For nine seasons (2005-2014), CBS’s How I Met Your Mother was one of the funniest, most heartwarming, and uniquely creative sitcoms on network television. The ending might have fallen short in delivering the mystery of who exactly was the mother of Ted Mosby’s kids. Still, he and pals Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney are some of the most beloved characters in TV history.
We offer our top 25 episodes in the history of How I Met Your Mother.
25. “Glitter” (Season Six)
You’ll see from this list that we are big fans of “Robin Sparkles,” a past alter-ego/teen-pop star of Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders). This was not our first introduction to the Canadian Tiffany-knockoff, but when Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) finds a copy of the rather racy Canadian children’s television show Space Teens, the magic of Robin Sparkles is conjured up. The real theme of the episode is friendship and loyalty between Robin, who seemed to have a real-life falling out with her co-star Jessica Glitter on the show, and Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan), who is ready to have a child and wonders why the two seem to be drifting apart.
24. “The Best Man” (Season Seven)
At Barney’s wedding to the mystery woman, he and Ted (Josh Radnor) fear this could be the worst wedding ever. Then, they realize they’ve already been there — at Ted’s friend Punchy’s Cleveland Brown-theme wedding in Ohio. Most of the episode flashes back to that moment when Ted is nervous about giving a best-man speech, Barney tries out different plans to pick up women — much to Robin’s dismay (though we love their dance) — and Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel) tries to keep their friends from knowing Lily is pregnant. Like many HIMYM episodes, the goofiness is well balanced with the right amount of heartwarming moments.
23. “Definitions” (Season Five)
The Season Five opener sees Barney and Robin trying to decide how to display their romantic relationship publicly. It’s not easy because the perception of the two together might be as difficult to fathom as it is for the couple to take the risk of falling in love. Meanwhile, Ted is a little anxious and edgy about teaching his first architecture class as a university professor. The two storylines run parallel when preparing for a move into uncharted waters.
22. “How I Met Everyone Else” (Season Three)
A flashback-heavy episode chronicles how Ted initially met each of the other friends. Notably, “sandwich-loving” Marshall and Ted (plus Lily) in college. Not to mention Barney’s gullibility regarding Marshall’s presumed courtship of Lily. While the lookbacks are fun moments of nostalgia, the episode is another memorable example of how the gang’s collective friendship is the driver behind the show.
21. “The Time Travelers” (Season Eight)
One of the more creative episodes of HIMYM. Ted decides not to attend Robots Versus Wrestlers: Legends with Barney, who claims his pal will regret the decision down the road. Versions of Ted and Barney from 20 years into the future arrive to change his mind. However, other future versions of the duo appear in various situations. It’s quirky but highly comical. There’s also the return of “coat-check girl” and a war between a Marshall and Robin as to which one invented a certain drink at MacLaren’s. The future versions of Ted and Barney singing Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” might be the episode’s shining moment.
20. “Slapsgiving” (Season Three)
Perhaps the best under-the-radar running theme of HIMYM was the “slap bet.” We’ll touch on its origin later in this list, but the gist is a series of bets between Marshall and Barney during which the winner delivers a hard slap across the face of the loser. The concept is featured in six official episodes, and this first of three Thanksgiving-related slap episodes is a series classic. Barney is in angst while awaiting his looming slap from Marshall, who has set up a countdown clock for the blow. On a side note, Robin and Ted come to realize they can be friends amid the ashes of their failed relationship.
19. “The Duel” (Season One)
Beginning a stretch of brilliant first-season episodes, Lily discovers her apartment has been turned into a Chinese restaurant. So, she ends up moving in with Ted and Marshall. Her full-time residence troubles Ted, who ultimately has it out with Marshall. The buddies compete in a duel with swords that hung on their apartment wall. Of course, that can’t be good. But, it’s perhaps better than Barney’s idea of a “Lemon Law” for first dates.
18. “Game Night” (Season One)
When the gang and Ted’s new girlfriend, Victoria (Ashley Williams), get together for game night, the entertainment starts with a discussion about their most embarrassing moments amid a game of “Marshgammon”: a hipster-looking Barney nearly joining the Peace Corps; Marshall falling with his pants down in front of Lily’s kindergarten class (acquiring the name Funny Butt); Robin falls into horse poop, and Lily engages in floor sex with Marshall while his mom was still on the phone. Finally, Ted talks about the time he vomited on Robin’s doormat while going back to kiss her following their poor first date. While Robin found the “re-return” charming, it proved to Victoria that Ted still might be clinging to the past.
