The 10 Best ‘SpongeBob’ Episodes of All Time
SpongeBob is one of the greatest shows of all time, hands down. It’s spawned anime intros and amusement parks, and I, personally, think it belongs in the Comedy Hall of Fame along with the Marx Brothers films and The Office. The show is risky, hilarious, and not afraid to make jokes that go over its younger viewers’ heads. Every episode of classic SpongeBob is good (and when I say classic, I mean seasons 1 through 3). While I think the humor became hit or miss from season 4 onward, those early years’ episodes never disappoint. But I have to make a list of the very BEST episodes, and so therefore, I’ll try. Forgive me if I get it wrong, gang, but I think these episodes are the brightest stars in the SpongeBob constellation. I’m judging based on laughs, poignancy, and overall quotability.
Are ya’ ready kids? Cause here we go.
The Krusty Krab Training Video
This episode caused a hell of a lot of hooplah when it came out, and for good reason. I think this episode is in the top five, maybe even the top three, because of how brilliantly it interrupts the established form of the series. A standard SpongeBob episode goes like this: SpongeBob and Patrick get an absurd idea. They play out that idea, much to the chagrin of Squidward and everyone else in Bikini Bottom. They take the idea to its most absurd conclusion and usually cause a good-natured catastrophe for everyone involved. Then the series resets.
This episode does none of that. It, instead, borrows from the real world, like many of the best SpongeBob episodes do. What does it borrow? The most boring thing imaginable: a job training video. There is nothing less exciting, less fun, and more cringe-inducing than a corporate instructional video. They’re awkward, pointless, and often poorly produced. The creators of the show understood this and saw the opportunity for parody. And parody they did.
We take a deep dive into Mr. Krabs’ backstory (he was a war veteran after all), we see Squidward get delightfully shat on (“no one wants to be a Squidward”), and of course, we get the infamously instructional slogan P.O.O.P. (People Order Our Patties). Oh P.O.O.P., you never let us down. I personally find the most quotable moment of the episode be the breathless a capella mouth-music that the narrator provides to underscore a painfully slow zoom-in shot of a Krabby Patty. Dee-DUT-deely-DUT-deely-DA-dee-DA-dee-DAAAAAA! Classic.
For many years, Shanghaied was my all time favorite SpongeBob episode. There are no deeper meanings. No lessons to be learned. It’s just a series of really good jokes.
SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward climb up the chain of the Flying Dutchman’s anchor after the ghostly captain drops it onto Squidward’s house. Onboard the ship, the Dutchman tells the trio that they can never leave and must serve as part of his ghostly crew for all eternity. Squidward takes umbrage at this, and the Dutchman throws him into the “Fly of Despair,” a hell dimension that eventually spits him back out in his bedroom.
SpongeBob and Patrick are terrified into submission and agree to join the Dutchman’s crew. And they’re… really bad at it. The nearly total the Dutchman’s ship while looking for parking, fail at making scary ghosts sounds (Patrick’s best is “LEE A LEE A LEEEEEEE!!!”), and generally don’t frighten anyone. The best moment of the episode comes when the pair try to make a final escape attempt through the ship’s perfume department. Because yes, the ship has one of those. Comedy gold.
When I was a kid, I thought Squidward was a stick-in-the-mud. And I still do. However, as I’ve aged, I’ve come to empathize more and more with that stick-in-the-mud. Squidward is a brilliant character, because he is an adult’s way into the show. In their best-written moments, SpongeBob and Patrick are children. Their ideas are so genius, so creatively asinine, that they baffle everyone around them. Children do this every day. Kids say “the darndest things” and no one seems to know where they got the idea. Children are like sponges (how topical): they suck up an alarming amount of disparate information and squeeze it out all over the world, often creating a mess. Sometimes it’s cute. Sometimes it’s really annoying.
