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What are the best ‘South Park’ episodes? I’m about to tell you something you might never hear again from a fresh out of college PC SJW. I LOVE South Park. I’m a degree holder, Phi Beta Kappa, and I friggin’ love one of the stupidest and most offensive shows on TV, nay, in TV history. There are probably others like me out there who are just too afraid to admit it. South Park is a bit of a dirty word in polite society. Everyone knows it’s one of the most raunchy and vulgar shows on TV while simultaneously revolving around a group of elementary school students. What you might not realize is that it is also an incredibly intelligently written show that never fails to make biting commentary on whatever the hot button issue of the day is. Also, fart jokes are funny. South Park has gifted us with over 300 episodes and twenty-three seasons and it’s my job to sift through all of them and tell you the best of the best. If you are offended by any of the items on the list all I can offer you is a solemn “mm’kay.”
Top 10 Best South Park Episodes
#10- “Sexual Harassment Panda” (S3E6)
We start our list with perhaps the episode with the strangest title. “Sexual Harassment Panda,” tells the story of what happens when Cartman finds out he can sue Kyle for a comment that he considers sexual harassment. Long story short, the whole town goes bankrupt. But filing a lawsuit over an eight-year-old calling you an “a** sucker” might be a bit much. In the episode, every resident of South Park becomes obsessed with filing frivolous lawsuits which in turn bankrupts everyone. The lawsuits become so out of hand that in the end there’s a case dubbed “Everyone vs. Everyone.” Kyle’s dad Gerald, playing the part of the greedy lawyer, accepts the job of defending both everyone and everyone.
This episode is an excellent example of the brilliant commentary on society that is laced throughout all the greatest episodes of South Park. It starts with just Cartman being a greedy A-hole but when he wins his case and reaps the benefits of suing Kyle, suddenly everyone in his class wants to jump on the bandwagon. Then Gerald comes in, sees his potential benefit of this fad, and fans the flames. Then everyone sues everyone. This episode questions the extent of human greed and what it will take before people finally come to their senses. In this case, that happens when a panda meant to teach kids about sexual harassment (as pandas are known to do in nature) becomes a panda who warns everybody about the danger of frivolous lawsuits.
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#9- Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls (S2E9)
Like “Sexual Harassment Panda”, this episode’s title is really weird and difficult to explain when I have just a few paragraphs to cover the entire episode. No, this episode is not about Chef’s sexual reawakening. The Sundance Film Festival comes to South Park and brings all its hyper-pretentious vegan attendees with it. This upsets the sewer ecosystem of Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo who is used to the… results of the lower class diets of South Parkians feeding his habitat. It’s up to the boys to save him. And somewhere in the midst of it, Chef sells a candy he dubbed his Chocolate Salty Balls.
South Park has been known to tackle the issue of gentrification, particularly in season 19 with Shi Tpa Town replacing the sh***y part of town. But this season 2 episode was an early commentary on the subject before it became the hot topic of discussion that it is today. We learn that these rich Hollywood people who run Sundance invade poorer areas to add some small-town charm to the festival. But in doing so, the small towns subject to this become just like Hollywood in turn destroying the ecosystems of sentient poo. If there’s a better argument against gentrification out there besides it’s potential to kill Mr. Hankey I’d like to hear it.
If you want to see the extent of Cartman’s depravity, look no further than the episode in which he fed a kid his own parents because he pulled a childish prank on him. The episode begins with ninth-grader Scott Tenorman selling Cartman his pubic hair because Cartman doesn’t understand that when he gets older, he will grow his own. Cartman spends the rest of the episode plotting his revenge on his poor, unsuspecting victim. The plots begins unorganized and simple, such as plotting for a pony to bite Scott’s wiener off but eventually gets to the point where Cartman feeds Scott Mrs. and Mr. Tenorman chili.
If you thought Cartman was a psycho before watching this episode, you haven’t seen anything yet. This episode shows the duality of Cartman as we see both his childish naivety when he falls for Scott’s prank and the psychotic future serial killer within him. If you feel like an A-hole at any given time, at least you haven’t forced anyone to cannibalize their own parents. I hope.
#7- “Freemium isn’t Free” (S18E6)
In season 18, South Park got real about addiction in the only way South Park knows how. Stan gets addicted to a crappy Canadian app game which forces him to spend a ridiculous amount of money to advance through the game. We learn that the game was put out by the Canadian minister of mobile gaming who was influenced by the Canadian Devil. Why Canada gets their own devil is anyone’s guess but this is South Park so logic hardly matters. But, if you’ve ever wanted to see an epic battle between the Canadian devil and the normal (global?) devil then this is your episode.
