when green leaves turn brown, the only way forward is down. Then you’ll see, the wetter, the better.
Jake: That’s not even a riddle! It’s wordplay, at best!
Magic Man: You try and come up with something on the spot! It’s hard!
8. “Dungeon” (Season 1, Episode 18)
My favorite episode of Season 1, “Dungeon” teaches a valuable lesson any RPG player should know: always have a balanced party. In more moralistic terms, it reminds its viewers about recognizing the strengths of your friends, but the clear RPG parallels are there. “Dungeon” has, with the freaky cat, the single best one-off villain of any Adventure Time episode. Every moment he’s on screen is flawless, and his presence alone secures this episode’s spot on this list.
Freaky Cat: Greetings… Frank the human boy.
Finn: How did you almost know my name!?
Freaky Cat: I have approximate knowledge of many things.
7. “Card Wars” (Season 4, Episode 14)
The writers of adventure time showcase their nerdy backgrounds once again in this episode featuring a card game that is a clear reference to MTG (or really any trading card game). We all have that one friend who demands you play their game with them, and then proceeds to take it WAY too seriously. This episode perfectly captures that feeling, as we watch Jake over-react to Finn’s beginner’s luck in the corn-based card wars. With pig-flooping and BMO-chopping action, Card Wars is a straight-up fun episode, taking a break from the drama that surrounds much of Season 4.
Finn: I floop the pig.
6. “Jake Suit” (Season 5, Episode 27)
It’s brother against brother in a showdown to see if Finn can take the pain. Fed up with the brutal treatment Finn gives him while in “The Jake Suit” (he wears Jake like a super-power set of armor), Jake wants to put Finn through some trials of fortitude. Escalating with each trial, we get to see just how hardcore Finn really is. With some great throwbacks to previous episodes (“The Buff Baby” song, in particular) and the unexpected use of Bjork as a curse word, “Jake Suit” is nonstop gags and is an episode I find myself going back to time and time again when I need a laugh.
Finn: C’mon, bro; taking pain is easy. You just have to imagine that every bruise is a hickey from The Universe. And everyone wants to get with The Universe
Junior year of high school, I got into the habit of watching Adventure Time on the bus home with a friend of mine. I had seen parts of Season 1 on television, so I started up from Season 2. I enjoyed the show just enough to keep watching at first, but it wasn’t until “The Other Tarts” that I was hooked. Finn’s overwhelming confidence in his awful plan, the robbery by the butterfly, and the tart toter’s insane philosophical rantings put an unpliable smile onto my face in a way I didn’t expect. And just when I thought I couldn’t love the episode more, the final reveal — negating everything the principle characters had done throughout the entire episode — left my jaw on the floor with its cleverness. To this day, this episode remains one of my favorites and is at the top of my list of episodes to show people who have never seen the show.
Tart Toter: This cosmic dance of bursting decadence and withheld permissions twists all our arms collectively, but if sweetness can win — and it can — then I’ll still be here tomorrow to high-five you yesterday, my friend. Peace.
4. “It Came from the Nightosphere” (Season 2, Episode 1)
As lumpy space princess puts it, “Drama Bomb!” The Season 2 premier raises the emotional stakes by introducing the creepy Hunson Abadeer, Marceline’s father. Marcy’s daddy issues (“Why’d he eat her fries, man?”) meet Finn’s world-saving struggles as the pair try to stop Hunson from sucking out the souls of the denizens of Ooo and retrieve Marceline’s bass. Punctuated with one of the most memorable ending-gags that Adventure Time has to offer, this episode, with its nonstop puns and catchy soundtrack perfectly demonstrate what the show does best.
Head Marauder: So I popped his head like a cork! And I says, “That’s what I think of Expanding Earth Theory!”
3. “Jake The Brick” (Season 6, Episode 20)
It’s hard for me to think of an eleven minute piece of media that invokes as much emotion within me as “Jake The Brick”. Profoundly poetic and heartwarming, “Jake the Brick” weaves the twofold tale of Jake, taking a break from life and literally living as a brick in a wall; and the bunny, as he weathers a storm. There’s so much to love about this episode. We witness Ooo’s instant fandom of the bunny — showcased through cameos from all our favorite characters; we get a glimpse of the fauna of Ooo; and we watch Finn struggle with a prolonged game of trashcan basketball. Jake’s spectacular narration of the bunny’s tale pulls the whole thing together and leaves me feeling nostalgic and inspired at the end of the episode.
Its too difficult for me to pick a favorite line; the script of this episode is uniquely perfect
2. “I Remember You” (Season 4, Episode 25)
The penultimate episode of Season 4, “I Remember You” is the first episode that instead of being a “comedy with some dramatic elements”, becomes a “drama with some comedic elements”. The clear focus of this episode is to entertain with the character development, not with the usual subtly-adult brand of humor (although the bondage joke is not all that subtle). As a drama, “I Remember You” succeeds on all accounts. The heart-wrenching musical number is my personal favorite in the series, and it’s heartbreaking to watch the dementia-stricken Ice King interact with the grieving Marcy.
Finn: Well, well, well. Looks like the Ice King is up to bad biscuits, brotha.
Jake: Bad biscuits make the baker broke, bro.
Finn: Ice King, you make our job too easy. You ready to roll on this fool?
Jake: Dinner roll!
1. “Princess Cookie” (Season 4, Episode 13)
Here it is. My favorite episode of Adventure Time. Cinematic and unforgettable, this episode revolves around a hostage situation in the Candy Kingdom. Jake, through his interactions with the perpetrator, sympathizes with him and decides to help him make a break for it. With beautiful cinematography and a finale that makes you ask, “Man, did they really just do that?” “Princess Cookie” pushes the absolute limits of what a show like adventure time can do.
Jake: Princess Cookie’s a good guy. He just got dealt a bad hand. He’s only trying to be what following how his dreams make you want to be, man!