The Big Bang Theory remains as popular as it was during its prime in the first half of the 2010s. Ranking among HBO Max’s best shows, Big Bang is one of the last examples of the laugh track sitcom and one of network television’s last significant hits before streaming took over the business. The show starred an ensemble cast led by Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, and Kaley Cuoco and followed the adventures of a group of highly intelligent but socially awkward scientists living in Pasadena.
Critically and commercially successful, The Big Bang Theory is already a modern classic. The show expertly blended science with comedy, creating a unique brand of humor that helped cement it as a bonafide hit. Big Bang embraced nerd culture and redefined what it meant to be a “geek,” with many of its most memorable moments showcasing some crucial aspects of pop culture. Big Bang has many unforgettable episodes — how could it not when it went on for 12 seasons, totaling a whopping 279 episodes — but its most iconic efforts stand out because of their perfect mix of intelligence, heart, and humor.
10. The Earworm Reverberation
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Sheldon and Amy are one of television’s most beloved couples. The pair went through many highs and lows throughout their relationship, mainly due to Sheldon’s quirks. Their break-up in the season 8 finale sent fans into a summer of mourning, and their eventual reunion during the season 9 episode The Earworm Reverberation restored their faith in love.
The plot concerns Sheldon as he becomes obsessed with a song he can’t identify. Eventually, he remembers it’s The Beach Boy’s Darlin’ and realizes it’s about his feelings for Amy, prompting him to apologize and successfully reinstate their relationship. The episode features other plots, but no one cares about those. It’s all about Shamy, and the episode is one of their finest moments, proving everything is better when The Beach Boys are involved.
The late Stephen Hawking was a crucial part of The Big Bang Theory. As Sheldon’s hero, Hawking was often mentioned by the group of scientists. He made his debut on the show during season 5’s The Hawking Excitationin which Howard works alongside him, prompting Sheldon to try and secure a meeting to show him his latest paper. Hawking only has one scene at the end of the episode, but it’s all he needs to make an impression.
The rest of the episode concerns Sheldon humiliating himself to convince Howard to introduce him to Hawking. The setup is nothing new — Howard makes Sheldon perform tasks for him, including making him wear a French maid’s outfit to work. It’s always good to see Sheldon have a taste of his own medicine, and seeing Howard get his revenge for years of mistreatment is somewhat cathartic.
8. The Justice League Recombination
The guys from The Big Bang Theory are fans of all comic books, but they have a soft spot for DC Comics. During season 4’s Halloween episode, The Justice League Recombinationthey dress up as DC’s most powerful characters to attend Stuart’s party at the comic book store. The obsessive Sheldon insists that Penny’s new boyfriend, the dimwitted Zach, joins them as Superman, much to Leonard and Penny’s discomfort.
Most of the episode’s laughs come from the group’s ridiculous costumes, including Raj’s silly Aquaman suit and Penny’s lazy take on Wonder Woman. The Penny/Leonard dynamic is front and center, but the episode’s highlight is the fantasy sequence in which Sheldon imagines himself as the Flash running to the Grand Canyon to vent his frustrations against Leonard.
7. The Opening Night Excitation
Sheldon and Amy take a massive step in their relationship in season 9’s The Opening Night Excitation. Following their reconciliation, Sheldon decides to skip the long-awaited premiere of the new Star Wars movie to instead celebrate Amy’s birthday with her. To make things extra special, he decides his gift to her will be their first night of intimacy, or as he crudely puts it, his “genitals.”
Watching Sheldon and Amy reach such an important milestone was incredible, especially for fans who had witnessed their relationship from the beginning. The B-plot, which concerns the rest of the guys’ anxiousness at the premiere of The Force Awakens, is funny enough, but the Shamy storyline is the episode’s beating heart and the reason why it’s such an iconic chapter in The Big Bang Theory‘s history.
The best Big Bang episodes were the ones that made full use of its stellar cast. The Prom Equivalence is the perfect example, as it uses a prom to frame the episode’s action, thus allowing every major couple to shine with an individual storyline.
