Entertainment TV & Film The Top 50 Cartoon Characters of All Time Share PINTEREST Email Print TV & Film TV Shows Shows For Kids Comedies Dramas Documentaries Movies By Nancy Basile Nancy Basile is an entertainment writer who specializes in cartoons, comic books, and other elements of pop culture. She has more than two decades of experience writing. our editorial process Nancy Basile Updated May 13, 2019 You don't have to be a kid to love cartoon characters, although childhood is when many of us first fell in love with them. This list of the top 50 cartoon characters shines a spotlight on the ones that have withstood the test of time. 2:35 Watch Now: The Greatest Cartoon Characters of All Time 01 of 50 Bugs Bunny Warner Brothers/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images Is there a more famous rabbit in the world? Bugs Bunny has been making people laugh with his catchphrase "What's up, Doc?" since he made his debut in the 1940 Warner Brothers cartoon "Wild Hare." Whether he's poking fun at stuffy highbrow culture in the 1957 classic "What's Opera, Doc?" or outwitting a nasty knight in the Oscar-winning 1958 short "Knighty Knight, Bugs," that rascally rabbit Bugs Bunny always gets the last laugh. In addition to his own shorts, Bugs has made equally memorable cartoons with some of the other stars on this list. 02 of 50 Homer Simpson FOX Homer Simpson and his family have been entertaining TV audiences since they made their debut on "The Tracey Ullman Show" in 1987. Two years later, Homer and his family got their own show on Fox with "The Simpsons," which is still in production in 2018. Just as Bugs Bunny has his catchphrase, Homer is known for his classic exclamation of frustration, "D'oh!" Homer Simpson is based on creator Matt Groening's father, who is also named Homer. And if you look at Homer's profile, a bit of his hair and his ear form the initials "MG." 03 of 50 Mickey Mouse General Photographic Agency/Getty Images As Walt Disney liked to say, it all began with a mouse. Mickey Mouse made his debut in 1928's "Steamboat Willie," voiced by Walt himself. It wasn't just Mickey's debut; it was also the first cartoon with synchronized sound. Although his most iconic role came as the sorcerer's apprentice in the 1940 feature "Fantasia," Mickey has appeared in a number of memorable shorts. Standouts include the 1947 short "Mickey and the Beanstalk," a clever take on the fairy tale classic, and the 1983 short "Mickey's Christmas Carol," the first original Mickey Mouse theatrical release since 1953. 04 of 50 Bart Simpson FOX Bart Simpson is Homer Simpson's son—and his archnemesis. Bart lives to torment Homer at every opportunity. He doesn't just misbehave at home; Bart looks for trouble everywhere. With an irreverent sense of humor and a healthy disrespect for authority, Bart always has a ready wisecrack, whether it's "Aye, caramba!" or "Eat my shorts." Since his debut in 1987, Bart Simpson has become an icon in his own right, appearing in every episode of "The Simpsons" but one. 05 of 50 Charlie Brown Fotos International / Getty Images Charlie Brown made his debut in Charles Schulz's newspaper comic strip "Lil' Folks" in 1948, one of a cast of precocious kids. Charlie and the gang got a makeover as "Peanuts" in 1950 and first appeared on TV in 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The kid who never kicks the football, whose dog is more popular than he is, and who has a crush on the Little Redheaded Girl steals our hearts every year during annual repeats of not just his Christmas special but also in the school-musical staple, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." 06 of 50 Fred Flintstone Creator William Hanna with Fred Flintstone. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images If not for Fred Flintstone, there might never have been a Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. Fred and his family and neighbors made their debut in the 1960 TV show "The Flintstones." Modeled after "The Honeymooners," another TV comedy hit, "The Flintstones" was the first animated show in prime time. The show ran for six seasons and can still be seen in syndication. Lovable lug Fred Flintstone, his wife, Wilma, and their pals Barney and Wilma Rubble made prehistoric living seem downright modern. "The Flintstones" was created by animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who got their start at MGM before striking out on their own. 07 of 50 The Grinch Cartoon Network Dr. Seuss created many characters who made the leap from books to TV, but none as easily and successfully as The Grinch. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" animates Dr. Seuss' book about the grouchy green cave-dweller who attempts to ruin Christmas for the Whos down in Whoville. The holiday special, starring Boris Karloff, first aired in 1966, based on the 1957 book of the same title. Jim Carrey brought the Grinch to life on the big screen in 2000, and all three make regular holiday appearances on TV. 08 of 50 Popeye Paramount Pictures / Getty Images Like many classic cartoon characters, Popeye began life as a comic strip. The spinach-loving sailor, created by E.C. Segar, made his print debut in 1929 and quickly became a hit. Four years later, animator Max Fleisher brought Popeye to life on the big screen. Paramount Studios later took over theatrical production of Popeye shorts and also produced a TV series in the early 1960s. In 1980, Robin Williams and Shelley Duval appeared as Popeye and his girlfriend, OIive Oyl, in the Robert Altman film "Popeye." 09 of 50 Wile E. Coyote Ethan Miller/Getty Images for The Chuck Jones Experience Poor Wile E. Coyote. He can never catch the Road Runner, no matter how many defective Acme gadgets he seems to buy. The crafty Coyote made his debut in the 1949 Warner Brothers short "Fast and Furry-ous," and has appeared in nearly 50 shorts in the years since. Just as memorable as the endless supply of Acme products are each episode's introduction of the pair with faux-Latin scientific names like Eatibus anythingus and Hot-roddicus supersonicus. Most of the classic episodes produced by director Chuck Jones and writer Michael Maltese are stellar examples of silent cinema; Coyote only found his voice when paired opposite Bugs Bunny. 10 of 50 Rocky and Bullwinkle Handout/Getty Images Rocky the flying squirrel and Bullwinkle the moose are the TV cartoon world's answer to Hollywood's classic comedy duos like Laurel and Hardy or Martin and Lewis. The pair made their debut on the TV show "Rocky and His Friends" in 1959. Created by Jay Ward, the show was known for its sharp-witted dialogue that often skewered politics and pop culture of the era. The show, which originally ran on ABC and then NBC, ended its prime-time run in 1964 but found immortality in endless syndication. Other characters from the show, like the bumbling spies Boris and Natasha—or the talking dog, Mr. Peabody, and his boy, Sherman—became famous cartoon characters in their own right. 11 of 50 SpongeBob SquarePants SpongeBob SquarePants and his pals from Bikini Bottom made their debut in 1999 on Nickelodeon, becoming the stars of that channel's most successful show to date. SpongeBob and his pals Patrick Star, Squidward Tentacles, Mr. Eugene Krabs, and Sandy Cheeks jumped to the big screen in 2004 with "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie." It's little wonder that SpongeBob was created by a marine biologist, Stephen Hillenburg. 12 of 50 Eric Cartman Comedy Central Eric Cartman and the rest of his potty-mouthed pals have been trading insults with one another since "South Park" debuted on Comedy Central in 1997. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the show is the second-longest running cartoon series on TV; only "The Simpsons" has been in production longer. Over the years, Cartman's been abducted by aliens, sent to fat camp, and convinced he's dead, and he's owned an amusement park. His unemotional, pragmatic view toward achieving his goals has resulted in many dire circumstances, as well as catchphrases like, "Screw you guys. I'm going home." 13 of 50 Daffy Duck Mark Sullivan/WireImage for The Lippin Group Daffy Duck is to Bugs Bunny as Wile E. Coyote is to the Road Runner. He debuted in 1937's "Porky's Duck Hunt." Over the decades he transformed from a clumsy clown to the sarcastic character we know today. His banter with Bugs, each trying to convince Elmer Fudd to shoot the other, in 1951's "Rabbit Fire" is considered by critics to be one of the most memorable moments in animation. Director Steven Speilberg has cited the 1952 sci-fi spoof "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century" as an early influence on his films. 