The idea of “ranking babies” may seem a little edgy. Criticizing babies in any way is pretty much off-limits. It’s not polite to tell someone if you don’t think their baby is cute, and any time you’re invited to a baby shower, you’d better send a gift. Generally, parents aren’t supposed to have favorite kids, and even when they do, they’re definitely not supposed to publicize it.
So with giant babies entering the zeitgeist (and my nightmares) recently, we decided to rank our Top 26 Pop Culture Babies. These rankings are, as ever, subjective, but because none of the babies referenced below are our personal children, we took that as license to be critical. Please don’t come after us via parent blogs. —Megan Schuster
26. Bart Harley Jarvis
Miles Surrey: I hope you fucking die, Harley Jarvis!
25. The King Cake Baby
Schuster: Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, stared into a dark corner of your room and—for the briefest of seconds—thought you saw this face?
No? Just me? Well, ever since the Pelicans inflicted this walking nightmare of a mascot upon our collective psyches in 2014, the world has been worse off. And if you’d somehow managed to forget about the King Cake Baby’s existence in that interim, well, I’m genuinely sorry for reminding you of it here.
Surrey: I would ask if the cake is at least good, but I’ve recently learned that each king cake traditionally has A LITTLE PLASTIC BABY INSIDE OF IT. Religious reasoning or not, that’s horrifying.
24. Baby Nut
Surrey: From the underratedly twisted mind of advertisers: Behold the Baby Nut. For those not up to date with the Planters Cinematic Universe, the monocle-wearing Mr. Peanut sacrificed himself in a pre–Super Bowl LIV commercial to save the lives of Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh—earn that check, kings—and plummeted to his peanut death off a cliff face. But during the company’s Super Bowl commercial, we learned about the disturbing restorative powers of this creature. After a tear from the Kool-Aid Man, who was present at Mr. Peanut’s funeral alongside Mr. Clean (?!?!), dropped onto the soil where Mr. Peanut’s body was buried, a new nut emerged. A … Baby Nut.
(Side note: Are the Kool-Aid Man’s tears made of juice?)
I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that I had to recite all this Nut Lore/peanut brand marketing material, or that this tiny monstrosity/product of legume-like reincarnation is simply called Baby Nut. (It’s, uh, a little weird to put the words “Baby Nut” out on the internet, no matter the context.) I wish this was just a Super Bowl bit, but the official Planters Twitter account is still, regrettably, all about Baby Nut.
Please, for the love of god, kill it with fire—and don’t invite the Kool-Aid Man to the cremation.
Schuster: Question: If you kill Baby Nut with fire, does it just become … Baby Roasted Nut? I’ll see myself out.
23. The Boss Baby
Schuster: In a vacuum, The Boss Baby has a fine, if strange premise. Alec Baldwin voices an animated baby who is tasked with infiltrating a home and discovering why people are becoming less and less infatuated with the cuteness of babies. Said baby drinks a formula which gives him adult-like intelligence, and for some reason causes him to dress like he’s returning from a day on Wall Street. He eventually bonds with an older sibling, works with said older sibling to further his mission, and at the end gives up his intelligence to return to the family as a normal baby (that’s a metaphor for something, but we won’t get into that right now).
We’re docking The Boss Baby, though, because the film comes with an anti-puppy agenda. Boss Baby is trying to stop his adoptive parents from introducing a new, extra-cute “Forever Puppy” into the world, and I personally cannot support that goal.
Surrey: I also docked points because I will never forget going to a press screening for The Boss Baby on a Saturday morning, surrounded by a bunch of screaming, decidedly non-boss infants and small children.
22. Baby Boomers
Schuster: I have to thank baby boomers—I really do. Not so much for their accomplishments, or any of their material advancements. But because without them, we never would have gotten this headline in the goddamn New York Times: “‘OK Boomer’ Marks the End of Friendly Generational Relations.”
If you’re unfamiliar, boomers—the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964—are one of the internet’s favorite groups to dunk on. The members of Gen Z (or “the teens,” as I fearfully call them) have taken it upon themselves to savage boomers on social media. They do this by replying to Donald Trump tweets, misinformation videos, or even just silly Facebook missteps with “OK boomer”—a condescending quip to which there is no comeback. The boomers, having not grown up online, are simply not equipped to wage this war, and there’s a good chance many of them probably aren’t even aware that it’s happening. That said, I hope they never stop posting online, and I also hope the teens never let up (as long as they don’t turn their powers on me).
