20 Most Famous Guest Stars on 'The Simpsons'

You might be surprised how many famous voices are behind the characters

Sygma via Getty Images / Getty Images

Dozens of celebrities have made appearances on The Simpsons over the past few decades, so choosing 20 favorites isn't easy. There are recurring guest stars as well as ones that make only cameos, but these 20 guest stars stand out for their hilarious and skilled performances. Here they are, in alphabetical order.

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Katy Perry

Katy Perry on 'The Simpsons'
Katy Perry on 'The Simpsons'. FOX

In a parody of Sesame Street, pop singer Katy Perry joins the characters of The Simpsons in their puppet form. Her scene from "The Fight Before Christmas" was shot in live action against a green screen, so that animators could insert the Simpson house in the background. Perry's appearance (in a custom Simpsons dress) was significant because Sesame Street cut her scene from their show, deciding her plunging neckline and sex kitten moves were too much for toddlers.

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Glenn Close

Mona Leaves-A - The Simpsons
Mona Leaves-A - The Simpsons. Twentieth Century Fox

Oscar nominee Glenn Close has been the voice of Homer's mother for years. Homer's mother was always depicted as a mysterious figure because we had only ever seen Abe, Homer's father. Then we discovered she was a protester on the run in "Mother Simpson." She had loved Homer dearly, but she left her family when she became a rebel. She also appears in "My Mother the Carjacker" and "Mona Leaves-A."

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Rodney Dangerfield

Rodney Dangerfield
Oct. 6, 2004 - Rodney Dangerfield arrives at a party for comedian Andrew Dice Clay in LA. Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

Legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield played Larry Burns, a pivotal character on The Simpsons. Much like Homer discovers a brother in "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", Mr. Burns discovers he has a son in "Burns, Baby Burns." Larry Burns tracks down Mr. Burns after spotting him on a train bound for Springfield. At first, Mr. Burns accepts his son. But Larry soon loses favor with Mr. Burns when he turns out to be unrefined and ignorant. Rodney Dangerfield's casual and loose-talking style make Larry Burns not only goofy but also lovable.

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Danny DeVito

Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes - The Simpsons
Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes - The Simpsons. FOX

Who better to play fast-talking Herb Powell than Danny DeVito, who played fast-talking Louie de Palma on Taxi? Herb Powell is the half-brother Homer never knew he had. Homer and his family discover Herb is very wealthy, the CEO of Powell Motors. After Herb bonds with Homer, he allows Homer to design a dream car, which winds up ruining the company and Herb. Danny DeVito's history with Taxi and his gruff manner give Herb Powell the tough edge he needs. He later appears in "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?"

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Jodie Foster

The Simpsons - Four Great Women
The Simpsons - Four Great Women. Twentieth Century Fox

Oscar winner Jodie Foster deftly portrayed a wise and fiery Maggie in "Four Great Women and a Manicure." In the episode, female characters from The Simpsons each take on a persona from important fiction. Maggie is seen as Maggie Roark, the Howard Roark character from Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. How fitting that someone so smart and educated as Jodie Foster would play the visionary character? Perfect casting. (Marge is Lady Macbeth and Lisa is Snow White.)

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Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais in "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife."
Ricky Gervais in "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife.". Twentieth Century Fox

Comedic actor and The Office creator Ricky Gervais has made two guest appearances on The Simpsons. The first time was in "Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife," when he played Charlie, a beaten down husband who is paired with Marge on a reality show. Then, he played himself at the Oscars in "Angry Dad." His subtle, almost straight delivery makes his humor high-brow yet relatable.