17. “Arrivederci, Fiero” (Season Two)
When Marshall’s beloved 1988 Pontiac Fiero finally breaks down for good just shy of 200,000 miles, the gang takes another trip down memory lane. They reminisce about Marshall spilling 12 cups of hot coffee on his naked body while driving the car. Or, when Lily and Robin spilled Thai food inside the vehicle and smoked the cigars in the glove box that Marshall was waiting to enjoy at the 200,000-mile mark. And then there’s Barney, who shunned the sentimentality of the situation, only to be reminded that Ted taught him how to drive in the car.
16. “Something Borrowed”/”Something Blue” (Season Two)
We chose to celebrate the final two episodes of Season Two, spanning Lily and Marshall’s wedding day. In typical comedy sitcom fashion, anything that can go wrong likely will. Lily’s ex-boyfriend tries to win her back, Marshall shaves off a portion of his hair to rid himself of highlights, and the harpist goes into labor. Meanwhile, Barney does his best to control the crowd and swing free drinks and girls’ numbers in the process but also ends up marrying the couple (having recently been licensed to do so) in a quiet, outdoor ceremony. During the reception in the season finale, Ted and Robin, through flashbacks, tell Barney they have broken up — leaving Barney to serve as Ted’s wingman.
15. “The Pineapple Incident” (Season One)
Following a night of too many “Red Dragon” shots at MacLaren’s, Ted wakes up in bed next to a mysterious woman with a sprained ankle, pineapple on the nightstand, and a burnt coat. Unable to remember the events of the evening, Ted enlists the help of his friends to piece things together. That’s when the comedy ensues. Danica McKellar’s appearance as Ted’s mystery girl is a nice touch. Plus, Barney is in a bathtub, and there are more ups and downs to his friendship with Robin.
14. “Doppelgangers” (Season Five)
We highlighted the first episode of the fifth season. Now, let’s talk about the finale. Marshall and Lily see what they think is Barney’s doppelganger, thus completing the series among the gang. But it’s really just their pal posing as a hipster to pick up women near the United Nations building. Meanwhile, Robin is offered her dream news anchor job in Chicago but has second thoughts about leaving New York City and her boyfriend, Don, who takes the gig without concern for their relationship. Still, Ted praises Robin for her courage.
13. “The Final Page,” (Part I & 2), (Season Eight)
It’s time for the opening of Ted’s new building, but he’s caught in a “jinx” moment with Barney and pining for approval from an old professor. Meanwhile, Marshall and Lily are set to spend some alone time away from baby Marvin, and Robin tries to come to grips with Barney’s intention to propose to her co-worker Patrice. However, the latter proves to be another plan out of Barney’s famed “playbook” and concludes with asking Robin to marry him.
12. “How Your Mother Met Me” (Season Nine)
The 200th episode of the series is told from the perspective of Ted’s wife and “The Mother” (Cristin Milioti) and how various events in her life coincided with that of Ted and the gang. The near misses and various degrees of separation between her, Ted (yes, the yellow umbrella was hers), and the other friends are unique. It was a solid build-up to the final episodes of the season. Season Nine had its ups and downs, but this was one of the better moments.
11. “Come On” (Season One)
The series’ stellar first season capped on quite the serious note(s). Through various means, like a band playing blue instruments and a rather goofy rain dance, Ted finally lands Robin as a girlfriend after an exhaustive pursuit, especially for the viewers. Meanwhile, Marshall finds himself on the opposite end of the love spectrum when Lily leaves him for an art fellowship in San Francisco, ending their engagement. While we know what’s in store for the couple down the road, the bittersweet moment proved again that HIMYM was great at balancing emotions.
10. “Right Place Right Time” (Season Four)
This memorable episode from Season Four is about fate. Well, at least Ted’s fate. (Yes, the yellow umbrella is featured.) Although Marshall, Robin, Lily, and Barney are indirectly involved. It’s a story told in reverse, more than other HIMYM episodes tried to do in the past. A certain amount of charm is found here, especially considering how Ted’s decision determines his life’s trajectory. Also, Barney’s quest to have sex with 200 women and prove a childhood nemesis wrong is entirely superficial but also provides a turning point in his love life.
9. “The Leap” (Season Four)
This Season Four finale was a little over the top. Ted was attacked by a goat, after all. But, when stacked up against the other season finales within the HIMYM realm, it’s touching. Barney and Robin eventually express their love for each other. Marshall can finally make the seven-foot jump to an adjacent building roof. Ted turns around a disastrous year (being left at the altar and fired from his architect firm) by taking “the leap” of becoming a college professor. His future wife is in one of his classes.
