The 10 Most Controversial ‘South Park’ Episodes

Written by Dave Lake

As the animated series begins its 13th season, we look at some of its most outrageous episodes

'South Park'/Comedy Central

Tom Cruise and Scientology are two of the many targets of “South Park”


Trying to choose the 10 most controversial “South Park” episodes is like trying to choose the worst Rob Schneider movie — there are just so many to choose from. But as the show begins its 13th season, on March 11 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Comedy Central, we thought we’d round up the episodes that have generated the most publicity over the years. And there have been a lot of them. Right from the get-go, this scathing satire, centered on four kids from South Park elementary, built a reputation on being an equal-opportunity offender, leaving no stone unturned and no topic too taboo. Many learning institutions in turn banned the show’s merchandise from their grounds, and several countries have banned the show’s broadcast entirely (we’re looking at you, former Soviet Union), no doubt stoking the fires of its brainchildren, Trey Parker and Matt Stone. There were many amazingly offensive and amazingly hilarious episodes to go through, but we were up to the challenge of finding our 10 favorites, and we present them to you here with clips from each.

Episode:Trapped in the Closet
Season: 9
Controversy: The mother (or should we say motherf—er) of all controversial “South Park” episodes is no doubt this one, which skewers Scientology, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and R. Kelly in one fell swoop. Dubbed Closetgate, Comedy Central, a network owned by Viacom, pulled a rerun of this Emmy-nominated episode, supposedly under pressure from Tom Cruise, who threatened to bail out of promoting his upcoming film “Mission: Impossible III,” which was being released by Paramount, a division of Viacom. Isaac Hayes, who had long performed the voice of Chef on the series, and who also happened to be a Scientologist, quit the show abruptly just days prior to this episode’s broadcast. He later returned, and this episode has seen multiple reruns.

Episode:The China Probrem
Season: 12
Controversy: The episode implies that “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is a raping of the franchise by having the film’s star, Harrison Ford, literally raped several times in the episode by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in an variety of famous movie rape scenes. Favorite “South Park” haters the Parents Television Council cited the episode for “exploiting the sensitive topic of rape for a trivial movie satire.”

Episode:It Hits the Fan
Season: 5
Controversy: Inspired by the saucy language of ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” the episode opens with the gang talking about “Cop Drama,” a network show planning to air a scene with an uncensored S-word in it. “South Park” then drops 162 uncensored S-bombs — that’s one every eight seconds — for the remainder of its 22 minutes, with a counter at the bottom of the screen keeping track of each one. But aside from the gratuitous use of language, the episode ponders a larger question: Why is it considered offensive when an animated comedy pushes the envelope via edgy language, while a serious drama doing the same thing is considered art? Another episode, titled “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson,” pulled a similar stunt using the N-word.

Episode:Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo
Season: 1
Controversy: A Russian Pentecostal organization demanded that the Russian government revoke the license of the nation’s oldest private entertainment channel after it aired this Christmas-themed classic from the show’s first season featuring a singing, hat-wearing turd. The organization’s appeal was flushed and the station’s license was kept.

Episode:Jared Has Aides
Season: 6
Controversy: After Jared Fogle, the spokesman for Subway restaurants, visits South Park to discuss his weight loss, the boys misunderstand his methods for losing weight. Fogle explains it was a series of appointments with his personal trainer and his dietitian, his aides, which the boys misinterpret as his AIDS. The rest of the episode’s plot revolves around Butters, South Park’s favorite overweight kid, and his abuse at the hands of his parents after they think he’s attempted a liposuction surgery on himself at home. Ironically, Comedy Central banned the episode, not due to its AIDS-related material, but due to its portrayal of Butters being abused by his parents.

Episode:Scott Tenorman Must Die
Season: 5
Controversy: Consistently voted one of the show’s most popular and most outrageous episodes by fans, “Scott Tenorman Must Die” is notable both for the appearance of the band Radiohead as themselves (most celebrities are impersonated on the show) and the depths with which Cartman will go to seek revenge. In this case, feeding the titular character chili made from the remains of his parents. It is also, according to Stone and Parker, the first and only episode to not have two plots.

Episode:Terrance & Phillip in Not Without My Anus
Season: 2
Controversy: Conceived as an April Fools’ Day prank, and fueled by the generous publicity received by the Season 1 cliffhanger, the second season premiere, which was intended to answer the question of who Cartman’s parents were, instead focused on an unrelated episode involving the show-within-the-show characters of Terrance and Phillip. Fans were outraged, and as such Comedy Central pushed Parker and Stone to quickly create the real episode, which they did, and which aired three weeks later.

Episode:Bloody Mary
Season: 9
Controversy: The Catholic League protested the episode because of its depiction of a Virgin Mary statue bleeding from its rectum. It originally aired on Dec. 7, 2005, the night before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a Catholic holiday relating to the Virgin Mary. There were conflicting reports that Comedy Central had agreed to not rerun the episode, however the network denies ever having agreed to such a demand. There was also outrage in New Zealand, where the nation’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference attempted, unsuccessfully, to stop the episode from airing.

