The 18 Weirdest ‘Rugrats’ Episodes
Rugrats was one of the most iconic animated shows of the ’90s. The second ever Nicktoon, the cartoon debuted on Nickelodeon 25 years ago this week. Yup, the Rugrats are officially a quarter of a century old.
While most millennials look back on the adventures of Tommy Pickles and his baby friends with nostalgia (myself included), revisiting it as an adult reveals just how weird the show really was. You may remember Rugrats, but do you remember the time Chuckie was on death row and sent to the potty electric chair? Or when Tommy hallucinated his grandpa was a talking plane? What about the episode where Chuckie’s dad falls into a deep depression and talks to a sock puppet? The truth is, Rugrats was freaking weird.
Here’s a look back at the most bizarre episodes from the Nickelodeon series. The links in each title will take you to Hulu, where you can watch each show, and relive every weird moment. Apologies in advance for destroying your childhood.
When Angelica learns her mom is pregnant and expecting a boy, she starts worrying her parents will forget about her. She has a horrifying nightmare where her not-yet-born baby brother comes to life as a giant infant, speaks with the deep voice of a grown man, chases her and then eats her. But the ending is the real kicker – Angelica’s mom tells her she’s no longer having the baby. Yes, there was a Rugrats episode about a miscarriage. Maybe the pregnancy test was wrong, but either way, Rugrats got pretty dark.
2. “Regarding Stuie”
In this episode Tommy’s dad Stu falls from a ladder and sustains an injury that makes him act like a baby. At first it looks like a lot of fun when Tommy and his pals get to do baby stuff with Stu! But when you realize Stu, a grown adult man, is taking a shower with four children and you start to feel a little creeped out. It’s one thing if Stu becoming a baby was a dream sequence, or if he at least looked like a baby, but this legitimately happens in the episode. Oh, and then Stu magically reverses his brain damage by recreating his fall.
I grew up watching Rugrats and I remember an episode about Chuckie being afraid of the toilet when his dad potty trained him. What I didn’t remember about the episode is that Chuckie imagines the toilet is the electric chair! In a typical messed up Chuckie nightmare, he’s locked up in a grimy jail cell, Tommy is an Irish priest (seriously, what the heck is this episode?), Angelica is dressed like a Medieval executioner, and Chuckie is forced to sit on the potty, aka the electric chair. This is screwed up.
4. “Ruthless Tommy”
In this episode of a children’s television show, a baby gets kidnapped. No big deal, just two sketchy guys snatching a baby right off his doorstep and no one even notices. Mistaking Tommy for the son of a millionaire named Ronald Thump (ha!), they take him back to their apartment only to return him after he won’t stop crying. Nothing like a Rugrats episode to stoke the fires of your biggest childhood fears!
5. “Special Delivery”
When a mail man accidentally mistakes Tommy for a piece of mail (as so often happens in life), Tommy takes a trip through the post office. Things get really weird when he goes down the shoot for mail with no return address, and he finds a dead body in the mail chute. Not weird at all.
6. “Slumber Party”
If the Rugrats creators weren’t on drugs while writing “Slumber Party” then I have no explanation for whatever the heck inspired this episode. When Tommy gets sick, he begins having freaky fever-induced hallucinations where his family becomes the objects hanging from his baby mobile. Didi becomes a crescent moon, Stu is a purple cloud, Angelica is a cupid baby (huh?), Drew Pickles is a star and Tommy’s grandpa becomes a plane. WHAT IS GOING ON?!
7. “In the Dreamtime“
Still not convinced the Rugrats was inspired by weird LSD trips? “In the Dreamtime” is pretty much one big acid trip, and maybe the weirdest Rugrats episode ever. Chuckie has a series of surreal dreams with flying frying pans, a never-ending staircase, a talking Spike with a British accent, and Tommy with a terrifying warped face. Now I know who to blame for my childhood nightmares.
One again, a Rugrats episode you’d probably come up with when sitting in front of a mirror super stoned. In “Mirrorland,” Chuckie tells his friends that looking at your reflection is actually looking at another realm where everything is a weirder version of this world. Tommy and Chuckie think they travel into Mirrorland when Didi and Lou try on old clothes, like a ballerina tutu and a red afro rig (and Spike gets tangles in a beard). It is one of the more clever episodes of the show (as I kid I totally remember wishing Mirrorland was real), but also super weird.
