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100 best 'SNL' episodes

100 best 'SNL' episodes

“Saturday Night Live” is the benchmark of sketch TV. The show, which has been on the air for more than four decades, pairs a celebrity host with a rotating cast of comedians performing live and taped sketches, and also features a musical performance. It has become an inescapable part of the cultural conversation. “SNL” has brought humor to countless elections, has poked fun at pop culture trends, has been subject to major controversies, and has created some of the most indelible TV moments of all time.

"SNL" has also kept up with the times. After a brief hiatus due to COVID-19, the show resumed with a "quarantine version" in mid-April 2020. These broadcasts function as live shows via Zoom with cast members calling in and running skits remotely. That first episode back was hosted by Tom Hanks and featured musical guest Chris Martin of Coldplay.

Viewers have the show to thank for classic movies like “The Blues Brothers,” “Coneheads,” and “Wayne’s World,” all of which were based on “SNL” sketches. Some of the most well-known comedians of the past 40-plus years (Tina Fey, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, and Dan Aykroyd, to name a few) jump-started their careers as writers and actors on “SNL.” It’s also been known to make or break political careers. Never one to shy away from poking fun at politicians on both sides of the aisle, “SNL” boasts a long history of impressions that shaped how Americans perceive candidates and elected officials. Gerald Ford’s allies even concede that Chevy Chase’s famous impersonation of the president may have influenced his narrow loss in the 1976 election.

With all this history, curating a list of the best “Saturday Night Live” episodes is a nearly impossible task; in truth, it comes down to a matter of taste. Stacker has compiled the top 100 episodes as rated by IMDb users. Only episodes with 50 or more votes were counted, and in the case of ties, the episode with the most votes was ranked higher. The end result is an eclectic collection of episodes from every era of the show's history and a reminder of why “SNL” remains an essential viewing after all this time.

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#100. Season 33, Episode 7 - Amy Adams/Vampire Weekend

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 111
- Air date: March 8, 2008

Andy Samberg's digital shorts were still fresh in 2008, as he proved with a music video that found him channeling his inner Batman. Meanwhile, Amy Poehler continued to hone her Hillary Clinton skills as she introduced an attack campaign ad against Barack Obama.

#99. Season 34, Episode 6 - Jon Hamm/Coldplay

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 118
- Air date: Oct. 25, 2008

Famously, Amy Poehler had to miss this episode because she went into labor on Saturday night. She still managed to make an appearance thanks to a pre-taped segment featuring host Jon Hamm.

#98. Season 34, Episode 5 - Josh Brolin/Adele

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 128
- Air date: Oct. 18, 2008

It's not easy to overshadow Adele, but the real-life Sarah Palin came close during her guest appearance. After several episodes of parodying the politician, the show invited her onto the show to defend her honor; Palin put forth an objectively fearless performance.

#97. Season 38, Episode 19 - Zach Galifianakis/Of Monsters and Men

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 145
- Air date: May 4, 2013

“Game of Thrones” hadn't wavered in popularity since it premiered, and for proof, look back to 2013 when a surprise guest appearance from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau made this “SNL” episode one to remember. AV Club writer David Sims called this episode the best of a “weak season,” attributing much of the standout nature to the episode’s skilled host, Zach Galifianakis.

#96. Season 38, Episode 21 - Ben Affleck/Kanye West

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 149
- Air date: May 18, 2013

This finale episode saw the departure of two "SNL" greats: Bill Hader and Fred Armisen. Their final official episode as cast members was bittersweet, as it offered Hader's classic character Stefon the opportunity to have one more well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

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#95. Season 37, Episode 6 - Emma Stone/Coldplay

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 171
- Air date: Nov. 12, 2011

“SNL” is arguably at its best when it's skewering politics, as this episode’s take on the Republican presidential debate brilliantly demonstrated. Additionally, Emma Stone more than held her own in an episode where she took on everything from a Spider-Man kiss to a nightmare guest at a bridal shower.

#94. Season 37, Episode 18 - Sofía Vergara/One Direction

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 172
- Air date: April 7, 2012

Airing at the height of One Direction's popularity and during an election year, this episode had something for a wide variety of viewers. In between skits about Mitt Romney and a show-stopping boy band set, Sofia Vergara served up a memorable, but random, Fran Drescher impression.

#93. Season 39, Episode 19 - Andrew Garfield/Coldplay

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 183
- Air date: May 3, 2014

Coldplay's fifth appearance coincided with Andrew Garfield's first time hosting, and included a cameo from Garfield’s “Spider-Man” co-star and girlfriend Emma Stone. Garfield happily poked fun at his web-slinging character's history with life-saving kisses.

#92. Season 38, Episode 7 - Anne Hathaway/Rihanna

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 187
- Air date: Nov. 10, 2012

As the 2012 election cycle came to an end, Jason Sudeikis stepped into Mitt Romney's shoes one last time as the politician drowned his sorrows in a wholesome glass of milk. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway appeared in a buzzy “Homeland” sketch that poked fun at Claire Danes' cry face.

