We don’t know how we ended up with this much to say about the show about nothing, but here we are. It should go without saying, there are far more than 25 best episodes of Seinfeld, but this is a list of the essentials for any potential new viewers as the classic sitcom series finds its newest home on Netflix.
“The Chinese Restaurant” (2×11)
Despite Seinfeld being a “show about nothing,” something is usually going on in every episode, pointless as it may be. This episode, however, truly is about nothing. Bottle episodes appear in almost every sitcom today with great success, but not everyone knows that Seinfeld started this trend. The entire story happens in real time. It starts when Elaine, Jerry, and George show up at a Chinese Restaurant to grab a quick dinner before their movie. They are told the wait will be 5-10 minutes, but as it stretches longer and longer, the characters get more anxious and hangry.
What I enjoy most about this episode is the realism. Most recently, I watched it with my boyfriend and we were both extremely hungry, waiting for dinner to be ready, and we deeply related to their pain! We’ve all had the experience of waiting for a table when we’re hungry and in a time crunch, so it feels real to us. This is a sitcom, however, so their reactions continue to get more and more absurd. Hilarious and creative, this episode showed what Seinfeld—and sitcoms in general—could be.—Abby Petree
“The Parking Garage” (3×06)
Starting with a remarkably simple premise—misplacing a car in a multi-story car park—and building to unimaginable heights, “The Parking Garage” weaves complex results from this obvious premise. While being another hilarious installment of Seinfeld, “The Parking Garage” also manages to feature a profound meditation on death, a Scientology subplot, and end with zero consolation. This is an episode full of imagination and wit, a standard bottle episode turned on its end as irony upon irony piles up as the episode progresses.
The central quartet is stuck in a car park, each with a responsibility on their shoulders that requires them to leave as soon as possible. Jerry is carrying a full bladder, George is missing a dinner date with his parents, Kramer is saddled with a heavy AC unit, and Elaine desperately wants to save her new fish’s life. This premise allows the central ensemble to do what they each do best, showcasing the tight control each actor holds on their respective roles. Similar in premise to other episodes such as “The Subway” and “The Chinese Restaurant,” “The Parking Garage” manages to take the bottle episode to new heights.—Cameron Grace Wolff
“The PEZ Dispenser” (3×14)
Any Kramer-heavy episode is bound to be fantastic. This one features one of his creative attempts to make money—he invents a cologne called “The Beach.” His friends tell him it’s a bad idea, but he ignores them and goes straight to Calvin Klein, convinced of his own brilliance.
Kramer is also behind one of their friend Ritchie’s drug addictions. After he encourages Richie to pour Gatorade over a teammate as a joke, the teammate dies of pneumonia, and Ritchie feels responsible. Finally, Kramer tells George to break up with his girlfriend before she can do it first. When George attempts, she reveals that she never planned on breaking up with him in the first place. Moral of the story: don’t listen to Kramer. The other main gag of the show is a Pez dispenser. Only a show like Seinfeld could create major conflicts because one of their main characters was eating Pez.—Abby Petree
“The Bubble Boy” (4×06)
Just about every episode of this show makes a case for just how terrible the main cast of characters really is, and how disconnected they are as they spectate the world around them. “The Bubble Boy” opens with the ultimate cringe that would normally conclude an episode: Jerry playing a message from George on the answering machine of his apartment phone where they commiserate over his girlfriend’s Elmer Fudd laugh, only for Jerry to awkwardly dig his own grave.
Then Jerry nearly turns down a man from upstate New York asking him to visit his sickly Bubbly Boy son’s birthday, and even at a diner on the way, tries to avoid giving out autographs, or stealing back one he’s given. The fact that Elaine is the moral center of the episode, but still goads the worst aspects of her peers, is delightful. The episode escalates until George and Susan have a volatile game of Trivial Pursuit in one of the most iconic arguments on television—“Moors vs Moops”—resulting in the near-death of the bubble boy, the gang getting chased out of town, and Kramer arriving with Jerry’s now ex-girlfriend and accidentally burning the cabin down with Susan’s own gift of Cuban Cigars. What an absolute nightmare.—Evan Griffin
“The Opera” (4×08)
Joe Davola has a hair on his tongue and he can’t get it off. While Elaine spends the episode waxing philosophical about dating men more mature than Jerry’s taste, she encounters his truly crazy nature after he leaves an ominous voicemail threatening to “kibosh” Jerry as repayment for a ruined NBC deal.