Being an adult is hard, and children’s happy-go-lucky attitudes can sometimes strike a nerve with even the most patient of grown-ups. Squidward, meanwhile, has no patience left to give. He works a dead-end job in a small town. He takes art so seriously that it makes him suck at it. And he’s simply over everyone and everything all the time. I get it. While the “no one wants to be a Squidward” adage can and should hold true, every once in a while it’s easy to become dissatisfied or bored with modern life. One doesn’t always get what one wants. One doesn’t always feel rewarded by one’s work. One doesn’t always feel understood by friends, parents, or loved ones. One gets lonely. Bitterness and cynicism are easy traps to all into, because a pessimistic point of view is often rationalized as “realistic” or “mature.” It is hard to hold on to one’s inner child, and Squidward has almost lost it completely. I say almost, because this is one of the rare episodes where he finds it after an even rarer occurrence: Squidward gets everything he wants.
Squidward moves into a town with people who look and act just like him. Everyone is sour. Everyone is cynical. Everyone wants to do adult things like eat canned bread and play tasteful clarinet. It’s heaven for a while. Then the routine gets old. Squidward’s paradise turns into a prison. So what does Squidward do? Something he never thought he would: he plays with a reef-blower and sucks off people’s eyes and noses. He makes fun of his boring neighbors. He rebels against authority. He becomes a kid again. When SpongeBob and Patrick discover Squidward using his reef blower to fly off into the horizon at the end of the episode, they remark that of all the Squidward-looking people they’ve seen that day, the real Squidward “sure isn’t that guy.” Squidward realizes that joy, variety, and fun are the real reasons to live life. A lesson that we, the viewers, all need to be reminded of sometimes.
Most quotable moment? Patrick asks a fire hydrant: “Are you, Squidward?,” and after a brief silence, Patrick responds, sheepishly, “That’s okay, take your time”.
The Snowball Effect
This might be the best “SpongeBob and Patrick neighborhood nonsense” episodes on this list. The plot of the episode? Bikini Bottom is covered in not a pillow, or a sheet, but a BLANKET. A BLANKET of SNOW.
So what do the boys decide to do? Have a snowball fight, of course. Naturally, this annoys the daylights out of Squidward. After all, they manage to throw a snowball through his window and put out his fire three separate times during the episode. The episode also contains my favorite SpongeBob one-liner. Just as Squidward is about to settle in to watching the pair “knock each other’s brains out” with snowballs, SpongeBob and Patrick make a truce. Presented with a paper document of the peace treaty, Squidward rips it up. SpongeBob produces another one, deadpanning, “That wasn’t the peace treaty, that was just a copy of the peace treaty.” Still gets me to this day.
Of all of SpongeBob and Patrick’s harebrained ideas, this one might be the very best. Squidward orders a massive TV, in an effort to enjoy himself for once, and throws away the equally massive cardboard box that it came in. SpongeBob and Patrick find the box, crawl inside, and entertain themselves with “imaginaaaaation” for hours on end. Squidward spurns their idea at first, but quickly becomes distracted from his TV by the oddly realistic sound effects coming from the box. Using their imaginations, SpongBob and Patrick spar with cyborgs on Robot Pirate Island, watch fireworks explode in the sky, and are caught in a horrifying mountaineering accident that requires them to amputate their legs and arms off with saws.
I’m including it on this list because it reminds me so deeply of my childhood, and hopefully it reminds you of yours as well. A perfect day meant building a fort out of an old refrigerator box or finding the perfect sword-sized stick in the backyard. Fun costs nothing to a child. We, as adults, spend so much money and time in the pursuit of fun. Gas. Drinks at the bar. Concert tickets. More drinks. The overpriced Uber home. We fool ourselves into thinking that fun costs money—when fun can really just be a day in the park with the right person.This SpongeBob episode reminds us of that fact in the most charmingly childlike way possible. Most quotable moment? “Don’t worry boys, the saws are on the way!”
