Yes. All of them.
Episode rankings are a funny thing. They’re written with an air of authority, but they’re mostly a surefire way to confirm that your experiences are your own and your priorities are nothing like anyone else’s.
That being said, this is the definitive ranking of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes, and no other ranking will do.
As of the writing of this list, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has been on the air for 12 seasons. That’s a long time — long enough for fans to develop very different ideas of what makes a good episode. It’s also long enough for the show itself to have evolved very different values and goals than it started with.
If you want to read 2,700 words on the subject written by yours truly, then click here.
If you want to avoid reading as much as you can, you can skip ahead to the low numbers. Or the kind of low numbers. But then maybe come back up and read the other entries, too, because I really poured my heart and soul into this list. And even the worst rated episodes are worthy of praise — I run out of anything bad to say at all by the second page. From there on out it’s just shades of good, better, and best.
So poke around. Read as much or as little in whatever order you like. Just remember: This is the definitive ranking, and no other opinion counts.
133. Frank’s Brother (s7e5)
“Those were the days…”
With 133 episodes, not every one can be a winner, even with Lance Reddick and the admittedly brilliant “Shadynasty” pronunciation joke. The truth is that the gang are the heart and soul of Always Sunny, and the occasional interjection just isn’t enough.
132. A Cricket’s Tale (s12e9)
“Unbelievable. Yes, I’m gonna take the lemons.”
The same logic stands for this episode. While David Hornsby’s Rickety Cricket is one of the show’s finest accomplishments, this (relatively) straightforward story of redemption with a (relatively) shocking ending and virtually no input from the gang just doesn’t cut it. As the penultimate episode before the bombshell of Dennis’ departure, it feels like filler.
131. Charlie Wants an Abortion (s1e2)
“What’s not to get? Come to Philly for the Crack. It has a picture of the Liberty Bell on it… it’s funny and original.”
Ranking the earliest episodes of Always Sunny is tricky, because it was such a different show at the time. Dee is the voice of reason. Frank doesn’t exist. And Mac, Charlie and Dennis are just three self-serving jerks, rather than the absolute weirdos they eventually become. “Abortion” is still a fun episode, and one that drives home how unprincipled the (male) members of the gang are, but in retrospect it feels pretty mild. It’s a testament to the show that I’m making that pronouncement about the episode where Mac pretends to have murdered two abortion doctors to get laid.
130. The Gang Cracks the Liberty Bell (s4e11)
This might lose me a lot of credit, but I don’t like the Liberty Bell episode. I think it’s a shark jump that in any other show would mark the beginning of the end. The fact that Always Sunny has produced 8 and counting amazing seasons since ought to be enough to make me change my mind, but I shan’t. I do like Mac’s wooden teeth, though.
129. Dee Made a Smut Film (s11e4)
“I mean, we’re just air conditioners walkin’ around on this planet, screwin’ each other’s brains out!”
Look, I love Ongo Gablogian as much as the next guy. If I had my druthers, Danny DeVito would be contractually bound to wear that wig at least once per season. But on the whole, I think the episode falls short. It’s a conversation about the value of art that’s been had before and will be had again, and nothing new or surprising comes out of it. It’s a rare Always Sunny episode without any real bite or creativity, and I don’t love it. I’m sorry.
128. Wolf Cola: A Public Relations Disaster (s12e4)
“I just puked on my dick.”
The thing that rubs me wrong the most about this episode is twitter’s readiness to give the Reynolds family a second chance. The internet is a fickle place, it’s true, but only in one direction, and forgiveness has never come so easily as it does for Wolf Cola. That tiny complaint aside, the whole episode feels a little played out, a revival of old hits (Wolf Cola, Fight Milk) without the wry self deprecation of “Frank Falls Out the Window” or “The Gang Recycles Their Trash.” It feels like a late-series episode. Thank God season 12 has some of the best episodes, as well, to prove that the show isn’t actually slumping.
127. The Gang Finds a Dead Guy (s1e6)
“Let me tell you something with absolute honesty and concern for your well-being. Tom Brady would kick your ass.”