While the gang prepares to go to the Opera, Jerry and George deliberate their discomfort in wearing tuxedos in public, and plans go absolutely off the rails as Kramer dresses down for the event, and convinces George to scalp Susan’s forfeited ticket. Jerry waits in line with Elaine proving his POV on opera is entirely built off of Buggs Bunny and Nick and Nite. The nucleus of the episode isn’t Jerry, however, but Elain’s weaponized cherry spray, as it signals to the gang when Crazy Joe has begun to stalk them when Elaine realizes she can smell it on a man conveniently dressed in a Pagliacci costume.—Evan Griffin
“The Contest” (4×10)
Like many great sitcom episodes and classic rom-coms, this one centers around a bet. Our four principal characters each bet that they can last the longest without masturbating. And of course, right after, life throws all kinds of complications their way to make it more difficult. Kramer, as expected, fails immediately because of a woman in the apartment across the street who walks around naked. We meet George’s mother for the first time when he visits her in the hospital and becomes aroused by a beautiful woman getting a sponge-bath beside him.
Jerry is dating a virgin, and Elaine spends the entire episode fawning over John F. Kennedy Jr., characteristically, after meeting him at her aerobics class. The writing for this episode is truly inspired—it won an Emmy Award for outstanding writing. Despite the entire episode revolving around masturbation, the word is not mentioned once, as it was too taboo at the time, making it even funnier. Finally, this is the episode that coined the popular phrase: master of my domain.—Abby Petree
“The Junior Mint” (4×19)
One of Seinfeld’s most underrated pairings is Jerry and Kramer, and the duo reaches an incredible and ludicrous high in “The Junior Mint.” Taking product placement to unexpected places, this Season 4 highlight sees Jerry and Kramer observing the surgery of Elaine’s ex-boyfriend Roy. During the surgery, the two accidentally drop a Junior Mint into Roy’s body. It’s a shocking premise that few other sitcoms would dare pursue, but Seinfeld dives wholeheartedly into this outrageous concept, leaving good taste at the door.
Roy’s health declines, with Jerry and Kramer believing the Junior Mint to be the cause. The two debate telling the doctors of the incident, but instead, attempt to capitalize on Roy’s worsening health. Kramer purchases Roy’s art with the intent of profiting from it should Roy pass away, a morbid concept for a show previously only dipping its toe into such dark waters. However, everything goes back to normal as Roy miraculously recovers. Alongside the titular storyline, Jerry finds himself unable to remember the name of a girl he is dating, only recalling that it rhymes with a part of the female anatomy (“Mulva” being the most amusing possibility). “The Junior Mint” may not be the most iconic Seinfeld episode, but it boasts Kramer and Jerry operating at their peak, all while exploring dark terrain the show would delve deeper into in the future.—Cameron Grace Wolff
“The Pilot” (4×22/23)
Capping off one of Seinfeld’s strongest seasons, Season 4’s two-part conclusion sees Larry David plunging the show into self-reflexive hijinks. Following a season’s worth of iconic episodes is no small feat, but David succeeds in dropping knowing in-jokes to Seinfeld itself while avoiding navel-gazing. The titular pilot functions as a stand-in for the series itself, the result of Jerry being offered the opportunity to pitch a show to NBC. Stymied by creative roadblocks, Jerry decides to collaborate with George on the potential project.
Following a night of restless brainstorming and facing a hard deadline, the two come up with ‘Jerry,’ self-described as “a show about nothing,” following their daily lives. Meta humor runs wild here, with “a show about nothing” becoming a phrase linked to Seinfeld itself. The high point of “The Pilot” is surely the audition process, seeing Kramer attempt to win a role in the show as himself. Other auditions include Jeremy Piven attempting to nab the role of George and, most memorably, Larry Hankin tackling the role of Kramer, a part the actor auditioned for in real life. A show is driven by smartly written comedy, “The Pilot” sees Seinfeld rise to a new level of sophistication as it skewers itself.—Cameron Grace Wolff
“The Puffy Shirt” (5×02)
Few episodes of television are as iconic as “The Puffy Shirt,” delivering quotable lines throughout its packed half-hour. The titular hallmark of this Season 5 highlight is Jerry’s unfortunate choice of attire, the now-famous puffy shirt. Preparing for his all-important upcoming appearance on The Today Show, Jerry haphazardly agrees to wear the disastrous shirt on-air.