#91. Season 38, Episode 6 - Louis C.K./Fun

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 206
- Air date: Nov. 3, 2012

In addition to a memorable sketch portraying “Fox and Friends,” Louis C.K. also played Abraham Lincoln in a segment titled, “Lincoln,” meant to parody his eponymous television show, “Louis.” Fun performed their hits, “Some Nights” and “Carry On.”

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#90. Season 39, Episode 7 - Josh Hutcherson/HAIM

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 211
- Air date: Nov. 23, 2013

Josh Hutcherson's episode came early in a season that introduced several new cast members including Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, and Mike O’Brien. The episode allowed all of them to showcase their talents, especially Bennett, who earned much praise from his excellent "Baby Boss" sketch.

#89. Season 40, Episode 9 - Martin Freeman/Charli XCX

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 217
- Air date: Dec. 13, 2014

From Taran Killam's take on Charlie Rose to Martin Freeman and Leslie Jones' doomed couple sketch, this holiday episode stands out as an absolute classic. Other memorable sketches include Freeman’s “Hobbit” / ”Office” mashup and Killam's version of “a comically robotic Alan Rickman.”

#88. Season 41, Episode 3 - Tracy Morgan/Demi Lovato

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 227
- Air date: Oct. 17, 2015

This episode marked Tracy Morgan's first appearance on “SNL” since his tragic car accident in 2014. He came on and delivered the classic jokes his fans have come to expect, while also reminding viewers that “SNL” is capable of poignancy, too.

#87. Season 39, Episode 1 - Tina Fey/Arcade Fire

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 233
- Air date: Sept. 28, 2013

With health care on everyone's minds, it was no surprise that the topic fueled much of the political material touched upon in the season 39 premiere. The material was given an extra boost thanks to several guest appearances by “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul.

#86. Season 1, Episode 1 - George Carlin/Billy Preston/Janis Ian

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 322
- Air date: Oct. 11, 1975

The first ever episode of “SNL” had to have nothing short of a legend as the host. George Carlin performed monologues throughout the inaugural outing as original cast member, as Chevy Chase, Garrett Morris, Dan Aykroyd, and Gilda Radner ushered in one of TV's most influential shows.

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#85. Season 42, Episode 2 - Lin-Manuel Miranda/Twenty One Pilots

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 351
- Air date: Oct. 8, 2016

"SNL" played on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s playwright background for an outrageous sketch called “Crucible Cast Party.” The highlight may have been the “Stranger Things” parody, however, in which the “Hamilton” creator plays Dustin.

#84. Season 42, Episode 1 - Margot Robbie/The Weeknd

- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 374
- Air date: Oct. 1, 2016

Season 42 kicked things off with two new head writers—Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider—and a hysterical faux presidential debate between Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump and Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton. It's amazing to think that the skit was so good that it overshadowed a superstar duo in "The Wolf of Wall Street" star Margot Robbie and R&B sensation The Weeknd.

#83. Season 4, Episode 7 - Walter Matthau

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 51
- Air date: Dec. 2, 1978

The late actor and comedian Walter Matthau hosted the December 1978 episode without a musical guest. The ensemble cast picked a soft-drink war at a Greek restaurant, and in lieu of the typical band appearance, Garrett Morris performed Mozart at Matthau’s request.

#82. Season 5, Episode 1 - Steve Martin/Blondie

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 65
- Air date: Oct. 13, 1979

At the “Weekend Update” desk, Jane Curtin and Bill Murray took on the headlines of the day, including the announcement of the 1980 Republican nominees and a visit to America from Fidel Castro. Steve Martin and Murray also play two tourists who wander onto the set of a TV show, shocked and confused by the studio audience.

#81. Season 3, Episode 15 - Christopher Lee/Meat Loaf

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 68
- Air date: March 25, 1978

The late Christopher Lee, famous for playing Count Dracula in a series of films from the 1950s–1970s and most recently Saruman in “The Lord of the Rings,” hosted the 1978 show when Dan Aykroyd was still writing and John Belushi still acting. Meat Loaf performed the hit, “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

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#80. Season 2, Episode 5 - Steve Martin/Kinky Friedman

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 79
- Air date: Oct. 23, 1976

Steve Martin worked alongside the likes of Chevy Chase and Jane Curtin in this episode, which included Chase failing to endorse milk and the Yankees attempting to get over losing the World Series. Musical guest Kinky Friedman gave a performance of "Dear Abby." 

#79. Season 33, Episode 11 - Shia LaBeouf/My Morning Jacket

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 99
- Air date: May 10, 2008

With the Democratic primaries on the horizon, Amy Poehler's Hillary Clinton promises she will be a sore loser if she doesn't win the nomination in a sketch that allowed Poehler the chance to fully transform herself into the powerful politician. Later in the episode, Poehler also plays a mother trying to make her masculine daughter, played by Shia LaBeouf, more stylish.

