At first glance, Bob’s Burgers looks like any other adult animated comedy. The Fox series follows the Belcher family in their day-to-day lives as they hustle to keep their burger restaurant in business. The family – parents Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda (John Roberts) and children Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman), and Louise (Kristen Schaal) — lives in the apartment above their restaurant in an unspecified East Coast beach town, where lobster fests and seaside parades dominate the town activities. In each episode, the Belchers deal with a variety of bizarre locals, from precocious classmates to overbearing neighbors, but their most frequent encounters are with their handyman turned best customer, Teddy (Larry Murphy).
Where the show shines is in its characters’ relationships to each other. Despite their constant bickering, the Belchers (and Teddy) genuinely adore each other, even if some of them would rather not admit it. Bob and Linda’s marriage is one of the most low-key romantic pairings on TV, defined most by their companionship and loving, ordinary attempts at keeping the passion alive. The kids are also close, despite being spread out from the fourth to eighth grade, and regularly remind others that only they get to mess with each other. The entire series is laced with affection, and even characters like Teddy — who might otherwise only be the butt of a joke — are treated with compassion. (Though they’re also the butts of plenty of great jokes.)
Although it’s an animated comedy about people who only have four fingers, the show also represents one of the more realistic portrayals of a modern American family. The Belchers often worry about money, whether it’s paying rent somewhat on time, finding a way to afford camp for one of their kids, or simply choosing which section of the shoe store to shop in (“we’re not full-price people,” Linda explains). Bob frequently grapples with the idea of success and whether he can count his restaurant-owning dream as having come true when the family is barely scraping by every month.
The relationships and realism have helped the series develop a unique, passionate fanbase in the 12 seasons that it’s been on air. The Bob’s Burgers Movie, in theaters May 27, promises more of the same. From iconic character introductions to memorable family moments, we’ve rounded up the 20 essential episodes of Bob’s Burgers in honor of the Belchers’ big-screen debut.
Bob’s Burgers is streaming on Hulu.
“Sheesh! Cab, Bob?” (Season 1, Episode 6)
“Sheesh! Cab, Bob?” is one of the only occasions that Bob’s Burgers acknowledges the passage of time, as it centers on Tina turning 13 (her “forever age” in the series). When Tina asks for a co-ed party featuring a DJ and smoke machine, Bob becomes a nighttime cab driver to earn some extra cash. While the episode features some outdated transgender terminology and a few poorly aged jokes, it establishes several of the show’s essential players. Viewers meet Jimmy Pesto (Jay Johnston), Bob’s arch-nemesis and the owner of the Italian restaurant across the street, and Jimmy Pesto Jr. (Benjamin), the No. 1 boy at the top of Tina’s ever-expanding list of crushes. Her biggest birthday wish, to Bob’s chagrin, is to have her first kiss with Jimmy Jr.
“Bob Day Afternoon” (Season 2, Episode 2)
When a robber takes hostages at the bank down the street, Bob’s Burgers becomes the temporary police negotiation headquarters in “Bob Day Afternoon.” Sergeant Bosco (Gary Cole) is at the helm of the operation. In an attempt to drum up some publicity, Bob volunteers the restaurant to deliver meals to the hostages. The robber, Mickey (Bill Hader), takes a liking to Bob and ends up holding him hostage as well. Mickey begins to panic and Bob has to coach him through the robbery.
“Bad Tina” (Season 2, Episode 8)
New girl Tammy (Jenny Slate) proves to be a bad influence on Tina when the latter starts acting out (talking back, using the emergency cell phone for personal use, etc.). The episode serves as an introduction to Tina’s infamous “friend fiction,” the erotic stories she started writing about people at school after realizing she’d already written fan fiction about all of her fictional interests. Tammy gets ahold of one of Tina’s friend fictions and attempts to blackmail her into continuing to be a “bad girl,” but the rest of the Belchers help Tina out.
“Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks” (Season 3, Episode 7)
While there isn’t a bad season of Bob’s Burgers, seasons 3 through 5 are truly the show at its best. Almost every episode is a hit, with “Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks” coming together in a nearly perfect 21 minutes of television. When Bob lets Tina drive the family car in a mostly empty parking lot, she crashes directly into the only other vehicle. Naturally, it turns out to be Jimmy Pesto’s car. Bob opts to lie to the insurance adjuster (Bob Odenkirk) about who was driving, but things quickly spin out of control when the agent attempts to rope them into several other insurance-fraud schemes.