This may be SpongeBob’s first foray into the horror genre, and what a fine foray it is. Mr. Krabs announces to SpongeBob and Squidward that the Krusty Krab is now open 24 hours, and his two employees are responsible for manning the graveyard shift. Annoyed by SpongeBob’s love of the night shift, Squidward decides to ruin the sponge’s fun by telling him the legend of the Hash-Slinging Slasher (which he makes up on the spot). The Slasher was once a fry cook who lost his hand in kitchen accident, and now he murders restaurant employees with his razor sharp hook hand.
Squidward is able to find peace and quiet for a few minutes… until the signs that foretell the arrival of the Slasher begin to occur. The lights flicker. The phone rings, but no one answers. THE WALLS OOZE GREEN SLIME. Wait, they always do that.
The one true tear-jerker of a SpongeBob episode. I get chills thinking about it. Squidward’s rich and successful rival, Squilliam Fancyson, is coming to town. After an argument, Squidward tells Squlliam that he’s going to blow him away with the musical might of his all-star marching band. The only problem? Squidward doesn’t have a marching band. Squidward enlists the help of the denizens of the Bikini Bottom, and hilarity ensues. No one knows how to play an instrument. Soon enough, a knock down-drag out brawl breaks out after a cantankerous blue fish cites Mr. Krabs’ “big meaty claws” as the reason why the band sounds bad. This is after Patrick is stuffed inside a trombone for making the piss-poor decision to kick Sandy in the shin. Squidward quits the project in a desperate rage. After he leaves, SpongeBob gives a rallying speech to the crowd, and convinces them to give it one last shot.
And what a shot they give.
At the stadium halftime show of The Bubble Bowl, SpongeBob and the entire town take their places onstage. A stage fright-stricken Squidward is pleasantly surprised by a musical intro from Bikini Bottom’s horn section, and then a stone-faced Plankton proceeds to play the most goosebump inducing piano riff my 10-year-old ears had ever heard. A spotlight lights up SpongeBob center stage, and the normally helium-voiced poriferan launches into a smokey rock-tenor rendition of a little-known 90’s power ballad called “Sweet Victory.” The result isn’t just funny, it’s jaw-dropping. A goateed Patrick Star beats out a legendary drum fill. Mrs. Puff rips into an ear-splitting guitar riff. Mr. Krabs lays down a groove on a psychedelic keytar. The stadium audience throws their arms around each other and tearfully wave their lighters. And Squilliam? He is so shocked by the unexpected turn, he has a heart attack and has to be carried away on a stretcher. And the best part of the episode?
The look of joy on Squidward’s face.
It’s a rare moment, perhaps the only moment in the entire series where Squidward wins. Truly, unequivocally wins. He breaks his conductor baton in half, waves goodbye to Squlliam, and leaps into the air as stage pryotechnics explode all around him. The final shot of the episode catches his sweet victory in a joyful freeze-frame in mid-air, and then slowly fades out as the song continues to play. It’s heartwarming. It’s glorious. It brings a tear to my eye. Everyone deserves a win sometimes, even Squidward. And his win was well-earned.
The most quotable moment? Squidward asks his band, “People talk loud when they want to seem smart, right?” To which Plankton shouts “CORRECT!” with absolutely zero self-awareness.
Chocolate With Nuts
This episode is perhaps the most quotable in the entire SpongeBob canon. What quote am I talking about?
Allow me to explain. Spongebob and Patrick want to make some extra cash, so they decide to become “entrepenerds” and go door to door selling chocolate. Throughout the episode, they are ripped off, rejected, and accosted by a particularly belligerent fish that screams the word CHOCOLATE over and over while chasing them. Things end well for the pair, though. The belligerent fish was actually just excited by the chocolate and offers to buy it all. The two waste all of their hard earned cash by renting out the fanciest restaurant in town to go on a date with an elderly woman and her corpse-like mother, who they met going door to door.
