The Best Breaking Bad Episodes: What to Watch Before El Camino

(Image credit: Ben Rothstein / Netflix)

Warning: This story containers spoilers from the original AMC Breaking Bad series.

Breaking Bad fans, we’re going back to the lab. Six years after the original series came to a catastrophic end, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is officially on Netflix. Aaron Paul reprises his role as the “bitch”-shouting meth chef Jesse Pinkman for the epic film event. 

El Camino picks up where Breaking Bad left off: with a freed, emotional Jesse driving away from the final scene of drama and violence that left his business partner Walter White dead in the New Mexico desert. Though the show provided what’s widely considered a satisfying ending, the question of what happens to Jesse still loomed. Until now.

Whether you’re still catching up on the original series or El Camino inspired you to revisit some old episodes for Easter eggs, we’ve curated a list of the best Breaking Bad episodes. While we highly recommend sitting down with the entire show if you haven’t already, these episodes should lay a framework if you’re looking for reminders about what made the series so great.

In chronological order, here are the best Breaking Bad episodes to watch before El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.

“Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

(Image credit: Doug Hyun/AMC)

Chemistry teacher Walter White does what any man with inoperable lung cancer would do: partner up with a flunked out former student to cook crystal meth. If that log line alone doesn’t captivate you, perhaps the stealthy combination of deprecating humor and gripping action will. The first episode of Breaking Bad sets high stakes, with Walt and Jesse Pinkman already on the verge of being caught by law enforcement. And things only escalate from there. 

“Better Call Saul” (Season 2, Episode 8) 

Saul Goodman made such an impact in Breaking Bad that his character received a title spin-off named after this episode. When Walter and Jesse seek a criminal lawyer to help bail out one of Jesse’s pals/distributors, they stumble upon Saul in a shady strip mall. One transaction leads to another, establishing Saul’s schemes as a staple of the show. 

“Fly” (Season 3, Episode 10) 

(Image credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC)

Should you wish to understand the full scope of Walt’s control issues, watch Fly. The manic episode follows Walt attempting to extricate a fly from his lab. If the bug contaminated his product, the empire would topple. Jesse is dumbfounded by Walt’s obsession, but takes the time locked in the lab together to reconnect with his business partner. The result is a peak into both Walt and Jesse’s psyches, making Fly a key watch before El Camino. 

“Cornered” (Season 4, Episode 6) 

Cornered is where you’ll find Breaking Bad’s most striking Heisenberg moment. “I am the one who knocks,” Walt threatens to a scared Skyler. But Walt’s proclamation is somewhat unfounded. He’s still dull on the scope of Gus’s influence and distribution. He bumbles through some other moments of the episode, creating an excellent contrast between his two personalities. We also get a foreboding moment where Walt is paranoid about Gus’s growing interest in Jesse. 

“Crawl Space” (Season 4, Episode 11) 

Crawl Space is a Breaking Bad episode you’ll need to watch more than once to digest the density of chaos packed into the final scenes. It starts slow, but suddenly swipes the foundation out of Walt’s seasons-long mission when he discovers half of his hard-earned meth money has been allocated to Skyler’s ex-lover. The iconic image of Walt weeping in his home’s crawl space is difficult to forget. 

“Say My Name” (Season 5, Episode 7) 

(Image credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC)

With Gus out of the picture, Say My Name highlights Walt in a state of egotistical euphoria. He attempts to wipe out Gus’s jailed allies, but the show’s resident hit man, Mike, refuses to rat them out. So a ruthless Walt goes ahead and kills Mike, only to crumble from the instant regret of a senseless death. This episode gives us Breaking Bad’s last genuine Heisenberg moment, then re-humanizes Walt, making it required watching for grasping the scope of the show. 

“Ozymandias” (Season 5, Episode 14) 

One of the final Breaking Bad episodes forces Walter White to face consequences. Set on the same grounds Walt and Jesse conducted their first cook, Ozymandias sees the gut-wrenching execution of Walt's brother-in-law Hank Schrader. His death triggers the spiral that carries us to the end of the show: Walt kidnaps his own daughter after a violent scene with Skyler and Walt Jr., abandons his life, and sets out with $11 million to a new beginning. Or so he thinks...

“Felina” (Season 5, Episode 16) 

(Image credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC)

If you watch one episode before El Camino, it should be Felina. The Breaking Bad finale brings the epic show (and Heisenberg) to a fateful end. Walt and Jesse team up one last time to inflict revenge on the Neo-Nazis that murdered Hank. But Walt sacrifices himself to save Jesse in an unbelievable machine-gun bonanza that eliminates the Nazi order. Jesse is set free and drives off in an El Camino. This is where the new Netflix movie picks up.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.