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"Futurama" was created by Matt Groening, the man behind "The Simpsons." Debuting in 1999, the show follows Fry who, after accidentally locking himself in a cryogenic chamber just before the new millennium, finds himself navigating life in the year 3000. Luckily, he finds his only living relative, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, who gives him a job with his interplanetary delivery service. Joining Fry on his adventures around the universe are the sleazy robot Bender, the cycloptic Leela, and more kooky characters.

Groening brought much of the social satire and sentiment from "The Simpsons" over to "Futurama" but emphasized the science fiction elements of the show, making it stand out among other sitcoms for its courage to go deep into heady and nerdy territory. Across 140 episodes and seven seasons, "Futurama" has a pretty high batting average in terms of quality, having far more great episodes than bad ones. However, there are still a handful of episodes that stand above the rest, so let's take a look at the 27 best episodes of "Futurama."

The Birdbot Of Ice-Catraz

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The Planet Express crew is charged with the task of dragging a tanker filled with dark matter across the galaxy. Because their flight path features a toll booth, the crew must take a detour that brings them dangerously close to a Pluto penguin preserve. This angers Leela and prompts her to join a group that's protesting the ship's passing, so Bender assumes the role of Planet Express captain. However, Bender's promotion drives him mad with power, alienating his best friend, Fry.

The environmental message of this episode is a little too obvious, so much of the satire distracts from the humor. Bender is the MVP of this episode. Watching him go on a power trip, followed by a bout of sobriety, is Bender at his best. He goes through several other wacky transformations such as when he dons a tuxedo to hide among the penguins to get out of cleaning up the dark matter spill.

Reincarnation

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"Reincarnation" consists of three different segments that all revolve around the destruction of a comet made of diamondium. "Colorama" sees Fry eager to propose to Leela, so he blows up the comet hoping to use a piece of it in an engagement ring. "Future Challenge 3000" features Professor Farnsworth discovering the answers to the mysteries of the universe, only to become depressed that there's nothing else to discover. Finally, "Action Delivery Force" is about an alien race that declares war on Earth for the destruction of the diamondium comet.

One of the best aspects of this episode is that each segment is rendered in a different animation style, with "Colorama" featuring a classic 1930s black-and-white look, "Future Challenge 3000" going for a more 1980s video game aesthetic, and "Action Delivery Force" gives "Futurama" an anime makeover. However, it's not just the cosmetic changes that make "Reincarnation" such a standout. Every segment is so packed with pop culture references that even the most hardcore fans are liable to miss a few details.

Naturama

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Like "Reincarnation," "Naturama" is split into three segments — this time in the form of the nature documentary program, "Mutual of Omicron's Wild Universe." The first part follows the main cast depicted as salmon, with Fry competing with Zapp Branigan to woo Leela and fertilize her eggs. The second segment sees Professor Farnsworth as a Pinta Island tortoise whose friends egg him on to find a mate to perpetuate the species. The third segment features Bender as the alpha male of an elephant seal colony who dukes it out with Kif for Amy's attention.

This is one of the most offbeat "Futurama" episodes, and that's saying something considering the show isn't afraid to go to some weird places. On the surface, the idea of simply reimagining each character as an animal seems like a boring gimmick, but it works surprisingly well, as all of their eccentricities are carried over to their animal forms. As a bonus, Phil LaMarr lends his dulcet tones as the narrator of the program, wonderfully parodying real-life nature documentaries.

Space Pilot 3000

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Fry is a pizza delivery guy in the year 1999 who hates his job, but when he accidentally falls into a cryogenic chamber, he wakes up a thousand years later and must learn to adapt to a new futuristic way of life. Luckily, he befriends Leela and Bender, who hate their current jobs and are looking for something new in their lives, so they locate Fry's only living descendent, Professor Farnsworth, for help. The professor just happens to be hiring for his intergalactic delivery company and brings the three on board.

The first episode of "Futurama" is an incredibly strong start to the series. Its primary cast is very well defined, the show's signature style of humor was mostly in place, and it even features numerous Easter eggs that would pay off much later to the delight of die-hard fans. "Space Pilot 3000" has a few rough edges that would be polished in subsequent episodes, but it's still a great launching pad for the series.

A Head In The Polls

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The election for the next president of Earth has begun, but the only two candidates running are two identical twins, making it hard for the planet's citizens to vote for the lesser of two evils. Meanwhile, the value of titanium has dramatically increased, which prompts Bender to sell off his robot body. However, the preserved head of Richard Nixon announces his presidential bid and is using Bender's old body as part of a loophole that allows him to run for a third term.

