Well, we're about a week into social distancing, quarantining, self-isolation, and all the other things that are going to keep us indoors for a bit while we have a nice cold pint and wait for this all to blow over. Luckily, the magical world of streaming television has so much to offer, and I would like to suggest my favorite show of all time as the perfect viewing to keep you in the house and away from other people (it sure worked for me in high school).
Mystery Science Theater 3000 started in 1988, and as of the present, there exist 217 episodes for your viewing pleasure, from the early KTMA days to Comedy Central to the then Sci-Fi Channel (it's us!) to the Netflix reboot. Some of these episodes are harder to find (though there are certainlY sOme UnconvenTional means yoU might find availaBlE), but luckily for us and our wallets, Shout! Factory has made tons of them free to stream on its website, as well as streaming service Tubi.
Below, we've got a list of 20 of my favorite episodes (as well as several more you can find on the list we shared last Thanksgiving) that you can stream for free right now. That's 30 hours of beautiful, glorious snark. It's what the world needs now.
The Undead (Episode 806)
I have no idea how to describe this utterly bonkers film, but I can tell you it's one of the funniest episodes of the show's entire run. Essentially, a man hypnotizes a sex worker to research her past lives. It gets weird, history gets messed with, there's witches and the devil, it's GREAT.
Where to stream: The official MST3K YouTube.
Jack Frost (Episode 813)
One of the most beloved MST3K episodes ever, this buckwild Russo-Finnish fairy tale features the Prince Valium-haired Ivanushka who gets turned into a bear for loving himself too much. Only the doe-eyed parental abuse victim Nastenka can save him, also she gets left in the snow to die, it's a whole thing.
The Screaming Skull (Episode 912)
This Rebecca ripoff features a man gaslighting his fragile new wife into thinking she's being haunted by his dead first wife, also there are peacocks. The opening warning that you may die of fright while viewing is... inaccurate. The film is preceded by the series' only Gumby short wherein Gumby and Pokey battle a robot.
Giant Spider Invasion (Episode 810)
Angels Revenge (Episode 622)
Charlie's Angels only had three angels. This jiggly act of plagiarism has ANGELS FOR DAYS. When a literal child is found beaten by drug dealers, a Vegas performer, a timid teacher, a stunt driver, a..sword...lady, and a bunch of other disconnected women take on a drug cartel. Jack Palance and Peter Lawford also star and it's embarrassing for everyone involved.
The Magic Sword (Episode 411)
Basil Rathbone is one of the most famous and beloved actors to ever play Sherlock Holmes. In this movie, he is a turban-wearing wizard who wants to feed a girl to a dragon. Look, we all make mistakes. This honestly delightful fairy tale also features Vampira (!) and one of MST3K's best songs, an ode to Estelle Winwood.
Time Chasers (Episode 821)
One of my personal top five, Time Chasers is the adorably budget story of Nick, a pilot who invents time travel, his love interest Lisa who's having her own affair with plaid, and a man you will come to know only as Bob Evil who takes the technology and immediately uses it as a weapon. Ah, Nick, you foolishly trusted capitalism, you Castleton snob.
Pod People (Episode 303)
You know, back in the day, this was the only fitting use of "Trumpy! You can do stupid things!" A young boy finds an alien who can use his powers to turn bedrooms into an Owl City music video. Meanwhile, a band goes camping. These things are connected but honestly, I'm not sure how and I've seen this episode at least 50 times. *OK sign* It stinks!
Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (Episode 1006)
This movie is the most offensive thing to happen to the south since Deliverance and frankly, even Deliverance didn't have a comical scene wherein a woman hoses down her feces-covered husband. A professor and his students, at least one of whom refuses to wear a shirt, go searching for... the little creature.
Touch of Satan (Episode 908)
My actual honest favorite episode of the entire series, this film follows the awkward love of Jody and Melissa, a nearly 200-year-old witch, as they find romance on a walnut farm while Melissa's grandma-sister murders everyone they meet. It's very '70s and very perfect.
Outlaw (Episode 519)
This is actually a sequel, but trust me, seeing the first one doesn't make this movie make any sense. Cabot, a way too hot person to play a timid teacher, gets transported with his deeply uncomfortable and horny friend Watney to another dimension that is both the '80s and also the middle ages. Jack Palance, as ever, is there because the man never met a check he wouldn't cash.
Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders (Episode 1003)
This film is a series of vignettes as narrated to us by Ernest Borgnine, he of excellent tips for better aging. An evil man does some manner of cat magic and becomes a baby for his wife to raise, then an evil monkey toy tries to murder a family. Merlin is involved. His hair looks terrific.
Manos: The Hands of Fate (Episode 424)
The most famous episode of MST3K ever, I'm going to submit a hot take here: this is not an episode for first-timers. Manos is every bit as bad as you've heard without any of the fun or joy of The Room or Wicker Man. But once you've fully submerged yourself into that MST life, you will be ready for the Torgo of it all.
Cave Dwellers (Episode 301)
Taking place at some point in time and in some place of some kind (seriously, it's either medieval times or the 1800s or Japan or eastern Europe, there's no way to tell). Ator is an off-brand Conan the Barbarian who discovers "the geometric nucleus" which is a thing that does things. This movie is unclear but this episode is hilarious.
The Brute Man (Episode 702)
The 1940s was a time wherein Hollywood studios exploited disabled people by casting them as monsters so that audiences might be terrified by their appearance. Hollywood's messed up, guys. In this film, Rondo Hatton plays Hal Moffat aka THE CREEPER who creeps around strangling people. But the episode lets Hatton be and focuses instead on the awful script and bizarre side characters, most notably the incredibly angry grocery store clerk.
Werewolf (Episode 904)
This 1996 direct-to-video horror flick is a GIFT. It follows writer Paul as he attempts to write his book but gets distracted by sudden-onset lycanthropy. His love interest Natalie is absolutely fascinating. Joe Estevez is around for a bit and looks like Winnie the Pooh. We all learn that becoming a werewolf makes you a bad driver. It's great. It's Warwilf.
Overdrawn at the Memory Bank (Episode 822)
The Girl in Lover's Lane (Episode 509)
This film follows drifters and train-boys Bix Dugan (aka Big Stupid) and his pal/kidnapping victim Danny as they navigate life and love and brothels and MURDER. It's one of those classic depressing '60s movies about teens from the wrong side of the tracks and the danger of becoming a train person.