Masters of the Universe, the toy line that spawned the 1980s mega-hit cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, helped define the decade. So, clearly, we need to rank them. Below watch our video ranking the top 25 figures in the line, and if you want to go dive deep, we've ranked EVERY SINGLE action figure in the line below that.
Leech's special feature was that he could stick to walls. Problem was, it was often hard to get him unstuck.
69. Laser Light Skeletor
Lasers were really big in the '80s, alongside strangers, scoliosis and "very special" episodes. Anyway, the deal here is that Skeletor's eyes and hands light up. This was one of the last figures made, and it sucks. Skeletor looks weird.
68. Laser Power He-Man
Same deal as Skeletor, but he looked marginally cooler with the lightsaber-esque sword.
You could mix and match various pieces of this figure. It may get me flack, but I'm putting him low on the list because the parts were easy to lose and he was hard to construct.
Same deal as Multi-Bot, but Modulok looked cooler.
Rotar had no legs and could spin around. The end.
Twistoid was basically like Rotar, except he looked cooler and had a sickle!
Zodac was completely forgettable and not even that interesting looking. He was bad in the original toyline, then good on the cartoon, so clearly TPTB found him forgettable enough they couldn't keep his story straight! When I was a kid, I couldn't spell his name and always called him "Zodiac" and pretended that he was really into astrology.
Dragstor basically had a tire in his chest. When one stuck this ribbed cord thing in him (an item the toy line used a lot), you could lay him flat and he'd go flying. Mostly that meant flying off tables.
Blade was a cool idea because he had an eyepatch and swords and was one of the few bald people in the 1980s. Still, he's based on a character from the Masters of the Universe movie, inherently making him quasi-sucky.
Dragon Blaster Skeletor
To keep sales up and interest in each wave of the line, Mattel had to come up with "new" versions of He-Man and Skeletor every year. Dragon Blaster Skeletor was one of the weaker executions. Essentially, Skeletor had a backpack that was a dragon's head that shot water. The chains were cool and very Jane Child-esque.
Thunder Punch He-Man
All that's going on here is He-Man can wind up and punch something hard with a "smack" that's supposed to sound like thunder. All the points go to the commercial for the figure, which combines hip-hop and He-Man, two things that should never be married.
Buzz Saw Hordak
This version of She-Ra's arch enemy (who, oddly, did not fall under the Princess of Power toyline) could shoot a cheap looking gear ("buzzsaw") out of his chest.
Tung Lashor had a great, colorful paint job but his tongue (which stuck out) always seemed cheap and like it would break any second.
The people at Mattel really loved the theme of snake heads squirting water, and Kobra Khan was no exception. Kobra Khan sorta looks like a
The series' only black figure (which is kinda pathetic, given the number of characters with blue, green or yellow skin). He gets the
ranking for being a trailblazer.
With a face only Medusa could love, his novelty of snakes popping out of his eyes, mouth, chest and clavicle (!) got old after doing it 15 times. When I was a kid, I got Snake Face's staff confused for a Caduceus, so I always thought he moonlit as a doctor for the Snake Men.
Mantenna’s eyes pop out, which was fun.
Flying Fists He-Man
The "flying fists" in the title refer to this weird bola thing you can stick in He-Man's hand that spins around when you use this figure's "action feature." Said feature is realy just moving He-Man's arms up and down so it looks like he's doing the elliptical or jazzercising.
Akin to Flying Fists He-Man, he was cooler because you could actually replace his hand and he has a gold armor plate. Gold in action figures
in the '80s signaled something was fancy.
Terror Claws Skeletor
Seen above, Terror Claws Skeletor was way, way cooler because of his big gloves that you could remove ("you can never have enough hats, gloves or shoes" - Patsy Stone). Removable accessories were a very big part of '80s action figures
Rattlor wasn't terribly memorable, but his neck extended, which somehow never stops being entertaining.
With his quasi-aviator glasses, Stratos always looked like a stoner to me; the Tommy Chong of Eternia, if you will.
In case it was at all unclear, Ninjor is a ninja. The name gets the ranking. Interestingly, Ninjor seems to have weird monkey feet despite being human.
Despite looking like Ganesha after a Cylon upgrade, Snout Spout actually has a cool aesthetic. Of all the "squirts water action features," Snout Spout makes the most sense.
Another movie character. I'm putting him this high up simply because I can't believe we live in a world where there was an action figure based on Billy Barty.
Grizzlor was covered in real fur! Which basically means in 4 out of 5 households, sticky fingers and other kid-crap made Grizzlor look like Phil Spector.
Rio Blast should be the NRA's poster child. He's armed with a ton of guns, and his chest opens up to reveal even more. When I was a kid, I thought he looked like Gerald McRaney, so I used to call him that. Kinda sorta, can you see it?
Mer-Man's facial expression, a mix of shock and constipation, gets him the ranking. His sword looked like corn.
Faker was a robot clone of He-Man created by Skeletor, whose ego was apparently big enough that he decided to give Faker his own skin tone. Mattel, quite literally, did not break the mold with this figure; he's just a repainted He-Man.
Scare Glow was extremely rare and extremely ridiculous. He glowed in the dark, which was very trendy in the '80s.
First of all, Fisto looks like a refugee from a Tom of Finland catalogue. Second, his action feature - his big, iron fist would slam down after one sprung it back - was quite neat, but also could sort of hurt!
Battle Armor He-Man
Battle Armor He-Man had a plate on his chest that, when it was tapped, rolled back and revealed a plate with scars. When hit a second time, a plate with more scars. It's completley hypnotic.
Battle Armor Skeletor
Same principle as above, but Skeletor's just cooler.
Beast Man gets lots of points for nostalgia, his vibrant color and that plastic-painted-as-fur collar. Since he's from the first wave of Masters figures, Beast Man is missing any special features, but came with a "whip" (a.k.a. a piece of plastic string).
