Remembering John Ritter: Some of His Best Roles

Everett Collection

Actor John Ritter, son of legendary country star Tex Ritter, was born on September 17, 1948, and sadly died just days before his 55th birthday in 2003. He died from an aortic dissection and it was a shock to his family, friends, co-stars, and fans, especially since he was in the middle of filming the show 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. The show addressed his death by having his character pass away suddenly as well. Ritter’s death was also addressed in the show Scrubs, where he had a recurring role as the main character J.D.’s father, Sam Dorian.

In honor of Ritter’s legacy and his birthday, let’s go over some of his best roles over the years. We have to start with one of his first and perhaps most famous: Three’s Company. Don’t tell me the jingle isn’t already in your head!

Jack Tripper in ‘Three’s Company’ (1977)

THREE'S COMPANY, 1977-84, Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, first season

Everett Collection

Ritter’s role as Jack Tripper made him a household name. He was the roommate of Janet and Chrissy, played by lovely ladies Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers. Much of the comedy centered around him being a straight man living with two women. While some of it was a bit over the top, Ritter showed off his comedic chops and it was the start to his long, yet not long enough, successful career.

Ben Healy in ‘Problem Child 1 & 2′ (1990 and 1991)

PROBLEM CHILD, Amy Yasbeck, John Ritter, Michael Oliver, 1990.

Everett Collection

Ritter played Ben Healy, a man who adopts a child named Junior with his wife. Unfortunately, the child turns out to be a nightmare, and hilarity ensues. The movie and its sequel proved that Ritter had a way with physical comedy and could pull off a heartwarming performance. He actually met his second wife, Amy Yasbeck, while working on the film. They wed in 1999 and were together until his death.

Ben Hanscom in ‘IT’ (1990)

IT, (aka STEPHEN KING'S IT), clockwise from top left: John Ritter, Richard Masur, Harry Anderson, Tim Curry as Pennywise, Dennis Christopher, Richard Thomas, Annette O'Toole, Tim Reid, 1990

Warner Bros./Everett Collection

1990 was a very busy year for Ritter and he had a lot of his best performances in this year. Another was in IT when he battled Pennywise the Clown. While most know Ritter for his comedic and sitcom performances, he did appear in several scary movies including IT and Bride of Chucky.

L. Frank Baum in ‘The Dreamer of Oz’ (1990)

DREAMER OF OZ, John Ritter, 1990

NBC/Everett Collection

In another 1990 film, he plays L. Frank Baum, the writer of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” This is one of his lesser-known roles but he delivers a stand-up performance nonetheless. The Dreamer of Oz is a drama that shows how Baum faced many setbacks before he achieved success with one of the most beloved stories turned movies of all time.

Ted Buchanan in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (1997)

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, (from left): John Ritter, Sarah Michelle Gellar, 'Ted', (Season 2, aired Dec. 8, 1997), 1997-2003

Saeed Adjani/20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

Ritter didn’t often play the bad guy in a movie or television show but when he did, he was amazing. In an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he shows up as Ted, Buffy’s mom’s new boyfriend. There’s just something off about him… spoiler alert: he’s actually a murderous robot.

What is your favorite character that Ritter portrayed?

TV's Best Dads
Want More?

TV's Best Dads

June 2020

Celebrating TV's best dads from the 1950's-1990s

Buy This Issue