The 100 Best Episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants

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90. Ripped Pants (July 17th, 1999)

SpongeBob is a show that takes its silliness very seriously. And so does SpongeBob, the character. “Ripped Pants” has the music, the story, and the intensity to be considered a serious episode, but it decides to roll a straight-faced premise into an adorable little story about friendship and having a sense of humor. SpongeBob likes being an entertainer and a comedian, but only when he takes it too far does he learn about sensitivity and crossing the line for the sake of comedy. And speaking of comedy, talk about forced ripped pants puns, which there are a lot of apparently. The thing most people remember is the song he sings at the end, which is really good don’t get me wrong, but there’s an entire thread about losing your friends, and being a goofy loner who’s a one-note joke, and identity, that you might have missed. I’ll tell you what no one misses, though: getting sand in your buns. Always kills, that line.

You may remember this particular segment from:

89. “Grandma’s Kisses” (March 6th, 2001)

Let’s get this out of the way right now: for as weird as SpongeBob is, “Grandma’s Kisses” is extraordinarily weird. Like, to such a degree that I really do not know what drugs the writers were smoking when they wrote this. But much like that sweater with love in every stitch, this entire episode is intricately planned, executed, and loaded with in-jokes and meta writing. Right around this point in the show’s life there was a turn towards writing certain material for adults, like including marine biology references, bending the laws of physics, and playful jabs at classic TV and film genres. And what a better arbiter for this shift in tone away from children’s content than an episode about being an adult? It’s esoteric, strange, filled with stereotypical ‘baby’ things, and laden with nostalgia. There’s also quite a bit about free-form jazz, office supplies, and taxes, which is going to sail right over kid’s heads and I think that is great. Not because I don’t want them to enjoy the show, but because they need to learn about the horrors of employment and doing taxes early, right?

88. “The Chaperone” (October 2nd, 1999)

“The Chaperone” is regarded as a classic to SpongeBob aficionados, and I’m fairly certain that “long, tan, and handsome” is in the lexicon of American society. It has to be, because I’ve heard that so many times over my life, and I’m pretty sure it emanated from this episode. Pearl’s Prom Night houses a lot of goofy moments, like the sound effect of the spring legs every time SpongeBob walks, and also features one of the few worthwhile uses of Pearl, a character who has no other reason to exist other than to be a narrative cog in the storytelling machine. It has just enough edge to parodying proms to balance out the wacky slapstick, dance routines, and overall zaniness of the events. Bonus points for the introduction of “the wack”, “the sponge”, and that fake dummy he keeps using to distract people. Solid gold every time you get tricked into thinking it was really him, when in fact it was a cardboard cutout.

You may remember this particular segment from:

87. “Bubble Stand” (July 17th, 1999)

There’s a stunning, beautiful quality to the simplicity and stupidity of SpongeBob. And nothing exemplifies that better than the early classic “Bubble Stand”. This episode might not have as many memorable moments than other choices further down on this list, but there’s no denying the lasting impact (hyperbolic, yes) that these early episodes had, considering that if these failed to make people laugh or care about the characters, the show would never be the smash hit that it was. And we can only attribute its success to lines like “It’s a giraffe!”, and to ‘the technique’ and to ‘pelvic thrusts’. I’m confident Chaplin and Keaton would be impressed with the physical comedy on display here, and the innocent charm of the story coupled with the superb sound effects make for one great episode. It’s deceptively unassuming and straightforward, but less is more in this case.

You may remember this particular segment from:

86. “Squidward on Strike” (October 12, 2001)

Unions! That’s what SpongeBob really needed, an episode on striking. But it fits into the universe quite well, as expected, and almost anything the show tackles can be done well and made funny, even the oppression of corporate overlords on the measly minimum wage fast food workers get. When the turn first happens, and SpongeBob finds out what a strike really means, all hell breaks loose, and the rest of the episode is a madcap frenzy of looney gags, word play, and snappy humor. It’s all pretty ridiculous for a serious premise, people lose their jobs over mistreatment at work (which Squidward takes very much to heart), and SpongeBob ruins that almost immediately. Those two are the best comedy duo in the last twenty years, and I would rank Squidward and SpongeBob as being an all-time classic comedy team, up there with Laurel & Hardy and Abbott & Costello. They work so well together, and clash so much as opposite archetypes tend to do, it’s almost impossible to count how many occurrences on this list feature a storyline that involves Squidward dealing with SpongeBob.

You may remember this particular segment from:

85. “Sandy’s Rocket” (September 4th, 1999)

I can distinctly remember getting my copy of Nickelodeon the Magazine when I was a child, and getting a ‘scratch and sniff’ card that I could use during Nick’s programming. One of them was for SpongeBob, and it smelled like peanut butter and toothpaste. And I didn’t know why, but after watching “Sandy’s Rocket” live, when it aired, I understood the moment it happened. And that’s the kind of story we have here: a lot of things mixed together that doesn’t seem right at first, but makes sense after you get the context. MOON RIDES! ALIEN HUNTING! TWINS! It’s a great episode, one that incorporates paranoid crazy notions about space aliens, a horror film structure, some great call-backs, and of course, hilarious misadventures involving Patrick and SpongeBob. Things turn sour fast, and once they land on the moon, the thriller aspects ramp up and the references to classic genre troupes start flying (the 2001 soundtrack makes an appearance for crying out loud). It’s not the first time the show pokes fun at science, and this is the start to the inaccuracies of underwater life and marine biology jokes the show is known for.

