The best South Park episodes of all time have the same things in common: A not-so-thinly veiled cultural critique that rises to the occasion at the time of its airing, along with a sense of absurdist shock and surprise.
The glue holding it together? The adventures of Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman.
Therein lies the genius of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. South Park has proven to have some serious cultural staying power, we put together a guide to the best South Park episodes of all time.
South Park is a TV institution on par with legendary shows like The Simpsons, and, uh… The Simpsons. Seriously, that’s about it. It’s reached that rarefied air previously reserved for the nation’s true first family.
We thought now would be a good time to take a moment to celebrate such an achievement.
The Best South Park Episodes Of All Time
50. ‘Raisins’, Season 7, Episode 14
Butters falls in love with a young waitress, and learns that age old lesson: never fall in love with someone who works for tips. And we all learn that in South Park, Colorado, apparently zoning laws are totally cool with approving Hooters like restaurants for 9 year-olds.
49. ‘Gnomes’, S2 E17
1. Collect Underpants
That’s all I really need to say here.
48. ‘Goobacks’, S8 E7
“They took our jerbs!” And that’s all I really need to say here.
47. ‘Asspen’, S6 E2
Stan is forced into a showdown on the ski slopes with some rich douchebag as South Park takes on 80s teen comedies in this episode and it is glorious. There’s also a subplot involving a time-share sales pitch from hell, which is probably the only thing on Earth more annoying than rich douchebag skiers.
46. ‘Butters’ Bottom Bitch’, S13 E9
Butters starts a “kissing company,” which, naturally, ends up with him becoming a pimp. Let me repeat: Butters becomes a pimp.
45. ‘Chickenlover’, S2 E3
A pervert is running around town molesting chickens, and the only one who can stop him is Officer Eric Cartman. Yes, this is where “Respect my authoritah!” was born and one of the first truly huge South Park memes was upon us.
44. ‘The Return of Chef’, S10 E1
Lesson: never, ever – ever – piss off Matt Stone and Trey Parker. This episode is kind of uncomfortable, completely over the top, and really, really funny. It’s just a complete demolition of Isaac Hayes, who fell-out with Parker and Stone over their take on Scientology, but it’s also a sad lament of a friendship gone awry. There’s a heart beating somewhere inside a dead man shitting himself.
43. ‘Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo’, S1 E9
One of the best South Park episodes of all time because of the shock and awe of it being a Christmas special. It’s a Christmas episode about a talking piece of shit. Just read that again. It was so weird and so funny, and no one had ever seen anything like it before. This might have been the episode which raised the bar for the entire series.
42. ‘You’re Getting Old’, S15 E7
Stan turns 10 and blah, blah, blah… really, it’s all about his dad, Randy, AKA the show’s nuclear bomb of characters, who gets into tween music and hilarity ensues. It was also a clever take on the show itself getting up there and running into the challenges that come with having done it all a million times before, but, again, everything pales next to the magnificence that is Randy Marsh.
41. ‘Fat Butt and Pancake Head’, S7 E5
Cartman performs a ventriloquist act in which his hand doubles as Jennifer Lopez. Naturally, he gets carried away, “Miss Lopez” takes on a mind of her own, and long story short, Cartman ends up getting molested by Ben Affleck. South Park, everybody.
40. ‘Margaritaville’, S13 E3
The gang takes on the Great Recession, and Randy struggles with a margarita machine. Who says art is dead?
39. ‘The Losing Edge’, S9 E5
Randy episode? Randy episode. In this one, he follows the boys’ little league team around the state, fighting parents at each stop. Vintage Randy.
38. ‘Fantastic Easter Special’, S11 E5
It’s a parody of The Da Vinci Code, as the gang takes on a conspiracy involving the Easter Bunny and secret societies. But, again, it’s all about Randy. Oh, and Jesus shows up and kills a dude with a five-bladed sword. What would Jesus do indeed.
37. ‘Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset’, S8 E12
South Park destroys Paris Hilton back when she was still a thing, setting the standard for all other South Park celeb skank assassinations to come. Whether it’s mutilating Snooki or Hobbitizing Kim Kardashian, this episode is the playbook for all of those episodes. The idiots change, but the message remains the same.
