With the passing of Stephen Hillenburg back in November, I wanted to take some time and talk about his creation “SpongeBob SquarePants.” It is a favorite show of mine and made a huge impact on countless childhoods including my own.
Hillenburg clearly knew what he was doing. Because of his brilliant team of writers and animators, the show has been going on for nearly 20 years and is engraved in modern culture due to the plethora of quotes and memes taken from it.
Even in my 20s, so many episodes of this classic show still hold up and make me laugh as much as I did in my early years. It definitely molded my mind and has helped develop my sense of humor. And I’m sure countless others feel the same way.
So in honor of Hillenburg and his talented team, let’s take a look and count down the best episodes of the entire series.
As a disclaimer, I have not seen very many episodes past season 5 or 6. From what I have seen and heard, I’m not missing much. Though I’ve also heard more recent episodes have been pretty good. Either way, most of this list consists of episodes released before the 2004 movie.
“FUUUUTURE… FUUUUTURE… FUUUUTURE…”
An episode from the first season of the show, “SB-129” tells a familiar tale. Squidward is just trying to be alone, and SpongeBob and Patrick relentlessly try to get him to jellyfish with them.
But this time, Squidward locks himself in the Krusty Krabs’ freezer and finds himself in a time traveling opus into the future, then back to the past and ultimately into a plane of total nothingness.
This was one of the first episodes of the show that sold me on how unique it was. The whole scene where Squidward gets trapped in limbo blew my small mind, and still stands as something to see.
Even with the crazy plot and awesome visuals, there are plenty of solid jokes in this one too, like Squidward inadvertently inventing jellyfishing.
A great episode for sure.
9: Pizza Delivery
“This one’s on the house!”
This is one of the most iconic episodes to me. A sea-trotting adventure where SpongeBob and Squidward get lost trying to deliver a pizza to a customer.
What follows is a buddy comedy, minus the buddy part. The two nearly get hit by a semi truck, caught in a tornado and fight each other over the pizza, when SpongeBob wouldn’t let Squidward eat it, as it was for the customer.
Finally, one of SpongeBob’s tricks from the pioneer era work, and he and Squid ride a boulder all the way to the customer’s house, which happens to be right down the street from the Krusty Krab.
Yet the duo finds an ungrateful customer who refuses to take or pay for the pizza since it didn’t come with a drink. His rudeness causes SpongeBob to cry.
Squidward actually does something nice and throws the pizza right into the guy’s face, and ends the episode on a feel good note.
In my research, I found that the original premise for the entire show was for it to be a buddy road trip comedy. What a different show it would have been if this was the case. Apparently, a lot of the ideas for that premise were put into this episode, and obviously I think the series is better off for it.
8: Survival of the Idiots
“Ok, you can be Dirty Dan, I just wanna be Patrick.”
This one had to make the list just because I’ve seen it so many times. This is my little brother’s favorite episode.
Sandy is in hibernation, and the tree dome is a frozen winter wonderland. Despite being warned not to, SpongeBob and Patrick go in to see what’s up and get locked in. Hilarity ensues.
They wake up Sandy, who at this point is a giant, temperamental monster. She beats them up, and they have to find a way to stay warm.
They make the poor decision to rip off her fur with tape, surviving the cold. When Sandy wakes up and sees what the two have done, they become her new fur in a painful looking way.
This is a really fun episode that has a simple premise, but the jokes all land. It’s funny to see the two get attacked for their stupidity, and SpongeBob and Patrick battling over who gets to be Dirty Dan gave us many memorable lines (“Who you callin’ Pinhead”).
7: Something Smells
“I was one of the beautiful people, now look at me!”
I feel like this is an early episode that gets slept on. One of the most basic but effective episodes of the show, “Something Smells” tells the story of SpongeBob thinking he’s ugly because everyone runs away from him, sometimes causing a lot of property damage in the process.
He then turns to his buddy Patrick for advice, and is told the story of “The Ugly Barnacle.” Ultimately, it doesn’t help, and SpongeBob accepts that he’ll be ugly forever.
This leads to some fantastic quotes (“I’m ugly and I’m proud!”) before Spongebob’s ugliness spreads to Patrick, making him mad and leading to a whole movie theatre being destroyed out of his rage.
It turns out that both men just had rancid breath and shout a cry of relief.
This is a funny episode that has some of my favorite quotes that I bring into real life, and can be seen as a good PSA to get kids to brush their teeth so they don’t catch the ugly.
6: Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy V
“Sure! The power’s all in the costumes. Why else would we run around in colored undies.”
Really, just throw a dart at any of the Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy episodes. They all bring something different and worthwhile to the table. The show’s sendup of classic ‘60s Batman is always funny.
In this one, Barnacle Boy turns to the dark side and creates E.V.I.L. (every villain is lemons) to take over Bikini Bottom, after Mermaid Man wouldn’t let him eat a regular sized Krabby Patty.
