How I Met Your Mother, which ran on CBS for eight seasons from 2005 to 2014, is really the tale of two sitcoms; there’s the good How I Met Your Mother, which invests in the misadventures of a lovable group of friends living in New York City (that should sound familiar), and there’s the bad How I Met Your Mother, which takes those lovable characters, turns them into caricatures and drags them down with intolerable romantic drama or petty squabbles. We much prefer the former to the latter, but it’s the inconsistency outlined above that’s made How I Met Your Mother such a frustrating viewing experience. The show, for all of its stellar moments (and it had some of the best sitcom moments ever, make no mistake), had just as many boring, humdrum or downright annoying moments, and this dichotomy makes lists like the following, which isolates the 10 best episodes of How I Met Your Mother, all the more crucial. No longer do you have to sort through the dross to find a great episode, just check out what we’ve gotten written here!
10. “Drumroll, Please” (Season 1, Episode 13)
At its best, How I Met Your Mother balances the romantic inclinations of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor) with the comedic timing of his friends and acquaintances. While most of the show’s first season plays it fast and loose with that balance (the show figures it out a little better in Seasons 2-4), it’s finely executed in “Drumroll, Please,” the thirteenth episode of the show’s first season. This episode, which introduces audiences to the major love interest of season one (outside of Cobie Smulders Robin Scherbatsky), Victoria (played by Ashley Williams), who ends up spending a whole lot of time playing coy when she meets Ted at a wedding (where she was not a guest, but rather made the cake). “Drumroll, Please” also sees Barney attempting to score with a bridesmaid (of course), as well as Marshall and Lily attempting to help Ted discover Victoria’s real identity so he can find her after (mistakenly) leaving the wedding without discovering her real name.
9. “Ten Sessions” (Season 3, Episode 13)
Ted Mosby finds himself in a great many relationships during the eight seasons it takes him to tell his kids the story of how he met their mother, but without a doubt, one of the biggest is his relationship with Dr. Stella Zinman (played by Scrubs alum Sarah Chalke), whom he meets while having an unfortunate lower back tattoo removed (she is a doctor, after all). Stella, who maintains a role as one of Ted’s most prominent love interests for a good chunk of the show’s prime years, is an excellent addition to the cast despite the disappointing end to her and Ted’s relationship (we’ll avoid spoilers here, but it’s a genuinely heartbreaking moment when it occurs). “Ten Sessions” maintains a rarified air for How I Met Your Mother, as it’s one of the best examples of when Ted’s absurd romantic fascinations manifest in a legitimately adorable (and not puke-worthy) way, as the “two-minute date” that he whips up to accommodate Stella’s busy schedule is one of his finest moments (and the show’s, as well).
8. “Three Days of Snow” (Season 4, Episode 13)
Ted isn’t the only man on How I Met Your Mother with a claim to grand romantic gestures, however; Marshall Eriksen (as played by Jason Segel) has a trick or two up his sleeve, and that’s best exemplified in “Three Days of Snow,” an episode which sees Marshall attempting to honor tradition by meeting his wife, Lily (Alyson Hannigan) at the airport despite a massive snowstorm hitting New York. An episode which features one of the truly great romantic gestures in the series’ history (Marshall brings a full orchestra along for the ride, courtesy of Ted and Barney, who befriend the band while watching over a bar for a friend), as well as the classic “We should buy a bar!” realization that every man experiences at some point or another in his life, “Three Days of Snow” is a hilarious and adorable episode that wants to take you to Aruba, Jamaica…just watch the episode and you’ll get it.
7. “The Naked Man” (Season 4, Episode 9)
The fourth season of How I Met Your Mother is really the show’s peak. By this point, the writers have learned what works about the characters and what doesn’t, and the actors have figured out how to play the characters with a sense of fullness, rather than the empty clichés that become so built-in to the series as it drones towards its end (the last several seasons really are painful to watch). In “The Naked Man,” the ninth episode of the show’s fourth season, all the characters coalesce and really hit the high notes that they’re capable of. The episode sees Barney and Ted trying to seduce women by performing “the naked man,” a move they learned from one of Robin’s potential conquests that has the suitor simply get naked and wait for the woman’s approval. Its shocking success rate is both hilarious and apropos for a series that makes routine jokes about Barney’s various schemes and maneuvers to get women into bed. Speaking of those…
6. “The Playbook” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Barney Stinson’s (Neil Patrick Harris) shenanigans make up the better part of the laughs on How I Met Your Mother. Sure, the other characters have their moments, but for the most part, it’s Stinson (and to a larger extent, Patrick Harris) who provides the real laughs in the form of gags, ridiculousness, and downright charm. This is evident throughout the course of the show, but never more so than in “The Playbook,” the eighth episode of the show’s fifth season. “The Playbook,” which sees Barney educating the rest of the gang on his seduction techniques with the help of a physical playbook that outlines the various tricks and schemes he pulls to sleep with women as Lily tries to stop him, features some of Stinson’s most outlandish and ridiculous moments. That said, it all works to show that there’s a bigger heart under those fine, hand-crafted suits than the playbook itself would lead you to believe.
