Every few months, it seems someone from Hollywood says the same thing: There are no true movie stars anymore. Blockbusters are now carried by brands and franchises, and the days of actors being able to sell a movie on their marketability alone have long since passed. How did this happen? There are a variety of possible reasons, but we’ll propose just one: movies just don’t have The Muppets in them anymore.
It has been almost 10 years since Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, and their various crafted cohorts graced theater screens in “Muppets Most Wanted,” which saw the acclaimed comedy group stage a prison break. Since then, the beloved creations of Jim Henson have been confined to the small screen, where they captured the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere via a strong candidate for the most influential sketch comedy series of all time: 1976-1981’s “The Muppet Show.”
More from IndieWire
While it’s nice to have legendary A-list stars on television, Disney (which has owned the Muppets brand since 2004) has struggled to give Kermit and his collaborators the platform they deserve. Their titular ABC docuseries lasted only a single season in 2015, while a modernized Disney+ variety series “Muppets Now” similarly flamed out after one outing in 2020.
This week brings another Disney+ program from the group: “The Muppets Mayhem,” which hopefully will be able to find the audience previous efforts could not. But even then the core group isn’t involved on camera for the first season. The series instead focuses on longtime backing band The Electric Mayhem, consisting of breakout star Animal, frontman Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, and Lips. All six are deserving stars in their own right, but we think it’s safe to say the world still hungers to see Miss Piggy’s karate chop; to bask in Kermit’s warm folksy froggy green glow; to witness the legendary chemistry between America’s sweethearts Gonzo the Great and Camilla the Chicken.
Maybe the issue is that the Muppets are too big to be confined to TV, as great as their original show was. Since making the leap to the big screen with 1979’s “The Muppet Movie,” Kermit and friends have essentially created their own genre of films, ones only they can make. The eight films bearing the group’s name span genres — from heist films to space operas, from Christmas films to pirate adventures — but all share the hallmarks that make the Muppets the Muppets: catchy musical numbers, celebrity cameos, big boundless comedy, and a sweetness that never tips over into saccharine territory. It’s a filmography as varied as it is strong, which makes ranking them a daunting proposition: pitting a crop of films where every single one is somebody’s childhood favorite against each other.
A quick note on methodology for this story: the list only focuses on the theatrical films that carry the Muppet name, disregarding some television and direct-to-DVD releases. In addition to the ranking, we also included notes about what the human actors who made appearances in the films had to say about their experiences, which range from heartwarming memories on set from acclaimed thespians to bitter feuds and scandalous gossip.
Here are the eight theatrically released Muppets movies, ranked.
Best of IndieWire