This might be the weirdest episode of SpongeBob ever made, and perhaps the most horrifying. Seeking some alone time, Squidward is trapped in the Krusty Krab’s walk-in freezer and is frozen alive. He is dethawed 2,000 years later by the grotesque, futuristic descendants of SpongeBob and Patrick. SpongeTron and Patar, a robot and a two-headed starfish respectively, show Squidward a glimpse into the chrome-plated future that awaits fishkind. They offer him the use of their time machine to go back into the past, but Squidward goes back too far.
Squidward is transported to a primordial ocean where the cave-fish ancestors of SpongeBob and Patrick struggle to survive. The pair nearly tear him to shreds after he provokes them by playing the clarinet (badly, of course), and he desperately throws the throttle of the time machine. The machine takes him an eternity into the future and deposits him in the dreamlike “world of emptiness” where he can finally be alone. However, Squidward is soon thrown into a state of existential panic and tries to escape the desolate space. It’s true eldritch horror, masterfully done.
There are countless hysterical moments in the SpongeBob canon. SpongeBob and Patrick camping out while on the run after stealing a free balloon on Free Balloon Day. SpongeBob’s pizza delivery song. SpongeBob screaming, “I’m ugly and I’m proud,” from the rooftops. Mermaid Man wailing, “EVILLLL,” as he does battle with a water fountain. Patrick dropping a box of wallets on Man Ray’s foot again and again. The panty raid. It would take me 10 articles to unpack the true brilliance of SpongeBob‘s timeless humor. But this episode, this *dolphin noise* episode, I believe, is the best SpongeBob episode in existence. What happens? I’m about to *dolphin noise* tell you.
Spongebob is taking out the trash one night at the Krusty Krab, when he finds a curious phrase graffitied onto the side of the dumpster: “Krabs is a fuck.” While “fuck” isn’t shown, it’s heavily implied to be the word in question. When SpongeBob reads the word out loud, the audio is censored with a dolphin sound. SpongeBob, the sweet summer child he is, doesn’t know what the word means. Patrick, meanwhile, has a dim idea. He calls the word a “sentence enhancer,” a word that’s sole purpose is to add a little flavor to a boring old sentence and create a “spicy sentence sandwich.” So SpongeBob and Patrick start saying it, all over the intercom.
Yes, that’s correct. The next day at work, SpongeBob says the phrase “attention customers, today’s special is a fucking Krabby Patty, served in a greasy fucking sauce, and grilled to fucking perfection” on the Krusty Krab loudspeaker, much to the horror of the patrons. The word is dolphin-noised out for the young, impressionable viewers at home, but the residents of Bikini bottom get an earful. It leads to legendary one-liners from the patrons like, “I thought this was a restaurant, not a gutter-mouth convention,” and “I don’t understand, that guy’s talented! He doesn’t have to work blue!” It’s an absolute marvel of television writing, on par with Seinfeld‘s famous “master of my domain” episode. (The writers of Seinfeld wrote an episode where the main characters hold a contest to see who can refrain from masturbating for the longest. The caveat is that the characters were not allowed to say “masturbate” on TV—so, the writers figured out a workaround. If a character gave in to the urge, they said that were no longer “master of their domain.”)
That Seinfeld episode is a famously brilliant piece of television writing, but I think that SpongeBob did Seinfeld one better. They figured out a way for their characters to realistically use the word “fuck” on a children’s TV show. It’s *dolphin noise* groundbreaking. No other children’s TV shows at the time came anywhere close to that level of comedic innovation. Not Rugrats, not Fairly Oddparents, not Dexter’s Lab. Nobody. I would argue that the writers of SpongeBob put every single TV writer in the business to shame when this episode dropped. It’s not just funny, it’s a staggering comic achievement, and I believe it cements SpongeBob as one of the greatest TV shows of all time.
Most quotable moment? “Hey Patrick, how the *dolphin noise* are ya?” “Pretty *dolphin noise* good Spongebob”.
Pretty *dolphin noise* good, right?
(Featured image: Nickelodeon)
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