The Most Important Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation'

Over 80 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Most Important Episodes Of 'Parks And Recreation'
Voting Rules
Vote up the episodes that mattered the most to the series overall.

Parks and Recreation ran for seven seasons between 2009 and 2015, amassing a passionate fanbase, heaps of critical praise, and a Golden Globe for star Amy Poehler. Created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur - of The OfficeThe Good Place, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine fame - the political satire mainly takes place in the parks and recreation department of the fictional town of Pawnee, IN. Heading up the department is Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), a government-hating, bacon-loving man's man and his deputy director Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), a government-loving waffle enthusiast. The show follows Leslie's climb up the political ladder, finding humor in her tireless efforts to excite her apathetic colleagues and champion the rights of an ungrateful public.

Joining them are Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), a wannabe business mogul; deadpan intern April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza); Leslie's best friend Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones); sweet but simple Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt); Donna Meagle (Retta); and Jerry/Larry/Terry/Gerry Gergich (Jim O'Heir). Later seasons of the show feature the health-obsessed Chris Traeger (Rob Lowe) and nerdy accountant Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott), who serve as long-term love interests for Ann and Leslie, respectively.

Parks and Recreation also features plenty of wacky townsfolk, from sleazy fragrance mogul Dennis Feinstein, to Tom's irritating best friend Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, to talk show host and cougar Joan Callamezzo. The show is now considered a beloved sitcom classic for good reason. Below are the most important episodes of Parks and Recreation.

Photo: NBC Universal

  • In the final half of the two-part storyline that began in "Emergency Response," Leslie and Ben continue with their plan to transform a gala - organized to raise the remaining $50,000 for the Pawnee Commons project - into an impromptu wedding. Everything is on schedule until Leslie's city council adversary, Councilman Jeremy Jamm, drunkenly interrupts the ceremony, prompting Ron to punch him in the face.

    The festivities seem to be halted for good until Ron leads Leslie to the parks office where a second, private ceremony has been organized by the parks crew. After Leslie laments that she doesn't have the 70 pages of vows she wrote following their engagement, Leslie and Ben finally tie the knot in a sweet, intimate way.

    38 votes
  • 2
    18 VOTES

    The Pawnee-Eagleton Tip Off Classic (Season 6, Episode 3)

    Bringing an end to decades of historic rivalry, Eagleton's financial crisis forces its city council to beg Pawnee for help. Leslie sees the situation as a chance to score some much-needed positive PR. However, upon meeting with her Eagleton equivalent, Ingrid de Forest (Kristen Bell), Leslie can't resist the chance to rub Eagleton's failings in de Forest's face.

    Leslie, of course, later has a change of heart when she envisions a solution to Eagleton's problem: Pawnee will reabsorb its hated counterpart. Though this fix contains the crisis, neither town is enthused by the move. To ease tensions between the two communities, the parks department holds a star-studded "Unity Concert" later in the season, featuring appearances from Ginuwine (Donna's cousin), the Decemberists, Duke Silver (who later reveals himself to be Ron), Mouse Rat, and a hologram of Li'l Sebastian.

    18 votes
  • 3
    40 VOTES

    Harvest Festival (Season 3, Episode 7)

    This episode ties together seven episodes of planning as the Harvest Festival finally opens its gates. Though it is the huge success the financially strapped department needs, it suffers a rocky start. Ken Hotate, chief of the Native American Wamapoke Tribe, asks Leslie to move the location of the festival so as not to disturb the burial ground of Wamapoke warriors.

    Leslie refuses his request, leading Ken to warn her that the festival could be cursed, later quipping to the cameras that "white people are terrified of curses." Once the local media catches wind of the possible scandal, they create a frenzy, fuelled by a delighted Ken. To make matters worse, famous miniature horse Li'l Sebastian goes missing, though he's eventually spotted at the center of a corn maze. Meanwhile, Leslie compromises with Ken, who stages a fake curse-lifting ceremony.

    Ben is visibly impressed by Leslie's tireless work to reach her goals, while April and Andy proclaim their love for one another for the first time.

    40 votes
  • 4
    36 VOTES

    Leslie and Ron (Season 7, Episode 4)

    Season 7 essentially picks up where Season 6 left off. After a three-year time jump, the parks team is somewhat scattered. Leslie is Midwest Regional Director of the National Parks Service, while Ron has left government altogether to start his construction company, Very Good Building & Development Co. For the first few episodes of the farewell season, some bad blood exists between the two, which apparently began after something referred to as "Morningstar" ruptured their friendship two years prior.

    In "Leslie and Ron," the duo are tricked into getting locked inside their old parks office to duke it out once and for all. "Morningstar" is revealed to be the name of the project Ron's company spearheaded to knock down the properties near Pawnee Commons, which included Ann's old house. Leslie found this unforgivable; however, after the pair practically rip the office apart trying to escape, Ron admits he lashed out because everyone he'd worked with had moved on without him. Their reconciliation restores one of the show's key friendships.

    36 votes
  • 5
    43 VOTES

    Andy And April's Fancy Party (Season 3, Episode 9)

    When April and Andy invite their parks department colleagues to their "fancy party," none of them guess the event is actually a surprise wedding. The revelation was meant to be just as surprising for the audience, but NBC accidentally ruined the twist in its Season 3 promotion months before the episode aired.

    At the party, Leslie is horrified that Andy and April are making such an important life decision so soon in their relationship. After some sage advice from Ron - and some unusually kind words from April - Leslie realizes she has to let the two do what feels right for them.

    Inspired by this, Leslie later plucks up the courage to tell Ben she wants him to stay in Pawnee. To her delight, he tells her he already accepted Chris's job offer, which would allow him to stay in town.

    43 votes
  • It's a dark day in Pawnee when the town's much-loved mascot Li'l Sebastian passes. The parks department is tasked with the funeral planning, which becomes an oversized affair when Tom sees it as an opportunity to promote his and Jean-Ralphio's new company, Entertainment 720. The ceremony includes a tacky video, a giant flame, and Mouse Rat - Andy's band - performing a song penned by Andy called "5,000 Candles in the Wind."

    While organizing the event, Leslie and Ben are spotted kissing by a maintenance worker. Worried that Chris will discover their forbidden workplace relationship, the couple persuades the worker to take the day off as a bribe. Unfortunately, this results in the mismanagement of the giant flame, which turns into a giant fireball and burns off most of Ron's facial hair.

    At the episode's close, Leslie is approached to run for political office. When asked if there are any skeletons in her closet, she fails to disclose her affair with Ben. 

    41 votes