The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

562k votes 28k voters 441k views 1,635 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Only fictional characters created for television programs

List of TV's most memorable characters, of all time, chosen by the Ranker community. What makes a character live on in the public's memory, even years after the original run of their respective TV programs? In some cases, it's the amount of depth that the show's writers, actors and other creators were able to bring to the character over the course of many years. For many of the greatest TV characters of all time, audiences feel like they get to know personalities like Dexter Morgan from "Dexter." Even after the show leaves the air, they may not want that relationship to end. (Thankfully, they don't have to, as many shows live on for years after their cancellation on DVD and in syndication.) The best TV characters are ones that you feel like you know and that you'd want to be friends with.

TV has brought many famous characters to life who have been extremely compelling, even if they are not entirely likeable. Viewers may not wish to know dangerous, shadowy figures like Tony Soprano, Vernon Schillinger, and Omar Little in reality, but following their exploits safely from the comfort of your living room can be appealing. Likewise, people who might be aloof or downright unpleasant in real life - think "Mad Men's" Don Draper or Al Swearengen of "Deadwood" - can prove charming, even admirable, when seen at a distance, with the subtext and intricacy that a top long-running TV show can provide.

Who is the greatest TV character ever? This list contains the names of the greatest, most fascinating, and most enduring fictional characters from TV of all time. Be sure to vote for your favorites, and if some of your favorite popular characters aren't represented, go ahead and re-rank the list to contribute to the discussion.
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  1. 1
    + 4,699
    - 4,173


    The Simpsons

    ;
  2. 2
    + 2,778
    - 3,964
    Bart Simpson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    most listed & ranked high on reranks
    Bart Simpson The Simpsons

  3. 3
    + 2,400
    - 3,532

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Family Guy, Family Guy Universe

    ;
  4. 4
    + 1,523
    - 3,305
    Brian Griffin is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Brian Griffin Family Guy

  5. 5
    + 2,954
    - 3,530
    Stewie Griffin is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Stewie Griffin Family Guy

  6. 6
    + 3,779
    - 2,833
    Spock is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Spock Star Trek: The Original Series

  7. 7
    + 5,089
    - 2,869
    Tyrion Lannister is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Tyrion Lannister Game of Thrones

  8. 8
    + 4,336
    - 2,851


    The Sopranos

    ;
  9. 9
    + 4,215
    - 3,065
    Dr. Gregory House is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Dr. Gregory House House

  10. 10
    + 5,291
    - 4,821
    Walter White is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Walter White Breaking Bad

  11. 11
    + 3,637
    - 2,360
    Sheldon Cooper is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Sheldon Cooper The Big Bang Theory

  12. 12
    + 4,442
    - 2,684
    Buffy Summers is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Buffy Summers Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  13. 13
    + 3,191
    - 2,381
    Cosmo Kramer is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Cosmo Kramer Seinfeld

  14. 14
    + 2,422
    - 2,142

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Baby Looney Tunes, Big House Bunny, Mutiny on the Bunny

    ;
  15. 15
    + 2,502
    - 2,096
    James T. Kirk is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    James T. Kirk Star Trek: The Original Series

  16. 16
    + 2,375
    - 1,719
    Lucy Ricardo is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    added by ShaneBird
    Lucy Ricardo I Love Lucy

  17. 17
    + 3,463
    - 2,199

    ranked low on reranks
    Friends

    ;
  18. 18
    + 2,407
    - 2,008
    Hawkeye Pierce is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Hawkeye Pierce M*A*S*H

  19. 19
    + 3,003
    - 2,472
    Eric Cartman is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Eric Cartman South Park

  20. 20
    + 2,834
    - 1,890
    Joey Tribbiani is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Joey Tribbiani Friends

  21. 21
    + 2,567
    - 2,146
    Jerry Seinfeld is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Jerry Seinfeld Seinfeld

  22. 22
    + 2,786
    - 2,289
    Al Bundy is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Al Bundy Married... With Children

  23. 23
    + 1,627
    - 1,567
    Columbo is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    added by Richard777
    Columbo Columbo

  24. 24
    + 1,108
    - 1,988
    Stan Marsh is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Stan Marsh South Park

  25. 25
    + 1,406
    - 1,505

    added by MangoStarkey
    Mr. Bean, Mr. Bean, Mr. Bean's Holiday

    ;
  26. 26
    + 2,763
    - 2,596
    George Costanza is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    George Costanza Seinfeld

  27. 27
    + 2,282
    - 1,892
    Phoebe Buffay is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    ranked low on reranks
    Phoebe Buffay Friends

  28. 28
    + 2,329
    - 2,812
    Dexter Morgan is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Dexter Morgan Dexter, Dexter: Early Cuts, Dexter Universe

  29. 29
    + 2,017
    - 2,337
    Archie Bunker is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Archie Bunker All in the Family

  30. 30
    + 3,475
    - 2,393
    Spike is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    ranked low on reranks & added by PeteBoyle
    Spike Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffyverse

  31. 31
    + 2,109
    - 1,736
    Jean-Luc Picard is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Jean-Luc Picard Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: ...

  32. 32
    + 2,921
    - 2,769
    Barney Stinson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Barney Stinson How I Met Your Mother

  33. 33
    + 2,387
    - 1,843


    The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

    ;
  34. 34
    + 1,766
    - 1,447
    Sherlock Holmes is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Sherlock Holmes Sherlock, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sherlock Holmes

  35. 35
    + 2,252
    - 2,017
    Michael Scott is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Michael Scott The Office

  36. 36
    + 1,692
    - 1,628
    Fonzie is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Fonzie Happy Days

  37. 37
    + 1,876
    - 2,088
    Kermit the Frog is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Kermit the Frog Sam and Friends, The Muppet Movie, The Christmas Toy

  38. 38
    + 913
    - 1,089

    added by Johnny B
    The Andy Griffith Show, Return to Mayberry, Return to Mayberry The Andy Griffith Show

    ;
  39. 39
    + 1,572
    - 1,907


    Futurama, Futurama

    ;
  40. 40
    + 1,515
    - 1,893
    Elaine Benes is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Elaine Benes Seinfeld

  41. 41
    + 1,175
    - 1,239
    Sophia Petrillo is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Sophia Petrillo Golden Girls

  42. 42
    + 1,589
    - 1,633


    The Walking Dead

    ;
  43. 43
    + 1,762
    - 2,099
    Eddard Stark is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Eddard Stark Game of Thrones

  44. 44
    + 1,616
    - 2,339
    Fox Mulder is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Fox Mulder The X-Files, The X Files 2, The X-Files

  45. 45
    + 755
    - 576
    Carol Peletier is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    ranked low on reranks & added by DanielLahaie
    Carol Peletier The Walking Dead

  46. 46
    + 1,589
    - 2,105
    Jesse Pinkman is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Jesse Pinkman Breaking Bad

  47. 47
    + 1,266
    - 1,320
    Frasier Crane is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Frasier Crane Frasier, Cheers

  48. 48
    + 1,544
    - 1,747
    Arya Stark is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Arya Stark Game of Thrones

  49. 49
    + 1,042
    - 1,402
    Sam Malone is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Sam Malone Cheers

  50. 50
    + 1,445
    - 1,717
    Dean Winchester is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest TV Characters of All Time


    Dean Winchester Supernatural The Animation, Supernatural, Supernatural

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