It was just last month that Stephen Hillenburg, creator of Spongebob Squarepants, lost his battle with ALS. It’s heartbreaking, but his legacy will continue on in his creative, timeless show that has touched the hearts of millions. In his honor, I spent some time reflecting on Spongebob, thinking of the show’s best moments, the episodes that have stuck with me well into adulthood. As such, I’ve compiled a list of the ones that stood out the most to me — the ones I personally thought were the best — and it was quite the difficult task. This list has the “top 10,” yet I easily came up with over 20 amazing episodes, because Spongebob Squarepants is a show with too many moments of greatness — clever writing, hilarious jokes, and lovable, unforgettable characters. Still, I tried my best to whittle down the list to ten, and cheated by throwing in the leftovers as honorable mentions. So, without further ado, here’s part one of my Top 10 Best Spongebob Squarepants Episodes.
10. “Dying for Pie”
Squidward cares about Spongebob, guys.
I mean, we already knew that — he stood up for Spongebob when that jerk customer spazzed out over a so-called missing drink in “Pizza Delivery,” was quite disgusted on Spongebob’s behalf when Mr. Krabs sold him out for 62 cents in “Born Again Krabs,” and even admitted to liking Spongebob in “Graveyard Shift.” But those episodes weren’t based on the premise of Squidward’s hidden care for his annoying neighbor-slash-coworker.
This episode is, though, and it’s great.
Squidward, being his usual grumpy self, skips out on making Spongebob a gift for a work event, and lazily buys him a pie that turned out to be a bomb. Believing that Spongebob has eaten the pie, and will soon die from it, Squidward spends the entire day with Spongebob, doing whatever the little guy wants, which, considering it’s Spongebob, are all things that Squidward finds annoying. But Squidward endures every single thing, because he wants what he believes to be Spongebob’s last day on earth to be the best day it can be. It’s cute, and sweet, and shows us a side of Squidward that we don’t usually see. What really gets me is the last few minutes of the episode, when the sun is setting, and Squidward is waiting for Spongebob to die. We get this little exchange:
Spongebob: You know, if I were to die right now in some sort of fiery explosion due to the carelessness of a friend, well, that would just be okay.
Squidward: [tears up]
Not only is the sunset scene a great character moment for Squidward, but it’s a beautiful blend of comedy and genuine emotion.
Then, of course, it turns out that Spongebob doesn’t die, and Squidward goes back to his grumpy old self … once it’s clear that Spongebob isn’t in danger, that is.
This episode has everything. A nice spotlight on Squidward, great comedy, memorable lines, and a well-written mix of laughter and emotion. I just love it.
9. “Sailor Mouth”
Again, it’s the premise that gets me. Spongebob and Patrick discover curse words, and hilarity ensues.
That’s pretty much it.
And it’s awesome.
The execution of this premise is pure gold. Spongebob and Patrick, who are already generally innocent and childlike characters (they initially think curse words are “sentence enhancers,” nothing inappropriate) are put into the role of siblings in this episode, with Mr. Krabs being the father that has forbidden them from cursing. That set up never ceases to be hilarious, but the true comedy, to me, lies in the curse word censors. They range from animal sounds, boat horns, anything underwater-themed, and beyond. It makes the episode, I think. There’s a lot of creativity being thrown out there, and it’s just the best.
I mean, just reading the transcript for this makes me laugh, because of the way the sounds are described. Dolphin chirps, seal barks, boat horns … ahh, it’s so great.
The thing that I love about Spongebob is that most of their premises are simple, almost never complex, yet they are able to be so creative with it and churn out the funniest jokes. This episode is a great example of that.
8. “Something Smells”
Another episode with a simple premise but huge, hilarious payoff. Spongebob ate a gross “sundae,” which made his breath stink. Because of that, everyone avoids him, but Patrick, lovable oaf that he is (and lacking a nose), convinces Spongebob that they’re avoiding him because he’s ugly. So Patrick becomes a strange sort of life coach, helping Spongebob cope with his so-called ugliness — that is, until Spongebob discovers the true reason he’s being avoided.
This is one of those episodes where Patrick, out of sheer stupidity, tries to help Spongebob but ends up hindering him. I do think it’s the best out of those sorts of episodes. It even gives us a bit of protective Patrick, when Spongebob starts crying because he can’t take being rejected because people think he’s “ugly.” That protectiveness also gives us a memorable line, (“LOOK AT IT!”) which is great.
As a matter of fact, this episode has a lot of memorable gags and lines — the Ugly Barnacle story, “I’m ugly and I’m proud! / Is that what he calls it?” Spongebob knocking out the marching band with his breath, that face the blue fish makes when he smells Spongebob’s breath:
So with the cleverly executed premise, the funny, memorable jokes, and protective Patrick, this episode is worthy of my list, for sure.
7. “Wet Painters”
This episode takes the “make a simple premise amazing” formula the show created and runs with it at full, comedic speed. Premise? Spongebob and Patrick have to paint Mr. Krabs’s house without getting paint on the furniture — otherwise, Mr. Krabs will cut their butts off. It’s very simple (butt-cutting aside), probably more simple than the previous entries of this list, but the writers are so clever and creative that they knew how to make it the wildest ride.
