Over the years, the adult animated comedy subgenre has become one of the standard templates for new television shows. Series like Family Guy, American Dad! and King of the Hill have captivated the hearts of millions across the globe. While many shows can be noted as having contributed some element or another to the subgenre’s primordial soup, one show stands as the titan above them all, having essentially singlehandedly defined the space: The Simpsons.
The reasons for The Simpsons’ success are many and sundry, from its joke density to its tendency to accidentally predict the future, but one factor that cannot be understated is the likability of its characters. Whether it’s because of the gags surrounding them or their general relatability, Matt Groening has created some of the most beloved and recognizable animated characters of all time.
10 Grandpa Simpson
The elderly patriarch of the Simpson family, Grandpa Simpson is a constant thorn in Homer’s side in his old age.
It’s immediately easy to see why Grandpa Simpson is a beloved character. His absent-minded and sometimes casually mean-spirited nature makes it hard not to love him. Everyone has met at least one Grandpa Simpson in their lives, and for a lot of the audience, it’s inevitable that they’ll eventually become him; with that in mind, it’s easy to see why he’s the source of some of The Simpsons’ most beloved jokes.
9 Ralph Wiggum
The son of Chief Wiggum, Ralph Wiggum is defined largely by his limited intellectual capacity, and the odd things that this prompts him to say.
Ralph is innocence personified. The most childlike of the show’s children by a wide margin, Ralph is an endless source of absolutely golden lines (it’s hard for any Simpsons fan to think of a school superintendent without mentally subbing in “Super Nintendo” for the word “superintendent”). With his almost boundlessly good-hearted nature, it’s hard not to say the world would be a better place if everyone had a little Ralph in them.
8 Seymour Skinner
The principal of Springfield Elementary, Seymour Skinner is Bart Simpson’s long-suffering sparring partner.
The character is defined largely by how relatively beaten-down he is by his job; at times, his discipline of Bart feels less like genuine discipline, and more like Skinner simply wants Bart to stop making his life difficult. It’s easy for anyone who’s ever had a boss to relate to his fear of Superintendent Chalmers, as well. Everyone who works a daily grind has a little bit of Seymour Skinner in them, and for that reason he stands as one of the most likable Simpsons characters.
7 Ned Flanders
Ned Flanders is the Simpsons’ neighbor, and Homer’s long-standing (one-sided) arch-rival.
While Homer strongly dislikes Flanders for the seeming perfection of his life, it’s hard for viewers to feel the same way. Flanders is the picture of a good person, to a comical degree; if there were any Simpsons characters who qualified for sainthood, Flanders would be near the top of the list. It says a lot that, in a series that’s otherwise rather casually mean to its characters, Flanders undergoing any kind of suffering is treated with seriousness and sympathy.
6 Lisa Simpson
The older daughter of the Simpson family, Lisa is an accomplished saxophonist, social activist, and Buddhist.
While her social activist tendencies sometimes put her in opposition to the rest of the family, it’s hard to truly dislike Lisa, even at her “worst.” Lisa Simpson is a character whose heart is almost always in the right place, even (and especially) when she’s incorrect about something; whether she’s fighting toy companies over Malibu Stacy dolls or attempting to push the rest of the family to vegetarianism, Lisa always fundamentally wants to make the world a more just place. It’s easy to like a kid who wants to make the world better, and that’s Lisa in a nutshell.
5 Moe Szyslak
The bartender of Moe’s Tavern, seemingly the one bar in Springfield, Moe is a strange little man who often ends up as one of Homer’s closest confidants.
Moe ends up becoming one of the more accurate depictions of depression in television history, albeit an exaggerated and probably somewhat accidental one. While the suicide jokes around Moe have aged somewhat poorly, it’s hard to deny that a lot of us have been able to relate to Moe in our lowest moments. It also helps that the show is more than willing to occasionally throw the man a bone, and it’s telling that it’s always satisfying when that happens.
4 Marge Simpson
The matriarch of the Simpson family, Marge often finds herself keeping the family stable.
It’s impossible to dislike Marge Simpson. While she can sometimes appear to be a bit of a wet blanket, standing in opposition to Homer and the kids’ crazier schemes (most memorably Homer’s attempt to become a monorail conductor), it’s impossible to deny that she’s the primary reason that they’re a functioning family at all. Marge has plenty of her own idiosyncrasies, to boot, that prevent her from becoming too much of a dead-stop to the silliness.
3 Krusty the Clown
Krusty the Clown is Springfield’s beloved TV entertainer and a frequent fixture in the kids’ lives, in person just as often as on television.
While Krusty is definitely very different in person from the persona he attempts to adopt on the (in-universe) screen, and certainly much more flawed, it’s hard to truly dislike him for it. For as many vices as he has, and as little as he shows it most of the time, Krusty consistently proves when the chips are down that he’s a good-hearted man who does his job because he cares about the kids. Krusty stands as one of the most likable and relatable characters in a series full of them.
2 Bart Simpson
The son of Marge and Homer Simpson, Bart is a mischievous troublemaker and the show’s inarguable breakout character.
For as much as Bart can be a little brat, we’ve all been Bart at some point in our lives. Bart initially drew controversy and praise in equal measure for being an oddly realistic depiction of an imperfect, disadvantaged kid. While moral guardians in the early 1990s may have been averse to him, this also makes Bart endlessly relatable to massive cross-sections of the audience, even past his “eat my shorts” and “ay caramba” catchphrases.
1 Homer Simpson
Homer Simpson is the core protagonist of The Simpsons, a nuclear power plant safety inspector trying to coast his way to a good life for his family.
Homer somehow manages to be the most likable character in the Simpsons despite being one of its most overtly flawed, and that boils down to the focus put on his character. Even in his foibles, the audience is made aware that Homer has his heart in the right place; his mistakes are mistakes that any of us could make at any time, and his triumphs are triumphs we all hope to have for ourselves. While some of us may not be proud to admit it, there’s a little bit of Homer in everybody, and that’s one of the core reasons why this show has survived in popular consciousness.
NEXT: 10 Greatest ‘The Simpsons’ Episodes from the Last Decade