Since it debuted in 2003, "MythBusters" has become nothing less than a cultural juggernaut. The show was gracefully — and appropriately explosively — retired in 2016, and when Forbes looked back to the beginning, they noted that when it first started, it was just sort of filler for Discovery.
Over the course of all those seasons, the "MythBusters" busted — and proved — a lot of myths. Did they have their favorites? Of course! Between the two hosts, it was Adam Savage who was perhaps the most relatable. Always clearly excited about having one of the coolest jobs on the planet, Savage has spoken at length about his favorite moments via his YouTube channel, "Tested." While we’re going to take a look at his best moments, let’s start by asking if there was a best moment that never happened … because the answer is "yes!" Savage says that one of his favorite questions that they never got to answer was one posed by co-host Jamie Hyneman, and it was basically wondering how fast a wet noodle would have to travel in order to become deadly.
Inquiring minds want to know, but in the meantime, let’s rank the best moments that did happen.
12. Stinky Car
First, a small disclaimer: It’s rare that an episode of "MythBusters" is just not good. That said, ranking Adam Savage’s best moments is tough because something has to come in at the bottom … but fortunately, there’s this story ready and waiting for that honor. It goes to the segment called "Stinky Car," which was filmed over the course of several months way back during the 1st season.
Savage spoke about the episode in a segment of "Ask Adam Savage," and the question was about the most disgusting myth they ever did. That, he said, was a series of events that unfolded around testing an old story of a man who died in his car and wasn’t discovered for a while. The car was reportedly so permeated with the smell of death that no one would buy it, and they wanted to know if that was possible.
Because they couldn’t use a dead person for obvious reasons, a dead pig was the next best thing. After sourcing two dead pigs from a farm and sealing them inside a Corvette that was then left for three months, they pulled out the car … and Jamie Hyneman had to climb in and release the emergency brake. What followed was just some seriously horrible imagery and smells that viewers luckily didn’t have to experience. Animal lovers? Steer clear of this one.
11. Paper Crossbow
Fans have the creations that stick with them, but does Adam Savage have favorites, too? For sure, and when one fan asked him that during an episode of "Ask Adam Savage," he hunted around for a moment and dug it out from the depths of his workshop. It was the paper crossbow from a Season 4 episode that looked at whether or not it was possible for prison inmates to make deadly weapons out of whatever they happened to have available. "It worked a treat," Savage reminisced. "I’m just so happy about this thing. It was really, really fun to build. … Just as thrilling to me today as it was 17 years ago."
Not only was the crossbow one of his favorite builds, but Savage also shared how they were taken through a tour of the San Quentin Museum, which has scores of prisoner-made weapons. Included in the collection, he says, was an automatic rifle made from pieces sourced from the auto shop. Unfortunately, this is an instance where a little extra information kind of ruins things. There are a few reasons for that, and it’s why Savage’s favorite gadget comes in pretty low. Prisoner-made weapons have been around for ages, so it involved less testing and more replicating of a process that’s already been done. And knowing that there’s a prison-made automatic rifle out there? Why didn’t that make the show?
10. Waterslide Wipeout
The "Waterslide Wipeout" episode aired as a part of Season 8, and the idea came about when the "MythBusters" decided to recreate a YouTube video that was going viral at the time. It showed a man going down a water slide before being launched hundreds of feet through the air and finally coming down into a pool. According to Adam Savage, he had been sent the video an uncountable number of times. Each time, he scoffed and thought that no, of course they weren’t going to try it. Still, there was something that stuck with him — and so, after swapping out the kiddie pool for a target in a lake, they headed up to a quarry in Northern California, built a 225-foot waterside, and gave it a shot.
And it worked … on the build day. The following day was filled with enough problems to make this one come in on the low side of our ranking for sympathy’s sake: Repeat jumps proved headache-inducing and exhausting, the water was close to freezing, and equipment started failing. "I was not having the best day," Savage said. Still, at the end? He said it was worth it: "I landed direct center. It was a beautiful jump." But a huge reason this was one of the "best"? Savage says that it wasn’t often that the crew got to try some of the fun things, and the waterslide was one of those things.
9. Hammerhead sharks
Not all the best moments happened on-camera, and they weren’t all about busting myths. When one viewer of "Adam Savage’s Tested" wrote in asking what was the best thing "MythBusters" allowed him to do that he probably wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, he had a couple of answers. One is particularly epic because when he first found out what he was going to be doing, he wanted no part of it.
They were headed to the Bahamas as a part of their episode done in conjunction with Discovery Channel’s "Shark Week." Everyone loves watching sharks, sure, but they were going to be hopping in the water with some of them — and Savage didn’t want to do it. Until, that is, he experienced it. "I’m looking down at this sandy bottom, and I see the shadow of a hammerhead shark," he said. "And I don’t know what to tell you, except that to see a hammerhead in the world was one of the most surreal… it is an alien, and to see it so close to me?!"
Savage went on to say that after that initial shock, it opened up a whole new world. He went on to say, "I’ve since found diving with sharks to be some of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had in nature. Sharks are unbelievably beautiful, and spending lots of time underwater — getting paid to spend lots of time underwater — there’s not much better than that."
8. Octopus pregnancy
There were plenty of myths that were tested on "MythBusters" even though they were clearly outrageous — which is why the episode that let Adam Savage experience his favorite thing of all isn’t any higher on our list. First, the myth: It’s the story of a woman who swallowed an octopus egg while diving, which grew into a full-sized octopus inside her stomach. Terrifying, sure, but it’s still safe to say that this is one of the more absurd myths. Still, Savage said in a segment of "Ask Adam Savage" that one of the things that went on behind the scenes of this busted myth was his absolute favorite … and he adds that at the time, he had no idea he even wanted to meet an octopus up close and personal.
They went to the Monterey Aquarium, which invited him to feed their giant Pacific octopus. Originally thinking he was just going to be watching the feeding, he was shocked when they handed him a shrimp to give to the creature. Then, he was even more shocked when the tentacle reached out to take it. "I ended up spending 45 minutes there with the octopus wrapped around my whole arm," he recalled, still clearly in awe of the entire experience. "It was amazing. The octopus got really playful, it squirted water … when you stare into the eyes of another creature like that, it feels a little less lonely."
7. Hindenburg Mystery
The Hindenburg is one of those monumental episodes in American history, and it’s kind of surprising that it took "MythBusters" until the 5th season to do an episode featuring a dirigible built by Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman. In 2022, Savage looked back on the episode for a segment on his YouTube channel, "Adam Savage’s Tested." In response to a submitted question, he revealed that not only was it one of the most fun segments they did, but that he’d kept and framed the blueprints for building their miniature versions of the Hindenburg.
Somewhat ironically, he said that this experiment was one of the only times they had an unintended fire, when the model caught on fire mid-shoot. (And in an attempt to put out the fire, Savage was unsuccessful — but he was successful in hitting Hyneman in the face with a massive piece of plywood.) It also gets props because it got the attention of The New York Times, which sent a science writer out to the "MythBusters" facility. The article asking "The Best Science Show on Television?" came to the conclusion that it wasn’t exactly the best, but Savage said, "That felt unbelievable to see our scrappy little project on the front page of the Science section of The New York Times."
6. Airplane on Conveyor Belt
Anything that gets people talking about and discussing science is usually a great topic, and the whole "airplane on a conveyor belt" myth is exactly that. Adam Savage talked about the Season 6 segment on "Tested" and explained why it took three weeks to work out the logistics of demonstrating the myth and why it’s so controversial. "Go easy on people who have trouble with the controversy of this story," he said first. "… It’s because the question is devilishly clever in its ability to confuse the human mind."
Although the episode did prove that a plane trying to take off from a runway that was a conveyor belt moving in the opposite direction could, in fact, take off, Savage said that he didn’t think the controversy was ever going to go away. Why? He cited the perceived similarities between cars and planes and the crucial difference that cars rely on their tires hitting the ground to move while planes rely on air. In fact, they got enough angry phone calls about the segment that Jamie Hyneman finally got rid of the shop’s landline. Discussion about science is good, but moving into the 21st century is even better.
5. Herding Cats
There’s no denying the fact that "MythBusters" introduced some serious — and seriously fascinating — science into many of their episodes, but there’s a lot to be said for the not-so-serious episodes, too. And that’s why the Season 12 episode "Mythssion Impossible" and its segment on herding cats are among our top Adam Savage moments.
"The ‘herding cats’ story was hilarious to film," Savage said on "Tested." "It was one weird, bizarro thing after another." They took this weird myth about herding cats just as seriously as any other and started by learning how to herd ducks. "That was an amazing day," he said … but just about the ducks. Cats? "Herding cats is not possible. Cats are evolutionarily resistant to herding." From cats getting stuck in the walls to cats trying to escape their supposedly cat-proof pen to a cat fight or two, the entire thing went about as predicted by anyone who has had any actual experience with cats — and seriously, bonus points for even thinking it was possible it might go any other way.
