The 50 Greatest G.I. Joe Characters of All Time

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by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck on June 26, 2017

in G.I. Joe, Lists

The best of the best.

We recently recruited 12 of the most respected G.I. Joe bloggers, podcasters & collectors and tasked them with individually ranking the greatest G.I. Joe characters of all time. We also did Cobra if you’re more of a bad guy apologist:

READ ALSO: The 50 Greatest Cobra Characters of All Time

We were honored to have Arune Singh (Marvel’s Director of Communications) join us as our special guest panelist.

We collected each panelist’s individual list and established a composite ranking, using high-level addition and division skills. It’s the same formula we used for our other panelist-compiled lists (Greatest Playsets, Greatest Sitcoms, Greatest Tag Teams) to name a few.

With this list, there were some surprises (as you’ll see).

A few points of interest:

  • 79 different Joes were named by the 13 panelists
  • No Joe made every panelists’ top 25. The closest was Roadblock (12 of 13).
  • When the 13th and final list was submitted, there were still 2 Joes on it that none of the previous 12 had listed- this speaks volumes about the depth of strong characters G.I. Joe has developed over the years.

Join us now for a look at the 50 best ‘Real American Heroes’ of all time and check out the 50 Greatest Cobras of All Time here!

50. Cover Girl

Courtney Krieger hit the scene in 1983 as the driver of the G.I. Joe Wolverine. Before joining the Joe team, she was a professional model, frequently appearing on magazine covers. She’s also a “qualified expert with the LAW (Light Anti-Armor Weapon) rocket, Dragon AT (Anti-Tank) missile, M-16, and the M1911A1 Auto Pistol”- all of which she presumably needed to spurn Shipwreck’s daily advances.


49. Short-Fuze

Eric Friestadt “enjoys abstract mathematics and can plot artillery azimuths and triangulations in his head”. He also has a notoriously short temper, and wears glasses. Anyone else reminded of William “D-Fens” Foster? Of course Short-Fuze came first, introduced as the Joe mortar soldier in 1982.


48. Blowtorch 

In 1984 the Joes decided that missions that would be a lot easier if they just had a guy that could burn down everything in sight. Enter Timothy Hanrahan, the G.I. Joe flamethrower.


47. Airtight

As the G.I. Joe Team’s hostile environment specialist, we can only assume Airtight was originally brought in to handle the unstable Duke/Scarlett/Snake Eyes love triangle. Airtight is able to detect, identify, neutralize and contain toxic gas and poisons, which also makes him handy on burrito night. We got jokes, people!


46. Lt. Stone

Lt. Stone is proof that the panelists took me seriously when I said the list was open to Joes from all continuities. The best original character to come out of G.I. Joe: Sigma 6, Stone is a spy, and an elite member of a British intelligence agency. He has a bionic arm made of dimantium metal, and his eyepatch contains a special eyepiece that can scan and duplicate the clothing of anyone. He’s like a good guy James Bond-Zartan!


45. Barbecue

I’ll just say this: If Barbecue had any clue what the window cleaning schedule was for his apartment building, we would have been deprived of one of the oddest but greatest episodes of the Sunbow animated series. And Cobra might still have that harmless R&R base in the arctic (complete with Destro Dining Room)!


44. Grunt

Grunt has been interpreted in two different ways by Joe fans. His filecard indicates that he is an individual infantryman, named Robert Graves. His look, however, and his use in the Sunbow series supported the use of “Grunt” as a slang for infantry, meaning all of the nameless individual soldiers in green were called “grunts”. Being an original figure from 1982, my guess is not too many collectors have enough Grunt figures to army build, so in most collections he is Robert Graves. Wow- that was harder than it needed to be. I had an easier time explaining Inception to my wife.


43. Sgt. Slaughter

One of the most notable crossovers for children of the 80s, in 1985 then-WWF wrestler Sgt. Slaughter became the G.I. Joe Drill Instructor.  Although there were multiple action figure versions of Sarge produced from 85-89, Hasbro discontinued production of Sgt. Slaughter figures in 1990, undoubtedly due to the WWF turning Slaughter heel and changing his character into an Iraqi sympathizer.


42. Grand Slam

James Barney, AKA Grand Slam was an original 3 3/4″ Joe from the Class of 1982. He was the Joe team laser artillery soldier, making him the first pick at team Lazer Tag themed birthday parties. Grand Slam’s original action figure was packaged with “H.A.L.”, but good luck getting him to open the pod bay doors.


41. Shockwave

Debuting in 1988, Shockwave is the second coolest Hasbro character of the same name. A former member of the Detroit Police Department’s S.W.A.T. Team, his secondary specialty is choir, which came in super-handy at Christmas time when the Joes went ‘a carolin’. The figure was re-named Shockblast as part of the 25th Anniversary line.

