Ranking the 10 Best TV Villains Ever

Walter White from Breaking Bad
  • Wilson Fisk kicks off our top 10 television villains of all-time.
  • Walter White and Gus Fring make the cut thanks to their chilling performances.
  • An iconic Game of Thrones character takes the cake as our #1 TV baddie.

It takes a special sort of baddie to leave a lasting mark when it comes to television. You only have so many episodes – or even seasons – to build up a story and make an impact.

The weird part? The best TV villains somehow make you care about them. And even if they don’t, they’re so damn bad that they’re somehow, erm, good?

However you look at the big bads on the small screen, most will agree in regards to the very best. Here’s my personal take on that list.

10. Wilson Fisk (Daredevil)

Vincent D’Onofrio is known as a fine actor, but this has to be his greatest performance of his career.

Breathing life into a vicious gangster like Kingpin takes true skill, and he offered both gentleness and brutality to this nuanced role.

Imposing size and strength was part of the draw, and D’Onofrio laid it all on the line more than once. Perhaps most memorable, however, was his showdown with The Punisher.

Fisk was equal parts redeeming and abhorrent, trying to believe his own propaganda for a dying city, all while ruining it with an iron first. The best part? It’s a role D’Onofrio isn’t quite done with just yet.

With a tear-inducing backstory and a layered character portrayal, it’s hard not to like this big bad.

9. Gemma Teller Morrow (Sons of Anarchy)

There won’t be a vivacious comeback like we’re getting with Kingpin. Spoiler alert, but Gemma Teller Morrow’s days of spinning dark webs of lies are officially over.

You’ll have to check out Sons of Anarchy for the specifics if you haven’t already. Just know that this was one tough cookie that knew no boundaries when it came to protecting what was hers.

As it turned out, that meant even deceiving her own family, and sometimes a heck of a lot worse.

What’s more badass than a ruthless biker gang leader? How about that dude’s wife? Gemma Teller Morrow had some sinister secrets she ultimately had to atone for. But she spun a twisted web of deception until she met her maker.

8. J.R. Ewing (Dallas)

In a world like ours where money is king and greed is all too relatable, a TV villain like J.R. Ewing is especially impactful.

Played effortlessly by Larry Hagman on Dallas, Ewing was a brazen oil tycoon who had a reputation for dirty business and general heartlnessness.

The rise of one of television’s greatest villains met it’s height in the 1980s, with the iconic “Who Shot J.R.?” saga.

One of TV’s greatest cliffhangers was finally answered, and when we look back, it’s easy to realize why; because this was also one of the best TV villains of all-time.

Ewing’s savagery was bound to a more relatable and relevant world, which is a big reason why his ability to make a lasting impressions is so much more impressive than some other television bad guys.

7. Joffrey Baratheon (Game of Thrones)

Is there a TV villain you wanted to see die a horrible death more than Joffrey? The little punk made an early entrance as a bully on season one of Game of Thrones, and from that point on, everyone wished ill will on the character.

Much to our chagrin, Joffrey would remain a prominent fixture into season four, before he unceremoniously exited after being poisoned.

The crazy thing, though, is for as much as we all applauded for the character to be killed off, our disdain for Joffrey was a testament to how great of a villain he truly was.

Immature, reckless, and reactory, Joffrey was one of the best TV villains ever because you simply never knew what he’d do, and you were terrified of what he was capable of.

He was the catalyst for the entire show thanks to being behind the beheading of Ned Stark, and he left carnage in his wake. We weren’t sad to see the character get an ending he very much deserved, but the performance by Jack Gleeson was next level stuff.

6. Frank Underwood (House of Cards)

Some people will do whatever it takes to get ahead. And then some people are Frank Underwood, who are wholly vapid and will do literally anything – including murder – to be the last man standing.

Kevin Spacey has since been cancelled by Hollywood (and rightfully so), but ignoring his stellar performance as this twisted politician on a mission to steal the presidency would be a sham.

Spacey played Underwood perfectly, offering dry humor when it was needed, and also delivering cold and calloused one-liners that kept biting long after he was done talking.

Underwood’s southern drawl and two-faced persona always kept you guessing, but this was not a man that was afraid to get his hands dirty. Needless to say, he was part of some of the most shocking moments in House of Cards.

It all came crumbling down in the end, but Underwood’s lack of empathy for his surroundings allowed him to worm his way to the top in impressive fashion.

His accomplishments and cunning character give us one of the top TV villains we’ve ever seen.

5. Walter White (Breaking Bad)

You know you’re a special type of bad when you’re a villain and everyone can’t help but pull for you. That, and even after the series is over, everyone is still looking for TV shows like Breaking Bad for a shot at recapturing some of that magic.

Bryan Cranston was pegged to play the insufferable Walter White, who was equal parts spineless and evil genius. His story started out innocent enough, as quiet science teacher who turned down a massive fortune, only to stare death in the face with a cancer diagnosis years later.

