For countless kids — and smart adults — Spongebob Squarepants has been more than just a cartoon sponge; he’s an iconic and beloved character who advocated for the relentless power of being unabashedly goofy. And with the passing of Stephen Hillenburg, you may finally want to show your kid the slightly absurd world of Bikini Bottom, specifically the sponge who lives in a pineapple. Luckily, the first four seasons are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video for free, so we’ve selected 10 episodes that will perfectly introduce your kid to the nautical nonsense of Spongebob Squarepants.
(Note all the following links are Amazon Prime links, but if you don’t have an Amazon Prime account, individual Spongebob episodes are available for purchase on YouTube as well.)
Most shows need at least a dozen episodes to find their footing but from the very beginning, it was clear Spongebob was special. Pretty much all of the early episodes are bonafide classics worth rewatching but ‘Bubblestand’ stands out, as it introduced us to the show’s most consistently hilarious formula: Spongebob and Patrick annoying the shit out of Squidward with their boundless and clueless enthusiasm.
When Spongebob and Patrick learn their favorite crime-fighting duo, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy (clearly modeled after Batman and Robin), are living at a retirement home nearby, they go to meet their now-geriatric idols to try and get them to unretire and once again serve vigilante justice. Spongebob and Patrick manage to succeed by being big enough nuisances to convince Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy to use their powers to get their biggest fans as far away from them as possible.
Plankton has one goal in life: to steal the Krabby Patty formula so the Chum Bucket, his empty restaurant, will finally get customers. And perhaps his most brilliant plan is when he builds a robot clone of Mr. Krabs to try and trick Spongebob into giving him the formula. The plan nearly works, as Plankton manages to fool Spongebob but he ends up grossly underestimating how many tests are set in place before Spongebob will give him the formula.
Approximately 60 percent of the early episodes of Spongebob revolve around Squidward being pushed to his mental breaking point due to his next-door neighbors, so it was only a matter of time before he would try to leave Bikini Bottom for greener pastures. But when Squidward finally moves to Tentacle Acres, a community filled with clarinet-playing, canned-bread loving octopuses, he finds himself bored and missing the childish behavior of Spongebob and Patrick. It’s a brilliant twist that shows that deep down, Squidward loves living between these two dummies.
When an artist drops his pencil while drawing on a boat, Spongebob and Patrick discover the foreign utensil can be used to create living art. Spongebob draws “Doodlebob” an animated version of himself who quickly begins wreaking havoc across Bikini Bottom. The two believe they have erased the bizarro creation into oblivion but one of his arms remains and Doodlebob is able to return to full strength once he gets a hold of the magic pencil. Doodlebob then tries to destroy Spongebob, who must find a way to defeat his creation or cease to exist.
Mr. Krabs decides that the Krusty Krab will be open 24 hours a day, which means that Spongebob and Squidward, the only two employees, will be working there 24 hours a day. When Squidward discovers that Spongebob is afraid of the dark, he tells him the story of the “Hash-slinging Slasher”, a former fry cook-turned-ghost who haunts Krusty Krab employees at night. Squidward succeeds in terrifying Spongebob but he can’t explain when his made-up story suddenly becomes real.
At its core, Spongebob is a tribute to the power of optimism and that is never displayed more clearly than in this episode, where Spongebob and Patrick form a club that blindly follows the Magic Conch, which is essentially a magic 8-ball that is shaped like a conch shell instead. Squidward mocks the two but, of course, when the three end up stranded in the wilderness, their faith in the Magic Conch provides them with food and shelter, while Squidward’s doubt leaves him cold, hungry, and alone. ALL HAIL THE MAGIC CONCH!
With Spongebob, sometimes the simplest episodes prove to be the best. Case in point: Spongebob and Patrick use their imagination while playing with a cardboard box, much to Squidward’s consternation. Before long, Squidward gets convinced there must be more to the box than the two are letting on and he tries to catch them in the act. But just as Squidward learns that no amount of technology can defeat the power of imaginaaaaaaation, things predictably turn on him.
When Spongebob’s hand briefly appears in a Krabby Patty commercial that airs at 3:28 AM, he quickly lets the nonexistent fame go to his head and begins acting like an A-list celebrity, assuming every customer is looking for an autograph instead of food. The episode is a masterclass in the show’s goofy sense of absurdism, culminating with Spongebob performing a song titled ‘Striped Sweater’ to the confused, angry patrons.
Mr. Krabs decides to convert the Krusty Krab into a hotel with one simple rule: “We shall never deny a guest even the most ridiculous request.” This is immediately put the test when Patrick checks in and start making one idiotic request after another. Squidward eventually quits and tries to turn the situation to his advantage by becoming a guest at Krusty Towers. Things predictably do not work out for him.