Like it or loathe it, CBS’s How I Met Your Mother came to define the late 2000’s with its quirky sitcom format and cast of characters that resonated with the audience at home. We followed their love lives, their failures and after 208 episodes, finally met the mother.
Ranking 208 episodes of a television show isn’t an exact science – there’s always going to be room for opinion and debate. That’s half the fun of a list like this; How I Met Your Mother had a lot of good episodes but it also had a fair few duds in the batch and as it turns out – putting them in in a list and ranking them only makes you debate what constitutes a bad episode. With this in mind, I used very simple criteria
Of course, you may not agree with our list and that’s perfectly fine. But we think this is the definitive list of How I Met Your Mother episodes – ranked from worst to best and our thoughts on each episode. Let’s begin!
208. “Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra” (Season 9, Episode 14) Painfully unfunny premise mixed with an awkward racist controversy that left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The movie parodies were tedious while the slap bet premise is stretched beyond breaking point to deliver a wholly unfunny episode. Terrible. Terrible. What were they thinking committing this abomination to television? When people chart How I Met Your Mother‘s decline, it’s this kind of Season 9 filler that turned many off. There’s no reason for it to exist in How I Met Your Mother – and certainly no reason to re-watch it.
207. “Bedtime Story” (Season 9 Episode 11) To kill some time, the writers made everything in this episode rhyme. It’s stuffed to the brim with filler, but that’s not the killer. The cutaway jokes suck, Jason Segal’s a lame duck. It’s clear this episode’s a mess, how it made it to TV is anyone’s guess.
206. “Twelve Horny Women” (Season 8 Episode 8) Marshall and Brad’s courtroom drama reaches it’s tedious conclusion while the rest of the gang argue over who was the most bad-ass teenager. Dauntingly dull and frustrating when you realise Robin and Barney undo what little progress their romance underwent in the previous episode.
205. “Last Forever Part 2” (Season 9 Episode 24) Is the How I Met Your Mother finale really that bad? Yes and then some. If rushing through 6 years of character development, painting Robin as a massive bitch and landing Barney with a daughter we barely get to spend a minute of on-screen time is your cup of tea then you might disagree. But letting the audience grow attached to The Mother throughout Season 9 then killing her off screen right at the end is the coldest, most unsatisfying conclusion the show could have gone with. To then see Ted basically begging his kids for permission to chase Robin – who herself is still alone after all these years – really feels like a betrayal of the shows central message. Half the joy of this show was the idea that Ted was working towards his happy ending – to have that snuffed out in the closing 5 minutes is unforgivable. There’s some wonderful moments in this episode (Barney’s monologue to his daughter and the scene where Ted met Tracy for the first time) but it’s largely buried in an ocean of bad decisions.
204. “Last Forever Part 1” (Season 9 Episode 23) Breaking Robin and Barney up before the midway point in this episode was a shocking awful decision when the show just spent a whole 4 seasons putting them together. Beyond this Lily and Marshall have another kid (Who we never get to meet) while Ted & Tracy begin their own family. The only reason this isn’t lower than the second part is at least we get some decent callbacks to earlier episodes – and Robin’s growing disenchantment with the gang (Something that was foreshadowed many seasons earlier) is well played by Cobie Smulders – who you genuinely feel sorry for. Honestly put though, neither part holds a candle to How I Met Your Mother‘s better moments and neither are worthy of praise. It’s just sad to think this is how that nine season journey to meet the Mother was destined to end.
203. “Zoo or False” (Season 5 Episode 19) Awkwardly laugh-lite episode which see’s the gang trying to get to the bottom of who mugged Marshall. Turns out it was a monkey, and apparently that was worth dedicating a whole episode too. Lame jokes aside, Jason Segal doesn’t do it for me in this episode – failing to land any of his usual humorous trademarks. A very early sign that the show wasn’t landing its comic punches quite as much and that How I Met Your Mother was drifting from its peak.
