Sunday, January 29, 2023

The 50 Best Animated Movie Characters

by Tyler Wilson
| December 17, 2010 8:00 PM

Nobody can deny that most animated movies are made for kids. As adults, we're supposed to ignore "Looney Tunes" and engage in more "intellectual" fare. For most Americans, that means "CSI: Miami" and "Dancing with the Stars."

Pretend those social norms don't exist for a minute. Because when it comes to truly memorable onscreen characters, animation is the only consistent place to find it. Since we all, to an extent, grew up with certain cartoon personalities (be it Mickey Mouse or Shrek), they tend to leave a much stronger impression than most other fictitious characters.

Presented here are the 50 favorite animated movie characters from one lifelong kid-at-heart. The only limitation to the list: Characters needed to be featured prominently in at least one theatrically-released, feature-length film. While this lone rule knocked a few television favorites out of contention, there were still plenty of characters vying for a spot.

1. Buzz Lightyear & Sheriff Woody - "Toy Story," "Toy Story 2," "Toy Story 3"

No reason to split up this dynamic duo. Pixar's "Toy Story" films take on many of the biggest complications associated with growing up, from issues of abandonment to even gloomier notions of life and death.

Woody is the emotional center of the trilogy. In every movie he faces a problem that tests his loyalty to owner Andy and his fellow toys. It's a testament to Tom Hanks that Woody never loses his charm through every selfish mistake.

Buzz always brings the bullheaded comic relief, but in the original "Toy Story," he also faces a major identity crisis. When Buzz discovers he isn't a real space ranger hero, he is forced to adjust to a life of smaller pleasures.

And just for fun, "Toy Story 3" presents a greatest hits of Lightyear personality: Lovable leader, delusional ranger-wannabe and, a new one - sophisticated "Spanish Buzz."

3. Goofy - "A Goofy Movie," etc.

For pure comedy hijinks, Goofy towers above his classic Disney crew. The musical "Goofy Movie" from 1995 is also an under-appreciated Disney gem.

4. Genie - "Aladdin"

Perhaps the only movie that perfectly harnesses the insanity of Robin Williams.

5. Gromit - "Wallace & Gromit in the Case of the Were-Rabbit," various shorts

The silent canine partner to cheese-loving inventor Wallace, Gromit should be considered man's best friend of the millennium, especially considering how many times he has saved Wallace's butt.

6. Cruella de Vil - "101 Dalmatians"

Is there a villain more diabolical and memorable than Cruella de Vil? OK, after you count Hannibal Lecter and Heath Ledger's Joker.

7. Dory - "Finding Nemo"

Ellen DeGeneres is a comic tour de force as the innocent and forgetful blue fish. "P. Sherman! 42 Wallaby Way! Sydney!"

8. Bugs Bunny - Various shorts, "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," "Space Jam"

You could fill this entire list with "Looney Tunes" characters, but because I remember them more from Saturday morning cartoons, only the carrot-loving king makes the Top 10.

9. Timon & Pumba - "The Lion King"

Made "Hakuna Matata" a household phrase, for better or worse.

10. Batman - "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm"

The Caped Crusader, aka the greatest superhero of all time, makes the list thanks to this terrific 1993 film from the creative team behind "Batman: The Animated Series."

11. WALL-E - "WALL-E"

The robot barely even talks in this sci-fi Pixar classic.

12. Homer Simpson - "The Simpsons Movie"

Make a list of the best television characters of all time, and this hapless dad might be No. 1. He even topped Entertainment Weekly's list of the 100 greatest characters of the last 20 years - in ALL of pop culture.

13. Jack Skellington - "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

Equally dark, twisted and noble. Good singing voice, too!

14. The Iron Giant - "The Iron Giant"

A bigger, more destructive Iron Man with a heart of gold.

15. Raphael - "TMNT"

The moody Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Or as many of you know him: "The one with a red bandana and forks."

16. Dug the Dog - "Up"

Verbalizes what we all know dogs are really thinking. Squirrel!

17. Dumbo - "Dumbo"

Floppy ears = Cutest thing ever.

18. Mickey Mouse - "Fantasia," etc.

The poster child of the Disney brand, usually at his best when he isn't squealing with that terrible mouse voice.

19. Doc Hudson - "Cars"

Not everybody's favorite Pixar title, but come on! It's Paul freaking Newman.