#78. Season 32, Episode 5 - Alec Baldwin/Christina Aguilera

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 103
- Air date: Nov. 11, 2006

In 2006, “SNL” had assembled one of its strongest casts ever, thanks to a lineup that included Andy Samberg, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Seth Meyers, and Bill Hader. This particular episode included Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan guest-starring in Alec Baldwin's monologue.

#77. Season 33, Episode 12 - Steve Carell/Usher

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 108
- Air date: May 17, 2008

Any episode featuring Steve Carell as the host is bound to a standout, but this episode got an extra boost from Sen. John McCain. At the time, he was on the presidential campaign trail, though he made time to stop by “SNL” to make fun of himself in not one, but two sketches.

#76. Season 2, Episode 8 - Paul Simon/George Harrison

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 108
- Air date: Nov. 20, 1976

The great George Harrison was the evening's musical guest, but he also proved to be a scene-stealer. Early in the show, he tried to convince Lorne Michaels to give him $3,000 for a previous appearance by The Beatles.

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#75. Season 1, Episode 10 - Buck Henry/Bill Withers, Toni Basil

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 111
- Air date: Jan. 17, 1976

In the first Halloween episode, Buck Henry suffered an injury during a scene with John Belushi that forced him to wear a bandage on his head for the rest of the episode. His injury inspired the entire cast to don bandages as the episode progressed in a bit of brilliant improvisational humor.

#74. Season 33, Episode 9 - Christopher Walken/Panic! at the Disco

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 119
- Air date: April 5, 2008

Christopher Walken, who is famous for needing “more cowbell,” returned to the show as host for the seventh time. Throughout the episode, he stars in a Walken family reunion, plays a man terrified of plants unless they have googly eyes attached to them, and plays an unskilled competitor on a cooking reality show.

#73. Season 34, Episode 8 - Paul Rudd/Beyoncé

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 140
- Air date: Nov. 15, 2008

This episode saw the debut of new cast members Abby Elliott and Michaela Watkins. However, having Beyoncé as a musical guest and the comedic Paul Rudd as a guest truly helped make this episode sing.

#72. Season 34, Episode 4 - Anne Hathaway/The Killers

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 149
- Air date: Oct. 4, 2008

Though Anne Hathaway gave a masterful performance as with most things she's ever been a part of, the Killers absolutely stole the show with this one. They gave masterful performances of both "Human" and "Spaceman" off of their third album "Day & Age."

#71. Season 37, Episode 14 - Zooey Deschanel/Karmin

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 175
- Air date: Feb. 11, 2012

Despite having sketches that discussed both the Superbowl and the presidential election, the real standout sketches from this episode all involved Bill Hader playing Clint Eastwood. The three fake ads were pitch-perfect and made for classic “SNL” sketches.

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#70. Season 38, Episode 5 - Bruno Mars

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 192
- Air date: Oct. 20, 2012

While Bruno Mars was upfront about not being a comedian, he more than delivered during the night's several musical sketches. It's Tom Hanks that really stood out as an undecided voter during the episode's cold open debate between Barack Obama, played by Jay Pharoah, and Mitt Romney, played by Jason Sudeikis.

#69. Season 39, Episode 17 - Anna Kendrick/Pharrell Williams

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 193
- Air date: April 5, 2014

In an episode overflowing with musical numbers, the fizzy joy of modern-day “SNL” was on full display, and yet it's Kate McKinnon's performance as the powerful German Chancellor Angela Merkel that made headlines.

#68. Season 41, Episode 21 - Fred Armisen/Courtney Barnett

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 200
- Air date: May 21, 2016

Former cast member Fred Armisen returned to host the 21st season finale. He was joined by another alum, Andy Samberg, who produced a brand new digital short for the outing. The “Farewell Mr. Bunting” sketch, which is described as having a “Pythonesque” quality, gave one reviewer the “biggest, most thoroughly earned laugh” the show had prompted in years.

#67. Season 39, Episode 5 - Kerry Washington/Eminem

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 205
- Air date: Nov. 2, 2013

In 2013, the show was facing criticism for a lack of diversity in the cast—namely that it had no Black female cast member. In the opening monologue, the show answered the criticism by having host Kerry Washington play numerous famous black women who worked in media.

#66. Season 40, Episode 4 - Jim Carrey/Iggy Azalea

- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 316
- Air date: Oct. 25, 2014

Jim Carrey went for broke in a Halloween outing during which he parodied Matthew McConaughey's intense car commercials and dressed up as Sia in a nude leotard for a costume contest. A particularly strange, but delightful scene was Carrey and Kate McKinnon in a “Chandelier”-inspired dance-off.

