The 50 Greatest Muppets (10-1)

There are few visionaries quite like Jim Henson. For every genius you can name that changed the world of pop culture, few can confidently say they did it with actual magic. What Henson and Co. are able to do with just felt, their hands and a rod can only be referred to as magic. There’s no other word for it. They make you believe those puppets, excuse me, Muppets, are living, breathing things. Ventriloquism is the closest art form to Henson’s signature brand of hand puppetry and not a single person has ever been tricked into thinking a ventriloquist’s dummy is alive. It’s a trick only Henson and those inspired by him can pull off. Even as far back as 1957 with his coffee advertisements starring Wilkins and Wotkins (who didn’t make the cut), he showed he could put anything on his hand and make you believe it was real. These fifty characters (not including The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth) are the greatest examples of his magic.

These are the 50 Greatest Muppets.

10. Fozzie Bear | The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975)

Fozzie the Bear is mostly known for his stand-up comedy routine (which is riddled with bad jokes and puns) as well as his famous catchphrase “Walka Walka!” A large portion of The Muppet Show would rely on Fozzie being a success as he would be Frank Oz‘s main character. It made sense to have one of the main characters on the show be a comedian but his gags would get old very quickly. Where Fozzie shines is in his personality. When we think of Fozzie, we don’t immediately think of him as a goofball but rather as sincere and optimistic, which makes him a more rounded character. He is best friends with Kermit the Frog.


9. Rowlf the Dog | Purina Dog Chow Commercials (1962)

Rwolf seems to have been handed the short end of the stick. He is always included within the main group of The Muppets but somehow it feels like he is the odd Muppet out as he was lucky enough to be included in The Muppet Babies, but hasn’t been able to hold much of a leading role. During the first few episodes of The Muppet Show, he played an incompetent surgeon Dr. Bob on the recurring sketch “Veterinarian’s Hospital.” Rowlf can be rather lazy at times but he is also a gifted pianist.


8. Statler and Waldorf | The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975)

The gloriously grouchy duo of Statler and Waldorf have been giving the Muppets the business since day one. Especially Fozzie Bear, poor guy, but no Muppet is safe from their heckling. A pair of misanthropes who only get along with each other – mostly – they always reminded me of jaded movie critics, so I guess it was inevitable that they would eventually host a movie review show. (From the Balcony, on While they were never quite as funny as they thought themselves to be, they were always worth watching – something they’d never say about The Muppet Show.

Bob Cram

7. Cookie Monster | Sesame Street (1969)

Cookie Monster! He was always the Incredible Hulk of the Muppets to me. (“That’s me secret… me ALWAYS hungry for COOKIES!!!”) A relatively laid back monster, with some odd diction, who could – at any moment – freak out and devour an entire plate of cookies before our eyes. Or a ukulele. Or a hubcap. The poster child for poor impulse control, the googly-eyed, blue-furred monster made a stab at self control and healthy eating with “cookies are a sometime food” in the early 2000’s. “Me have crazy times in the 70’s and 80’s. Me like the Robert Downey Junior of cookies.” He’s become a go-to celebrity guest for talk show hosts like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, and he’s always worth the watch. One of my favorite Muppets ever. I’m now going to eat a cookie, or 10, in his honor.

Bob Cram

6. Animal | The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975)

Animal plays the drums in the Electric Mayhem and is the most popular member of the band. His berserk nature would help him to become a break out character of the show. Besides the drums, Animal’s only real schtick is repeating words or phrases that he hears other people say. He doesn’t have too many friendships outside of his bandmates.


5. Elmo | Sesame Street (1980)

There is a clear divide in the Sesame Street generations: before Elmo and after Elmo. There is no in-between. When Elmo was created, he took the world by storm. (Who could forget Tickle Me Elmo). Elmo is a very happy and optimist character which makes him either very likable or very annoying, depending on who you ask. Elmo also likes to talk in the third person and goes so far as to refer to himself as Elmo when talking about himself. Whatever you do, just don’t ask him about Rocko and always remember: Elmo loves you! Ha ha ha.


4. Oscar the Grouch | Sesame Street (1969)

I called Statler and Waldorf misanthropes, but they’re amateurs. Wannabees. Oscar the Grouch is the greatest Muppet misanthrope of all time. A trash loving, garbage can living, annoying, rude and all around, well, GROUCHY character, Oscar has nevertheless become a favorite of children of all ages. In the early days of Sesame Street he would even get fan mail of actual garbage from young viewers, something I’m sure the human staff of the show really appreciated. We know there’s a heart under that motley green fur, but he does his best to keep it hidden, even denying he has any friends (even though Muppets like Elmo insist he’s definitely their friend). Oscar is the defiant weirdo who loves things outside the mainstream (like clam and tuna pie, or bananas with gravy), and he doesn’t care if people like him or not. Mostly he’d like to be left alone – but then he wouldn’t have anyone to complain to.

Bob Cram

3. Gonzo | Herb Alpert & the TJB (1974)

Gonzo would be referred to as a “whatever” whenever asked about his species until officially being classified as an alien in Muppets From Space (1999). Gonzo went through many different personality changes before becoming the happy-go-lucky character that we know today. Gonzo would first be introduced as a frustrated performance artist with a much sadder personality, which would be rather melancholy and a little more on the depressed side. His personally became a lot more egregious over the years.


2. Big Bird | Sesame Street (1969)

Bird Bird debuted in the very first episode of Sesame Street and has been a central character ever since. He has a very simple minded way of going about life. Although he is playful, he can be a little naïve as times. Apparently he is only six years old and it makes sense for one of the main characters to be so young. It gives him the opportunity to both learn about certain topics and lessons that the show is providing as well as be a soundboard that is able to teach the young viewers at the same time. Big Bird can only say things and tell it like it is because he only knows how to do one thing: be himself, and that is what makes Big Bird one of the more relatable characters on Sesame Street. Big Bird was able to get his own movie Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985).


1. Kermit the Frog | Sam and Friends (1955)

Not only is Kermit the Frog the best Muppet, he might just also be one of the greatest fictional characters ever created. Kermit is very much the ‘straight man’ of the group and he probably resembles the best version of the trope. With every character of The Muppets being either wacky or weird in their own way, Kermit is the one who is able to ground everybody and hold them all together. Kermit is the glue and The Muppets wouldn’t work without Kermit and probably the reason why they are still relevant today.

A big reason why Kermit became as popular as he did is because of the relationship that Jim Henson had with the character. Kermit wasn’t just a puppet, Kermit was his alter ego. Jim Henson was able to get so lost in being the character of Kermit that that is exactly what was able to make Kermit come to life. It’s almost method acting in a way. Kermit was an escape from the world and it’s amazing what one man was able to do with his imagination.

There is a lot to say about Kermit as he is one of those characters who is going to be able to stand the test of time because of his legacy. Kermit has a big heart and it shows up every time we see him. He’s a leader but he doubts himself. He’s smart but he doesn’t always have the right answers. He listens and makes sure that everybody feels as if they are being heard. He’s caring, sensitive, funny and insightful. We might not know why there are so many songs about rainbows but just maybe, one day soon, we’ll find out what’s on the other side.


20-11 | MCU Characters

Who are some of your favorite Muppets? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!