The 50 Greatest Muppets (50-41)

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.

50. Riverbottom Nightmare Band | Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (1977)

“Look at the birds… up in the trees.” Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas is a staple of the holidays in my family. I saw the version with Kermit doing narration (and appearing) for so long it baffled me the first time I saw the 2005 DVD where he was omitted. ANYWAY, any great feel-good Holiday film has to have its share of Scrooges, and the Riverbottom Gang are perfect in that vaguely menacing, 50’s gang sort of way. They sometimes seem like an early Stephen King story group of antagonists. That they end up performing a fairly awesome rock song as a late entry to the talent contest – beating our heroes, Emmett and his friends – upends the standard “feel good ending” we’d pretty much expect from a kid’s Christmas special. The bad guys are supposed to lose! And not have a catchy, Kiss-inspired, performance! It’s all good, though – Emmett and his Mom end up with a regular gig and the Nightmare Band end up having enough of a career that they have a rivalry with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Now I want a Behind the Music special featuring the band… why was Catfish even there, anyway?

Bob Cram

49. Scooter | The Muppet Show (1976)

Scoot serves as a “gofer” backstage on The Muppet Show. He was hired because his Uncle owns The Muppet Theater. Most of his storylines involve being backstage. Scoot appeared in the very first episode of The Muppet Show all the way until the last. Despite his longevity as such a mainstay, Scooter has never been very popular amongst Muppets fans. He had a twin sister named Skeeter during the Muppet Babies cartoon.


48. Bean Bunny | The Tale of the Bunny Picnic (1986)

Bean Bunny’s sole character trait is that he’s insufferably cute. Seriously, he’s so cute, some of his fellow Muppets have nothing but contempt for him due solely to the fact that he’s unbearably adorable but the MuppeTelevision (the show within the show) ratings are never higher than when the station featured sex, violence and/or Bean Bunny. He slowly became a fan favorite among viewers, getting more and more appearances until his puppeteer Steve Whitmire had to take over Kermit the Frog duties, while splitting his attention with his other creation Rizzo the Rat, who was also becoming a regular player. Bean Bunny lost his seat among the all stars to a sassy New York rat and is now a permanent bench warmer. Kermit may not think it’s easy being green but it seems like being cute is even harder.

Sailor Monsoon

47. The Flying Zucchini Brothers | The Muppet Show (1977)

A parody of the Zacchini Brothers, one of the world’s earliest and most famous human cannonball acts, The Flying Zucchini Bros are an act mostly performed by three Zucchini brothers and one cannon (although there was an episode featuring six brothers and five cannons), where a Zucchini Brother (either Biondo, Marco, Giuseppi, Luigi, Lorenzo, or Heathcliff) gets stuffed into a cannon and shot off screen. Among the more famous Whatnots (Muppets with interchangable heads and faces), The Flying Zucchini Bros may look different with each appearance but their energy and personality make them undeniably memorable.

Sailor Monsoon

46. Yolanda Rat | The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Yolanda befriended Rizzo in The Muppets Take Manhattan and while the two of them were both working at a diner. Her blonde hair is what sets her apart from the other rats. Even though she and Rizzo have never had a romantic relationship, there are often times when the two seem close to one another. She would eventually became Kermit’s assistant in The Muppets (2015).


45. Koozebanians | The Muppets Valentine Show (1974)

The Koozebanians are a species of alien that are obsessed with Earth culture particularly the music and television of the 1960s and 70s. They have a language that is almost entirely made up of references to popular culture from this time period. They’re almost also in segments involving Kermit the trenchcoat wearing reporter. He interviews them to get a better understanding of their rituals and whatnot such as the Galley-oh-hoop-hoop mating dance, Phoob’s ability to transform into anything around him and Merdlidop’s penchant for assimilating everything around them. They only make a handful of appearances but when they did show up, they were a delight.

Sailor Monsoon

44. Bobby Benson | The Muppet Show (1977)

At first glance, Bobby Benson looks like a child predator. He’s got a band comprised entirely of what looks like enslaved babies and he looks like a disheveled Paul Shaffer going through a rough divorce but look past all that and you’ll see a true innovator. Even if he did enslave these hideously deformed babies (the juries still out), he put the time into training them in different instruments. That ain’t easy. What’s even more difficult? Pulling off those sweet, sweet shades.

Sailor Monsoon

43. Link Hogthrob | The Muppet Show (1977)

One of the best parody characters in the Muppet universe, Link Hogthrob is an obvious homage to the classic leading man and dashing hero archetype but more importantly, he’s Captain Kirk as a pig. As the captain of the USS Swinetrek, Link is a very self-assured and overconfident character who takes pride in his appearance and abilities. Link’s personality often leads to clashes with other characters on the show particularly with Miss Piggy who has a crush on him but frequently finds herself frustrated with his arrogance. However despite their differences Link and Miss Piggy share a certain chemistry and tension that adds to their dynamic.

Sailor Monsoon

42. Uncle Traveling Matt | Fraggle Rock (1983)

There are three character flaws that define Uncle Traveling Matt’s personality: his misperceptions, his clumsiness, and his denial of the first two flaws. He is no doubt a brave explorer but his adventures in Outer Space (his name for the world humans inhabit) examining the Silly Creatures (his name for humans) is marked by incompetence and ineptitude. Every postcard he sends to his nephew Gobo is filled with hilarious fuck ups, mistakes and outright fabrications. Every time he comes back to see him, his adventures will always be skewed in his favor instead of the truth, which is that he was thrown out of wherever he was exploring such as a restaurant or what have you. He’s like if Indiana Jones and Mr. Magoo had a baby.

Sailor Monsoon

41. Abby Cadabby | Sesame Street (2006)

Abby Cadabby is a young pink-haired Muppet fairy whose name is a play on the popular magician phrase, “Abracadabra.” She is also arguably the last new Muppet added to Sesame Street that was able to become a breakout star. While children didn’t go absolutely bananas for Abby when she was introduced as they did for Elmo, Abby Cadabby remains one of the more popular Sesame Street Muppets. She has her own recurring segments on Sesame Street, as well as CG-animated spinoff series. Oh yeah, and her mother is the Fairy Godmother. While the majority of Sesame Street‘s Muppets have been around since the very beginning, Abby is proof that with the right concept, any new Muppet can become the next Elmo.

Marmaduke Karlston


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