We might be living in the era of Peak TV (or you know, were living, before the strike), but there’s no denying that multi-camera sitcoms peaked from July 5, 1989 to May 14, 1998. A cultural phenomenon during its original run that became one of the most quoted shows of the past quarter century, “Seinfeld” is a work of art that remains in a class of its own.
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David’s iconic sitcom has been immortalized by its own self-deprecating moniker as a “show about nothing,” but each passing year reveals that the show was ahead of its time as a work of modern philosophy. The series, which followed four self-absorbed New Yorkers floating through an existence of petty grievances and failed romances, cut to the core of our culture of narcissism and the ways that slight inconveniences can feel like insurmountable obstacles. Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and George won our hearts by treating the nuances of toilet paper, shrinkage, and close-talkers with the Shakespearean heft that they often take on in our own minds as we’re trying to get through the day. There’s a reason that we still quote the show more than the thousands of other sitcoms that have premiered since it went off the air.
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Establishing a definitive ranking of “Seinfeld” episodes is a Sisyphean task for even the show’s most ardent devotees. There are simply so many classics that any list that doesn’t feature all 172 episodes will inevitably be laden with inexcusable snubs. But a blatant lack of qualifications and an astronomically low probability of success never stopped George Costanza from attempting a task — so in his spirit, we had no choice but to give it our best shot.
Because humor is subjective, these episodes were ranked with a methodology that prioritized narrative depth. Seinfeld and David were masters of weaving multiple storylines together to form an unexpectedly rich comedic tapestry, and some of the show’s funniest scenes were in service of relatively minor plots. Many of our favorite episodes didn’t necessarily produce the iconic moments that have permeated pop culture, but they cram truly astounding levels of humor into 22 minutes. Keep reading for our updated list of the 50 best episodes of “Seinfeld.”
[Editor’s note: The following was originally published on August 9, 2022 and has been updated multiple times since.]
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