This episode features smart commentary on addiction and hypocrisy as Randy tells Stan to get over his addiction while simultaneously downing six glasses of wine paired with German lagers. Or, to quote Randy, “It’s called a tasting and it’s classy!” People love to point out others’ flaws but not so much their own. The most hilarious scene in the episode is when Stan calls on the Canadian devil and they have a one on one talk about addiction which resembles a dad/son discussion in a “very special episode.” You’ve seen the devil spiting god and damning all of humanity but now see him as you’ve never seen him before, leading a comforting talk like a college RA!!
#6- “It’s Christmas in Canada” (S7E15)
It was nearly impossible to pick between South Park holiday episodes. They are all masterpieces in their own right and I have to give a shout-out to “Woodland Critter Christmas” and “Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics” but ultimately, I had to give the spot to “It’s Christmas in Canada.” Kyle’s adopted brother Ike is taken back by his birth parents after the Canadian Prime Minister decides that all children adopted from Canada must be returned to their birth parents. The boys travel to Canada to get him back. South Park has never been shy about stereotyping Canadians but they really didn’t pull any punches in this episode.
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The entire episode is a raunchier and stupider version of The Wizard of Oz. The boys meet the Canadian equivalent of Munchkins and Scott, for whom the only possible character description is “a d**k”, functions as the Wicked Witch. The boys encounter a Mountie who wants to ask the PM for more funding as he is forced to ride cheap sheep instead of horses, a French-Canadian mime who wants to legalize wine which has been banned for some reason or other, and a Newfoundlander who wants to legalize sodomy.
See what I mean when I say this episode is unkind to Canadians? The episode is also one of the few in the series with a warm and fuzzy ending when Kyle is reunited with Ike and takes him home despite the boys missing out on the usual Christmas festivities while in Canada. However, in proper South Park fashion, in the very last seconds of the episode, Cartman complains about missing out on presents and Kyle punches him till he cries. A merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
#5- “A Million Little Fibers” (S10E5)
Towelie is one of the best-supporting characters in all of the South Park universe. He’s a sentient, anthropomorphic towel who is perpetually high. What’s not to love? In this episode, Towelie writes a book that publishers refuse to publish because it was written by a towel. Towelie then replaces all the towel related words in the book and it immediately becomes a bestseller. But it’s a huge scandal when the public finds out that groundbreaking author Stephen McTowelie is actually a towel.
This is a simultaneously completely stupid and completely brilliant episode. The episode parodies the story of the release of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. In the true story, a website called Smoking Gun revealed James Frey to have fabricated the “true” stories in his book. In this episode, Oprah’s sentient lady parts expose Towelie’s autobiography as false. Such is the way of South Park.
This episode is so ridiculously funny and it is a great example of absurdism in the South Park universe. The social commentary is buried under all of Towelie’s antics but it’s brilliant. The episode is an eerie reminder of people’s tendency towards becoming a hive mind as people all rush to get Towelie’s book just because queen bee Oprah said so. None of them think enough for themselves to notice the fact that there might be something up with an author who wears a clearly fake mustache and whose last name is friggin’ McTowelie, they just trust Oprah.
Yet, when everyone realizes Towelie is indeed a towel, instead of blaming themselves for not noticing the obvious signs pointing towards Towelie’s rather towel-esque features or blaming their queen bee who they put their trust in, they do what hive minds do best and form an angry mob to get revenge on Towelie. No one has anything against Oprah and South Park was much kinder to her than they are to some of the other celebrities they parody
#4- “Margaritaville” (S13E3)
What happens when economics becomes a religion? If we’re talking about South Park, everyone starts wearing bed-sheets and kids are forced to play with rocks and sticks instead of expensive video games. So sayeth the economy! When an economic crisis hits, the citizens of South Park led by Stan’s dad Randy begin to view the economy as a vengeful god who one must spend conservatively to appease.
This is until Kyle comes along and preaches that people must spend for the economy to work. The whole plot of this episode is framed to represent the story of Jesus with Randy playing the religious authority, Kyle playing Jesus, and the kids of the town playing his disciples. The moral of the story is that money controls most people’s lives enough to become a god, especially during a recession.
#3- The Imaginationland Trilogy (S11E10-12)
This trilogy is an answer to the question “what if everyone’s imagination runs wild?” The answer: terrorists will try to nuke it. In the trilogy, the boys are whisked away to Imaginationland where every imaginary thing thought up by anyone exists and lives free. But when the boys leave Butters in Imaginationland on accident, a war breaks out between the good and bad side of Imaginationland, the bad side of Imaginationland populated by everyone’s worst nightmares goes wild and when ISIS finds out they offer aid to destroy everyone’s imagination.
