Over its first 20 seasons, “American Idol” has seen 14 judges serve on the panel. They’ve ranged from music superstars and TV icons to producers who usually work behind the scenes. The current panel — country music star Luke Bryan, pop princess Katy Perry and the legendary Lionel Richie — have been part of the show since it was relaunched on ABC in 2018.
But where do they sit in our rankings of the 14 famous faces who have sat in judgment. How do they compare to the original trio (Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson)? And what about those one and done judges (Mariah Carey, Ellen DeGeneres, Nicki Minaj)?
To find out, take a tour of our photo gallery of all 14 “American Idol” judges ranked from worst to best. And be sure to sound off in the comments sections with your own “American Idol” judges rankings.
14. Kara DioGuardi (seasons 8, 9)
This singer/songwriter was little known before being tapped for the panel. While she talked a good game at the time, she is little remembered these days.
13. Ellen Degeneres (season 9)
The daytime TV icon did not do well in prime-time and was not a good fit for this format.
12. Nicki Minaj (season 12)
This rapper didn’t make nice with fellow judge Mariah Carey and was bounced from the panel after just one season. She offered little in the way of constructive criticism and was surprisingly reserved.
11. Mariah Carey (season 12)
This pop superstar has since admitted that she and and the show were not suited to each other. She and Nicki Minaj did not gell and Mariah was reluctant to be critical of the contestants.
10. Steven Tyler (seasons 10, 11)
The lead singer from “Aerosmith” was stymied in his search for a rocker like himself but he was always fun to watch.
9. Lionel Richie (seasons 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
This musical legend has been low-key on the panel alongside country music superstar Luke Bryan and pop princess Katy Perry.
8. Keith Urban (seasons 12, 13, 14, 15)
This soft-spoken country superstar served four seasons on the panel. His criticism was always tempered by praise and he was a welcome addition to the line-up.
7. Randy Jackson (seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
This record producer was there from the start and lasted a whopping dozen seasons. He often found himself caught in the middle of the war of words between the other judges.
6. Luke Bryan (seasons 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
This country singing sensation has admitted to struggling to be critical of the contestants but his easy-going charm goes a long way with the fans.
4. Harry Connick Jr. (seasons 13, 14, 15)
This Grammy-winning jazzman was surprsingly frank in his appraisal of the contestants and offered detailed critiques of their singing.
4. Jennifer Lopez (seasons 10, 11, 13, 14, 15)
This multi-hyphenate was refreshingly down to earth and conveyed a strong sense of caring about the contestants.
3. Katy Perry (seasons 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)
This pop princess has been earning her multi-million dollar salary, generating a slew of viral moments since the show relaunched on ABC in 2018.
2. Paula Abdul (seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
This dancer turned singer was part of the inaugural pane. This free spirit was sorely missed when she decided that eight is enough and exited the show.
1. Simon Cowell (seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
This English music producer imported this talent show format to America and his signature snarl made it must-see-TV.