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The Most Well-Acted Characters of All Time

Updated June 12, 2019 12.5k votes 1.9k voters 11.3k views44 items

There’s such a huge different when discussing television characters versus film characters. The main distinction is that we get to know our TV characters much better. Instead of a two-hour movie, we get to see television characters in different situations, often over the course of several seasons and many years. We feel like we know them personally, and in some scenarios they might seem like our dad, sister, or best friend. Nothing affects how a television character comes across to a spectator like the person playing the role. Even the most mundane script or unfunny sitcom can be saved by an actor’s performance. These are the best-acted characters on television of all time.

This list includes both the best -cted characters currently on TV and old characters from the small screen's past. Nearly every genre is covered from sitcoms to police procedurals to political dramas. Some of these are cantankerous sorts (we’re looking at you, Dr. House), others have had incredible obstacles to overcome (we knew you could beat cancer, Christina Braverman), and a few of these characters are entertainingly evil (everyone feels guilty rooting for Francis Underwood.)

We’ve cried along with these characters and believed their every emotion. These well-acted television characters are what stays with fans when they shut off the television for the night. Of course, dialogue and story are imperative on any successful television program, but without the actor to deliver those lines and sell the narrative, the television screen may as well stay blank.

Make your voice heard. Be sure to vote up all the best acted current TV characters and the most expertly acted TV characters from previous eras of television.
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  • Dexter Morgan
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    Michael C. Hall portrayed Dexter, a serial killer with a code, for eight seasons. Dexter always remained calm and calculated, no matter how inescapable his trouble seemed to be. Give Hall credit for turning a serial killer into someone you'd trust with your own lives.
    • Series: Dexter
    • Actor: Michael C. Hall
    • Occupation: Serial killer, Bloodstain pattern analyst, Scientist
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  • Ragnar
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    • Series: Vikings
    • Actor: Travis Fimmel
    154
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  • Tony Soprano
    Photo: flickr / CC0
    How could audiences root for Tony Soprano - a selfish, murderous, angry character? Despite the mob boss's brutality and rage, James Gandolfini always brought a sympathetic air to the anxiety-stricken Tony. Remember the ducks? Audiences loved him because he came across as so human, despite his monstrous actions. Gandolfini won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series three times for his portrayal of the Jersey Don.
    • Series: The Sopranos
    • Actor: James Gandolfini
    • Occupation: Boss
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    159
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  • Rose Nylund
    Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Fair use
    • Series: The Golden Girls
    • Actor: Betty White
    232
    163
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