RANKED! The Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time (Now That Ancient Cartoon Characters Have Been Discovered in Peru)
A giant 2,000-year-old cartoon was discovered in Peru thanks to the eagle eye vision of IBM’s Watson computer. Using satellite imaging from space, Watson was able to identify and enhance ancient cartoons that had been etched into the landscape back before Jesus was even doodling. Although millennia of erosion have taken their toll on the etchings, Watson analyzed the original lines to create TV-ready versions of each character. Whether these drawings signify that Earth was once a giant comic book for aliens or merely another way for ancient Peruvians to pass the time is unknown. But the discovery of cartoons stretching back into antiquity begs the question. What are the greatest cartoon characters of all time?
Ready the cereal: RANKED! 20 Saturday Morning Cartoons That Literally Made The ’90s
Lewd. Crass. Perverted. Self-centered. Everything that is wrong with world leaders today. And yet, totally hilarious.
19. Donald Duck
It takes a genius to make a grouchy, unintelligible, pants-less duck the star of your war propaganda films. Whether he was getting angry at a furry squirrel or one of his three nephews, Donald’s famous temper is a hilarious warning sign of what to avoid in adulthood.
18. The Grinch
Dr. Seuss was a wellspring of iconic characters, and one of his most beloved is ironically the Grinch. A scoundrel until the end, the Grinch's bleak outlook, hatred of neighborly joy, and unbending mission to ruin Christmas paint a hilarious portrait of the petty 6-year-old in us all.
17. Unibrow Baby
Every list needs its dark horse and Unibrow Baby is it. She has one function and one function only: to throw shade on whoever she crosses paths with, mainly Maggie Simpson. Who else in your life is that genuinely consistent?
Though Pooh is the most beloved and Tigger is the perennial favorite, Eeyore gets our vote for being way ahead of his time in his handling of chronic depression.
15. Eric Cartman
Eric Cartman is the heart and soul of his shit-talking group of friends who now hold the record for second-longest continuously running cartoon in TV history. His opportunistic tendencies and willful business savvy have led to some of the strangest adventures in prime time and sparked countless excuses for bad behavior.
Some cartoons are just funny. And Futurama’s selfish, alcoholic automaton is one of the funniest. He has the depressive apathy you’d expect from an outmoded being and the self-centered greed of a person coping with his own feelings of uselessness. But he’s also a good friend and has a moral line he will not cross, no matter how much money is at stake. He might wait until the last possible moment, but he always comes through for his crew.
This gender-bending manga character combines all the thrills of mysticism, heroism, humor, and identity exploration. In a world of elite martial arts masters who can transform into various creatures, Ranma’s gift (or curse as he first sees it) is that he can transform into a girl when splashed with cold water. Willfully using this ability to his advantage, Ranma navigates both sides of teenage life with duplicitous high jinks of Shakespearean proportions.
12. Peter Griffin
He's genuinely stupid and genuinely funny, like Homer Simpson without the heart. He's as clueless as clueless can be, but we love him anyway.
11. Jake the Dog
If man’s best friend were given a reality-warping steroid to make him super-powered, highly intelligent, and hilarious, then Jake the Dog would be the result. Over the past decade, he’s become one of the best characters on TV through the wondrous exploits of Adventure Time. Sure, he’s got a criminal past, but he’s a complex character who knows what love is all about.
For a cartoon who rarely changes her facial expression, Daria is perhaps the most nuanced and intellectually layered character on the list. She’s firmly a product of the ‘90s, with an outward apathy that masks a fiercely opinionated, deeply caring inner world. She's not one to hold her breath as she waits for the rest of the world to get a clue.
9. Ren and Stimpy
Ren and Stimpy proved that cats and dogs can be the best of friends. Their extremely violent and graphically grotesque antics paved the way for an entire generation of cartoons, where etiquette and genre rules no longer mattered. Most of the envelope-pushing cartoons on TV today wouldn't exist without these guys paving the way.
8. Lupin the Third
Lupin is the classic honorable thief and the perfect blend of Scooby-Doo, Inspector Gadget, and Thomas Crown, with overtones of a Japanese Ronin searching the world for his true purpose. Under the guise of the world’s greatest thief, he fights evil and corruption with honor and poetic justice.
7. Bobby Hill
Bobby is the ultimate willful child going through puberty and testing the waters hoping to figure himself out. Not only does his journey resonate on a personal level, but his ever-changing lifestyle represents the melting pot that is America as a whole. It's a country on the verge of adulthood, constantly at odds with itself as we attempt the final iteration.
During a time when comic strip characters were going prime time, Snoopy made the leap to TV with particular grace, because he's the optimist and dreamer in us all. But most importantly, his ambitions stretch far beyond his lot in life. He's a wonderful example of how bettering oneself is a constant endeavor that doesn’t have to be at the expense of others.
5. Lisa Simpson
The first totally modern female cartoon character, Lisa has always been the smartest, most ambitious person in the room. She takes a commendably principled stance on every major social issue and is a musical prodigy. But even with all her talents, she’s not above the everyday struggles of growing up and searching for a place to belong.
4. Rick and Morty
It would be easy to write off the titular characters of the most popular cartoon of the moment if they weren't so damn awesome. Taking all the collective might that cartoons have harnessed so far and using it to build an expansive multi-verse of constant action, Rick and Morty navigate the perils with particular insanity. After only a few seasons, the duo have become as legendary as Abbot and Costello or Batman and Robin. Together they represent the duality of existence as meaningless and life as a wondrous dream.
3. Mickey Mouse
Don’t blame the charming mouse in short shorts for our current Disney overlords. Mickey was a straight-shooting, pure-hearted hero who was simply trying to make his way in a world of chaos. Easily the most famous cartoon of the 20th century, we now imagine he’s being held hostage at Disney headquarters.
2. Bugs Bunny
If Mickey Mouse is the Beatles, then Bugs Bunny is the Rolling Stones: a wisecracking, misbehaving bad boy who touched on deeper, more cerebral themes with scenarios that included class warfare, power dynamics, and battling Martians. Bugs was a multi-talented entertainer who always had a choice quip at the ready and would win the day no matter how stacked the odds were. His level of cool-headed comedic charisma has been hard to top.
1. Homer Simpson
There’s a reason why The Simpsons is the longest running prime-time show in history. It flipped the switch on a new era of cartoons that were well-written, topical, and filled with biting satire. With a humongous cast of characters (half of whom could be on this list), the entire world of Springfield and its inhabitants are anchored by the show’s hero, one Mr. Homer J. Simpson. As impulsive, lazy, gluttonous, and flawed as each one of us can be, in his heart he's just a family man trying to do the right thing.