The 25 best episodes of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'
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The 25 best episodes of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'

In the not-too-distant future, a man and some robots sat in space and made fun of cheesy movies. That is the simple premise of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” However, the show, a cult classic, mined so much glorious comedy out of that. Whether it was Joel, Mike, or, in the Netflix reboot, Jonah, our host, along with Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, pumped out joke after joke over movies that are often laughable in and of themselves. There are over 200 episodes of “MST3K” out there, but which are the best of the best? Here, in order, are the top 25 episodes from the many lives of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” If you disagree, repeat to yourself it’s just a list and you should really just relax.

If you want to watch the show, some classic episodes, plus the two Netflix seasons, are available for streaming. The app Pluto TV has an entire channel dedicated to showing “MST3K,” and Comet, an over-the-air channel, shows episodes on some nights. In a pinch, though, the folks who created the show were big on encouraging fans to record episodes and, in their words, “circulate the tapes.” As such, almost every episode can be found on YouTube. In fact, the official “MST3K” YouTube channel has full episodes available to watch, including five from this list.

 
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25. “Alien From L.A.”

“Alien From L.A.”
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You might not find this one on every top 25 list, but it’s a fun change of pace in the world of “MST3K” because it’s a newer movie. Among all the cheap, black-and-white horror movies from the ‘50s and ‘60s, it’s nice to “enjoy” a cheesy ‘80s sci-fi flick, especially when it stars supermodel Kathy Ireland who does not quite have the acting chops to lead an action movie. There’s a lot of fodder here for good jokes.

 
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24. “Jack Frost”

“Jack Frost”
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During its run, “MST3K” got its hand on a few Russian/Finnish fable movies with gaudy color palettes. Of course, “Jack Frost” is the best episode, in part because it is the most insane of the films. It’s worth it alone for when the main character gets turned into a bear, and the actor stumbles around with a big, fake bear head on.

 
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23. “The Horror of Party Beach”

“The Horror of Party Beach”
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There is a lot of fun in this episode, but what stands out most is one of the host segments. They did a lot of songs in those segments on the show, but one of the very best is the “Sodium” song in the style of ‘50s rock 'n' roll that helps close out this classic episode.

 
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22. “Mac and Me”

“Mac and Me”
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We have the first of two episodes of the Netflix reboot of the show. A lot of people considered the “Mac and Me” episode an instant classic. That may be because it already had a reputation as a “so bad it’s good” movie well before “MST3K” got its hands on it. After all, Paul Rudd has been showing a scene from it on Conan O’Brien’s various shows for decades at this point.

 
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21. “City Limits”

“City Limits”
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There is a lot of fun in seeing a young Kim Cattrall and to see Crow’s affinity for the future “Sex and the City” star grow. On top of that, it’s a silly dystopian film involving a lot of motorcycles and bad acting. This is a real underrated gem with some good riffs.

 
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20. “Santa Claus”

“Santa Claus”
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We had to get one of the Christmas movies on this list. Of the three it has made, “Santa Claus” is the best of the bunch. No, this episode doesn’t have “Patrick Swayze Christmas.” However, the movie itself is completely insane and is just a bit more fun than, say, “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” Plus, it introduced the character of Pitch to the universe of “MST3K.”

 
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19. “Prince of Space”

“Prince of Space”
Best Brains, Inc.

The eighth season of “MST3K” was the first one on Sci-Fi Channel after its run on Comedy Central ended. As such, it tried to make the show a little more, well, science fiction-y. This included Mike Nelson and his robot pals being chased through time and space by Pearl Forrester and her cronies. In this episode, they arrive in Ancient Rome. Meanwhile, we all laugh at the villainous Krankor as he takes on the heroic Prince of Space.

 
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18. “Kitten with a Whip”

“Kitten with a Whip”
Best Brains, Inc.

On the one hand, “Kitten with a Whip” is probably of a higher quality than most of the movies screened on “MST3K.” However, it’s still not good, and frankly it’s to the episode’s benefit the movie isn’t terrible. Some of the movies used for the show were actively hard to get through. Plus, this Ann-Margret teen angst film still provides plenty of joke fodder.

 
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17. “Manos: The Hands of Fate”

“Manos: The Hands of Fate”
Best Brains, Inc.

Diehards may be shocked to see “Manos” so low. Yes, it’s an iconic episode. However, the reason for that is because this is maybe the worst movie to ever be used by “MST3K.” It was made by genuine amateurs who failed in every way, shape and form. That being said, it’s more fascinating than fun to watch. Is it a great episode? Sure, but there are several that are better.

 
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16. “I Accuse My Parents”

“I Accuse My Parents”
Best Brains, Inc.

This episode has one of the best collection of host segments. A lot of times, you get a mixed bag, with the occasional great bit thrown in. All of them are really good in this episode. On top of that, “I Accuse My Parents” is paired with the short “The Truck Farmer,” which is one of the better shorts from the show’s history.

 
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15. “Eegah”

“Eegah”
Best Brains, Inc.

We can sum up this episode with one line: “Watch out for snakes!” With that, an “MST3K” meme was born. Also, Richard Kiel, aka Jaws from the James Bond universe, plays a cave man in modern times. It’s pretty fun in its badness, but it’s worth it just for the “watch out for snakes!” callbacks throughout.

 
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14. “The Giant Spider Invasion”

“The Giant Spider Invasion”
Best Brains, Inc.

