Top 20 South Park episodes of all time

As maligned by the celebrities it lampoons and the conservatives it offends as it is celebrated by most other people who appreciate its uniquely dark humour and sharp satire, South Park this week marks its landmark 200th episode, aptly titled 200.

To applaud creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone on the achievement of getting so far without being either assassinated or sued into submission, please find the 20 best episodes of the 199 broadcast so far over the last 14 years.

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Scott Tenorman Must Die

Season five, airdate July 11, 2001

Why it’s at 20: In one of the most shocking endings to any creative work, a ten-year-old boy (Eric Cartman) has the parents of an older boy (the eponymous Scott Tenorman) killed before cutting them up with a hacksaw and feeding them to him during a chilli contest he had organised. Stan and Kyle decide not to mess with Cartman in the future.

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About Last Night

Season 12, airdate November 5th 2008

Why it’s at 19: The power of the South Park medium (computer software such as PowerAnimator, Maya and Motion), is best illustrated in About Last Night, which was broadcast less than 24 hours after Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election. Parker and Stone cast Obama and John McCain as the suave leaders of a heist gang who engineered their entire political careers to getting a shot at the Hope Diamond. The South Park A&E ward is meanwhile overwhelmed with the walking wounded who have either partied too hard (Democrats) or tried to kill themselves (Republicans).

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Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut

Season one, airdate February 25th 1998

Why it’s at 18: A rare appearance from an early season episode on the top 20, Cartman’s Mom is a Dirty Slut earns its place for actually eliciting some sympathy for Cartman, as well as making him dress up all West Side.

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Casa Bonita

Season seven, airdate November 12th 2003

Why it’s at 17: Bullying isn’t funny, but Cartman’s elaborate vendettas against the unfortunate Butters is. This time round he convinces him to hide in a bomb shelter so he can go to a birthday party trip to a Mexican restaurant in his place by convincing him the world has suffered a meteor apocalypse. Butters’ lo-fi clothing and the new civilisation he attempts to rebuild are priceless.

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The Death Camp of Tolerance

Season six, airdate November 20th 2002

Why it’s at 16: An episode that stands up for smokers’ right to smoke in a free country (a theme later expanded on in Butt Out) and pokes fun at notions of tolerance and acceptance is not most memorable for Mr Garrison’s demented attempts to get himself fired and sue South Park Elementary but instead for the side story that develops within the bowels (sadly literally) of his teacher’s assistant (shortened to teacher’s ass) Mr Slave. Unfortunate class gerbil Lemmiwinks finds himself trapped in Mr Slave’s digestive system, but luckily and bizarrely a succession of animal spirits (Frog King, Sparrow Prince and Catata Fish) who guide him out through the maw of the beast and towards his coronation as the Gerbil King.

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Imaginationland Trilogy

Season 11, airdates October 17th, 24th, 31st 2007

Why it’s at 15: Most people can’t even name all the characters featured in this episode with the aid of Wikipedia, but Parker and Stone cram three episodes (the show’s first ever trilogy) with almost every character ever imagined in the history of western thought. As ever, the satire is as spot on as the pop-culture, with the US military resorting to nuking America’s collective imagination, which the generals admit has been overtaken by terrorists.

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Trapped in the Closet

Season nine, airdate November 16th 2005

Why it’s at 14: In 14 years of controversies nothing comes closest to the furore caused by Trapped in the Closet, which savages the Scientology faiths and sexuality of Tom Cruise, R Kelly and John Travolta, who, almost inevitably, end up hiding in the closet. Broadcast of the episode in the States reportedly led to Cruise threatening to boycott promotional work on the impending Mission: Impossible III if it was shown again. The episode has still never been shown in the UK and clips have been almost entirely purged from the internet.

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Over Logging

Season 12, airdate April 16th 2008

Why it’s at 13: This Grapes of Wrath-inspired episode wins its kudos for an excellent deconstruction of the west’s sudden dependence on the internet and perhaps the grossest scene ever featured in the show; namely a porn-starved Randy Marsh’s encounter with a ghost and the “ectoplasm” he leaves behind.

