South Park recently finished up its 19th season. While it may have gotten in over its head by the end, Season 19 was an absolute success. For a show that’s been on the air since the late ’90s, it was great to see creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone find a new muse — disdain for sponsored content, political correctness, and gentrification — and take the show to absurd and enjoyable bounds.
But, as with every South Park season, there are some episodes that do not quite land. There are, of course, plenty that shine, so we decided to highlight the best episodes to go back to. The best episode to re-watch is not necessarily the best episode from the season, just the one that’ll be most enjoyable to consume out of context. (Season 9, for instance, has an embarrassment of riches.) Any of these episodes could be watched today — some decades old — and bring the joy of a first-time viewing.
Season 1: “Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride”
The first season, as you’d expect, set a mighty precedent for South Park. Episodes like “[Cartman Gets an Anal Probe](http://wiki.southpark.cc.com/wiki/Cartman_Gets_an_Anal_Probe),” “[Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo](http://wiki.southpark.cc.com/wiki/Mr._Hankey,_the_Christmas_Poo),” and [“Starvin’ Marvin” are some of Parker and Stone’s finest work, establishing South Park as folkloric and apt for [Walmar](https://www.inverse.com/article/7458-walmart-to-rain-consumer-goods-down-from-the-heavens-with-drones)t t-shirt reproduction. “Big Gay Al’s Big Gay Boat Ride,” though, is the episode where the creators use the citizens of South Park to convey hatred, acceptance, and naïveté. Big Gay Al might be a total caricature, but he’s more like the absurdist culmination of all homophobia wrapped up into a dancin’-and-singin’ package.
Season 2: “Terrance and Phillip In: ‘Not Without My Anus’”
Again, Season 2 has plenty of memorable moments: “Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls” will forever live as one of the show’s premier blunt innuendos. But Parker and Stone start their second season by fleshing out Canadian TV superstars Terrance and Phillip, who make one appearance in the first season. Their new showcase, “Not Without My Anus,” is truly insane. There are fart jokes abound, as well as the infamous yapping head Saddam Hussein. The episode furthers South Park’s commitment to absurdity. They don’t necessarily need underlying social commentary to succeed. Because toilet humor is funny. And should be embraced.
Season 3: “Cat Orgy”
Season 3 is perhaps best known for “The Meteor Shower Trilogy,” three episodes with simultaneously occurring storylines. The second episode, “Two Guys Naked in a Hot Tub,” revolves around the South Park dads masturbating. The third, “[Jewbilee](http://wiki.southpark.cc.com/wiki/Jewbilee,” takes place at Jew camp. But the first, “Cat Orgy,” is the best of the three — it helps that it’s a Cartman episode. There’s plenty of cat sex, as well as Cartman trying to be a big boy while playing with his stuffed animals — whom he voices so creepily and sweetly.
Season 4: “Fourth Grade”
South Park really embraced the new millennium in its fourth season. Parker and Stone revamped the intro sequence to be a digital explosion chuck full of special effects. Along with surviving Y2K, the boys also enter the fourth grade, which they’re not happy about, so in the episode “Fourth Grade,” they try to go back to the third grade. The episode also introduces their short-lived teacher Ms. Choksondik, a future lover of Mr. Mackey.
Season 5: “Proper Condom Use”
While Season 5’s “Scott Tenorman Must Die” is expertly crafted, and Jimmy Valmar and Towelie made their series debuts (in “Cripple Fight” and “Towelie,” respectively), “Proper Condom Use” is certainly the most laugh-inducing. Mr. Mackey has some gross sex with Ms. Choksondik; Mr. Garrison teaches kindergarteners about sex (and demonstrates how to orally apply a condom); and the boys wear condoms full-time just to be safe. It’s a classic example of Parker and Stone taking an idea — safe sex — far beyond its logical extreme.
“The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers” is among the best episodes of South Park ever. The boys innocently play The Lord of the Rings by attempting to retrieve a pornographic DVD (Back Door Sluts 9) from Butters — who has become the de facto Gollum, corrupted by the DVD (the One Ring). The sixth graders want that DVD, too, though, so they try to stop the boys throughout their quest. The episode hilariously concludes with the parents explaining vile sex acts to their kids, as they believe they’ve watched the DVD. Horrified, it turns out only Butters got corrupted.
Season 7: “Casa Bonita”
“Casa Bonita” is a classic case of Cartman manipulation. He’s pissed at Kyle — who wouldn’t invite him to his Casa Bonita birthday dinner — so he kidnaps Butters (Kyle’s intended invite) and tricks him into believing it’s the end of the world. It’s a great opportunity for Parker and Stone to shit all over a very real Denver establishment.
