KTMA: The Last Chase. Admittedly, I need to go back and watch all the KTMA episodes again to refresh my memory, but I remember liking this one.
Season 1: The Black Scorpion. The movie is fun in and of itself, but this is where it felt like the Season 1 gang was closest to that classic era level of quality we expect from later episodes of MST3K. J Elvis Weinstein goes out on a high note (until his Season 12 return, of course).
Season 2: Godzilla Vs. Megalon. The riffing over that last fight scene is a thing of beauty. The rest of this goofy movie makes for excellent joke fodder as well, and the host segments are so bizarre that you can’t help but guffaw.
Season 3: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It’s kind of impossible to imagine a holiday season without this gem of an episode with spectacular riffing at the expense of Santa, Billy and Betty, Voldar, and all the Martians. The host segments are a delight, with “A Patrick Swayze Christmas” being an all-time favorite and the fan letter at the end making for a genuinely poignant moment.
Season 4: Bride of the Monster. A lot’s been said about Manos, and rightfully so. Still, I have to give the Season 4 crown to the inspired jokes over this Ed Wood sci-fi misfire. Plus, we get Hired! Part 1, the “Hired!: The Musical” sketch, Crow’s dream analysis, and Cambot helping the gang to re-edit the end of the movie.
Season 5, Joel episodes: Mitchell. A hell of a sendoff for Joel and introduction for Mike. Even without those vitally important host segments, we have some of the most brilliantly written theater segments in the series’s history (sorry, Joe Don).
Season 5, Mike episodes: Outlaw. MST3K submitted this episode for Peabody Award consideration and won, and it’s not hard to see why they chose this one. This aggressively stupid sword-and-sandals movie is met by unceasingly hilarious jokes, and Jack Palance gives them a lot to work off of. It helps that we also take a look at the autobiography Palance on Palance and get the classic “Tubular Boobular Joy” out of it all.
Season 6: The Sword and the Dragon. I’m a sucker for the Russo-Finnish episodes, and this one shines as a Season 6 favorite. Gloriously wacky movie that stands well without the riffing, but once you throw that riffing in over all the adventure and weirdness? Classic. Bonus points for the inspired lunacy of the Ingmar Bergman sketch, Kevin Murphy dropping by as Ilya, and Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Pehl doing their thing as the neighbors from Deep 12.
Season 7: The Incredible Melting Man. The most viscerally difficult episode to watch in the MST3K canon? Perhaps. But with riffing this extraordinary at the expense of the gratuitous makeup effects, lemon-thieving oldsters, and Doctor Ted Nelson, you can’t go wrong.
Season 8: Jack Frost. My favorite episode of them all. The movie is exuberantly zany, colorful, and enjoyable, the characters come across as memorable and distinct, the riffing has never been sharper, and I get a kick out of the Observer/Bobo character development. Just a total joy to watch.
Season 9: The Final Sacrifice. One of those perfect episodes that never wavers in quality no matter how many times you see it. Rowsdower, Troy, Pipper, Satoris - all the riffs about them and the hilariously hokey movie in which they’re trapped is comedy gold, and it’s something awesome that we could witness that.
Season 10: Squirm. A monster movie with ridiculous monsters? It all works, and it’s all good here, not to mention the jokes that we get out of our leading trio. Of course, it boasts an MST3K high point in the superbly mocked short, A Case of Spring Fever. That we get the Castle Forrester Fair, crispy worm experiments, and Servo’s extreme Southern Belle-ness is only icing on a very delicious cake.
Season 11: Wizards of the Lost Kingdom I. Much has been said about how stellar Cry Wilderness is, and I don’t disagree. But for me, I gotta give it up for this screamingly insane movie and how the gang sends up the ineffective Simon, the drink-happy Kor, Shurka and his Crabby hat, and whatever’s going on with Gulfax. I’m also partial to the host segments that give us Jonah and the Bots’s musings on Kor’s conqueror status, the “Magic Inside of You” musical number (complete with zombie Crows), and fan mail!
Season 12: Mac & Me. I loved this one right from the word “go.” The other episodes in Season 12 were pretty damn good, but the jokes throughout this E.T. ripoff were sublime and superlative. The Yakety Sax moment? Absolutely terrific, and there’s so much great stuff all throughout. I’d even go so far as to put this above the excellent Pod People in terms of enjoyability. Throw in the McDonah birthday party from hell, and it’s an instant classic.