Resembling a pirate’s shirt (“But I don’t want to be a pirate!,” Jerry exclaims), “The Puffy Shirt” is an outstanding bit of sitcom writing, a simple but hilarious premise that Larry David devised. While the puffy shirt is fairly remembered as the highlight of this episode, perhaps even more brilliant of a plot line is George’s ill-fated venture as a hand model. “No hugging, no learning,” is said to be a brutal rule in the Seinfeld writer’s room, and this tenet is on full display as George’s good fortune falls to pieces. He burns his hands on an iron, destroying his career as a hand model. “The Puffy Shirt” is an iconic television episode for good reason, delivering memorable quotes and comic brilliance at a blinding rate.—Cameron Grace Wolff
“The Conversion” (5×11)
When his new girlfriend (Jana Marie Hupp) breaks up with him over religious differences, George converts to Latvian Orthodox to be with her. What makes “The Conversion” particularly hilarious is that it doesn’t depict George as being particularly invested in his relationship. He’s certainly not interested in his new religion, asking if the church offers an “express conversion.”
Though George formally converts, he still doesn’t know anything about Latvian Orthodoxy by the end of the episode. It’s Seinfeld at its silliest and a delightful watch. (It’s worth a viewing for George’s nonchalant, mistake-ridden interview with Latvian Orthodox clergy alone.)—Claire Di Maio
“The Dinner Party” (5×13)
Seinfeld always tends to weave its A and B plots together so seamlessly, but in this episode, the gang is strung together from the beginning as they set out on the coldest night of the year to fetch wine and babka from what could only be a mockery of Zabar’s bakery before attending a dinner party together. Here, George gets enthusiastic about and properly mocked for wearing a giant gore-tex jacket making him look like a South Park character, and even behaving like one as he judges the dichotomy of why adults can’t just bring Ring Dings and Pepsi to a gathering.
The episode diverges Elaine and Jerry from George and Kramer, the former group getting far too philosophical about race relations determined by cookies, hair treatment, and vomit streaks, while the latter struggle to break change for a $100 bill without buying a Penthouse Forum from the newsstand and survive the cold after being double-parked over by possibly Sadam Hussain (??). By the time the episode concludes, the gang is fed up with their war against societal norms and jet after arriving to only deliver their obligatory party gifts and, honestly, same.—Evan Griffin
“The Marine Biologist” (5×14)
Jerry is, the majority of the time, a bold-faced liar. So, when he encounters a woman from his college days who asks about George, he comes to his friend’s evolutionary defense by insisting that he’s doing great as a professional marine biologist. George begins to date this woman, keeping up Jerry’s ruse. Meanwhile, Jerry continues his fallacies by convincing Elaine that Tolstoy’s original title for War & Peace was in fact “War, (huh) what is it good for?”
Absolutely nothing could prepare her for the truth as she tries to convince a prolific writer in a limo across from her boss. Shenanigans ensue, but all the while Kramer decides in his own little C plot where he practices his golf swing by whacking his set of Titlists into the ocean, resulting in a beached whale that George heroically storms into the choppy waters to rescue, only articulated later on in its entirety through a personalized Ahab monologue upon the episode’s conclusion. “The sea was angry that day my friends …”—Evan Griffin
“The Big Salad” (6×02)
Listen, buying things for your friends on the regular day-to-day just wasn’t the same in the ‘90s. We didn’t have Venmo. That said, treating people to lunch has always been normal etiquette for grown adults, but you always have to expect the cast of Seinfeld to challenge the norms of the society we live in, especially the awkward unspoken social rules.
In this instance, Elaine struggles to keep the clerk at a pencil store from stalking her, and on the street, she and Jerry encounter George with his girlfriend, Julie. Not only does Elaine absentmindedly decline their invitation to lunch for no apparent reason, but she also requests a very big salad. George, one to treat any minor inconvenience as a mountain, orders it for her, but Julie takes the credit for passing it along. Is this normal? No. Is it worth getting upset about? Also no, but you can be sure as shit George spends 20 minutes of this episode whining about it.—Evan Griffin
“The Maestro” (7×03)
This episode’s namesake, in which Elaine begins dating a musical composer who prefers the sexual allure of being only referred to as Maestro, also contains two incredible minor arcs. The first is one of Kramer’s most famous extended season arcs in which he takes out a lawsuit against a coffee company for previously burning himself, resulting in the introduction of comedian Phil Morris as the fast-talking lawyer Jackie Childs.
