Skip to main content

The 7 best Saturday Night Live casts, ranked

Few TV shows have had a bigger impact on comedy than Saturday Night Live. Since its debut in 1975, the sketch comedy series has created film and TV stars, as well as two current late-night TV talk show hosts. It’s also a rite of passage for many comedians on the rise. Getting on SNL isn’t a guarantee of future success, but the breakout cast members almost always use the show as a springboard for even bigger gigs.

As SNL continues its 49th season in 2024, we’re looking back at the seven best Saturday Night Live casts of the show’s nearly five-decade run. Note that this list wasn’t ranked for any single performer, otherwise Eddie Murphy would be on top for carrying the show in the early ’80s. Instead, this list focuses on the top ensembles that have made SNL appointment television for a very long time. And you’re going to see a lot of familiar faces here.

7. SNL season 15

The cast of Saturday Night Live season 15.
NBC

Following the departure of Eddie Murphy in 1984, it took some time for SNL to load up on future comedy stars. But by the end of the decade, Saturday Night Live had done it again.

Season 15 marked the promotion of Mike Myers from featured player to one of the main cast members alongside his future Wayne’s World co-star, Dana Carvey, as well as Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson, Jan Hooks, and Nora Dunn. Dennis Miller was also a main cast member and one of the most memorable hosts of Weekend Update. Al Franken and A. Whitney Brown were the featured players this season.

6. SNL season 32

The cast of Saturday Night Live season 32.
NBC

As Seth Meyers has pointed out, only one member of the Saturday Night Live season 32 cast hasn’t gone on to guest host the show after leaving the cast. The person in question is Kenan Thompson, and the only reason he hasn’t hosted yet is because he’s been a member of the cast since 2003.

The rest of season 32’s lineup included Will Forte, Barry star Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Amy Poehler, Fred Armisen, Darrell Hammond, Maya Rudolph, Jason Sudeikis, and, of course, Meyers himself.

5. SNL season 37

The cast of Saturday Night Live season 37.
NBC

This is the most recent season of Saturday Night Live on our list, and also the SNL swan song for Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig. Bill Hader was also in season 37’s cast alongside a powerhouse lineup that included Fred Armisen, Seth Myers, Bobby Moynihan, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson, Abby Elliott, and Nasim Pedrad. Also featured this season were Vanessa Bayer, Paul Brittain, Taran Killam, Kate McKinnon, and Jay Pharoah.

4. SNL season 27

The cast of Saturday Night Live season 27.
NBC

The season 27 premiere of Saturday Night Live took place only a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, and seeing this cast back on TV really felt cathartic at the time.

This was Will Ferrell’s last season on the show before taking off to make movies, but the rest of the cast went on to bigger and better things as well, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon, Darrell Hammond, Chris Kattan, Maya Rudolph, Horatio Sanz, Ana Gasteyer, and Rachel Dratch. This season’s featured players also included future late night host Seth Meyers, as well as Dean Edwards and Jeff Richards.

3. SNL season 22

The cast of Saturday Night Live season 22.
NBC

As any longtime Saturday Night Live fan can attest, the show has its up and down periods. In 1997, the cast once again had a lineup that could rise to the occasion.

Will Ferrell, Tim Meadows, Tracy Morgan, Colin Quinn, Chris Kattan, Ana Gasteyer, Jim Breuer, Molly Shannon, and Mark McKinney helped make the show peak again. But for our money, the late Norm Macdonald made Weekend Update worth staying up late for again.

2. SNL season 17

The cast of Saturday Night Live season 17.
NBC

The end of one era on SNL and the beginning of another led to one of the most star-studded lineups that this show has ever seen. The primary cast of Saturday Night Live season 17 included holdovers Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, Victoria Jackson, Mike Myers, Kevin Nealon, Chris Rock, and Julia Sweeney.

But the supporting cast included future SNL headliners, including Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider, Tim Meadows, and Ellen Cleghorn. There’s only one SNL cast that’s ever been stronger than that group.

1. SNL seasons 1-4

The cast of Saturday Night Live season 2.
NBC

There have been many great SNL casts over the last five decades, but the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players set the bar incredibly high. No comedy Hall of Fame would be complete without first-season cast members Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Gilda Radner.

George Coe stayed for only a single episode, while Michael O’Donoghue and Chase left after the first season. But Bill Murray was added to the cast in season 2, and most of this core group remained with the show for the first four seasons.

Getting a group like this was truly special, and they paved the way for everyone who came after them.

Watch every season of Saturday Night Live on Peacock.

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
Where to watch NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC tripleheader live stream
Nikola Jokic squares up a free throw on the court.

With football season coming to a close, the NBA will begin to ramp up its national TV schedule. One of the league's signature series is NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC, which will spotlight premier matchups every Saturday night for the next two months,

For the first Saturday in the series, the league will run a special tripleheader starting in the afternoon and running through the rest of the early evening and into the night. The tripleheader will cap off NBA Rivals Week, a special block of games featuring fierce and intense competition between rival teams.
Watch the NBA Saturday Primetime tripleheader live stream on ABC

Read more
The 10 best episodes of The Sopranos, ranked
The cast of The Sopranos.

This week marks the 25th anniversary of The Sopranos, one of the all-time great dramas that helped put HBO on the map with its original series. There were HBO shows before The Sopranos, but this is the one that was a breakout hit, and it increased HBO's prestige and standing in the industry. Series creator David Chase had made his name in network television, but no other shows like The Sopranos existed. It was R-rated television in an era before that was a common occurrence.

The Sopranos also made its leading man, the late James Gandolfini, a star for his performance as Tony Soprano, a family man and mob boss who is forced into therapy when his anxiety completely overwhelms him. That set off a six-season run that firmly established The Sopranos' place in TV history. In honor of the show's 25th anniversary, we're sharing our picks for the 10 best episodes of The Sopranos.
10. All Due Respect (Season 5, Episode 13)

Read more
Like the new Peacock show Ted? Then watch these 5 TV series and movies
Three men with their hands up in the air in a scene from Horrible Bosses.

What comes to mind when you hear the name Ted? You might instantly consider the adorable yet vulgar sentient stuffed bear from the 2012 Seth MacFarlane movie of the same name (and its 2015 sequel Ted 2). Years later, these films are now joined by a prequel series of the same name, streaming on Peacock. Set in the ‘90s, it centers around the antics that Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) gets up to with John (Max Burkholder in the role played by Mark Wahlberg in the movies) when John is just coming of age. Presented like a wholesome sitcom, Ted the series is quite the opposite, with the raunchy and foul-mouthed teddy bear just as he is in the movies.

Fans of the movies Ted and Ted 2 will want to check out the new series. But if you’re also looking for other similarly vulgar comedies to watch, these five series and movies will be right up your alley. After that, check out additional options in five great comedies from the last five years that are worth watching.
Horrible Bosses (2011)

Read more