Shamy says their first “I love you,” while Howard and Bernadette find themselves in an awkward and unexpected position with Stuart’s date. However, it’s Leonard and Penny who have the episode’s best storyline, as the prom setting allows them to display the best aspects of their relationship. Leonard and Penny often get trash-talked by fans who think their relationship is toxic, but The Prom Equivalency proves they are actually a great couple, against all odds and despite appearances.
Another episode that makes brilliant use of the show’s ensemble, The Love Car Displacement is arguably the first episode that fully and successfully integrates Amy and Bernadette into the gang’s dynamic. The plot centers on a trip to a convention and the ensuing shenanigans.
The Love Car Displacement is the highlight of season 4 and one of the all-time best episodes of The Big Bang Theory. Although most of the episode is run-of-the-mill, the second-to-last scene — an extended sequence that features all main characters interacting in a chaotic panel — is one of the show’s funniest moments. It showcases every character, displaying their unique traits and building up to a hilarious conclusion that will have fans roaring with laughter.
Season 3 of The Big Bang Theory is arguably the best. It features the first and healthiest iteration of Penny and Leonard’s romance and the early stages of two of the show’s most important pairings: Howard and Bernadette’s relationship and Penny and Sheldon’s friendship.
The Adhesive Duck Deficiency features two major storylines. One, which sees Leonard, Howard, and Raj going camping, is truly awful. However, the second and most important one features Penny dislocating her shoulder, forcing Sheldon to drive her to the hospital. The dynamic between both characters is the stuff of sitcom heaven, with Penny spending most of the episode playing serious (wo)man to Sheldon’s antics. The final scene involves a drugged Penny singing “Soft Kitty” with Sheldon, a moment that has become one of Big Bang‘s most iconic.
3. The Precious Fragmentation
Widely considered one of the all-time best movie trilogies, The Lord of the Rings plays a crucial role in The Big Bang Theory. The guys love and rewatch it constantly — Leonard even dresses up as Frodo during season 1’s Halloween episode. The trilogy is so important to the characters that it plays a prominent role in several storylines. However, its most famous role is in season 3’s The Precious Fragmentation.
The episode follows the guys discovering a replica of the One Ring, supposedly used during the trilogy’s filming. They descend into a chaotic contest to see who will keep it, leading to a memorable sequence in which Sheldon sees himself as Gollum in the mirror. The entire episode is hilarious, featuring the guys at their absolute nerdiest, slowly succumbing to the One Ring’s influence.
Jim Parsons earned his first Emmy nomination for season 2’s The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis. Already a legendary episode of Big Bang, The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis sees Penny giving Sheldon a Christmas gift, forcing the notoriously anal scientist to buy something of equal value to reciprocate. Sheldon buys multiple gift baskets, which he then proceeds to gift to Penny upon discovering her gift to him is a signed autograph from Leonard Nimoy.
Parsons is an incredibly gifted physical comedian, and his reaction to seeing the autograph is a comedic triumph. The entire sequence is hilarious, and the confirmation that The Big Bang Theory owed its success to Sheldon. Many scenes followed in the subsequent years, each showcasing different aspects of Sheldon’s quirks. However, his gift-giving scene arguably remains his finest moment.
Season 5’s The Scanvenger Vortex is The Big Bang Theory at its utter best. The plot sees Raj organize a scavenger hunt to entertain his notoriously grumpy friends, promising a gold coin to the winning pair. The show takes the characters out of their comfort zones, coming up with some unlikely but inspired pairings and utilizing the cast to its fullest.
Between the unexpected bond between Amy and Howard and the mean-spirited yet hysterical dynamic between the meek Leonard and the uber-competitive Bernadette, The Scavenger Vortex is the show’s finest hour. Every character gets a chance to shine, and the show’s humor laughs along with them rather than at them — something that would become increasingly rare in future seasons. The Scavenger Vortex is The Big Bang Theory‘s best episode, if only because of how great it is to see this group of friends descending into madness over the prospect of a gold coin,