Another relatively straightforward plot from the early days that pales a little with time. Seeing Dennis lie with practiced ease to take advantage of a grieving woman is a mild day compared to what we’ve gotten used to. In the context of a brand new show, however, it’s pretty admirable, paired as it is with Nazis and the horror of aging. Always Sunny may not have started out as artistically bizarre, but it did have a strong beginning of broaching absolutely any subject.
126. The Gang Squashes Their Beefs (s9e10)
“We bought this biiiiitch.”
This is a rare instance of the show’s bulk getting away from it. The whole joke is, of course, that the gang have unresolved beef with everyone they know. Unfortunately it makes for a pretty unwieldy episode. It does shine in its moments of focus, however, such as Liam McPoyle’s eye insecurity and Frank and Hwang’s standoff to the sweet sounds of “Genius of Love.”
125. Making Dennis Reynolds a Murderer (s12e5)
This is an experimental episode that, in my opinion, just doesn’t make it. A send-up of Making a Murderer and the rash of true crime documentaries of the time, the episode isn’t so much a parody as a straight remake with the gang inserted. It’s a brave swing, but I think it’s a miss.
124. Gun Fever (s1e5)
“How you like me now, log?”
Remember when Always Sunny had straightforward plots? Me neither, but the first season was about as close as it ever got. “Gun Fever” presents a normal mystery that the gang actually solve, and while they manage to screw it up, their reasoning and solution aren’t all that bad. It would be a fine episode in a normal show, but with the foresight of how insane things eventually become, it’s a little lackluster.
123. Mac and Dennis Buy a Timeshare (s9e4)
“Where do I put my feet?”
In almost every situation, Always Sunny has a straight man — someone who’s a little more grounded in reality. Who that is changes wildly, and part of the beauty of the show is that you never know who’s going to be the rational one. In “Timeshare” the straight man is Frank, but he’s stuck in a coil, for reasons that are fabulously never explained. And without the grounding force of a straight man, the rest of the gang is instantly duped into every scam that comes their way. It’s fun to see the blind leading the blind, but failure’s not as rewarding or as funny when it comes so easily. I do love that coil, though.
122. Frank Falls Out the Window (s11e2)
“See now, he assumes that you have a cat.”
As self-referential episodes go, I much prefer “The Gang Recycles Their Trash.” But “Window” has a lot going for it, and a slightly different agenda. Rather than a revival of old material, this episode is essentially just a replay of “Charlie Gets Crippled”… except everyone has aged ten years. It’s a fun look at how far the gang and the show have come. And how far they haven’t. The most horrifying and understated change is how far the Waitress has fallen after a decade of being mixed up with the gang. If anyone deserves to get a second chance at 2006, it’s her.
121. Frank Retires (s10e9)
“Are you, like, the father of me and shit?”
Somehow, this is not the episode of Always Sunny written by Game of Thrones creators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff. But it might as well be. It’s a surprisingly straightforward tale of betrayal and subterfuge that’s saved by the Franquito reveal in the end. How they didn’t let slip a single incestuous twin joke is beyond me. I would’ve done it.
120. Gun Fever Too: Still Hot (s9e2)
“Aw shit. I think we crossed right past each other like ships in the night.”
As social issues go, gun control gets a remarkably even treatment from the show. Rather than coming down hard on one side, the gang split into both extremes, learn a lesson, and completely change their minds. The real villain in the end is Frank, who thinks of himself as a duper, a cross between the NRA and Al Gore. It’s not the most subtle message, but it is oddly unifying. In the end, we’re all dupees.
119. The Gang Runs for Office (s2e8)
“The Democratic vote for me is right thing to do, Philadelphia, so do.”
It’s so often the case that the gang are the ones screwing other people over, it’s downright strange to see it happen the other way around. But it does, when Mac makes the fatal mistake of calling the head of a union a nerd. It’s a formula the show has more or less abandoned, because honestly it’s more fun to see the gang ruin things for themselves. Charlie’s campaign speech is lovely, though.
