The 10 Most Beloved "Jeopardy!" Contestants of All Time

This list includes big winners, along with those known for their big hearts.

For almost 60 years, Jeopardy! has been a weeknight tradition for Americans. The show's longtime host, the late Alex Trebek, became a household name—and so did some of the more memorable winners. While plenty of Jeopardy! contestants are remembered because they're controversial, others are simply well-liked as a result of their talent, quirkiness, or gameplay. Read on for the 10 most beloved Jeopardy! contestants of all time.

READ THIS NEXT: Jeopardy! Champ James Holzhauer Says Winner "Should Get a Lifetime Ban."

Eddie Timanus

eddie timarus on jeopardy

Eddie Timanus first took to the Jeopardy! stage in Oct. 1999, becoming the first blind contestant on the show. Timanus won an impressive five games, when his streak ended due to the rules at the time, which required champs to retire after five wins.

Timanus went on to participate in several Jeopardy! tournaments, and he's consistently referenced as a fan favorite.

"Love Eddie, definitely a top 5 favorite J! champ for me," a post on the r/Jeopardy Reddit thread reads.

Another poster noted that Timanus was also one of Trebek's favorite players, which is reason enough to make this list.

"Eddie was one of Alex's favourite contestants and one of the few who was mentioned in his memoir," a Redditor wrote. "He's a very special champion."

Colby Burnett

colby burnett jeopardy

Colby Burnett is another Jeopardy! contestant who fans truly adore. In fact, there's an entire Reddit thread dedicated to "Colby Burnett Appreciation."

"Colby is my all-time favorite contestant ever to play Jeopardy," a post on the thread reads. "He was sooo intelligent and fun to watch. Also as a Black long time Jeopardy fan, it felt great to have some representation and for him to be such a good player was the icing on the cake."

Burnett is the only Jeopardy! contestant to win both the Teachers Tournament and the Tournament of Champions, but fans love him for more than just his quizzing prowess. Viewers particularly enjoyed the AP History teacher's quirky mannerisms and signature confident head turn when he answered questions correctly.

READ THIS NEXT: 5 TV Episodes So Controversial They Sparked Protests.

Matt Jackson

matt jackson jeopardy

Fans couldn't get enough of Matt Jackson's slow smile when he competed back in 2015.

In fact, Today even dedicated a segment to Jackson's interviews, where he would start out with a straight face and then gradually break out his smile. His rapid-fire response to questions also earned him some fans, but the grin isn't something dedicated Jeopardy! viewers will ever forget.

Dana Venator

dana venator jeopardy

Back in 1987, Dana Venator competed in the Teen Tournament, where she gave some of the funniest answers during the interview segment.

She's another contestant that Trebek held near and dear to his heart. In his memoir The Answer Is…, he even went so far as to dub her his all-time favorite to talk to, per Entertainment Weekly.

READ THIS NEXT: 4 Reasons Ken Jennings Is a Better Jeopardy! Host Than Mayim Bialik, According to Fans.

Ken Jennings

ken jennings first jeopardy episode

Even if you've never watched a single episode of Jeopardy!, chances are you've heard the name Ken Jennings. He's won the most consecutive Jeopardy! games and earned the highest winnings of any contestant.

In a discussion of favorite contestants on the r/Jeopardy Reddit thread, fans are quick to dub Jennings the "GOAT," an acronym that stands for the "greatest of all time." There's only more love for him since he took over as the show's co-host, alongside actor Mayim Bialik.

"His timing and thinking on this feet have been impeccable, as is his ability to banter with contestants," a comment on the "Appreciation post for Ken Jennings" Reddit thread reads.

Chuck Forrest

chuck forrest jeopardy

Another fan favorite is Chuck Forrest, who competed all the way back on Season 2 of Jeopardy!

On a July 2020 Instagram post—which announced a Jeopardy! Vault episode featuring Forrest–commenters were quick to name the alum as one of their favorites.

"Chuck Forrest was my hero…I was in 9th grade when he was champion and tournament of champions winner," a comment reads.

Another added, "Chuck Forrest is one of my favorites. I saw all five of his wins back in the day when Jeopardy was on at 4 pm."

According to Distractify, Forrest is known as the "Alexander the Great of Jeopardy! players," and he also coined a controversial strategy: the Forrest Bounce. The technique involves jumping from category to category, rather than clearing a category before moving on to another. It's a strategy that's been used by big winners, including James Holzhauer.

READ THIS NEXT: Jeopardy! Producer Has New Stance on "Banning" Players—And Fans Are Concerned.

James Holzhauer

James Holzhauer on Jeopardy!

Speaking of Holzhauer, he's another household name, record-breaker, and potential GOAT. He's beloved by fans for his sheer talent at playing the game and his "perfect combo of knowledge, strategy and guts," a comment on the Reddit thread discussing fan favorites reads.

Holzhauer is second only to Jennings in highest winnings (during regular-season play), but thanks to his bold wagering style, he holds all top 10 spots for single-game winnings.

"James is my favorite, because he is the reason I started watching the show," a Redditor wrote, also acknowledging his fondness for Forrest.

Another wrote that watching "Jeopardy! James" was reminiscent of "watching Michael Jordan in his prime."

Alex Jacob

alex jacob answering daily double

Another Jeopardy! contestant beloved for his quirkiness is Alex Jacob.

On a separate post in the r/Jeopardy subreddit, one fan named him as his favorite because "he was so odd."

"Alex is absolutely my favorite contestant of all time," another wrote. "I've always been in favor of betting big on Daily Doubles, and the way he bet was awesome. While most people's dream is to be on Jeopardy and say 'I'll make it a true daily double,' my dream is to be on Jeopardy and say 'bet it all' and wave my hand just as Alex would when he bet on DD."

Interestingly enough, not everyone was a fan of the former professional poker player initially, but he ended up winning them over.

"Alex Jacob is memorable because I wasn't too sure about him at first, but he grew on me to the point that he's up there on my list," a Redditor wrote.

For more fun context delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Julia Collins

julia collins jeopardy

Julia Collins is a name that pops up often on lists of Jeopardy! favorites.

"She was obviously very smart but not at all cocky or [conceited]," a comment on Reddit reads.

Another agreed, adding, "Lots of great players but [Julia] was sooo much fun to watch compete…I went straight home after work to watch her shows and was so bummed when she finally lost. Truly a magical run that I enjoyed immensely. She will probably always be my favorite. I just found her so endearing."

One fan pointed out that Julia was one of the "big shot women" to compete—winning 20 games in 2015—and another said that her story was one you wanted to root for.

"Julia Collins was particularly gratifying because she talked of paying off her student loans, and it is so nice that with her winnings she can do that and still have extra for herself (not common on J!) Can you say 'goals?'" a Redditor wrote. "Plus she is such a good sport."

Brad Rutter

brad rutter jeopardy

Brad Rutter is yet another that fans adore, both for his skill—he holds the record for the highest all-time winnings, including tournaments—and his overall attitude.

"Brad is probably the best jeopardy player of all time," a Redditor wrote, noting that he's also a "cool dude."

Another Redditor speculated that Rutter would have won more games had his run not been stopped after five wins (like Timanus).

"I think he and Ken would be close in number of games won if Brad hadn't been capped," a comment reads.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
Filed Under