36. ‘The Jeffersons’, S8 E6
Michael Jackson moves to town, and… do I really need to go on? Everything you would expect to happen happens… and more. And it is glorious.
35. ‘Medicinal Fried Chicken’, S14 E3
Randy decides to intentionally give himself testicular cancer so he can get some of that sweet, sweet medical marijuana. It’s as funny as it sounds, and no one who’s seen it will ever forget the site of Randy carrying his swollen nards around in a wheelbarrow. If only you would have waited a couple of years, Randy. The voters of Colorado had your back.
34. ‘Ginger Kids’, S9 E11
Cartman hates gingers, so the gang teaches him a lesson by making him think that he’s a ginger too. This is the episode that basically made “gingers” a thing in pop-culture, and for as much as we talk about The Simpsons impact on pop culture, South Park deserves just as much credit. If not more.
33. ‘Cartman Gets an Anal Probe’, S1 E1
This is it, the episode that started everything. It’s kind of awkward and the characters are just sketches of what they would eventually become, but this is what set the tone for everything to follow, and told everyone watching that this was something completely different, and completely awesome.
32. ‘Cartoon Wars’ Part 1 and 2, S10 E3, S10 E4
I’m cheating a little here, but some of these two and three part episodes are really one story and should be treated as such. Anyway, Cartman and South Park take on Family Guy, and it’s really, really not as good-natured as these things usually go, which is both refreshing and hilarious.
31. ‘The Wacky Molestation Adventure’, S4 E16
South Park is the only show that has ever existed that could get away with an episode like this, which speaks to how funny it is. You can only completely obliterate the boundaries of good taste if you’re that funny. That’s just the deal. And this might be the ultimate example of that, as the kids get everyone in town arrested for child molestation. Just think about that, and how amazing it is that the show made that a fucking comedy premise.
30. ‘Over Logging’, S12 E6
The Internet goes out, and the Marshes join a mass exodus to California, where rumors of connectivity abound. Aside from parodying our collective nightmare, it’s again all about that Randy goodness, as he freaks out because how the hell else is he supposed to jack off? Truly, a question for the ages.
29. ‘Le Petit Tourette’, S11 E8
Cartman pretends to have Tourette’s so he can shout obscenities whenever he wants. Look, sometimes “funny” doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. It’s a fairly one-note premise, but it works and works big.
28. ‘Cartman’s Mom Is a Dirty Slut’, S1 E13
Cartman goes searching for his father only to find out that mommy dearest has slept with everyone in town. This is one of the show’s early classics and just might be the best episode in the first three seasons.
27. ‘Kenny Dies’, S5 E13
After killing Kenny off over and over again only for him to return, Trey and Matt decided to kill him off for good. Well, sort of. Okay, not really, but it was still a milestone moment in the show’s history as it paved the way for the introduction of Butters as a bigger character, which is always a good thing. Plus, it allowed Cartman to try to make money off of a truckload of aborted fetuses. You know, as one does.
26. ‘Cartmanland’, S5 E6
Cartman inherits his grandma’s fortune and uses it to open a theme park, causing Kyle to lose his faith in God. Just a flat out funny episode that further solidifies the Cartman/Kyle hate dynamic that is central to so many of the show’s episodes.
25. ‘The Passion of the Jew’, S8 E3
Cartman, Mel Gibson, Cartman’s rivalry with the Jewish Kyle… you do the math. Again, you can only cross these sorts of lines if you’re really, really funny.
24. ‘Marjorine’, S9 E9
Any episode in which the boys are revealed to be complete idiots when it comes to the opposite sex is a good one, and this is one of the best. I mean, that’s just gonna be the case whenever you have Butters fake his own death and return as a young lady just so he can infiltrate the girls’ slumber party because Cartman suspects shenanigans. Good times.
23. ‘Fishsticks’, S13 E5
Jimmy comes up with a joke that sweeps the nation. Everyone loves it… except for Kanye West, who refuses to admit that he doesn’t get it because he’s a genius, damn it! Look, Kanye and his ridiculous self-image is like the world’s slowest clay pigeon floating across the sky, just daring dudes like Trey and Matt to take their shots, but they made sure it was a good one instead of just firing wildly.