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Kelsey Grammer

The Simpsons - Sideshow Bob - Funeral for a Fiend
The Simpsons - Sideshow Bob - Funeral for a Fiend. Twentieth Century Fox

Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) has a deep, smooth voice that provides a nice contrast to the goofy-looks of Sideshow Bob. Grammer's acting style gives the clown a sophistication he wouldn't have if his voice were squeaky or silly. Kelsey Grammer has appeared in several episodes, including "Krusty Gets Busted," when Sideshow Bob tried to frame Krusty for stealing; "Cape Feare," when Sideshow Bob tried to kill Bart; "Black Widower," when he wooed Selma in order to get to Bart; "Sideshow Bob Roberts," when he becomes the (evil) Mayor of Springfield; and "Funeral for a Fiend," when Sideshow Bob fakes his death. He won an Emmy for his voice-over performance in 2006 for "The Italian Bob," when Sideshow Bob builds a new life in Italy.

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Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking on The Simpsons
Stephen Hawking on The Simpsons. Twentieth Century Fox

Stephen Hawking is the Albert Einstein of our time, researching time, space and the laws that govern our universe. The Oscar-nominated film Theory of Everything was about his life. He was also a guest star on The Simpsons in "They Saved Lisa's Brain," appearing as the leading member of MENSA. When the episode aired, fans weren't sure if Stephen Hawking had really recorded his lines with his own electronic voice, or if producers had fabricated it. The renowned physicist really did take the time to record his own dialogue.

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Phil Hartman

Bart the Fink - Bob Newhart
Bart the Fink - Bob Newhart. FOX

Phil Hartman was a beloved and respected actor who had perfected his comedic performances. His career included Pee-wee's Playhouse and Saturday Night Live. On The Simpsons, he played two hilarious characters: Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz. Tragically, Phil Hartman was killed by his wife, who also turned the gun on herself, on May 28, 1998. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Matt Groening said, "I took him for granted because he nailed the joke every time." He certainly did.

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Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman
Actor Dustin Hoffman attends the premiere of DreamWorks Animation's 'Kung Fu Panda 2' at Mann's Chinese Theatre on May 22, 2011 in Hollywood, California. Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

Another Oscar winner on this list of Simpsons guest stars is Dustin Hoffman. He turned in a lovely performance as Mr. Bergstrom, Lisa's substitute teacher in "Lisa's Substitute." (However, he was credited as Sam Etic. Being credited as someone other than yourself, even though your voice was clearly recognizable, was a Simpsons tradition in early seasons, like Michael Jackson being credited as John Jay Smith in "Stark Raving Dad.") His casual, soft voice is so endearing that Lisa falls for him, developing a strong crush that he gently rebukes.

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Jan Hooks

Eight Misbehin' on The Simpsons
Eight Misbehin' on The Simpsons. Twentieth Century Fox

Jan Hooks is remembered best for her years on Saturday Night Live. Later she was hilarious as the boozy, goofy Dixie, the wife of Jiminy Glick on Comedy Central's Primetime Glick. However, mix an accent into her voice and you've got recurring character Manjula on The Simpsons. We first meet Manjula when Apu wants to avoid marrying her in "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons." She also voices Manjula in "I'm With Cupid" and "Eight Misbehavin,'" when she has octuplets.

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Jon Lovitz

The Simpsons - Half-Decent Proposal
The Simpsons - Half-Decent Proposal. Twentieth Century Fox

Famous Saturday Night Live actor Jon Lovitz has voiced more than one character in Springfield. His most known characters are Artie Ziff, Marge's old high school flame in "Half-Decent Proposal," and Aristotle Amadopolis, the owner of the Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant in "Homer Defined." My favorite guest character of his is Llewellyn Sinclair, the director of Springfield's musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire, in which Marge Simpson and Ned Flanders starred.

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Steve Martin

Steve Martin
Steve Martin at the 2011 International Bluegrass Music Assocation Off Campus show at the Station Inn on September 29, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Comedian, author, actor, and artist Steve Martin guest starred in "Trash of the Titans" as Ray Patterson, the sanitation commissioner. He goes up against Homer in an election, losing after Homer comes up with the slogan, "Can't Somebody Else Do It?" Steve Martin's dry wit was perfect for the educated vocabulary and desperate quotes Ray shot at Springfield citizens, including "Oh, gosh. You know, I'm not much on speeches, but, it's so gratifying to leave you wallowing in the mess you've made. You're screwed. Thank you. Bye."

