I was nine years old when South Park premiered on August 13, 1997. I still remember sitting on the couch at 10 pm on that Wednesday watching a show that would literally change my life.
“Impressionable” is an easy word to describe most kids. It’s a time of our lives where we start to not only decide but also remember our likes and dislikes. I knew immediately I liked what I was watching. South Park debuted before school started and I couldn’t wait to start talking about it with my friends… when I started the fifth grade.
Few kids in my grade had seen the show. As it turns out, not many parents allowed their kids to watch four foul-mouth characters talk about anal probes while getting serenaded about making love by their cafeteria chef past their bedtime on a school night. By the time my parents had realized what South Park was it was too late, I was hooked.
When I set out to write this retrospective, I took it lightly. It was supposed to be fun. In reality, it was like a parent picking their favorite son or daughter. While not every season of South Park is created equally, picking just one great episode from a show that is overflowing with classics grew to be a monumental task. I flipped and I flopped before finally coming to a list of my absolute favorites from the last 20 seasons.
Here is the best episode of every season of South Park.
Season 1: Cartman Gets an Anal Probe (Episode 1)
The show that started it all gets the nod as the best episode of Season 1. Kenny dies for the first time, Stan throws up on Wendy, Kyle kicks his brother through windows and we’re introduced to Cartman’s insufferable hatred for his own best friends. There may be funnier episodes but none meant as much to the series as S1E1.
Runners-Up: Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo, An Elephant Makes Love to a Pig
Season 2: Chickenlover (Episode 3)
Over the last 20 years South Park has been described as groundbreaking for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is that they developed an entire episode about a serial chicken-rapist whose sole purpose was to teach Officer Barbrady how to read. On top of the actual absurdity of the plot, we were given one of the first truly iconic quotes of the show when Cartman is deputized: ‘Respect my authoritah!’
Runners-Up: Chef Aid, Gnomes
Season 3: Rainforest Shmainforest (Episode 1)
Season 3 is filled with classics like Cat Orgy, Jakovasaurs and Sexual Harassment Panda but the episode that sticks out is the Season 3 opener Rainforest Shmainforest. The banter between Cartman and the leader of ‘Getting Gay with Kids’ (voiced by Jennifer Aniston) was excellent and the whole episode’s commentary against environmentalist clichés worked perfectly. This is also one of the episodes in which creator Trey Parker drew on personal experiences, having recently been to Costa Rica and absolutely hating it.
Runners-Up: Chinpokomon, World Wide Recorder Concert
Season 4: Something You Can Do With Your Finger (Episode 8)
Cartman Joins NAMBLA was a close second for Season 4 but SYCDWYF wins out. From the not-so-subtlety of “fingerbanging” being when you shoot someone with your finger to a genius backstory that connected Randy Marsh to boy bands, the episode is start to finish hilarious. The song is also super catchy.
Runners-Up: Trapper Keeper, Cartman Joins NAMBLA
Season 5: Scott Tenorman Must Die (Episode 4)
Scott Tenorman was the 69th (nice) episode of South Park and by my rankings it was the best episode of the first five seasons. Tenorman tricks Cartman twice into buying his pubes and this became the episode we learned you should truly never get on Cartman’s bad side. Cartman later murders Scott’s parents, grinds them into meat and feeds them to Scott during his Chili con Carnival. Radiohead makes a cameo as themselves in this one making fun of a sobbing Scott after he realizes he just ate his parents. Kyle said it best: ‘Dude, I think it might be best for us to never piss Cartman off again.’
Runners-Up: Cripple Fight, Butters’ Very Own Episode
Season 6: The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers (Episode 13)
South Park took aim at The Lord of the Rings in Season 6 with The Return of the Fellowship…. After Stan’s parents rent the world’s dirtiest porno, Backdoor Sluts 9, they accidentally switch the box covers leaving Butters to watch the movie by himself. Upon seeing the video Butters transforms into Gollum, following the gang as they are tasked with returning the video to the rental store. Adding the sixth graders is an easy win as they become the Ringwraiths from LOTR, chasing them down to give them that pornooooooooo. I won’t get too NSFW with this post but if you ever thought it was awkward explaining the birds and the bees, wait until the end when the parents have to explain why adults would pee on each other.