“Broadcast Wagstaff School News” (Season 3, Episode 12)
In “Broadcast Wagstaff School News,” Tina tries out for the school news station but is relegated to “staff intern.” She begrudgingly watches as her teacher, Mr. Grant (Will Forte), and Tammy turn the station into a gossip-centric joke. When she notices that someone is pooping inside of the school, she dubs the unknown assailant the “Mad Pooper” and starts her own gonzo investigation and broadcast with the help of Louise.
“Boyz 4 Now” (Season 3, Episode 21)
When Tina gets concert tickets to Boyz 4 Now, the boy band of the era, Louise tags along. The 9-year-old is less than thrilled to be there (she delivers an excellent, devastating “no wonder no one likes women” line), but she finds herself completely enraptured by the band’s youngest member, Boo Boo (Max Greenfield). The sisters end up sneaking on the tour bus in an effort to get closer to the boys. The episode captures the agony and ecstasy of teen and preteen girlhood, and how (in its best moments) it can be a uniquely bonding experience.
“Turkey in a Can” (Season 4, Episode 5)
Bob’s Burgers has covered pretty much every major holiday at least once in its 12 season run, but nothing compares to the annual Thanksgiving episodes. And of the Thanksgiving episodes, nothing compares to “Turkey in a Can.” The set-up is simple: Thanksgiving-loving Bob gets a bit overexcited about his three-day turkey brine. Unfortunately, every morning, the family finds that someone has put the turkey in the apartment toilet. Everyone points fingers, including Linda’s eccentric sister Gayle (Megan Mullally), and Bob grows increasingly hostile in his attempt to create the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. The highlights of the episode are Bob’s interactions with the deli worker, a flirty man who is convinced that Bob keeps returning to buy turkeys out of romantic interest.
“The Kids Rob a Train” (Season 4, Episode 15)
Wine Train — the boozy local train ride — doesn’t explicitly prohibit children, so Bob and Linda (a big-time wine fan) decide to bring the kids along for their weekend wine-tasting experience. Tina, Gene, and Louise are sent to the de facto kids room, the Juice Caboose. There, they meet up with Rudy (Brian Huskey), a school friend whose recently divorced dad brings him on the train every weekend while he goes on dates. When the kids learn about the ample supply of chocolate in the train’s kitchen, they pull off a complicated robbery while on board. Meanwhile, Bob and Linda go toe-to-toe with a wine snob (Matt Walsh).
“Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl” (Season 5, Episode 1)
A hallmark of Bob’s Burgers is the original music, with a majority of the episodes featuring at least one song, either spontaneously sung by the family movie-musical style or composed by budding musician Gene on his Casio. In “Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl,” the kids’ school announces that they’ll be taking student submissions for the fall musical. Gene believes that it’s his moment to shine with his longtime passion project, Die Hard: The Musical. When Working Girl: The Musical is chosen instead, Louise helps Gene stage a guerilla production in the school’s basement boiler room.
“Eat, Spray, Linda” (Season 5, Episode 18)
Linda is less than thrilled about turning “40-[cough],” so Bob and the kids try to give her a home spa day. A series of unfortunate events leaves her stranded at a faraway grocery store with broken glasses and ripped pants, locked out of the car, and sprayed by a skunk (twice). While Linda spends the day trying to find her way back home, the rest of the Belchers set out in search of her. As they check all of her “usual” spots (the pet store, the bakery she’s banned from, the hotel she likes to poop at), Bob is delighted to learn that she “leads a rich, kind of odd life that I did not know about.” Linda, too, finds pleasure in the day’s challenges and asks that they drop her off in the middle of nowhere for all of her birthdays and leave her to find her way back.
“Housetrap” (Season 5, Episode 19)
Teddy has quietly become one of the most casually devastating characters on TV. He spends much of his life reeling from his divorce and grappling with loneliness, which is why it’s such a pleasure to watch the series-long arc of him slowly becoming the sixth Belcher family member. In “Housetrap,” he finds a connection with Helen (Kaitlin Olson), a wealthy widow whose beach house he looks after. On a particularly busy workday, the Belchers volunteer to help Teddy prepare the house for a storm. When Helen returns home early and the group (including Teddy) ends up rained in overnight, Linda and Louise begin to suspect that Helen was behind her husband’s death. The episode quickly becomes a noir mystery set against the backdrop of a stormy night.
“The Oeder Games” (Season 5, Episode 21)
When Mr. Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) — the exorbitantly wealthy landlord for most of Ocean Avenue — announces a rent hike, Bob convinces his neighbors to go on a rent strike. But when the group arrive at the Fischoeder mansion to share their plan, Mr. Fischoeder makes an unconventional but alluring alternative offer. Rather than a strike, every household can compete in a water-balloon fight on his property. The last person standing gets a discount on their rent, while everyone else’s rent goes up. To Bob’s disgust, the group camaraderie quickly dissolves and it becomes a fight to “death.”