202. The Burning Bee Keeper (Season 7 Episode 15) The idea was decent but the execution was savagely underwhelming. What we get is a story re-told from three different perspectives – none of which are remotely interesting or funny with a culmination that feels entirely forgettable. If you’re going to do something that, give it a purpose at least. How I Met Your Mother thrives on these kinds of concepts – so it’s sad to see it fumble so heavily.
201. “The Autumn of Break-Ups” (Season 8 Episode 5) Jason Segal channels his “inner goddess” in one of the shows most cringe worthy moments. Elsewhere Ted and Victoria’s relationship hits the rocks when Victoria’s entire 8-season character arc is ejected in seconds as a lame excuse to get Ted chasing Robin again. Anyone glad to see her character return was in for a rude awakening and underlined one of How I Met Your Mother‘s worst aspects – it’s ability to throw logic aside for the sake of Ted and Robin’s relationship.
200. The Stamp Tramp (Season 8 Episode 7). After all the breakups, Barney goes looking for a new strip club in one of the shows most ill-advised fleets of “comedy”. Robin plays his manager while Ted, Marshall and Lily get stuck with a subplot so dauntingly dull you’ll wonder what on earth the writers were thinking. Noteworthy only because of the Robin/Barney kiss at the episode’s end, but awkwardly signposts the fact that How I Met Your Mother had long run out of ideas.
199. “Mom and Dad” (Season 9 Episode 10) Season 9’s tedious march through filler country continues as Ted “breaks” a gift intended for Robin and goes to find out who really did it. Elsewhere Barney and James’ parents both show up and cause trouble in an “Oh god why am I still watching this” kind of way. Marshall and Daphne also have some drama but who honestly cared about their road adventure by this point?
198. “No Questions Asked” (Season 9 Episode 7) The entire episode is a slapstick affair where the gang try to help Marshall delete a text message from Lily’s phone. If you read that and thought “How could that work in a 22-minute episode?” – it doesn’t.
197. “The Pre-Nup” (Season 8 Episode 2) Barney and Quinn’s tedious relationship ends as quickly as it began. The two realise they’re not right for each other but force us to endure a whole episode of men vs. women “comedy” to get there. Elsewhere Lily and Marshall begin their Season 8 holding pattern as they continue to struggle with parenthood while Klaus reappears to rain on Ted and Victoria’s parade.
196. “The Lighthouse” (Season 9 Episode 8) Robin continues her pointless argument with Loretta while Marshall and Daphne have to deal with stowaway Clint on their never ending journey. The only noteworthy moment from this episode is the ending; where Ted takes the Mother to the lighthouse and proposes. If only we could skip into the future and avoid all this Season 9 filler.
195. “Knight Vision” (Season 9 Episode 6) God only knows why the writers thought an imaginary medieval knight was the correct metaphor for Ted’s dilemma He has some fun moments but it’s one of the series more unusual choices. Barney and Robin risk losing their reverend through lying while Marshall continues his god-awful adventures in with Daphne in the Snore Machine.
194. “Who Wants to Be a Godparent” (Season 8 Episode 4) Lily and Marshall have to decide who gets to be Marvin’s godparent in the event something happens to them. Cue the unfunny game show nods and laugh-lite exchanges as Barney, Ted and Robin stagger through a series of dim sequences to reach a conclusion that should have been obvious to Marshall and Lily from the start. The flash-forwards in this episode are quite amusing though and worth a glance but everything else feels like the show stalling for ideas.
193. “The Poker Game” (Season 9 Episode 5) Robin wins Jame’s wedding ring which leads to tension while Lily/Marshall/Ted argue over weddings gifts. Arguably not that great but some clever jokes and decent laughs help it to rise above the worst Season 9 had on offer. Again though – nothing of note is added to How I Met Your Mother’s canon.
192. “Old King Clancy” (Season 4 Episode 18) One of those episodes where it’s not necessarily “bad” – it’s just exceedingly dull. Barney and Marshall’s attempts to save Ted’s feelings doesn’t really lead to anything fun for the audience, just setting Ted on a new career path, Elsewhere the gangs musings over which Canadian celebrity Robin slept with are equally underwhelming – it’s another “Lets poke fun at Robin’s Canadian roots” joke – just not done well.