22. ‘Night of the Living Homeless’, S11 E7
Kyle decides to give a hobo some cash, and the town is soon overrun zombie style by the homeless. It’s basically South Park does Romero-style zombie movies, and it’s awesome, especially with Randy in the middle of it all.
21. ‘Professor Chaos’/‘Simpsons Already Did It’, S6 E6, S6 E7
Another two-parter, the first episode sees Butters adopt his infamous (and ridiculous) Professor Chaos persona, and then the second, even funnier episode sees him lose his mind as he (and the show as a whole) is reminded that The Simpsons has already done it all. The subplot is somehow even better, as the boys worry that their “sea men” shrimp killed their teacher after her autopsy finds semen in her stomach. Yeah.
20. ‘Stunning and Brave’, S19 E1
One of the best South Park episodes of all time introduces an iconic new character into the fold. We meet PC Principal — the ultimate politically-correct character for the modern era — and his fraternity of agro PC Bros when they descend upon South Park. Also: Caitlyn Jenner and society’s obsession with “safe spaces” gets the South Park treatment.
19. ‘With Apologies to Jesse Jackson’, S11 E1
Randy drops an N-bomb on TV and all hell breaks loose. This was in the aftermath of Michael “Kramer” Richards shouting racial slurs at hecklers, and while it may sound cheap and exploitative, this is actually the show at its best – it’s incisive, provocative, surprisingly thoughtful, and, of course, really, really funny. Plus, you know, Randy. That’s all I need to say now, right? I may have a problem. A glorious Randy problem.
18. ‘Cartman Joins NAMBLA’, S4 E5
In search of more mature friends, Cartman hooks up with the bros from NAMBLA, and the rest just writes itself. And if you don’t know what NAMBLA is, for the love of god, don’t google that shit or else you’ll end up on some sort of list.
17. ‘All About Mormons’, S7 E12
Trey Parker and Matt Stone go after Mormons, and it’s both completely crazy and flat-out funny. It was such a good episode that it pretty much inspired the duo’s hit Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon, a few years later.
16. ‘You Have 0 Friends’, S14 E4
Matt and Trey destroy Facebook and social media in general. It’s the episode we both needed and deserved.
15. ‘Tsst’, S10 E7
Cartman is out of control so his mom brings in the big guns – reality TV. After driving various big shot TV nannies to the brink of insanity, Cartman is finally tamed by the Dog Whisperer. It’s just a laugh out loud concept that is executed perfectly.
14. ‘Butters’ Very Own Episode’, S5 E14
Butters’ beloved mom tries to kill him, hilarity – and time travel – ensues. This was the first episode after “Kenny Dies,” and firmly established Butters as a major character going forward, and since Butters became one of the show’s secret weapons, I’d say that makes this a pretty damn big episode.
13. ‘Christian Rock Hard’, S7 E9
Cartman starts a Christian rock band and unlocks the secret to chart-topping success – just use classic love songs, only throw in Jesus’ name instead of the lady’s. But the episode is more than that. It also famously satirized the whole music file-sharing fiasco that almost brought down the whole record industry and made everyone hate Metallica. It’s just a funny, over-the-top offensive, brilliant episode.
12. ‘Major Boobage’, S12 E3
Kenny gets high on the new craze – huffing cat urine – and is soon lost in a hallucinogenic world of cartoon titties and heavy metal. It’s an amazing tribute to the classic sleaze movie Heavy Metal, and if you don’t love this episode, I’m not sure we can be friends.
11. ‘Cartman Sucks’, S11 E2
Cartman tries to frame Butters as gay by taking a picture of him with Butters’ penis in his mouth. Yeah, that doesn’t work out too well for ol’ Cartman. Or for Butters, who finds himself sent to a “conversion camp.” It’s South Park’s take on homophobia, and, again, whenever they do this sort of thing, it always manages to be surprisingly nuanced along with being laugh out loud funny. No one strikes that balance better.