14 of 50 Porky Pig OswaldLR / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain Porky Pig is probably best known for his stuttered signature, "That's all, folks!" which closed out many a Warner Brothers cartoon. When he first appeared in 1935's "I Haven't Got a Hat," Porky Pig was indeed rotund, and his hapless stutter would probably be considered insensitive by today's standards. But as his career evolved, Porky slimmed down and transitioned from a buffoon to a good-natured everyman. He was a clever foil to the mischevious Dodo in 1938's "Porky in Wackyland" and Daffy Duck's world-weary sidekick in "Duck Dodgers." 15 of 50 Scooby-Doo and Shaggy Turner Broadcasting If you were a kid in the '60s, '70s, or '80s, then after-school cartoons meant watching Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, and their teen pals solve mystery after mystery. Created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Scooby and the gang made their TV debut in 1969 with "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby made the leap from CBS to ABC in 1976, where they would appear in various iterations of the show until 1991. The Mystery Machine rolls on in endless syndication, not to mention new TV productions and a 2002 film. 16 of 50 Mr. Magoo UPA Productions of America The extremely nearsighted Mr. Magoo made a career out of avoiding one disaster after another, time after time. Created by John Hubley in 1949 for United Productions International, Mr. Magoo made his debut in the cartoon "The Ragtime Bear" and was originally voiced by Jim Backus, who also starred in "Gilligan's Island." United Productions International won the Academy Award for best animated short in 1955 and 1956 for Magoo cartoons, and Leslie Nielsen starred as the bumbling millionaire in 1997. 17 of 50 Beavis and Butthead Getty Images / Getty Images Beavis and Butthead, the stuttering slacker teenage boys who can't get enough music videos, first appeared as a short on the MTV program "Liquid Television" in 1992. The characters resonated with Generation Xers, and they got their own MTV show in 1993, followed by a hit feature film, "Beavis and Butthead Do America," in 1996. The show ended its run in 1997, having earned critical acclaim and public condemnation for its adult humor. In 2011, MTV brought the duo back for one more season. Creator Mike Judge went on to produce other popular shows, including "King of the Hill." 18 of 50 Fat Albert Comedian Bill Cosby began telling funny stories about Fat Albert and his gang of childhood friends in the late '60s, and the character was featured in a number of his stand-up recordings. In 1972, Cosby brought Fat Albert to life on CBS with "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids." The show ran until 1985. Cosby voiced the title character, making famous Fat Albert's catchphrase, "Hey, hey, hey!" 19 of 50 Betty Boop Lee Snider / Getty Images Loosely modeled on silent film star Clara Bow, Betty Boop made her cartoon debut in 1930. Created by animation pioneer Max Fleisher, Boop was a decidedly adult cartoon character with her short skirt and flapper style. A major cartoon star of the 1930s, Betty Boop found new fame in the 1950s when her film shorts were syndicated on TV, and again in the 1980s with a cameo feature in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" 20 of 50 George Jetson circa 1962: Cartoon family the Jetsons, comprised of George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, and Astro, flying in a space car in a space age city, in a still from the Hanna-Barbera animated television show, 'The Jetsons'. Hulton Archive / Getty Images Hanna-Barbera followed "The Flintstones" with "The Jetsons," a space-age take on the same domestic comedy formula that made its predecessor so appealing. George Jetson worked to take care of his family and only wanted some peace and quiet from time to time. But his kids, wife, dog, and boss kept him from it. Although the show only ran for two seasons, starting in 1962, it was revived in the mid-1980s on TV and was made into a feature film in 1990. 21 of 50 Pink Panther Gail Mooney/Corbis/VCG / Getty Images Created for the animated opening credits of the 1963 film starring Peter Sellars, the Pink Panther was such a hit that he was soon a cartoon star in his own right. The first Pink Panther theatrical release, "The Pink Phink," won the Oscar for best cartoon short in 1964, and a TV series would be launched in 1969. The Pink Panther is perhaps best known from the signature Henry Mancini sax line that was heard in the movie. 