21. Lily From Modern Family
Schuster: Lily is one of my favorite Modern Family characters, and I’m a bit sad she’s not higher up on this list. But even I can admit that her glory years come when she’s a toddler—when she complains about getting a baby brother, tells everyone she meets that she has “two daddies,” and conveniently (or inconveniently, for Mitch and Cam) learns the word “fuck.” As an actual baby, Lily is pretty much a prop, designed to throw the family for a loop when Mitch and Cam surprise adopt her. But even so, Baby Lily is responsible for one of the show’s greatest moments:
20. Rosemary’s Baby
Surrey: Just to be clear: If we’re going off the quality of the film, Rosemary’s Baby would fall much higher on this list. But this isn’t a ranking of movies that just so happen to prominently feature infants: We’re ranking the babies themselves. And, well, it’s kinda hard to make a compelling argument that the Antichrist is Good, Actually.
19. The Friends Babies
Schuster: Babies on Friends primarily exist to mark the characters’ movement through the stages of life. They don’t have much in the way of personalities (unless you consider pranking a personality), nor are they expected to do anything besides complicate the lives of the original Friends.
First comes Ben, who was born to Ross and Carol (and Susan) toward the end of Season 1. Toddler Ben (played by Cole Sprouse) gets some solid screen time later in the series, but as a baby he’s pretty much just an excuse for Ross and Susan to fight. Next come the triplets, who are a source of comedy only because they allow Phoebe to keep telling people that she’s having her brother’s babies. Then there’s Emma, who is preceded by a sweater mishap, a sex tape, and Rachel’s almost-relationship with Joey. And lastly there are Monica and Chandler’s adopted twins, who mark the show’s end by forcing the family out to the suburbs.
None of these kids are very memorable, except for how their existences further point out the financial irregularities of the show. Ross, on a professor’s salary, is able to send Ben to the same school as Sting’s kid. And Frank and Alice manage to care for triplets despite Frank being a high school dropout and Alice being a home economics teacher. Friends has never been the most realistic of shows, and the babies just illustrate that further.
Surrey: All of this just makes me glad I was a Seinfeld guy.
18. Brady From Sex and the City
Schuster: Much like the Friends babies, Brady is pretty much just there to complicate Miranda’s life. But he does ultimately help bring her and Steve together, so he gets a boost.
17. The Wee Baby Seamus, Archer
Surrey: In his brief time under the highly questionable care of Sterling Archer, the Wee Baby Seamus gets a tattoo, wields a straight razor, chews on some celery that was used to mix a Bloody Mary, and sips a martini. The Wee Baby Seamus goes harder at 6 months than I do at age 27. It’s a lot to take in.
16. The Baby From Look Who’s Talking
Schuster: Look Who’s Talking is “pitched” as a comedy, but in my humble opinion it’s much closer to a horror film. Bruce Willis voices Mikey, the child of Kirstie Alley, whose thoughts we can hear through some dark, twisted magic. The terror train starts at birth when we hear what he’s thinking as he’s being brought into the world. It continues when he discusses the contents of his diaper, and when he and John Travolta co-ogle a woman’s breasts. Possibly (read: definitely) the most haunting impact of this movie, though, is when Michael Scott imitates Mikey in The Office by hiding under a desk and asking for milk from one of his subordinates. If I can’t forget about that scene, then neither can you.
15. Justin Bieber’s “Baby”
Schuster: Three opening notes. That’s all it takes to get any woman aged 14 to 35 to rush to the dance floor and relive the release of one of the most massive songs of all time. I could write thousands of words about the influence of this song, how it changed the course of pop music, how I forced my then-7-year-old nephew to learn all the words and perform it for our family. But instead I’ll just leave the video here and let you enjoy it for yourselves:
Also I was today years old when I found out Drake made a cameo in this video.
Surrey: As (a) not a woman currently aged 14 to 35 and (b) someone who can’t stand Drake or Justin Bieber, it comes as no surprise I ranked this song right ahead of baby boomers.
14. Lil Baby
Surrey: There are several rappers with “Baby” in their name, but for the sake of preventing this baby ranking from ballooning to the length of a David Foster Wallace novel, we’re considering only the baby rappers currently at the top of their game. (We’re also excluding Birdman, who previously went by Baby, so that we can save him for the inevitable day when Megan and I rank birds.) With all that said: Lil Baby and DaBaby collaborated to make the song “Baby,” which is just a glorious SEO clusterfuck:
13. Mary From Three Men and a Baby
Schuster: Ahh, Mary. Mary, Mary, Mary. The sweet child who is mistaken for a package of cocaine, given to drug dealers, rescued, cared for, then almost shipped off to London before the three oafs in this movie realize they don’t want to live without her. Mary gets major points for all the shit she’s put through at such a young age, and also for making the likes of Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson fall in love with her. (Seriously though, Mary, what’s your secret?)
