It’s possible that you’ve already circled the date on your calendar. If not, you’ll want to. Because on Oct. 1, one of the greatest and most bingeable sitcoms in television history, Seinfeld, arrives on Netflix. Which means that you will be able to stream any and all of the show’s 180 episodes (originally aired between 1989 and 1998 on NBC) whenever the mood strikes.
What better time to dig deep — past the Soup Nazi and Masters of Their Domain — to name the cream of that crop, those top 20 episodes that combine the petty (and hilarious) trials and tribulations of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer. But we weren’t done — we also ranked them. Which means that at the bottom of this story lies our choice for the best Seinfeld episode of all time. So fire up your Netflix, check out our Top 20, and let us know in the comments if our ranking matches yours.
20: “The Conversion” (Season 5)
The Plot: After four seasons of disastrous dating, the unlucky-in-love George (Jason Alexander) is convinced that he’s finally met The One. But, it turns out, her parents will only allow her to settle down with someone of the same faith: Latvian Orthodox. So George, in one of his grand (and misguided) gestures, decides to switch faiths, even if he has to cheat on his conversion exam. Meanwhile, a Latvian Orthodox nun has doubts about her vow of chastity after meeting Kramer (Michael Richards), who possesses "the Kavorka" — a.k.a., “lure of the animal.” And in the episode’s solid B-plot, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) finds a tube of fungicide in the medicine cabinet of a girl he’s starting to date — a definite deal breaker for the Upper West Side’s biggest germaphobe.
Best Moment: Kramer fending off the nun’s advances while wearing a string of garlic cloves around his neck.
19: “The Implant” (Season 4)
The Plot: The ever-picky Jerry begins dating a beautiful woman (Teri Hatcher), but suddenly gets turned off when Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) suggests that her breasts are too perfect and therefore must be implants. Or as Elaine puts it, “She’s playing with Confederate money.” Jerry enlists her to find out the truth, which leads to a clumsy fall-and-grab in a health club sauna. Meanwhile, the cheapskate George schemes to get a “bereavement fare” to attend the funeral of a relative of the woman he’s dating. In the end, Elaine’s intel turns out to be faulty, and after Jerry explains the whole scheme to his perky pal, she storms out, informing him, “They’re real, and they’re spectacular.”
Best Moment: George getting into a fight at the funeral reception over the etiquette of double-dipping a chip.
18: “The Little Jerry” (Season 8)
The Plot: We can all agree that cockfighting is wrong. However, the taboo sport led to one of the most surreal, screwball-paced episodes in the show’s nine-season run. Jerry bounces a check at the local market, and the shopkeeper will only take the bounced check down from the wall of shame if Kramer allows his rooster, “Little Jerry,” to battle in the ring. Meanwhile, George thinks he’s found a dating loophole by going out with a woman in a white-collar prison, thus preventing the “drop-in” and being smothered. Classic Costanza.
Best Moment: Who knew Jerry apparently favors personal checks with paintings of clowns on them?
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17: “The Merv Griffin Show” (Season 9)
The Plot: During seasons 8 and 9, Seinfeld began to take stranger and stranger detours into the absurd. The show was no longer quite so rooted in reality, like in this episode, where a dumpster-diving Kramer finds the old discarded set (chairs, table, signage) of Merv Griffin’s TV talk show. He hauls it home and turns his apartment into a replica of the show. Visitors are now treated like talk-show guests, and Kramer's the stiff, stilted host with note cards in hand and Newman (Wayne Knight) as his sidekick. Meanwhile, Jerry dates a woman with a collection of old-school toys she won’t let Jerry play with, so he feeds her turkey as a tryptophan mickey and finally gets his hands on her G.I. Joe.
Best Moment: Old Costanza home movies reveal that George wore a diaper until he was eight.
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16: “The Sponge” (Season 7)
The Plot: This Elaine-centric episode shines a spotlight on her comical promiscuity and a pickiness that rivals her ex, Jerry. When Elaine finds out that her birth-control method of choice, the sponge, is being discontinued, she goes into survivalist mode and stocks up. But the supply is finite. And is the guy she’s currently dating truly “spongeworthy”? These are the little phrases and dilemmas that make Seinfeld so great. Meanwhile, it’s confirmed that Jerry is, in fact, the shallowest person on Earth when it’s revealed that he changes the waist measurement on the back of his jeans from a 32 to a 31.
