When Seinfeld came to an end in 1998, it had changed how sitcoms were made—most notably in how it didn’t have one communal location as its story base (like the bar in Cheers), but instead followed its core characters around 90s New York.
Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer all led expansive lives involving all kinds of situations. Every week, millions of people tuned in to see the group’s antics, which always felt close enough to reality to be relatable.
Since Seinfeld, many other TV sitcoms have leaned on the same formula, with cultural hits like Friends and How I Met Your Mother and the much more twisted It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia putting their own spins.
But the core of what made Seinfeld so great has always been its incredible characters and the brilliant writing that drove them. Here’s our take on the best characters in Seinfeld throughout the series.
9. Susan Ross
Across her time on the show, Susan became one of Seinfeld’s best-loved supporting characters. She first appears as one of the NBC executives that give Jerry and George an opportunity to create a pilot for their sitcom, Jerry. She later dates George.
Susan appeared on Seinfeld on and off for four seasons and eventually became engaged to George. However, she died after an incident with cheap envelope glue before they were able to get married.
She was a well-written character on the show, and her role in the series gave George further depth, which made his own character better as the series went from strength to strength.
As Jerry and Kramer’s neighbor—and soft nemesis of Jerry in general—Newman has a place in Seinfeld history, if only for the iconic the way they always greeted one another.
Newman and Jerry’s relationship on the show never really changed, but the pair did often get into some great arguments with each other, with Newman often coming off worse.
Newman’s antics in Seinfeld made him a counterbalance for the show, with his schemes often tied with Kramer’s madcap ideas. Wayne Knight’s character became a recurring aspect of the show as it expanded its cast, and Seinfeld became a better series for him being in it.
7. George Steinbrenner
Though the real George Steinbrenner did have a role on Seinfeld—which was cut by Larry David because the acting was atrocious—the show’s fictionalized version became one of the series’ best characters.
Voiced by Larry David (the audience never saw Steinbrenner’s face) and always viewed from the back of his head as George walked in and out of his office, Steinbrenner had some of the funniest lines on the show. His rambling monologues and nonsensical decisions elevated each episode.
George Costanza and Steinbrenner’s relationship became a backbone of George’s role during the later seasons, often providing episodes with a different dynamic than George had with the core characters.
5+6. Frank and Estelle Costanza
The show’s best double-act, these two can’t be separated since Jerry Stiller and Estelle Harris’ roles relied so much on each other.
The pair’s relationship with their son George gave the audience a chance to see why George became as neurotic as he did. The constant yelling and tensions in the family dynamic would drive anybody insane.
Some of Seinfeld’s best moments came when the Costanza family were together, as George—along with the audience—watched these two scream at one another constantly. Serenity Now!
While the other core characters of Seinfeld played by great comedic actors, Jerry’s role was simply to play a great comedian. In this respect, Jerry succeeded where many would have failed, showing off parts of a fictional Jerry that required deep self-awareness and self-deprecation.
Though Jerry is the main character of Seinfeld, he is really just the balancing point for the group. Nothing ever goes too badly wrong for Jerry compared to his friends, which is a narrative safety that becomes obvious over the show’s run.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ role as Elaine was to provide a female perspective to the group. That kind of position could have led to her becoming the clichéd female friend character, but she was so much more.
The writers on Seinfeld were too good to fall into that trap, and managed to make Elaine a fully realized woman armed with sardonic wit and fiery temper—one that George, in particular, was afraid of.
In the end, Jerry and Elaine didn’t overtly end up together (as many thought they might). But when the gang had its long-awaited reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm, we learn they had a daughter.
George Costanza is the neurotic every-loser on the series, famously based on head writer/co-creator of the show, Larry David. He finds fault with everything—both inwards and outwards—and often says or does the wrong things at the worst times.
Jason Alexander’s performance as George is spot-on as he takes the neurosis of Larry David and puts it into a fat, short, balding man who has none of David’s apathetic trademarks.
George didn’t grow much as the show moved forward. He stayed the same, never admitting that problems boiled down to being his fault, which is what made his numerous failures so entertaining.
Seinfeld belonged to Kramer. As the madcap neighbor of Jerry and a constant source of physical comedy, Kramer’s antics were often presented as the result of the character’s generally lucky nature.
George himself once remarked that Kramer “falls ass-backwards into money,” proving that Kramer is a person of free spirit and good fortune. He always sees the bohemian side of life, always providing the most insane perspective of a situation and the events around it.
The character reached such popularity that live audiences had to be told to stop cheering whenever Kramer walked into a scene. It was so bad that Kramer’s entrances interrupted the timings of other performing actors, especially during the middle seasons.
Funny, borderline insane, completely wacky, and complete with a first name like “Cosmo,” Kramer remains a template for such characters and has been copied numerous times by other shows.