10 Best ‘The Walking Dead’ Characters, Ranked

In 2010, Robert Kirkman’s series of graphic novels, The Walking Dead, was adapted for TV by AMC and followed Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) as he awoke from a coma to discover the world had drastically changed and was now overrun by walkers (aka zombies). The series ended in 2022 after 11 seasons, but its massive success led to a number of spin-offs, including Fear The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: Dead City, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, and The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

Rick from the Walking Dead with Daryl, Negan, Maggie, and Michonne in the background

With a large ensemble cast that expanded every season, from those just trying to survive to cruel villains, The Walking Dead featured plenty of characters that audiences loved, hated, and sometimes loved to hate. The best of them were complex, equipped with backstories that informed their decisions and skills in the apocalypse, and growth that served as an example of how far they’d come. And sometimes, they were just downright fun to watch and easy to love.

10 Eugene Porter

Played by Josh McDermitt

Image via AMC

Eugene is introduced while traveling with Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) to Washington, D.C. in Season 4 of The Walking Dead. He lies to the two of them about who he is, giving the impression that he is an important scientist in contact with leadership in D.C. and that he needs to get there to help find a cure for the zombie outbreak. For a brief period, he also serves as a high-ranking member of the Saviors.

Eugene is a bit eccentric, with a very distinct manner of speaking. His dishonesty and selfish, cowardly willingness to do whatever he needs in order to ensure his own safety makes him a frustrating character early on. Still, he is intelligent and caring, as well as aware of his flaws, and he works to redeem himself whenever he can, eventually becoming an important part of the group.

9 Negan Smith

Played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Negan is introduced to The Walking Dead as the leader of the Saviors, a ruthless group of survivors whom Rick and the gang have tussled with in the past. Negan is referred to only by name before he appears in person in the Season 6 finale with his barbed-wire-wrapped bat, Lucille, in hand. Already making an indelible impression on the series in his short scene in Season 6, Negan’s grand entrance on The Walking Dead really comes in the Season 7 premiere, with him violently bludgeoning Abraham and Glenn (Steven Yeun) to death in arguably the show’s most violent and heart-wrenching episode. After multiple clashes between the groups and their leaders, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) finally defeats Negan and, in an act of mercy, chooses to let him live rather than kill him, leading Negan to spend the majority of his remaining years imprisoned in Alexandria.

Out of all the characters on The Walking DeadNegan is among those who experienced the most growth, having redeemed himself in the end after starting out as one of the series’ most hated villains. When he was first introduced, he was violent and ruthless, but also charismatic with a sharp sense of humor. As the years went by, he softened, and he even had a soft spot for Judith and expressed guilt for killing Glenn in particular. Negan returned in The Walking Dead: Dead City alongside Maggie (Lauren Cohan), with the second season of the spin-off expected to be released in mid-late 2024.

8 Ezekiel Sutton

Played by Khary Payton

Image via AMC

Ezekiel was introduced early in Season 7 as leader of the Kingdom, one of the communities terrorized by the Saviors and forced to surrender food and supplies to them. He is a former zookeeper and still maintains a close relationship with one of the tigers he cared for, Shiva, and his background in community theater informs his demeanor as a king. After the Kingdom falls, Ezekiel is left without a purpose in life, and wanders about the zombie-riddled world aimlessly. When he is finally accepted into the Commonwealth and beats thyroid cancer, he finds a new lease on life, eventually becoming the settlement’s animal control officer.

‘The Walking Dead’: All 11 Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best

‘The Walking Dead’: All 11 Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best

Although Ezekiel seemed ridiculous at first, he quickly proved himself to be a warm, charismatic, and capable leader, proven by the Kingdom’s success for much of the series. He is also smarter than the other leaders gave him credit for. However, Ezekiel was at his best when he dropped the royal act and let his true self show to others, most notably Carol (Melissa McBride), with whom he would go on to form a relationship. An integral part of some of the show’s most epic showdowns, Ezekiel was always a delight to watch.

7 Glenn Rhee

Played by Steven Yeun

Image via AMC

Glenn first comes into contact with Rick via radio and helps guide him to safety early in the first season of The Walking Dead. Glenn, a former pizza delivery driver, serves as a supply runner between the survivors’ camp and Atlanta. When the group settles on Hershel’s (Scott Wilson) farm in Season 2, Glenn falls in love with Hershel’s daughter, Maggie, and the two eventually marry. Glenn is violently killed by Negan at the beginning of Season 7, traumatizing other characters and fans alike.

Glenn was a fan favorite, known for being tough but also providing some comic relief thanks to his quick one-liners and overall lighthearted demeanor. He also proved himself to be smart and resourceful, which helped get him out of some tense, dire situations, including many close brushes with death, and also made him an asset to his fellow survivors. But above all, he was proof that good people still existed in the world, and he exemplified hope.

