Best Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air Episodes: Top 5 Moments Most Recommended By Fans

Everyone knows the story of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” He was born and raised in West Philadelphia, where he spent most of his days on the playground. Well, one day, he got into one little fight, and his mom got scared and said, “you’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air,” and the rest is history. Whether you are a full-fledged fan of the show or just turn it on now and again, moments like Carlton’s dancing to Tom Jones and Aunt Viv’s ever-changing face undeniably make up some of the best episodes of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” 

Premiering in 1990 on NBC, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” starred a relatively unknown Will Smith; at the time, Smith had never acted before and was performing as half of a hip-hop duo under the name “Fresh Prince.” The show’s concept was to be loosely based on the real-life story of music manager Benny Medina who grew up poor till he befriended an upper-class family living in Beverly Hills. The story would be intertwined with Smith’s own background creating a lightning in a bottle television series. 

Furthermore, like similar sitcoms that came up around the same time, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” also serves as a nostalgic show for most. In fact, a new study finds a third of Americans would drop everything to move into the Banks’ mansion if given the opportunity. Which makes sense; if you didn’t watch the show live on NBC when it aired, you certainly caught reruns of it all through the 2000s. Even now, the series can be streamed on a handful of platforms.

Before you go grabbing for the remote, we at StudyFinds have made finding the must-watch episodes of Will’s misadventures easy. After thorough research, we have brought you the top five best episodes of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” If you disagree with our list, that’s okay; we would love to hear from you about your favorite episodes in the comments below!

Will Smith in 2013
Will Smith in 2013 (Photo by Kaliva on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Episodes of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, Per Fans

1. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Excuse” Season 4, Episode 24

“Thus far, the only father Will has ever known has been Uncle Phil. In this episode, Will comes face to face with his father. Initially reluctant to speak to Lou after 14 years of abandonment, Will decides to give Lou a chance,” describes BlackGirlNerds. “Will is left devastated and delivers the heartbreaking plea, ‘How come he don’t want me, man?’ In that moment, Uncle Phil wraps him up in his arms as only a real father could.”

Movie Web goes on to rave about Smith’s performance in the episode adding, “When his absentee father, Lou, arrives in Bel Air, Will begins to believe he will finally get the relationship with his Dad that he never had growing up. Things seem great for a moment as Will and Lou plan a cross-country trip together for the summer until Will’s father suddenly has to ‘take care of business’ elsewhere, setting up a second abandonment of his son. It is a powerful and masterful episode of the series and one that demonstrated Will Smith’s talent far exceeds the music industry he came from, cementing that path for future actors.” 

Vodzilla describes the episode as a “highlight,” describing the episode’s climax as “Smith going off script to deliver a rant about growing up without needing a dad,” saying, “The result will bring you to tears.” The episode’s final moments feature arguably the most iconic scene from the series, showing how easily and seamlessly the show was able to shift from comedy to drama

2. “Blood is Thicker Than Mud” Season 4, Episode 8

“‘The Fresh Prince’ always did a wonderful job highlighting the discrimination Will and Carlton endured as Black men. But it rarely touched on the heavier aspects of the class differences between these two buds until season four. While rushing for the same fraternity, Will and Carlton have to complete a series of humiliating challenges. Though Carlton finishes everything asked of him, only Will is asked into the frat. Why? Because the fraternity president sees Carlton as being less Black because of his upper-class background. Carlton icily explains that he experiences the same racism as his working-class peers. Yet the real MVP of the episode is Uncle Phil and his final question about why there is a penalty for success,” says Decider

“The episode did a wonderful job of showing just how complex Carlton Banks is as a character. As a young Black man going to prestigious schools and living among affluence and wealth, he’s constantly called to prove that he belongs in the world of wealthy elites. Yet on the other end of the spectrum, his Blackness is called into question because of that affluence, and his cultural identity is questioned by other Black people because of his wealthy upbringing. It must have been a pretty conflicting way to grow up, and as this episode proves, there’s more to Carlton than Tom Jones and sweater vests,” describes Looper.

“Within the context of Will’s life, we get to see the type of struggles that someone extremely upwardly-mobile like Carlton experiences. The strength of the show is that it equally validates the growing pains a character like Carlton undergoes and does not diminish them simply because they are ‘first world problem’ types of distress,” adds HotNewHipHop.

