We all know the story all about how the Fresh Prince's life got flipped upside down — a streetwise Philadelphia fish-out-of-water gets dropped in the middle of L.A.'s toniest town, and without even trying starts shaking things up and causing chaos in the stuffy enclaves of the super-rich. Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air ran for six seasons of ridiculous mix-ups, bad dates, mistaken identities, and occasional culture clashes, giving us many iconic moments that defined the '90s. As such, it's a difficult task to pin down exactly which episodes stand out above the rest as the creme-de-la-creme pinnacle, but these six installments are the best Fresh Prince episodes of each season.
The series started off being about Will sticking out like a sore thumb, but over time the focus spread to each family member's relationship with each other. Will and Carlton's rivalry became an ongoing joke, as did Hilary's shopping-mania and spaciness, which eventually landed her the perfect job as talk show host. Meanwhile, the series' tone started wacky and mostly stayed there, veering away from reality whenever it suited. Characters would get tossed like cartoons or break the fourth wall often, and there were plenty of fantasy sequences.
But all that didn't keep Fresh Prince from addressing more serious topics, like sexual readiness, racial profiling, fear of failure, and anger at abandonment. These dramatic moments surrounded by lighter levity deepened the Banks' family's world while keeping this hilarious, and though it was hard to pluck just six examples, these episodes embody exactly why The Fresh Prince kept us watching year after year.
Season 1 — "Knowledge Is Power"
The first season of Fresh Prince was pretty amazing across the board, but this episode stands out for shifting the physical comedy to Hilary instead of Will (though Will and Carlton have plenty of slapstick going on as well). It's also nice to see normally straight and narrow Carlton get sneaky as well, though everyone gets their comeuppance in the end.
Season 2 — "She Ain't Heavy"
This is the episode that makes fans wish Queen Latifah's Dee Dee became a regular on the show, but it had a lot going on simultaneously — Uncle Phil's back problems, half the family getting addicted to the Home Shopping network, and Carlton's bad luck finding a tux. It all adds up to make this the Season 2 topper.
Season 3 — "Winner Takes Off"
Seeing normally staid Geoffrey break it down to "For The Love Of Money" would've been enough to put this episode at the top of the list, but the hoops Will and Carlton jump through to try and get him back are the icing on the cake.
Season 4 — "Papa's Got A Brand New Excuse"
This would also make top of the list for "most heartbreaking and heavy episode" of the normally light and silly show. In real life, though Smith's parents separated when he was young, he had a close relationship with his father, but in this episode he tapped the sadness of his friends who grew up without one. You can hear not only the audience crying, but some of the cast members as well including Ben Vereen, who played Will's father.
Season 5 — "Will's Misery"
Not only is this the first episode we get to meet Lisa, Will's future fiancee, but Will finally gets some pushback for all his constant macking on ladies. Let's be honest though, this episode's also got one of the entire series' most iconic moments — Carlton breaking the fourth, fifth, and sixth walls running through all the show's sets and turning to the audience screaming at Will and Lisa's prank tricking him into thinking he killed someone.
Season 6 — "Viva Lost Wages"
Last and certainly not least, this episode contains the series' other most iconic scene. It's a great twist on Carlton, his type-A personality leading to an instant gambling addiction that leaves the two stranded, with only their dance skills to get them back home. Of course all's well that ends well, and the two manage to make it back to Bel Air.
It's hard to pick just one episode from each season as exemplary, since there's so many amazing moments left out, but don't worry. Watching Fresh Prince episodes is like opening a bag of popcorn — once you start it's hard to stop until you're done.