Have you ever found yourself staring at a restaurant menu thinking “Man, there’s just way too much to choose from. How can I ever narrow it down?”
That’s how we feel about action figures, but we’re gonna give it a try.
The 2012 Toy Fair is coming up February 12-15 in New York City, and that has gotten us thinking (not that we need a Toy Fair to get us thinking about action figures, that pretty much happens everyday). The Toy Fair has expanded this year in an attempt to accommodate the record number of companies anxious to be added to the world-renowned tradeshow’s wait list. Toys and action figures are as popular as ever.
Can’t make it to New York for Toy Fair? Stay in the comfort of your own home and take this stroll with us down action figure memory lane. Inevitably, we’ve left someone’s all-time favorite figure off the list, or ranked a stinker way too high, and we welcome your comments. Love is a wonderful thing, and we know what it’s like to be passionate about action figures.
In the fall of 2011 I commissioned a handful of my most trusted action figure aficionados and collectors for an ambitious project. I wanted to choose the 100 best action figures in history. A bit subjective, and sure to spark debate – but that’s what the internet is for. Let me introduce you to the contributors that worked on this list:
- John Vanover – admin of tvandfilmtoys.com, his collection is broad- with an emphasis on Star Wars and other movie franchise toys.
- Justin Bell – admin of GeneralsJoes.com, contributor to the G.I.Joe Collectors Club Newsletter, member of the What’s on Joe Mind? Podcast.
- Jason Gross - co-writer of the Mask Movie blog and script, admin of rediscoverthe80s.com, UnderScoopFire contributor.
- Rob Buzan – author of Joe A Day, a great blog that provides exactly what it promises. Owner of every 3 3/4 inch G.I. Joe figure from 1982 to present.
- Justin Gammon – designer/illustrator, author of WeirdoToys.com: a “home for all those random toys that most people have left behind.”
A sincere thank you to everyone who helped compile this list, I had a blast doing it.
100. Snake Eyes (1982 Hasbro G.I. Joe ARAH) Had to lead off with a Joe! One of the original sixteen 3 3/4″ figures, referred to as “straight arm Snake Eyes”. Rest easy, this figure will not be Snake Eyes’ last appearance on this list.
98. Six Million Dollar Man (1973) Any action figure that has interchangable arm and leg accessory packs, is tops in my book. And don’t forget the bionic eye!
97. Green Lantern (1984 Kenner Super Powers) Classic Hal Jordan figure. Excellent sculpt. Squeeze his legs together for ring thrust action!
96. Quicksilver (1987 Kenner Silverhawks) Another Kenner figure who sprung into action when you squeezed his legs together. What a novel idea! Came with clip-on Tally Hawk.
94. Hulk Hogan (1984 Wrestling Superstars) 8 inches of solid rubber, no articulation, years of fun. LJN’s Series 1 had 9 figures, and Hogan was the only one that came with the Championship belt (just like real life in the 80s).
93. Cobra Frogmen – Codename: Eels (1985 Hasbro G.I. Joe) It’s hard to make a diver design cool, but Hasbro did it in ’85, and it hasn’t been topped since.
92. Alien (1977 Kenner) Not the later small scale one. I’m talking about the large scale one produced for the first film. I never knew anbody that had one, but I know tons of kids drooled over the Christmas catalog with this in it.
91. Rom Space Knight (1979 Parker Brothers) Rom is something I’d love to see a reboot for. Considering how long the comic book was out there, I’m surprised more of us didn’t have this early electronic figure.
90. Mego Capt. Kirk (1974) The mod 70′s Mego style was a good match for 60′s Shatner.
89. ToyBiz Flipping Beast (1995 Toy Biz Marvel X-Men Classics) Odd oversize sculpt and cheesy action features were hallmarks of the early Toy Biz X-men line, Beast with “Mutant Flipping Power” is a perfect example of why this line had kids and collectors following it.
