Not a single person, place, idea, or issue is safe from the hands of South Park. For over 25 years, the gang consisting of Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny have gone on all kinds of adventures, from dealing with Mel Gibson to waging war with Canada.
Even in a show that takes place in a simple mountain town, the townsfolk of South Park always find ways to cleverly poke fun at current events, famous celebrities, and pop culture—and that mockery has allowed the show to push the envelopes of adult animation.
With more than 300 episodes, three TV specials, and one theatrical movie under its belt, South Park has put out tons of great content. Here are our top picks for the greatest South Park TV episodes.
15. “You Have 0 Friends” (Season 14, Episode 4)
Remember when Facebook was at its most innocent? In this episode, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny create a Facebook profile for Stan, which got 845,323 friends. When he feels that things have gone too far, Stan enters the virtual Facebook world to get it deleted.
Cue all kinds of Facebook jokes and lingo that are now outdated. (Farmville, anyone?) And yet, the episode still remains relevant as a sharp commentary on society’s attachment to social media.
The best parts belong to Stan on his virtual journey, which borrows elements from Tron and Summer Wars. Those wanting to see a more heartwarming side to South Park episodes will also enjoy Kip Drordy’s touching friendless Facebook subplot.
14. “Medicinal Fried Chicken” (Season 14, Episode 3)
Before Randy Marsh became a marijuana impresario with Tegridy, he had to deal with it in his system. In “Medicinal Fried Chicken,” he deliberately contracts testicular cancer to get a prescription for marijuana use—but it causes a colossal side effect in his testicles.
As grotesquely absurd as that is, it’s not as ludicrous as Cartman reenacting Scarface when he gets involved in the black market by trading KFC products, which angers Colonel Sanders. His imitation of Tony Montana also makes for clever gags and one-liners.
Both as a satire of government legislation and as a spoof of Scarface, “Medicinal Fried Chicken” is topically sharp and witty.
13. “Christian Rock Hard” (Season 7, Episode 9)
Religions aren’t safe from South Park, although “Christian Rock Hard” isn’t exactly a stab at Christianity as it is Christian music. In this episode, Cartman forms his own Christian rock band—but unlike usualy Christian rock bands, his songs are more sexually suggestive.
The episode also takes hard swipes at music artists who spoke out against copyright infringement and music piracy. Expect many caricatures of the likes of Blink-182, Metallica, and Britney Spears. Needless to say, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny get to work in exposing their hypocrisy.
12. “Fishsticks” (Season 13, Episode 5)
Behold, the episode that burned Kanye West! Parodying an over-the-top rapper who calls himself “genius” is low-hanging fruit, and yet Trey Parker and Matt Stone made something more endearing and timeless in this episode about the artist who goes from one bizarre phase to the next.
In “Fishsticks,” Jimmy makes a joke that becomes a viral hit. However, West is the only person who doesn’t get the joke. This causes him to go to all lengths to mask his insecurity with his profound “genius.”
South Park’s version of the rapper is truly memorable, to the point that he even reappeared in later episodes. Cartman’s subplot of taking credit for Jimmy’s joke is also hysterical.
11. “The Death of Eric Cartman” (Season 9, Episode 6)
Cartman is South Park’s mascot and breakout character. His antics range from annoyingly petty to horrifically psychopathic. But, for better or worse, it’s hard to ignore the brat’s attempts to paint himself as the hero—and that’s no different in “The Death of Eric Cartman.”
When Cartman’s misbehavior goes too far, the boys decide to ignore his existence. That only makes him think he’s a ghost. Cartman tries to make amends (only in the ways he knows how), but it all goes awry.
With the ludicrous lengths to which the episode goes, it makes for hilarious moments—including the Cartman-Butters feud.
10. “Woodland Critter Christmas” (Season 8, Episode 14)
South Park seems at home with its Christmas episodes, but the most unforgettable has to be “Woodland Critter Christmas.”
In this spoof of cute Christmas shorts, Stan stumbles upon a group of woodland creatures who need his help—but things get dark when Stan hears a rumor about the creatures.
“Woodland Critter Christmas” is the archetypal South Park episode: it starts with a simple premise, promises a sweet ending, and flips it over with all kinds of dark undertones.
That twist is what make this such an unforgettable episode. Expect less Rudolph sweetness and more Silent Night, Deadly Night gore.
9. “Trapped in the Closet” (Season 9, Episode 12)
Here’s one of South Park’s most controversial episodes. The premise is that Stan joins the Church of Scientology for a “fun and free” experience. However, when he rises to the ranks of “thetan levels,” he’s hailed as a reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard.