5. “How I Met Everyone Else” (Season 3, Episode 5)
How I Met Your Mother has introduced several famous cultural idiosyncrasies by now, not the least of which is the Hot/Crazy scale, outlined by Barney Stinson in “How I Met Everyone Else,” the fifth episode of the show’s third season. When speaking of Ted’s new girlfriend “Blah Blah” (Ted cannot remember the name of this specific woman, and therefore she is retroactively referred to as Blah Blah for the duration of the episode), Barney explains that a woman’s hotness must correlate directly to compensate for her craziness; the hotter a woman is, the more crazy a man is willing to put up with to be with her. The gang quickly finds out that Ted’s new girlfriend is a little closer to the crazy side than she is to the hot one as they tell the various stories about how they met each other, including Marshall and Lily’s early romantic trysts and the story of how Ted met Robin (which makes Blah Blah really, really angry).
4. “Mary the Paralegal” (Season 1, Episode 19)
Barney Stinson pulls a lot of pranks over the eight seasons of How I Met Your Mother, but few are funnier than his scheme from “Mary the Paralegal,” the nineteenth episode of the show’s first season. After appearing to lose an argument with Ted and Marshall over the ethical implications of hiring a prostitute, Barney goes ahead and hires one for Ted, the titular Mary, in an effort to help the latter make Robin jealous (Ted occasionally digresses to the equivalent of a petty child). As it turns out, Mary isn’t a prostitute at all, but rather a very nice paralegal who lives in Barney’s apartment building, a fact he conveniently forgets to mention to Ted when he begins to take a liking to Mary. It’s a hilarious set-up that borders on insanity, but as Barney himself claims “If you don’t laugh at it, it’s just mean!”
3. “Girls vs. Suits” (Season 5, Episode 12)
There’s not a whole lot that can be said about “Girls vs. Suits” that can’t be gleaned from the three-minute clip we’ve linked below, but we’ll give you the small details you may need before sitting back and letting Neil Patrick Harris speak for the lot of us. This episode, the twelfth of season five, sees Barney attempting to go a week without wearing a suit so as to woo a woman (guest star Stacy Kiebler) who hates dressy attire. It’s as glorious as this clip makes it out to be.
2. “The Pineapple Incident” (Season 1, Episode 10)
Some of the best sitcom episodes in the history of television have started with the same principle, that being…shots. In “The Pineapple Incident,” the tenth episode of How I Met Your Mother‘s first season, Ted Mosby does a whole lot of shots (accurately nicknamed The Red Dragon) and wakes up beside a mysterious woman and a pineapple. The rest of the episode is spent with Ted, Marshall, Lily and Barney attempting to figure out just who the woman is, and what exactly the pineapple was doing placed somewhere near Ted’s nightstand. It’s a hilarious “What Happened Last Night” episode that we’re sure many people can relate to, as we’ve all had those evenings where just a little too much alcohol was consumed and the memories get a little fuzzy.
1. “Slap Bet” (Season 2, Episode 9)
There’s a few reasons why “Slap Bet,” the ninth episode of How I Met Your Mother‘s second season, is the best ever. It contains one of the show’s most iconic and recurring gags, that being the titular “slap bet” for which the episode is named, one that Marshall and Barney make in an effort to see who is right about whether Robin starred in a pornography video back in her native Canada (she did not, for the record). It also features the first of these slaps, a hilarious experience that sees Marshall leveling Barney after being proven right. This leads us to the second iconic moment of “Slap Bet,” that being the revealing of Robin Sparkles, the pop starlet personality of Robin Scherbatsky, and her glorious music video “Let’s Go To the Mall,” which makes the episode a necessary watch for any viewers of television.