191. “The Exploding Meatball” (Season 6 Episode 20) The entire episode is one long setup to the final gag; in which Barney gives Marshall an exploding meatball sub. Would probably work better if the episode didn’t paint all the characters as selfish on the road to this joke. Marshall and Lily both make decisions without consulting each other while Ted and Zoey continue to bicker over the Arcadia’s future. Snore.
190. “Nannies” (Season 8 Episode 3) Another Lily/Marshall episode which fails to hit the mark. The gang are looking for a nanny but find out that Barney burned that bridge for them – as he used that as a previous excuse to pick up women. The scene with Barney being beaten up by a group of nannies is probably the highlight of the episode. Meanwhile, Robin and Ted compete who has the best relationship – no one cared.
189. “Shelter Island” (Season 4 Episode 5) This episode serves as a reminder to the audience that while How I Met Your Mother may be great at setting things up; sometimes it really misses the mark in sticking the landing. Ted and Stella’s wedding is brought forward and so events end up going into hyperspeed, Robin returns from Japan (Having only been there for half an episode) but when Ted and Stella argue over a “no ex’s” rule, she can’t attend the wedding. We end up meeting Stella’s ex and in the end, Stella ends up running away with him. It’s a very poorly executed episode that feels insanely rushed – throwing so much at the audience in such a small time with the intent of getting Stella off the show as quickly as possible – even if it painted her character in a very negative light. Barney’s subplot is worth a few giggles at least and continued to work towards their inevitable getting together.
188. “Romeward Bound” (Season 8 Episode 21) The Captain offers Lily her dream job and we end up with Jason Segal pulling Godfather parodies. Ted and Barney engage in an entirely laugh free sub-plot involving a women’s and her coat. Not a hugely entertaining episode that gives the cast a chance to question their futures and gives the writers a chance to plant seeds for conflict down the road.
187. “Bagpipes” (Season 5 Episode 6) All the shows couples fight for the right to call themselves the best couple. This leads to Marshall and Lily arguing, then Robin and Barney argue and then everything’s OK. It’s not great fun for the audience and the script doesn’t really throw up anything memorable for the 4 characters. Meanwhile, There’s also an old couple that has a lot of sex above Ted’s apartment but the show replaces the noises with bagpipes. It’s arguably the only good thing episode has going for it.
186. “Splitsville” (Season 8 Episode 6) Barney tries to help Robin out of her shallow relationship with Nick by throwing his feelings on the line. It’s a wonderful moment for the two but the episode itself relies slightly too much on Nick’s dumb nature to get the laughs. Meanwhile Lily and Marshall endure yet another Marvin episode where they’re desperate to get private time. By this stage, it was becoming painfully apparent that Marvin was more of a hindrance to the couple’s creative direction than a blessing, as How I Met Your Mother had awkwardly landed 2/6th of their cast with an unfunny sideshow.
185. “The Broken Code” (Season 9 Episode 4) The show drags along as Barney punishes Ted for getting too close to Robin. I’d love to say the disappointment over the way this “cliffhanger” was resolved was made up for by decent jokes and a return to form. Yet alas, not even the sight of Jason Segal on an Ipad on a beach can raise this up from being a complete bore. Another example of How I Met Your Mother dropping the ball on a promising idea.
184. “Sandcastles in the Sand” (Season 3 Episode 16) Robin centric episode that sees her re-engage with an old flame. It’s all pretty stupid and goes against everything we’ve learned about Robin up to this stage in the show – even when the entire gang is telling her how stupid it is. Thankfully there’s a really good Robin Sparkles song in here and THAT Robin/Barney kiss that sets up so much of the later-series plot lines. This saves this from being a complete car crash – but not by a wide margin.
183. “Garbage Island” (Season 6 Episode 17) Robin tries to set Barney back up with Nora to much resistance. I can’t be bothered outlining how dumb the logic in this story is, so instead say its fairly bland. Things are slightly more fun in the other story – where the Captain is trying to work out who stole Zoey from him while Ted awkwardly tries to skirt the subject. If Zoey was anywhere near as likeable as the writers wanted her to be, this episode would have been much better. As it stands, we feel Captain had a lucky break.
