The Big Bang Theory’s 25 Best Episodes

From Comic-Cons gone wrong to love affairs gone right, we look back at The Big Bang Theory’s 25 most memorable episodes.

The Big Bang Theory has delivered a massive 279 episodes since it premiered back in 2007 (for those keeping score, Friends only managed 236), an impressive achievement to look back on. While the overall legacy of the show probably won’t be solidified for some time, it’s true right now that there are some excellent episodes that may have been forgotten or overlooked. Here’s our pick of the 25 best episodes of The Big Bang Theory, from the emotional to the hilarious and everything in between.

25. “The Bakersfield Expedition”
Season 6 Episode 13

Looking back at The Big Bang Theory’s episodes, “The Bakersfield Expedition” is still one of the series’ best. This season 6 episode takes place about halfway through the series’ run, and is a great reminder of what kept people coming back to this show for over a decade. While on their way to Bakersfield Comic-Con, the guys make an unscheduled stop at Vasquez Rocks, where Star Trek: The Original Series was filmed to take pictures in their Star Trek: The Next Generation cosplay. Unfortunately for them, Leonard’s car is stolen during their photo-op leaving them stranded in the desert. Meanwhile, Penny, Bernadette, and Amy decide to give comics a try and end up so engrossed that by the time Leonard and Sheldon get back home, the women are having a heated debate about Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. It’s such a shame that the women’s newfound love of comics isn’t really explored beyond this episode, because it’s so fun to see them become so passionate about something new to them.

24. “The Celebration Experimentation“
Season 9 Episode 17

A three-dimensional portrait of a character who’s so often become a caricature in later seasons, “The Celebration Experimentation” really digs into Sheldon’s issues with people, crowds and celebrations. It’s really a Sheldon special edition of This Is Your Life, with Amy planning a party and, despite reluctantly agreeing, Sheldon freaking out. It’s a sweet idea but, when Sheldon is confronted with genuine affection, all the recurring guest stars and even Adam West, he retreats to the bathroom. Penny talks him through it and, at the same time, reminds the audience why they love the show.

23. “The Intimacy Acceleration”
Season 8 Episode 16

You can tell a lot about a show from how it deals with big character deaths and, with The Big Bang Theory being the kind of light-hearted comedy it is, there was thankfully only one to tackle over the course of its run. That was the death of Howard’s mother, of course, and “The Intimacy Acceleration” follows on from the previous episode’s ending in which Howard gets the bad news. It’s a tactful look at the later, monotonous stage of grief wrapped in a sweet episode in which Sheldon and Penny test whether they’re able to fall in love using intimate questions. Spoiler: they’ve always loved each other.

22. “The Friendship Contraction”
Season 5 Episode 15

If I were ever in an actual emergency, I probably wouldn’t mind having a roommate like Sheldon who insists on being prepared for every possible scenario. Waking me up on a random weeknight for an unnecessary emergency preparedness drill, however, is another story. “The Friendship Contraction” begins with this very scenario driving a wedge between Sheldon and Leonard and forcing the latter to invoke section 209 of the roommate agreement that essentially deescalates their relationship from friends to acquaintances. Sheldon goes to increasingly hilarious lengths to try and win Leonard back in his own Sheldon-y way. Meanwhile, Howard is desperate to get a cool nickname from his astronaut coworkers only to be dubbed “Froot Loops.”

21. “The Work Song Nanocluster”
Season 2 Episode 18

Many artists and creatives often have to take on side-hustles in order to make ends meet in our cruel and unforgiving capitalistic world, and Penny is no different. With her acting career still stalled, Penny decides to try her hand at starting her own business to help supplement her Cheesecake Factory income. Leonard helps her create a website for her hair clips affectionately named ‘Penny Blossoms’ that quickly gets her a large order from the East Rutherford, New Jersey Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender Alliance. While this is great news for her business, Leonard accidentally included a one-day rush shipping option, meaning that Penny has to make a thousand Penny Blossoms in 24 hrs. This is a fun Penny-centric episode that also features a highly caffeinated Sheldon and catchy sea-shanties.

19 & 20. “The Spock Resonance” & “The Earworm Reverberation”
Season 9 Episodes 7 & 10

It may be cheating to put two episodes in one spot, but “The Spock Resonance” and “The Earworm Reverberation” form a spiritual two-parter that explore Sheldon’s final regression before he fully commits to Amy. They’re two of the most emotionally raw episodes of the show and the first is a lovely example of the writers really understanding the role of fandom in these characters’ lives. If in the end The Big Bang Theory’s overarching theme is the evolution of four sad, lonely nerds into four fulfilled men, then these episodes are that idea in its purest form. Also: Stephen Merchant.

18. “The Pancake Batter Anomaly”
Season 1 Episode 11

The origin of so many of the show’s constants, including Soft Kitty, “The Pancake Batter Anomaly“ is a first season gem that benefits from the freshness of the dynamics as well as the fact that Sheldon’s particular brand of neurotic selfishness was still more charming than annoying. The best gags come from the lengths Leonard, Howard and Raj are willing to go to avoid their friend when he’s sick (“code milky green”) after “The Great Ear Infection of ‘06,” instantly giving the world a lived-in history that’s hard to come by for a show that was less than three months old at the time.

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