22 of 50 Gumby Classic Media Gumby and his pal Pokey began life as a film project at the University of Southern California in 1953, where creator Art Clokey was a student. The claymation duo soon caught the eye of NBC, which gave Clokey a series of his own in 1955. The show was produced until 1969, then revived in the late 1980s. Eddie Murphy even took a turn, spoofing the cartoon in 1982 on "Saturday Night Live." 23 of 50 Underdog Bettmann Archive / Getty Images Underdog began as a cartoon pitchman for General Mills cereals when he was first created by ad man W. Watts Biggers. But Underdog was a cartoon hit when his show appeared on TV in 1964. Underdog battled evildoers Riff Raff and Sinister Simon as he rescued and wooed his love, Polly Purebred. 24 of 50 Tweety Bird and Sylvester PD Cartoons/Wikimedia Commons Tweety Bird made his debut in the 1942 Warner Brothers cartoon "A Tale of Two Kitties," but not until five years later did Sylvester appear with him. The Oscar-winning 1947 short "Tweety Pie" set the standard for what became an endless attempt by Sylvester to eat Tweety Bird, who always escapes. 25 of 50 Speed Racer Lionsgate Most children of the '60s and '70s remember Speed Racer and his Mach 5 because it was their first introduction to the world of anime. Thanks to a live-action movie in 2008 and a recent cartoon series, Speed Racer is still part of the Zeitgeist today. 26 of 50 Josie and the Pussycats Columbia TriStar / Getty Images Josie was the Beyoncé of her times, leading a girl pop group and taking on the world—and she wore that groovy cat costume. "Hanna-Barbera's Josie and the Pussycats" were part "Scooby-Doo" and part "The Monkees." The characters still inspire TV today, for instance, in the form of Foxxy Love on "Drawn Together." Josie began life in 1962 as a spin-off of the Archie comic series before getting a TV series in 1967 and a live-action film in 2001. 27 of 50 Heckle and Jeckle Heckle and Jeckle. Pricegrabber In the tradition of Crosby and Hope, Heckle and Jeckle defeat their opponents with wit and style. The big mystery of these magpies is how they became friends: one has a Brooklyn accent, the other a British accent. The duo, created by Paul Terry, first appeared on movie screens in 1946. After film production ended in 1966, the pair lived on in TV syndication. 28 of 50 Top Cat Top Cat is another product of '60s Hanna-Barbera animation. He's the leader of an alley cat gang who just wants to make a quick buck. But thanks to Officer Dibble, their plans never come to fruition. Top Cat is cool, but his morals are a tad looser than his gang's, leading to occasional mutiny. Nevertheless, T.C. retains his hold as captain. 29 of 50 Ren and Stimpy Paul Warner / Getty Images Another GenX staple, the twisted adventures of dog Ren and cat Stimpy were the creation of John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon. "The Ren and Stimpy Show" ran from 1991 until 1995, when its risque blend of gross-out adolescent humor and taboo subjects proved too much for the network, which canceled the show. Like many of the most enduring cartoon characters, Ren and Stimpy developed an almost cultlike following in the years after their TV run. 30 of 50 Winnie the Pooh Michael Buckner / Staff/Getty Images This little bear who started as a doodle in a beloved children's book has been a thriving franchise for Disney since the company bought rights to him and his woodland friends in the '60s. Winnie the Pooh has starred in many cartoons and specials, both on TV and in feature films. The most memorable TV cartoons were "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" (1970), "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree" (1970), and "Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too" (1975). In 2011, Disney released "Winnie the Pooh," a very successful movie that returned to the roots of A.A. Milne's original stories. 31 of 50 Arthur Arthur is a highly recognizable character from his own children's book series, created by Marc Brown in 1976. The bespectacled aardvark made the leap to a TV cartoon on PBS in 1996, becoming an instant hit. Since then, Arthur has become a mascot for reading programs across the nation, and he remains a staple of the PBS lineup of children's programs. 