Season 8: “Woodland Critter Christmas”
“Woodland Critter Christmas” is absolutely vile. The titular critters summon the Antichrist and celebrate a “blood orgy.” It’s South Park at its most deranged.
Season 9: “Trapped in the Closet”
As mentioned in the intro, Season 9 has a number of great episodes. “Trapped in the Closet” may be its best because of the accurate retelling of Scientologists’ belief system. It’s also one of those moments where Parker and Stone are talking directly to celebrities via the show, urging Tom Cruise and John Travolta to come out of the closet.
Season 10: “Hell on Earth 2006”
“Make Love, Not Warcraft,” with its bloated, zitted characters, is perhaps the most notable episode from Season 10. It hit on a real zeitgeist moment (World of Warcraft fandom) and parodied it brilliantly. The two-part “Cartoon Wars,” on the other hand, is certainly the most controversial, as Parker and Stone tried to show the prophet Muhammad on TV just to mock Family Guy. “Hell on Earth 2006,” though is a very easy to revisit — and very welcome — Satan episode where he basically turns Halloween into a Super Sweet 16. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacey, and Jeffrey Dahmer are a delight as a Three Stooges parody. While it may not have the same lasting impact as other Season 10 episodes, “Hell on Earth 2006” exists as a cohesive South Park episode.
Season 11: “Imaginationland”
Once again, Parker and Stone hit on a real cultural moment with “Guitar Queer-o,” turning Stan’s Guitar Hero video game prowess into a heroin addiction. We’d be truly remiss, however, to pick anything except an “Imaginationland” episode. Although it’s a trilogy that should be consumed, it has plenty of standalone moments. Throughout the trilogy, the creators bring back plenty of their own creations — such as the Woodland Critters, who rape Kurt Russell in “Imaginationland Episode II.” The best place to start, of course, would be the first episode of the three, during which Stan has a very surreal Saving Private Ryan moment.
Season 12: “Eek, a Penis!”
“Eek, a Penis!” has two great storylines: Ms. Garrison tries to get her penis back to become Mr. Garrison once again, and Cartman moonlights as Mr. Cartmanez, an inner city school teacher who helps students pass tests by teaching them how to cheat. He repeats, “How do I reach these keeedz?”
Season 13: “Butters’ Bottom Bitch”
Season 13 boasts “[Fishsticks](http://wiki.southpark.cc.com/wiki/Fishsticks,” the Kanye West-dissing episode that prompted an iconic response from the rapper on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s “Gorgeous.” But, like “Trapped in the Closet,” that was an episode of Parker and Stone speaking directly to West, although to lesser results. In “Butters’ Bottom Bitch,” the oft-ridiculed Butters gains some power as the playground pimp and he says “bitch” a whole lot. It never quite sounds right. Do you know what I am saying?
Season 14: “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”
For “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs,” South Park returned to a tried and true favorite: being gross. The boys write a book that is deliberately smut, yet received as genius by the world. It’s a not-so-subtle commentary on the reception of South Park itself. It’s still hysterical.
Season 15: “Royal Pudding”
South Park got very cynical in Season 15. “You’re Getting Old,” for example, is a truly harrowing episode for Stan. But “Royal Pudding” is just fun. Parker and Stone create absolutely nonsensical Canadian traditions to be held at the Royal Canadian Wedding. Crafting Canada as a fictional enemy is always a bright spot for South Park. In addition to the Canada-hate, though, Mr. Mackey shines as the passionate director of a kindergarten play about dental health. He screams a lot, mkay.
Season 16: “Cartman Finds Love”
As South Park has aged, it’s become more difficult to find quality episodes. “Cartman Finds Love” breathes fresh air into Season 16 with the introduction of Cartman’s self-obsessed miniature Cupid Me. His meddling brings Token and the new girl Nichole together (at Kyle’s expense, who has a crush on Nichole) simply because they’re both black. In the end, however, it turns out that they like each other, despite race. Even if Cartman’s intentions are racist, South Park delivers its timeless message: Do what you want because who cares what the world thinks.
Season 17: “World War Zimmerman”
“World War Zimmerman” is a pretty straightforward critique of guns, stand-your-ground laws, and George Zimmerman. When South Park is not as good, the messages shine through stronger.
Season 18: “Gluten Free Ebola”
What’s better than watching Randy sing, “”I am Lorde! Ya ya ya, I Am Lorde, I am Lorde!”