Seinfeld, originally titled The Seinfeld Chronicles, is an American television series with 180 episodes that originally ran from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998. Decades later, this “show about nothing” is one of the most heavily syndicated programs of all time and is a testament to the enduring nature of well-written comedy. The best Seinfeld episodes somehow managed to capture the all-too-relatable lives and decisions of four New Yorkers living at the end of the pre-digital era.
According to a recent study, revisiting old TV favorites was a pastime in itself during the pandemic. It appears most Americans can’t help but turn back time and watch the classics. A recent survey of 2,000 adults finds seven in 10 are feeling more nostalgic than ever before. On average, Americans have re-watched a staggering 30 TV episodes and 14 movies during the pandemic. So, which timeless shows and movies are people catching up on again? The top TV series Americans are replaying over and over is “Seinfeld” (18%).
Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George (the four principal characters) are inherently selfish people. Although they often fall short of outright malice, the basis of the humor is that people can often be motivated by self-interest rather than altruism. Despite these flaws, this troupe of four 30 to 40-somethings starred in nine seasons of some of the best comedy ever broadcast. Though the gang can hardly be categorized as villains, they are certainly antagonists at times.
When considering Seinfeld as a series, there are more good episodes than lousy ones and a fair number of them reach true comedy gold. That’s why we sought out what are known as the best Seinfeld episodes of all time. Let us know what your favorite episodes are in the comments below!
The List: Best Seinfeld Episodes According to Die-Hard Fans
1. “The Contest” Season 4, Episode 10
Seinfeld is a program with humor focused on the mundane aspects of life that can sometimes get out of hand. “After George’s mother catches him masturbating, the embarrassed curmudgeon pledges to never self-pleasure again. Soon, the disbelieving Elaine, George, and Kramer join their friend in a winner-take-all chastity bet for $450,” says Indiewire.
I was 14 when Seinfeld’s “The Contest” brought masturbation comedy to the mainstream. We’re lucky to be creating during a streaming era when you can get away with almost anything, and few things are more fun than nodding to the great shows that came before us. #NoNutNovember pic.twitter.com/WYmuyHXC4c
— nick kroll (@nickkroll) November 9, 2021
The all-too-normal reactions of the characters can be instantly relatable for many viewers. This is certainly the case with this top ranked episode, “The Contest” (Season 4). “Even today it’s easy to marvel at how much comedy is packed into these 22 minutes without feeling like overkill: George’s odd choices for masturbation material [‘Glamour?!’], Estelle Costanza yelling at him in the hospital room, the sponge bath, ‘I’m out!’ Elaine’s JFK Jr. obsession, and the episode ending with the gang ostensibly watching Kramer have sex with the naked woman in the apartment across the street. At this point in the show’s run, Seinfeld had already incorporated several clever masturbation jokes into episodes. But here, the show’s architects created an entire episode about it without once saying the word, instead creating their own language that doesn’t resort to cheap euphemisms. (The closest they come is Estelle’s ‘I find my son treating his body like it was an amusement park‘ remark, which still kills.) Peerless TV, no question,” writes Vulture.
In a series with so many great episodes, it must be noted that “The Contest” was ranked in the number one spot with several of our sources, “Undisputed in fans’ and critics’ rankings of the best Seinfeld episodes, ‘The Contest’ is masterfully written, hilariously acted, and an all-round perfect installment of this show. After George’s mother catches him in an unfortunate situation, the group enters a contest to see which of them can go the longest without touching themselves. The real genius of the episode is the fact that it’s about masturbation but evades network censors by never actually using the word itself. Plus, the episode gives all four main cast members plenty of meaty scenes to chew on,” adds Screenrant.
2. “The Soup Nazi” Season 7, Episode 6
The thing about Seinfeld is that episodes and even quotable lines can come to mind just from the title of the episode, and “The Soup Nazi” is an example of this. “Girlfriend or soup? Put in Jerry’s position in ‘The Soup Nazi,’ most rational individuals would probably choose the intimate relationship over the broth-centric meal… but I suppose none of us really know how good Yev Kassem’s soups really are. Every aspect of the show works, from the fascistic restaurateur, to George’s misguided attack against P.D.A., to Kramer’s battle with antique-loving street toughs, to Elaine’s big revenge. It sums up the magic that is Seinfeld, made ‘No soup for you!’ an immortal catch-phrase, and is the best episode of the NBC sitcom,” says Cinemablend.
No soup for you! #Seinfeld S07E06 – The Soup Nazi https://t.co/ROQ7RzomyO pic.twitter.com/w2r4PfXF0S
— Seinfeldism (@Seinfeldism1) March 10, 2023
Complete with its own memorable catch phrase, this episode earned the number two spot on our list. “Perhaps no other ‘Seinfeld’ guest actor made more of an impact than Larry Thomas as the titular ‘Soup Nazi,’ a soup stand owner so strict about the procedure for ordering that those who violate it are turned away immediately…The episode also famously introduced the couple of Cedric (John Paragon) and Bob (Yul Vasquez), a gay couple who threaten and intimidate Kramer into giving up the armoire he was guarding for Elaine,” states Variety.
“The Soup Nazi” is an episode that was inspired in-part by an actual NYC soup vendor. “Inspired by a real-life—and now bankrupted—operation, ‘The Soup Nazi’ centers on a chef with a very strict ordering-out policy. When a customer fails to abide by the policy, the man retracts the order, famously shouting, ‘No soup for you!’ The episode is so enduring and iconic that actor Larry Thomas, who played the Soup Nazi, claimed he’s recognized more for the role nowadays than when the episode first aired,” mentions Stacker.
