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25 Best South Park Episodes Ranked

After more than 25 years on television, "South Park" still stands as an utterly unique institution even among the small crowd of animated comedies that have endured since the '90s. While the series has produced its fair share of episodes that have not aged well in that run, that can be largely attributed to creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone's penchant for timely social commentary.

"South Park" has served as a more comprehensive record of the cultural zeitgeist than pretty much any other fiction-based TV series over the last quarter century. While this can eventually make some episodes feel dated, they can also provide valuable insight into things pop culture once found important, and now are mostly asterisks and footnotes like the Paris Hilton gags in 2004's "Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset."

After decades of "South Park" mocking everyone from world leaders to pop stars, we're taking a step back to find out which episodes have stood the test of time as the true cream of the crop hundreds of episodes after the show's debut. With help from IMDb, let's take a closer look.

25. The Losing Edge (Season 9, Episode 5)

An entire episode inspired by Stone and Parker's belief that the boys would look cute in baseball uniforms, "The Losing Edge" revolves around the kids' Little League team the South Park Cows. When they begin to realize winning means they have to go to the play-offs, the Cows devise a plan to lose big that includes actively training to suck at the sport. The storyline is funny enough on its own. But Randy's journey as a sports dad who drinks too much and picks fights with the other team who finds himself confronted with an arch-nemesis is peak Randy Marsh, with many fans calling it his funniest episode.

24. The Simpsons Already Did It (Season 6, Episode 7)

By surviving and thriving for well over 300 episodes to date, the longevity of "South Park" marks a substantial achievement, especially in the genre of animated comedy where lasting more than a season or two is a tall order even for a widely-beloved series. But compared to "The Simpsons" — with more than 750 episodes and 35 seasons to its credit — the longevity of "South Park" is a blip. 

"South Park" articulated its own futility of existing in the face of Springfield's towering dominance in "The Simpsons Already Did It" (Season 6, Episode 7), with a self-referencing plotline that had Professor Chaos realizing all his ideas for world domination and destruction could already be found in reruns of "The Simpsons" — but maybe he shouldn't feel bad about that.

23. Marjorine (Season 9, Episode 9)

The South Parkian mashup of "Bosom Buddies" and "Pet Sematary," "Marjorine" sees Butters take on a new persona as part of the "South Park" boys' efforts to infiltrate a girls' slumber party and gain access to their new technology — a paper fortune teller. As part of their espionage efforts, Butters transforms into the blonde Marjorine and soon realizes he makes a pretty darned good girl. Although Parker and Stone would say in their DVD commentary they felt the episode packs in too much and could have been split up, the two-for-one storytelling pays off in one of the show's funniest storylines.

22. Kenny Dies (Season 5, Episode 13)

The stakes on "South Park" usually feel light and fluffy, even when the humor goes dark. However, in the second-to-last episode of Season 5, the boys had to contend with an incredible tragedy that not even Cartman could chuckle about and shrug away. 

Kenny McCormick — a regular character and the tentpole of Stan, Kyle, and Cartman's circle of friends — slowly passed away from muscular dystrophy. Cartman took it upon himself to protest federal restrictions on stem cell research, in hopes that medicine and science could save his pal. Meanwhile, Stan and Kyle coped with grief, anger, and unsettling existential ramifications.  

What kind of God would kill a sweet child like Kenny before he could experience the full spectrum of life's joy? That God would have to be like ... well, a dated insult for a boy with unwed parents. 

21. Ginger Kids (Season 9, Episode 11)

Among the many groups Cartman gets a kick out of tirelessly ragging on, redheads are one of his favorite targets. But after he gives a particularly scathing class presentation alleging "gingers" are soulless, inhuman monsters, Cartman finds his chickens coming home to roost as he's stricken with the "disease" himself courtesy of a clever prank. Despite a few protests from redheads in the real world including a good-spirited Ed Sheeran complaint about it teaching Americans to mock his kind (via ET Canada), the whole "Cartman hates gingers" gag effectively — and hilariously — sheds light on the stupidity of prejudice.

20. Black Friday (Season 17, Episode 7)

Here we have the start of the aforementioned arc that also included "A Song of Ass and Fire" and "Titties and Dragon." Combine the trio, and you've got arguably one of the more trenchant pop culture parodies ever produced by "South Park." 

In "Black Friday" (Season 17, Episode 7), unhinged, violent consumerism befell the town as the holidays approached. Multiple characters reminded us that "winter is coming," and it was up to the social castoffs that comprised the mall security staff to keep the onslaught of Black Friday discount shoppers contained. 

"South Park" and "Game of Thrones" don't have a ton in common, but both programs sure do love to kill off characters — especially benevolent male authority figures. The parody trilogy does not disappoint in that regard. 