Packers win the Super Bowl! Packers! Give a bunch of Midwesterners a horror movie set in a Wisconsin town, and you are going to get a bunch of Packers jokes. This episode also gives you the Skipper from “Gilligan’s Island” and a giant “spider” that is clearly a car with cheap effects on it. It’s as fun as watching the Packers hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Packers!

 
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13. “Soultaker”

“Soultaker”
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For the first episode of the (then) final season, we got the return of Joel Hodgson and Frank Conniff, which was fun for longtime fans. However, “Soultaker” is also a spectacularly bad movie. Lucky for us, the lead actress happened to look a bit like Tonya Harding, which led to a rich vein of riffs.

 
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12. “Starcrash”

“Starcrash”
Best Brains, Inc.

This is the second, and last, of the Jonah episodes on this list. Not to knock the new seasons. There just happen to be only 20 episodes of them out of over 200. One per season isn’t bad. “Starcrash” is a killer addition to the catalog, though. It’s a total misfire of a “Star Wars” ripoff that the crew had a lot of fun tearing into.

 
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11. “The Pumaman”

“The Pumaman”
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It’s worth it alone for two things from this movie. One is the way the Pumaman “flies.” The other is the way Donald Pleasance as the villain pronounces “puma.” By this point in the show’s run, it could riff on the movies with eyes closed, but fortunately it wasn't phoned in, because the jokes are particularly strong here.

 
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10. “Pod People”

“Pod People”
Best Brains, Inc.

Here we have the earliest movie on the list in terms of the show’s run. The first two seasons of “MST3K” are quite good, but this early third-season episode is the show firing on all cylinders. Trumpy looks goofy as is, but we all know why this episode is in the top 10. We can say it in two words: It stinks!

 
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9. “The Touch of Satan”

“The Touch of Satan”
Best Brains, Inc.

Speaking of episode inductions that we could sum up in one sentence: “This is where the fish lives.” While the movie is actually not that funny in and of itself, outside of that amazing line, this is one of the best collection of riffs you will find. The host segments are also particularly good, like when the bots go wassailing or when Crow sells his soul to Stan.

 
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8. “Samson vs. the Vampire Women”

“Samson vs. the Vampire Women”
Best Brains, Inc.

OK, so imagine a Mexican professional wrestler in a mask, in this case the actual luchador El Santo, starring in a movie. And imagine he never takes his mask off. Also, during the movie he defeats the evil vampire women by lighting them all on fire while they sleep. It’s an insane movie, well worthy of the laughs it gets.

 
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7. “Mitchell”

“Mitchell”
Best Brains, Inc.

Joe Don Baker isn’t a bad actor. However, he headlined a couple of lousy action films, making him an object of ridicule for the “MST3K” crew. “Final Justice” is pretty good, but “Mitchell” is the all-timer. It also happens to be the last Joel episode, which makes it momentous.

 
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6. “The Wild Wild World of Batwoman”

“The Wild Wild World of Batwoman”
Best Brains, Inc.

This movie is so unhinged that Mike and the robots can barely manage to reel it in for jokes. Because it’s so insane, and in such a bad way, though, the movie itself makes this a great episode. You could watch “The Wild Wild World of Batwoman” by itself and get a lot of laughs. Throw in some riffs, and one of the best shorts in “Cheating,” and you get an excellent outing.

 
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5. “Laserblast”

“Laserblast”
Best Brains, Inc.

Leonard Maltin kind of liked “Laserblast.” This is baffling and also a source of a lot of jokes for the show. It’s a good thing this episode was so great, because there was fear it might be the last one ever. This was the final episode on Comedy Central, and if Sci-Fi hadn’t stepped up, it could have been the show's finale. Had it been, it would have been worthy.

 
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4. “The Final Sacrifice”

“The Final Sacrifice”
Best Brains, Inc.

However, if “Laserblast” had been the last episode, we never would have gotten “The Final Sacrifice.” The movie is terrible in a way that lends itself to so many iconic riffs. We’ve got Troy, the main character. We’ve got the photo of his dad, who looks like Larry Csonka. We’ve got the weird prospector type guy. Oh, and the legend himself, Zap Rowsdower.

 
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3. “Werewolf”

“Werewolf”
Best Brains, Inc.

The riffs are quite strong in “Werewolf,” but it also has maybe the best host segment ever. During the movie, a man turns into a werewolf while driving and crashes his car. This leads to Mike and the bots dressing up as a ‘60s girl group and singing the song “Where Oh Werewolf.” That alone makes this a must-watch episode.

 
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2. “Space Mutiny”

“Space Mutiny”
Best Brains, Inc.

When you talk famous bits from “MST3K,” you have to mention “Space Mutiny.” This is the episode where the gang riffs on nicknames for David Ryder, the muscle-bound main character. Slab Bulkhead. Punch Rockgroin. Big McLargeHuge. We could go on.

 
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1. "Hobgoblins"

"Hobgoblins"
Best Brains, Inc.

And we arrive at the best of the bunch. It was hard to top this list. There have been so many great episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” However, “Hobgoblins” ranks as No. 1, and it's probably the most “so bad it’s good” movie it ever showed. Just watching it by itself is a riot. The movie is so dumb in a hilarious way. The people working on the show seemed to have fun with it as well, because the riffs are particularly strong, even though they don’t need to be. We also get some solid host segments. When you put it all together, you get the best episode of “MST3K.”

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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