118. The Gang Gets Extreme: Home Makeover (s4e12)
Who’s the worst offender in the persecution of the poor Juarez family? Is it Frank, who understands what’s going on, or is it the rest of the gang, who don’t? It might be a tie. This is an episode in which everyone is truly comically awful, and it almost hurts to watch. But it’s also a rare instance of genuine comeuppance. The Juarez family suffer, but the system actually rewards them in the end. It’s the kind of justice you don’t see often in Always Sunny. (The reveal, years later, that the Juarezes lost the Reynolds house when they couldn’t pay the property taxes is a little detail much more in keeping with the show’s style, and a favorite of mine).
117. The Anti-Social Network (s7e8)
“He did make it inside me, but just barely. And the guy was super small, so I’m fine.”
Dee and Mac’s Catfishing adventure is fun, and and so is Frank’s virus video. But if anything’s truly worth rewatching, it’s Charlie and Dennis’ attempt to hunt down their shusher. Their false rape report is one of the few times that even in the best take, the one that they went with, Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day are just barely holding it together. You can see outtakes on YouTube that give you a better sense of just how close to breaking they are. “Anti-Social Network” is a fine episode on its own, but that scene and the obvious joy the cast derive from working on the show are what really make it.
116. Mac and Charlie Write a Movie (s5e11)
“What. If. He. Can. Smell. Crime.”
Forget the duct tape and zip ties. The only evidence I need that Dennis Reynolds is a psychopath is that he writes an entire movie script on his phone. Without saving. While Dee’s plot is a little predictable, and Dennis’ is a little strange, Mac and Charlie’s script writing process is perfect. I would love to see Dolph Lundgren smell crime. With or without the full penetration.
115. The Gang Gives Back (s2e6)
“As long as you hurt the other kid as bad or worse than he hurts you, you will have done your job, and I’ll be proud of you.”
For once in their lives, the gang face the consequences of their actions. Granted, the consequence of making a terrorist tape and blowing up a building is coaching a youth basketball league, but they still manage to complain about it. It’s a fun, classic early episode in which everyone is horrible, but still in believable, real person ways.
114. America’s Next Top Paddy’s Billboard Model Contest (s4e3)
“I am no longer turned on by mules.”
Always Sunny is so famous for blackface, it’s easy to forget the time Dee tried to make it big by filming every other racist stereotype under the sun. It’s remarkable to see Charlie of all people as the disapproving voice of reason behind the video camera. The gang’s fun take on reality tv, this episode is mostly buoyed by Frank’s very short term enthusiasm for male models and the first appearance of Rex, idiot beefcake with a body that just won’t quit.
113. Dennis and Dee’s Mom is Dead (s3e3)
There’s something extra horrible about pretending to date your dad, even if he isn’t really your dad. There’s something really skin crawling about being pressured into possibly having sex with him. This is an episode of weird extremes that make you wonder just how far this show is willing to go. The answer is somewhere between sexual and marital incest. And somewhere beyond throwing college kids off the roof.
112. Mac Kills His Dad (s10e7)
“I’m gonna save my dad’s life.”
Winner of Best Cold Open/Title Card Juxtaposition. “Mac Kills His Dad” is a solid enough episode, even if the Life Is Happy plotline feels a little forced. Whenever Charlie decides to be a lawyer, I have a good time. And it’s all worth it to see poor Charlie and Mac learn about Mrs. Kelly’s sexual exploits, a long-running gag that makes me wince and laugh every time.
111. The Aluminum Monster Vs. Fatty McGoo (s3e5)
“You’re gonna peak all over everybody.”
The gang really go off the rails in this one. Frank and Mac start by running a sweatshop that they eventually morph into a full-on concentration camp. Charlie essentially turns into a dog. Dee tortures him for information. But the real insanity comes from Dennis, who can’t handle being turned down by a woman. In fact it’s because of Dennis’ unhinged egoism that everything else goes south. “Aluminum Monster” is two parts comedic hyperbole and one part character building, an odd but intriguing ratio.