Season 1, episode 8:
Instead of changing the channel, the boys decide that they can't pass up on the offer of a free Teiko digital sports watch -- so they call in and offer to sponsor a starving Ethiopian child. Unfortunately, instead of a watch, the starving Ethiopian child arrives on their doorstep. While the boys quickly befriend their new companion -- nicknamed 'Starvin' Marvin' -- the town fights to rid itself of Dr. Mephisto's genetically-engineered turkey army, and South Park elementary holds a canned food drive in observance of Thanksgiving. Though the show was still getting its bearings when this episode aired during the first season, Starvin' Marvin Starvin' Marvin set the table for several followup episodes, including the hilarious Starvin' Marvin in Space.
Notable quote: "See, this is what we call an all-you-can-eat buffet. Here, you can eat all you want for just $6.99. That why everyone comes here on Tuesday nights -- except for Kenny's family, because for them, $6.99 is two year's income." -- Eric Cartman
Season 3, episode 11:
Chinpokomon South Park has never been known for its subtlety and Chinpokomon was no different, but its satirical take on the Pokemon fad is hilarious nonetheless. Kyle finds himself a step behind all his friends when it comes to collecting Chinpokomon figurines, which secretly contain anti-American propaganda from the Japanese government. Realizing that their kids are being brainwashed, the parents of South Park band together to create toys to replace the fad.
Unfortunately, Cartman & Co. decide that the new toys are suddenly lame and unworthy of their time. Meanwhile, the Japanese government attempt to placate the men of South Park by complimenting the relative size of their genitalia. The parents must concoct a plan to prevent the children from becoming kamikaze pilots in a prospective attack on Pearl Harbor. Yeah, it's ridiculous, but it works surprisingly well on screen.
Notable quote: "I spoke with (Japanese emperor) Mr. Hirohito this morning, and he assured me that I have a very large penis. He said it was mammoth, dinosauric, and absolutely dwarfed his penis, which, he assured me, was nearly microscopic in size ... Thank you." -- Bill Clinton
Season 5, episode 4:
It's probably fair to say that Eric Cartman wouldn't be who he is today had the events of Scott Tenorman Must Die Scott Tenorman Must Die never happened. This episode put on display the true depths of Cartman's malice, which ninth grader Scott Tenorman learned about the hard way. In response to Tenorman tricking him into buying pubic hair -- Cartman thought this would jump-start his puberty -- Cartman devises a diabolical plan that culminates with Tenorman unwittingly eating his own dead parents in a chili cook-off. The episode is topped off with a guest appearance by Radiohead (Scott's favorite band), who make fun of Tenorman for crying while Cartman literally licks the tears from his face.
Notable quote: "Eric! Are you training that pony to please you?" -- Jimbo Kern
Season 6, episode 2:
Usually, Asspen South Park gets its laughs by raising the stakes to ridiculous proportions. Time and time again, the boys are forced into action to save the world from ... well, pretty much everything. In "Asspen," though, the show takes a little vacation from AIDS and the Devil. While their parents are stuck in a frustrating loop of time-share pitch meetings ("Say it with me... I've got a little place in Aspen"), the boys take to the slopes and attempt to learn how to ski. Unfortunately, the Mountain Rules take hold and Stan is challenged to a race by another skier. The '80s ski parody is a well-traveled road, but South Park's was one of the first to skewer the trop, and remains one of the funniest.
Notable quote: "If you french fry when you're supposed to pizza, you're gonna have a bad time." -- Thumper the Ski Instructor
Season 7, episode 12:
Rarely do All About Mormons South Park episodes introduce new characters with redeeming qualities, but All About Mormons is one such instance. When Stan is sent to beat up new kid Gary, whose ultra-polite attitude has ruffled some feathers around the school, he finds that Gary -- whose family are practicing Mormons -- isn't as bad as they expected. The majority of the episode is spent by telling the story of how Mormons came to be, with some license taken by the writers to fill in blanks.
Inconsistencies in the story are met with an audio cue that sounds an awful lot like "dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb," while mentions of people that were skeptical about Mormonism get the same treatment, except it says "smart, smart, smart, smart, smart." While Stan and Randy are unable to move past their skepticism, Gary reminds the boys that being a good person isn't about your religion or your beliefs, but simply how you treat others. It's one of the "lesson" episodes, and it makes an important point about civility, even as it ridicules an entire religion.
Notable quote: "All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you're so high and mighty you couldn't look past my religion and just be my friend back. You've got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls." -- Gary Harrison
Season 9, episode 12:
Speaking of skewering religion, despite the fact that Trapped in the Closet Trapped in the Closet marked the beginning of the end of the relationship between South Park and Isaac Hayes (who voiced Chef), it's one of the most memorable and impactful episodes in the show's history. When Stan takes a personality test and is mistaken for the reincarnation of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, one thing leads to another and noted Scientologist Tom Cruise locks himself in Stan's closet. When Cruise refuses to emerge, several other celebrities -- including R. Kelly, of course -- end up locking themselves in as well. The episode is famous for its animated revelations about the shrouded Scientology backstory and philosophy, accompanied by the words "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE" plastered across the screen. Isaac Hayes quit the show after the episode aired, and real-life Tom Cruise even threatened to file a lawsuit against Paramount Pictures if the episode continued to air.