20. Elastigirl - "The Incredibles"

If you can criticize Pixar for anything, it's for their lack of memorable leading ladies. Elastigirl, is the studio's most realized female voice. She's strong and resourceful when dealing with complicated kids, a disintegrating marriage and evil henchman.

21. Jesse - "Toy Story 2," "Toy Story 3"

No damsel in distress here. Jesse's can-do attitude intimidates even the bravest of Space Rangers.

22. Fievel - "An American Tail," "Fievel Goes West"

Warning: "Somewhere Out There" brings out the waterworks.

23. Sebastian - "The Little Mermaid"

Leader of "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl." Also, a way less offensive caricature than Jar Jar Binks.

24. Mike Wazowski - "Monsters, Inc."

Billy Crystal as a giant eyeball. Perfect casting!

25. Daffy Duck - "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," "Space Jam," etc.

Why can't it ever be rabbit season?

26. Thumper - "Bambi"

The only reason people bother watching past the death of Bambi's mom.

27. Puss in Boots - "Shrek 2," "Shrek the Third," "Shrek Forever After"

Antonio Banderas as Zorro as a cat. Genius.

28. Baloo - "The Jungle Book"

Not all bears are this friendly. Trust me.

29. Littlefoot - "The Land Before Time"

He's referred to as a "long neck," which is much easier for kids to remember than the scientific name.

30. Russell - "Up"

The boy who taught Carl Frederickson that adventure is out there.

31. Anton Ego - "Ratatouille"

Peter O'Toole voices this cranky food critic who gives a beautiful speech on the importance of criticism in art. Also, he likes to eat food cooked rats.

32. The Joker - "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm"

Before Heath Ledger, "Star Wars" alum Mark Hamill gave the defining performance of Batman's wacko archenemy. He's still a strong No. 2.

33. Penguins - "Madagascar," "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"

The best thing about an otherwise forgettable franchise.

34. Po - "Kung Fu Panda"

Much like Robin Williams in "Aladdin," Jack Black's insanity is perfect for this portly martial arts master.

35. Scrat - "Ice Age," "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown," "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs"

Without Scrat and his quest for prehistoric nuts, the "Ice Age" franchise wouldn't have made it past the first entry.

36. Fantastic Mr. Fox - "Fantastic Mr. Fox"

Smooth George Clooney as a sly thief... in a way better movie than those "Ocean's 11" sequels.

37. Cinderella - "Cinderella"

A personal favorite from the era of classic Disney princesses.

38. Boo - "Monsters, Inc."

The biggest laughs in the movie come from this toddler spouting gibberish.

39. Mulan - "Mulan"

Finally! A Disney princess who can beat up the men.

40. Tiana - "The Princess & the Frog"

Tiana has tenacious work ethic. When things get tough, she doesn't whine about her circumstances. She works harder, even when everyone agrees she deserves a break.

41. Stitch - "Lilo & Stitch"

The little alien can be destructive, but so are puppies.

42. Marji - "Spirited Away"

The lone representative from Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's wonderful collection of work. Had I discovered his films at a more impressionable age, this list would be quite different.

43. Gingerbread Man - "Shrek," "Shrek 2," "Shrek the Third," Shrek Forever After"

His interrogation scene with Lord Farquaad in the original "Shrek" remains the best scene in the franchise.

44. Kronk - "The Emperor's New Groove"

The perfect lughead for Patrick Warburton's distinct tone. The role that made him more than Puddy from "Seinfeld."

45. EVE - "WALL-E"

The sleek and powerful soul mate to that lovable roving trash compactor.

46. Rex - "Toy Story," "Toy Story 2," "Toy Story 3"

A "ferocious" T-Rex toy with some serious angst issues.

47. Grumpy - "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

He's not such a bad guy once you get to know him.

48. Squirt - "Finding Nemo"

Even Marlin, the self-serious father of Nemo, thinks this little sea turtle is adorable, even if he can't understand a word the little guy says.

49. Belle - "Beauty and the Beast"

Tamed the beast. Enough said.

50. Frozone - "The Incredibles"

Samuel L. Jackson as an ultra-cool superhero. Pity he only has 15 minutes of screen time.

Honorable Mention: Road Runner - "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," "Space Jam," etc.

Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote barely even appear in the most recent feature films. Still, these cartoons ran on a loop in my house, and enough of their shorts have screened in theaters ahead of other features.

Read more film reviews and pop culture commentary at Tyler Wilson can be reached at

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