To those that don’t watch it, South Park is crude, immature and foul. This is only partly true, as it is also rife with social and political commentary and it is (sometimes) alarmingly intelligent. The creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are incredibly sharp and able to create scathing satire on the most current topics, no matter how big or small. There are 259 episodes across 19 seasons to date, and in addition to the four boys, there is a gigantic ensemble cast at their disposal to keep the show fresh and, of course, completely hilarious.
10. “Towelie” (Season 5, Episode 8)
South Park is a brilliantly self-aware show, and this is evident through the character Towelie, who Cartman dubs “the worst character ever.” Towelie was created to satirize the degree in which the show was being merchandised, and the character is a talking towel who likes nothing more than getting high, and he has gone on to become a recurring character due to his popularity and catchphrase, “don’t forget to bring a towel!” In his debut episode, the boys become obsessed with a new gaming system and cannot put it down. After meeting Towelie, the boys become involved in video game-like story with the Government after Towelie, and the plot escalates to ridiculous levels with aliens trying to take over the world using genetically modified towels. Despite this incredible situation, the boys remain only interested in playing the console and are nonplussed by the drama unfolding around them.
9. “Marjorine” (Season 9, Episode 9)
Instead of tackling major social issues, this episode is a hilarious story of school boys and girls and the divide that is found at this age. The role of Butters gradually increased over the series, and he added a completely new dimension and is a fan favorite with many. This is a classic Butters episode, as it sees him once again roped into a ridiculous plan. The boys in the class believe that the girls are in possession of a gadget which enables them to see into the future, but in reality it is just a paper fortune teller. They get Butters to fake his death, dress up as a new girl and infiltrate a slumber party to obtain the device. Butters ends up having the time of his life as a girl at the slumber party, whilst the boys decide that the device is too powerful for any mortal.
8. “Casa Bonita” (Season 7, Episode 11)
Cartman and Butters become a fantastic comedy duo as the show progresses, with both being polar opposites, but as outcasts they often find themselves paired together. “Casa Bonita” is perhaps the best Cartman/Butters episode, and it is also a brilliant insight into just how dark Cartman really is (more on this later). For Kyle’s birthday, his mother will take him and three of his friends to Casa Bonita for dinner (one of Cartman’s favorite restaurants). Due to Cartman’s frequent anti-Semitic insults, Kyle invites Butters in his place (but states that if Butters can’t attend, Cartman is invited). This of course sees Cartman carry out an evil and elaborate scheme, where he convinces Butters that a meteorite is about to hit Earth, and later that he is the sole survivor. It is Cartman at his evil best, and Butters at his innocent best, resulting in a classic episode.
7. “Over Logging” (Season 12, Episode 6)
Randy Marsh was initially just Stan’s dad, but he quickly became a fan favorite and now each series needs a Randy episode. This episode is also a swipe at society’s dependence on the Internet, as the Internet goes down in South Park which causes absolute mayhem—“there’s no Internet to find out why there’s no Internet.” The Marsh family and thousands more migrate West (parodying Grapes of Wrath), where they end up in an internet refugee camp. “The Internet” is portrayed as a giant router which the government attempt to fix by negotiating with it, communicating musically with it and shooting it. Kyle brilliantly saves the day by doing what we all do whenever the Internet goes down, which is to disconnect and reconnect the giant router. It is a hilarious but worryingly accurate look at our dependence on the Internet, and Randy is once again at his best.
6. “Imaginationland” Trilogy (Season 11, Episode 10, 11 & 12)
Trey Stone and Matt Parker went full out for the “Imaginationland” saga, which is a trilogy of episodes that tells a complex and visually striking story. The epic begins with Cartman leading the boys in an attempt to find a leprechaun, which to their amazement, they do. The leprechaun warns of a terrorist attack, and later a strange man tells them that just because something is imaginary doesn’t mean it isn’t real. He takes them to Imaginationland in his hot air balloon (whilst singing an unforgettable song), where they find many recognizable fictional characters. They are then attacked by terrorists, who break the barrier between good and evil fictional characters. This launches a full scale war, whilst as a side story Cartman and Kyle have trouble resolving a bet after finding the leprechaun. Some of the familiar characters found in this three-part episode add to its brilliant humor.