“Trapped in the Closet” never relents at poking fun of Scientology and its ideologies, even going as far as mocking Tom Cruise. But amidst its controversies, it’s a funny commentary on fanaticism and celebrity gossip. If it offends many, then South Park did its job.
8. “Imaginationland” Trilogy (Season 11, Episodes 10–12)
The “Imaginationland” episodes are truly awesome and it’s hard to pick one as the best. Let us honor all three parts since they’re packed with pop culture Easter eggs, sight gags, and references that are fascinating to behold and catch, on first watch and repeat watches.
Even with all the character cameos and parodies of popular movies and shows, Cartman’s subplot stands out. His endless chase on his bet with Kyle makes for witty banter and outrageous moments, and the return of the Woodland Critters is just amazing.
7. “AWESOM-O” (Season 8, Episode 5)
Butters is the perfect antithesis to Cartman: kind, joyful, and innocent, even when others (like his parents) push him around. Cartman recognizes this and always pushes to demean him; however, it always backfires in an unexpected way. “AWESOM-O” is the proof of that.
The episode sees Cartman posing as a robot named AWESOM-O for Butters, so that he can hear his secrets and expose them. However, Butters’ bond with the robot catches the attention of Hollywood and the US Army. The ludicrous escalations make it truly hilarious.
6. “Good Times With Weapons” (Season 8, Episode 1)
“Good Times With Weapons” sees the boys turn playtime into real-time combat. After the four buy martial arts weapons at a local store, they fantasize about being Japanese warriors who have to take down their archenemy, Professor Chaos, to prevent utter domination.
It’s sheer awesomeness when the South Park kids imagine themselves being in an anime, and the cuts from the episode’s stylized anime scenes to the show’s typical cutout animations make for hilarious gags. Praise be to the animators for the seamless editing that makes the gags work!
The episode exists as a love letter to anime and anime tropes, down to having a cheesy (mistranslated) theme song.
5. “Casa Bonita” (Season 7, Episode 11)
It seems Cartman-manipulating-Butters-and-backfiring is a common yet effective theme for South Park, and here’s one of the best ones.
In this episode, Cartman is furious that he’s not invited to Kyle’s birthday party. So, he tricks Butters into going missing so he can fill in for him. However, Butters going missing causes an uproar all over town.
“Casa Bonita” coasts on its ability to escalate things to absurd levels. Kyle’s birthday is secondary to the sidesplitting gags as the town descends into chaos—and it’s quite horrific to see how others would react to a problem like one kid going missing.
4. “All About Mormons” (Season 7, Episode 12)
South Park never shies away from making jokes about Mormons. But in the episode “All About Mormons,” it goes for a kinder depiction and more proper discussion of Mormonism (as well as other religions).
When a Mormon family moves into town, Stan is invited over for dinner. Their hospitality has a big influence on his beliefs and his general opinion about Mormons. The episode also shows the story of Joseph Smith and his founding of Mormonism through musical numbers.
Even with its mockery, “All About Mormons” is a poignant portrait of how fanatical denominations can still bring kindness to others.
3. “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers” (Season 6, Episode 13)
South Park has paid homage to The Lord of the Rings multiple times, but the best remains this episode from Season 6 in which the boys pretend to be the characters from The Lord of the Rings and embark on a quest to return a copy of the movie.
The episode makes clever references to the movies by turning every South Park denizen into a Middle-Earth character. It even goes as far as mimicking memorable moments in the beloved trilogy, down to Butters acting like Gollum with his addiction to the videotape.
2. “Make Love, Not Warcraft” (Season 10, Episode 8)
Here’s another love letter to the fantasy genre. “Make Love, Not Warcraft” was released back when World of Warcraft was at the peak of its game. The episode takes aim at its rapidly growing popularity, as well as its impact on gaming and nerd culture.
When a notorious player starts eliminating others from the game, Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny try to stop him—even going as far as remaining at their desks all day, every day to play the game.
Despite the episode centering on gaming, you don’t need to be a gamer to appreciate its jokes. Its self-awareness makes this one of the best.
1. “Scott Tenorman Must Die” (Season 5, Episode 4)
The best episode of South Park has to be about Cartman. His notoriety is on full display in this episode, in which he gets duped by an 8th grader named Scott Tenorman into buying pubic hair from him. In response, Cartman escalates things much further.
The most significant takeaway from this episode is to never mess with Cartman! He’s extremely petty and he will always find inventive ways to push a situation to his own benefit. Seeing him take revenge against Scott Tenorman is both jaw-dropping and unbelievable.
“Scott Tenorman Must Die” sets a high bar for Cartman’s psychopathic behavior, and we can only expect the nastiest from him.