Transforming rocks were actually once a thing (see Rock Lords). The entire concept, and inanity of Stonedar can best be illustrated through this scene from Big.
Stonedar's bud. He only gets higher ranking because of he's got a better name, which evokes this CLASSIC from Michael Damian.
Blast Attack's special feature allowed him to split apart right down the middle, which was very helpful for realistic battle player with sword wielding characters.
Tri-Klops had a great look about him, and his spinning eye helmet thing never got old.
Prince Adam was cool because, as He-Man's alter ego, he allowed for you to actually transform him into He-Man during play. Also, Prince Adam's vest was velvet which is a VERY elegant fabric to anyone under the age of 9.
Sssqueeze is such a fun name to say outloud. If you stuck the figure's arms straight out and threw him in a spinning motion, he acted like a helicopter.
Despite coming from the Masters of the Universe movie, Saurod most certainly does not suck. He actually emits sparks from his mouth. Which likely resulted in many homes burning down in 1987.
Another extremely rare figure. The Horde Trooper could split open, allowing for more realistic play. There was always some fancy kid in every neighborhood that had three or four Horde Troopers (usually they also had the Eternia playset), which meant one could fake an actual Horde army attacking He-Man.
Despite being a She-Ra villain, Hordak was released under the Masters of the Universe line. He's got a great look and serves a cross-functional purpose (you can use him with He-Man OR She-Ra toylines), hence the ranking.
You could remove King Hiss' arms and chest/head plate to reveal a snake-man underneath to look like the below. As anyone that's ever used a Transformer or Gobot can tell you, transforming something from one thing is awesome.
Whiplash's tail, ostensibly, whips things and knocks things down when one snaps his waist. It was sort of lightweight (it was plastic one could turn inside out). It never really worked and Whiplash sort of looks like Sloth from the Goonies, but he's fun.
Who doesn't love a figure covered with spikes? I have no idea what his pitchfork hand thing is for, but it would always extend when his arm was at rest, which never quite seemed like the intent.
Jitsu had a giant gold fist that could do a hardcore karate chop. Gold, like velvet, was very fancy in the 80s.
In Eternia, robots are made of cogs. You could see Roboto's insides moving when you moved the figure. If there is a God, Roboto was named after the Styx classic "Mr. Roboto."
Mosquitor's action feature - which had his chest fill with "blood" - absolutely did not result in multiple young children growing up to be murderers. Mosquitor is super rare, so if you have him, consider selling him if you are short on rent money.
Clawful's big claw can't hold much, but it's incredibly detailed for a MOTU figure (it has all these weird little bubbles on it).
Man At Arms
He-Man's go-to guy, Man At Arms has an extremely squished face, a very cool mace and is just a classic figure. Does anyone know why he wears a skintight green bodysuit?
Man E Faces
Spin the dial on top of his head around and he can take on three different looks (normal, robot and monster). The robot one was my favorite, and led to an elaborate arc I created where he was Roboto's long-lost brother.
Mekaneck had awesome glasses, awesome silver boots, an awesome name and a cool feature which let his neck extend (although his waist always had to be twisted to do it, meaning he's got excellent vision at an angle).
Everyone seems to forget about this figure. His arms, legs, waist and neck stretch (the third neck-stretching character in the franchise, if you are keeping track). He also has this really weird, geometric shield that opened up into a bizarre shape and can, depending on one's crafitness, double as an earring.
Moss Man is notable for being the only action figure in history, I believe, based on moss. But he's cool because he's covered in astroturf. He's like the Brady Bunch's backyard come to life.
Stinkor is the only action figure whose selling point was that he smelled BAD (actually he smelled like plastic).
One of the few female figures in the line, respect must be given to He-Man's main lady. Her snake headdress is great. Too bad she never used it in the cartoon? Teela is also notable for her wedges, the trademark of 80s lady action figures.
A great color scheme, a hologram chest plate and 360 degree rotating arms and a waist made this figure visually striking and really unique.
King Randor had a great cape and a crown you could remove (but there'd still be a weird indentation in his head, making it look like he had brain surgery that got cut off midway through).
Buzz Off had four wings, each of which could be arranged individually. He had this weird little helmet that would always fall off, but the wings earn the ranking.
Despite virtually no articulation, Ram Man's spring loaded legs provided endless hours of fun because (unlike Whiplash's tail) he COULD knock things over. Michael Chiklis should play Ram Man in the remake.
Evil Lyn was such a badass. It's a shame the figure wasn't cooler, but her vibrant color scheme makes up for a lot. Am I the only person who thought Evil Lyn was separated at birth from Another World/Attitudes' Linda Dano?
Two bad was a very distinctive figure whose spring loaded fists meant he could punch himself in the face.
Putting Orko this high will undoubtedly cause controversy, but he was just so different. Plus, you could remove his hat and use this zipcord thing to have him roll around a surface in circles like he was drunk.
Gotta give respect where it's due. He-Man's a fairly simple figure but he works because he's simple, allowing for one's own imagination to project onto him and any adventures one concocts for him. He-Men's also notable for giving boys born from 1978-1985 body image issues and for being the ultimate Chelsea boy.
Do we even need to justify this? Skeletor is Skeletor.
The Sorceress was AWESOME. Her wings could extend out, but flexible enough that one could retract them back so it looked like she had this full cape of feathers. I had the Zoar figure as well (see below), which allows lead for cool woman-to-bird tranformation sequences.
Trap Jaw's action feature may be simple - his arm allows for interchangeable weapons, saws, etc to snap on - but he just looks so damn cool. Sure, if you moved the figure's head to the right his namesake jaw couldn't really extend down, but it doesn't matter. He's bad ass and that's all there is to it.