South Park is one of the longest scripted animated series on cable television with its 23rd season kicking off in 2019. The show also just received a three-year renewal of 10 episode seasons to push it through 26 seasons in 2022. Through that time, there have been some clunkers. However, through its 22 seasons to date, there have also been some of the best topical comedy on television today.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker started South Park in 1997, and the show remains popular over two decades later as the duo skewer anyone and everyone with no punches pulled. With so many great episodes, here is a look at the best episode from every season of South Park, ranked.
22 PUT IT DOWN (SEASON 21)
After a season that polarized many fans due to its episodic nature, the 21st season of South Park went back to absurdist comedy with a different focus each week. "Put it Down" was the second episode of the season, focusing on the dangers of obsessing over current news and events. With the Charlottesville protests still fresh in everyone's memories, Matt and Trey delivered a satire that picked up an Emmy nomination for the show.
21 THE SCOOTS (SEASON 22)
The season 22 Halloween special was titled "The Scoots" and aired on Halloween night in 2018. The episode's title refers to e-scooters and a scooter-sharing system that the kids use to maximize their candy intake on Halloween, which sends the town into a panic. However, the story that carried it all was Kenny being too poor to have a cellphone. He teamed with Mr. Mackey to stop the candy apocalypse, carrying this South Park episode to great heights.
20 SKANK HUNT (SEASON 20)
Season 20 took on the format of telling one long-form story and having each episode connect to the others, which remains polarizing to many fans of the show. The biggest problem with season 20 was that Matt and Trey never believed that Donald Trump would win the presidential election. The duo had to change the final episodes due to this unforeseen event. This change caused the best episode to come very early on, with the second episode "Skank Hunt," which dealt with internet trolling.
19 A NIGHTMARE ON FACETIME (SEASON 16)
The 16th season was the last that South Park put out 14 episodes before dropping down to the 10-episode format after that. The best episode of the season was "A Nightmare on Facetime," which itself was a parody of Stanley Kubrick's classic horror movie The Shining.
The plot sees Randy Marsh buying a Blockbuster video store and then forcing his family to work on Halloween night with him. As the night goes on, Randy starts to lose it when no one comes to rent a video, and the store seems haunted by ghosts of the past. It was a great satire in the new world of streaming video.
18 YOU'RE GETTING OLD (SEASON 15)
The season 15 midseason finale of South Park focused on the idea of growing older. What made this episode hit home was the fact that it ended abruptly, with a shocking finale. Stan's parents chose to separate, and Stan ended alienated from his friends. The fact that Stan was going through an existential crisis emphasized the fact that getting older often comes with the cynicism that everything new sucks.
17 SPOOKYFISH (SEASON 2)
"Spookyfish" is the 15th episode of season 2 of South Park, released right before Halloween in 1998. This episode placed Barbara Streisand's face on each corner of the screen and called it "Spooky Vision." The move was in response to Streisand bashing the show for a season 1 episode that parodied her. The split-screen work with the good and evil Cartman was brilliant, and the side story with the evil fish was clever as well.
16 MAJOR BOOBAGE (SEASON 12)
The season 12 episode "Major Boobage" sees the return of a character with Mr. Kitty coming back for the first time since season 3. The episode was a real treat for fans of the classic adult animated movie Heavy Metal, itself based on the classic magazine of the same name. In the episode, Kenny becomes addicted to "cheesing" and starts to have hallucinations that are similar to the animation in Heavy Metal.
15 CARTMAN'S MOM IS A DIRTY **** (SEASON 1)
Arguably, one of the most iconic episodes of South Park history came in the first season with the finale, "Cartman's Mom is a Dirty ****." The episode has Cartman heading out to try to find who his father is, only to learn his mother slept with just about every guy in South Park. While trying to find his real dad, Cartman begins to try to adapt to the cultural norms of each man he finds along the way.
14 200 (SEASON 14)
The most controversial episode in South Park history is also the best of season 14. The problem is that this is an episode no one can see now if they rely on streaming South Park episodes. The 200th episode is titled "200." What makes this episode so controversial is that they once again attacked Tom Cruise and Scientology but then brought Muhammad to meet him. The episode resulted in both death threats and Emmy nominations.
13 FISHSTICKS (SEASON 13)
"Fishsticks" is the episode of South Park that hurt Kanye West's feelings, for those who remember that moment. In the episode, Jimmy comes up with a new joke about fishsticks, one that Cartman takes credit for. As the episode goes on, Cartman really believes he did all the work, Carlos Mencia steals the joke, and Kanye West gets mad because he doesn't get it.
