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We are going to attempt the seemingly impossible here and rank the 10 best South Park episodes of all time. With over two decades worth of shows (almost 300 episodes total) and a whole army with of amazing characters, like Eric Cartman, Randy Marsh, Mr. Garrison, and Towelie (no, he’s not the worst character ever!) this is a REALLY difficult task.
You could do 10 of the best Randy Marsh episodes by themselves, like “Guitar Queer-O,” “Over Logging” and “With Apologies To Jesse Jackson.” Or the 10 best Cartman episodes like “The Death Of Eric Cartman,” “Ginger Kids,” and “Cartman Joins NAMBLA.” Or the ten best Butters episodes, like “Butters Bottom Bitch” and “Awesome-O.” Or the ten best episodes with unique animations, like “Coon Vs Coon & Friends,” “Good Times With Weapons,” and “Major Boobage.” You get the point. This is hard.
There are lot of ways to break them down, but picking the best of the best is like picking a favorite child. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. So here we go, ranking the top South Park episodes from least to greatest.
10. “Casa Bonita” (Season 7, Episode 11)
“Casa Bonita” is Cartman at his very worst. In an attempt to get himself invited to Kyle’s birthday party at Casa Bonita, a Mexican restaurant in Denver that is actually a real place, Cartman kidnaps Butters, thinking he will take his place on Kyle’s invitation list.
There are so many elements that make “Casa Bonita” great. Cartman’s blatant selfishness goes way over the top in his quest for a free trip to Casa Bonita. Butters os alone in a bomb shelter for most of the episode (at least until he tries to “repopulate the earth” with a random stranger). Kyle’s hatred of Cartman for his constant anti-Semitism is also on full display. It has so many of the classic South Park tropes that work so well.
9. “Medicinal Fried Chicken” (Season14, Episode 3)
“Medicinal Fried Chicken” brings two subplots together from the two best characters on South Park, Randy March and Eric Cartman. First, Cartman is shattered when it is revealed that the war on unhealthy fast food has claimed South Park’s only KFC. Randy, however is just delighted to learn that the KFC is now a medicinal marijuana dispensary and he immediately sets out to get a prescription. Cartman, meanwhile must go to the black market to get his Colonel fix.
The episode brilliant juxtaposes changes values in America when it comes to health. On one side is the push move to make medical marijuana legal, and on the flip side is moving to make fatty, unhealthy foods illegal (or at least unacceptable, socially). Cartman’s rise as a friend chicken kingpin and Randy and his friends bouncing around on their huge balls keeps you laughing almost non-stop.
8. “Die Hippie, Die” (Season 9, Episode 2)
Another classic Eric Cartman episode featuring Cartman as a hippie exterminator. South Park becomes inundated with hippies when Mayor McDaniels signs the permit for a musical festival in town. Cartman is the one person in town that sees the inherent danger the festival presents until it’s too late. Finally, a team of scientists, including the great geologist Randy Marsh, aided by Cartman, build a drill designed to bore through the huge crowd and chase them off by playing “Raining Blood” by Slayer.
“Die Hippie, Die” is just classic, hilarious South Park, starring, of course, Cartman as a just terrible person, even though his threat assessment is correct. Cartman’s hatred of hippies is pervasive throughout the show, but it really comes out full force as he sprays down giggling hippies and locks them in his basement in a desperate attempt to protect his quiet mountain town.
7. “You Have 0 Friends” (Season 14, Episode 4)
Sometimes it is hard to believe that the world has only really been connected to Facebook for 13 years or so. It feels like forever. In 2010, when the South Park episode “You Have 0 Friends” first aired, Facebook was still bright, shiny and new for many of its users, and South Park skewered it. In the episode, Stan is resisting joining the social network as the rest of his friends and family become consumed by it.
Of course, Stan unwillingly gets consumed, literally, as he is sucked into the gaming grid like Flynn in Tron and, like Flynn, must battle the Master Control Program (in a game of Yantzee) to free himself and his information from the network. Anyone that has ever tried to quit Facebook can relate. “You Have 0 Friends” is a prime example of South Park’s biting social commentary at its best.
6. “Smug Alert” (Season 10, Episode 2)
In another example of spot-on social commentary, something South Park of course takes great pride in, “Smug Alert” takes down weekend eco-warriors, specifically Prius owners (and residents of San Francisco) for their seemingly selfish approach to fighting global warming. It’s a fine example of Trey Parker and Matt Stone taking a shot at the modern bourgeoisie.