3. “Bullets Over Bel-Air” Season 5, Episode 15

While Will and Carlton frequently find themselves in uncomfortable but funny situations, they also often have to face the dangers that come with growing up in the outside world. “This ‘very special episode’ tackles the difficult topics of gun violence and gun ownership while exploring the depths of Will and Carlton’s relationship too. At this stage, they’re more like brothers than cousins, which is why Will pulls Carlton away from danger without a moment’s hesitation,” describes Games Radar.

“The story finds Will and Carlton joking back and forth while taking money out of an ATM … when a robber surprises them from behind and holds them at gunpoint. When Carlton takes too long, the robber fires and Will takes the bullet for his cousin. Will survives, but it’s Carlton’s psychological wounds that will never heal,” describes Looper.

“Gripped by fear, Carlton lets go of his positive nature and becomes terrified to be alone. It comes down to the bedridden Will to talk sense into his cousin, especially when Carlton shows up with a gun. A guaranteed tearjerker, the story adds a layer of realism to the series and proves it can make fans cry as much as it can make them laugh,” raves WatchMojo. The relationship between Carlton and Will was always tricky, but episodes like this show the beautiful development of their relationship over the five seasons. 

4. “Mistaken Identity” Season 1, Episode 6

“Featuring a premise that’s as timely today as it was over 25 years ago, this season one episode finds Will and Carlton behind bars after they’re accused of driving a ‘stolen’ car, which was actually borrowed. Eventually, Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv arrive at the jail, where they’re talked down to by the police. It’s only after Phil’s white law partner arrives that the cops begin to see the error of their ways. The entire ordeal is quite perplexing for Carlton, who struggles to come to terms with all the racist implications,” writes Stacker

“Even in its earliest episodes, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ was willing to touch on hard-hitting issues that most sitcoms would never even dare to approach. The series’ sixth episode finds Will and Carlton both becoming the victims of racial profiling. But what follows is a truly sobering lesson about racial inequalities in modern-day America. It’s an episode that primarily relies on absurdist humor in early scenes to diffuse the tension, but the episode’s final act is all but devoid of laughter, highlighting the seriousness of the subject with painstaking clarity and honesty,” says ScreenRant.

“At this point in Carlton’s youth, it’s an enormous ask to demand him to look beyond his wealth and his Bel-Air life. The world he knows is one of privilege and ostensible fairness. It’s unforgiving to expect a sheltered teenager to confront something as hostile as racial profiling and accept that the system of values he is brought up to endorse (meritocracy, innocent until proven guilty) is a sham. Carlton clings to his last shreds of innocence, and we can’t castigate him for averting his eyes from ugly reality,” adds HotNewHipHop.

5. “The Big Four-Oh” Season 2, Episode 7

The number five spot is sure to leave you smiling with an iconic Aunt Viv moment that earned its place on almost every favorite list. “‘The Big Four-Oh’ really showcases the comedy and confidence that all of the characters exude throughout the show’s run, especially when it comes to Aunt Viv. Facing the reality of turning 40 years old, Aunt Viv, played here by Janet Hubert-Whitten, starts having a bit of a midlife crisis. When her kids play her a video at her birthday party showing old home movies and photos, she remembers that at one point in her life, all she wanted to do was dance,” describes Looper.

“While Aunt Viv still has the frame of a prima ballerina, she is a little rusty. With an audition just three weeks away, Aunt Viv is determined to show the world that she ‘still got it.’ When she shows up to the audition, she is immediately dismissed by the same pair of arrogant dancers from her first class. But she quickly shuts them down when she’s selected to audition first after having seconds to pick up the choreography. She nails it! As she gathers her things, she snaps her fingers in front of those two snooty dancers as if to say, ‘Now take that, miss thang!’ — and an iconic moment in television is born,” adds BlackGirlNerds.

“After she nails the audition during her second attempt, and is offered a spot to which she turns down. Vivian comes to realize that she has not given up on her dreams but has achieved new ones with her husband and kids, as well as her job as a Professor. This episode shows that we don’t fail at dreams but simply pursue new ones that bring joy to our lives,” says. Movie Web

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