It’s the 25th anniversary of “Seinfeld” – my favorite television show of all time – so in honor of thousands of laughs over the years, and countless repeat viewings, I decided to rank the 15 greatest episodes of this timeless sitcom.
There is literally no bad episode of this fantastic show. While some may be stronger than others, the petty misadventures of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer and endlessly watchable.
One of the best things about “Seinfeld” and the reason why making a list is so difficult? Each episode is made of multiple storylines, each involving a member of the main cast. These separate stories frequently stand on their own, becoming, in essence, their own classic episodes and often difficult to recall in the context of the episode as a whole. In evaluating this 9-season, 180-episode series, I had to exclude some awesome storylines, like Elaine’s dancing in “The Little Kicks” and Kramer’s ode to “feeling good all the time” in “The Sniffing Accountant,” for stronger overall episodes.
These 15 are the strongest overall episodes, packing in the most laughs and being incredibly strong across the entire board. If you’ve never watched “Seinfeld” before, these are 15 episodes to hook you in permanently. Also, shame on you.
15. The Checks (Season 8, Episode 7)
The Story: Elaine dates a guy obsessed with The Eagles’ song, “Deperado.” Jerry keeps receiving hundreds of twelve-cent royalty checks in the mail due to a brief appearance on a Japanese television show, causing him more trouble than he’s worth. Out of jealousy, George tries to be converted by a religious cult operating as carpet cleaners, only for his supervisor to be brainwashed. Kramer turns his chest of drawers into a capsule hotel for some visiting Japanese television businessmen, who may be interested in turning George and Jerry’s TV pilot into a series.
What Makes it Great: This is such a strange combination of stories, but really, it’s all about things going terribly wrong for Jerry. The typically level-headed star is overwhelmed by continuous bad twists of fate. Standing out in the rain and having dozens of pointless checks wet and ruined while he’s denied a ride (“I’ve got Karl Farbman here!”) is a particular low point for Jerry. Plus, Kramer’s capsule hotel idea is particularly strange, even for the wacky character.
Best Moment: Kramer’s Japanese guests become stuck in the wardrobe due to the heat from his sauna, resulting in a manic Jerry trying to break them out with an axe and accidentally smacking Elaine’s boyfriend in the head with the tool.
Best Quote: “This has international incident written all over it.” – Jerry, commenting about Kramer’s makeshift capsule hotel.
14. The Serenity Now (Season 9, Episode 3)
The Story: Frank uses the mantra “serenity now” to maintain his blood pressure while he employs George and Lloyd Braun to sell computers out of his garage. Elaine fights against her “shiks-appeal,” which makes her irresistible to Jewish men. Kramer installs a screen door and creates a porch inside his apartment hall to simulate “Anytown, USA,” but deals with teenage hooligans. Jerry learns how to get mad, which releases his feelings and leads to him proposing to Elaine.
What Makes It Great: The “serenity now” catchphrase may feel ridiculous and lame in other series, but the way that it drives both Frank and Kramer to the brink of insanity makes it a wonderful addition to the Seinfeld lexicon. Any time that Frank or Kramer act even more extreme is a great moment in the series. Plus, George’s continued selfish rivalry with Lloyd Braun gets a great addition here.
Best Moment: Distraught over his vandalized porch, Kramer repeats “serenity now.” Walking off camera, Kramer shrieks the mantra to the sounds of him smashing everything in reach.
Best Quote: “George, letting my emotions out was the best thing I’ve ever done. Sure, I’m not funny anymore, but there’s more to life than making shallow, fairly obvious observations.” – Jerry
13. The Fatigues (Season 8, Episode 6)
The Story: Jerry begins dating a girl with a mentor, finding the idea attractive, only to find out that the mentor is fellow comedian Kenny Bania. Elaine can’t bring herself to fire frightening J. Peterman employee Eddie Sherman, so she keeps promoting him instead. Kramer runs a Jewish singles night at the Knights of Columbus and hires Frank Costanza to cook for him, but must help him overcome his PTSD, stemming from the time he gave an Army platoon violent food poisoning. Jerry decides to mentor Bania, leading to George making a fool out of himself during a presentation on risk management.
What Makes It Great: While Elaine’s run-ins with the strangely scary Eddie are consistently funny touch points for the story, the many different takes on classic Vietnam war stories makes this a hysterical parody throughout. Plus, there are some fantastic Frank Costanza moments, which make every episode better.
Best Moment: Frank recalls the time he poisoned the Army platoon, complete with dramatic recollections and scored to “Adagio for Strings.”
Best Quote: “Why do they call it Ovaltine? The mig is round. The jar is round. They should call it Roundtine. That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!” – Kenny Bania, reading Jerry’s joke suggestion during a mentoring session.