With his days numbered and his family about to be left with nothing, Walter White “breaks bad” and heads down a road of meth-cooking in the name of making some cash before he kicks the bucket.

Of course, White ultimately does a litany of bad deeds as he rises to the top of the New Mexico drug lord rankings, and after a short while, it’s clear his motivations are inherently selfish.

White’s still weirdly easy to root for, but he’s about as bad as it gets. He manages to redeem himself in the end, but to say Walter White is a top 5 TV villain of all-time is a grand understatement.

4. Ben Linus (Lost)

What kind of man sacrifices his own daughter (we think?) to survive? No man at all, if we’re being honest.

That’s what Ben Linus did, though, and that was simply the cherry on top for a man who never met a lie he didn’t love.

Ben Linus first was introduced to beloved Lost fans as the mysterious and seemingly innocent Henry Gale, and we took the bait. He certainly looked the part of a weak bystander who was somehow caught in the crosshairs of our plan crash survivors and “the others”, but we didn’t know the half of it.

Before long, we learn that Linus is actually the mastermind behind everything that could be deemed bad about the island, and his motivations and ambitions are forever fleeting and ambiguous.

Simply put, you never can get a firm grip on who Ben Linus is or what he was about. More specifically, you damn sure could not trust him.

3. Negan (The Walking Dead)

There might not be a better villain debut than what we got with Negan in his arrival on The Walking Dead. The crazy thing is this horror-drama series was already insanely successful, but adding this shit-eating-grin mad man to the mix took things to a whole new level.

If you were a fan of the comics, you had an idea as to what was coming. If you didn’t brush up on your reading and were a fan of the show, you were ill prepared for the emotional torment that would ensure.

Love him or hate him, Negan was a necessary evil for TWD franchise, and the fateful night he ran into Rick and the crew will forever haunt us.

Of course, Negan is not relegated to simply being a crazy leader of thugs that bashes in some heads.

There was always a certain method to Negan’s madness, and he has staying power long after he drove Rick Grimes to his knees.

Hell, Negan is still running around in The Walking Dead franchise. He’s since turned into a more likeable character – some might even dare call him good – but at least for a little while he correctly went down as one of the best TV bad guys we’ve ever seen.

2. Gus Fring (Breaking Bad)

You know you’re one of the best TV villains of all-time when you barely even need to raise your voice – or a hand – to send a message.

Fring was the quiet killer, always parading through his chicken restaurant with the utmost confidence, seemingly always remaining two steps ahead of his competition.

What made him especially formidable, however, is how he displayed little loyalty, and would drop anyone in a second if it were to create disadvantage for his long game. One merely needs to point to the box cutter episode for clarification.

Fring was out to build an empire and dominate. Who dies along the way was inconsequential.

His one mistake? Underestimating the lengths one Walter White would also go to in order to protect his own skin.

That led to Fring’s demise, but whether he was taking out his own employees or rival drug lords, the man rarely seemed taken aback regardless of the sticky situation he was put in.

1. Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)

To be the #1 TV villain in history, you need a special amount of hate coming your way. You also need to obviously be incredibly ruthless, borderline pure evil, and almost do heinous shit for the hell of it.

Cersei gets my vote, and the reasons could be endless. First up, of course, is how she basically set forth the demise of Ned Stark, and ultimately the downfall of House Stark.

We quite literally don’t have Game of Thrones without Cersei. And once the great race was on, she was endlessly positioning herself to ensure she had a leg up.

This is a woman who committed incest, cheated on her husband, had numerous people killed, plotted against her own family, and ultimately turned her nose up at a country being invaded by the undead.

Cersei cared about her family (we think), I’ll give her that. But that’s where her loyalty ended.

Her vindictive nature and ability to survive any foiling that came her way was impressive, and her tenacity was unmatched. It made for a fun watch every week, albeit one where part of you always hoped she’d meet her end.

That’s one Game of Thrones spin-off series we won’t be getting, I reckon. Cersei’s dance with the devil did come, but it didn’t arrive until the series was on it’s last legs, and Cersei had put thousands of people in body bags.

The Best Villains in TV History

That does it for my list of the top TV villains ever. I’m just one person making a list, so I’ll readily admit that there are more television bad guys (and girls), and this order is subjective.

But if you’re ranking the top 10 TV villains, I’d imagine your list would start with quite a few (if not all) of the horrendous foes listed above. The order might be slightly different and perhaps a handful of names would be considered ahead of them, but I can’t be far off.

This is my personal top 10 list, anyways. There are more bad guys out there that deserve mentioning, and I am sure more will work their way into this list with an updated look down the road.

I’ll hang my hat on Cersei Lannister as the best TV villain for now. Disagree? Let me hear it in the comments below!

Rex Ferder


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *