Not much is known about Rick's life before his current state seen in the show except for a few things that have been vaguely mentioned in the series. It has been mentioned multiple times that Rick has been absent from the family for at least fourteen years and it wasn't until one year before the events of "Something Ricked This Way Comes" when Rick finally returned to the Smith house on January 15th. The reason for his absence is unknown to the rest of the family.
In the Pilot episode, Rick told Beth that he loved the eggs that she made him and that her mother would have loved them too if she were still there. In the episode Rick Potion #9, it is revealed that Rick has a very pessimistic worldview, informing Morty that love is "just a chemical reaction that compels animals to breed", advising him not to continue the cycle of love, marriage and heartbreak that he had to go through and that his parents would likely go through, encouraging him to direct his energy towards science. This could imply that the woman he married before is either divorced and/or deceased as of now. In the same episode, he and Morty leave their original dimension (Dimension C-137) in favour of the one they currently reside in.
In the episode Get Schwifty, it was revealed that when Rick was somewhere in his college years or in his 20's, he, Birdperson, and Squanchy were in a rock band called "The Flesh Curtains".
Rick is 60 years old and currently resides in his room in the Smith house. In the garage, he works on his inventions and scientific formulas and tests them out, traveling to other dimensions, building various robots and devices, and causing general mayhem in different parts of the universe
In the episode "The Wedding Squanchers", Rick willingly turned himself over to the Galactic Federation and was sent to one of their maximum security prisons. He currently resides there, with little chance of bail, parole or escape.
Rick is a genius scientist, capable of creating complex scientific inventions, including brain-enhancing helmets, dream-invading devices, portals to several different dimensions, and the world's first amusement park inside the body of a living human. His brilliance can be muddled by his jaded personal views and his alcoholic tendencies. Rick is easily bored and does not do well with routine. When his curse removing store in the episode Something Ricked This Way Comes started requiring real work, Rick simply lit the whole store on fire and abandoned it. He regularly goes to other dimensions to harvest resources and will often willingly kill aliens to get them. He is willing to be extremely brutal such as when people betray him or his life or those close to him are danger. He is usually portrayed as homicidal and having a large disregard for life, enough that he came close to bombing the world with neutrinos while drunk. He was shown to find killing fun during the Purge and was even willing to kill Morty's half-Gazorpian son due to the child's danger to everyone and unstable nature.
This does not make him completely heartless, however, as he has been shown to be shocked, startled or annoyed by loss of life that he deems unnecessary, foolish or unreasonable. He was annoyed at Morty for letting Fart live, resulting in a chase with local police that cost many bystanders their lives, and he was panicked when Unity destroyed an entire city that Rick thought still had people in it, since he was unsure if Summer and Morty were there or not. He also was shocked and upset by people he was close to dying or nearly dying, such as when Mr. Poopybutthole was shot and he ran to his side in fear for the latter's life. When Bird Person was killed by Tammy, Rick flew into a rage, mowing down multiple Federation troops. Rick gasped when seeing Jerry being shot several times and left mutilated. During the time of the Festival, he only watched the killing for a few short seconds before becoming overwhelmed by the violence and vomiting. Later, when helping Arthricia get revenge against the upper class, he felt he had done enough killing and began to find it gratuitous.
Rick has the tendency to be possessive and dominating of Morty, believing the boy to be his own personal helper. This doesn't prevent Rick from genuinely caring about Morty. He occasionally uses his own inventions to improve his grandson's life, such as invading the dreams of Mr. Goldenfold to help raise the boy's math grades (although raising Morty's grades would have the side benefit of preventing Morty's parents from removing Rick's helper)Rick can also be protective of Morty, as shown in the episode "Meeseeks and Destroy", where he eventually sets aside his cynicism to allow Morty to have a positive adventure, and abruptly kills Mr. Jellybean as the two are leaving the fantasy world because of the previous attempted rape on Morty. He even tried to sacrifice himself for Morty in A Rickle in Time and accepted death, that is until he saw a way out of dying. He cried when seeing pictures of Morty and remembering Morty as a newborn reaching out to him, when he was held captive by Evil Rick, causing Evil Rick to mock him and then for Rick to insult him back.
Rick and Morty have a strong bond, though their relationship is strained due to Rick's cynicism, alcoholism, lack of conventional morality, and his tendency to push aside other members of the Smith family. Rick clearly doesn't respect Jerry in any sense, and his relationship with Beth can be tumultuous at times. In "Raising Gazorpazorp"and "Something Ricked This Way Comes", Summer tags along on some of Rick's adventures. Though Rick initially had very little interest in her, the two have begun to develop a closer bond.
Rick has trouble taking orders from others, is very anti-totalitarian, and seems to dislike people with authority and government officials. He refuses to join the Council of Ricks because he views them as a government. He also calls the guards at Intergalactic Customs "robots" and claims that he doesn't respect them, as he deems them bureaucrats and doesn't like "being told where to go and what to do". Rick also has a great dislike of standardized education, claiming that school "isn't a place for smart people" and a "waste of time", and insists that things such as studying and homework are pointless and stupid.
Rick holds seemingly contradictory beliefs on religion, at one point telling Summer at the breakfast table in the pilot, "There is no God", yet in the "Anatomy Park" episode, he tells the family "Do you realize that Christ was born today? Jesus Christ our savior was born today-are you people even human? What kind of Christmas is this?" (although he was most likely sarcastic), quickly recognizing Mr. Needful as the Devil, and when he thinks he is going to die while one of the other sixty-three Ricks is chasing after Morty's lost collar, actually kneels and prays-"Please God, if there's a Hell, please be merciful to me" (significantly, when no one else can hear him). When the 1/64th Rick succeeds, he yells "Fuck you God, not today, bitch!" When the Ricks recombine in the presence of Summer and Morty, however, he once again says "I did it! There is no God! In your face!" It's possible this is just due to Rick's ego and his complete confidence in his own abilities.
Despite his general disregard for others, he is shown to harbor deep emotional pain and sorrow, especially when it comes to his romantic relationships, such as with his ex-wife and Unity. Not much is known about his marriage, but the absence of his wife is possibly a contributing factor to his current personality. Much more is known about his relationship with Unity. After freshening up during a long party with Unity's hive mind avatars, he returned to find Unity and all the planet's inhabitants gone, leaving behind a farewell note for Rick explaining that while Unity enjoyed its time with him, they could not be together, as they were too alike in the sense that they both turn others into mirror images of themselves, though in Rick's case, he does so through bad influence rather than assimilation.
Dejected, heartbroken, and alone, Rick returned home, where he was confronted by Beth over the basement lair and the escaped alien, and asked to keep no more alien pets. To Beth's (and the whole family's) shock, Rick simply conceded and retreated to the garage, where he clumsily attempted suicide with a makeshift death ray. He first killed a small, baby-like blob creature he kept, hoping to cure the space AIDS which the alien apparently suffered from. After Beth and Jerry let Blim Blam escape, Rick lost his chance to find the cure, hence his decision to euthanize the small alien. He thawed it out with a serum, comfortingly petting it as it cried out and screamed. He turned it to ash with the death ray before he sat down under it as it was about to fire again, only to pass out at the last moment while the death ray overloaded and fried. He remained slumped over his workbench, passed out, for the majority of the day and night. Rick and Morty then visited Beta 7's world, where Unity is staying. Rick demanded to see Unity, but Beta 7 informs Rick he is considered a "hostile entity" and threatened to attack the two unless they left, which Rick reluctantly did at Morty's urging.
Originally, Rick's consumption of alcohol is presented more from a comedic viewpoint throughout the series' run, but in the Season 1 finale "Ricksy Business", Bird Person claims that Rick is in "great pain" (citing his catchphrase "wubba lubba dub dub" as meaning "I am in great pain. Please help me." in Bird Person's language), and that he uses drugs and alcohol to numb himself. This is most likely due to his genius intelligence, and the traumatizing effect that his continuous adventures may have on him, in the past and present (in "Rick Potion No. 9", Rick explains that the best method on how to deal with horrible events and outcomes is to "not think about it").
Throughout his numerous adventures with Morty, Rick has been shown to be ready and willing to disregard rules, laws and social norms if it is necessary to complete a task or escape a dangerous situation. Season one has Rick resorting to assault, battery, vandalism, smuggling, corruption of a minor, home invasion, reckless endangerment, terrorist threats, indecent exposure and even murder and arson in order to get the job done. The most common crimes committed are driving (or flying) under the influence, drug abuse, and public intoxication.
In "The Wedding Squanchers," Rick is arrested by the Galactic Federation. His full criminal record is displayed on a monitor. Although in an alien language and unreadable, it is shown to be quite long. After he is placed under maximum security, another prisoner asks him "What are you in for?", to which Rick responds simply with "Everything"
- Assault: In the episode A Rickle in Time, Rick started beating up a member of the Galactic Federation. Also in the pilot episode, Rick slaps a bystander alien in the face while fleeing from airport security, causing the alien to cry
- Bioterrorism: In the episode Rick Potion #9, Rick made a dysfunctional love potion that spread a flu-like virus to everyone in the world, which caused them to rip apart and mutate into giant praying mantis monsters. He attempted to fix this, by using another potion, but this only made them mutate again, cronenberging the entire world. He couldn't fix the mutations in the end, and just left the dimension with Morty, leaving all of the mutated humans behind.
- Breaking and Entering (Burglary): In the episode Lawnmower Dog, Rick and Morty snuck into Mr. Goldenfold's house while he was sleeping with the intent to brainwash him into giving Morty an A in math by invading Mr. Goldenfold's his dreams and incepting the idea.
- Cable Piracy: In the episodes Rixty Minutes and Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate, Rick used an interdimensional cable box to stream an infinite amount of TV channels to his own television and the intergalactic hospital television.
- Child Abuse: In most episodes of the series, Rick takes Morty along with him on all of his adventures, sometimes against his will. He often endangers his life as well as leaving him traumatized and mentally scarred by exposing him to scary and horrible things, such as watching himself get killed and having to bury his own body or being forced to kill clones of his family. Morty is also the victim of lots of physical damage such as breaking his legs in three places. In the episode Total Rickall, Rick was even seen pushing Morty down a stairwell, simply as a practical joke, in a flashback montage, along with other ways Rick has mistreated him.
- Corpse Mutilation: In "Pickle Rick", he ripped apart the bodies of multiple rats and cockroaches and reassembled them into a suit.
- Driving Under Influence: Rick is drunk throughout the majority of most episodes of Rick and Morty and he's seen driving the space cruiser while he's drunk. Most notably in the Pilot episode, when Rick was visibly intoxicated while he flew the space cruiser with Morty and it almost led to him destroying the world.
- Felony Murder: Through the course of their adventures, many people have died as a direct or indirect result of Rick's actions. These deaths were usually during the commission of various other serious crimes he was committing, including felony evasion, smuggling, fraud, etc. Rick has also induced Morty to kill people for him, such as making him shoot the security guards to aid their escape in the Pilot episode.
- Genocide: In the episode The Ricks Must Be Crazy, in order to keep the inhabitants of the microverse producing power for his spaceship, Rick smashes the container of the Miniverse. This causes the Miniverse, and the Teenyverse (a miniature universe within the Miniverse), and its two races of inhabitants to be wiped from existence.
- Human Cloning: In the episode Big Trouble In Little Sanchez, it was revealed that Rick had been cloning and growing other versions of himself in vats in his bunker under the Smith Family garage. Although it remains unclear where cloning fits into Intergalactic law, it is at least illegal on Earth. In "Rickmancing the Stone", he cloned himself again, along with Summer and Morty.
- Illegal Arms Dealing: In the episode Mortynight Run, it was revealed that Rick has been selling weapons to a hitman for a long time, possibly also hiring him to kill various living beings.
- Impersonation: When Rick's concoctions in the episode Rick Potion #9 mutated everyone on the planet not biologically related to Morty, the two traveled to a new dimension whose versions of them had just died in an explosion seconds before their arrival, and assumed their places as if nothing had happened. The corpses are currently still burried in the Smith's backyard. In "The Rickshank Rickdemption", he took control over the minds many Gromflomites and members of SEAL Team Ricks, and pretended to be them.
- Kidnapping and False Imprisonment: In the episode Auto Erotic Assimilation, it was revealed that Rick had kidnapped an alien and kept it imprisoned in the basement against its own will for an amount of time, so that he could perform multiple tests on him.
- Murder: Outside of all of the hostile aliens he's killed, Rick has killed multiple innocent beings too. In the episode Meeseeks and Destroy, he blasted King Jellybean with a laser gun just as he was leaving the dimension (although it was justified, seeing as how Jellybean attempted to rape Morty and was shown to be a serial rapist pedophile). In the episode Big Trouble In Little Sanchez, he ran around with an axe and killed several living versions of himself at different ages, including a baby, a young child, a young adult, and a full adult (although this could also fall under suicide, since they were his own clones). In the episode The Wedding Squanchers, he killed a few more members of the Galactic Federation. In Look Who's Purging Now, Rick and Morty partake in the Purge, and Rick kills a large number of government officials, although this was in a successful effort to remove the Purge.
- Prison Escape - In "The Rickshank Rickdemption", Rick broke out of the Galactic Federation Prison, killed many of the guards, and finally, blew the entire place up, which in turn, must have freed any other prisoners, assuming any survived the explosion.
- Slavery: In the episode The Ricks Must Be Crazy, it was revealed that Rick's spaceship battery was powered through a microverse, containing a whole planet of people forced to generate his power (originally through deception, later through fear of destruction).
- Smuggling: In the Pilot episode, Rick attempted to smuggle Mega Seeds past Intergalactic Customssecurity, by having Morty shove them up his butt to avoid the scanner detecting them. However, when the security guard told them they have a new machine that would detect things up there, Rick grabbed Morty and took off running from them.
- Terrorism: At the end of the episode The Ricks Must Be Crazy, the inhabitants of the microverse are forced to step on gooble-boxes to power Rick's spaceship for fear of their planet being destroyed (see above: Slavery).
- Time Bending: In the episode A Rickle in Time, Rick froze time for the equivalent of six months which caused time to start splitting and dividing multiple times, to the point where a Fourth Dimensional Beingfrom the Galactic Federation came and tried to arrest him and his grandkids, also revealing that Rick may have done before.
- Torture/Cruelty to Animals: At the end of the episode Auto Erotic Assimilation, Rick revealed to be in possession a living, albeit frozen, being (unclear on the sentience of said being), which was horribly suffering after thawing out , and then he shocked it with a superheated ray, reducing it to ash. This was apparently to test his suicide machine.
- Vandalism/Arson: Rick destroyed multiple things in Intergalactic Customs in the Pilot episode. In the episode Something Ricked This Way Comes, Rick had a store and soon got bored of it, so he doused it with gasoline and lit it on fire while people were still in it.
- Treason/Rebellion: Prior to the start of the series, Rick was part of an organization that attempted to overthrow and destroy the Galactic Federation, along with his old comrades Squanchy and Birdperson.