Best Moment: Elaine quizzing her boyfriend about his personal grooming habits and career prospects before determining whether he’s worth using a sponge on.
15: “The Little Kicks” (Season 8)
The Plot: Another gem of an Elaine episode, in which she stuns the J. Peterman holiday party by … dancing. Her cluelessly herky-jerky moves, with her ankles twisted in and her thumbs arthritically pointed out, are one of the series’ all-time sight gags. You’ll never listen to Earth, Wind and Fire with a straight face again. Meanwhile, George poses as a “bad boy” to get one of Elaine’s coworkers to fall for him. Needless to say, he can’t quite pull it off.
Best Moment: George comparing Elaine’s dance moves to “a full-body dry heave set to music.”
14: “The Abstinence” (Season 8)
The Plot: George is forced into involuntary celibacy when his girlfriend informs him that she has mono. Now, free of the obsession with how to get sex, George is finally able to use his brain for other things. He becomes a genius, learning Portuguese in a day, rattling off correct answers to Jeopardy, devouring Old Testament-sized textbooks. But will George continue to abstain and use his intelligence for the good of mankind or choose to have sex and go back to being hapless George Costanza? Take a wild guess.
Best Moment: Jerry explaining his theory of the makeup of George’s sex-obsessed brain using a head of lettuce.
13: “The Fusilli Jerry” (Season 6)
The Plot: Kramer’s latest hobby involves making miniature statues of his pals using a pasta that best captures their personality. Jerry gets fusilli because he’s silly. Get it? Unfortunately, George’s dyspeptic dad (Jerry Stiller) accidentally falls on the corkscrew pasta action figure while arguing with Kramer, who he believes hit on George’s mom. In a million-to-one shot, the fusilli gets lodged in such a way that Frank is brought to a proctologist whose personalized license plate (which reads “assman”) Kramer has mistakenly received from the DMV.
Best Moment: Jerry Stiller’s hilarious description of his signature “stopping short” seduction move, which involves slamming on the car brakes and then reaching over to brush against the passenger’s breasts while protecting them.
12: “The Comeback” (Season 8)
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.
11. “The Face Painter” (Season 6)
The Plot: We’ve got to have a Puddy episode on this list, and for my money, this is the best of the bunch. Elaine’s dim-bulb, himbo boyfriend (Patrick Warburton) reveals himself to be a New Jersey Devils superfan and a face painter when Jerry scores four tickets to a New York Rangers hockey playoff game. Elaine is humiliated that she’s dating the kind of knucklehead who would smear his face with red and black paint to root for his favorite team, while Warburton gives a masterclass in deadpan idiocy.
Best Moment: George reveals that he has said “I love you” only one time in his life. And it was to a dog, who then licked himself and left the room.
10. “The Soup Nazi” (Season 7)
The Plot: This may be the most famous Seinfeld episode — and the most quoted (“No soup for you!”). Kramer becomes obsessed with a local soup vendor who makes waiting customers queue up in militaristic precision. The rules are strict, and George and Elaine run afoul of the chef’s short fuse by refusing to follow them to the letter. Based on a real-life soup kiosk in Midtown Manhattan at the time, “The Soup Nazi” was both an instant watercooler sensation and proof that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Best Moment: Kramer talking to the Soup Nazi and explaining that he (and only he) understands how the man suffers for his art.
9. “The Library” (Season 3)
The Plot: An early gem of an episode, mostly thanks to guest star Philip Baker Hall as Mr. Bookman, the Sgt. Friday–like New York Public Library investigator who comes after Jerry for failing to return a copy of a racy Henry Miller book he borrowed decades earlier. Hall’s just-the-facts hard-boiled gumshoe patter is deadpan perfection, and you can see Seinfeld almost break into laughter every time Hall opens his mouth. Meanwhile, the flashbacks to Jerry and George in middle school are priceless.
Best Moment: George getting an atomic wedgie from a bunch of jock classmates directed by a sadistic P.E. teacher with little “baked-bean teeth.”
8: “The Summer of George” (Season 8)
The Plot: When George is finally fired from his job working for the New York Yankees, he’s surprised to learn that he’s been given severance. With the unexpected cash and no ambition, Costanza proclaims that it will be “the summer of George.” What to do? What else: eat a block of cheese while draping himself in a velour track suit and lounging in a La-Z-Boy with a built-in fridge. Truly one one of the great Costanza episodes.