182. “I Heart NJ” (Season 4 Episode 3) I’ve never been sure over this episode and rewatching it only confirms my indifference to it. Ted doesn’t want to move to New Jersey and the gang do their best to try and stop him. It’s a weird episode because it paints Stella in a very negative light at a time when the show hadn’t really tried to do that with her. The result is an awkward comedy light episode. Robin’s subplot about leaving her job is very hit and miss while Barney’s bro-fist is surprisingly light on laughter. By the end of the episode it’s really hard to feel good about anything that’s happened. One of How I Met Your Mother‘s more weird outings for sure.
181. “Aldrin Justice” (Season 2 Episode 6) Fairly tame episode where Lily joins Ted’s firm while Barney sleeps with Marshall’s law school professor to raise his grades. Never a fan of bratty Lily and here is one of the times the show overextends that hand to poor effect, coming off as unlikeable in parts. The Barney subplot raises a few giggles but plays up the worst aspects of his character – namely the ones that just aren’t that funny.
180. “Mobius Designs” (Season 4 Episode 20) Ted runs his architecture firm from his living room – with Robin sinking her teeth into his assistant. Meanwhile, Marshall’s character wants to find his niche in the office so he can’t be sacked. Given the direction his character took throughout Season 4, I’d have pegged him for “the boring guy”.
179. “Twin Beds” (Season 5 Episode 21) Robin ponders moving in with Don – which for some reason invokes the extreme jealousy of Ted and Barney. Honestly, this entire episode felt mean spirited as it was basically Ted and Barney pining for a women they could have had multiple times already. In the end, Robin makes the bigger decision to move out of Ted’s without telling him – leaving Ted with a lot of food for thought.
178. “Hopeless” (Season 6 Episode 21) A weird little episode that sees the gang trying to help Barney reconnect with his estranged father. The performance from Neil Patrick Harris is great but the attempt to mix light-hearted scenes in with deep character development (In particular the car ride at the end) leave an episode that’s tone-ly all over the show. It feels very disjointed by the end.
177. “First Time in New York” (Season 2 Episode 12) Robin’s younger sister visits (Who we never see again…) and the gang talk about losing their virginity. There’s an awkward link between the Empire State Building and penis’s that underlines where this episodes humour comes from. Mercifully the flashbacks are funny enough that you can begin to overlook this and there’s yet more misdirection in the Robin/Ted relationship.
176. “Field Trip” (Season 7 Episode 5) Robin tries to make a move on Kevin, her therapist but it leads to some fairly average scenes and no chemistry between the two. Elsewhere Barney worrying about Nora’s age is just bizarre and the scenes with Ted’s field trip aren’t really that special either. I guess the Star Wars Ewoks analogy is somewhat funny, but it’s a lazy stab at humour from How I Met Your Mother.
175. “Not a Father’s Day” (Season 4 Episode 7) Marshall & Lily’s multi-season baby arc arguably kicks off here with a resounding “ugh” from me. There are a few funny scenes but the episode very quickly falls back into the “Let’s make Lily look like a brat” trope and from there the laughs rely almost entirely on visual gags. Marshall looking after a drunken/baby Lily just isn’t what makes this show funny for me. Barney’s B-plot is the real star of the show and gets a few laughs for the enthusiasm
174. “Happily Ever After” (Season 4 Episode 6) With Ted being jilted, the gang try to help him get over Stella. I’d love to say this episode was memorable at all but it really isn’t and despite some amusing revelations (Robin and her dad’s relationship being DOA for example) this episode lacks any real momentum or laughs (Outside of the gang diving under the table). I felt Ted’s heartfelt speech was ruined by not actually having him pull the trigger and making it real.
173 “Canning Randy” (Season 6 Episode 7) Randy returns in another Halloween episode. Marshall wants to fire him but can’t bring himself to do it – in the end, he ends up doing it so Randy can start his own line of beers. It’s a satisfying if slightly dull addition to Marshall’s arcs that leads to some fun but hardly memorable scenes. Elsewhere the gang try to work out what Robin’s big secret is – the payoff itself is great but the lead-up is slightly underwhelming.