Episode:Hell on Earth 2006
Season: 10
Controversy: In the episode, a guest at a Halloween costume party shows up as wildlife expert Steve Irwin with a stingray barb sticking out of his chest. After being confronted for wearing such a tacky costume, the guest turns out to be Irwin himself, and is subsequently removed from the party for not wearing a costume. The episode aired just weeks after Irwin died from having a stingray spine puncture his lung while filming a segment for a television show. Shortly after the episode aired, a friend of the Irwin family issued a statement saying the episode “goes too far too soon.”

Episode:Cartoon Wars Part II
Season: 10
Controversy: In 2005, after a Dutch newspaper published a series controversial editorial cartoons featuring the Islamic prophet Mohammed that sparked violence in several countries, Comedy Central censored a photo from the episode that depicted the prophet appearing on an episode of “Family Guy.” In its place, the show ran a title card reading “Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network.” Aside from the political overtones, the episode also takes aim at “Family Guy” and its writers, as well as a network executive named Doug, presumably a dig at Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central.

What is your favorite outrageous “South Park” episode? Comment and let us know.

25 thoughts on “The 10 Most Controversial ‘South Park’ Episodes

  1. Michael Nichols

    I think my favorite episode would be the Christmas episode where the little woodland critters are trying to resurrect their lord and savior. Then Stan and the little tiger cubs are taught how to perform an abortion and have to perform on on Kyle. Absolutely hilarious!

  2. Paula

    “Scott Tenormann must die” is my alltime favourite, i love it when Cartman really turns out evil.

  3. Ashalee

    omg reading this article made me laugh. i love all these episodes! its so funny how different people get all pissed off because the episodes “offend” them.

  4. Ellie

    All good choices.
    In my opinion though…

    10 – Trapped in the closet.
    9 – Osama Bin Laden has farty pants.
    8 – Ginger kids.
    7 – Cripple fight.
    6 – Bloody Mary.
    5 – Woodland critter christmas.
    4 – Scott Tenorman must die.
    3 – The China problem.
    2 – Breast cancer show ever.

    1- All about Mormons.

    All about Mormons was so offensive,
    fucking hilarious!!!

    1. DJ

      I don’t think “All about the Mormons” was offensive because they teased Utah Culture rather than the church. The Book of Mormon Musical teases both. I’m surprise the “Burning Catholic Love” or Cartman’s holocaust episode was on any of the lists.

  5. Nick Butcher

    People who get offended by South Park simply don’t understand the show. Matt and Trey don’t address controversial subject matter to upset people on purpose. Their life philosophy isn’t all that complicated. There’s simply too much about this existence that we can never understand or even prove, so why let it get you down so much? In life, you can cry about the state of things, or you can get a laugh out of it. The creators of South Park prefer the latter, and to censor a laugh at anyone’s expense would be to stifle that very message. The people they do piss off are just the icing on the cake, because after all, these are the people who prefer to get pissed off and cry rather than laugh at life anyway. So in Matt and Trey’s eyes, they continue to give everyone what they want. Laughs for their loyal viewers, and controversy for the drama queens.

  6. Eric Emerson

    I love south park mainly because of how they make fun of celebrities. I hate most celebrities because they think they are above everyone else so it’s good to see them brought down to earth. Celebrities need to stop crying about being made fun off. Tom cruise is a little hoe for getting an episode pulled, lots of people get dogged on south park

  7. Nicole

    I am so happy with this list. A lot of websites claim to have a list of the best SP’s ever, but honestly, they are missing so many of them. Can we even make a list?

    I think some would be:

    The Death of Eric Cartmen
    Scott Tenorman must Die
    All about Mormons
    Trapped in the Closet
    Here goes the neighborhood (pretty conterversial not on this list?)
    Cartman joins Nambla

    man can you make a list I feel like it will go on and on.

    So many people get offended by SP, and I think that’s just part of it’s charm, keep going!

    Are the boys ever going to get out of 5th grade?

  8. Lord Bond

    The only episode that I felt went a bit close to the edge was Krazy Kripples…
    You know, the one where Christopher Reeves is sucking unborn fetuses because the stem cells are giving him superhuman powers. Amusingly even the four main kids decline to go anywhere near the proceedings.

  9. Erik

    lol Lord, that was a really funny episode too.

    There are just over 200 episodes, I bet you they have offended a religion, celebrity, organisation or country in at least 3/4 of those episodes, so you could do a Top 150 most offensive episodes really, lol.

    Obviously the most recent 200-201 should be in the above lists as well… seeing how they got death threats from it, so obviously the most controversial ones so far.

  10. Adam

    In reference to the last choice, it seems like most people forget that South Park already showed Muhammad in the Super Best Friends episode

    1. Champ

      yup, and that’s the only southpark episode to be banned, which should make it #1 I’m surprised it didn’t make the list

  11. Matt

    I adamantly disagree. Fantastic Easter Special was, by far, the most controversial South Park episode of all time.

  12. Mike

    I think south park is such a great show because it shows all those ignorant idiots that are out there in a very humorous way…keep at it Matt and Trey! south park is by far one of the greatest shows ever!

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