Script written by Nick Spake
Top 20 South Park Episodes
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 South Park Episodes.
For this list, we’re looking at the most hilarious, iconic, and surprisingly important episodes of this animated series. Keep in mind, we will be counting 2 or 3 parters as one episode, so don’t be surprised if you see instances when multiple episodes are being covered.
What’s your favorite “South Park” episode? Let us know in the comments.
Long before kids broke up via text, you had to send a friend to do it in person. “Raisins” marked the end of Stan and Wendy’s relationship - at least for several seasons. Through Stan’s loss, the show got two of its best additions. Butters falls in love with a waitress at Raisins, which is like Hooters minus the um… well, the title is self-explanatory enough. Meanwhile, a depressed Stan falls in with the Goth kids, who stemmed from what was supposed to be a throwaway line written by Trey Parker. Both storylines collide in an unexpectedly touching resolution where Butters teaches Stan that heartbreak isn’t easy, but it’s something we all need to cope with rather than give up on being happy ever again.
Poor Butters. In addition to having the worst parents in the world, his friends always just use him as a pawn in their plans. In this case, the boys make Butters fake his death so he can infiltrate a girl’s sleepover and learn the secrets of their mythical cootie catcher. Part of what makes this episode so uproarious is how it goes to increasingly dark places, especially when Butters’ parents try to resurrect him. In the midst of all Butters’ suffering, though, at least he has a pretty good time at the slumber party. Maybe he should’ve just kept pretending to be Marjorine.
#18: “The Losing Edge”
Let’s be honest. When it comes to Little League Baseball, the parents are usually more invested than the kids. For the South Park Cows, they just want to get the season over with so they can return to video games. After making it to the big time, the team decides to purposely throw the game, which isn’t as simple as it sounds. As the Cows fail at losing, Randy rises to the top in the unofficial league of trash-talking dads alongside his arch-rival, Bat Dad. It’s debatable when Randy officially became the show’s resident scene-stealer, but “The Losing Edge” contains some of his funniest moments. Drunk, stripped down to his underwear, and providing future meme fodder, Randy’s exploits make this episode a contender.
#17: “The Passion of the Jew”
After being referenced in the two previous episodes, Kyle finally caves and watches Mel Gibson’s “The Passion.” Kyle is horrified by what he sees on the screen, questioning his religion and if Cartman may’ve been right all along. As Stan and Kenny show Kyle, though, Mel Gibson might not be the wise sage that he’s been built up as. If anything, he probably belongs in a Cocoa Puffs commercial. With this episode predating many of Gibson’s most controversial and bizarre moments, “South Park” became one of the earlier shows to say, “There might be something a little off about this guy.” “The Passion of the Jew” has only gotten more timely with age, but even upon release, it was praised by multiple Jewish outlets.
#16: “Christian Hard Rock”
From Judaism to Christianity, no religion is safe from “South Park.” The true target in “Christian Hard Rock,” however, are musicians and their ultimate first-world problem: being slightly less extravagantly wealthy due to their songs being illegally downloaded. Copyright infringement only became more prominent following this episode’s release with the rise of YouTube. While Stone and Parker agree that artists deserve to be properly compensated, “South Park” was one of the first shows to be downloaded for free online, which raised the show’s profile. The moral encourages artists to focus less on every penny and more on every fan they gain. The episode also has some of the show’s catchiest tunes, most notably “The Body of Christ.” If only we could hear the full versions.
#15: “The Coon” trilogy
The modern superhero craze was in full swing by 2010 and “South Park” provided its two cents in epic fashion. Superheroes aren’t the only source of satire, as these episodes reference everything from “My Neighbor Totoro,” to H. P. Lovecraft, to Chuck Jones. The comedy and suspense build with each entry, developing several compelling mysteries. Simply trying to figure out who’s behind every mask amounts to one of the best running gags. The spotlight belongs to two heroes in particular, though: Mysterion, whose backstory is fleshed out along with his alter ego, Kenny. Then there’s Mint Berry Crunch, who literally ends up stealing the show and the glory. While not every question is answered, this ambitious trilogy added new layers to the “South Park” mythos.