“The Hauntening” (Season 6, Episode 3)
After a couple years of trick-or-treat-focused Halloween episodes, “The Hauntening” comes as a genuine (and even slightly scary) surprise. Louise has always been the hardest member of the family to scare, so Bob and Linda put on a haunted house for the kids in an attempt to give her a real fright. While Louise is initially unimpressed, the nightly quickly takes a turn for the creepy. The episode follows all of the beats of a classic horror story, down to an unexpected final-act twist.
“Glued, Where’s My Bob?” (Season 6, Episode 19)
Bob is ecstatic when a celebrity-chef friend (Kumail Nanjiani) sets up an interview for him with a food journalist for Coasters magazine. But the day quickly falls apart when he ends up glued to the restaurant toilet. Louise, who put the glue on the toilet seat in an attempt to prank Gene, feels tremendously guilty and does everything in her power to help her father get off the toilet. The episode features one of the show’s best original songs, “Bad Stuff Happens in the Bathroom,” a duet between Bob and Louise. The National and Låpsley later released a cover of the song.
“Bob Actually” (Season 7, Episode 9)
Bob has never been great with special occasions. This was established back in the very first episode of the series when he forgot his wedding anniversary. When Linda buys Bob a nice box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, he decides to take ballroom-dance lessons to impress her. Unfortunately, the ballroom teacher is out, so he ends up taking a hip-hop class with Teddy instead. The new teacher is kooky (and probably a spoof of instructor Dena Rizzo), but the final performance delights Linda all the same. Meanwhile, the kids grapple with their own romantic entanglements.
“Something Old, Something New, Something Bob Caters for You” (Season 8, Episode 21)
Spending years at the same job can be a bit like watching a long-running animated comedy. It works — really well — but nothing ever changes, and sometimes you can’t help but wonder if it’s all worth it. This is what plagues Bob’s mind in the season-eight finale, when a young couple (who had their first date at the restaurant) asks the Belchers to cater their wedding. The family agrees, and Bob becomes single-mindedly obsessed with making sure the day goes well in an effort to prove his “job’s not stupid.”
“The Taking of Funtime One Two Three” (Season 9, Episode 2)
Like any beach-town kids, the Belcher children spend a lot of time at the local wharf amusement park and arcade. In “The Taking of Funtime One Two Three,” the trio are hellbent on winning a dune buggy from the Family Funtime arcade. Following the advice of Mr. Fischoeder, Tina, Gene, and Louise plot an elaborate ticket heist with their school friends. The “crime” requires practice, timing, several unique skill sets, and a masterminded plan from Louise.
“Just the Trip” (Season 10, Episode 17)
When the Belcher children lament that they haven’t done anything on spring break, the family decides to join their limo-driving friend, Nat (Jillian Bell), on a road trip to see her ex-girlfriend. They face a variety of hiccups throughout the trip — including a carsick Tina, a disastrous pitstop, and an escaped snake — but the “vacation” ultimately proves to be a success. Linda explains that, despite a lot of the trip being terrible, they need to give the kids “some stuff to remember.”
“Romancing the Beef” (Season 11, Episode 11)
After more than a decade on air and several Valentine’s Day episodes in the bag, it’s always a pleasure when Bob’s Burgers pulls out something new. “Romancing the Beef” turns the Valentine’s plot on its head when the Belchers decide to make the (financial) most of the holiday by turning the burger joint into a fancy restaurant for one night only. They plan to attract couples who forgot to make a reservation, and temporarily find success, until health inspector Hugo (Sam Seder) turns up for a date. Bob and Linda spend the entire night worried that they won’t have time to make their romantic gesture toward each other, but the evening proves to be just the kind of thing that keeps their marriage alive.
“Driving Big Dummy” (Season 12, Episode 4)
Any Bob’s Burgers season worth its salt gives Teddy at least one episode to do his thing. In “Driving Big Dummy,” Teddy takes Bob on a road trip to pick up a new sink for the restaurant (and to make a delivery of his own). As the day goes on, the drive seems never-ending. Teddy keeps adding on additional stops to say “hi” to his acquaintances, from his favorite gas-station workers to a lonely old man. Bob grows frustrated and eventually lashes out at Teddy, but he realizes that Teddy’s ability to connect with everyone is an admirable quality. The episode showcases the fundamentally kindhearted spirit that has driven Bob’s Burgers for the past 12 seasons.