Notable quote: "Look, everybody, we're all looking for answers ... We all want to understand who we are and where we come from, but sometimes we want to know the answers so badly that we believe just about anything." -- Stan Marsh
Season 10, episode 8:
You'd be hard-pressed to find a best-of list of Make Love, not Warcraft South Park episodes that doesn't have Make Love, Not Warcraft on it. It was selected as the No. 1 episode in 2011's "Year of the Fan" compilation, and it's become a cultural touchstone for both South Park and World of Warcraft. When a mysterious player in the Warcraft universe begins slaughtering the boys' online avatars without permission, they come together and grind their way up the virtual ladder, with no time wasted for sleep, exercise, or even bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, the higher-ups at game developer Blizzard try to find a way to defeat the rogue gamer. The episode features several in-jokes about World of Warcraft and gaming culture in general, and its searing critiques are perfect examples of the South Park comedy model.
Notable quote: "How do you kill that which has no life?" -- Blizzard employee
Season 11, episode 9:
Jumping on the zombie renaissance like only South Park can, when the town becomes overrun with homeless people, the residents must take drastic measures to survive and fend off the increasingly demanding hordes of zombie-like hobos. The town quickly devolves into chaos, with Randy taking an every-man-for-himself approach on the roof of the Community Center. As usual, Kyle and Stan are forced to take matters into their own hands as they search for the cause of -- and a solution for -- the homeless infestation. Night of the Living Homeless Night of the Living Homeless is one of the more brutal episodes, with recurring horror themes throughout.
Notable quote: "We knew it wouldn't be long before the homeless actually started buying homes ... People living in the house next door to you could be homeless and you wouldn't even know!" -- Evergreen survivor
Season 13, episode 2:
The Coon The Coon follows Cartman's exploits as the eponymous masked vigilante in raccoon garb, whose crime-fighting skills rarely amount to more than unprovoked attacks on couples kissing in the park (under the guise of rape prevention). When the enigmatic Mysterion shows up, receiving more attention from the police and media than Cartman's Coon, Eric's jealousy provokes him to bait Professor Chaos -- aka Butters -- into a battle with Mysterion, whom Cartman can blackmail into revealing his identity. The episode gave birth to a hilarious follow-up trilogy in season 14, as well as a host of memorable alter egos that will return in South Park: The Fractured but Whole, a role-playing game scheduled for release in 2017.
Notable quote: "To clean out the trash can of society, I've chosen to become more than a man. I'm the hero this town needs. I am ... The Coon!" -- Eric Cartman
Season 14, episode 14:
When Crème Fraîche South Park was still on training wheels, Eric Cartman (along with Stan, Kyle, and to a lesser extent, Kenny) reigned as the only characters on the show with depth that went beyond their 2D cut-out character design. Over time, though, the creators began to flesh out the supporting cast of characters, creating storylines that aren't entirely dependent upon the adventures of the four boys. The biggest beneficiary of this growth? Randy Marsh. In Crème Fraîche, Randy develops a passion for cooking, leading his wife Sharon to believe that he's lost interest in her. As Randy follows his heart by becoming the new cook in the school cafeteria, Sharon begins to develop an unhealthy relationship with her new Shake Weight workout companion. Even though the stars of Crème Fraîche may be older than the show's usual protagonists, the jokes are just as inappropriate and incisive.
Notable quote: "Your workout is finished. Here is some cab fare. Now entering sleep mode." -- Shake Weight
Season 15, episode 7:
In You're Getting Old You're Getting Old, Stan's 10th birthday brings more changes than he had anticipated. After turning the big 1-0, Stan finds that his tastes have begun to change. All the things he liked as a "kid" -- music, food, movies -- have started to literally seem like human excrement. While Stan's doctor examines his new tastes and diagnoses him as "a cynical asshole," Randy tries to recapture his own youth by getting caught up in the "tween wave" music trend, even though it sounds terrible to him. In a rare departure for South Park, You're Getting Old eschews the usual inspirational speeches by Stan and Kyle, instead ending on a sour note, with the Marsh parents on their way to divorce and Stan feeling defeated by the natural aging process.
Notable quote: "Tween Wave music is complex and awesome and it speaks to my youthful rebellious spirit, Sharon!" -- Randy Marsh
Season 16, episode 9:
In Raising the Bar Raising the Bar, Eric finally accepts the fact that he's fat. However, in true Cartman fashion, he simply packs on a few extra pounds in order to acquire a motorized Rascal scooter, like the ones that he sees people riding around Wall-Mart. As the Rascals become more commonplace, and terrible television shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo continue to the dominate ratings, James Cameron deduces that the metaphorical Bar -- here represented by an actual, physical object -- must have been drastically lowered somehow.
