Narrowing down the best South Park episodes is no easy task. Being in the top 100 best TV shows of all time with 25 seasons and counting, there sure is a lot to choose from. And that's not even to mention the fact the show has been consistently one of the most critically acclaimed animated series around since it debuted in 1997.
So, which out of the 300 episodes have stood the test of time? We’ve taken a deep dive into the best offerings from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and handpicked the most quotable and iconic episodes from the classic Kanye West appearance to the hilarious spoof of one of the greatest fantasy movies, The Lord of the Rings, from season six. And don’t worry, AWESOM-O, Black Friday, and World of Warcraft all get shout-outs too.
Sadly, none of the most recent episodes have made the cut as our round-up is full of stone-cold classics. But if you’re in the mood for a rewatch, read on for our guide to the 25 best South Park episodes and get streaming. Mmkay?
25. 'Casa Bonita' (season 7, episode 11)
Kyle invites Stan, Kenny and Butters to Casa Bonita, a Mexican-themed restaurant in South Park. Cartman is livid for being left out and turns on the charm, which leads to Kyle suggesting that, if Butters can't go for any reason, Cartman can take his place. Cue a dastardly plan to take down Butters.
What makes this episode so funny is the lengths Cartman is willing to go to get what he wants. He tells Butters that a meteor the size of Wyoming is about to hit Earth, and hides Butters in a bomb shelter. Of course, Butters' parents get worried, so Cartman delves deeper, telling him the meteor has hit, civilisation has ended, and toxic radiation has turned what's left of the human race into rabid zombies. If Trey Parker calls this episode one of his favourite, it is definitely good enough for us.
24. 'Grounded Vindaloop' (season 18, episode 7)
South Park often mines technology for laughs, and 'Grounded Vindaloop' does so almost perfectly. Released the same year as South Park: The Stick of Truth video game, the episode riffs on call center employees, the Matrix, and so much more. Better yet, it centers on one of the best relationships on the show: Cartman messing with Butters until he takes it too far.
Butters’ breaking all the VR ‘rules’ is hilarious, as is the incessantly annoying call center employee, Steve. However, it’s the twist ending (which we won’t spoil here) that sets it apart from some of the other tech-based episodes. It's a sci-fi parody done right – and one of the slickest South Park episodes around.
23. 'Coon vs. Coon and Friends' (season 14, episode 13)
South Park is often at its funniest when Eric Cartman shows himself unable to play nice with others. That personality defect soars to new heights in 'Coon vs. Coon and Friends' as he enlists the wrath of Cthulu to battle his friends. It’s a concept that would be built upon in South Park: The Fractured But Whole but, arguably, it was done even better here as Cartman and Cthulu’s buddy-buddy partnership sees them take down several easy targets, including the Burning Man Festival and, hilariously, the Whole Foods chain of supermarkets.
While the episode treads familiar territory, skewering the likes of Justin Bieber and LeBron James, it’s the weird and wonderful ending that will stick in your memory. Kenny, as hooded vigilante Mysterion, proves he has immortality once and for all – and the show finally let's us in on a dark secret: every time Kenny dies, his mother becomes pregnant with a new Kenny. Gross… and a little bit genius.
22. 'Fishsticks' (season 13, episode 5)
South Park has always been brilliant at lampooning celebrities, and 'Fishsticks' does an excellent job of mocking Kanye West.
In the episode, Jimmy comes up with a joke. Of course, everyone in South Park finds this hilarious and Cartman tries to steal credit for the whole thing. As the joke becomes a worldwide phenomenon, the only person who doesn't understand the punchline is Kanye West, who becomes increasingly desperate to know why everyone is laughing at him. After he crashed Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Awards, Comedy Central played the episode four times back to back.
21. 'Go God Go' (season 10, episode 12)
Technically this is a two-part episode, but 'Go God Go' and 'Go God Go XII' are invigorating watched for anyone who has ever put a big question mark in the religion column. Cartman attempts to freeze himself to make the three-week wait for the Nintendo Wii tolerable, but ends up emerging in the year 2546. There's also an incredible sub-plot featuring Richard Dawkins helping Mrs. Garrison teach evolutionary biology (resulting in a passionate affair). By the end of 'Go God Go XII' you're left wondering whether Cartman is stuck in a time loop, doomed to repeat his mistakes for all eternity.
20. 'Guitar Queer-O' (season 11, episode 13)
Parker and Stone couldn't resist taking a pop at Guitar Hero just as the world became enthralled by the video game series. The episode sees the main gang, including Clyde, Token, Jimmy, and Butters, playing the game, with Stan and Kyle smashing the 100,000 points record. A talent agent contacts the two, who become rock star celebrities in the space of 24 hours.