So, of course SB and Pat screw up, and get paint on Mr. Krabs’s first earned dollar. They then spend most of their time in this episode trying to figure out how to remove the paint, which introduced me to one of my favorite jokes in the entire series:
Cracks me up every single time. The humor of this show is top notch, and I love it so much.
The ending of this episode is the best, too. SB and Pat went through all of that stress (and hilarity) only to find out that Mr. Krabs was trolling them the whole time. It never stops being hilarious. This episode has joke after joke after joke, and all of them are funny. It doesn’t get any better than that.
6. “The Camping Episode”
You were already expecting this one, I know. So let’s discuss the greatness.
Again, simple premise. SB and Pat go “camping,” (I put that in quotes because … is it camping if you’re only a few feet away from your house?) and annoy Squidward to no end. He then joins them, and, as always, hilarity ensues.
Just like “Wet Painters,” this episode prioritized its jokes over plot, and it works, in the same way that old Looney Tunes shorts work. The scenario makes sense, and each joke coincides with the established characters we’ve come to know and love. Also, like “Something Smells,” this episode has given us many memorable moments and gags, such as the things that will attract a sea bear — and the sea bear himself, who really had it out for poor Squidward — and of course, the amazing Campfire Song Song.
Yeah, SB fans knew this one would be on the list, somewhere. How could it not be? Every joke is funny, the dialogue is great, and the song is awesome. Of course it was going to be on this list. It deserves it.
Speaking of deserve, as I mentioned earlier, it was such a struggle to stick with only ten episodes in a show that has a plethora of amazing ones. So, to cheat at my own game, here’s some honorable mentions, before we get to the final entry of Part 1:
This episode is probably number 11 on this list. I love seeing the soft, vulnerable side of Plankton, learning that he’s lonely and wants friendship (though he might just want that Krabby Patty formula a little more). It’s also always nice to see Spongebob’s kindness — one of my favorite things about him — shine more than usual in this episode. Also, the song. It’s in your head right now, isn’t it?
“Survival of the Idiots”
I wanted to mention this one because its premise relies on something I really like about the show: the true (and sometimes exaggerated) biology behind their animal characters. While squirrels apparently don’t hibernate like Sandy does, they do prefer to stay inside during the winter, and do sleep a lot while they’re inside. “Survival of the Idiots,” is a comedic, exaggerated take on this, showing a huge, sleepy, grumpy version of Sandy, where her treedome is hilariously going through a winter stage, coming with blizzards and ice and all things snowy. Of course, SB and Pat trapped themselves inside the dome, and they do what they can to survive the winter. It’s unique, creative, and of course, funny. Not to mention that this episode introduced us to Dirty Dan and Pinhead Larry — they gotta get a little shoutout, if nothing else.
“Just One Bite”
I like Squidward-centric episodes, especially ones that prove he’s not as much of a grump as he would have us believe. Squidward eats a delicious Krabby Patty for the first time, and becomes obsessed … but not so obsessed that he wants Spongebob to know about it. It’s hilarious, but a great character moment for Squidward, just as “Dying for Pie,” was. And of course, the ending. We’ve all been there, Squidward.
This episode is surreal, in all the best ways. Spongebob and Patrick become introduced to another land critter by Sandy, a caterpillar that they become besties with. But when that caterpillar becomes a butterfly, they think a monster has taken his place, and spread panic throughout the town. This episode really has a lot of fun with the fact that all of these characters, save Sandy, are underwater creatures, and most of the things we humans see everyday — like a butterfly — would terrify and confuse them.
The live action close-up shots of the butterfly’s face wasn’t cool though, guys. After seeing that mug, I don’t blame SB and friends for being scared of it. But yes, excellent premise, creative and clever and just overall unique.
Speaking of unique and clever …
An artist’s pencil falls into the ocean, and gives Spongebob and Patrick the power to create life.
Well, isn’t that the most meta, yet un-meta premise?
I know I’ve said these adjectives a lot throughout this list, but … it’s just so creative — very out there, especially for a show that usually has “simple” premises, and that’s what makes it stand out all the more. I love the journey that Spongebob and Patrick go through to stop the Evil Spongebob they created, and I love Evil Spongebob.
The way to defeat the doodles that were created was also cool, and further tied together the sheer imagination that went into making this episode.
Not to mention the jokes. The way Evil Spongebob speaks, the gags they created using the magic pencil, and of course, “FINLAND!” It’s all so memorable. You can feel the passion the writers and artists have for this episode and the show in general in every scene. It’s so wonderful.
I think that “Frankendoodle,” is a prime example of what makes Spongebob so amazing. The jokes, the creativity, the good writing — it’s all in this episode.
And that concludes this list … for now. Stay tuned for Part 2, where the Top 5 Spongebob Squarepants Episodes and more honorable mentions will be listed!