19. Le Petit Tourette (Season 11, Episode 8)

Some may say that pop culture is spinning its wheels, but conditions have improved in one significant regard. For those of us with the good fortune to be alive in the 2020s, there are multiple, widely-available television programs in which cartoon characters curse like sailors. Thanks to "South Park" on Max, cuss words once masked with bleeps now flow undisguised and freely heard by all. But in "Le Petit Tourette" (Season 11, Episode 8), because normal standards and practices would ruin the gag of Cartman faking Tourette's syndrome as an excuse to swear constantly, the episode allows viewers of today a rare opportunity to hear un-bleeped naughty words on TV in 2007. And apparently, in a series loaded with pearl-clutching moments like Cartman screeching an offensive and potentially upsetting anti-Semitic slur at Kyle, the dreaded F-word was where Comedy Central drew the line for "South Park."

18. Cartman Sucks (Season 11, Episode 2)

Since the beginning, lots of current events-inspired takes have fueled "South Park." With "Cartman Sucks" (Season 11, Episode 2), the show presented homophobia as an absurd tragedy, pulling no punches with its criticisms of conversion therapy. 

In the episode, religious organizations abused LGBT youths with "pray the gay away" programs, while a prank on Butters went awry and Cartman spiraled into gay panic. Butters' dad shipped him off to Camp New Grace, in an attempt to "cure" him of apparent bi-curiosity.

17. Cartmanland (Season 5, Episode 6)

Like its contemporaries "The Simpsons" and "Rick and Morty," "South Park" takes a swing at philosophy now and again. It doesn't always hit the mark, but "Cartmanland" (Season 5, Episode 6) successfully managed an insightful, uncomplicated comment on the big picture.

The show posited that because of the random nature of the universe, good things inevitably happen to awful people. But maybe that's okay, as long as we can depend on terrible folks like Cartman to be morons who, upon the delivery of good fortune, screw themselves right back down into the septic tank of misery and shame where they belong. "Cartmanland" is one of several Season 5 episodes to appear in IMDb's top 25 for the series, suggesting that if there's such a thing as a Golden Age of "South Park," it might be 2001.

16. All About Mormons (Season 7, Episode 12)

To call Mormonism a frequent "target" of Matt Stone and Trey Parker's comedy might be half true, but their attitude toward the Church of Latter-day Saints resonates more like fascination than contempt. Before the kingpins of snark converted their fixation into the Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon," there was "All About Mormons" (Season 7, Episode 12).

When a new family named the Harrisons moved into town, the "South Park" characters were thrown by how nice and perfect they seemed — and became determined to put a stop to it. Much like "Book of Mormon," the episode went out of its way to not just mock, but educate. As characters asked questions about Mormonism, it also pointed out all the things about its founding that make no sense. Of course, all this was also absurdly entertaining, making it essentially the blueprint for "Book of Mormon" some 5 years before that show opened on Broadway.

15. Imaginationland (Season 11, Episode 10)

The world never got an official, theatrically-released sequel to the 1999 movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." But the "Imaginationland" three-parter from season 11 — episodes 10, 11, and 12 — might be as close as fans ever get. The saga begins on a dark note as numerous imaginary characters — including Ronald McDonald, Santa Claus, and a few Care Bears — are killed in an attack by an Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist cell, who also brutalize and kidnap Butters. Throw in some leprechauns, Al Gore, and a Tolkienesque Council of Nine that includes Popeye and Jesus, and it's a recipe for South Parkian gold.

Rarely has an episode of a cartoon been allowed to get this epic, and never before had a show been so crossover-heavy while also mocking the absurdity of what was making it so cool. If you had to show a newbie one episode of "South Park" (and could cheat and show them three), you could do worse than the "Imaginationland" trilogy.

14. Cartman Joins NAMBLA (Season 4, Episode 5)

Somehow, it took "South Park" four seasons before it got around to addressing pedophilia with "Cartman Joins NAMBLA" (Season 4, Episode 5).

Growing weary of Stan, Kyle, and Kenny's company, Cartman logged into a chat room, describing himself as a young boy on the hunt for a mature new social circle. Naturally, he ended up amongst the ranks of the North American Man-Boy Love Association, remaining bafflingly oblivious to its members' intentions. 

These shenanigans and others resulted in a pack of naked child molesters, their intended victims, a squad of police, the North American Marlon Brando Look-Alikes, and a French waiter all simultaneously scrambling throughout a hotel hallway. Also, Kenny chased his pregnant mother with a plunger. 

Looking back years later, this might just be one of the darkest "South Park" episodes — which is really saying something. 