10. ‘AWESOME-O’, S8 E5
Speaking of Cartman and Butters, this time Cartman pretends to be a robot to fuck with Butters, only things get out of hand, and one thing leads to another and Cartman the robot finds himself being used and abused by a Hollywood exec who thinks he’s a pleasure-bot. You know, the usual.
9. ‘Casa Bonita’, S7 E11
Cartman and Butters again. One of the best South Park episodes featuring both of these characters at their best. Cartman really, really wants to go to Kyle’s birthday party at a Mexican restaurant, but Kyle invites Butters instead. Cartman is a psychopath, so things unfold in a completely ridiculous – and hilarious – manner, with Butters doing what he does best – serving as Cartman’s unwitting foil. This is one of the funniest episodes of any show ever.
8. ‘The Death of Eric Cartman’, S9 E6
Cartman finally goes too far in the asshole game and so his friends all decide to ignore him. Naturally, Cartman thinks he’s dead because no one will acknowledge him – well, nobody but Butters. It’s a funny concept with an even funnier execution. It’s basically a Butters and Cartman buddy episode, and who doesn’t love that?
7. ‘Woodland Critter Christmas’, S8 E14
Stan tries to help some innocent forest animals, only to find that he’s helping them unleash the antichrist. Blood orgies ensue, and the most fucked up Christmas episode ever is off and running. It’s just completely ridiculous in all the best ways.
6. ‘The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers’, S6 E13
Matt and Trey take on Lord of the Rings, which is pretty much a can’t miss idea, right? Luckily, they completely crush it, as Randy accidentally mixes up a copy of Fellowship of the Ring with one of his pornos and hijinks ensue of the hilarious variety.
5. ‘Imaginationland’ trilogy, S11 E10, S11 E11, S11 E12
This story arc was so good that they eventually just released it as a movie. It’s really something that even defies description, or at least a description which wouldn’t be a 1200 word article all its own. There are terrorism themes, the woodland creatures get involved again, Cartman and Kyle’s feuding rises to the surface once again, and all manner of chaos ensues, but most importantly, it’s really, really funny.
4. ‘Good Times With Weapons’, S8 E1
The gang gets ahold of “authentic Eastern weapons” from a shady dealer, and, well, you can guess what happens. But the plot is really just an excuse to draw the characters Anime style, which is even funnier than it sounds. I love this episode.
3. ‘Trapped in the Closet’, S9 E12
Yes, this is the famous Scientology episode, which absolutely destroyed Tom Cruise, all while parodying R. Kelly because, well, why not? It ended up causing Cruise to try to back out of his deals with Comedy Central’s parent company, Paramount, and effectively destroyed Trey and Matt’s relationship with Isaac Hayes, AKA Chef, a devoted Scientologist. It’s a huge episode, but the only reason it worked so damn well and touched so many nerves is because it was really, really good.
2. ‘Scott Tenorman Must Die’, S5 E4
This is the ultimate Cartman episode, which highlights his complete psychopathy, and features the most infamous moment in the show’s history – Cartman licking the tears of Scott Tenorman after forcing the kid to eat his own parents. Don’t fuck with Cartman, man.
1. ‘Make Love, Not Warcraft’, S10 E8
Really, you could make a case for any of the top three on this list to get the top spot, but for all the ramifications of “Trapped in the Closet,” and for the insanity of “Scott Tenorman Must Die,” neither is quite as funny – or as good – as this one. It’s just the perfect South Park episode, satirizing gaming culture, and producing so many memes that it should have its own wing in the Internet Hall of Fame. It’s just amazing. And, of course, just to put it over the top, it’s also a classic Randy episode, and if we’ve learned one thing here today, it’s that Randy makes everything just that much better.
-Go Fund Yourself’ 18.1 — South Park mocks the NFL.
-‘Smug Alert’ 10.2 — You’ll never look at a Prius, farting in a glass, or George Clooney the same.
-‘The Cissy’ 18.3 — We finally learn that Randy Marsh is Lorde
-‘Woodland Critter Christmas’ 8.14 — ‘The Critters have a blood orgy.’