Angelica is the worst character to exist in a cartoon. In this depressing twist on It’s a Wonderful Life, she convinces Chuckie the world is better without him, causing him to run away. When his guardian angel shows him what life is like without him, Chuckie finds out his dad has gone completely nuts and talks to a sock puppet. Phil and Lil have turned into delinquents with ear piercings. And Angelica is an overweight slob who turns Tommy into her abused slave. Dark stuff, man, dark stuff.
10. “A Visit from Lipschitz”
I don’t know about you, but Dr. Lipschitz always creeped me out. He’s a total fraud, as “A Visit from Lipschitz” reveals. First of all, why in the world would Didi leave the children alone with a total stranger? When she does, he steals all the Pickles’ food, takes a bath in their house (this is definitely not appropriate), puts on Stu’s robe and then lets Tommy and Chuckie ride around on his back. At least put some clothes on first!
What baffles me about Rugrats is how the adults never understood their kids one bit. Sure, they’re only babies, but why in the world would you give babies a walking, talking clown and expect them not to get scared? When Stu shares his latest invention with the kids, a talking robotic clown named Mr. Friend, it scares the heck out of them. He even lets Tommy sleep with the weird toy, which pops up and talks to him in the middle of the night. Once they get rid of it, Stu unleashes a whole army of clowns on the kids. This is the stuff of nightmares!
12. “Beauty Contest“
Stu and Tommy’s Grandpa Lou decide to enter Tommy into the Little Miss Lovely beauty pageant. You’re probably thinking, “Wow, how progressive of Nickelodeon to show a little boy who wants to wear a dress! His parents are so open minded!” Not so much. Stu and Lou don’t really care about Tommy and only dress him up as a girl (which he tells Phil & Lil he doesn’t like) so they can win a fishing boat in the contest. Is this supposed to be a commentary on pageant moms? Or just bad parenting?
13. “What the Big People Do”
Full disclosure: This is one of my favorite Rugrats episodes. But as fun and imaginative as it is, it’s also pretty bizarre. Chuckie and Tommy imagine what it would be like to be adults, only in their little kid bodies. They wear giant suits, drink coffee that turns into mud (because coffee is gross when you’re a kid), drive cars, get a speeding ticket and go to their robot-controlled corporate office jobs. Oh, and Angelica is literally their boss from hell.
14. “Dust Bunnies“
A lot of Angelica’s made-up stories are the source of terror for the Rugrats, but this story is really out there. When Didi is cleaning the house one day, Angelica convinces Chuckie and Tommy that dust bunnies are actual evil bunnies who capture kids and take them to the Kingdom of Dust. I guess you could call this creative but babies playing in piles of dust is also a weird plot for a Saturday morning children’s show.
15. “Grandpa’s Teeth”
As weird as the Rugrats gets, it always goes one step weirder. In this episode based entirely around Grandpa Lou’s dentures, the kids go on a literal wild goose chase. Lou loses his teeth and they end up traveling from Spike’s mouth to a geese’s. Good luck not having nightmares!
16. “The Mattress“
When Grandpa Lou starts experiencing back pain from his old worn out mattress, the kids are convinced there’s a monster in the bed. In one of Chuckie’s creepy dreams (this kid has a lot of disturbing nightmares), he imagines the bed coming to life as it tries to eat him.
17. “Potty Training Spike“
After Chuckie gets in trouble for peeing on a tree (did he not learn after that potty training episode?), the kids decide to potty train Spike so he can use the bathroom the right way. They chase him down and force a diaper onto him, and while I realize that is very weird, it’s something I also once did to my dog. Hey, I was a weird kid, and Rugrats probably had too much influence on me.
18. “Weaning Tommy“
When Didi and Stu try to wean Tommy off the bottle, he starts to freak out. Like actually, Tommy starts having more hallucinations where his bottle talks to him and then his new sippy cup grows to massive size and chases him. I’m starting to think Rugrats was actually intended as a horror series meant to terrify children.