The fun really starts when Stan is encouraged by his manager to drop Kyle and partner with a kid, Thad, who has memorized all the buttons for all the songs. Soon enough, Stan gets hooked on the game Heroin Hero. While the episode satirizes the stereotypical rock-and-roll lifestyle we imagine rock stars to have, it also mocks obsessive, point-chasing gamers.
19. 'Imaginationland' (season 11, episode 10)
Probably the best three-part episode in South Park history, 'Imaginationland' is so rich in characters, sub-plots and general laugh-out-loud humour that it's worth watching time and time again. The first part sees Cartman searching for a leprechaun with Kyle, who offers to suck Cartman's balls if he manages to find the apparently fictional being (hence the episodes alternative title, 'Kyle Sucks Cartman's Balls').
What follows is a crazy, psychedelic journey into the world of cartoons and a warped Disney-style world, with the annoying catchy 'Imagination' song. There's also a parody of Saving Private Ryan, a great scene with Michael Bay, M. Night Shyamalan, and Mel Gibson, plus a whole terrorist sub-plot that is so farcical it almost, almost, makes sense.
18. 'Marjorine' (season 9, episode 9)
Poor Butters. The kid can't catch a break. In 'Marjorine', Cartman becomes convinced that the girls have a device that can predict the future. In an attempt to infiltrate their secret club, Cartmen convinces Butters to fake his own death and return to school as a girl. Meanwhile, Butters' parents believe their son has actually died and are terrified he will return as the spawn of Satan.
Come the episode's ending, the long-suffering Butters is locked in the basement while his dad kills a saleswoman for him to feed on. Interestingly Parker and Stone are not the biggest fans of this episode, but we'll be damned it if doesn't make us laugh every single time.
17. 'Super Fun Time' (season 12, episode 7)
South Park's take on Die Hard once again pairs the hapless Butters with the evil Cartman. Mr Garrison takes his class on a trip to Pioneer Village – a living history experience where actors pretend to be townspeople – and they soon become involved with a weird hostage situation. Hilariously, none of the actors break character, which makes them easy fodder for the baddie Franz.
While all this is going on, Cartman draggs Butters to an amusement arcade next door called Super Phun Thyme. When they return to Pioneer Village and see the police cars, they believe they are the ones in trouble and decide to sneak in. Watching Butters eventually drag Cartman's unconscious weight back to the school bus helps put this onto our choice for the best South Park episodes.
16. 'Best Friends Forever' (season 9, episode 4)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone often work on episodes until the last possible moment so the show can be as timely as possible. Their tactic worked to devastating (and tragic) effect in 'Best Friends Forever', which sees Kenny become addicted to the then brand-new PSP until, typically, he dies. After a conversation with God, Kenny gets brought back to life and put on life support. The media frenzy around the case then grows and grows as Kenny's legal guardians argue for his right to die.
Cartman eventually hijacks the search for Kenny’s will so he can get as much attention and money as possible, plus a ludicrous Heaven verses Hell battle, involving a golden PSP, takes place. However, it’s the real-world debate surrounding this episode that made 'Best Friends Forever' so controversial. Terri Schiavo, a woman in an irreversible vegetative state whose legal guardian argued for her right to die, passed away just hours after this episode aired. Trey and Parker have since acknowledged they used the case as a starting point for the episode, and the result is one of the funniest and occasionally heartbreaking South Park episodes ever created.
15. 'The Losing Edge' (season 9, episode 5)
A reverse Hollywood story, 'The Losing Edge' sees the kids of South Park band together to… intentionally lose baseball games. Their opponents, though, have the upper hand in the throwing-a-throwing-game stakes and it makes for several fantastic sequences. Ones includes Stan and Kyle actually getting good at something but tossing that to one side in favour of not wanting to play any more baseball. Even Kyle’s cousin, Kyle Schwartz, can’t suck enough to stop them winning.
All this, however, is overshadowed by Randy, who’s intent on dominating the drunk dad baseball spectator scene until he meets his match in the shape of Bat Dad. The best South Park episodes have their A and B-plots effortlessly intertwine with one another, and no episode does so more spectacular than the tussle between Randy and Bat Dad that sees the South Park Cows banished from the league, much to Stan’s delight.
14. 'White People Renovating Houses' (season 21, episode 1)
In 'White People Renovating Houses', South Park once again takes on a new technological fad. While Randy and Sharon Marsh are developing "open concepts" with their White People Renovating Houses TV show, Cartman is obsessed with his Amazon Echo (and mostly using it to repeat childish phrases and swear words, much to the amusement of the rest of the gang). Trouble is, some people are of the opinion that the Alexas of the world are putting them out of work... so to compensate, Randy replaces the gadgets with the unemployed townsfolk. Suffice to say, it doesn't quite go to plan.