172. “The Rebound Girl” (Season 7 Episode 11) An episode of How I Met Your Mother that consolidates the character development of Lily and Marshall – juxtaposing it with the rest of the gang who go through their own issues. The Barney/Ted baby plot is the episodes real backbone, giving the two plenty of fun and revealing Barney has a “Baby guy”. The revelation at the episodes end is very noteworthy.
171. “Lobster Crawl” (Season 8 Episode 9) Ted goes overboard when babysitting for Marvin, leading to Lily and Marshall relinquishing him of his responsibilities in a fun side-plot that plays up to all of Ted’s more frustrating qualities. Meanwhile Lily tries to get Barney out of Robin’s system – which results in the death of one of Barney’s most beloved ties and revenge plot that raises a few giggles.
170. “Belly Full of Turkey” (Season 1 Episode 9) We meet the Marshall family while Ted/Robin/Barney pitch up in a volunteer centre. Your mileage with this episode depends entirely on how much you’re willing to accept Lily/Marshall’s brand of comedy. Here the punchline is Lily is out of place in a land of giants and ends up getting herself arrested trying to pee on a pregnancy test. If it weren’t for a few decent visual gags this episode would be a waste of everyone’s time.
169. “We’re Not From Here” (Season 3 Episode 2) This episode has three stories but none of them hit the mark fully Ted and Barney pretend to be out of towner’s in an underwhelming outing. Lily and Marshall’s plot is equally dull – the highlight of which is the two writing death letters for each other. Gael is mercifully ejected from the show but not before Robin spends the entire episode enabling him.
168. “Noretta” (Season 7 Episode 7) The decision to have the gang fixate on the idea that people end up dating people like their parents is fine – but in typical How I Met Your Mother fashion – the writing it goes a bit overboard when Lily and Marshall start picturing their actual parents in bed with them. More funny on paper than it ends up being on screen.
167. “The Yips” (Season 3 Episode 10) Pretty gross episode where Barney returns to the first women he slept with to overcome the lull in his sex life. I’d love to say Neil Patrick Harris saves this one but it’s a rare miss for the actor. Elsewhere the gang surcome to that truest of sitcom tropes – the gym episode. It’s largely underwhelming and if it weren’t for Lily & Marshall’s bossy trainer would be entirely forgettable.
166. “Unfinished” (Season 6 Episode 3) Watching Barney try to woo Ted using his womanizing tactics provides a heap of laughs while Robin continues her arc of getting over Don. The latter becomes boring too quickly while the former sinks into a predictable pattern before it really goes where you’d like it too.
165. “Landmarks” (Season 6 Episode 23) The Arcadian storyline limps to its conclusion in an episode that provides few laughs. Zoey goes completely hell for leather while Ted’s decision to oppose her; leading to their breakup. The final scene between two is well done and summarises the general frustration that Zoey’s character had attracted throughout the season – she was deeply unlikeable. Luckily there are a few laughs provided by Marshall and his rhymes.
164. “Good Crazy” (Season 7 Episode 22) Ted pines after Robin in another episode where fans are forced to endure more of the endless Robin/Ted love saga. Mercifully Barney’s jealousy over Quinn and her job offers the episode some laughs and adds layers to the Quinn character in the process. Unfortunately not interesting enough to save the whole of How I Met Your Mother‘s pretty forgettable seventh season.
163. “Baby Talk” (Season 6 Episode 6) Lily and Marshall’s baby arc continues to drag as the two discuss names – leading to the two trying to influence the gender of the baby. Honestly, there’s nothing particularly bad going on here but Luckily the introduction of Becky “Boats Boats Boats” adds some humour to Robin’s role while her interactions
162. “Coming Back” (Season 9 Episode 2) Bland affair in which Lily accidentally reveals that Barney’s brother is going through a divorce while Marshall gets a rental car to begin his long journey to Farhampton with Daphne. NPH tries to use some acting brass in reacting to the news but ultimately is outshone by the final scene featuring The Mother and Ted.