13. Christian Rock Hard (Season 7, Episode 9)

In "Christian Rock Hard" (Season 7, Episode 9), Cartman started a Christian rock band whose songs were loaded with accidental sexual innuendo. Stan and Kyle joined caricatures of several famous musicians to protest free song downloading off Napster — which in 2003 was a hot-button issue for the music and tech industries. 

As topics for satire go, multi-millionaire rock stars panicking about file sharing and the provisional popularity of the band Creed both feel hyper-specific to the early '00s and not much more than a footnote today. But "Christian" nailed the absurdity of the era with such precision that it played out more like a prescient historical account rather than a collection of dated pop culture references.  

12. Butters' Very Own Episode (Season 5, Episode 14)

Butters first appeared in "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe" in 1997, but he was principally a background character — that is, until "Butter's Very Own Episode" (Season 5, Episode 14). 

After five years, Stan, Kyle, and Cartman had grown too cynical to resonate as fragile, wide-eyed children anymore. As a result, Butters' role was enhanced to reinstall a sense of sincerity into the show via his trusting nature and limited intellectual talents.

Butters' mom and dad encountered some martial problems in the episode, leading to the boy finding himself on an unforgettable road trip. By the end of the episode, Parker and Stone had made some jokes about famous, eventually-exonerated murder suspects that they admitted in 2011 may have been ill-considered.

11. Grounded Vindaloop (Season 18, Episode 7)

In the 7th episode of season 18, "South Park" parodies 1990's "Total Recall" 1999's "The Matrix," 2010's "Inception," and maybe even 1992's "The Lawnmower Man," while presenting us with an important existential question: If we could exit the computer simulation in which we all possibly reside, and find out what the non-simulated world looks and feels like, would we want to? What if we left the simulated world, waking up to learn our "authentic" meat-based selves were five-dimensional, puffy and cumbersome? 

Mostly, the episode is significant because Butters punched his dad as hard as possible directly in the junk. A memorable moment in "South Park" history, to be sure.

10. Tsst (Season 10, Episode 7)

Season 10's 7th episode is quite a bit like one of the rapid-fire exchanges of dialogue between Lorelai and Rory on "Gilmore Girls" — nobody in the audience is supposed to get 100 percent of the pop culture references, but most people should understand and appreciate at least 20 percent.

If you happen to be a fan of quasi-instructional reality television programs from the mid-'00s, this is the "South Park" episode for you. If you didn't have cable throughout much of that period, but you watch a lot of cult sci-fi/horror movies, then the jokes on "Tsst" will soar several feet over your head ... until a scene that parodies the ending of 1980's "Altered States" makes your face and organs mutate with jubilation.     

9. The Death of Eric Cartman (Season 9, Episode 6)

Does Cartman deserve a chance to redeem himself? Probably not, but Stan and Kyle accidentally trick him into trying in episode 6 of season 9

Following an unfathomable KFC-related transgression, Stan and Kyle decided the best way to deal with Cartman going forward was to pretend he didn't exist. Cartman decided if no one could hear him, he must have been a ghost. Consequently, he spent most of the subsequent 22 minutes of screen-time apologizing and behaving altruistically, in a laughable attempt to secure a pleasant afterlife for himself. Amid all this do-goodery, Cartman managed to get Butters sent to the insane asylum. Apparently, mere proximity to Cartman can have ruinous implications for your health, prosperity, and personal freedom. 

8. Trapped in the Closet (Season 9, Episode 12)

Absolute chucklefest though it may be, "Trapped in the Closet" (Season 9, Episode 12) became buzz-worthy for reasons beyond its humor. 

For starters, the merciless sendup of Scientology delivered via "Closet" led to Isaac Hayes (the longtime voice of Chef) departing the show. But "Trapped" also garnered wide praise for giving the L. Ron Hubbard-founded organization the business, so maybe it was worth it, even if it meant having to kill off Chef the next season.

"Trapped In the Closet" also reportedly annoyed noted Scientologist Tom Cruise so much that he threatened to no-show his promotional appearances for "Mission: Impossible III" unless Viacom — parent company of both Comedy Central and the "MI III" studio Paramount Pictures at the time — stopped airing the episode. 

If there was anything to the alleged attempt to censor "South Park," it clearly failed. The episode remains in rotation to this day.

7. Woodland Critter Christmas (Season 8, Episode 14)

When the words "South Park" and "Christmas" appear in the same neighborhood, it's hard to imagine anything other than the image of Mr. Hankey, the Christmas poo. But somehow, none of the talking excrement's holiday-centric adventures appear in IMDb's top 25 "South Park" episodes.