"Futurama" doesn't always get political, but when it does, it's hilarious. This episode has a ridiculous plot that cleverly reveals that politics will always be more ridiculous. The highlight of this episode is Bender's scheme to make a quick buck, which does lead to him living a lavish lifestyle, only for it to backfire when it helps get an evil man elected president of Earth.

Three Hundred Big Boys

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After a successful invasion of Tarantulon VI that results in Earth coming into possession of many alien works of art, Richard Nixon, now the president of Earth, decides to give everyone a $300 tax rebate. With an extra $300 in their pockets, each member of the Planet Express crew spends it in ways you'd expect, ranging from the mundane to the outrageous. Fry decides to blow it on a hundred cups of coffee that he drinks nonstop throughout the episode, Leela uses her money for the opportunity to swim with a whale, and Bender spends it on burglary tools.

While the overall plot of "Three Hundred Big Boys" is fairly thin, the gags that result from each cast member's use of their money are more than enough to carry the episode. There's a suitably zany climax that takes place at an exhibition of the alien art that ties in with the characters' purchases. There's also some nice sentiment on display as we see Amy and Kif's relationship deepen.

The Problem With Popplers

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The crew of the Planet Express is hungry from the latest mission and lands on a planet that's inhabited by tasty yet addictive lifeforms. They then decide to start a business selling the small creatures, which they call "Popplers." However, Leela joins an organization dedicated to stopping the consumption of the edible alien creatures, which catches the attention of the rest of their race, the Omicronians.

"The Problem with Popplers" is a hilarious sendup of the fast food industry and the often nefarious tactics they employ to sell cheap yet sumptuous products. It's a darkly comedic episode that also subversively brings up the ethics of eating living things, which is especially evident when Leela discovers a Poppler that grows up into a fully sentient being. Of course, Leela's good deed doesn't go unpunished when she's chosen as a sacrifice to appease Omicronians to repay them for eating their young. This is "Futurama" irony done right.

The Honking

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"The Honking" sees Bender spending the night in his family's haunted castle (which he intends to inherit), only to be chased out by robot ghosts. As Bender dashes out of the castle, he's run over by a mysterious car that he believes is still following him even when he returns to New New York. However, it turns out that Bender's been turned into a "were-car," thanks to a curse that involves him turning into a sedan and running people over. This causes some friction in his friendship with Fry when he tries to run Leela over.

Leave it to "Futurama" to find a way to blend classic horror tropes with far-flung science fiction. As expected there are plenty of winks and nods to beloved horror movies, which should please pop culture fans. The idea of Bender turning into an evil car is taken to extremes, but most of the episode's jokes stick the landing. One of the funnier aspects of "The Honking" is Fry getting upset, not because Bender is turning into a supernatural entity but because he tried to kill his crush.

The Sting

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In "The Sting," Fry, Bender, and Leela are assigned the task of collecting honey from massive space bees but are warned by Professor Farnsworth that this job resulted in the deaths of his previous crew. Everything seems to be going fine until the end of their mission when Bender (in typical Bender fashion) offends the queen of the space bee hive, leading to them being charged by an army of angry bees. The baby queen bee that Leela brings with them flies into a rage and attacks them.

While this episode has plenty of the zany antics and gags that are typical of the best "Futurama" episodes, what sets this one apart is the amount of heart it's able to inject into the wacky adventure without coming off as too cheesy. Fry and Leela's ongoing will-they-or-won't-they relationship gets fleshed out further in a romance that's very slowly, yet very surely, growing.

The Prisoner Of Benda

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Professor Farnsworth develops a machine that allows him to switch consciousnesses with other bodies. His plans to swap his mind with Amy, as the two would benefit from the trade. The Professor wants to be in a younger body so that he can recapture the thrills of his youth, while Amy wants a slimmer body so she can relive her days of binge eating. However, they soon discover that the swap doesn't give them the satisfaction they wanted, and the situation is made direr when they learn that they can't undo the effects of the consciousness-switching machine.

Body-swap stories are always a delight, but in the hands of "Futurama"'s writers, they're made even better. Plenty of laugh-out-loud hijinks arise from having the Professor and Amy swap bodies, which only get more complicated. When Bender joins in the switch and his mind is stuffed into Amy's body, he decides that he's going to steal the crown from Emperor Nikolai of Robo-Hungary since he won't be identifiable to authorities.