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#65. Season 3, Episode 8 - Miskel Spillman/Elvis Costello

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 55
- Air date: Dec. 17, 1977

One sketch—or maybe not a sketch—involved Belushi and Miskel Spillman having smoked one of the former’s joints prior to the latter’s opening monologue. Spillman also plays an 80-year-old girlfriend of a college student, meeting his parents, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions played “Watching the Detectives” and “Radio, Radio.”

#64. Season 12, Episode 1 - Sigourney Weaver/Buster Poindexter

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 58
- Air date: Oct. 11, 1986

The premiere of season 12 followed a disastrous, nearly show-ending season 11, driving “SNL” into “a new golden age.” This season’s cast included first-timers that would eventually become long-standing members, including Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, and Kevin Nealon.

#63. Season 3, Episode 9 - Steve Martin/Randy Newman, Dirt Band

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 63
- Air date: Jan. 21, 1978

Any episode that featured both an appearance from the Coneheads and an expert parody of President Jimmy Carter's State of the Union address was sure to be a winner. Steve Martin’s monologue was all over the place, and included electrocuting himself, accusing John Belushi of stealing $59 from him, and offering financial tips to the audience.

#62. Season 3, Episode 10 - Robert Klein/Bonnie Raitt

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 66
- Air date: Jan. 28, 1978

Monster lobsters, anyone? By 1978, “SNL” had perfected the art of balancing absurd sketches with sharp takes on the news. Having Bill Murray on hand as the “X-Police” added an extra layer of excitement to this outing.

#61. Season 4, Episode 8 - Eric Idle/Kate Bush

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 75
- Air date: Dec. 9, 1978

Influential singer Kate Bush made her stateside television debut on “SNL” in 1978. Her live performances of "The Man With the Child in His Eyes” and "Them Heavy People" marked her arrival in the American music market.

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#60. Season 2, Episode 3 - Eric Idle/Joe Cocker/Stuff

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 86
- Air date: Oct. 2, 1976

The season two cast included Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and Gilda Radner. Adding Eric Idle to the mix just feels like an embarrassment of riches. In one of many memorable moments, Aykroyd and Idle dress up in drag and begin "drag racing"—running around the studio while wearing dresses.

#59. Season 37, Episode 21 - Will Ferrell/Usher

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 128
- Air date: May 12, 2012

In the season 37 finale, Will Ferrell brought back his timeless take on George W. Bush during a cold open scene that found him attempting to cheer up Joe Biden. This was the last episode for several of the core cast members at the time.

#58. Season 38, Episode 10 - Martin Short/Paul McCartney

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 178
- Air date: Dec. 15, 2012

This episode aired shortly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, during a time when America didn't feel like laughing. Rather than lean too heavily into politics, “SNL” went for a feel-good atmosphere instead with the warm and familiar comedy of host Martin Short.

#57. Season 45, Episode 7 - Will Ferrell/King Princess

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 208
- Air date: Nov. 23, 2019

This past November, former cast member Will Ferrell brought along several heavyweight friends (Alec Baldwin, Ryan Reynolds, Larry David, and Maya Rudolph to name a few), and nearly every sketch was resoundingly successful. In one, Ferrell and Kate McKinnon are parents in a take on a pizza ad, and in another Ferrell tries to sell us on “Heinz Relax,” a solution to ketchup fart sounds.

#56. Season 39, Episode 6 - Lady Gaga

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 228
- Air date: Nov. 16, 2013

Serving dually as the host and musical guest, Lady Gaga showed the world her sense of humor. In various sketches, she played an older version of herself, and slyly nodded to her unique fashion sense.

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#55. Season 41, Episode 9 - Tina Fey & Amy Poehler/Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 290
- Air date: Dec. 19, 2015

In this holiday special, "SNL" queens Tina Fey and Amy Poehler took on hosting duties and gave a masterclass in how guest hosts can elevate an episode. Paste Magazine reviewer Chris White called the “Meet Your Second Wife” sketch, which was a satirical game show with Fey and Poehler as hosts, the best of the season.

#54. Season 5, Episode 2 - Eric Idle/Bob Dylan

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 50
- Air date: Oct. 20, 1979

Two absolute legends headlined the second episode of the show’s fifth season: Monty Python great Eric Idle and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who performed three songs. Mix a British comedy troupe’s lead and the likes of Billy Murray and you have a hit—even after the departures of Aykroyd and Belushi following the previous season.

#53. Season 20, Episode 20 - David Duchovny/Rod Stewart

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 54
- Air date: May 13, 1995

In the popular May 1995 show, first-time host David Duchovny—at the height of “The X-Files” fame—joined a cast of Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and Kevin Nealon for sketches like “Rock and Roll Real Estate Agent” and “The Beastman of Studio 8-H.” Rod Stewart played “Maggie May” for the icing on the cake.

#52. Season 20, Episode 3 - John Travolta/Seal

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 54
- Air date: Oct. 15, 1994

In 1994, “SNL” had a cast full of future big names, including Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, and Janeane Garofalo. John Travolta joined them as his big-screen hit “Pulp Fiction” was rapidly becoming a cult classic.