12. The Pothole (Season 8, Episode 16)
The Story: Jerry accidentally knocks his girlfriend’s toothbrush in the toilet. Hiding it from her, Jerry becomes terrified to kiss her. George resorts to extreme measures to retrieve his Phil Rizzuto keychain from a paved-over pothole. Kramer adopts a stretch of the Arthur Burkhardt Expressway and becomes intent on cleaning it himself. When Jerry’s girlfriend discovers what happened to her toothbrush, she decides to take revenge.
What Makes It Great: Jerry fully embraces his germophobia here, which is one of the many examples of how the character went from being the typical straight man to a strange character on his own. Over all, it’s a rather cartoonish episode, filled with jackhammering, running across freeways, and a giant fire baking Newman and his fish. Over the top laughs all the way!
Best Moment: George jackhammers away at the street, only to hit a watermain and send the talking keychain head of Phil Rizzuto skyrocketing out. “Holy cow!”
Best Quote: “As of today I am a proud parent of a one-mile stretch of the Arthur Berkhardt Expressway.” – Kramer
11. The Opposite (Season 5, Episode 22)
The Story: George realizes that his every instinct is wrong, leading to him doing the opposite and finding success, including getting a girlfriend, getting a job with the New York Yankees, and moving out of his parent’s home. Elaine’s luck turns sour, leading to her boyfriend breaking up with her and her company going out of business, making her the new George. Kramer appears on “Live! With Regis & Kathy Lee,” only for it to turn into a disaster. Through it all, Jerry remains “Even Steven.”
What Makes It Great: This is one of George Costanza’s shining moments. Seeing the frequently put-upon character finally win in spite of himself provides a new kind of comedy that separates it from the typical jokes. Plus, Kramer does some awesome physical comedy during his appearance on the morning show, bringing the strange story of the coffee table book to a close.
Best Moment: George runs into Yankees owner George Steinbrener during his job interview. Deciding to continue doing the opposite of his instincts, he berates the man over his terrible choices with the team. He’s immediately hired.
Best Quote: George: “A job with the New York Yankees! This has been the dream of my life ever since I was a child, and it’s all happening because I’m completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgement I’ve ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion, Elaine, Jerry. This is my religion.”
Jerry: “So I guess your messiah would be the Anti-Christ.”
10. The Marine Biologist (Season 5, Episode 14)
The Story: Jerry runs into an old college schoolmate and claims that George is now a marine biologist in order to set them up. George keeps up the ruse to date her and is forced into an epic confrontation with a beached whale. Kramer pursues his golfing frustrations being driving golfballs into the ocean. Elaine must deal with a difficult Russian writer who likes to throw her things out of windows in frustration.
What Makes It Great: This is one of the defining Seinfeld moments. The entire episode is, in essence, one huge setup for George’s story and reveal at the end. But there are tons of laughs along the way. But even if the rest of the episode was only so-so, “The Marine Biologist” would get on the list solely due to George’s whale tale.
Best Moment: George recounts his unseen confrontation with the beached whale to Kramer and Jerry, ending his tale with a reveal of what had plugged up the beast’s blowhole – one of Kramer’s Titleist golfballs.
Best Quote: “The sea was angry that day, my friends – like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.” – George, setting the scene for his retelling of saving the whale.
9. The Fire (Season 5, Episode 19)
The Story: Jerry is heckled by Elaine’s coworker, Toby, which ruins his performance in front of a writer from “Entertainment Weekly.” George goes to his girlfriend’s son’s birthday party, only to knock children, woman, and the elderly out of his way when a fire breaks out. Kramer works on his coffee table book about coffee tables. When Jerry heckles Toby at work, she runs out crying, only to have an accident with a car that severs her pinky toe. Kramer comes to the rescue.
What Makes It Great: Kramer is in fine form here. Of course, the coffee table book about coffee tables is a classic, but it’s actor Michael Richard’s performance retelling his epic quest to save a pinky toe that stands out as a high point for the character in the entire series. Plus, seeing George at his most cowardly is both embarrassing and hilarious.
Best Moment: Kramer recounts the story of how he saved Toby’s pinky toe to Jerry and George. He finds the toe, rushing after Toby who has gone to the hospital. Along the way, he foils a robbery and drives an out-of-control bus, leading George to proclaim him as Batman. Kramer’s response? “Yeah, I am Batman!”
Best Quote: Frank Constanza: “Blow out the candles. Blow out the candles. I said blow out the damn candles.”
Estelle Constanza: “Stop it, Frank, you’re killing him!” – George remembering his 7th birthday.
8. The Rye (Season 7, Episode 11)
The Story: Elaine begins dating a saxophonist, who is perfect except for a few personal hangups concerning their intimate affairs. Kramer buys an impossibly large amount of food during a discount at the Price Club and becomes the substitute driver of a hansom cab. George, fiancé Susan, and their respective parents have dinner together, leading to the theft of a marble rye and a desperate attempt to replace the bread without Susan’s parents knowing.