Naturally, Mermaid Man has a team of his own, having SpongeBob, Patrick, Sandy and Squidward don the tights with their own superpowers.
We then get an epic showdown, where the entire superteam defeats themselves. It feels oddly perfect for that to be how it goes down.
At the end of the day, the two aging crimefighters make up and eat Krabby Patties (or in Barnacle Boy’s case, only half of a regular sized Krabby Patty).
The jokes are on point with this one, as it plays like a true homage to superheroes of the past, while making fun of them.
Here’s a classic. This episode opens up with an artist painting on a boat in the middle of the ocean (for some reason) and dropping his pencil into the depths of the ocean.
It lands in Bikini Bottom and has a magical ability to make the things it creates come to life. SpongeBob and Patrick get their hands on it and goof off for a while.
Then they mess up and make a crude doodle of SpongeBob. It comes to life and is a violent, gibberish-speaking psychopath that wants to erase SpongeBob and Patrick.
The rest of the episode sees the duo fight the doodle in classic horror movie fashion. Ultimately SpongeBob erases him during a tense battle in his house.
The two then propel the pencil back to the surface, knowing they cannot control the power it has. Of course, the artist gets it back and breaks the lead immediately. He screams in anger, as he forgot to bring a pencil sharpener (what an amateur).
This was a really great episode because it had some good jokes, a really interesting concept and some exciting action. Apparently, DoodleBob came back in a recent episode, but I haven’t seen it.
4: The Krusty Krab Training Video
“Let’s see, inattentive, impatient, a glazed look in the eyes. Look carefully at the ‘I Really Wish I Weren’t Here Right Now!’ button. There’s a name for employees like this, but we’ll call him Squidward.”
If you have ever worked a customer service job, then chances are you’ve seen a cheesy informational video telling you about the company history and dos and don’ts of the job.
Take that concept and apply it to the wacky world of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Not only is it funny, but we get a legit look at the background of Mr. Krabs and his establishment.
In terms of memorable moments and quote/memeable lines, this episode is elite. Little Henry loved that the episode talked about P.O.O.P. and older Henry can emphasize with Squidward so much more now.
At the time this was a pretty original concept for an episode, and the execution was spot on. Great stuff.
3: The Fry Cook Games
“These were white when I bought them.”
Here’s a great one. This episode focuses on the Olympics of the SpongeBob universe, The Fry Cook Games.
Naturally, Mr. Krabs and Plankton fight to determine the best resturant every year, with Krabs always coming out on top. However, in this episode, the two enemies play the role of coach.
Krabs has SpongeBob in his corner, while in a shocking move, Patrick is Plankton’s charge. The two get in a fight over Patrick remarking that being a fry cook is easy.
Then the two face off in a series of ridiculous challenges, like deep fry pole vaulting, chocolate high dives, throwing a big straw into a cup and culminating in a bun wrestling match.
The two realize that despite Krabs and Plankton playing them against each other, they are best friends and they make up.
This episode is memorable to me for some of the most ridiculous and over the top moments in the show and also jokes that aren’t that funny, but get a huge laugh out of me for some reason.
Things like Krabs and Plankton walking to each other, playing different instruments each time the camera cuts away, all leading up to Plankton blowing on a trombone and messing the whole musical number up.
Or SpongeBob and Patrick screaming at each other, then an awkward silence followed by the huge guy screaming in monotone.
It’s a very funny episode that focuses on the friendship SpongeBob and Patrick have, with a unique setting to boot.
“It couldn’t have been us Squidward, our hands are clean.”
Speaking of ridiculous, it’s “Shanghaied!” This was a super-sized episode that featured some funny Patchy the Pirate shenanigans, and a tremendous tale of Squidward, Patrick and SpongeBob being held prisoner on The Flying Dutchman’s ship.
It all starts when the Dutchman’s anchor lands on Squidward’s house, and the trio climb up so Squid can give the Dutchman a piece of his mind.
Of course, The Flying Dutchman doesn’t take too kindly to that and makes them his crew. Squidward protests, and gets zapped by lighting several times and then thrown into the Fly of Despair.
However, SpongeBob and Patrick don’t fare much better, as they are horrible at being scary, so the Dutchman plans to eat them instead.
The two make a desperate escape through the perfume department, and hold the Dutchman’s lucky dining sock hostage, ending in an ultimatum where the trio gets three wishes.
In a move that shocked no one, SpongeBob and Patrick waste the first two, and the final wish would go to whoever won a fan vote. SpongeBob won and wished that the Dutchman was a vegetarian.
But there’s a twist. The three creatures are turned into fruit and have to escape a hippified Flying Dutchman.