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Michelle Pfeiffer

The Last Temptation of Homer
The Last Temptation of Homer. FOX

Sexy Michelle Pfeiffer, star of The Fabulous Baker Boys, Batman Returns, and Dangerous Liaisons is also sexy Mindy Simmons in "The Last Temptation of Homer." But why would this beautiful nuclear power plant worker be interested in Homer? Because she's just like him, eating and belching her way through the day. Michelle's breathless voice makes her line deliveries alluring, like when she says, "Can't talk--eating... Well, gotta go. I wanna sneak in a quick nap before lunch."

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Ray Romano

Ray Romano on 'The Simpsons'
Ray Romano on 'The Simpsons'. FOX

Ray Romano's nasal voice contributes to the down-and-out character Homer meets in "Don't Fear the Roofer." Ray Romano starred in family favorite Everybody Loves Raymond for almost nine years. Because he's a comedian, Ray Romano knows how to lay down funny tracks. His line-readings are on target, especially when it's only Homer who can see Ray the roofer.

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Patrick Stewart

Homer the Great - The Simpsons
Homer the Great - The Simpsons. FOX

Patrick Stewart guest stars in one of the best episodes of The Simpsons ever: "Homer the Great." Patrick Stewart plays Number One, the head of a secret society called The Stonecutters. (His character, Captain Picard, was number one on Star Trek: The Next Generation.) "Homer the Great" was the first time I was aware the Shakespearean actor had such a sense of humor. His deep, British accent makes the silliness of the episode that much funnier. He also plays Stan Smith's CIA boss on American Dad.

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Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep
Actress Meryl Streep attends the 38th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Mike Nichols held at Sony Pictures Studios on June 10, 2010 in Culver City, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Oscar-winner Meryl Streep plays Jessica Lovejoy in "Bart's Girlfriend." Her performance as the sly, seductive preacher's daughter on The Simpsons is just fun. You can recognize her voice, just barely, as it's a little breathier and higher to play Jessica.

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Kiefer Sutherland

The Simpsons - 24 Minutes
The Simpsons - 24 Minutes. Twentieth Century Fox

Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer character from 24 will remain iconic for years to come. One of the rites of passage for iconic characters is to appear on The Simpsons. Willing to poke fun at himself and 24, Kiefer Sutherland voiced Jack in "24 Minutes," when Bart and Lisa had to defuse a bomb (rancid carton of yogurt) before it exploded. He also played Wayne, a new security guard at Homer's power plant, in "The Falcon and The D'ohman," and Homer's colonel in "G.I. (Annoyed Grunt)." It's not surprising that his rough and tough voice goes so well with military-type characters.

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George Takei

George Takei
Actor George Takei arrives at the Premiere Of Paramount's 'Star Trek' on April 30, 2009 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

George Takei has a rich, deep voice that is easily recognizable because of his years on Star Trek (and thanks to The Howard Stern Show). His smooth voice and Japanese accent bring Akira to life in Springfield. Akira is the waiter at the Happy Sumo restaurant, as well as the owner and teacher of Springfield Martial Arts Academy. But after his stint as Wink in "30 Minutes of Tokyo," Hank Azaria took over the voice of Akira, mimicking Takei when he records.

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Kathleen Turner

Kathleen Turner
Actress Kathleen Turner attends the Cinema Society with Ivanka Trump Jewelry & Diane Von Furstenberg screening of 'Snow Flower And The Secret Fan' at the Tribeca Grand Hotel on July 13, 2011 in New York City. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Kathleen Turner is an Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress. Her low, throaty voice is ideal for Stacy Lavelle, the bitter business executive who created the original Malibu Stacy doll. In "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy," Kathleen Turner's performance sounds at once tired and vengeful. I especially love when her former flame Joe (as in G.I. Joe) comes calling and she tells him to release her from his Kung Fu grip.