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The 14 most touching Simpsons episodes

by Adam Finley, posted May 17th 2007 10:02AM

simpsonsWelcome to TV Squad Lists, a feature where each blogger has a chance to list his or her own rundown of things in television that stand out from the rest, both good and bad.

Here's my list of what I believe are the top 14 Simpsons episodes in regards to heartstring tuggery. Share your own in the comments and tell me why mine are wrong.

Let's get to it:

Mother Simpson

I'm listing these episodes in no particular order, but this one gets the top spot solely for the final shot of Homer sitting on his car after helping his vigilante mother (voiced by Glen Close) escape, and remaining there even after the sun has gone down and the stars have come out. The Simpsons is praised, and rightfully so, for being a funny show, but it could also stir up some truly emotional moments that could rival many of its live-action contemporaries.

My Mother The Carjacker

Homer's mother returned several seasons later for this episode, and while it didn't quite pack the emotional wallop of her first appearance, it's still quite moving to see how much Homer loves his mother, and how her absence played a part in how utterly screwed up he is. The scene where his mother is in the back of a police car and the cops keep stopping and speeding up just to tease him is funny, sad and infuriating all at the same time.

Bart Vs. Thanksgiving

The first of many "Bart and Lisa" episodes on this list. Despite the sibling rivalry and animosity that exist between the two, Bart and Lisa always come through for one another in the end. When Bart destroys Lisa's Thanksgiving centerpiece and is accused of ruining Thanksgiving, he decides to run away. The episode isn't about Bart being a jerk, it's about the denial we all feel when we know we've done something wrong and aren't quite ready to admit it.

Lisa on Ice

I don't think there's another episode where Homer is a bigger jerk than he is in this one. This episode manages to point out everything wrong with youth sports. Well, actually it's just one thing: the parents. When Bart and Lisa end up on opposing hockey teams, Homer encourages both of them to stop acting like brother and sister and instead play to win, damn it. In the end, they decide they'd rather be brother and sister, which, of course, results in a riot.

Bart Sells his Soul

I'm not a religious person, but I was still moved by this episode where Bart sells his "soul" to Milhouse. The episode is written in such a way that you could see it as either a) Bart losing his spiritual essence, or b) Bart denying the part of himself that makes him unique. There's something intangible about each of us that makes us special, and this episode demonstrates that wonderfully without being preachy.

Alone Again, Natura-Diddily

What could make Ned Flanders turn away from God? How about the death of his wife, Maude? Of course, he only turns his back on the Lord for about .5 seconds, but still, that's a lot for someone as pious as Ned. His declaration in the final scene where he tells Kovenant singer Rachel Jordan that he's always at church, "rain or shine" is a nice summation of how a person can maintain their faith in God even in the darkest of times.

Lisa's First Word

One of many things that James L. Brooks brought to The Simpsons was an uncanny ability to condense a cluster of emotions into a single perfect moment. This episode focuses mostly on the arrival of Lisa and Bart's jealousy toward his new sister, but the best moment comes at the end when Maggie utters her first word, "daddy," just as Homer walks out of her room, and out of ear shot. It was just one word, but it expressed Maggie's feeling perfectly. I don't know it Brooks was responsible for that moment, but it felt Brooksian.

Lisa's Substitute

Even thought the actor who plays Lisa's substitute, Mr. Bergstrom in this episode is credited as "Sam Etic," it is in fact actor Dustin Hoffman. That's obvious from the voice, and from the Graduate references.

Lisa is often misunderstood by grown ups, but in Mr. Bergstrom she finds someone who both challenges her and has faith in her. As she becomes more and more drawn to Mr. Bergstrom, she also begins to lose respect for her father. In the end, however, Mr. Bergstrom leaves town and Homer wins his daughter back.

The Last Temptation of Homer

Part of being in a monogamous relationship is avoiding temptation, but what happens when someone comes into your life who's not only gorgeous, but also seems to have more in common with you than your own wife? That's the dilemma Homer faces when Mindy, a new co-worker begins work at the nuclear plant. Homer does all he can not to give in to temptation, but can't shake the feeling that fate is conspiring against him. In the end, his love for Marge triumphs, but the episode shows how maintaining a marriage is not always easy.

Life on the Fast Lane

Of course, long before Homer and Mindy there was Marge and Jacques. Feeling neglected and unappreciated by Homer, Marge ends up spending time with another man who is clearly a "playa" but who also fills an emotional need for Marge. She too comes close to having an affair, but again, love conquers all, and the episode ends with an uplifting parody of the final scene from An Officer and a Gentleman.

Moaning Lisa

In this episode, Lisa tries to express her feelings of sadness through her music, but her band director won't have it. When she meets Bleeding Gums Murphy, he shows Lisa how to channel all of her sadness and frustration through her saxophone. Like most first season episodes, this episode is pretty straightforward, and its message is clear: it's okay to be sad sometimes.