I love this episode because every joke lands, it’s a very plot heavy episode and we get great moments from all the characters involved. To me, this is the epitome of the SpongeBob SquarePants sense of humor.
But there is one episode that stands tall amongst the rest, and before we get to that I do have some honorable mentions.
Chocolate With Nuts
“WHAT! WHAT ARE THEY SELLING?”
CHOCOLATE! CHOCOLATE! CHOCOLATE! CHOCOLATE! What more needs to be said? Patrick and SpongeBob sell candy to become rich. They just happen to be the worst salesmen under the sea.
I probably sound like a broken record, but there are so many iconic funny lines, like the old lady (?) that hates chocolate, or Patrick taking flattery to a new extreme.
This was so close to making the list and stands as a high quality episode.
“I’d like one Krabby Patty and one room… with cheese. OH, and can I get cheese on the Krabby Patty too?”
This was a post-movie episode that is really fun and bizarre. Mr. Krabs turns the Krusty Krab into a hotel, all so he can charge ludicrous rates for room service. He forces SpongeBob and Squidward to adhere to any request a guest makes, no matter how ridiculous.
Of course, the only guest the hotel gets is Patrick. He makes plenty of dumb requests, and chaos ensues. Squidward gets fed up and quits, instead coming back as a guest and making Krabs adhere to his demands.
At the end of the episode, the crew’s shenanigans end up destroying the hotel and sending all four men to the hospital. The outrageous bill gives Krabs another idea, but we haven’t gotten the Krusty Hotel follow up yet.
This episode stands out because of the interesting concept, and the well-done execution of it. All of the jokes land and Mr. Krabs faces some consequences for his greed, which is always a plus.
“F is for fire that burns down the whole town, U is for uranium… bombs, N is no surviors WHEN YOU-”
This episode is the perfect way to explain SpongeBob’s character. Plankton fails to steal the Krabby Patty formula once again and is distraught at people’s hatred toward him.
SpongeBob is too naive to realize Plankton is using him and tries to genuinely comfort and befriend him. This results in one of the best musical numbers in the show.
Yet besides the F.U.N. song, it doesn’t do much else to make it a top-tier episode, as the show was still finding its groove.
“Squidward, the robots are running the Navy.”
“NOT THE NAVY!”
This is a really solid episode that gets overlooked often. In it, SpongeBob thinks that Mr. Krabs might be a robot after watching a robo-horror movie the night before.
Squidward dismisses this, until some of the signs, like Krabs having glowing eyes due to salt, having batteries in his pants, singing a song that goes beep boo boo bop boo boo bop and calling his radio his “little buddy” all add up.
The two then play bad-cop, bad-cop and interrogate Krabs to find the truth, going so far to slap him and destroy his electronics.
Ultimately, Squidward realizes SpongeBob was just being superstitious and imagined the whole thing.
Upon realizing what they’ve done, SpongeBob high tails it, leaving Squidward to suffer the wrath of a very angry Mr. Krabs.
Wishing You Well
“Nice try Squidward, but there’s no Santa Claus here.”
This is another episode from a later season, and it is a solid one. The premise is wholesome, with Spongebob just trying to do a good thing and make people’s wishes come true, and Squidward being grumpy and thrown into the madness with Spongebob and Patrick.
It also has one of the best jokes of the entire series, with Squidward stating he is claustrophobic, and Patrick conjuring visions of Kris Kringle to scare him.
And now for my favorite SpongeBob episode:
1: Band Geeks
“Too bad that didn’t kill me.”
Now, I know this is a pretty popular opinion. In my eyes, this is the most iconic and best Spongebob episode. It is full of non-stop laughs and a good mix of stupid, kid friendly jokes and more mature jokes and references.
So many memorable moments happened in this episode, from Squidward getting pinned to the wall by drumsticks, Patrick getting stuffed into a trombone and the flag twirlers twirling so hard that they hit a blimp and explode, just to name a few.
Not to mention the episode’s fantastic climax, where most of us were introduced to “Sweet Victory,” a very good song.
Too bad we didn’t get a performance of it at the Super Bowl (though let’s be honest, there was no way it was going to happen and folks getting legitimately outraged by it need to cool their jets a bit).
It’s the episode that made me laugh the most throughout and it truly had a feel good ending, where Squidward won one in the end. As a complete package, this one stands tall above the rest.
It does seem that there is a trend to these rankings. Many of my favorite episodes heavily feature Squidward, and in the end he usually wins, or does something noble, like “Pizza Delivery” and “SB-129.”
I want to thank you for reading the list, and hopefully this was a fun trip down memory lane for you. While everyone’s list may be different, I think we can all agree that this show is one of the best around.
I know “SpongeBob SquarePants” will always hold a special place in my heart for how it made me laugh both in childhood and adulthood. And it’ll still hold true when I’m in a nursing home and many people who grew up with the show will be quoting it along with me.