Some have argued that Mr. Hankey was a one-note gross-out gag that got way more attention than he deserved, an idea the popularity of "Woodland Critter Christmas" (Season 8, Episode 14) lends some credibility to. In the classic episode, a gang of doe-eyed talking forest animals recruits Stan to help with tasks pertaining to the birth of their savior while withholding important details that might cause him to reconsider. Later, we learn that "Woodland Critter Christmas" itself is not quite what it seems as "South Park" sticks the landing on one of its most disturbing moments.

6. Good Times with Weapons (Season 8, Episode 1)

Every time a celebrity, institution, genre of entertainment or anything else from the real world makes its way into the "South Park" universe, it's usually subjected to some degree of parody ... except, that is, for the anime episode. 

"Good Times With Weapons," never really seemed to be making fun of anime. Instead, it was just incorporating the aesthetic of Japanese action/sci-fi animation into "South Park." It was basically the inverse of what happened that one time on "FLCL." 

The Season 8 premiere also provided a cautionary tale against emulating what we see in escapist fantasy media. Ironically, after "Good Times With Weapons," you might never touch a throwing star ever again.

5. AWESOM-O (Season 8, Episode 5)

"South Park" gets a lot of mileage out of Cartman tricking Butters into placing himself in various absurd and/or perilous circumstances, so it's nice to see the repugnant little psycho finally eat a bucket of Kentucky-fried comeuppance in "AWESOM-O" (Season 8, Episode 5). Mayhem ensues in an episode that sees Cartman devouring a full tube of toothpaste, running screaming from a pervy Hollywood exec, and getting kidnapped and experimented upon by the U.S. military. Did these seemingly divine punishments teach Cartman the error of his ways? Looking back years later, viewers can say with absolute certainty that they did not.

4. Casa Bonita (Season 7, Episode 11)

Thanks to factors too numerous to list here, even though its primary characters are all children, "South Park" can let them indulge in levels of depravity that its contemporaries cannot approach. Bart Simpson's a troublemaker; but as far as how much harm he can inflict, "The Simpsons" draws a line at shoplifting. Beavis and Butthead are too dumb to pose much of a threat to anyone but themselves. 

Meanwhile, in "Casa Bonita" (Season 7, Episode 11), Cartman manipulated Butters into allowing the whole town to consider him a potential murder victim. It was all part of an elaborate plan so Cartman could take Butters' place at Kyle's birthday party, which Cartman only cared about attending because it was at a Mexican restaurant he liked. 

Cartman, of course, is a monster — and it seems likely he'd be in prison now if he existed in the real world and/or aged in real time.   

3. The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers (Season 6, Episode 13)

A more-or-less reverent satire of a film the writers know their target audience has largely seen and enjoyed doesn't sound like a potentially all-time great episode of "South Park" in a vacuum. In fact, it sounds a little obvious and lazy. But there's much more to effective comedy than a unique premise.  

The boys' quest to the video store — this is the 13th episode of season 6, which aired in 2002, back when Blockbuster was still a thing — ended with their parents explaining wondrously-depraved sex acts in graphic detail, with zero prompting as far as their wee ones were aware. The moment is uncomfortable to the point of sublime hilarity, and makes the whole episode triple-worth the watch, even if you have no idea and don't care what happened in "The Lord of the Rings."    

2. Make Love, Not Warcraft (Season 10, Episode 8)

The eighth episode of season 10, kind of like "Good Times with Weapons" before it, melded the totally simplistic and absolutely distinctive animation of "South Park" with a style from an action genre that, to say the least, never could've originated with cardboard cutouts. 

A decent-sized portion of the episode took place in the "Warcraft" MMO universe, depicted with video game-style graphics. In the usual "South Park" reality, the boys utterly let themselves go into a physical downward spiral of snacking, caffeinated drinks, and abysmal personal hygiene while their minds become soaked in what a non-gamer might confuse with digital "Dungeons & Dragons."   

To devote the maximum amount of time and attention to defeating a high-level player who preys on lower-levelers for cheap thrills, Cartman stops leaving his computer to go to the bathroom. This forces his long-suffering mother to provide on-command bucket service — one of the most simultaneously amusing and disgusting moments in all of "South Park."

1. Scott Tenorman Must Die (Season 5, Episode 4)

The idea of adorable children at the center of an animated program loaded with black humor and graphic violence was the original selling point for "South Park."

That tension between innocence and nihilism hit its zenith during the final three minutes of "Scott Tenorman Must Die," (Season 5, Episode 4). The result is what many consider to be the greatest achievement in "South Park" history, according to IMDb.

In "Scott Tenorman," Cartman found himself in a pubes-based feud with high schooler Scott Tenorman. Feigning incompetency, naivete, and delusional self-importance throughout the episode, Cartman finally revealed a masterplan that — well, if you haven't seen it yet, you need to go track down the episode. Suffice it to say the little guy made a sucker out of the audience right along with poor, poor Scott.