Thirdly, George muses the unfair nature of security guards in department stores being forced to stand, trying to strike up a conversation, and eventual offer, for him to do his job while sitting in a chair. The latter arc is famous for being the only storyline adapted from an SNL skit written by Larry David.—Evan Griffin
“The Soup Nazi” (7×06)
The genesis of one of Seinfeld’s most iconic lines, “The Soup Nazi” follows the gang’s trip to a soup stand with New York City’s most delicious soup and its crotchety owner (Larry Thomas). Jerry knows how to make an order without angering the owner, but his warnings fall on deaf ears, and the wrath of the Soup Nazi falls upon George and Elaine.
The Soup Nazi’s catchphrase, “No soup for you!” spawned t-shirts, commercials, and an Emmy nomination for Thomas. But what makes “The Soup Nazi” remarkable is that though its premise is far-fetched, it was inspired by a real person (who is said to have been angered by this episode)—and shows that maybe the truth is stranger than fiction.—Claire Di Maio
“The Rye” (7×11)
Another instance of George standing in confrontation with societal norms—like, what the hell are you supposed to do when you bring food to a party, the host doesn’t serve it, and you’d like to take it back home with you? Surely in the 21st century, people are always self-conscious of pulling a “Marbel Rye” in reference to George’s scheme to recover his parent’s gift to Susan’s by way of sneaking into their house and delivering it to Jerry on the street with a finishing line. Thankfully Susan’s parents are conveniently distracted by Kramer riding his neighbor’s hansom cab-horse, buggying them around Central Park behind an incredibly gassy horse after Kramer feeds him a surplus of beef-a-roni.—Evan Griffin
“The Invitations” (7×22)
Perhaps the most controversial episode in all nine seasons of Seinfeld, “The Invitations” is nevertheless an influential and unforgettable episode in TV history. Closing the show’s seventh season, “The Invitations” sees the conclusion of the story arc revolving around George’s impending marriage to Susan. With the wedding day drawing near, George finds himself in an anxious spiral at the prospect of marrying Susan. Embarking on a last bid to end the engagement, George and the gang devise a variety of plots to force Susan to break off the marriage. These include prompting George to start smoking, which makes him sick, and asking Susan to sign a prenuptial agreement, which she signs with no reservation.
Everything comes to a head as Susan sends out the wedding invitations, insisting on licking each envelope. She fatally poisons herself, and the gang convenes at the hospital only to be informed of Susan’s death. Shockingly, they are all apathetic to the untimely death, even verging on relief at Susan’s demise. Larry David’s final episode of Seinfeld until the series finale, “The Invitations” is just as shocking today as upon release. Still divisive, “The Invitations” took a hammer to the reputation of Seinfeld’s beloved leads, shattering any illusion that they are good people. It’s a blueprint many sitcoms followed, but few took the big swing Seinfeld did.—Cameron Grace Wolff
“The Little Kicks” (8×04)
George attends a party at the publishing company, and while Elaine tries to demonstrate her ability to be a great boss by starting off the party with some dancing … well, at least she thought it went well. Possibly one of the most iconic dances on television plunges Elaine into a nightmare of an episode where she not only begins to lose a grip on getting respect from her staff, but they even turn on her to side with George, who has taken to enjoying himself in the image of a Bad Boy. Even going so far as to hook up with one of the employees and wearing a Yankees letterman jacket, Elaine digs the hole deeper trying to maintain control.
Thankfully George humiliates himself once again by crossing over into Jerry’s arc, where he and Kramer get caught up in the bootlegging scene after one of Kramer’s compatriots hands off the task of recording to Jerry. While resistant at first, Jerry becomes a brash, over-indulgent director once his recording becomes the talk of the town. George’s attempt to do the dirty deed doesn’t go quite so well.—Evan Griffin
“The Yada Yada” (8×19)
Is doing a “yada, yada, yada” for glossing over something small or something very big? The gang grapples with this as George’s girlfriend introduces them to the phrase in this Season 8 episode. Of course, the girlfriend turned out to be Yada Yada-ing over criminal escapades, but Elaine applies a broad use of the phrase: from mediocre sex to her brutal honesty costing her friend Beth a potential adopted child.