Surrey: Why place DaBaby over Lil Baby after celebrating their collaboration on “Baby”? No need to overthink this: I just believe “Goin Baby” off DaBaby’s debut album, Baby on Baby, is a BOP:
11. Baby Shark
Surrey: Nearly a year ago, when Megan and I ranked sharks—if it wasn’t already clear, we love two things: the vast wonders of the majestic ocean and arbitrarily ranking stuff—we put “Baby Shark” at the very bottom of our list. “FUUUUUUUCK THIS NOISE,” was all Megan had to write down to make our point.
So what gives? Well, I’m a D.C. sports guy, and “Baby Shark” has since gone from an annoying-but-catchy song to the rallying cry for a team that inexplicably won the World Series. Sure, maybe fourth outfielder Gerardo Parra changing his walk-up music to “Baby Shark” wasn’t the actual reason for the Washington Nationals’ midseason resurgence, but you haven’t lived until you’ve joined tens of thousands of people clapping and chanting in unison to a children’s song. That was honestly the biggest highlight of going to a World Series game last year, especially because the Nats lost each game in D.C. (We never made winning easy for ourselves.)
A baseball team with a barely functional bullpen and fans going wild for “Baby Shark” beat the historically great, historically fraudulent Houston Astros, and nothing will ever change that. Kiss our ring doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo.
Schuster: I take back everything bad I’ve ever said about Baby Shark—it’s a defining anthem of our lifetime, go Nats.
10. “Baby, Baby,” Amy Grant
Surrey: Grant wrote “Baby, Baby” when she was dealing with writer’s block—a truly relatable struggle—and staring at her infant child, which is quite the flex. I’m not sure what the blogging equivalent of having writer’s block and creating a Grammy-nominated pop hit would be—an elite Christopher Nolan–related shitpost, maybe? Or I guess, in keeping with the spirit of gazing intently at something until inspiration strikes, one day I would have to write something called “Twinkie, Twinkie.”
9. Baby From Baby Driver
Schuster: Baby is iconic because he is basically a Spotify playlist personified. Sure, he has a backstory—he was orphaned in a car crash at a young age; the crash left him with a hearing impairment that is made less troublesome by listening to music; he cares for his deaf foster father; and at some point in all of this he becomes a fantastic getaway driver. But the most interesting thing about him is that he has a song for every mood.
We see this from the first scene in the movie. Baby is waiting in the car while the members of his crime operation are robbing a bank. He puts on “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and grooves to it as the robbers come back out. Baby eludes the cops and the group makes its getaway. The next track comes as Baby takes a coffee run. Rather than hustling to the shop, Baby takes his sweet time, bopping down the street to the tune of Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle.” There’s plenty more where that came from: “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” by the Beach Boys; two different songs about a Debra/Debora; even a Barry White jam thrown in there. It’s an eclectic list to be sure, but it’s pure Baby.
8. The Baby on the Cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind
Surrey: “I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
That is an actual quote from Spencer Elden, formerly the naked baby reaching for a dollar bill in a pool on the cover of Nirvana’s iconic album, Nevermind. Elden is upset that he’s never met the surviving members of the band, or been compensated beyond the $200 his parents were paid for the shoot, but he’s still got an enduring place in history—both of music and baby-kind. Elden even recreated the shoot back in 2016, thankfully, with clothes. (For that, he was also paid $200.)
Schuster: I’m sorry, $200? What kind of parents sign that contract?
Surrey: For an album cover that seemed to evoke how capitalistic values are inevitably passed on to our youth, Elden’s struggle to reckon with his small role in Nevermind and the fairness of his compensation is not without some irony.
7. Baby Groot
Surrey: Loving Baby Groot shouldn’t be complicated. He’s a kindly alien tree voiced by Vin Diesel—regenerated after a heroic sacrifice at the end of the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. He’s cute; he dances and stuff. He’s Groot, in baby form.
Alas, James Gunn wasn’t having it. The filmmaker told his followers in 2018 the original Groot is absolutely DEAD, and that Baby Groot is his offspring. He explains Groot Canon like it’s a serious form of art, and not something based on comics that feature a sentient tree and a talking raccoon who are best buddies and live in outer space. For what it’s worth, it would be more accurate, given how plant reproduction works, to consider Baby Groot a clone of Groot. See? Now I’m breaking down plant regeneration instead of just celebrating a very cute alien tree that says “I am Groot” a lot. Let’s celebrate this little fella for being really darn cute.
Thankfully, whether he’s a baby, a moody teen, or a full-grown tree, Groot is always voiced by America’s greatest thespian. Vin is Groot.