Fry And The Slurm Factory

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Slurm, the galaxy's most popular drink, is holding a contest wherein the person who finds the golden bottle cap on one of their drinks will have the opportunity to visit Slurm's factory and meet their mascot, Slurms McKenzie. Fry sets out to find the golden bottle cap by drinking gallons of Slurm and even resorts to using the Professor's new x-ray device to look for it. However, he accidentally chokes on the prize and wins the trip to the Slurm plant. It seems like a wonderful experience for the Planet Express crew, but Fry, Bender, and Leela soon discover the disturbing truth about where Slurm comes from.

"Fry and the Slurm Factory" is a hilarious sendup of "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and also pokes fun at the ways major brands get us to buy their products — regardless of how bad they are for us. "Futurama" rarely shies away from gross-out humor, but the show really embraces it with this episode when it's revealed who the Slurm comes out of.

Where No Fan Has Gone Before

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"Star Trek" is a major religion in the 2200s, which leads to all of its fans being slaughtered and the franchise being exiled to the far-flung planet of Omega 3. When Fry discovers this disturbing piece of history, he kidnaps the head of Leonard Nimoy and enlists Leela and Bender to accompany him to Omega 3 to recover everything "Star Trek"-related. Upon landing on Omega 3, they discover not only many of the original show's sets but also the cast who haven't aged since they were sent to the planet. It turns out that a being made of energy named Melllvar is a hardcore Trekkie and forces them all to reenact a "Star Trek" script that he wrote.

"Futurama" pays tribute to the original science fiction series in the best way possible, even going so far as to bring in many of its original living actors to portray themselves. On the surface, it sounds like a purely fan-service plot, but "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" manages to both make fun of and praise "Star Trek" in ways that are both amusing and touching.

Murder On The Planet Express

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In "Murder on the Planet Express," the crew members of the Planet Express have been getting on each other's nerves lately and trust is breaking down between them. This prompts the Professor to force the crew to go to a team-building retreat set up by business consultant Dan McMasters. On the way there, they pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a vicious monster that eats McMasters and then hides in the ship's ventilation shafts. The crew splits into teams to capture the creature, forcing the distrustful crew members to work together.

"Murder on the Planet Express" is a wonderful sendup of such classic sci-fi horror films as "Alien" and "The Thing." One of the funniest aspects of this episode is that everyone's mistrust comes from complete misunderstandings, meaning that their whole ordeal could've been easily avoided. The plot is extremely tight and moves along at a brisk pace. Most importantly, almost all of the jokes work.

Time Keeps On Slippin'

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Earth has been challenged by the Globetrotter planet in a game of basketball. Professor Farnsworth accepts the challenge, believing that he can win with a team of mutant beings of his creation. However, this mutant team is in a state of infancy, prompting the professor to send the crew of the Planet Express to collect chronitons that will accelerate their maturity. The chronitons are effective at boosting their growth, giving them a competitive edge over the Globetrotters in the basketball game. However, the chronitons that were used in their development seem to be rapidly accelerating the universe's death.

Only "Futurama" could make a plot that involves the Harlem Globetrotters, a group of atomic lab mutants, and the destruction of time and reality work. The show is at its best when it manages to find humorous connections between seemingly disparate concepts, and "Time Keeps on Slippin'" is no exception. This episode also has a bittersweet ending with a sting that is softened for fans who stick around for the culmination of Fry and Leela's relationship.

Luck Of The Fryrish

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Fry is experiencing a run of bad luck and decides to solve this problem by recovering a seven-leaf clover from his youth, which he believes was why he was able to beat his brother, Yancy, at nearly everything. So Fry returns to his old home, only to discover that the clover is gone and assumes that his brother must've taken it from him. This angers Fry, bringing up his old jealousy of his brother, and he sets out to take the cover back from his brother's grave.

Fry has always been petty and immature, but there is a tender and nostalgic side to him that occasionally reveals itself. "Luck of the Fryish" showcases just how complex of a character he is by opening the plot with his resentful persona, only for it to shift to his more mature side, doing so in a way that feels entirely natural without coming off as forced.

Brannigan, Begin Again

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Democratic Order of Planets (D.O.O.P.) is about to open its new headquarters, which now orbits the Neutral Planet, and the crew of the Planet Express is charged with the task of delivering the giant scissors to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony. However, the festivities are interrupted by Zapp Brannigan, who has come to the crazy conclusion that the Neutral Planet is up to something sinister and blows up the new D.O.O.P. headquarters. Zapp and Kif are removed from their positions, and end up working for Planet Express because Professor Farnsworth thinks it'll make the company look good.

Zapp Brannigan is one of the funniest supporting characters on "Futurama," as his arrogant antics always fuel the more ridiculous plotlines and gags. There's an uproarious nod to "Midnight Cowboy" as well as a clever twist on the holographic chess scene from "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope."