#51. Season 2, Episode 23 - Buck Henry/Jennifer Warnes/Kenny Vance

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 56
- Air date: May 21, 1977

Buck Henry frequently hosted the final episode of each season in the 1970s, and to close out the second run, the “Graduate” screenwriter played Charles Lindbergh in one sketch. In another, Bill Murray interviews his wife and her secret lover (Henry) from the shower.

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#50. Season 17, Episode 14 - Roseanne & Tom Arnold/Red Hot Chili Peppers

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 65
- Air date: Feb. 22, 1992

During the "Coffee Talk" sketch, Roseanne Barr, Madonna, and Mike Myers are all raving about Barbra Streisand. What none of them know is that Streisand is actually in the studio, and their genuine shock when she appears remains a terrific moment.

#49. Season 17, Episode 6 - Linda Hamilton/Mariah Carey

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 65
- Air date: Nov. 16, 1991

There was never any doubt that Linda Hamilton would do a “Terminator” sketch while hosting “SNL,” but doing one about Toonces the puppet cat as the “Tooncinator” was not likely what people were expecting. Mariah Carey makes another appearance as the musical guest, performing two songs from her album released earlier in the year.

#48. Season 32, Episode 19 - Molly Shannon/Linkin Park

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 69
- Air date: May 12, 2007

Molly Shannon is another “SNL” alum who returned to serve as host, and in her monologue, she has a flashback to the ‘90s when she was crushing on Lorne Michaels. Her turn to guest occurred right at the kickoff of the presidential race season, leading to the episode including a debate sketch featuring lesser known presidential hopefuls. Shannon also plays a wannabe stripper at “The Soprano’s” Bada-Bing strip club.

#47. Season 32, Episode 10 - Jake Gyllenhaal/The Shins

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 118
- Air date: Jan. 13, 2007

Long before Donald Trump was president, “SNL” was already finding humor in the man, as illustrated in this episode where an entire skit is built around his need to hold a press conference to bash Rosie O'Donnell. Jake Gyllenhaal dresses in drag and does a rendition of a “Dreamgirls” song for his “Brokeback Mountain” fans.

#46. Season 33, Episode 5 - Tina Fey/Carrie Underwood

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 128
- Air date: Feb. 23, 2008

Tina Fey returned to “SNL” and joined Amy Poehler at the “Weekend Update” desk for one of the most iconic moments from the show in recent memory. While discussing Hillary Clinton, Fey busted the famous line, "B*****s get stuff done."

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#45. Season 31, Episode 13 - Natalie Portman/Fall Out Boy

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 136
- Air date: March 4, 2006

The cold open wasted no time in addressing Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident, by having Will Forte's President George W. Bush brief the nation. The episode also featured the digital short “Natalie Raps,” in which Natalie Portman answers Chris Parnell’s interview with a shockingly aggressive and uncharacteristic rap.

#44. Season 34, Episode 22 - Will Ferrell/Green Day

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 141
- Air date: May 16, 2009

Will Ferrell returned for a second time hosting after his tenure as a cast member had ended. His appearance was somewhat bittersweet as it coincided with the final episode for Darrell Hammond, Michaela Watkins, and Casey Wilson.

#43. Season 35, Episode 16 - Zach Galifianakis/Vampire Weekend

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 153
- Air date: March 6, 2010

Zach Galifianakis made his hosting debut in an episode where he also starred in the digital short "Zach Drops By the Set." Media reviewers weren’t over the moon about this episode, but seem to agree that Galifianakis killed it in his monologue.

#42. Season 37, Episode 22 - Mick Jagger

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 171
- Air date: May 19, 2012

Kristen Wiig, who was one of the MVPs of the modern “SNL” era, signed off in the episode that was hosted by musical guest Mick Jagger. Even classic cast member Steve Martin made a special appearance in honor of Wiig's last appearance as a member of the show's cast.

#41. Season 41, Episode 7 - Ryan Gosling/Leon Bridges

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 270
- Air date: Dec. 5, 2015

Ryan Gosling makes his hosting debut with a number of notable sketches, including an alien abduction scene starring Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, and Bobby Moynihan—who all struggle to conceal their own laughter. However, a particularly memorable performance by Gosling in this episode is his role as a Santa-obsessed holiday party-goer.

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#40. Season 38, Episode 1 - Seth MacFarlane/Frank Ocean

- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 280
- Air date: Sept. 15, 2012

Jay Pharoah officially took over the role of President Obama from Fred Armisen in this premiere episode—news of which was leaked to the press by Lorne Michaels the week before. Seth MacFarlane “effortlessly” transformed into swimmer Ryan Lochte as a guest on “Weekend Update.”