6. The Star Child, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Surrey: The last 30 minutes of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece are the perfect encapsulation of “When the edible hits.” Astronaut David Bowman is thrust into the kaleidoscopic stargate, sees his entire life pass before his eyes, and transforms into, well, a big-ass baby.
Though the so-called Star Child can be read as a metaphor for mankind’s rebirth in the cosmos, the surreal sight of a giant space baby floating toward our planet as the final shot of a seminal sci-fi film speaks for itself. Adding to the creepiness factor was Kubrick’s insistence on making the Star Child more fetus-like in appearance, as if this wasn’t weird enough already. All told, 2001: A Space Odyssey really lived up to its three-word marketing push: This movie is the ultimate trip.
5. Nintendo Babies
Surrey: Here’s an exclusive look at the fateful Nintendo pitch meeting that led to this.
Personally, I would do anything for Bowser Jr.
Schuster: Live look at me on the receiving end of this pitch:
Surrey: If only everyone brought that energy to the Wii U!
4. Baby From Dirty Dancing
Schuster: Baby’s tale is supposed to be one of rebellion. She goes on vacation with her family in the Catskills, but once there she openly rejects her family’s wealth, refuses the advances of the boy she should be interested in, and instead spends her summer hanging with resort staff and falling for the “dangerous” (quotation marks for absurdity) Patrick Swayze. And in 1987, that probably was considered rebellion!
Baby’s plot hasn’t exactly aged well—let’s just say the story of a privileged white woman railing against her upbringings through dance rings more than a bit hollow in 2020. But it’s still a fun summer movie full of Sweaty Swayze, ludicrous dance moves, and plenty of wonderful ’80s hairstyles. I still dream about going to the salon and asking for the Jennifer Grey.
3. Maggie Simpson
Schuster: The Pacifier Princess. The Bow-Wearing Beauty. The Gun-Toting Gal. Too soon?
Maggie Simpson does the most with the least. As the only member of the Simpsons cast who can’t speak, Maggie is tasked with being funny in other ways. And boy, is she. Here are my top-five Maggie Simpson moments:
5. When she becomes the queen of Machu Picchu in “Lost Verizon”
4. When she rescues Homer from Louie’s basement in “Midnight Towboy”
3. That time she set up a bar in her room and overserved Lisa:
2. Her love affair with Moe in “Moe Baby Blues”
1. When she outsmarts Lisa to the point that these shirts become appropriate:
Her sweet, innocent smile would never reveal it, but this girl has a dark side. And all of that personality, hidden behind her ever-present pacifier, is why she’s no. 3 on this list.
Surrey: Stewie who?
2. Baby Yoda
Surrey: Baby Yoda is kind of a miracle—hear me out. Disney did not conceive of this character out of the kindness of their heart; more likely, they couldn’t stop thinking about all the merchandising opportunities. To wit: I have a sticker on my laptop of the moment when Baby Yoda drank a bowl of space broth. (It was purchased from an Etsy artist, so thankfully none of that money went into Disney’s greedy pockets.)
And yet, Baby Yoda transcends his existence as a marketing ploy to be such a damn cute, and super lovable, creation on his own right. His growing bond with the titular bounty hunter on The Mandalorian is genuinely endearing, and if the series went the darker route of showing what all this violence does to an impressionable—and powerful Force-wielding—young mind, Baby Yoda might well have destroyed our hearts. In any event—Disney is probably too cowardly to tempt this little guy with the Dark Side—Baby Yoda is utterly delightful. Search your feelings, you know it to be true: Werner fucking Herzog isn’t immune, either. We can love Baby Yoda, even if we don’t love why he exists. We can even make songs about him.
This is the way.
1. The Babies on Rugrats
Schuster: Honestly, it’s not really fair that we included all of these babies in the same voting bloc. This is basically Avengers: Endgame and everything else on this list is some Ant-Man movie. But whatever, Rugrats deserve it.
Tommy Pickles alone would have probably received my no. 1 vote. The Original TV Baby taught a generation of kids how to misbehave and somehow always outfox their clueless parents. Chuckie, despite being a total buzzkill, gives this group heart. Phil and Lil provide the gross-out, sassy comedy (even though the episode where they fight over who’s the favorite is a haunting portrait of sibling rivalry). And Dil … well, he’s just a bit too on the nose.
Overall, these babies are what all pop culture children should aspire to be; a perfectly well-rounded group that doesn’t mind sneaking in a nap time every now and again or eating a handful of worms. After all, in the immortal words of Tommy, “sometimes a baby’s gotta do what a baby’s gotta do.”