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Lamar the Revenger December 11, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Great list!! Glad the Lady Jaye/Flint punch out picture made it! And as Gung-Ho would say: “Oh, look at you and your different colored hats!”

Howie Decker December 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Thanks Lamar! It’s funny, I had such a hard time not making every individual write up somehow reference the Fensler Film PSAs. I had to get a couple in there (Mutt, Roadblock), but I easily could have done it for so many others. Thanks for commenting!

Will December 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I demand to know the judges behind this! Make their identities known!!!

Howie Decker December 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Finally fixed link!

Engineernerd December 12, 2012 at 6:53 am

I will fess up.

James December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

I’m just gonna go ahead and leave a comment on this page before I leave it and go on to #40-1. BRAVO. Brilliantly executed, planned, and great list of panelists!

Bravo December 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Pretty sure Sgt. Slaughter/Robert Remus’s contract with Hasbro had ended by the Gulf War.

Howie Decker December 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm

The Gulf War started in August of 1990 and this figure was still on the market:

They made another Sgt. Slaughter figure in 06 and 2 more in 2010. If his contract was up, that didn’t stop Hasbro from cranking out figures once the heel angle was done with WWF/WWE.

Justin December 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I see what you did there.

Awesome job putting the list together! I approve. 🙂

Howie Decker December 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Couldn’t have done it without you- thanks again! It was fun! Cobra should be out early next week.

J May 10, 2013 at 1:29 am

#1 Spot should be: William “Refrigerator” Perry, “breakin’ the Cobra line!”

Maurice Mitchell August 26, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I’m surprised Sgt. Slaughter didn’t make it higher, but Lamar is right Lady Jaye/Flint are inspired choices.

Howard Decker August 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I think Sarge wore out his welcome quickly with the older fans and with non-WWF fans. He was comically unbeatable. Yeah LJ is definitely top 10 for me.

Howard Decker August 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Who would your top 5 be?

Maurice Mitchell August 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Definitely Fridge for his goofy football hammer. Lady J and Destro in that order.

Joel August 27, 2013 at 10:40 pm

1- William “Refrigerator” Perry
2- Sgt. Slaughter
3- Roddy Piper (appeared as figure only)
4- Clutch
5- The baseball uniform guy

Howard Decker August 28, 2013 at 1:00 am


Walls April 15, 2014 at 12:17 am

Shipwreck is a top 10 worldwide. In other languages with other voices. So its a great character not just for Neil Ross (Sorry my english)

Tbonejones July 3, 2014 at 5:43 pm

They need to take more guys and update them like they did with ripcored like more depth to them.

Jackie Jormpjomp August 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

Snake Eyes. All that matters is Snake Eyes is number one. In the comics he was one of the most interesting characters brought to life. Mute, scarred, dressed in black, tragic origin story, he could have easily been a villain, but those (at the time) groundbreaking pieces of his character actually made him more complex and mysterious while remaining noble. He was a secondary character in the cartoons (and all but forgotten in the animated 80s film) but in print he remains a very cool badass.

Rick Dominguez June 8, 2015 at 8:06 pm

Love this list. I was hoping to see my all time favorite JOE. His name was Salvo.
Don’t know anything about his background, all I know is he was one bad ass motha.

Loose Cannon August 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

List is a little suspect, Snow Job #2? More like 30. I’m glad it opened up to all forms of GIJoe, but most of those outside the original COmic and Cartoons shouldn’t place in the top 50 IMO.

Here is a link to HISSTANK members voting on the same thing.

It should be (Give or take a few spots):
1. Snake-Eyes
2. Flint
3. Duke
4. Scarlett
5. Roadblock
6. Lady-Jaye
7. Shipwreck
8. Stalker
9. Beachhead
10. Gung-Ho
11. Hawk
12. Sgt. Slaughter
13. Rock’n’Roll
14. Lt. Falcon
15. Tunnel-Rat
16. Spirit
17. Wild-Bill
18. Outback
19. Dusty
20. Lowlight
21. Chuckles
22. Cover-Girl

Tait June 30, 2016 at 6:38 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with Snake Eyes being number 1. If a series, animated movie, or live action movie messes up Snake Eyes they are surely doomed. I’ve seen Snake Eyes steal the show on shows fans don’t like and I don’t hear them complaining about Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow.

HERNAN November 17, 2016 at 12:03 pm

This list looks like the 50 worst G.I. Joe of History!

Of course I am a Cobra fan! 🙂

I will not order them by number, I’ll just keep these. The others are crap.

Rock ‘n Roll
Snake Eyes

JC May 25, 2019 at 1:30 pm

I’m surprised Bazooka didn’t make the list.

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