3. “The Comeback” Season 8, Episode 13
As mentioned above, the gang of protagonists are selfish people. However, it is when they behave petty that the audience is treated to some truly memorable comedy moments. “No one takes pettiness further than George Costanza and this episode proves it. George becomes so obsessed with responding to an insult from a coworker that he flies to Ohio when the coworker changes jobs and moves. Granted George’s comeback about ‘the jerk store’ falls flat, but the beauty is in the attempt, right? Meanwhile, Jerry buys a tennis racket from a salesman who turns out to be terrible at tennis, with the salesman then offering Jerry his wife to buy his silence. Elaine becomes involved (sort of) with a sensitive and mysterious video store clerk, and Kramer attempts to set up a living will just in case he goes into a coma,” writes Variety.
Let’s see how many I can fit in my mouth. #Seinfeld S08E13 – The Comeback https://t.co/TmzIWAcksD pic.twitter.com/4RTmVVc1vA
— Seinfeldism (@Seinfeldism1) April 11, 2023
“The Comeback” is another episode with a great one-liner that resonates with audiences. “One fan stated, “The Comeback is way up there. The subplots are hilarious in their own right, but it is truly apex George and that constitutes the best of the show.’ Another said, ‘THE LINE IS JERK STORE!’ speech might be Jason Alexander’s best after ‘The Marine Biologist,’” says Wealth of Geeks.
Adding to this, “The Plot: Here’s one everyone can relate to. In a work meeting, George is hogging on a free shrimp platter. One of his coworkers razzes him: ‘Hey, George, the ocean called. They’re running out of shrimp.’ At a loss for words, the humiliated George comes up with the perfect comeback hours later in his car on the way home. Determined to use what he believes to be the perfect put-down, George becomes obsessed with creating a scenario in which he can unleash this bon mot: ‘Oh yeah, Reilly? Well, the jerk store called and they’re running out of you.’ Best Moment: George blowing his top as Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer offer comebacks that they think are better than the jerk store one,” says AARP.
4. “The Opposite” Season 5, episode 22
Reinforcing the idea that being self-centered might not be the best path in life, “The Opposite” features comedy directly based on George’s new idea to behave in a manner that is contrary to his instincts. “Things finally start going George’s way in this episode, in which he does the opposite of everything he would normally do. Not only does such a maneuver land him a hot date, it eventually scores him a job with the New York Yankees. Making his grand debut as the voice of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is none other than series co-creator Larry David,” adds Stacker.
“The Opposite” tonight on #Seinfeld! pic.twitter.com/XyUjsNLS5v
— Seinfeld (@SeinfeldTV) April 15, 2018
The gang on Seinfeld is seldom self-reflective, and so when this episode delves into the topic, the audience can potentially appreciate the absurdity of the situation. “In the season 5 finale ‘The Opposite,’ George discerns that his natural instinct has constantly let him down; consequently, he decides to do the opposite of what he would usually do. Within days, George has a new girlfriend, a dream job with the Yankees, and is moving out of his parents’ house. As George’s life improves, Elaine’s life falls apart as she ‘becomes’ George. This ties in nicely with Jerry’s realization that things always work out for him – whenever a door is closed in Jerry’s life, a window is opened,” says Game Rant.
Another great aspect of this episode is that it has lasting consequences for the remainder of the series rather than hitting the “magic reset button” to change everything back to the status quo. “Many of the greatest Seinfeld episodes centre on George unexpectedly rising up the power rankings (see also: The Pez Dispenser). Here, he lands on an amazing life hack: he simply acts against all his better instincts. The results – success with women and a dream job with the New York Yankees – leaves The Opposite bordering on feelgood entertainment, albeit in a warped, Seinfeldian kind of way,” adds The Guardian.
5. “The Marine Biologist” Season 5, episode 14
“The Marine Biologist” is an episode that about how a lie can take on a life of its own. George Costanza is a deeply flawed character that constantly falls short of fulfillment and success. “While Kramer is busy hitting a bucket of golf balls into the ocean, Jerry bumps into an old female high school classmate, who asks whatever happened to poor old pitiful George? Jerry lies and says that George is, in fact, a successful marine biologist. George plays along with the ruse in order to woo her. As they walk along the beach on their first date, a whale in distress requires the attention of … you guessed it, a marine biologist. George is reluctantly forced into duty. The retelling of the event later at Monk’s coffee shop is, hands down, one of the best moments in the show’s run. Best Moment: George retelling his whale yarn for Jerry, Kramer and Elaine: ‘The sea was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man sending soup back in a deli …’” writes AARP.
“The Marine Biologist” is on #Seinfeld tonight! pic.twitter.com/DETFGi0X11
— Seinfeld (@SeinfeldTV) April 18, 2016
George’s penchant for lying, cowardice, and greed are all driving factors that somehow make him relatable and funny even in the most lurid situations. “George is perfectly comfortable when he’s living one of his own lies, like his architect persona Art Vandelay. However, Jerry throws him a curve ball in ‘The Marine Biologist’ when he tells George’s old crush that he’s since become a marine biologist. This episode has one of Seinfeld’s greatest endings, dovetailing Kramer’s beach golf with George’s marine biology gambit. After telling the story of how he heroically saved a beached whale, George reveals the obstruction: a golf ball,” notes Game Rant.
George has a deep-seated desire to be respected and even more than that to be viewed as respectable. “Unusually, this episode is set in motion by Jerry’s lies – a stupid Tolstoy-based one to Elaine, and a well-intentioned one about George being a marine biologist to the latter’s college crush. The resulting action involves golf balls, a beached whale and an electronic organiser, but it’s the way the storylines are eventually woven together that makes this a feat of sitcom plot engineering,” raves The Guardian.
You might also be interested in:
- Wealth of Geeks
- Screen Rant
- Cinema Blend
- Indie Wire
- Game Rant
- The Guardian
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.