The Muppets, world-renowned for their felty exteriors and absurd antics, have unsurprisingly accumulated an impressive filmography since their inception in 1955. This filmography includes not only eight movies but also a whopping 13 television programs, 28 television specials, five unmentionable direct-to-video releases and an appearance on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Unfortunately, due to budget restrictions, I will be including only the theatrically-released films in my ranking; however, there are some article-worthy television specials (I am looking at you, “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence”). I will also not be including “The Muppet Christmas Carol” because its status as a Dickens adaptation muddles the competitive waters, even if it is a perfect movie.
NUMBER FIVE: “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981)
If you are surprised Muppet Caper landed so low on the list, please tell me what exactly you find so redeemable about this drain of a movie. Watching this film feels like wading through a river that doubles as the hazard-ridden dumping ground for all nearby nuclear plants. I am surprised it did not include a twenty-minute scene in which Kermit and Fozzie beat a limp puppet horse because it would have perfectly encapsulated this film’s butterfinger grasp on comedy.
As an aside, I was terrified of this movie as a kid. Has this unconsciously created a bias within me, a bias that is now flaring up in my very serious journalistic adulthood? Who knows?
What I do know is that “The Great Muppet Caper” is less than praiseworthy. The only exceptions are the Puppet fruits and vegetables. I have a soft spot for foods with eyeballs and excellent singing voices.
NUMBER FOUR: “The Muppets” (2011)
Okay, okay. When you’re done screaming, I’m ready to explain.
“The Muppets” is a great movie. I have more love for it than for its sequel “Muppets Most Wanted” (which, you might have noticed, did not even make it onto this list). Jason Segel is incredible, not just for his acting, but also for his nearly single-handed revival of the Muppets franchise, which said stemmed from a childhood adoration for the characters to which I can certainly relate. That is why I think he would understand why I ranked this movie the way I did. When comparing this movie to those of the 20th century, it is a simple decision to make.
NUMBER THREE: “Muppets in Space” (1999)
Ranking this at three wounds me. However, I know that if I put it first, I would be driven off campus by wooden stakes and pitchforks. I am sorry, but I unironically adore this movie. I know the consensus is that this film is one of, if not the worst Muppet movie in the lineup. And I can admit, it certainly has its flaws. Pepe the Prawn is an acceptable character, but he is objectively less acceptable when he takes up a majority of this film’s under 90-minute runtime; there are only so many weirdly sexual jokes you can handle from a shrimp puppet with a botched Spanish accent.
But there are plenty of redeemable aspects of this movie, too. For starters, the soundtrack is impeccable. The movie opens with a hodgepodge Muppet chorus harmonizing to “Brick House” by Commodores. And true to Muppet tradition, there’s a flashy ensemble number to wrap things up—I will not spoil it. Miss Piggy beats up at least three shadowy government figures. There is yet another talking piece of food (this time a sandwich with the crusts cut off).
Some of you will criticize me for allowing the majority opinion to affect my ranking. I am a sheep, you will say. Some will criticize me for putting “Muppets in Space” on this list at all. Or—and this is the most likely option—nobody will care about any of this. Luckily for you all, I care more than enough for the both of us.
NUMBER TWO: “Muppet Treasure Island” (1996)
Tim Curry. That’s it.
Fine, I will say a bit more. Did you know the score for this movie was composed by Hans Zimmer? Like, “Interstellar” composer Hans Zimmer.
NUMBER ONE: “The Muppet Movie” (1979)
Fun fact: there are 250 puppets in the last shot of this movie. Two-hundred-and-fifty. They were puppeted by a total of 150 puppeteers, and the disparity between both numbers confuses and impresses me. Maybe I’m sentimental, but I always cry when I watch the final “Rainbow Connection” performance. These are characters that mean so much to me and to so many people. While this movie came after their internationally-known debut series (aptly titled “The Muppet Show”), I would argue that “The Muppet Movie” has maintained more iconic status simply because of its digestibility and easy comedy. Despite being made over 40 years ago, a good amount of jokes in The Muppet Movie still catch laughs.
Does this mean it is a perfect movie? No, far from it. But is that not the essence of the Muppets, anyway? They make mistakes, and that is why the world has continued to love them even decades after their inception. That’s why the world will keep loving them—that, and the undeniable charm of a talking piece of cabbage.
Annabelle Smith is a first year majoring in studio art