Less Than Hero

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After Fry and Leela get sore from helping the professor with a task, Dr. Zoidberg gives them a supposed "miracle cream" that not only soothes their achy muscles but gives them enhanced strength, speed, and endurance. They decide to become superheroes, with Fry becoming Captain Yesterday and Leela becoming Clobberella. They're joined by Bender, who now goes by Super King, to form the New Justice Team. However, this superteam is put in a difficult situation when their arch nemesis, the Zookeeper, kidnaps Leela's parents and forces them to commit a crime in exchange for their safe return.

The creators of "Futurama" are masters at taking jabs at other genres and pop culture tropes while sticking to its zany sci-fi setting. In "Less Than Hero," the target is Saturday morning cartoons, with the episode wringing a lot of great material from its sources. From the cheesy villain to the New Justice Team's theme song, "Less Than Hero" hilariously takes aim at superhero cliches.

Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles

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The crew of the Planet Express has gotten tired of how cantankerous Professor Farnsworth has gotten, so they decide to treat him to some time at an age-reversing spa. However, the entire crew is accidentally exposed to the same de-aging treatment as the professor, which leads to him reverting to his mid-fifties and everyone else to minors. While the professor works on a way to reverse the effects of the de-aging treatment, Leela returns to her parents to get another shot at having a regular childhood, refusing to go back to her actual age.

Despite the simplicity of the episode's conceit, "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles" actually gives us some in-depth looks at the characters by revealing how they were when they were younger, making it more than just a gimmick. The romance between teenage Fry and Leela is adorable, Amy's frustration at reliving her early days as a chubby youth is heartbreaking, and even Farnsworth's usual crankiness gets some additional shades.

Roswell That Ends Well

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When Fry accidentally sends the Planet Express crew and their ship into the year 1947, they land in Roswell, New Mexico, resulting in Bender's body getting smashed to pieces. Most of the crew take off to find a way back to their original time, leaving Zoidberg behind to put Bender back together. Unfortunately, the U.S. military captures them and experiments on Zoidberg while Bender is put back into the shape of a flying saucer. Fry goes to look for his grandfather, Enos, who's stationed at the base but inadvertently becomes attracted to his grandmother.

Of course, the creators of "Futurama" were going to tackle time travel, even if it meant breaking their own rule. Luckily, they manage to perfectly mix references to other time travel movies (most notably the "Terminator" and "Back to the Future" series) with some incredibly inventive gags. Zoidberg getting experimented on like a common alien is pure comedy gold, but Fry accidentally becoming his own grandfather takes the cake.

The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings

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Fry has been learning how to play the holophonor to impress Leela and is convinced by Bender to make a deal with the Robot Devil that results in them exchanging hands. With the Robot Devil's hands, Fry becomes an amazing holophonor player and is even commissioned to compose an opera, which he decides to base on Leela's life. However, the Robot Devil believes thatFry cheated him in the deal and is eager to get his hands back, putting Fry's courtship of Leela in trouble.

"The Devil's Hands Are Idle Playthings" was intended to be the finale of the original run of the series before it was later revived. While "Futurama" continued after this episode, it still made a fitting finale by (mostly) resolving the budding romance between Fry and Leela, while leaving the audience with a chance to speculate. The Robot Devil character is an absolute gas, with his over-the-top persona perfectly complementing the show's more sentimental aspects.

Meanwhile

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Fearing that he may lose Leela before he can propose to her, Fry uses a device created by the professor (a button that reverses time by ten seconds) to steal diamonds for an engagement ring he plans to present to Leela. Because of his carelessness, Fry accidentally breaks the device, which freezes time in the entire universe — except for him and Leela. The two carry on their relationship as the only two people moving forward in time, but something seems determined to reset things to the way they were.

This is the real finale to "Futurama" (well, at least until it returns on Hulu), and boy does it take the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. Fry's buffoonery is on full display, but it's counterbalanced by his sincere desire to live the rest of his life with the woman he loves. While the later seasons of the series were hit or miss, this episode more than made up for its often shaky revival.

Amazon Women In The Mood

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Zapp Brannigan and Kif go on a double date with Leela and Amy to a restaurant on a space liner. While Kif impresses Amy with his karaoke singing, Zapp interrupts the heartfelt performance to sing horribly to Leela. This provokes all of the passengers to abandon ship. Zapp then crash lands the space liner on Amazonia, which is inhabited by a race of large, muscular women. Soon, Fry and Bender arrive on Amazonia to rescue everyone, but they're captured too, and things only get worse when Leela and Amy side with the Amazonians.

