The 13 Best Carlton Episodes Of 'Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air', Hands Down

by Amy Roberts
Warner Bros. Television

At this point in re-watching the show, you've probably already decided what the best Carlton episodes of Fresh Prince Of Bel Air are. You've picked the ones that either focus on the character, frame his development, or feature some of his best scenes. There's a lot of them to choose from ,and all of them are excellent in their own way. But there are 13 specific episodes that really stand out. And part of that comes down to how these episodes not only highlight some of his most unique qualities, but also really emphasize how Carlton changed from the pilot to the finale of Fresh Prince.

Isolated from the rest of the show, all of these episodes (when watched in a chronological order, at least) are probably the best at showing Carlton's fascinating character arc and how his relationship with Will influenced his identity over six seasons. We see Carlton at his very best and worst. We see him for all of his odd quirks and flaws. And we see him as one of the finest comedic characters of any American sitcom: a character who is such an uptight snob that it's hilarious whenever we get to see him let loose.

These are the funniest, most interesting, and most devastating Carlton-based episodes of Fresh Prince that you should re-watch immediately if you want to celebrate everything that makes this character such an icon.


Season 4, Episode 16: "I Know Why The Caged Bird Screams"

Warner Bros. Television

As the mascot of his college football team, Carlton gets abducted by a rival team.

Why It's One Of The Best: Because Carlton's bird costume is spectacular and everything that the character says and does while wearing it comes with a an extra layer of tragic comedy.


Season 5, Episode 4: "Grumpy Young Men"

Warner Bros. Television

A double date ends with Carlton winning the affections of Will's dream girl.

Why It's One Of The Best: Because though they often fought for the affections of the same woman, it was rare that Carlton ever won. Considering how bad Will's pick-up lines were, it was a refreshing twist to see happen.


Season 6. Episode 8: "Viva Lost Wages"

Warner Bros. Television

Carlton's gambling gets way out of hand during celebrations for his 21st birthday.

Why It's One Of The Best: Because initially, Carlton delivers a sanctimonious speech to Will about gambling — only for him to go on a gambling rampage just moments later. It really shows how similar the two characters have become by the later seasons of the show.


Season 1, Episode 23: "72 Hours"

Warner Bros. Television

Carlton accepts a challenge from Will to survive two days in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood in order to prove his "black" identity.

Why It's One Of The Best: There are plenty of laughs to be had in watching straight-laced Carlton loosen up to such a degree that Will is disturbed by his transformation. But there's also plenty of heart in Carlton realizing that it takes more courage to be himself than to conform to someone else's idea of who he should be.


Season 6, Episode 6: "Not, I Barbecue"

Warner Bros. Television

Both Will and Carlton get caught in a compromising position while on a date.

Why it's One Of The Best: It seems only fitting that, in the final season of the show, we get to see Carlton making the sorts of stupid decisions that he would have mocked his cousin for in the first few seasons. And this episode takes great joy in doing exactly that.


Season 3, Episode 19: "Just Say Yo"

Warner Bros. Television

Carlton accidentally takes an overdose of speed at the prom, and it's all Will's fault.

Why It's One Of The Best: As an after school special warning about the dangers of drugs, it's a pretty great episode. But it also suggests the tricky, emotional bond between Will and Carlton that will come back into play throughout the next few seasons.


Season 4, Episode 5: "It's Better To Have Loved And Lost It..."

Warner Bros. Television

Carlton is delighted to finally lose his virginity, but he is devastated to discover that the experience wasn't as special as he'd thought.

Why It's One Of The Best: Because Carlton is a sweet baby angel with too many feelings, providing a rare but essential portrayal of a young man valuing emotions over a sexual connection.


Season 6, Episodes 23 & 24: "I Done Parts 1 & 2"

Warner Bros. Television

The Banks family says farewell to their home in this two-part finale of the show.

Why It's One Of The Best: It's heartwarming to see Carlton able to go on to bigger things, but also more than a little sad to see him say farewell to Will and thank him for their friendship.


Season 3, Episode 18: "The Alma Matter"

Warner Bros. Television

Carlton is visited by his guardian angel, Tom Jones (naturally), after he ruins his chances of attending Princeton.

Why It's One Of The Best: It features the endless magic of seeing Carlton singing and dancing with Jones. But the episode was also one of the first to give the character a little more complexity, showing him legitimately struggling with the pressures of life.


Season 5, Episode 6: "Will's Misery"

Warner Bros. Television

Will gets revenge on Carlton after he helps to pull a massive a prank on him.

Why It's One Of The Best: If you don't howl at the sight of Carlton breaking the fourth wall and running around the entire Fresh Prince set in a panic, then you're dead inside.


Season 2, Episode 24: "Striptease For Two"

Warner Bros. Television

Unaware that Vivian and Hilary will be attendance, Carlton and Will perform as strippers to make some much desperately needed money.

Why It's One Of The Best: The scene in which Carlton finds his stripper-groove during a Michael Jackson tribute, only to be stopped by his own mother, is a fan favorite for a reason. It's dynamite.


Season 1, Episode 6: "Mistaken Identity"

Warner Bros. Television

Will and Carlton are mistakenly arrested for a string of auto thefts, providing some poignant societal commentary without sacrificing the laughs.

Why It's One Of The Best: The episode frames the burgeoning friendship between Carlton and Will, but also the great divide between them. Especially when Carlton naively believes that his privileged economic background will be enough to convince the police of his innocence.


Season 5, Episode 15: "Bullets Over Bel-Air"

Warner Bros. Television

Will gets shot by a bank robber while saving his cousin's life, provoking Carlton to consider getting a gun for protection.

Why It's One Of The Best: Because every emotional plea between Will and Carlton about their love for each other, and why a gun isn't the best option for staying safe, will make you choke on tears.

Basically, no matter which of these episodes you decide to re-watch, you're going to find yourself in tears. Whether they're tears of laughter, tears of peak emotion, or both is really up to you.