American Idol: A list of all the judges throughout the years

From the OG's Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson to Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, here's all the American Idol judges we've seen in the last 22 seasons.
FOX's "American Idol" Finale For The Farewell Season - Show
FOX's "American Idol" Finale For The Farewell Season - Show / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

If you've been a long-time American Idol fan since the show first started in 2002, you'll remember OG judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson. And now, the next trio to have been a staple on our screens for the last few years are Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie.

However, these judges haven't been the only ones to sit behind the table and make all the decisions. There's been other stars who have come and gone throughout the years to offer their advice and expertise. There's been a total of 14 American Idol judges since the show began.

Before we dive into that, I do want to mention one person who has been on every season of the show - all 22 of them. And that's host Ryan Seacrest! On the first season of the competition series, he co-hosted with comedian Brian Dunkleman. However starting in season 2 and beyond, Seacrest took on the mantle on his own. Alright, ready to find out all the judges who served on American Idol over the years? Click on a specific season below or just keep scrolling to see them all!

Seasons 1-7 (2002-2008)

  • Simon Cowell
  • Paula Abdul
  • Randy Jackson

The whole show started out with Cowell, Abdul, and Jackson, and even to this day when you think of the three of them, you think of American Idol as they're very closely associated with it. Cowell is known for his tough criticism and arrogant-ish behavior. During his time on Idol, he also served as a producer. The record executive has been a judge on British competition series Pop Idol, The X Factor, and is currently a judge on America's Got Talent.

It seems like he chose to leave due to the age limit on Idol. During his time there, it was 16 and 24 years old. In an interview with Hollywood Life he revealed that was the reason for his departure. This is what he told the outlet:

"How can you say, 'you can’t be a star [because of your age]?' And why isn’t a 35-year-old as great as an 18-year-old? It just got to the point where this is not real, which is why I moved on."

Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell
American Idol Season 8 Third 12 of the Top 36 Perform / M Becker/American Idol 2009/GettyImages

Season 8 (2009)

  • Simon Cowell
  • Paula Abdul
  • Randy Jackson
  • Kara DioGuardi

American Idol season 8 was Abdul's final season, as there were contract negotiation issues that went unsolved. And so, she decided to leave after the eighth season. The singer, dancer, and choreographer was huge in the '80s, being discovered by the Jacksons and she started choreographing music videos for Janet Jackson. The talent is known for hits like "Straight Up," "Forever Your Girl," and "The Promise of a New Day."

Today, she continues to perform and make guest judge appearances on different shows. In season 21, she actually stepped in for Luke Bryan when he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Season 8 also introduced a fourth judge for the first time, Kara DioGuardi. The songwriter and record producer was the executive vice president of talent development at Warner Bros. for a while, responsible for signing artists like Jason Derulo.

Ellen Degeneres
"American Idol" Gives Back - Photo Room / Gregg DeGuire/GettyImages

Season 9 (2010)

  • Simon Cowell
  • Randy Jackson
  • Kara DioGuardi
  • Ellen DeGeneres (started Hollywood Week)

Following Abdul's exit, it took some time for Idol to find a permanent judge to replace her. During the auditions in season 9, Victoria Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Shania Twain, Abril Lavigne, Joe Jonas, Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenoweth, and even Katy Perry all served as guest judges in the meantime. Finally starting from Hollywood Week, Ellen DeGeneres joined as a judge with Cowell, Jackson, and DioGuardi for the rest of the season.

Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson
FOX's American Idol Season 11 Top 2 Live Performance Show - Finale Part 1 / American Idol 2012/GettyImages

Season 10 (2011) and Season 11 (2012)

  • Randy Jackson
  • Steven Tyler
  • Jennifer Lopez

We got another shakeup in season 10, going back to the three judges format and adding two big superstars - lead Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler and triple threat Jennifer Lopez! Jackson remained as a judge, the only OG left at this point. Later, he becomes known as the longest-serving judge on the show. He's a record executive and musician, having worked in music production for Columbia Records and MCA Records. Today, Jackson is the bandleader on Name That Tune. He said he left Idol to focus on other business ventures.

Mariah Carey, Randy Jackson, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban
Fox's "American Idol 2013" Finale - Results Show - Show / Kevin Winter/GettyImages

Season 12 (2013)

  • Randy Jackson
  • Mariah Carey
  • Nicki Minaj
  • Keith Urban

In season 13, the competition series decided to go back to four judges, adding Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Keith Urban to the mix. Carey and Minaj were only on the show for one season, and it's no surprise they didn't choose to return. It was known the two artists did not get along on the job and often feuded, though according to Carey that was due to the production team. She did not enjoy her time on the singing reality series.

Jr., Harry Connick, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban
FOX's "American Idol" Finale For The Farewell Season - Show / Kevork Djansezian/GettyImages

Seasons 13 - 15 (2014-2016)

  • Jennifer Lopez
  • Keith Urban
  • Harry Connick Jr.

After 12 seasons, longtime judge Jackson left and made way for Harry Connick Jr. to come onto American Idol. This is also when Lopez decided to return with Keith Urban as well. This trio remained a staple for three seasons until the show was canceled by Fox. Connick Jr. is a singer, composer, actor, and former television host. He provided the soundtrack for rom-com hit When Harry Met Sally..., contributed to the Godfather III album, and even appeared as Leo Markus on Will & Grace. He served as a judge on Australian Idol in 2023.

(ABC/Eric McCandless) /

Seasons 16-22 (2018 - present)

  • Luke Bryan
  • Katy Perry
  • Lionel Richie

After a two year break, American Idol was revived on ABC! Since then in 2018, we've had Bryan, Perry and Richie as the judges and there really couldn't be a better trio. Though it's bittersweet because Perry announced that American Idol season 22 would be her last so she can focus on her music once again. We wish her the best of luck of course, but will certainly miss her on the competition series.

American Idol season 22 airs new episodes Sunday nights on ABC. Episodes are also available to stream on Hulu.

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