32 of 50 Bill from 'Schoolhouse Rock' "Schoolhouse Rock" was a set of animated shorts that helped educate kids in the '60s and '70s about conjunctions, the magic number three, and especially the legislative process. The latter lesson starred a rolled-up paper named Bill and showed how he went from the House to the Senate and eventually became a law. His "I'm Just a Bill" tune is most memorable. The award-winning educational series was the result of a partnership between Michael Eisner, former chairman of the board at Walt Disney Company, and cartoon legend Chuck Jones. The original series aired from 1973 to 1985. 33 of 50 Space Ghost Adult Swim Sure, Space Ghost was a popular character in '60s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, when he battled villains in outer space. But his stint as a late-night talk-show host beginning in 1994 on Cartoon Network (which would become Adult Swim) sent him into the stratosphere of stardom. He interviewed human guests (via a TV screen) and bantered with his cohosts Moltar and Zorak. The characters' deadpan delivery and random laser beams helped make the cartoon a cult sensation. 34 of 50 Yogi Bear and Boo Boo Turner Broadcasting Another Hanna-Barbera staple was the team of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. The pair first debuted on "The Huckleberry Hound Show" in 1958, then earned their own cartoon titled "The Yogi Bear Show" in 1961. Yogi (smarter than the average bear) continually found himself in trouble, and Boo Boo usually figured a way out. The duo lived in Jellystone Park. Yogi and Boo Boo also starred in several other iterations of their TV show, as well as a 2010 feature film. 35 of 50 Mighty Mouse "Here I come to save the day!" Before Andy Kaufman lip-synched Mighty Mouse's theme on "Saturday Night Live," Mighty Mouse had been through many incarnations. Part mouse, part superhero, Mighty Mouse kept Mouseville safe from a variety of cat villains. Mighty Mouse was originally named Super Mouse when he made his 1942 debut in "Mouse of Tomorrow." 36 of 50 Donald Duck WireImage / Getty Images As Mickey Mouse's cynical sidekick, Donald Duck endeared himself to audiences with his eye-rolling attitude and endless capacity for exasperation. Donald Duck made his debut in Walt Disney's cartoon "The Wise Little Hen" in 1934 and quickly became a star in his own right. The Oscar-winning 1959 short "Donald in Mathmagic Land" became one of the leading educational films of its age, and like Mickey, Donald has become an icon of the Disney entertainment empire. 37 of 50 Alvin (the Chipmunk) Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images Alvin and the Chipmunks began life as a novelty record in 1958 with the No. 1 hit "The Chipmunk Song." They made the leap to comic books briefly before "The Alvin Show" appeared on prime-time TV in 1961. The show only lasted a year, but Alvin, along with his brothers, Simon and Theodore, lived on with additional novelty records, a second animated series in the 1980s, and five films as of 2017. 38 of 50 Woody Woodpecker Bettmann Archive / Getty Images Another antihero, Woody Woodpecker lives to cause trouble. His most famous trait is no doubt his cackling, stuttering laugh. Walter Lantz created Woody Woodpecker. Although Mel Blanc, then Ben Hardaway, originally voiced the character, Lantz's wife, Grace, voiced Woody Woodpecker from 1948's "Banquet Busters" through 1972. 39 of 50 Tom and Jerry Turner Broadcasting Created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera at MGM, Tom and Jerry made their debut in 1940. Like a certain cat-mouse combo at Warner Brothers, Tom and Jerry chase, torment, and generally try to defeat the other. Though Tom has the upper hand more than, say, Sylvester, he still has yet to make a meal of Jerry. 40 of 50 Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale Classic Media Boris and Natasha are portrayed the way Americans saw Russians during the Cold War, which isn't surprising since they were creations of Jay Ward. That doesn't keep these villains from dispatching some thickly accented humor. Boris was voiced by Paul Fees, who was also Burgermeister Meisterburger in "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." Legendary June Foray, who has played Granny on all the "Sylvester and Tweety" cartoons, was the voice of Natasha. 