I Love Lisa

There are plenty of Simpsons episodes about unrequited love, but this one is my favorite. Ralph Wiggum falls for Lisa after Lisa gives him a Valentine's Day card out of pity. He falls in love with her, but eventually she has to tell him (loudly, and on live television) that she doesn't like him. We rarely see Ralph as anything more than a kind of human non sequitur, but this episode exposes a few other sides of his personality.

Summer of 4 Ft. 2

In this episode, Lisa tries to change her nerdy ways by taking on a whole new personality when her family goes on summer vacation. She befriends a group of cool kids, but Bart, driven by jealousy, tries to sabotage it all by showing them Lisa's geeky accomplishments at Springfield Elementary. Despite learning about the "real" Lisa, her friends still think she's cool, and Lisa learns it's okay to be yourself.

Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in "The Curse of the Flying Hellfish"

This episode is more "crazy action flick" than emotional, but I list it here because it shows Grandpa Simpson as someone other than a crazy old coot. It's easy for a youngster like Bart not to realize that his grandpa was once a strapping young war hero, but by the end of their adventure, Bart has a new love and respect for the old man.

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Hernan Ruiz

The first episode, Simpsons Raging in an open fire, is very sad at the end, when they have a great Christmas together with the dog :) Happy Christmas to everybody!!! :)

December 19 2011 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laura goth chick

old money. is. so sad. see it.

June 25 2011 at 1:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lisa's Wedding should TOTALLY be on that list. It's one of my favorite episodes and is definitely one of the most touching episodes in the entire series!

July 20 2007 at 6:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
no name

How about these:
(Father&Son's love
(Abe and Homer))

1.One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish:
Homer is told that he is going to die after eating the poisonous parts of the blowfish, so he decides to make things right with his father by telling him that he loves
2.Grandpa vs. sexual Inadequacy:
another episode where they say they love each other.

(Bart and Homer)

1.Bart the Daredevil:
I believe that this is the first episode where Homer really shows that he loves Bart.

2.Saturdays of Thunder:
Homer begins to realize that he's not as good a father as he thought, so he helps Bart build a Soupbox Racer. After losing in the first race Bart decides to accept Martin's offer to use his racer. Homer is devastated by Bart's rejection. In the end Homer decides to cheer on Bart. One of the last scenes is when Homer hugs Bart and the National Fatherhood Institute cheers. Just like many other episodes, this one ends with a touching song.

3.Itchy and Scratchy:The Movie:
I don't remember the beginning so well, but Bart was grounded and was not allowed to see Itchy and Scratchy:The Movie. In a vision of the future, Homer imagines seeing a revival of the movie with Bart.

*at this point I was too lazy to write all the synopsizes

(Father&Daughter's love)

1.Lisa the Greek
2.Lisa the Vegetarian
3.Lisa's pony

(Neighbor's/friend's love)

1.When Flanders Failed
2.The Homer They Fall

*and I'm pretty sure there are many more touching episodes

July 10 2007 at 3:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
George Lescay

Dear TV Squad I want you to tell Matt Groening to make a NEW ep of the Simpson in Homer goes to Hollyood aour guest STAR is Richard Horvitz as Ernest the Movie STAR I hope you like my idea love George Lescay comes to Foxs p.s July 29 2007 p.s.s Ernest is Homer best Friend

May 19 2007 at 6:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
George Lescay

Dear TV Squad I want you to tell Matt Groening to make a NEW ep of the Simpson in Homer goes to Hollyood aour guest STAR is Richard Horvitz as Ernest the Movie STAR I hope you like my idea love George Lescay comes to Foxs p.s July 29 2007 p.s.s Ernest is Homer best Friend

May 19 2007 at 6:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is a great article. I never really think of the Simpsons as a touchy-feely show, but I have a new perspective now. I liked this so much I made it into a list on ListAfterList.com. If you have any more entertainment lists to share, this seems to be the place to post it. Check it out: http://listafterlist.com/ListResults/tabid/57/ListID/7162/Default.aspx

May 18 2007 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Omg, that ending with Homer sitting on top of his car has always been my favourite shot on the Simpsons :) So glad you wrote it first!

May 18 2007 at 4:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great list, but as in others comments, out of my head I missed "And Maggie Makes Three" and "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer"... maybe doing the "The 30 most touching..." would fit better. This reminds me how hard it will be to other show beat what The Simpsons gave me during those years.

May 17 2007 at 11:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's funny, I was just talking about this very subject to a friend earlier today. And Maggie Makes Three needs to be on there if only for that beautiful last shot of the sign. So perfectly timed, and not undercut by a joke, that moment is one of two times when a TV cartoon show made me shed a tear. (The other was on Futurama in the episode when Frey thinks his brother stole his hopes and dreams to became the first person to travel to Mars only for it to turn out to be his nephew named after Frey. So good.) On top of that, the montage of Homer finding out that Marge is pregnant three times over is one of my favorite Simpsons moments. I think And Maggie Makes Three is as close to a perfect Simpsons episode as one can get.

May 17 2007 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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