There are very few South Park storylines that are deemed worthy of being expanded out into two-part episodes, let alone three. So you know Matt Stone and Trey Parker really had a story to tell with this one. This isn’t one of those episodes that try to make brilliant social commentary about the world. The smartest message to come out of this one is imagination good, terrorists bad. It’s just a ridiculously funny and fun episode that doesn’t make you think.
This episode has yet another storyline we can file under episodes that showcase the immense suffering of Butters for your viewing pleasure. It’s hilarious that the most innocent person in the whole town of South Park has throughout the series been through the most excruciating trauma but this episode brings it to a head. Butters is stranded in a nonexistent land and forced to fight alongside Luke Skywalker and Goldilocks to prevent domination of the bad side of Imaginationland and ISIS. The other storyline among the boys that runs throughout the trilogy is Cartman and Kyle’s bet.
At the beginning of the episode, Kyle says he will suck Cartman’s… boy parts if he proves to be telling the truth about a Leprechaun he spotted. Of course, the Leprechaun is real and Cartman insists Kyle follow through on his word, getting more and more impatient as the storyline progresses. Eventually, a US military official must force Kyle to do the unspeakable deed when Cartman refuses to help the army in their mission to save the US from terrorists attacking from Imaginationland unless Kyle follows through. I’m not going to spoil the gripping plotline of Cartman trying to get Kyle to suck his manly bits but let’s just say it’s a story more dramatic and poetic than a Shakespearean tragedy.
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#2- “Insheeption” (S15E10)
In 2010 one of the most complex sci-fi movies in history premiered. The world was split into two groups by the Inception fandom, those who loved the movie, and those who weren’t “smart enough” to get it. So naturally, South Park had to parody it. “Insheeption” begins when Stan realizes he has a hoarding problem after his girlfriend Wendy points out how cluttered his locker is. Mr. Mackey has a similar problem with his mess of an office and after everyone discovers that a barn owner down the street has been “hoarding” (read herding) sheep. The three hoarders (well, two hoarders and one herder) go to hypnotherapy.
The goal is for them all to go into their own sub-conscience and find the root of their hoarding tendency. But, when Mr. Mackey’s memory is too traumatic, it sucks both Stan and the sheepherder in and they can’t escape Mackey’s subconscious mind. I’d argue this episode is one of the funniest in South Park history with its completely ridiculous premise. Characters beatbox to create background music whenever someone explains something “so complex and cool” and there’s a special and debatably unnecessary appearance from Freddy Krueger. Essentially, it begins with the premise of an episode of Hoarders and then becomes the most South Park-y South Park episode ever.
South Park is one of the most self-aware shows on TV today and this episode is probably the best example of that. Stan’s mom Sharon acts as the eyes of the audience as she keeps pointing out how unnecessarily complicated and convoluted the plot of the episode is, simultaneously poking fun at how unnecessarily complex Inception is. But it just keeps on getting more and more ridiculously complex and decidedly uncool leading up to the gem of a line,
#1- “Sarcastaball” (S16E8)
What if football players threw a balloon around and wore bras over their shirts? If you have been kept up at night wondering the answer to this question then you’re in luck. When Randy finds out kick-off has been banned from school football games for safety reasons, he goes on a sarcastic tangent which the school board takes seriously. This starts a movement towards replacing football with Randy’s Sarcastaball idea and eventually Randy ends up coaching a Denver Broncos team clad in women’s undergarment. South Park has been known to be very fair and balanced when discussing pressing issues within episodes, well, as fair and balanced as parody can be.
They show both sides of any given issue that they are parodying in an episode no matter the opinions of the writers and producers. This episode demonstrates that perfectly. It begins with the boys watching a football game in which the players have suffered so much brain damage throughout their careers that they stop in the middle of the game to bake a nonexistent cake in the middle of the field and attempt to drive home in an imaginary car even though their license was revoked a year ago. But what’s the alternative? Players competing in balloon tag while simultaneously trying to out-compliment each other?
Go get binge-ing on ‘South Park’ on HBO MAX and tell us if we are right.
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Carrie Fishbane is obsessed with all things comedy and loves to reflect on the impact of comedy on the world. Having spent thousands of hours studying literature, she also writes about the political impact of entertainment and the power movies and TV have to create social change. Hollywood Insider promotes ethics and substance in entertainment, which is exactly in line with Carrie’s perspective. Carrie’s favorite movies include Jojo Rabbit, Deadpool, and Inception and her favorite shows are Rick and Morty, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and The Office.