#39. Season 17, Episode 17 - Sharon Stone/Pearl Jam

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 52
- Air date: April 11, 1992

Memorable sketches from Sharon Stone's 1992 episode include “Airport Security Check” and “The Porno Couple,” in which Stone’s husband confesses to acting in adult films—not just regular films—and she admits she is a “porn scientist.” Pearl Jam brought the house down with “Alive” and “Porch.”

#38. Season 18, Episode 14 - Bill Murray/Sting

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 53
- Air date: Feb. 20, 1993

The former cast regular returned to host this post-Valentine’s episode. In “Coffee Talk,” Mike Myers is talk show host Linda Richman, who interviews apartment 4C neighbor Claude Kaufman (Bill Murray), whom she’d just met in the laundry room. Kaufman is a casting agent for television testimonials.

#37. Season 4, Episode 20 - Buck Henry/Bette Midler

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 54
- Air date: May 26, 1979

Henry returned to host the final episode of cast regulars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Aykroyd portrays Richard Nixon in an attempt to justify the Watergate scandal.

#36. Season 17, Episode 9 - Steve Martin/James Taylor

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 55
- Air date: Dec. 1991

Steve Martin, who appeared in nearly 30 episodes and hosted over a dozen times, hysterically plays cat-owning Grandma Pugga who meets the girlfriend of Tim (Chris Farley). A star-studded duo (Rob Schneider, Kevin Nealon) shines as “The Doormen,” who tend to their NYC residents and discuss preferable undergarments and hospital gowns’ ideal airflow.

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#35. Season 16, Episode 4 - Patrick Swayze/Mariah Carey

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 71
- Air date: Oct. 27, 1990

Rob Schneider made his “SNL” debut while Patrick Swayze starred in a skit about a second “Ghost” movie and auditioned to be a Chippendales dancer alongside Chris Farley. This was also Mariah Carey’s first time appearing on the show, and it came shortly after releasing her self-titled studio album—the beginning of her superstardom.

#34. Season 2, Episode 15 - Steve Martin/The Kinks

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 77
- Air date: Feb. 26, 1977

Repeat host Steve Martin continued to deliver the goods in this 1977 episode that continued to pave the way for an eventual “Coneheads” movie. The episode also had Gilda Radner as Jackie Onassis in a weightlifting match with a Russian champion.

#33. Season 2, Episode 10 - Candice Bergen/Frank Zappa

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 77
- Air date: Dec. 11, 1976

The pairing of Candice Bergen and John Belushi always led to good things in the show's early history, and this episode was no different. From their “Casablanca” skit to the wonderful silliness of "Adopt Belushi For Christmas," the comedic pairing nailed every sketch they put on together.

#32. Season 1, Episode 22 - Elliott Gould/Leon Redbone, Harlan Collins & Joyce Everson

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 81
- Air date: May 29, 1976

In a 12-minute sketch that remains the gold standard of "SNL" comedy, the show lovingly skewered the endlessly hopeful “Star Trek” with "The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise." Earlier in the episode, Dan Aykroyd plays a character that is taken advantage of by Chevy Chase’s character—and his interpreter—in a poker game.

#31. Season 25, Episode 16 - Christopher Walken/Christina Aguilera

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 92
- Air date: April 8, 2000

In 2000, the “SNL” cast included Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, and Tracy Morgan—and joining those heavy hitters for the week was Christopher Walken. He took on a number of classic characters, but perhaps none quite as well-done as Fidel Castro. This is also the episode where Walken has "gotta have more cowbell" from the band. 

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#30. Season 4, Episode 6 - Carrie Fisher/The Blues Brothers

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 96
- Air date: Nov. 18, 1978

As “Star Wars” was slowly taking over pop culture, a young Carrie Fisher showed flashes of the comic brilliance that would later define her career. She delivered the opening monologue in full Princess Leia gear, because who would recognize her otherwise, she mused.

#29. Season 1, Episode 19 - Madeline Kahn/Carly Simon

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 100
- Air date: May 8, 1976

The two biggest standouts in Madeline Kahn's episode came in the form of two completely different sketches. "Final Days" is “SNL” political commentary at its sharpest, while "Slumber Party" is an intimately funny ode to learning about the birds and the bees.

#28. Season 32, Episode 16 - Peyton Manning/Carrie Underwood

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 157
- Air date: March 24, 2007

“SNL” hosts from the world of sports are a rarity, but Peyton Manning delivered a serviceable performance in an episode that may have brought a few new eyes to the aging series. At one point in the episode, Manning plays an actor for the film “300,” in which he butts heads with the director because he doesn’t want to murder his co-star.

#27. Season 39, Episode 21 - Andy Samberg/St. Vincent

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 205
- Air date: May 17, 2014

Former regular Andy Samberg closed out the 39th season in outrageous fashion, starring in an ad for “Testicules,” a men’s perfume for “down there.” He’d also recorded a memorable digital short (“Hugs”) with Lonely Island and Pharrell to rap-explain to their female love interests they’re not “an item” just because they gave them hugs.