Best Moment: The sight of George, a grown man, being chased by a bee in terror.
7: “The Invitations” (Season 9)
The Plot: Maybe the darkest — and funniest — Seinfeld episode ever. After spending months trying to find a way to break off his engagement to Susan, it looks like George will finally have to go through with the deed. But he’s unwittingly saved by his cheapness. After skinflint George picks out the least expensive wedding invitations he can find, it turns out that the glue on the envelopes is toxic, killing his fiancé mid-lick. His (and the gang’s) lack of sympathy for her fluke death is cruelly perfect.
Best Moment: George’s pricelessly blasé reaction to the doctor as he delivers the “bad” news.
6: “The Opposite” (Season 5)
The Plot: George’s constant failure with the opposite sex, his inability to stay employed, and his futile efforts to emerge from the caustic quicksand of living under his parents’ roof is turned on its head in this brilliant episode in which he finally realizes that every life decision he’s ever made has been wrong — so why not try the opposite. Miraculously, it works! Meanwhile, Kramer goes on Regis and Kathie Lee’s morning show to hype his new coffee-table book about coffee tables, with disastrous results.
Best Moment: As George’s fate swings up, Elaine’s swings down as a counterbalance. The look on her face when she comes to the realization that “I’ve become George!” is priceless.
5: “The Hamptons” (Season 5)
The Plot: This one fires on all cylinders. The gang heads out to the Hamptons to visit friends who’ve just had a (very ugly) baby. Kramer illegally poaches a fisherman’s lobster trap, Elaine gets swoony for a doctor who describes both her and the ugly baby with the same word (breathtaking), and George (straight out of the pool) gets caught with his pants down by Jerry’s girlfriend, who laughs at his “shrinkage” and shares that intel with the woman George is trying to date, who everyone has seen sunbathing topless except George. Wall-to-wall perfection.
Best Moment: Jerry and George explaining the concept of “shrinkage” to Elaine. She replies: “It shrinks? ... I don’t know how you walk around with those things.”
4: “The Chinese Restaurant” (Season 2)
The Plot: It may not have the most — or the biggest — laughs, but this Season 2 standout was the first to really prove that Seinfeld and Co.’s so-called “show about nothing” was more than just an ordinary setup/punchline gag machine. It’s the most groundbreaking and formally daring episode in the early part of the show’s run. Set in one location, a Chinese restaurant, while the gang waits for a table, this is like Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat but, you know, funny. “The Chinese Restaurant” toyed with the idea of what a situation could be in a situation comedy.
Best Moment: On a dare, Elaine attempts to eat off of another group of diners’ plates.
3: “The Bizarro Jerry” (Season 8)
The Plot: Elaine is just about at her wits’ end with her group of friends. And then she meets another trio of male pals who are the exact opposite of Jerry, George and Kramer. They’re kind, they go to the library, they eat at a diner but a different one. It’s like Superman’s alternate-universe bizarro world. Meanwhile, George manages to gain entry into the rarified world of supermodels when a photo of a knockout he claims is his dead fiancée gets him past the velvet rope. But really, this terrific episode is all about Elaine finally looking at her life (and friends) and realizing how ridiculous it is. It would be sad if it wasn’t so funny.
Best Moment: George, preparing for a big night out at a secret club, blow-drying his hair next to a poster of his style icon, Dennis Franz.
2: “The Marine Biologist” (Season 5)
The Plot: The most successfully Rube Goldbergian episode of Seinfeld ever. 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 …”
1: “The Contest” (Season 4)
The Plot: It simply doesn’t get any better than this. After George gets caught by his mother while pleasuring himself to a copy of Glamour magazine, the gang decides to make a wager about who can hold out from doing the deed the longest. Temptation arrives on every front. Jerry is dating a virgin who's breaking down his resistance; Kramer spots a neighbor through whose window he can see her constantly walking around in the buff; Elaine takes an aerobics class and flirts with JFK Jr.; and George visits his mother in the hospital while the knockout she shares a room with gets a sponge bath behind a translucent curtain. Something’s gotta give. Who can remain the Master of Their Domain the longest?
Best Moment: Kramer, the first to be knocked out, bursting into Jerry’s apartment and slapping his hundred bucks down on the counter about 30 seconds after leaving.
Chris Nashawaty, former film critic for Entertainment Weekly, is the author of Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story and a contributor to Esquire, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.