5. “Major Boobage” (Season 12, Episode 3)
“Major Boobage” tackles the topic of youth and drugs, where a new craze is sweeping through South Park called “cheesing,” where spraying cat urine causes hallucinations. After being warned in school, the boys decide to try it out with Kenny volunteering. Kenny goes on an epic drug trip (patterned after the animated classic Heavy Metal), and this scares the others but leaves Kenny addicted. As a result of the craze, all cats are made illegal in South Park and taken away. We then see a rare moment of compassion from Cartman, seeing him hide Mr. Kitty and the neighborhood cats in his attic. Kyle’s father, Gerald, is a previous user and tries it again, seeing him hilariously battle Kenny in their fantasy world (but are actually fighting in a sand pit). As usual, there is a message behind it, but it is also one of the funniest episodes to date.
4. “The Return of The Fellowship of the Ring to The Two Towers” (Season 6, Episode 13)
As the title implies, this episode sees the boys go on their own Lord of the Rings-style quest and is a great example of the boys just being kids (as well as some fantastic LOTR references). Whilst playing LOTR dress up, Stan’s parents tell the boys to take The Fellowship of the Ring DVD over to Butters’ parents, but Randy accidentally mixes it up with a pornographic film. Butters watches the tape and becomes obsessed with it (taking on the role of Golem for the rest of the episode). The boys must then retrieve the tape, but upon seeing the power it has, they decide to go on a quest to return it to the video store, but there are many obstacles on the way. The complete innocence of the boys combined with the adult theme ensure for a brilliant, comical and memorable episode.
3. “Good Times With Weapons” (Season 8, Episode 1)
The usual two-dimensional animation was given a makeover in this episode, seeing it switch to an anime influenced highly stylized theme. After buying some incredibly dangerous weapons at a market, the boys decide to become ninjas (seeing the animation style switch). Butters feels left out, seeing him create his own supervillain alter-ego, Professor Chaos. He challenges the boys to a fight, resulting in Kenny throwing a ninja star in Butters’ eye, which snaps them out of their fantasy (and returns to the classic animation). They then dress Butters up as a dog and things only get worse for him, before a hilarious ending where the town ends up outraged, not by Butters’ grim injury, but instead by Cartman’s nudity. Amidst some great humor there is (as usual) a message about how adults are more offended by sex than violence, and the impressive animation makes this a stand out episode.
2. “Make Love, Not Warcraft” (Season 10, Episode 8)
“Make Love, Not Warcraft” incorporates all the best parts about the show: poking fun at popular culture fads (World of Warcraft in this case) and the character of Randy Marsh. The creators of the show actually collaborated with Blizzard Entertainment, allowing for game play footage to make it a more realistic and funnier experience. The boys decide to play the game full-time after constantly being killed by a high level player (who is a stereotypically obese and lazy man in real life). Whilst they become stronger in the game, the boys become obese and lazy themselves and begin talking in Internet slang. Randy, in typical fashion, becomes obsessed with the game but does not quite get it, seeing him retain a “n00b” status. Despite this, he manages to save the day by delivering “The Sword of a Thousand Truths” to the boys during their epic battle.
1. “Scott Tenorman Must Die” (Season 5, Episode 4)
Prior to this episode, it was common knowledge that Cartman was evil, but this episode highlights just how alarmingly dark and twisted a character he really is. It is a revenge story for the ages, and for many it is the greatest episode of South Park ever created. This is the show, and Cartman, at maximum levels of depravity and is so astonishingly dark that it is equally hilarious. The episode sees Cartman seek revenge after being made a fool of by ninth-grader Scott Tenorman, who sold Cartman his pubic hair, as Cartman believed this meant he had reached puberty. Cartman begs for his money back, but is repeatedly humiliated by Scott. Cartman then plots an utterly devastating revenge plan that all falls into place at a chili cook-off. Cartman’s scheme is incredibly strategic as he anticipates the betrayal of his friends, revealing his (evil) genius at the unforgettable conclusion.