10 Most Iconic Movie Puppets of the ’80s

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Image: YouTube/davness007

The eighties were filled with TV shows, bands and films that hold a special place in our nostalgic hearts. The hilarious, family-friendly antics of The Cosby Show’s Huxtables were one of the biggest draws on TV. The power ballads and anthems of rockers Boston and Journey climbed the charts, and movies were filled with awesomely bizarre-looking animated puppets, a far cry from today’s much more polished – but arguably characterless – CGI creations. Back then, everyone from Steven Spielberg to James Cameron used the now somewhat lost art of puppetry heavily in their films, resulting in some of the most unforgettable movie characters of all time. Here’s a look back at ten iconic ‘80s movie puppets that are forever etched in memory.

Jabba
Image: YouTube/BreakOriginals

10. Jabba the Hutt – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Slug-like intergalactic crime lord Jabba the Hutt is quite possibly one of the grossest space creatures in film history. The hedonistic, slave girl-loving gambler with a taste for torture first showed up in the 1983 Star Wars sequel Return of the Jedi. In the movie, he famously makes Princess Leia dress in a bikini that would go on to appear in nerd fantasies for decades. Off camera, however, Hutt was actually an enormous, complex puppet that literally weighed a ton and needed three puppeteers to operate. In perhaps one of the least flattering tributes ever, costume designer Nilos Rodis-Jamero said that his vision of Jabba the Hutt was based on an older Orson Welles.

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Ludo
Image: YouTube/HensonCompany

9. Ludo – Labyrinth (1986)

Jim Henson’s 1986 Bowie-tastic children’s adventure Labyrinth features tons of oddball puppets, but maybe none are more memorable than Ludo, the gentle giant of a companion to a young Jennifer Connelly, as teenage heroine Sarah. Ludo scores high on the ugly-but-lovable scale, saying adorable things like “fwend” and talking about himself in the third person as he helps Sarah rescue her infant brother after a babysitting session goes terribly awry. Under his thick coat of fur, Ludo required the services of two puppeteers, whose window to what was happening outside was a TV monitor located in the puppet’s belly. Three more puppeteers used radio controls to manipulate Ludo’s facial expressions and other movements. The character’s broken English and main puppetry was performed by Jim Henson’s apprentice at the time, Ron Mueck, who has gone on to become a prominent sculptor.

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