13. 'The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers' (season 6, episode 13)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone reckon this The Lord of the Rings spoofing episode is one of their finest, and who are we to disagree? Stan, Kyle and Cartman are partaking in a joyous day of cosplay when their Fellowship of the Ring video gets accidentally swapped for a kinky movie.
True to form, it's Butters who is ruined by the experience when he sees Stan's parents porn, and he soon becomes obsessed with finding out what it all means. By the end of the episode, Butters is rocking back and forth in the basement mumbling Gollum's famous line: "My precious". Another of the best scenes in the episodes sees the parents try and explain the contents of the porn video to their clueless sons. It's more than a little cringe-worthy.
12. 'Make Love, Not Warcraft' (season 10, episode 8)
If you've ever wondered what Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Kenny would look like morbidly obese, then look no further than 'Make Love, Not Warcraft'. The boys are playing the legendary MMORPG when a high-level player starts ruthlessly picking them off. The plan they hatch to take down the player is simple: they must hide away and kill low-level boar until they are a high enough level to take down the villain.
Benefiting from some fun lines from Stan's dad Randy, this episode is relatively simple, which makes it a perfect, uncomplicated jumping-on point for South Park-curious WoW fans, despite some hilariously brutal parody of MMO players.
11. 'Scott Tenorman Must Die' (season 5, episode 4)
An exchange of pubes for money is one of many laugh-out-loud moments in this iconic episode, which introduces Cartman's nemesis Scott Tenorman. In a bid to get his revenge, Cartman employs a series of tactics to train a horse to eat Scott's penis during a chilli cook-off competition in front of his favourite band Radiohead. Of course, that doesn't work, so Cartman is forced to do something else that leads to Scott's parents' untimely demise.
Yep, it's slightly crazy, but we promise it's worth watching for the last five minutes alone. By the end of the episode, Cartman is licking the tears of unfathomable sadness off Scott's face, while Kyle and Stan are left wondering how Cartman could stoop so low. Plus, there's a piggy dance to cackle over too.
10. 'Tsst' (season 10, episode 7)
If you fail to laugh at 'Tsst', then you may never laugh at anything ever again. Cartman's mum is sick of her wayward son and decides to bring in a group of behavioral experts. The first is a Mary Poppins-style Brit whom Cartman manipulates to within an inch of her sanity. The second is The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan.
Together, Cesar and Liane bring Cartman in line by pinching his neck with the 'tssst' sound of dominance. Watching Cartman hit the deck delivers some of the episode's funniest moments, and Cartman comparing his treatment to that of the Jews under Hitler is ridiculous in its complete absurdity. Look out for the music from The Omen at the end of the episode for a little horror movie flashback.
9. 'You Have 0 Friends' (season 14, episode 4)
Kip Drordy is probably the saddest, loneliest character in the South Park universe... which makes him hilarious. Stan is forced into having a Facebook profile, something which makes his life a nightmare and ends up with him being sucked into a Tron-like world of thumbs ups and likes. Elsewhere, Kyle adds Kip to his friend list out of pity, only to be ostracised by everyone else because of his choice of friend.
Considering the episode was released in 2010, Parker and Stone managed to predict just how powerful the world of social media would become while also parodying some of its more ridiculous facets, like Chat Roulette. That they also managed to give this episode a happy ending is even more impressive.
8. 'AWESOM-O' (season 8, episode 5)
Cartman has been torturing Butters for 21 seasons, but sometimes his schemes are so elaborate you can't help but admire him for it. In 'AWESOM-O', Cartman pretends to be a new robot friend to discover all of Butters inner-most secrets, but ends up discovering that Butters has some blackmail material of his own (think Cartman dressed as Britney Spears humping a Justin Timberlake cardboard cut-out and you're on the right lines).
What starts off as a simple episode soon becomes much more interesting, with Butters taking AWESOM-O to Los Angeles where his robotic abilities are used to pitch movie ideas. We'll never get tired of Cartman shouting "lame" every time something weird happens while he's in his cardboard robot suit, or the moment when he's stolen by the US Army to be reprogrammed as a weapon of mass destruction. Ridiculous, but one of our favourites.
7. 'Up the Down Steroid' (season 8, episode 2)
This completely awful, yet very funny episode is the perfect example of Parker and Stone's risk-taking humour. Jimmy and Timmy are competing in the special Olympics, but Cartman wants in on the $1,000 prize money. To do this, he pretends to be mentally disabled, only to discover he's so horrendously unfit he can't beat the other kids. At the same time, Jimmy has got himself hooked on steroids in a Lance Armstrong spoof.