8. “The Pilot” (Season One)
We touched on this earlier, but How I Met Your Mother hit the ground running. The proof was evident in the pilot episode from 2005. It sets everything up brilliantly, from future Ted’s narration (Bob Saget) to learning right off the bat that Robin is not the mother of Ted’s children or his wife. Complete with flashbacks, quick cuts, and the introduction of the characters — Marshall about to propose to Lily — the HIMYM pilot is not overwhelming but a taste that left us wanting more.
7. “Ten Sessions” (Season Three)
Of all the girls Ted courted and hoped would be “the one,” we really liked single, working-mother Dr. Stella Zinman (Sarah Chalke). Ted meets her and grows an attraction while getting his tattoo removed. Though she can’t date him until after their 10 sessions are finished, Stella continues to say she still won’t agree to a date. Ted persists, even grows a mustache, and the gang offers to help. The episode concludes with one of the more endearing moments of the series when Ted and Stella go on a “two-minute date.” Oh yeah, Britney Spears as Stella’s receptionist is simply stellar.
6. “The Bracket” (Season Three)
Aired at the end of March 2008, it’s HIMYM’s ode to the NCAA Tournament and March Madness. An unidentified woman is sabotaging Barney’s attempt to pick up girls by spreading the word that he uses them and should not be trusted. So, Barney and the gang come up with a list of 64 women who have reason to hate him and try to determine the culprit’s identity through a bracket-style process of elimination. The concept and execution are hilarious, and there’s even a nod to Neil Patrick Harris’s Doogie Howser, M.D. days.
5. “The Symphony of Illumination” (Season Seven)
A continuation of the previous episode (“The Rebound Girl”), “The Symphony of Illumination” is the better of the two. It’s another example of the emotional and comedic balance that made the series well received. Robin learns she’s not pregnant and is likely unable to have children. We then know the opening scene of her future self telling this particular story to her children is all in her imagination. It’s one of the more stirring Robin-focused episodes in the show’s history but has its lighter moments. Like Marshall stuck on the roof of his Long Island home installing Christmas decorations while his young neighbor throws a party inside his home.
4. “Sandcastles in the Sand” (Season Three)
Our love for Robin Sparkles continues when Barney goes to great lengths to possess a copy of another music video by Robin’s alter-ego. “Sandcastles in the Sand” is a more artsy ballad and features Robin’s former teen boyfriend, Simon (James Van Der Beek). At present, Simon is in town. He looks nothing like he did as a Canadian teen heartthrob but still gets to Robin. The gang is unhappy with Robin’s situation, but viewing “Sandcastles in the Sand” brings her and Barney closer.
3. “Bad News”/”Last Words” (Season Six)
How I Met Your Mother was based on the trials and tribulations of Ted Mosby, but Jason Segel’s Marshall Eriksen is perhaps the most underrated member of the gang. And viewers never valued their television friendship with Marshall more than with these back-to-back episodes involving the sudden death of his father. At the same time, learning he is fertile enough to continue trying to conceive a child with Lily, Marshall is devastated to learn of his dad’s passing from a heart attack after a recent visit. In “Last Words,” we follow the gang to Minnesota for the funeral. It’s one of the series’ toughest episodes to watch but ultimately the most rewarding. Marshall comes to grips with the situation, Lily and Marshall’s mother mend their fractured relationship, and Barney decides it’s time to track down his own father.
2. “Slap Bet” (Season Two)
We touched on the “slap bet” concept that spanned the series. The origin of the slap bet can be found here in Season Two when the gang wonders why Robin does not want to go with them to a nearby shopping mall. Marshall and Barney have their theories and make a bet where the one who guesses the correct reason gets to slap the other. The real reason for Robin’s mall disdain is that she was a Canadian teen pop star with a hit song, “Let’s Go To The Mall,” performed throughout malls north of the border. The legend of Robin Sparkles is revealed to her American friends.
1. “P.S. I Love You” (Season Eight)
Our final ode to Robin Sparkles is the most unique and undeniably Canadian episode in the history of the long-running sitcom. Here, we learned through Canada’s Underneath The Tunes (the apparent Canadian version of Behind The Music) that she shed her wholesome, bubble-gum pop image for an edgier, grunge-infused persona of Robin Daggers that she shockingly debuted during halftime of the Grey Cup. Being jilted by an older lover — not Geddy Lee, Alex Trebek, or K.D. Lang — leads to her new single, “P.S. I Love You.” Some of Canada’s best-known entertainers are involved in the episode, and Tim Horton’s is prominently mentioned. It makes for sitcom gold.
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