Savage fully admitted that of all the ridiculous things they’ve tried to do, that was at the top of his list — still, he added, "I’m super glad we did it."
4. Golf Ball Car
In 2020, Adam Savage was asked what the most surprising result they’d ever gotten was, and he answered (after saying that he was pretty sure Jamie Hyneman would have the same response) that it was the golf ball car. The idea started with the fact that the dimples on a traditional golf ball allow for it to go much farther than a non-dimpled golf ball because of aerodynamics. That led to the myth that if dimples got added to a car, it would become more aerodynamic and get much better gas mileage. Sounds crazy, right?
They coated a car first with clay, then carved golf ball-like dimples out of the clay. The verdict? It worked: The dimpled car saved 14% in gas, and their reactions said it all. "Oh my god, both of us, laughing, laughing, astonished, astounded, amazed that we got this incredible result," Savage said. "That was by far one of the most surprising and wonderful days." Even better was what came afterward, and it’s this behind-the-scenes tidbit that raises this segment in the rankings. Savage said that they received a letter from one of the major car companies, saying they had done the same test in one of their wind tunnels and thought the "MythBusters" were wrong. "My favorite part about that?" he said. "One of these multi-billion-dollar corporations went through the effort and took the time … like, we caused that to happen! We wasted their time! I love that!"
3. Archimedes Death Ray
Now we’re getting into the really good stuff, and that includes the myth that Adam Savage once said he was shocked to find didn’t get as much attention as some of the others. When they were filming it, he was sure it was going to be a popular clip … but it just sort of fizzled. He said that it was the Archimedian death ray, filmed at the request of and with help from President Barack Obama. How could that not get enough attention?
Savage explains that the media was focused on the fact that they were filming in the White House, and some condemned the idea that Obama had the time to take part in an episode of "MythBusters." That’s what got the attention, not the myth itself — which, Savage is quick to point out, was done with the help of 500 students from the school where Jamie Hyneman’s wife taught at. He called it "one of my favorite days of filming ever," and it was done on a pretty epic scale. "It was a helluva day," he said. "It was a big, beautiful story." When it finally aired, it didn’t do nearly as well as some of the other episodes, as far as ratings were concerned, and more than a decade later, Savage is still shocked. We hear you, Mr. Savage, and we’re giving the episode what it’s due.
2. Flu Fiction
Anyone who says they don’t like a good explosion is obviously lying, but here’s the thing: Science is also pretty darn cool when it’s something that impacts our everyday lives, and most of the time, the flashiest stuff just doesn’t do that. It’d be great to have a 225-foot waterslide in the backyard, but most people don’t. What most people do have is gross bodily fluids, and it’s the sheer practicality of Season 8’s "Flu Fiction" that has it coming in pretty high.
Adam Savage appreciated this one, too, saying so on "Tested." After trying to decide how to best sum up his feelings on the bacteria-based research they did, he simply said: "Things are way dirtier than I realized." They looked at things like how far sneezes really travel and how much disgustingness people shed off their skin over the course of perfectly ordinary interactions. In 2020, Savage said that doing all that research into bodily functions brought a bit of peace of mind to him throughout COVID: "The difference that it made for me in the time of COVID and the lockdown was to feel somewhat confident that the measures I was taking were enough. … It gave me a perspective."
During the pandemic, Discovery moved that episode out from behind the paywall, and anything that gave anyone a little more peace during the terrifying time of COVID-19? It’s a total win.
1. Series Finale: Memory Lane
And now, the very best of the best: the Memory Lane of the series finale. Wanting to go out with a bang, the "MythBusters" lined up 14 years’ worth of iconic props. Adam Savage said, "The unexpected result is that it’s created a catharsis for me. … I have to say, taking a walk through it is pretty emotional, and it’s kind of hard to say goodbye." But that’s not the only reason this takes the top spot. In 2021, a viewer asked Adam Savage (via "Tested") if anything he learned while filming "MythBusters" — particularly the stunts — ever saved his life. He said that yes, it had.
And it wasn’t just the stunts — it was the ability to adapt. That’s what he had to do when something went terrifyingly wrong in the finale: Just a few seconds into the mile-long course, a piece of plywood flew up. It left him sailing along at 50 mph in a huge truck, hitting thousands of props … unable to see where he was going. Street signs indicating the year of the props were all along the runway, and Savage finished by keeping track of those signs. Just a week later, he was driving down a California highway and lost all steering in his truck. The real-life episode ended with no one getting hurt, and he explained, "The reason I was able to get out of that jam was solely because of all the training I’ve had in driving on ‘MythBusters.’"