The Best TV Characters Of The '80s

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Awesome TV characters from shows that aired during the 1980s

Who were the best TV characters of the '80s? From The Golden Girls, The Cosby Show, and Murder, She Wrote all the way to kid favorites like Punky Brewster, Elmo, and Saved By the Bell, these shows greatly impacted the culture of the decade. This list has the best TV characters from classic 1980s television shows.

It was the decade where the Pee-Wee Herman was introduced. Michael Knight and Virgil Tibbs also took to the small screen, entertaining millions of fans. The top TV show characters of the 1980s included family-focused favorites like Highway to Heaven and the still popular kid’s all-time favorite Sesame Street. And who can forget the Seaver family from Growing Pains (though we try to forget Kirk Cameron these days)? 

Children’s characters like Alf, Optimus Prime, and He-Man were also introduced. The top characters of the 80s were, for the most part family-friendly, uplifting, and hilarious. Let's honor the ingenuity of Mr. Angus MacGyver, and the importance of having life-long friends a la The Golden Girls.

Vote up your favorite 1980's TV characters below or add your favorite if he or she isn't already on the list!
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
Ranked by
  • Fonzie
    Happy Days
    333 votes
    • Actor: Henry Winkler

    One cannot forget the effortlessly cool Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, commonly known as "Fonzie," played by Henry Winkler in the hit series Happy Days. With his leather jacket and motorcycle, he epitomized the 1950s-era bad-boy image, while his heart of gold endeared him to audiences. Despite his tough exterior, Fonzie was always there to help out his friends and prove that appearances can be deceiving. This iconic character became synonymous with 1980s pop culture, as Winkler's portrayal brought the Fonz to life with charisma and genuine warmth unmatched by most.

  • Al Bundy
    Married... with Children
    863 votes
    • Actor: Ed O'Neill

    Al Bundy, depicted by the talented actor Ed O'Neill in the beloved sitcom Married... With Children, holds a legendary status among the pantheon of 1980s TV characters. Serving as the quintessential working-class underachiever, this hapless shoe salesman entertained viewers with his sarcastic wit and seemingly never-ending string of misfortunes, creating a comedic persona that still resonates with audiences today. Ultimately, Al's attempts to find respite from life's mundane struggles provided a humorous and relatable escape for many viewers over the years.

  • Thomas Magnum
    Magnum, P.I.
    868 votes
    • Actor: Tom Selleck

    On the lighter side of the 1980s TV landscape, we find private investigator Thomas Magnum, brilliantly portrayed by Tom Selleck in the hit show Magnum P.I. This smooth-talking, mustachioed detective, with his iconic Hawaiian shirt and red Ferrari, made sleuthing look like a million bucks. Viewers always came back to watch him chase down criminals and assist his clients, all while maintaining a perfect balance of seriousness and levity. This engaging concoction made Magnum a household name and set the standard for private investigators on television for years to come.

  • Alex P. Keaton
    Family Ties
    865 votes
    • Actor: Michael J. Fox

    Michael J. Fox stole the hearts of millions with his portrayal of the ambitious young conservative Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. As the voice of reason among his more liberal family members, Alex navigated the complexities of the '80s economic and political landscape with his sharp wit and cutting humor. Whether he was discussing politics, pursuing his dreams of success, or engaging in sibling banter, Fox's charisma and comedic timing shone through, solidifying Alex as one of the most memorable TV characters of the decade.

  • Kermit the Frog
    The Muppet Show
    560 votes
    • Actor: Jim Henson

    Of course, no discussion of '80s TV characters would be complete without mentioning the iconic Kermit the Frog. As the affable host of The Muppet Show and star of various Muppet productions, Kermit's warm presence and unique sense of humor captivated audiences young and old. Voiced by the legendary puppeteer Jim Henson, this lovable green frog found a way to connect with people on an emotional level, teaching valuable life lessons while spreading joy on screen, ultimately solidifying his role in television history.

  • Hawkeye Pierce
    713 votes
    • Actor: Alan Alda

    Hawkeye Pierce, portrayed with immense talent by Alan Alda, served as the heart and soul of the critically acclaimed series M*A*S*H. As a talented Army surgeon stationed in the Korean War, Hawkeye's quick wit, irreverence, and compassion provided much-needed comic relief in the face of the darker subjects tackled in the show. His unique perspective on the madness of war, combined with his devotion to his patients, solidified this character's place in the annals of TV history.