And, of course, it is hysterically funny. From Gerald Broflovski moving the family from South Park to San Francisco to be more smug (and smell their own farts with the rest of the hip crowd) to the kids in San Francisco who are sick of their parents nonsense and just want to do a lot of drugs, it’s an amazing, biting episode. Take that, smug Prius owners!
5. “The Losing Edge” (Season 9, Episode 5)
“The Losing Edge” doesn’t have anything particularly unique about it. It doesn’t change the rules of the show in any way. It’s not unique in its animation. But what it is is just plain rude, obnoxious and hilarious; the three things that have always made South Park a cut above most TV shows. It comes in the middle of Season 9, which as you’ll see has two other entries on this list, and another four or five episodes, at least, that could be on the list without much argument.
The episode centers of the boys hatred of playing baseball and trying on purpose to lose so their season can end and they don’t have to play anymore. The problem? All the other kids on all the other teams feel the same way. It turns out, the kids’ parents on are WAY more into the game than the kids play it are. Which parent is the most involved? Randy Marsh. The episode really belongs to Randy has he continually gets drunk and fights at every game, ended each time in his arrest. And of course, why shouldn’t he? I mean, I thought this was America.
4. “Make Love, Not Warcraft” (Season 10, Episode 8)
“Make Love, Not Warcraft” is brilliant for many reasons. It’s heavy critical of gaming culture, and its unique animation, based on the game World Of Warcraft, is spot on. Watching the boys (and Randy) interact within the virtual world (of Warcraft) is so much fun, the plot almost doesn’t matter, but it's brilliant too as the boys combine their powers to take out a far too powerful random player that kills everything and everyone in the game.
The episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (the show’s second of four times winning the award). Trey and Matt both think it’s one of the best shows they’ve ever produced, even if it almost killed Parker, and who are we to argue with them. It’s an acne-covered masterpiece.
3. “Crème Fraiche” (Season 14, Episode 14)
This is peak Randy Marsh, as the bumbling geologists gets obsessed with cooking shows, eventually quitting his job to become the new chef at the boys’ school. It’s episodes like this that have established Randy Marsh as a true fan favorite, but don’t sleep on the subplot about Sharon Marsh “working out” with a shake weight.
Again, like “The Losing Edge” there isn’t anything particularly unique about this episode. “Crème Fraiche” is just really, really funny. Cartman as Gordon Ramsay, is hilarious, but it’s really all about Randy. it’s nice that it comes with a happy ending too.
2. “Trapped In The Closet” (Season 9, Episode 12)
One important, reoccurring element of South Park that was established very early on in the shows run is its unflinching criticism of organized religion. That has never been more unflinching than when the show took on The Church Of Scientology in “Trapped In The Closet.” The episode is a true classic, a long-time fan favorite and just an amazing take down of Scientology and its celebrity culture.
Despite having a long-established tradition of trashing organized religions of every ilk, “Trapped In The Closet” turned into one of the shows more controversial episodes as Tom Cruise and the Church Scientologists basically freaked out and threatened lawsuits and boycotts of the show and Comedy Central. The late Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef and a Scientologist himself, quit the show in the wake of this episode. Comedy Central even pulled the episode from its schedule for a time.
“Trapped In The Closet” deserves its high spot on this list because not only was it such a notable and controversial episode, but it is downright hilarious. As South Park has done so often, it skewers a religion with amazing satire that has viewers laughing out loud for the whole 30 minutes.
1. “Scott Tenorman Must Die” (Season 5, Episode 4)
Over all the years, and all the episodes, “Scott Tenorman Must Die” remains at the top. Trey, Matt and fans around the world all acknowledge the episode’s greatness. The most important reason why this episode has long been thought of as one of, if not the best, by most critics and fans is the emergence of the spiteful, mean and nasty Eric Cartman that we all know today. Sure, Cartman was always a racist, anti-Semetic jerk, but this episode firmly established how awful he could truly be.
If you don’t know the episode, well, you should, but the show features only one plot (also a first for the show) that revolves around Cartman’s rivalry with 9th grader Scott Tenorman, who is consistently one step ahead of Eric in their battle of wills, until the moment when Cartman feeds Scott Tenorman’s own parents to him in a bowl of chili. It’s horrifying and hilarious, and it’s peak South Park.