What Makes It Great: The best Seinfeld episodes tie all their storylines together in unexpected ways. Here, George, Jerry, and Kramer collide for perfectly timed laughs in a situation that becomes weirder and weirder. Plus, Elaine’s struggles with the saxophonist and are great compliment, keeping an aspect of the episode separate yet still incredibly funny.
Best Moment: George and Jerry try to sneak to marble rye into the house, leading to George using a fishing pole, reeling up the bread just in time for Susan and her parents to catch him in the act
Frank Costanza: “Let me understand, you got the hen, the chicken and the rooster. The rooster goes with the chicken. So, who’s having sex with the hen?”
George Costanza: “Why don’t we talk about it another time.”
Frank Costanza: “”But you see my point here? You only hear of a hen, a rooster and a chicken. Something’s missing!”
Mrs. Ross: “Something’s missing all right.”
Mr. Ross: “They’re all chickens. The rooster has sex with all of them.”
Frank Costanza: “That’s perverse.”
7. The Merv Griffin Show (Season 9, Episode 6)
The Story: Kramer finds the set of the old Merv Griffin Show in a dumpter and decides to set it up in his living room, blurring the lines more and more between reality and his talk show delusions. George’s girlfriend is appalled when he accidentally kills a pigeon that wouldn’t move out of the way of his car. Elaine deals with a “sidler” at work who sneakily takes credit for her hard work. Jerry dates a woman because of his love for her toy collection. The many storylines collide on the refurbished set of the Merv Griffin Show.
What Makes It Great: What a strange setup for the show. But Kramer’s use of the Merv Griffin set helps add a new dimension to the friends’ stories as they play out on what becomes a strange take on late night television. George in particular suffers in wonderful ways, while Jerry steeps to new lows to play with a woman’s toys!
Best Moment: Through a series of unfortunate events, George arrives on the Merv Griffin set with an injured squirrel he’s been taking care of, only to be attacked by a hawk brought by special guest, animal expert Jim Fowler. The gang looks on in horror.
Best Quote: “And we’re back!” – Kramer, coming back from an imaginary commercial breaking while talking to his friends on set.
The Story: Kramer is mistakenly given new license plates reading “ASSMAN” and also begins making pasta versions of his friends. Elaine’s new boyfriend David Puddy steals some of Jerry’s moves in bed, leading to tension between the three of them. George’s mother Estelle, who recently had an eye job, believes Kramer is hitting on her, leading to Frank confronting Kramer and having an unfortunate run-in with some corkscrew pasta.
What Makes It Great: It’s an entire episode centered around butt jokes, but it doesn’t feel terribly immature. Rather, it’s a great story centered around misunderstandings. At the center is a tiny figurine of Jerry made out of fusilli (because he’s silly) and a setup at the very beginning that comes back around perfectly in the end. Pun intended.
Best Moment: Frank confronts Kramer, detailing his pickup move, “The Stop Short,” and attacking the man. He slips, falls on “The Fusilli Jerry,” and howls in pain.
Best Quote: “It was a million-to-one shot, Doc. Million to one.” – Frank Costanza
The Story: George must deal with living at home with his parents due to his job situation, but is discovered to be the perfect candidate for a career as hand model. Kramer begins dating a “low-talker” – a woman whose voice is barely audible, leading to Jerry unknowlingly agreeing to wear her “puffy shirt” during his appearance on The Today Show. It all ends in disaster, obviously.
What Makes It Great: The titular puffy shirt is one of the iconic images from all of Seinfeld. And with due cause! It’s so weird, even at first sight, and has remained classically hilarious more than 20 years later. Once again, every storyline gels together in the end in order to make things end as badly as possible for the gang. A broken relationship. A public humiliation. A pair of burned hands. All because of a low-talker.
Best Moment: George is forced to have dinner with his parents, Frank and Estelle, suffering through his father’s insane monologue about his silver dollar collection as a teenager. The first appearance of Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza!
Best Quote: “But I don’t wanna be a pirate!” – Jerry, whining after Kramer compliments him on the pirate-like qualities of the puffy shirt he’s wearing.
4. The Shower Head (Season 7, Episode 16)
The Story: Jerry is caught in the middle of family drama when Uncle Leo, his parents, and George’s parents all fight over potentially living in the Del Boca Vista retirement community in Florida. Elaine is accused of being an opium junky by her employer J. Peterman. Meanwhile, low-flow showerheads are installed in the apartment, leading to bad hair and Kramer resorting to black market showerheads.
What Makes It Great: Jerry and George’s parents are always great for laughs. Bouncing them off each other makes for even better comedy, especially with Uncle Leo thrown in for good measure. Having the saga of the low-flow shower heads affect everyone involved is a great wacky compliment for the more straight forward family clashes playing at the forefront.