#26. Season 41, Episode 15 - Ariana Grande

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 281
- Air date: March 12, 2016

Ariana Grande, who's best known as a pop singer, surprised audiences by proving to be a funny host with a knack for impersonations—including ones of Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, and Shakira. Time writer Daniel D'Addario wrote, “Grande had never before had the occasion to reveal that she could do so much more than hit the right notes.”

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#25. Season 43, Episode 21 - Donald Glover/Childish Gambino

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 358
- Air date: May 5, 2018

Not only did Donald Glover blow fans away as a host, he also debuted his new single "This is America." The powerful anthem with messages about gun violence, consumerism, and Black America proved to be one of the most prominent songs of the year.

#24. Season 42, Episode 6 - Dave Chappelle/A Tribe Called Quest

- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 489
- Air date: Nov. 12, 2016

In what was clearly a long overdue arrival, Dave Chappelle made his “SNL” debut in 2016. In the same episode, the famed rap group A Tribe Called Quest debuted their new song "We the People."

#23. Season 12, Episode 8 - William Shatner/Lone Justice

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 55
- Air date: Dec. 20, 1986

William Shatner stepped on a few toes in his opening monologue when he discussed attending his first “Star Trek” convention, and then told Trekkies that they needed to get a life. His statement aside, the actor went on to parody the classic intergalactic series in the episode.

#22. Season 3, Episode 5 - Ray Charles

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 62
- Air date: Nov. 12, 1977

Ray Charles was one of the first musicians to pull double-duty as the host and musical guest, and he set the bar high. Not only were his musical segments among the show's very best, he also played up his comedic talents in sketches such as "The Young Caucasians."

#21. Season 4, Episode 4 - Steve Martin/Van Morrison

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 64
- Air date: Nov. 4, 1978

Dan Aykroyd continued to set the standard for presidential portrayals as Jimmy Carter. In the episode's early moments, he gives an impassioned speech about why inflation might not be so bad.

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#20. Season 40, Episode 16 - Dwayne Johnson/George Ezra

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 213
- Air date: March 28, 2015

Dwayne Johnson introduced yet another iteration of President Obama—The Rock Obama, a Hulk-ish version of the former president that no one wants to get angry. AV Club reviewer Dennis Perkins called Johnson’s fourth time hosting and specifically his restaurant sketch the “brightest hosting moment” in a future “Best Of Dwayne Johnson” program.

#19. Season 43, Episode 18 - Bill Hader/Arcade Fire

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 293
- Air date: March 17, 2018

Bill Hader returned for his second time hosting, and he brought along a friend: Fred Armisen. Together, these two alums added a bit of old school fun to the latest season, with Hader performing multiple impressions in a “Jurassic Park” audition sketch, including the likes of Alan Alda, Al Pacino, and Clint Eastwood.

#18. Season 42, Episode 4 - Tom Hanks/Lady Gaga

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 402
- Air date: Oct. 22, 2016

What could have been a standard Halloween episode became legendary thanks to one perfect sketch. In his ninth turn hosting, Tom Hanks starred as David Simon Pumpkins, sparking an internet obsession. 

#17. Season 42, Episode 13 - Kristen Stewart/Alessia Cara

- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Votes: 408
- Air date: Feb. 4, 2017

Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer arrives on the scene in all of his glory, becoming a recurring political sketch. The same episode also included a surprising turn with Alec Baldwin taking on the role of President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

#16. Season 37, Episode 15 - Maya Rudolph/Sleigh Bells

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 186
- Air date: Feb. 18, 2012

Maya Rudolph returned to her old stomping ground to remind everyone what the show was missing without her, and in the process, she starred in "Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Laughs," a sketch that displayed her talents to the absolute fullest. The monologue Rudolph opened with for her first time hosting “SNL” highlighted her stage presence with a performance of “Do Ya Wanna Funk?”

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#15. Season 34, Episode 21 - Justin Timberlake/Ciara

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 194
- Air date: May 9, 2009

Justin Timberlake is a perennial favorite on “SNL,” and for good reason—the former boy band heartthrob displays his comedic skills once again when he teams up with Kristen Wiig for a "Target Lady" sketch. Timberlake also performed “Love Sex Magic” with musical guest Ciara.

#14. Season 41, Episode 12 - Larry David/The 1975

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 274
- Air date: Feb. 6, 2016

It seems baffling that Larry David didn't make his guest host debut until 2016, but the comic did not disappoint. His take on Bernie Sanders is particularly memorable, one reviewer even saying David took it “beyond impersonation…into something of a whimsical caricature.”

#13. Season 44, Episode 14 - John Mulaney/Thomas Rhett

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 300
- Air date: March 2, 2019

Former show writer John Mulaney’s return meant a heavyweight cameo lineup, as Ben Stiller plays Michael Cohen in the cold open, and Bill Hader hosts game show “What’s that Name?” (in which Mulaney and Cecily Strong let down their closest friends). Later, Mulaney, Strong, Pete Davidson, and Kate McKinnon are lawyers on the legal edition of “Shark Tank,” where celebrities make their case to find help.