12 CHINPOKOMON (SEASON 3)
Released in 1999, "Chinpkomon" took on the Pokémon craze. The boys become addicted to the cartoon, toys, and games and soon realize that the entire franchise is anti-American and is meant to transform American children into Japanese child soldiers.
As they start to fall under the spell, the animation changes to look more like anime. It is a brutal and hilarious parody of obsessive pop culture properties.
11 SPONSORED CONTENT (SEASON 19)
The 19th season of South Park was another one that had a story arc moving through each episode rather than individual comedy episodes. This season was all about political correctness and the introduction of the PC Principal. This episode has the PC Principal trying to censor the newspaper when he sees the word "retarded" in it. Jimmy fights back as a physically disabled child who accuses the Principal of "ableism."
10 BLACK FRIDAY (SEASON 17)
Possibly the second best trilogy of episodes in South Park history (following only "Imaginationland"), Black Friday started with episode seven and then continued the story through the next two episodes to rave reviews. The episodes have Randy agreeing to be a security guard on Black Friday, and the boys take sides on the new video game consoles.
9 IMAGINATIONLAND (SEASON 11)
"Imaginationland" was a trilogy in season 11 that stretched from episode 10 through 12. The three episodes combined won an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program for One Hour or More. The boys find a leprechaun, and this leads them on a journey to Imaginationland where they learn that terrorists are threatening to destroy everything. Meanwhile, Kyle loses a bet, and the courts decide he legally has to do something that still has some laughing.
8 CARTMAN JOINS NAMBLA (SEASON 4)
In season 4, Cartman played a major role throughout the season. In "Cartman Joins NAMBLA," he seeks out more mature friends and ends up joining the "North American Man/Boy Love Association." When Cartman becomes the poster boy for the organization, it puts everyone in South Park in danger.
7 GROUNDED VINDALOOP (SEASON 18)
Season 18 was another serialized season, this one showing the boys getting into trouble and spending the rest of the season trying to get back to normal. "Grounded Vindaloop" was the seventh episode and focused on Butters. Butters thought he was in a virtual reality game and the entire episode turns into a puzzle.
All the kids think they are in the game and can't get out while customer service is no help at all.
6 THE DEATH OF ERIC CARTMAN (SEASON 9)
The best episode of season 9 has the boys decide Cartman has gone too far as a jerk and they decided to ignore him. They get the entire school in on it, and Cartman believes the only reason the kids ignore him is that he is dead and is a ghost. Butters is the only one who talks to him, so Cartman demands Butters help him find a way to get into Heaven.
5 GOOD TIMES WITH WEAPONS (SEASON 8)
The season premiere for season 8 of South Park has the distinction of moving away from the cutout animation fans, are used to and flipping over to anime. The story has the boys buy martial arts weapons and then turn into Japanese warriors. The episode was voted on as one of the best in the entire series with no one caring about the excess violence, but once Cartman has a wardrobe malfunction, the town begins to protest.
4 CASA BONITA (SEASON 7)
The 11th episode of season 7 was "Casa Bonita" which saw Cartman convince Butters to go missing by telling him a meteor is headed toward Earth and he needs to hide. This scheme is so he can attend Kyle's birthday party at the Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita as one of his three guests. Even when the police show up, Cartman said it was all worth it for the food.
3 THE RETURN OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING TO THE TWO TOWERS (SEASON 6)
To really understand how long South Park has been around, this season 6 episode is a parody of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy -- while it was still new to fans. The boys dress up as characters from the movies and head out to take part in events that play into those films' stories. The actual plot was to return a copy of the video to the store.
2 MAKE LOVE, NOT WARCRAFT (SEASON 10)
Released in 2006, South Park took aim at Worlds of Warcraft and the obsession of kids (and adults) who play the game so much that they ignore real life. The episode had someone killing players in the game, so everyone takes on the task of playing nonstop as they try to find this player and stop him.
The episode was a brilliant satire of nerd culture, and it won an Emmy.
1 SCOTT TENORMAN MUST DIE (SEASON 5)
Released in 2005, "Scott Tenorman Must Die" is arguably the best episode in the history of South Park. The story shows how evil and vindictive Cartman is as he turns the table on the school bully Scott Tenorman. When Scott pranks Cartman, he sets out to ruin the bully's life, and this results in Cartman killing Scott's parents and feeding them to him.