88. Pulsar (Mattel 1976) This figure creeped me out as a kid. Pulsing blood? Ick! I was the kid that got woozy in biology, though.
86. Metal Men Astronaut (1976 Zee Toys) I had some of these as a kid. They were odd metal astronauts and aliens. The astronauts were fairly NASA-esqe from what I remember. I also remember they were heavy and had sharp edges. These would never it make to pegs today.
84. Sci-Fi (1986 Hasbro G.I. Joe ARAH) I had to sneak my boy Sci-Fi in here! Seriously, a Joe that looks like the love child of Robocop and a highlighter? I know. But he had a laser cannon that connected to his backpack (very Ghostbusters to a 10 year old kid). I loved him. Honorable mention here to the 30th Anniversary G.I.Joe Sci-Fi – a great update on this figure with fantastic accessories.
83. Nightcrawler (2000 Famous Covers) I was a hardcore comic fan for a long time, and while I loved Marvel Legends, before Marvel Legends there were the Famous Covers figures, which were awesome 8” poseable figures that weren’t the most gritty figures, but they were a hell of a lot of fun. Nightcrawler even had a poseable tail!
82. Mego Cornelius (1974 Planet of the Apes) I’m guessing the Mego Planet of the Apes figures did a ton of good in preserving the film series’ legacy. Really, a pretty good representation for the time, Cornelius is a standout of the line. (Dr. Zaius is up there, though.)
81 & 80. Chewbacca & C-3PO (1982 Kenner Star Wars) For the Empire Strikes Back figure release, C-3PO had removable limbs (awesome) and came with a black “net” backpack for Chewbacca to carry him in (double awesome). You couldn’t have one without the other, so they stand together on our list.
79. Panthro (1985 LJN Thundercats) with Battle-Matic Action and nunchuks! A little shorter and stockier than his fellow T-cats, a solid sculpt.
78. Moss Man (1985 Mattel Masters of the Universe) I know he was just an astroturf covered, pine-scented Beast Man repaint, but he was like no other figure we had seen before.
77. M.U.S.C.L.E. (1985 Mattel) I realize I risk all credibility by categorizing these as “action figures”, but I had a hell of a time creating storylines and epic wrestling matches with these guys. Supplied with little to no backstory or names, these toys allowed us to employ our imagination to its fullest!
76. Tiger Force Outback (1991 Hasbro G.I. Joe) A striking repaint of an already great mold. The most bad-ass white haired dude since Race Bannon.
75. Matt Trakker (1985 Kenner M.A.S.K.) Everyone knows the vehicles were the real stars of this franchise, but in a time where 5 points of articulation dominated the market, having bendable knees made your figure damn cool. He can actually sit in a vehicle!
74. Pocket Heroes Mini articulated Marvel & DC heroes (1979 Mego) To this day, I suspect this why I can’t keep the two comic book compainies straight. The Hulk and Batman were some of my faves.
73. Buck Rogers – Twiki (1979 Mego) Buck’s little robot guide to the future, he even had a sticker for Dr. Theopolis. I think kids could really relate to him because of his size.
72. Destro v.2 (1988 Hasbro G.I. Joe ARAH) Very underrated version of Destro from the classic days, I prefer the more detailed, larger, and much more interesting Destro from 1988, plus he came with his bad ass Despoiler vehicle and a cloth cape. Very cool.
71. Stinkor (1985 Mattel Masters of the Universe) A “skunk scented action figure”. Amazing. He-Man.org notes: “The figure’s unique ‘foul’ odor was achieved by mixing the plastic used in the mold with patchouli oil. It was done in this manner, to prevent the smell from wearing off over time.”
70. Radioactive Homer Simpson (2000 Playmates – ToyFare #37 Exclusive) The woefully dificult to obtain ToyFare version of Nuclear Power Plant Homer. One of the first exclusives I remember folks going crazy for.
69. Captain Power (1987 Mattel Captain Power) The surprisingly mature nature of the TV show drew me in, and the 3 3/4” pretty poseable figures kept me on board. Awesome vac-metallized parts and vehicles that could actually interact with the television show. Great stuff.
