It’s difficult to believe that any show could still be going strong after 22 seasons. Very few shows even make it to a fraction of that longevity, and the ones that do, like The Simpsons, have gone downhill long before season 22. But that’s South Park for you, a show that’s been on the air for more than two decades and still manages to knock it out of the park on a regular basis.
It may have had some ups and downs over the years, but on the whole, South Park is still as sharp and insightful and hilarious as it ever was. Here are The 10 Best Seasons Of South Park, Ranked.
10 Season 18
South Park dabbled in serialized storytelling in season 18 before doing a full-blown serial narrative in season 19. It was most effective in season 18 when the episodes were still standalone stories, but the consequences of previous episodes could be felt going forward.
For example, in the second episode, the boys are surprised that everyone remembers that they screwed them over in the first episode. The season tackles a plethora of satirical targets: drones, Uber, crowdfunding, gluten-free diets, the trans bathroom issue. The VR episode “Grounded Vindaloop” is a Matrix-style head trip and there’s a whole ongoing storyline that reveals Randy is secretly leading a double life as Lorde, which is as unusual and hysterical as it sounds.
9 Season 11
Why is bunny imagery used to celebrate a religious holiday? Do headlice have feelings? How many homeless people can Cartman jump on his skateboard? Season 11 answers those questions and more in true South Park fashion. The season opens with Randy saying the N-word on live television, which settles us in for a classic season of South Park.
This season has the Guitar Hero episode, the “Imaginationland” trilogy of episodes, the episode where Randy sets the world record for biggest crap and ticks off Bono, and a parody of 24 starring Hillary Clinton’s “snizz.” Plus, Cartman pretends to have Tourette’s syndrome in a surprisingly insightful installment of the show.
8 Season 20
While South Park didn’t quite nail serialized storytelling in the couple of years in which the creators experimented with it – which they reference themselves in the title of the season 20 finale “The End of Serialization as We Know It” – this season came pretty close.
Online trolling, nostalgia, and the 2016 election were covered extensively and woven together in a 10-part narrative that was nothing if not interesting. The season also had some surprisingly powerful moments, like when all the girls follow up on their promise to break up with their boyfriends if the trolling didn’t stop, culminating in Wendy’s heartbreaking “I can’t fix you” note to Stan.
7 Season 14
South Park’s fourteenth season combined both monumental multi-part episodes – like “200” and “201,” which ruffled so many feathers that they still aren’t available online or in reruns, and the three-part “Coon and Friends” superhero saga – and hilarious standalone episodes parodying then-current trends. “You Have 0 Friends” is a spot-on spoof of the Facebook craze that neatly ties its A-plot and B-plot together.
“Insheeption” parodies the confusing nature of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, as well as hoarding. “Medicinal Fried Chicken” uses a weed dispensary replacing a KFC franchise to put the show’s two funniest characters in the spotlight: Cartman gets involved in a Scarface-like drug ring slinging fried chicken, while Randy gives himself testicular cancer to get pot prescriptions.
6 Season 22
While many fans think that South Park has lost its way in recent years, its most recent season – its 22nd one, staggeringly – finally found the balance it’s been searching for in the past few years. It has a serialized narrative, but it doesn’t rely too heavily on that.
There’s a good mix of characters to avoid having too much of some and too little of others. Plus, it hit all of its satirical targets perfectly, from school shootings to climate change to legalized marijuana to anxiety. And to top it all off, we get Jeff Bezos as a Talosian in the two-part season finale.
5 Season 9
Season 9 has some of the show’s best character-focused episodes, like “The Death of Eric Cartman,” the Butters-centric “Marjorine,” and the Jimmy-centric “Erection Day,” as well as some of its best satire, like the global warming episode “Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow” and the same-sex marriage episode “Follow That Egg!”
Also, “The Losing Edge” is perhaps South Park’s greatest sports-themed episode yet, with the boys trying to lose baseball games intentionally to avoid having to play all summer (only to find that the other kids are doing the same thing) making it the opposite of every sports story we’ve ever seen. Also, Randy’s obsession with getting into drunken fights at the games throws in some extra laughs for good measure.
4 Season 6
South Park’s sixth season has a healthy mixture of current affairs-based satire, like “Red Hot Catholic Love,” “Child Abduction is Not Funny,” and “Fun with Veal,” and more character-driven stories like “Bebe’s Boobs Destroy Society,” “My Future Self ‘n’ Me,” and “The New Terrance and Phillip Movie Trailer.”
The show had truly found its feet. The season is a pop culture nerd’s dream, too, with its skewering of ‘80s skiing movies “Asspen,” its critique of special edition re-releases “Free Hat,” and its hilarious The Lord of the Rings parody “The Return of the Fellowship of the Ring to the Two Towers.”
3 Season 10
The season 10 premiere dealt with Isaac Hayes’ departure in the most South Park way possible, as the creators used the voice recordings they had on file to piece together dialogue that turned him into a diabolical pedophile right before a brutal death – and that was just the start of the season.
The rest of the season deals with hybrid cars, World of Warcraft, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and atheism in some of the show’s finest episodes. Plus, it has the great “Cartoon Wars” two-parter that addresses the comparisons that people draw between South Park and Family Guy. The only hitch is that it has “A Million Little Fibers,” one of South Park’s weakest episodes.
2 Season 13
Season 13 deftly balances episodes based on current events – Cartman hangs out with Somalian pirates in “Redbeard,” Ike sees the ghosts of famous people in “Dead Celebrities,” Stan takes on Japanese whalers in “Whale Whores” etc. – with episodes focusing on character – Butters becomes a pimp in “Butters’ Bottom B****,” Kyle has a bad time at the water park in “Pee,” Cartman steals Jimmy’s joke in “Fishsticks” etc. – to give us one of South Park’s most definitive seasons.
“Eat, Pray, Queef” is the only weak episode in the whole season, and even that managed to ride on the coattails of the brilliant “Margaritaville” episode the week before, which won an Emmy for its tackling of the recession.
1 Season 8
There isn’t a single weak episode in the eighth season of South Park. And the gems that are in it are the classics: the Mel Gibson-centric “The Passion of the Jew,” the anime-inspired “Good Times with Weapons,” the timeless, evergreen political satire “Douche and Turd,” and the holiday special “Woodland Critter Christmas.”
The episode where Jimmy takes steroids, the episode where Cartman thinks he’s a psychic, the episode where a maniac the boys sent to juvie in pre-school is released, the episode where Cartman pretends to be a robot – they’re all in this season. Season 8 is the peak of South Park’s greatness.
NEXT: South Park: The 5 Best (& 5 Worst) Halloween Episodes