Meanwhile, Token offers to produce a hard-hitting documentary about obesity, but secretly uses footage of Cartman to create copycat show Here Comes Fatty Doo Doo, which leads Eric to challenge Honey Boo Boo to a spaghetti-wrestling duel. The episode reaches a climax as Cameron engages in a deep-sea struggle for control over the "Bar" -- and, as such, the future of entertainment as a whole.
Notable quote: "James Cameron doesn't do what James Cameron does for James Cameron. James Cameron does what James Cameron does because James Cameron is James Cameron!" -- James Cameron
Season 17, episodes 7 through 9: The "Black Friday" trilogy
Technically, we're cheating a little bit here, but we couldn't pick a favorite from these three episodes. With Black Friday fast approaching, Randy takes a job as a security officer at the mall. As mall security prepares for the hordes of shoppers, the fourth-grade boys become embroiled in a heated console battle over the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4, leading them to split into two factions. When Kenny betrays Cartman, Eric dispatches Butters and Scott Malkinson to the home of George R. R. Martin, in hopes of learning Martin's plan for the outcome of Game of Thrones (Cartman, to this point, had based all of his battle tactics off of the series). The war between the PlayStation Army and the Xbox army rages on, culminating in a "Red Robin Wedding" that few characters are prepared for (like we said, they're not subtle). Meanwhile, George R. R. Martin reveals an odd obsession with male genitalia, and an inability to avoid discussing male genitalia. Several criss-crossing plot lines, rampant betrayal, and Thrones-esque bloodshed come together to create one of the great South Park sagas.
Notable quote: "Black Friday is over. There's been death, violence, horrible human behavior ... and the big winner here, decidedly, is Channel 9 News." -- Niles Lawson, Channel 9 News
Season 18, episode 1:
Go Fund Yourself Go Fund Yourself is an excellent example of Trey Parker's ability to write stories that weave together several pop culture trends or events simultaneously, creating a show that somehow comes off as both ridiculous and a pointed commentary on the current cultural zeitgeist. This time around, Cartman and the gang are struggling to come up with a name for their new Kickstarter company, until they realize that the Washington Redskins has been legally vacated and is up for grabs. When Cartman refuses (Redskins owner) Dan Snyder's request to give back the name, Snyder appeals to commissioner Roger Goodell, who is revealed to be a malfunctioning android built to appease the owners' demands.
The episode heats up when Snyder's Redskins devise a plan to destroy the boys' company, while several allusions are made to the plight of the Redskins (a double entendre painting the football team as Native Americans losing their land). Go Fund Yourself is a busy affair, but the quality storyboarding -- and the hilarious inclusion of ISIS -- make this episode one to remember.
Notable quote: "Digging in our heels and pissing on public opinion is what the Washington Redskins are all about!" -- Eric Cartman
Season 18, episode 6:
Freemium Isn't Free South Park's incisive take on the "Freemium" gaming trend is a good microcosm of the show in general. Even though there may be more dirty jokes than you can shake a stick at, Parker, Stone, & Co. are still some of the best in the business at producing effective commentary. When Stan gets addicted to a new mobile game, the other boys confront him and find out that Jimmy has been getting paid to push the game on the unsuspecting children of South Park. The "freemium" game, which prompts players to pay exorbitant sums of real-world money in order to gain an advantage, is the brainchild of the Canadian Minister of Mobile Gaming. Realizing he has an addiction -- and that he's not the only one -- Stan enlists the help of the Devil himself (a longtime friend of the show) to go to Canada and fight against Freemium gaming.
Notable quote: "I had a [drinking] problem, but I was able to stop. Now I only drink gluten-free beer and wine." -- Randy Marsh
Editor’s note: South Park is full of inappropriate jokes and language, some of which is guaranteed to be offensive. As the show itself warns, this content “should not be viewed by anyone.”
South Park nears an incredible 20 years of crude, animated humor, we can’t help but look back and appreciate the show’s unique blend of timely satire and purposely inappropriate jokes. Each year creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker return with timely material (largely written by Parker) as only they can deliver (see 6 Days to Air to find out why), cleverly skewering celebrities, pop culture, and everything else under the sun.
The nature of
South Park makes it difficult to identify the “best” episodes — ask 10 fans which episode is their favorite and you might get 10 different answers. So, instead, we’ve decided to present the 15 episodes that we consider to be the most memorable. Whether it’s building a storyline that persists through the series (like The Coon) or simply making some incisive — and hilarious — commentary about a popular fad (like Chinpokomon), each of these episodes truly embodies the ridiculous brilliance that is South Park.