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Season 13, airdate April 8th 2009

Why it’s at 12: Kanye West admitted after seeing the episode that he had been “murdered”, with the rapper mercilessly parodied as a self-referential genius who nevertheless remains the only person on the planet who doesn’t get the joke ‘Do you like fishsticks?’

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Season ten, airdate April 26th 2006

Why it’s at 11: In one of its more abstract satires, human concern over climate change materialises in South Park in the form of Al Gore hunting the mythical best ManBearPig (half man, half bear, half pig). The former vice-president, who is “super cereal” about everything, wants to raise awareness about ManBearPig to not only save the world, but also to make everyone realise how “super awesome” he is.

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All About the Mormons

Season seven, airdate November 19th 2003

Why it’s at 10: Already revealed as the “right answer” to get into heaven in an earlier episode, All About the Mormons exposes some of the ‘flaws’ in the Mormon tradition, complete to an overbearing backing track that sounds suspiciously like “dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb”.

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Canada on Strike

Season 12, airdate April 2nd 2008

Why it’s at 9: For people who make their shows readily available to watch for free online, Parker and Stone have a particular bugbear for complaints about internet copyright and revenue streams. Canada on Strike not only features a near-perfect satire on the immaturity of the internet’s monetisation but also many of the most popular internet memes, Butters starring in his own online hit viral and lots of dancing Canadians.

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Season eight, airdate April 14th 2004

Why it’s at 8: Sadly there was no room to include the episode featuring Rob Schneider as a carrot, stapler or a derp de derp! derp de derpety derpy derp, but AWESOME-O just as deftly savages Hollywood’s obsession with endless Adam Sandler movies. It’s Cartman in a cardboard robot costume that does it, pitching over 1,000 successful movie ideas to a receptive Hollywood studio, 800 of which star Adam Sandler. Notable also for Butters’ small degree of revenge.

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I’m a Little Bit Country

Season seven, airdate April 9th 2003

Why it’s at 7: South Park’s landmark 100th episode coincided with the Iraq war, support and opposition to which is justified through America’s founding fathers, who Cartman deliberately visits by knocking himself unconscious while making repeated clichéd flashback comments. He learns that it is America’s guiding principles to be able to both protest and back a war, summed up as “having a cake and eating it [eats cake]”.

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The Passion of the Jew

Season eight, airdate March 31st 2004

Why it’s at 6: One of the best critiques of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ came from South Park, trying to get across the message that Christians who aspired to be good should try looking in the bible rather than glorifying a tradition started in the Middle Ages to stir up resentment against Jews.

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Season six, airdate March 13th 2002

Why it’s at 5: A near flawless parody of almost every 80s teen movie, featuring the famous montage joke that was to make an appearance in Team America: World Police.

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Go God Go/Go God Go XII

Season ten, airdates November 1st, 8th 2006

Why it’s at 4: A perfect example of an episode (or a pair in this case) combining all the staples of South Park gold: Popular culture references (the Wii), a hideous celebrity likeness (Richard Dawkins), a belief system being deconstructed (atheism) and the downright bizarre (Space Otters).

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Quest for Ratings

Season eight, airdate November 17th 2004

Why it’s at 3: As a journalist, one can only aspire to the editorial benchmarks set by the Sexy Action News team, while Panda Bear Madness Minute remains a distant dream.

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Make Love, Not Warcraft

Season ten, airdate October 4th 2006

Why it’s at 2: Regularly voted the best South Park of all time, World of Warcraft creators Blizzard conspired with Parker and Stone to produce the episode inspired by Leeroy Jenkins and the MMORPG scene that enthrals millions but remains a mystery to most. It’s got the best plot of any South Park, another flawless montage and Randy Marsh taking things just a bit too seriously.

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The Losing Edge

Season nine, April 6th 2005

Why it’s at 1: A highly subjective choice, The Losing Edge will confound anyone who doesn’t love Rocky or Karate Kid. But if you know all the lyrics to You’re the Best and think South Park is at its best when Randy Marsh is at his worst, then it’s a worthy winner for you too.


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