41 of 50 Felix the Cat Otto Messmer, converted to vector by Tom Edwards, public domain Felix the Cat is perhaps the oldest cartoon character on this list. A star of the silent era, Felix first appeared in movies in 1919. His simple form and face make him easily recognizable, and his magical bag helps him create all sorts of mischief. He was also the first cartoon character to gain enough popularity to award him a feature film in 1928. 42 of 50 Angelica Pickles Clockwise from bottom left: Dil Pickles, Kimi Finster, Susie Carmichael, Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, Angelica Pickles, Lil DeVille, Phil DeVille. Nickelodeon Why do bullies get all the good lines? Angelica Pickles is the bossy, spoiled toddler from "Rugrats." She is the most familiar character from "Rugrats," but possibly only because she is the meanest and talks the most. (She's older than the babies.) "Rugrats" crawled onto Nickelodeon in 1991. The crew went on to star in a number of feature films, beginning with "Rugrats: The Movie" in 1998. 43 of 50 The Powerpuff Girls Powerpuff Girls. Cartoon Network Girl power times three. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup keep Townsville, USA, safe from evil while dealing with the pressures of kindergarten. The visual style of "The Powerpuff Girls" sets it apart, though, along with the abundance of tongue-in-cheek humor. It's part high art and part drug-induced pop art. The show first premiered in 1998 and ran until 2005. 44 of 50 Spider-Man Madame Tussauds debuts Spider-Man, the attractions newest super Marvel super hero figure, on the Campanile Tower at The Venetian Las Vegas on May 2, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. WireImage / Getty Images Spider-Man is the everyman superhero. Created by Stan Lee for Marvel Comics in 1962, Spider-Man is the alter ego of high school geek Peter Parker. Spidey first starred in 1967's "Spider-Man," then came "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" (1981), "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" (1995), and "Spider-Man: The New Animated Series" (2003). 45 of 50 George of the Jungle If you doubt the popularity of George of the Jungle, just watch the cartoon on Cartoon Network, or rent the DVD of the live-action film starring Brendan Fraser. "George of the Jungle" originated in 1967, a parody of the Tarzan story. He's known for swinging on vines and slamming into trees, as well as his rhythmic theme song, "George, George, George of the Jungle...Watch out for that tree!" 46 of 50 Superman DC Comics Superman is the ultimate superhero because of his unerring loyalty to doing good. But is he a true superhero since he only has powers because he's an alien from another planet? Or is he just a guy who fell to the ground on the right planet? It doesn't really matter. Like a few other cartoon characters on this list, Superman began life in comic books in 1933 and first appeared in animated cartoons the following decade. Superman has enjoyed a long life, appearing in countless TV shows, films, and animated shows, including the iconic "Superfriends" of the 1970s. 47 of 50 Batman Turner Broadcasting Can you imagine a time when Batman wasn't the Dark Knight we know now? Hard to believe the many transformations this superhero has seen through the years, especially on television. The caped crusader first appeared in DC Comics in 1939 and made the leap to TV in the 1960s, first as a live-action show and later as a cartoon. The Dark Knight continues to appear in comics and in animation today. 48 of 50 Daria MTV Daria Morgendorffer began life as a side character on "Beavis and Butthead." A creation of Mike Judge, Daria got her own show on MTV in 1997, which ran until 2002. She's smart and witty, a teenage girl trying to figure out how to be her own person and still have a boyfriend while dealing with stressed-out parents. 49 of 50 Wonder Woman Turner Broadcasting Wonder Woman made her debut in DC Comics' "All Star Comics" in 1941. Over the decades, she's appeared in her own comic book series, her own TV show, and her own feature film. She also was part of the ABC animated series "Superfriends," which ran from 1973 to 1986. 50 of 50 Bobby Hill Bobby Hill. Twentieth Century Fox Another Mike Judge creation, Bobby Hill is the son of Hank Hill and a principal character on "King of the Hill," which aired on FOX from 1997 to 2009. Unlike Bart and Homer Simpson, Bobby and his father enjoy a good relationship, even when Bobby's ambitions get the better of him.