You may remember this particular segment from:

84. “Born Again Krabs” (October 4th, 2003)

“Born Again Krabs” might fly under the radar in terms of being well known and appreciated, but it has a staggering amount of things going for it: editing Edgar Wright would love, wacky sound effects, rhyming dialogue, memorable transitions, and a late ‘50s early/‘60s sheen that Don Draper would appreciate. But it speaks to much greater thematic points too, like stinginess, death, dealing with loss, grieving, changing who you are for the betterment of yourself and others, charity, movie piracy, debt, denial, people’s inherent worth, and the role of money in our society. “Born Again Krabs” offers a biting critique about Mr. Krab’s link to what he deems valuable commodities to his life: his staff or his money. The Flying Dutchman has another good role to play in the story, and I’m always impressed with what the writers give the Dutchman to do. It’s heavy on the jokes, and can be enjoyed without taking in all of the themes, but this is an episode worth revisiting for sure.

83. “Plankton!” (July 31, 1999)

The first appearance of one of the show’s (secretly best) character, “Plankton!” sets up Sheldon J. Plankton as perfectly as you could ever want. Manipulative, cunning, conniving, evil, treacherous, dedicated, and driven to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula. Now of course, he can never get away with the plan, because this is a kid’s TV show and that’s how these things work, but he has gotten close before. But for 1999, textbook old-school Plankton was a fun character to watch work and we love to hate him (I unapologetically love him for being evil). He takes over SpongeBob’s brain (not the first time he’ll do that) and controls his actions, but what’s exactly motivating him? His inadequacy with his size? His jealousy of Krab’s success? Or to show off his intelligence (he did go to college). While we don’t get a whole picture of his life and his computer wife Karen, we do get a terrific sequence where he drives SpongeBob around and controls his actions. The first episode is crucial to nailing why we care about Plankton, and this was the surefire hit he needed to become what he is today.

You may remember this particular segment from:

82. “The Inside Job” (July 9th, 2009)

You may not have seen this episode, but like the episode above it, “The Inside Job” is about Plankton taking over SpongeBob’s brain to steal the secret formula. What’s interesting about this season seven episode, other than it’s the best episode post 2004 (The SpongeBob Squarepants movie era) is how it tackles the same plot as “Plankton!” and inhabits a fresh way to retell a classic story. I’m also totally down for characters doing impersonations of other characters, and Plankton takes it to another level. He’s had a lot of wacky plans before, and almost all of them are worth watching, but I feel like this particular segment is under seen and therefore worthy of more praise than other episodes, not to mention “The Inside Job” harkens back to an older age of SpongeBob and doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the current episodes premiering now. It uses the show’s history to its advantage, and allows itself to be both self-reflexive while simultaneously carving out new things for these old characters to do. Like make Plankton turn into SpongeBob, and then Patrick. That’s amazing, and it’s downright side-splitting at times.

81. “Pranks A Lot” (October 11th, 2004)

While I admit I do like watching Patrick fall for stupid pranks and getting mildly injured, as he tends to do a lot, “Pranks A Lot” is actually about a can of invisible spray. Doesn’t sound like much on paper, but there’s a lot of imagination and creativity put behind it. Not quite the hardest episode for the animators to do, since there are no protagonists to draw or render most of the time, but the writing is as sharp as ever here. I mean, it has to be; you don’t see anything for a while. There’s no SpongeBob or Patrick there for reactions or smiles or sad eyes or anything visual. The puns are on point, the jokes strung quickly together, and the editing rapid fire in pace. Goofy, aloof, and very odd, the SpongeBob flavor works incredibly well with this simple premise. Almost everyone in Bikini Bottom gets their due as well, and I love that. And for some reason this show really likes using ghosts in its stories. But as long as they’re funny, I don’t mind.

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Head to the next page for yesterday’s #100-91 episode countdown.

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  • hempf

    NO CAMPING EPISODE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I WILL BEAT YOU UP NERD!!!!!!!! >:(

  • Jared Russo

    The camping episode did get ranked, just not in the top ten. Keep clicking the next page buttons until you find it, it’s definitely in there.

  • Man

    I would have to agree with your number one episode (though I could do without the Patchy stuff). I always thought this episode was under-appreciated by fans and I’m glad it got the recognition it deserved.

    However, I think you should give “Wishing You Well” another watch because I think it is probably one of (if not) the best post-movie episode of Spongebob. It had a number of memorable jokes, puns, and non-stop dialogue that was reminiscent of the older episodes and the episode went unappreciated on this list. Just a thought.

  • Elliot

    My Personal Favorites:
    10. Sandy’s Rocket
    9. SB-129
    8. Shanghaied
    7. Roller Cowards
    6. Hall Monitor
    5. Clams
    4. Pizza Delivery
    3. Rock Bottom
    2. Graveyard Shift
    1. Band Geeks

  • SALVADOR CORNEJO

    Fry Cook Games and Sandy’s Rocket would be my favorites if I had to choose.

  • Alias Von Octopus

    My Personal Top 11:
    11. Help Wanted
    10. Larry’s Gym
    9. The Camping Episode
    8. Fry Cook Games
    7. Band Geeks
    6. Krusty Krab Training Video
    5. Graveyard Shift
    4. Nasty Patty
    3. Chocolate with Nuts
    2. Pizza Delievery
    1. Squilliam Returns

    Anybody agree/disagree?

  • disqus_NxysjMHMXS

    My Top 10:
    10. The Snowball Effect
    9. The Secret Box
    8. The Paper
    7. Shanghaied
    6. Just One Bite
    5. Club Spongebob
    4. SpongeBob Meets the Strangler
    3. The Fry Cook Games
    2. Band Geeks
    1. Squid’s Day Off
    Could be nostalgia, since I grew up watching most of these the most on the DVDs.

  • David Silverman

    what about chocolate with nuts.