Best Moment: The very end. After buying a showerhead meant to elephants, Kramer steps into his new and improved shower, turning on the water only to be met with a full-force blast. Struggling mightily against the stream, Kramer is eventually blown out of the shower.
Best Quote: “Jerry’s got nothing, Newman’s got nothing. You’re the only one I know who’s got the good stuff and I need it bad baby, cause I feel like I got bugs crawling up my skin!” – Kramer asking Elaine about her shower, only to confirm Peterman’s suspicion of her opium abuse.
3. The Bizarro Jerry (Season 8, Episode 3)
The Story: Elaine discovers that her ex-boyfriend and his group of friends are “bizarre” versions of the gang. Kramer starts working at Brand/Leland despite not actually being employed or getting paid. George uses a photo of Jerry’s attractive girlfriend to get into the “forbidden city” of attractive women, only to have his discovery jeopardize by Jerry breaking up with her because she has “man hands.”
What Makes It Great: Taking an element of Superman comics and adapting it to the world of Seinfeld only makes sense for a series by the world’s most famous Superman fan. On their own, “man-hands” and the forbidden city are hilarious solo stories that stand on their own as well. Kramer’s “Morning Train” montage working for nothing is iconic as well! Put them all together and you have an amazing episode on all fronts.
Best Moment: Jerry goes out on a date with Man-Hands, recoiling in terror at her breaking a lobster in two with her hands, touching his face, and having him blow an eyelash off her fingertip to make a wish.
Best Quote: “Didn’t come true.” – Jerry, opening his eyes and looking at his girlfriend’s man hands after making a wish.
2. The Strike (Season 9, Episode 10)
The Story: Kramer ends his 12-year-long strike against a local bagel shop, leading to his return to the working world. George decides to skirt around giving his fellow employees Christmas gifts by telling them a donation has been made in their name to The Human Fund – “Money for people” – only to be given a huge check for a donation. Jerry deals with his girlfriend being a two face, looking either beautiful or ugly depending on the environment. Elaine obsessively tries to get her free sub sandwich at a terrible deli. Meanwhile, the return of Festivus, Frank Costanza’s alternative holiday, ropes in Kramer and makes George’s life hell.
What Makes It Great: It’s a Festivus for the rest of us! If Frank Costanza wasn’t already the best secondary character on Seinfeld, Jerry Stiller solidifies the character’s greatness right here. The oddity and randomness somehow seem perfect for the raging Frank. If only we could get it recognized as an official holiday by our government.
Best Moment: Frank berates his Festivus guests during the traditional “Airing of Grievances.”
Frank Costanza: “Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.”
Cosmo Kramer: “What happened to the doll?”
Frank Costanza: “It was destroyed. But out of that a new holiday was born … a Festivus for the rest of us!”
Cosmo Kramer: “That must’ve been some kind of doll.”
Frank Costanza: “She was.”
1. The Jimmy (Season 6, Episode 19)
The Story: Jerry, George, and Kramer play basketball with Jimmy, a man who refers to himself in the third person and gets injured at the gym, blaming it on Kramer. George’s excessive sweating causes his fellow New York Yankee employees to suspect him of recent thefts at the office. Elaine mistakenly ends up on a date with Jimmy due to his unique speech pattern. Kramer is mistaken for a mentally handicapped man due to a series of coinciddences, leading to him becoming the guest of honor at a benefit for the Able Mentally Challenged Adults (AMCA) with Mel Torme. Jerry suspects his dentist Tim Whatley is a sexual deviant.
What Makes It Great: Seinfeld is at its best when dealing with taboo topics, walking a fine line between comedy and offensiveness. Having Kramer be mistaken for a mentally handicapped individual is the finest example of that, since the laughs come at his unknowing expense and no one else’s. Having Jimmy connect the four main characters is a natural and hysterical way to keep each character connected with each other, while still pursuing fantastic storylines on their own. Fittingly, the four main characters show little regard for each other’s wellbeing and difficult circumstances.
Best Moment: Kramer is sernaded by Mel Torme at the AMCA dinner. After being punched in the jaw by Jimmy, his slurred speech and strange mannerisms keep up the appearance that he is handicapped.
Best Quote: “George is getting upset!” – George Costanza, taking on Jimmy’s affectation for speaking in the third person.
Honorable Mentions: The Chinese Restaurant, The Chicken Roaster, The Sniffing Accountant, The Yada Yada, The Soup Nazi, The Pez Dispenser, The Frogger, The Burning, The Junior Mint, The Summer of George, The Comeback, The Little Kicks, The Slicer, The Susie, The Hot Tub, The Scofflaw, The Fire, The Foundation
Have a favorite that didn’t make the list or think something here should be ranked differently? Let me know in the comments section below!