Without a doubt, "Amazon Women in the Mood" is one of the funniest episodes of "Futurama" and also one of the raunchiest, with the gags around the punishment of "snu-snu" being the standout. The leader of the Amazonians, a giant computer called "Femputer," is voiced by the wonderful Bea Arthur, whose droll persona is a welcome addition to the episode.

The Farnsworth Parabox

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The professor plans to send his latest experiment (contained within a yellow box) into the sun, as it nearly killed him. Leela is put in charge of ensuring that no one else looks inside. However, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she peeks inside the yellow box, only to get sucked into it. She ends up in a parallel universe with alternate versions of herself and her friends. The original universe version of the Planet Express crew soon meets their similar-yet-slightly-different doppelgangers and even befriends them. However, they become stranded in this parallel universe when the two Zoidbergs steal the box that links the dimensions.

"The Farnsworth Parabox" is a testament to how talented the writers of "Futurama" are when it comes to marrying hard-hitting sci-fi concepts with wacky humor. Not only is it a blast seeing the crew of the Planet Express chum it up with their alternate universe counterparts, but we're also treated to many other versions of the cast across multiple dimensions, including the hippie dimension of Universe #420.

Jurassic Bark

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While on a visit to the museum with Bender, Fry discovers the fossilized remains of his dog on display and pesters the museum into giving him back the body. Fry takes his dog's remains to the professor, who believes that, because of the unique way that his dog fossilized, he may be able to not only clone his dog but also restore his personality and memory. However, this possibility upsets Bender, who thinks that if Fry gets his dog back he'll no longer have any time to hang out with him.

This is one of the most tear-jerking episodes in "Futurama" canon and is especially heartfelt to anyone who owns a dog or has owned a dog. It's a surprisingly thoughtful look at friendship and loyalty and how they can drive us to do irrational things. There's plenty to laugh at, but watch out for that ending — it's a real doozy (and could've been far more depressing).

Godfellas

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While the crew of the Planet Express is being attacked by a gang of space pirates, Bender is accidentally shot into space. Because the ship was traveling at incredible speeds, the crew concludes that it's nearly impossible to find him. As Bender hurtles through space, he comes into contact with a tiny civilization of Shrimpkins who refer to him as their god — much to his delight. However, a sect of Shrimpkins believes that he is not a real god and wage war on those who worship him.

Every so often, "Futurama"'s creators will produce an episode that makes you laugh and think at the same time. "Godfellas" dives into such deep topics as belief, destiny, and the power of prayer without getting too heady or academic. Like many great lessons about the meaning of life, it leaves more questions than answers. Also, Bender is straight-up hilarious as a "god" whose only commandment is that he "Needs Booze."

War Is The H-Word

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Immediately after Fry and Bender join the military for a discount on gum only offered to soldiers, Earth goes to war with Spheron I under the orders of Zapp Brannigan. Worried about her friends, Leela disguises herself as a man and enlists in the military, only to attract the attention of Zapp. When Bender is injured during a battle, he's treated as a war hero and given a promotion. However, it's revealed that he's simply a pawn to be used by Zapp and Nixon's head against the Spheron I leaders.

No genre is safe from the satiric eye of "Futurama" as war movies get their turn in the hot seat. "War is the H-Word" makes fun of pretty much everything war-related from "M*A*S*H" to "Starship Troopers" to "Star Wars" to the Vietnam War. Highlights from this episode include Earth going to war mere seconds after Fry and Bender make their impulsive decision, and Zapp's attraction to Leela's male soldier disguise causing him to question his sexuality.

The Late Philip J. Fry

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The romance between Fry and Leela is growing steadily, but Leela's getting tired of Fry always showing up late for dates. Fry decides to make it up to her by backing out of going to a party with Hedonismbot and is on his way to their next date when he (along with Bender) gets roped into testing the professor's new time machine that can only go forward in time. There's an explosion at Hedonismbot's party, leading Leela to think that Fry and the others are dead. They're jumping forward into the future and looking for a way to get back to their original timeline.

 From heady sci-fi concepts and laugh-out-loud gags and jokes to pitch-perfect characterizations and, of course, just the right amount of heart, this episode has it all. "The Late Philip J. Fry" somehow breathes new life into the trope of time travel while also delivering a touching romantic story that never gets too saccharine for some cheeky, low-brow humor.

Read this next: Every Time Futurama Predicted The Future

The post The 27 Best Futurama Episodes, Ranked appeared first on /Film.

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