Runners-Up: Asspen, Child Abduction Is Not Funny
Season 7: Cancelled (Episode 1)
It’s hard to beat a taco that poops ice cream but luckily Cancelled doesn’t have to. We’re pretty sure Earth isn’t an intergalactic reality TV show but if we all found out we were getting the axe, I’m not sure we’d be too surprised. This one starts nearly identically to Season 1’s first episode but the kids are abducted by the same aliens. After finding out Earth was being cancelled, the kids are sent to meet the “Joozians” who take too much “blach” and wind up experimenting with an escort and getting a little too frisky with each other’s “threshers.” There is no part of the last 10 minutes of this episode that is safe for work. This over-the-top episode is non-stop hilarious.
Runners-Up: Fat Butt and Pancake Head, Lil Crime Stoppers
Season 8: Woodland Critter Christmas (Episode 14)
A few times in South Park’s 20-year history there have been “Stan” episodes that get narrated and they always turn out excellent. This one is no different. Critter Christmas is an all-timer for me for sheer ridiculousness and plot twists. As Stan tries to bring the spirit of Christmas to the critters of the forest, including Beary the Bear and Porcupiney the Porcupine, things take a turn for the worst when the critters turn out to be Satan worshippers hoping to bring back the anti-Christ. This is only the second craziest thing to happen in the episode after Stan is forced to take lion cubs to a clinic to learn how to give abortions.
Runners-Up: You Got F’d in the A, Awesom-O
Season 9: The Losing Edge (Episode 5)
Randy Marsh episodes are hard to beat. Drunk, belligerent, fighting Randy Marsh episodes are impossible to beat. You get the kids trying to tank baseball games so they don’t have to play anymore while Randy drinks and picks fights with every dad in the bleachers. This episode would already go down as a classic but bringing back Cousin Kyle as the team’s ringer ups the ante. The whole episode climaxes perfectly in a Rocky-like montage in which Randy has to fight “Bat Dad,” the ultimate little league trash-talking father. Randy wins the fight while singing “You’re the Best Around” and we’ve been yelling “I thought this was America” ever since.
Runners-Up: Ginger Kids, Trapped in the Closet
Season 10: Make Love, Not Warcraft (Episode 8)
South Park takes aim at geek culture again with Make Love, Not Warcraft in one of the show’s most memorable episodes. In 2015, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker listed the episode as their third favorite. The kid’s become obsessed with WoW until one mega-troll continues to run around killing all their characters. With the amount of trolling in this episode, it’s amazing that Blizzard Entertainment teamed with Stone and Parker to bring this one to life. “Mom, bathroom, bathroom.”
Runners-Up: Smug Alert, ManBearPig
Season 11: More Crap (Episode 9)
Once again, we get a brilliant Randy Marsh episode. This one gave us hankering for P.F. Chang’s. While the Imaginationland trilogy was great television, this classic never gets old. After Randy takes the largest crap in the world, it’s revealed that U2’s Bono was the former record-holder. Eventually, this episode did two amazing things. Firstly, they answered the age-old question of how Bono could be such a great person while still seem like such a piece of crap. Secondly, when the episode first aired there was a crawl on the screen that said ‘Emmy Award Winning Series’ that showed up as Randy was taking the new world’s biggest crap. On first viewing, it seemed like a normal chyron but soon after one of the characters grabs the Emmy and sticks it into the pile of poo. Pure brilliance.
Runners-Ups: Le Petite Tourette, Imaginationland Trilogy
Season 12: About Last Night… (Episode 12)
This is not the funniest episode of the season. That honor likely goes to Major Boobage, the show’s homage to the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal. What makes About Last Night… the best of the season is based mostly on the incredible turnaround time of the episode. The episode aired one day after Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election. Amazingly enough, this episode was entirely about Obama winning the election and being a jewel thief, who with Sarah Palin and John McCain, plans a Smithsonian heist. The animators got all the timeliness of real-life news all the way down to the subtleties of McCain’s concession speech.