Meanwhile, Jerry struggles to believe his dentist Tim Whatley’s (Bryan Cranston) sudden conversion to Judaism is only for the sudden onslaught of Jewish jokes that he can now get away with. When Jerry starts talking too much, he ends up labeled an “anti-dentite” around town. Thankfully, it’s peanuts compared to the abhorrent things that come out of Beth when Jerry finally hooks up with her.—Evan Griffin
“The Muffin Tops” (8×21)
A late-series triumph for Seinfeld, “The Muffin Tops” is one of the show’s most densely-plotted installments, featuring an array of ambitious storylines. George finds himself donning a stranger’s clothes and posing as a tourist, all in an attempt to get closer to a tour guide he falls for. Meanwhile, Kramer comes into possession of an old bus that he reconfigures to give tours for the public, and Jerry begins shaving his chest. Finally, Elaine’s old boss steals Elaine’s idea of selling only the tops of muffins, opening a bakery called “Top of the Muffin to You.”
The muffin tops are an iconic Seinfeld element, with Elaine claiming the tops are the most delicious part anyway. Using this premise, the episode delivers some big laughs, an increasing rarity in the later seasons of Seinfeld. “The Muffin Tops” does fall into some of the silliness that plagues the later, post-David seasons of the show, namely Jerry howling at the moon as a werewolf, but the episode manages to deliver the incredible concepts and ambitious writing that was a staple of the show’s finest seasons.—Cameron Grace Wolff
“The Summer of George” (8×22)
Sure, this episode was supposed to be the Summer of George, but while Costanza loafs around after being fired by the Yankees, Elaine’s arc is just completely wild (meow). When she tries to be supportive to Sam (an early-career Molly Shanon), she divulges a little too honestly about her funny way of walking (like carrying heavy suitcases with straight arms.) Sam reacts with wild and chaotic destruction and threats, and when Elaine seeks guidance from literally anyone, all the men just let the horny dominate their perspective.
Jerry, meanwhile, begins dating Lanette (Amanda Peet), and once her “house dude” Lyle leaves the picture, Jerry becomes overwhelmed with things to do for his high-maintenance girlfriend. He and George decide to partner up, offloading duties to Costanza about town to make Jerry look like a superstar boyfriend. Oh, yeah, and Kramer cons his way into a Tony, and eventually gets bribed into keeping it by firing the famous Rachele Welch. This episode is littered with allusions to episodes like “The Invitations” and “The Muffin Tops.”—Evan Griffin
“The Butter Shave” (9×01)
It’s absolutely wild when one considers how many classic storylines from this show occurred all at once. Kramer makes the iconic decision to begin shaving with sticks of butter, eventually tanning (baking) it into his skin. Newman suffers an interest in cannibalism by the time Kramer gets doused in parmesan and oregano, and his hunger gave us one of the most iconic and disturbing images on television in the 1990s.
Elaine and Puddy (Patrick Warburton) come back from a trip to Europe and over the course of a flight break up, get back together, and break up again with literally no regard for the peop›le around them, especially poor Vegetable Lasagna in the window seat. George proves himself a manipulative disaster once again as he takes his accident from “The Summer of George” as an excuse to guise himself as a handicapped man. Chris Parnell cameos as an NBC representative signing Kenny Bania following Jerry’s purposeful flop of an act.—Evan Griffin
“The Voice” (9×02)
“The Serenity Now” (9×03)
“The Serenity Now” is proof that Seinfeld was at the top of its game in its final season. After hearing it from an instructional tape, Frank Costanza begins using the phrase “serenity now” to calm himself down whenever he’s angry. The phrase quickly catches on—even Kramer uses it—but George’s childhood nemesis Lloyd (Matt McCoy) issues a warning that “serenity now” is destructive, since it oppresses emotions. And if nine seasons of Seinfeld proved anything, it’s that the Costanzas can’t keep anything bottled up for long, garnering some of Seinfeld‘s most hilarious moments.—Claire Di Maio
“The Strike” (9×10)
“The Strike” introduced Festivus, Frank Costanza’s holiday about yelling at your relatives and avoiding Christmas shopping. Kramer goes on strike after his work refuses to let him have Festivus off, and George pretends to celebrate Festivus to avoid explaining why he gave donations to a fake charity as Christmas gifts. “The Strike” is a hilarious break from the traditional good-natured, saccharine holiday episodes of sitcoms, forgoing mistletoe and carols for a Festivus pole and Frank Costanza yelling. Frank may have a lot of grievances to air and problems to point out, but the same can’t be said of “The Strike.” It’s undeniably one of Seinfeld’s best episodes.—Claire Di Maio