#12. Season 40, Episode 3 - Bill Hader/Hozier

- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 317
- Air date: Oct. 11, 2014

Bill Hader brought back a number of his classic characters for this hosting gig, and, yes, that includes the infamous Stefon. He also offers a new impression of a heartbroken Cat in the Hat in a sitcom-style sketch with Cecily Strong as Linda, his lost love.

#11. Season 21, Episode 20 - Jim Carrey/Soundgarden

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 150
- Air date: May 18, 1996

In this 1996 episode, “SNL” saw another major cast turnover—this marked the final episode for David Spade, David Koechner, and Nancy Walls. In this episode, Jim Carrey plays an unusual spaceman in his monologue, and later an overprotective lifeguard watching out for Will Ferrell’s character, who is in an indoor whirlpool bath.

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#10. Season 44, Episode 19 - Adam Sandler/Shawn Mendes

- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 336
- Air date: May 4, 2019

Former regular Adam Sandler kicked off the show with a song titled, “I Was fired,” in response to his daughter wondering why he left the show if it was the “time of his life.” Later, he plays Joe Romano of “Romano Tours,” a quirky guide whose family has for generations provided tours of Italy to people from all over the world—”but mostly Long Island and Jersey.”

#9. Season 36, Episode 22 - Justin Timberlake/Lady Gaga

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 256
- Air date: May 21, 2011

Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, and Andy Samberg teamed up to perform a new Lonely Island song "3-way," in which Patricia Clarkson and Susan Sarandon also appeared. The bawdy number further solidified Timberlake's status as an "SNL" golden boy.

#8. Season 37, Episode 10 - Jimmy Fallon/Michael Bublé

- IMDb user rating: 8.5
- Votes: 261
- Air date: Dec. 17, 2011

Jimmy Fallon's first time hosting "SNL" since his departure as a cast member brought back some major nostalgia as well as guest stars. The list of surprise appearances included Chris Kattan, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jude Law.

#7. Season 3, Episode 18 - Steve Martin/The Blues Brothers

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 110
- Air date: April 22, 1978

In this episode, the iconic duo of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi made their debut as "The Blues Brothers." The pop culture impact of the act truly can't be overstated, and this is where it all began, making it an instant “SNL” classic.

#6. Season 1, Episode 7 - Richard Pryor/Gil Scott-Heron

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 199
- Air date: Dec. 13, 1975

Richard Pryor appeared on “SNL” only once, but his appearance left a lasting impression. Alongside Chevy Chase, he participated in a sketch called "Word Association," in which the two men traded racial slurs that would never make their way onto TV today; the skit remains one of the most shocking and daring stunts the show has ever pulled.

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#5. Season 32, Episode 9 - Justin Timberlake

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 244
- Air date: Dec. 16, 2006

Why is this episode so revered? Because it was part of the show's revitalization that made it relevant in pop culture again, and it's all thanks to the Lonely Island song "D*ck in a Box."

#4. Season 38, Episode 16 - Justin Timberlake

- IMDb user rating: 8.6
- Votes: 303
- Air date: March 9, 2013

This episode marked host and musical guest Justin Timberlake's inauguration into the Five-Timers Club. Timberlake was welcomed in a skit with several other club members, including Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Tom Hanks, Candice Bergen, and Paul Simon (who has actually not hosted five times, but four). Dan Aykroyd made an appearance as the bartender at the club, with Martin Short playing the waiter, once again. 

#3. Season 35, Episode 21 - Betty White/Jay-Z

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Votes: 376
- Air date: May 8, 2010

An internet campaign landed the incredible Betty White a gig hosting “SNL,” and she made the most of every minute. More than that, the episode became an ode to the show's indelible female cast members, past and present, as they one-by-one joined White celebrating her milestone.

#2. Season 39, Episode 10 - Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake

- IMDb user rating: 8.8
- Votes: 455
- Air date: Dec. 21, 2013

Taking second on the list is Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake's bromance-fueled episode. These two have a friendship that translates beautifully to the screen, as they reveal in their pitch-perfect "The Barry Gibb Talk Show" sketch.

#1. Season 45, Episode 10 - Eddie Murphy/Lizzo

- IMDb user rating: 8.9
- Votes: 432
- Air date: Dec. 21, 2019

Earning top honors is the year-end 2019 episode hosted by the legendary Eddie Murphy, whose return brought out the likes of Larry David as Bernie Sanders, Rachel Dratch as Amy Klobuchar, and Fred Armisen as Michael Bloomberg—and that was just the cold open. In “Cut for Time: A Holiday Gig,” bandmates Murphy, Kenan Thompson, and Kyle Mooney cannot stop arguing and interrupting their own show. The cherry on top for the #1 episode: Lizzo performing “Truth Hurts” live from Studio 8H.

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