This is one of those episodes that makes you feel guilty for laughing, but, then again, when's that not the case watching South Park? It's hard to not crack a smile at the exchange between Timmy and Jimmy (especially considering Timmy can only say his own name) and Cartman's scientific approach to appearing disabled. South Park at its most awkward.
6. 'Dances with Smurfs' (season 13, episode 13)
When Cartman is named the new morning announcer at school, he starts to abuse the power and accuses Wendy Testaburger of trying to suppress his civil liberties. Once he gets his own TV show, he goes on a political rampage accusing Wendy of trying to kill Smurfs.
What follows is basically the story of Avatar, itself lifted from Dances with Wolves. It also includes references to Fox News, the Tea Party protests, and Sarah Palin. Considering the vast majority of the episode features a semi-naked Cartman with blue face paint, it's deceptively clever and very funny.
5. 'Smug Alert!' (season 10, episode 2)
Determined not to sit back and watch people destroy the world (his words, not ours), Kyle's dad Gerald coughs up for a new hybrid car, embracing a new, greener lifestyle. Trouble is, while using the more environmentally-friendly vehicle cuts down on smog levels, it comes with an unintended side-effect of Smug. Eventually, Gerald's unable to cope with the small minds of the simple folk of South Park, and relocates the family to the sunny San Francisco, the only place in the country more Smug than South Park. Surely, this episode is worth a watch for that wordplay alone?
4. 'Black Friday' (season 17, episode 7)
Just in case you were in any doubt of what Parker and Stone make of the consumer madness of Black Friday, the seventh episode of the 17th season marks the first of a three-episode arc that homages Game of Thrones and reflects exactly what we'll do for the best Black Friday bargain (which is taking up a temporary job in the mall in Randy Marsh's case).
Split into two familiar factions – Xbox One fans and PlayStation 4 fans – the children of South Park attempt to recruit the undecided to their cause and secure the console of their dreams. “Winter is coming… and the next-gen gaming systems are hitting the shelves!”
3. 'Night of the Living Homeless' (season 11, episode 7)
According to South Park County's resident "expert" on homelessness, the best way to eradicate homelessness is toot give any money away, therefore you force the unfortunate souls to move on. Kyle struggles with this ethical dilemma, though, and inadvertently makes everything worse by graciously donating twenty bucks to a homeless man. So begins a struggle that sees dozens of homeless people shuffling, zombie-like, through the town in hopes of getting a similar donation. Kyle's dad Gerald eventually donates all his money and becomes a homeless zombie too, while Cartman inexplicably jumps the homeless on his skateboard.
'Night of the Living Homeless' not only parodies the best zombie movies, it also offers a steaming dose of satirical social commentary. Sublime.
2. 'Good Times with Weapons' (season 8, episode 1)
Remember when your parents told you not to play with sharp things or you'll take your eye out? 'Good Times with Weapons' is a living, breathing reminder of this... especially if the sharp things in question are "authentic" weapons from the Far East and your name is Butters (poor, poor Butters).
Pretending to be orphans to side-step parental permission rules, the boys stock up on a selection of horrifyingly violent weapons to role-play ninjas and get into a scrap with Professor Chaos. Cue Kenny throwing a shuriken in an attempt to defeat the Prof and then laugh-out-loud efforts to get Butters treated without getting busted.
1. 'The Death of Eric Cartman' (season 9, episode 6)
Would South Park be the same without Cartman? If our number one episode is anything to go by, the answer is definitely no. 'The Death of Eric Cartman' combines everything this show does best; the bully's malicious insanity, Kyle and Stan getting their own back, and Cartman's laugh-out-loud relationship with Butters. When Eric eats all the crispy skin off the KFC chicken before the other boys get a taste, the gang team up to ignore him completely. Failing to comprehend why anyone would simple ignore him, Cartman comes to the obvious conclusion that he is dead.
Of course, poor Butters is five steps behind and believes, if Cartman is dead, he must be able to see ghosts. If that wasn't funny enough, Butters' parents put him through a series of traumatising, anal-probing tests while Cartman decides to atone for his sins with gift baskets. He then has to deal with a hostage situation. Plus, we get another rendition of "Lou, lou, lou, I've got some apples". We could watch this episode, the best of the best South Park episodes, over and over again.
South Park is available to stream right now on Paramount Plus. If you enjoyed our ranking of the best South Park episodes, check out our list of the best Rick and Morty episodes and the best Simpsons episodes too.