Runners-Up: Major Boobage, Breast Cancer Show Ever
Season 13: Butters’ Bottom Bitch (Episode 9)
Thirteen was another stacked season brining us wrasslin’ and the joy of the greatest joke ever told. But we can’t help but laugh when Butters’ Bottom Bitch turns South Park’s most naïve character into a kissing company pimp. As sweet, innocent Butters continues to build his harem we are blessed with lines like “you wanna make some motherf—–g money?” and “do you know what I am saying?”
Runners-Up: Fishsticks, W.T.F.
Season 14: Crème Fraîche (Episode 14)
We get excellent dueling storylines in Season 14’s Crème Fraîche. Randy exposes his secret desire to be a chef while Sharon, feeling neglected, decides to get a Shake Weight to feel better about herself. The Shake Weight storyline is fun but this episode shines as Randy’s obsession turns sexual, using blankets to cover his lap while watching the Food Network.
Runners-Up: The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerBalls, Medicinal Fried Chicken
Season 15: Broadway Bro Down (Episode 11)
Randy discovers subtext and how it’s used in Broadway musicals to get women to give their significant other sexual favors. Fast forward to his visit to New York City with Sharon, during which Randy decides to write his own play which pisses off the Bros of Broadway: Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Stephen Sondheim. This episode is all about subtext but there is nothing subtle about “The Woman in White.”
Runners-Up: The Last of the Meheecans, Bass to Mouth
Season 16: Faith Hilling (Episode 3)
Sixteen was a tough season to judge as it was overly solid but there wasn’t a lot that stuck out. Faith Hilling gets the nod for showing the fun of meme culture, which has only gotten more popular. If we can learn one thing from this episode it’s that we should be careful when Tebowing on train tracks.
Runners-Up: Reverse Cowgirl, Sarcastaball
Season 17: Black Friday/A Song of Ass and Fire/Titties and Dragons (Episodes 7-9)
I felt uneasy giving the best episode to a trilogy but this Game of Thrones homage was just perfect. When the kids can’t decide to get Xbox Ones or PS4s battle lines are drawn. We’re just glad that Kenny got to be the Princess he always wanted to be.
Runners-Up: Informative Murder Porn, The Hobbit
Season 18: The Cissy (Episode 3)
Gluten Free Ebola does a great job of setting up the best storyline of the last three seasons with an end-scene cameo. While we see the singer Lorde playing the kids’ BBQ, it seems to simply be Randy dressed in a costume. It’s not until The Cissy that we discover that this isn’t a costume and that Randy has been living a double-life as Lorde. The episode features Sia as the singing voice of Lorde and we can’t help but sing along to Push (Feeling Good on a Wednesday). “Ya, ya, ya. I am Lorde. Ya, ya, ya.”
Runners-Up: Handicar, Go Fund Yourself
Season 19: Stunning and Brave (Episode 1)
“Wee-ooo, Wee-ooo. Did I just hear someone refer to Caitlyn Jenner as something other than stunning and brave?” The introduction of PC Principal in Season 19 was an unexpected but welcome change as Principal Victoria hadn’t been featured in a while. Randy joining the PC fraternity only made this episode even more glorious. “They serve refreshments, yes.”
Runners-Up: The City Part of Town, You’re Not Yelping
Season 20: Skank Hunt (Episode 2)
There is a love-hate relationship in Season 20 as it’s the only one that’s failed to keep my attention in 20 years. The plots were a bit farfetched but the member berries were adorable. Do you remember them? I member. However, it’s Gerald Broflovski and the trolling origins of SkankHunt42 that got the most laughs.
Runners-Ups: Member Berries, Wieners Out
If you want to relive the best of the animated series, Hulu carries all 20 seasons. Plus, be sure to check out FANDOM’s South Park Archives for everything South Park!