6 Maggie Greene

Played by Lauren Cohan

Image via AMC

Maggie Rhee (née Greene) is first introduced early in Season 2 of The Walking Dead as Hershel’s eldest daughter. She falls in love with and marries Glenn Rhee, and the two have a son, Hershel, named after Maggie’s father and sadly born after Glenn’s death. She eventually becomes the leader of Hilltop, and goes on to appear alongside Negan in The Walking Dead: Dead City, where she enlists his help after her son is kidnapped.

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Maggie was a tough, independent character and a formidable leader, unafraid to speak her mind or do what needed to be done. But she also has a soft side. From her first introduction, she proved to be eager to help others, even at risk to her own safety. She was also loyal, especially to her family, whether that meant defending her father’s questionable decisions or being fiercely protective of her son.

5 Hershel Greene

Played by Scott Wilson

Image via AMC

The survivors meet Hershel (Scott Wilson) in early Season 2 of The Walking Dead after Carl (Chandler Riggs) is accidentally shot and rushed to Hershel’s farm in rural Georgia for help. Hershel previously worked as a veterinarian, and is living out the apocalypse with his two daughters, Maggie and Beth (Emily Kinney). He is a devout Christian and hopeful that a cure for the outbreak will be found, so much so that he secretly keeps a hoard of walkers locked in his barn, refusing to kill what he still believes to be innocent people. He becomes a loyal member of the group until he is decapitated by the Governor (David Morrissey) in the mid-season finale of Season 4.

Hershel’s warm personality and compassionate nature made him easy to love, and he became something of a father figure to the entire group — in addition to being a loving father to his own children and, later, approving father-in-law to Glenn. Hershel also served as the group’s moral compass, although he struggled to come to terms with the reality of the new world. While he wasn’t a doctor, his knowledge and experience as a veterinarian was similar enough that it made him a helpful asset.

4 Michonne Hawthorne

Played by Danai Gurira

Michonne is first introduced in the Season 2 finale of The Walking Deadwielding her iconic katana and guiding two chained-up walkers without arms or jaws alongside her. We learn that her boyfriend and son were killed earlier in the outbreak. She forms a strong relationship with Rick, and the two eventually have a son together, RJ, in addition to caring for Rick’s young daughter, Judith, and for Carl before his tragic death. After Michonne discovers that Rick is still alive after he was presumed dead, she sets out to find him and the two reunite in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

Michonne was a great character from the moment of her very memorable introduction and remained a fan favorite. She quickly became a crucial part of the group, and she remained a tough, intense character throughout the series. She played a crucial role in taking down the Governor in particular. But for all of Michonne’s toughness, she also has a softer side, shown in her relationships with Rick and Carl, and later, RJ and Judith.

3 Carol Peletier

Played by Melissa McBride

Image via AMC

Carol is first introduced as part of a group of survivors after having evacuated with her abusive husband, Ed (Adam Minarovich), and their daughter, Sophia (Madison Lintz). Ed is killed early in the series, followed by Sophia’s disappearance and the shocking revelation of her death in Season 2. Carol becomes close to fellow survivor Daryl (Norman Reedus), especially as the group searches for Sophia, and the two become best friends. Carol is set to reunite with Daryl for Season 2 of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon.

Carol had one of the most notable transformations of the series. When audiences first met her, she was soft-spoken and reserved, with moments showing her sense of humor and the feistiness that would appear later when she wasn’t with Ed. After his death, she was truly allowed to be herself, and she thrived, ultimately turning into one of the series’ toughest characters and a formidable leader, serving as Queen of the Kingdom.

2 Rick Grimes

Played by Andrew Lincoln

Image via AMC

Rick Grimes is the main protagonist of The Walking Dead until his departure in Season 9, when he is presumed dead. Before the outbreak, Rick worked as a sheriff’s deputy, and he awoke from a coma to discover the zombie apocalypse well underway, with the hospital abandoned and his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son missing. He eventually finds them with a group of other survivors, and for the bulk of the series, he serves as the group’s fearless leader. Rick returns alongside Michonne in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

Throughout his run on The Walking Dead, Rick was a caring husband and father, immensely relieved when he discovered that Lori and Carl were alive and devoted to keeping them safe from then on. Still, he also had a dark, violent side. While it was sometimes necessary for survival and to defend his group, it also got him into trouble, which was something he tried to move on from throughout the series.

1 Daryl Dixon

Played by Norman Reedus

Image via AMC

Daryl Dixon was not a character from the original comics, but instead, was a new character created specifically for the show. He first appears early in Season 1 when Rick joins a group of survivors — and after Rick handcuffs Daryl’s brother, Merle (Michael Rooker), to a roof. Daryl also appears in his own spin-off, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, which sees the character washing up on the shores of France with no memory of how he got there.

Crossbow-carrying Daryl was a fan-favorite character from early on, and he was also among those who showed the most growth throughout the series. He was a skilled hunter and tracker, making him a valuable part of the group as they tried to survive, and despite his aggressive, disagreeable personality early on, he proved to be kind and caring. He had a close friendship with Carol, as the two bonded over their similarities.

The Walking Dead is available to stream on Netflix in the U.S.

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