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Top 10 Memorable TV Cartoon Characters Of The 1980s

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nathan Sharp Everyone, from grandparents to children alike, loves a good cartoon. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Memorable TV Cartoon Characters Of The 1980s. For this list, we’re looking at the cartoon characters that helped define the decade and are well remembered as being the best that animated TV had to offer in the 1980s. Special thanks to our users nathansharp28or submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Memorable TV Cartoon Characters Of The 1980s

Everyone, from grandparents to children alike, loves a good cartoon. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for thetop 10 memorable TV cartoon characters of the 1980s. 

For this list, we’re looking at the cartoon characters that helped define the decade and are well remembered as being the best that animated TV had to offer in the 1980s. To be clear, we’re counting both cartoons meant for children and for adults, so this list won’t exclusively be filled with children’scartoon characters.

#10: Jem / Jerrica Benton
“Jem” (1985-88)

The leader and singer of a rock band, and therefore, protagonist of the show, Jem’s life is similar to that of a superheroine’s, and proves every bit asmemorable. The alter ego of Starlight Music Owner Jerrica Benton, Jem fronts the band Jem and the Holograms and is able undergo this transformation thanks to her Jemstar earrings. In order to keep her identity a secret, Jerrica must use the power of Synergy, a computer with holographic abilities. As a result, Jem/Jerrica’s adventure is enticing, packed with action and drama and filled with excitement, making this one of themost watched kids’ shows in the late-‘80s. 

#9: Cobra Commander
“G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” franchise (1983-92) 

This popular show, based off the famous Hasbro toyline and Marvel comic book series, introduced many children to the excitement that is G.I. Joe. While “A Real American Hero” features many memorable characters, Cobra Commander is perhaps the most unforgettable of them all due to his purely evil intentions. A humanoid with reptilian features, including a tongue he uses to snatch flies, this terrorist is the main enemy of the titular Joes. Thanks to his great intelligence and physically terrifying presence, he’s one animated supreme leader that’s vey hard to forget, as evidenced by his return in subsequent small and big screen adaptations of “G.I. Joe.”

#8: He-Man / Prince Adam
“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” (1983-85)

Attempting to defend the citizens of Eternia and Castle Grayskull from another iconic character – the evil Skeletor - He-Man was a true cartoon hero. Known for his brute strength and his blond bob, He-Man proved to be a real warrior with the help of his sword and his sidekick Battle Cat. Avoiding conflict when he can, He-Man proved to be a noble and intelligent hero, but also one that could also hold his own in battle. Considered a true icon ofmasculinity in the ’80s – at least in terms of cartoons – He-Man and his alter ego Prince Adam remain a cartoon classic. The most powerful man in theuniverse also spawned another classic character with his twin sister, Adora/She-Ra.

#7: Inspector Gadget
“Inspector Gadget” (1983-86)

An inept but well-meaning police officer, Inspector Gadget was famous in the ‘80s and remains so to this day, battling the similarly memorable, but also mysterious, villain Dr. Claw. Since he’s a cyborg cop who possesses seemingly countless gadgets, you’d think he would be the force’s top police inspector. But, in fact, he’s clumsy, inept, and just plain bad at his job. It’s always hilarious for kids to watch him stumble around, but it’s also equally exciting to see the many unique uses he finds for his gadgets. No matter what Gadget’s doing, it’s always entertaining.

#6: Scrooge McDuck
“DuckTales” (1987-90) 

Though it wouldn’t be the first appearance of Scrooge McDuck in the Disney franchise, “DuckTales”’ version of the elderly Scottish Duck featured a more family friendly approach to the classic cartoon character. Named after Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ famous novella, Scrooge’s less than stellar personality traits seemed to have been erased for this animated series, with him appearing happier and less irritable than in previous cartoons. While his newfound heart allows him to be more approachable for children, Scrooge is also funny, noble, and moral, hating those who acquire wealth or power without earning it. He’s a sentimental and smart character as well, making him the perfect father figure for his nephews – and for the children watching the show. 

#5: Garfield
“Garfield and Friends” (1988-94)

An adaptation of the beloved and popular comic strip, this show featured a Garfield that was as lovable and lazy as ever. He may be a fat and unmotivated orange cat, but he’s also one that many people relate to on some level, either due to his cynicism, his laziness, or his intense love of food – specifically, lasagna. Though Garfield seems to hate on a lot of things, we know that he really does love Odie and Jon – and that’s exactly why we love him so much. He’s hilarious, and his don’t-care attitude speaks to us all somewhere, somehow.

#4: Michelangelo
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1987-96)

One of the four popular anthropomorphic turtles named after Renaissance artists, Michelangelo gets the spotlight here due to his fun-loving attitude. When not fighting villains Bebop and Rocksteady, Michelangelo is wielding his badass nunchucks, making jokes or socializing with other characters - as well as exclaiming some of the series’ famous catchphrases. While not the smartest or most conniving of the Turtles, he certainly is the most entertaining, and as such, the most fun to watch for kids and adults alike.

#3: Smurfette
“The Smurfs” (1981-89)

We love all the Smurfs; however the standout has gotta be the love interest of almost every one of these little blue dudes, as she’s the only female onthe show until the 5th season. As a female hero on an otherwise male-dominated show, Smurfette is portrayed as very lady-like, with long blonde hair, long eyelashes, and high heels. She provides some much needed female perspective on the show. Originally planted by villain Gargamel to sabotagethe Smurfs, she eventually grew to be accepted as one of the family thanks to Papa Smurf. Smurfette thus proved to kids that good triumphs over evil, providing a great role model for young women everywhere. 

#2: Alvin
“Alvin and the Chipmunks” (1983-90)

The lead vocalist of The Chipmunks, Alvin quickly grew to become the leader of the group, and eventually, the fan favorite. Always impulsive and charming, Alvin is the most charismatic of the rodent brothers, often leading them in hilarious schemes that he devised in order to get what he desires. He’s also the resident troublemaker, often causing wacky problems with other characters and bullying his brothers and human father figure Dave. Despite being the oldest sibling, he seems quite young at heart, and is therefore the most entertaining to watch. 

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
-    Rainbow Brite
“Rainbow Brite” (1984-86)
-    Strawberry Shortcake
“Strawberry Shortcake” franchise (1980-85)
-    Grumpy Bear
“Care Bears” (1985-88)
-    Lion-O
“ThunderCats” (1985-89)

#1: Optimus Prime
“The Transformers” (1984-87)

Leader of the Autobots, this transforming sentient robot is unquestionably the best Transformer and one of the best cartoon characters of the decade. While there were other great Transformers like Megatron and Bumblebee, Optimus Prime bested them all due to his strong leadership abilities, his compassion, and his bravery. He’s not only a great role model for children, but he also knows how to kick some serious butt, often providing the“Transformers” series with its greatest action sequences. He’s badass and more human than most actual human cartoon characters, and that’s what earns him the top spot.

Do you agree with our list? What cartoon character from the ‘80s is your favorite? For more exciting top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to


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