Family Guy has remained a staple of Fox's animation block for nearly two decades (not counting cancellations). Along the way, despite some negative reception, the series has created a few key gems of itself, amassing its longevity and following because a good portion of its episodes are quite well-done. Fans will fondly remember Peter's chicken fights, the jabbing of Meg, and the various musical numbers and pop culture references peppered throughout the series.
However, if there is one thing that is a near sure thing to entertain, it is the comedic duo of Brian and Stewie. With Brian's charms and oddly human insecurities and Stewie' sterile observations and sarcasm, the two have a chemistry like no other in the series and have gone on to make some of Family Guy's best episodes, sprawling adventures around the world, through time, and across the multiverse. Let's run down a few of the episodes that have defined the duo's comedic genius.
10 Brian Goes Back to College
Starting off this list is a fine example of Brian and Stewie's chemistry playing off to wonderful annoyance. A consistent part of the two's relationship is that, despite being as articulate and critical as he is, Brian is a deeply flawed and often trying person, whereas Stewie, a baby intelligent beyond his years, gets to arrogantly coast through life due to that brilliance and his young age.
This episode, in particular, is interesting, not just because Brian is faced with a moral dilemma of whether or not to use Stewie to cheat, but because the two came to embody the two sides of college life perfectly: the stressed, behind-on-everything workaholic and the party guy.
9 Road to Europe
As an homage to Bing Crosby's Road pictures, Seth MacFarlane based a series of Brian and Stewie's adventures and specials on grand adventures filled with song, dance, and Crosby-esque rapport. One of the early ones that Family Guy did was "Road to Europe," where, in an effort to meet his children's television idol, Mother Maggie, Stewie leaves to Europe with Brian in tail.
Throughout their adventure, the two steal a camel via song, take a hot air balloon ride to the Vatican, and bond over Stewie's disillusionment in finding the decrepit television set that Mother Maggie resides in, her cockney accent being the ultimate antithesis to the motherly world Stewie wished for.
8 Road to Rupert
Stewie once again incites an adventure for his own sake, as Brian accidentally sells his beloved teddy bear, Rupert, in a garage sale. On hot pursuit for the stuffed toy, the two travel the country, getting help from Mayor Adam West (always a golden appearance), dancing with Gene Kelly for a helicopter ride, crashing that helicopter, and finally reaching Rupert's new home, Aspen, Colorado.
There, Stewie finds that he must ski race to get Rupert back, using his technological advantages to try and beat a champion skier. And try he does, though win, he doesn't, as his own arrogance works against him. One would think that Stewie would provide a heartfelt goodbye and perhaps grow from the experience. But why should he when he can just steal Rupert and hijack a car to escape?
7 Brian Sings and Swings
The first non-"Road to" entry on this list, "Brian Sings and Swings" moves away from the adventuring for a much more intimate and personal experience, as Brian, when confronted with his own mortality, tries to find new purpose and thrills in life by joining the band show of one of Family Guy's greatest guest appearances, Frank Sinatra, Jr.
However, if Frank were taking the place of Frank Sinatra, Sr. and Stewie taking the role of... Sammy Davis, Jr.(?), then Brian would occupy the other slot of the Rat Pack, the drunken, disorderly Dean Martin. Conflict arises as Brian's increasingly cavalier lifestyle begins to take a toll on himself and the family; and maybe, just maybe, singing won't help.
6 Saving Private Brian
If there's one thing one should notice out of a lot of Brian episodes, it's that he has a deep history of culture, potential, and talent that always seems to be buried under his own arrogance, acquiescence, and overall inability to work things through. "Saving Private Brian" calls this out, as Brian must now challenge himself to finally complete something: military training.
Going through some of the harshest training of his life (a montage of military-isms that's more Stripes than Fullmetal Jacket), Brian actually manages to pass his exams and finally gets to... fight in a war. The mission now: get discharged.
5 Road to Germany
Back to the "Road to" shows, "Road to Germany" was a fine update to the form, as it finally incorporates Stewie's sci-fi know-how to create an over-the-top adventure. With this one, in particular, Mort Goldman accidentally uses Stewie's time machine to travel all the way back to World War II Germany, and Brian and Stewie must jump in to save him because the name "Goldman" didn't exactly fly there back then. Trying to escape the tumultuous time period, the three of them get chased by Nazis, pilot a U-boat, fly in the air in dogfights, and meet Adolf Hitler.
4 Road to the North Pole
Much like any long-running cartoon series within the west, Family Guy has a long line of holiday and Christmas specials celebrating all there is to love about presents and togetherness and whatnot. However, "Road to the North Pole" may very well be their standout entry to the holiday viewing list, as Brian and Stewie's exploits to find Santa Clause are, in certain words, original.
The two trek through harsh winter terrain, aided by more than helpful Canadians and the magical "Aurora Boreanaz." As they finally reach Santa's workshop, the two find that it's become a living hellscape, as the world's greed and excess have overworked, polluted, and nearly killed Santa and his little helpers, leading the duo to help Santa in the only ways they know-how.
3 Road to the Multiverse
Upping the sci-fi rigmarole of "Road to Germany," "Road to the Multiverse" fully dives into the series' sci-fi potential, as Stewie takes Brian on a tour throughout the multiverse's possibilities. There, they see a bright future in a world where religion never had an impact, full of genetically superior pigs, AIDS cures at a thought, and an actually hot Meg.
Digging a little deeper, the two also explore a Disney-esque paradise, a Flintstone-esque universe, a world where everyone has two heads that are emotionally opposite, and one where everyone has to poop at a certain moment. Having overused the device, however, the two must find a way to get back home as their inter-dimensional contraption sends them jumping through different dimensions.
2 Road to Rhode Island
"Road to Rhode Island" is Brian and Stewie's first "Road to" adventure, and it still holds up as one of the series' best. Either because it came from a more golden period for the show or the sheer fact that today's quality is a little erratic, this episode had everything that not only should a good Family Guy episode have but any television show in its entirety.
Taking a step back from all of the sci-fi nonsense or desensitizing nihilism, "Road to Rhode Island" relishes in the simpler adventure, as Brian and Stewie just try and get home, hitching on truck rides and fighting against disgruntled motel managers along the way, with a genuine chemistry between the two showing all throughout. To top it all off, this episode even features a cathartic moment for Brian, as he finally comes to his original home and gets to meet his mother again... kind of.
1 Brian & Stewie
Topping this list is not only one of Brian and Stewie's finest episodes but one of the best episodes in Family Guy as a whole. This one's not even a touring adventure but is, in every way, a bottle episode that seeks to create humor and tension via a vulnerable and intimate situation. As Stewie accompanies Brian on a trip to his safety deposit box, the two suddenly find themselves trapped in the bank vault.
And on a Saturday no less! From there comes a long-running series of interesting dialogue and character interactions, as the two use the materials at hand, no random elements, and no cutaway gags to create increasingly interesting moments, including everything from a bullet ricocheting across the bank vault to Brian... um, "cleaning" Stewie's diaper. This episode is just pure performance, and it has everything to gain from it.