#14: “Cartoon Wars” Parts 1 & 2
“South Park” or “Family Guy?” It’s a question many adult animation fans asked in 2006, although it’s not one that Stone and Parker welcome. While both tackle edgy subjects, “South Park” is more story-driven while Seth MacFarlane’s cartoon is mainly in it for the jokes, whether they’re relevant or not. Cartman notes the difference in the first half of this two-parter, which received applause from “Simpsons” and “King of the Hill” staff members. Parker and Stone thus paid homage to them in Part 2, which also takes self-aware shots at the “South Park” formula. Whichever show you prefer, censorship is the common enemy - which is something that’s become even more relevant as the years have gone by.
#13: “Woodland Critter Christmas”
The “South Park” staff have a rule that if they do a Christmas episode, it can’t just be phoned in. “Woodland Critter Christmas” remains the gold standard, although the episode’s production was hell to get through. Coming off “Team America,” Parker and Stone were drained by the end of Season 8. After days of brainstorming and coming up with nothing, they settled on “John Denver and the Muppets” meets “Event Horizon.” As rushed as the production was, you’d never suspect this watching the episode. With an ingenious rhyming scheme and unpredictable twists, the episode came together in true Christmas miracle fashion. It also works as a clever sendup of classic Christmas specials, albeit with more swearing, graphic imagery, and satanic animals.
#12: “Butters’ Very Own Episode”
By Season 5’s conclusion, Butters had developed into a favorite character of Parker, Stone, and fans. Taking a sabbatical from Kenny, the creators decided to have Butters fill the fourth friend slot. Before being promoted to main player status, Butters was given center stage in his very own episode. On the surface, the episode seems a lot like Butters: sweet, charming, and full of innocence. However, what starts off like a “Leave it to Beaver” episode quickly dissolves into “South Park” territory as we learn more about the Stotch family. This hilariously contrasts Butters’ optimistically naive personality as he fails to realize how monstrous his parents are. It proved that Butters was more than capable of carrying a show and his star rose from there.
#11: “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers”
Coming out about a month before “The Two Towers” hit theaters, this episode brought Middle-earth to South Park. Stone and Parker have often said that some of their favorite episodes are simply about the “kids being kids.” This episode takes us back to a more innocent time when playing make-believe almost felt real. For the boys, returning “The Lord of the Rings” to the video store evolves into a rousing quest. What they don’t realize is that the video has been switched with a pornographic film, attracting the attention of their parents and Ringwraith-like sixth graders. Perhaps what’s most impressive about this episode is that it manages to satirize a three-part epic in just 22 minutes, faithfully recreating several scenes and turning Butters into Gollum.
#10: “200” & “201”
In these landmark episodes that mark the show’s 200th and 201st episodes respectively, “South Park” pays homage to its best moments with the return of fan favorite characters and practically every celebrity the show has ever parodied. They all tie into a clever – albeit controversial – story in which Tom Cruise, Rob Reiner, and other big names threaten to sue the town unless they deliver the taboo prophet Muhammad. After “200” resulted in a threat from a radical Muslim group, Comedy Central heavily censored the follow-up, “201.” Nevertheless, both episodes still effectively enforce the message that no public figure should be off-limits when it comes to satire. Plus, we finally learn who Cartman’s real father is.
#9: “Good Times with Weapons”
“South Park” isn’t exactly known for cutting-edge animation. The creators have even made fun of the show’s simplistic style. The Season 8 premiere gave the animators an opportunity to demonstrate what they’re capable of. While still working within limitations, “Good Times with Weapons” is among the show’s best-looking episodes. The animators lovingly envision the boys as anime characters after weapons fuel their ninja fantasy. When Butters gets caught in the cross-fire, though, reality sets back in. The contrast between the real world and the role-playing leads to several hilarious transitions. As the boys get caught up in their violent game, the adults remain clueless until something sexual arises. In the wake of Super Bowl XXXVIII (38), the episode encouraged parents everywhere to get their priorities straight.
#8: “Black Friday” Trilogy
You think “Game of Thrones” is brutal? You should see the mall on Black Friday. This three-part epic that consists of the episodes “Black Friday,” “A Song of Ass and Fire” and “Titties and Dragons” takes a long, hard look at the dark side of consumerism as the boys devise a plan to achieve discounts on next-gen consoles. The question is whether they should buy Xbox Ones or PS4s. What, no love for Nintendo Wii U? While Sony and Microsoft go to war, Randy prepares for winter, George R.R. Martin procrastinates, and Princess Kenny reigns supreme. Firing on all cylinders, the “Black Friday” trilogy dishes out ingenious references, commentary, twists, and even a tie-in to “The Stick of Truth” video game.