68. Starscream (1984 Hasbro Transformers G1) To a kid in 1984, an F-15 Fighter Jet was the coolest thing in the world. Add in the fact that it transformed into a wicked cool Decepticon vying for Megatron’s positon? Jackpot.
67. Palisades Sweetums (2004 Palisades Muppets) Another Muppet, this time an oversize representation. Working eyelids and mouth? Does it get much better?
66. Micronaut Pharoid (1976 Mego Micronauts) I wanted to include something Micronaut here. I think they are huge part of today’s action figure lineage. My favorite was the Pharoid with Time Chamber. He’s a dude that time travels in a mummy case!
65. Iron Patriot (2011 Hasbro Marvel Universe) Norman Osborn is one of the most intriguing characters in Marvel comics. As leader of the Dark Avengers, he stole Stark technology and created an armor that crossed the Iron Man and Captain America look. The suit jumped off the pages of Marvel comics and the figure is just as cool.
63. Modulok (1985 Mattel Masters of the Universe) Mattel’s response to Hasbro’s Transformers line taking away their fans & toy revenue. Touted as an billed the figure as an “evil beast of a thousand bodies”, you could pop off and interchange each body part to create countless variations of the figure. A human centipede well before its time (sorry).
62. Flint v.1 (1985 Hasbro G.I. Joe ARAH) Give me Flint over Duke any day, and this figure was a perfect representation of the cocky Warrant Officer. Basic military design that has since become iconic, great shotgun and backpack as well.
61. Nose Ark (1987 Skilcraft Gross Out Gang) A bunch of social rejects that were constantly picked on by “Airheads” (or jocks). Luckily, Egg Brain had a device that accentuated the very traits that made them rejects in the first place, giving them “Exagapowers,” so now they are gross freaks and proud of it.
60. Princess Leia (Boussh Disguise) (1983 Kenner Star Wars ROTJ) I was always a sucker for a figure with a removable mask (hence my love for M.A.S.K.) and this was one I never had, although I did own her fellow Jabba’s Palace-mate Lando Calrissian in Skiff Guard disguise.
59. Wolf Breath (1986 AmToy Head Popping Madballs) These 4 inch figures have spring-loaded heads/necks. With the flick of a trigger on their backs, their heads go flying. They look this cool AND their heads pop off? Wow!
58. Whitterquick (1987 Hasbro Visionaries) Another underrated action figure line, Visionaries used the same o-ring construction and basic figure design as the G.I. Joe figures at a somewhat larger scale. Witterquick had a great design, very sleek mold and was a lot of fun.
57. Adam Power (1983 Revell Power Lords) Extra-Terrestrial Warriors that each had an action figure. The push of a button on Adam Power spun his torso around to reveal his alter-ego, Lord Power.
56. Cobra B.A.T. (2008 Hasbro G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary) I will be honest, I don’t consider many of the 25th Anniversary figures to be very high on the list of toys, especially all time, but the BAT is definitely one of the best. Perfectly suited to the modern era design.
55. Juggernaut (2004 Toy Biz Marvel Legends) I’m a big fan of Marvel Legends all told, and Juggernaut is clearly one of the greatest. A huge, extremely well articulated figure, I was stunned to see just how much raw plastic could fit in a single package.
54. Major Bones
(1983 MTC Nightmare Warriors)
Ghosts of historical warriors (but they look more like ghosts of the Village People)… and they glow in the dark.
52. Vampire (1991 Ertl Socket Poppers) Just as the name implies, these figures have interchangeable parts. You can “pop” their heads, arms and legs from their “sockets” and pop them into place somewhere else. Hard to identify one character as the best, since you can exchange each of their parts to create a completely original new figure.
51. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2008 NECA) Much more articulation than the Playmates line, these figures are based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics published by Mirage Studios. Choosing one character’s figure over the others is impossible.
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