#7: “Casa Bonita”
Eric Cartman will go to insanely drastic lengths over the most insignificant things. In that sense, this episode perfectly sums up his character. Upon learning that Kyle has invited Butters to his birthday party at Casa Bonita instead of him, Cartman vows to take his place. He tricks the gullible Butters into believing a meteor is heading for earth, and locks him in a bomb shelter. It’s nothing short of priceless watching Cartman take extreme measures to keep this ruse going as everyone else panics over Butters’ disappearance. Even when Cartman faces his inevitable downfall, he refuses to let anything stand in his way of this real-life Mexican restaurant.
Given all the hell Cartman has put Butters through, it’s only appropriate that the fat-ass gets his comeuppance in this hysterical episode. When Cartman dresses up as a robot to learn Butters’ embarrassing secrets, he finds out that Butters actually knows one of his secrets. Now Cartman must fully commit to his role in order to avoid humiliation. Although we don’t see Cartman’s face for much of the episode, it’s hilarious just to imagine what’s running through his head as he digs himself deeper and deeper into trouble. Despite his best efforts, it’s the tiniest of errors that ultimately exposes him.
#5: “All About Mormon”
Before Matt Stone and Trey Parker were a hit on Broadway with “The Book of Mormon,” they made this classic “South Park” episode. When a Mormon family moves to town, people are completely bewildered by how unusually nice they are. Stan only becomes more judgmental as he learns the story of Joseph Smith, which he considers “dumb-dumb-dumb dumb-dumb.” Aside from deriving great humor from actual Mormon beliefs, the episode also provides a meaningful message about faith. Sure, religion doesn’t always make sense, but if it helps you to be a better person without hurting anyone else, who cares what other people think?
#4: “Trapped in the Closet”
Being a show that’s not afraid to tackle any subject matter, it isn’t shocking that “South Park” has riled up so much controversy. “Trapped in the Closet” is arguably the most controversial episode of all. Taking on the Church of Scientology and poking fun at Tom Cruise’s sexual orientation, the episode naturally pissed off numerous parties. It even led to the departure of Isaac Hayes, who provided the voice of Chef. It was worth it, however, to get one of the show’s boldest half-hours, which – over the years – has come to be seen as less of a shot at Scientology and more of an advocate for free speech.
#3: “Imaginationland” Trilogy
Of all the multi-part episodes “South Park” has done, this Emmy-winning trilogy stands out as a magnum opus. “Imaginationland” is certainly one of the show’s most ambitious and cinematic outings as imagination itself is threatened. In addition to providing one great laugh after another, “Imaginationland” constantly leaves you at the edge of your seat, not only wondering where the story will go, but also which imaginary character will make an appearance next. They even make room for our favorite woodland critters. In the end, we get a unique moral regarding the importance of imagination and the impact many of these fictional characters have had on us.
#2: “Make Love, Not Warcraft”
“South Park” has produced a variety of video game-related episodes and this is by far the most ingenious. When a griefer starts claiming innocent lives in the World of Warcraft, the boys decide to band together. As their characters level up into unstoppable warriors, in the real world they’re reduced to obese slobs with no lives. Much like an RPG, this episode manages to take something as uneventful as sitting at a computer screen and turn it into an absorbing adventure. The story both satirizes the “WOW” fan base while also embracing the franchise. It’s only made funnier by the fact that Blizzard Entertainment contributed to the CG animation.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Pet Sematary” Meets “Total Recall” Meets Every Ski Movie
Even Before Disney Owned Everything, Mickey Was a Boss
Believe It or Not, Rob Reiner Found the Episode Funny
“Tweek x Craig” (and)
The Relationship No One Knew They Wanted Until It Happened
And This Is Why “South Park” Has Multiple Emmys
#1: “Scott Tenorman Must Die”
It’s interesting that the absolute best “South Park” episode would also be one of the simplest. There’s no moral or commentary on our society; it’s essentially just a cat and mouse game as Cartman tries to get back at Scott Tenorman for selling him his pubes. After watching Cartman continually fail miserably in his revenge plot, it’s the twist ending that makes this episode. We won’t give it away here, but let’s just say it elevates the story to another level of comedic genius and Cartman to another level of psychopath. You’ll also never look at a bowl of chili the same way again.