Just like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead has this sneaky habit of killing off your favorite characters when you least expect it. In what were some of the greatest moments in the show, we’ve waved goodbye to a few good ones and farewelled some bad. In an effort to honor TWD legends like Glenn and Carl and salute icons like Rick and Daryl, here’s a list of the 26 best Walking Dead characters ranked from the past eight seasons…
This is by no means a full and complete list! P.S – Spoilers ahead!
26. Milton Mamet
Died: Season 3
Actor: Dallas Roberts
Geeky Milton Mamet would have been a great asset to any side in the apocalypse. His nerdy, scientist-savvy had him experimenting on those about to turn and the walking dead themselves. He was crucial to The Governor, being perhaps his only hope of bringing his daughter back in human form. But ultimately, he chose the wrong side (when is choosing The Goverrnor’s side ever a good idea?). He ends up stabbed several times by the man himself and is later stabbed through the head by Andrea.
25. Lizzie Samuels
Died: Season 4
Actress: Brighton Sharbino
An unforgettable character for all the wrong reasons. Sweet-faced, young Lizzie, believes that walkers are people too and deserve some empathy and protection. To prove this, she murders her own little sister. While not evil through-and-through, the rest of the group are left wondering what to do with her.
24. Father Gabriel Stokes
Actor: Seth Gilliam
Father Gabriel is a particularly divisive figure on TWD. We learn that his holiness is a mask for the guilt he feels at barricading himself in his church and leaving his flock to fend for themselves. Even though the Survivors take him in, he wears the label of a coward. Since then he has done things to redeem himself but also things that prove that he will take the path of least resistance.
Died: Season 3
Actress: Laurie Holden
Unlike her comic book counterpart, Andrea got killed off way too soon at the hands of The Governor. She was smart, fearless and was the only one who could get close enough to The Governor to glean his motives and true personality. On the page, she is still alive and kicking and has even hooked up with Rick (sorry Richone shippers)!
Actor: Austin Amelio
When we see Dwight for the second time, he has chosen to team up with the Negan and the Saviors. He is perhaps the most committed to Negan of all his followers and despite having the side of his face burned with a scolding hot iron by Negan earlier on, remains loyal – until recently. Dwight slowly begins to recognize that he can not abide what Negan has done; stealing his wife, making him to the worst of the grunt work and turning him into a ‘bad’ man. The change in Dwight is remarkable and it makes the show a little more interesting knowing he’s a spy in Negan’s camp.
Actor: Tom Payne
Anyone who is named Jesus must be an intriguing character, right? Indeed! Like the real-life Son of God, Jesus can appear and disappear without detection and his gentler side has him helping people rather than taking more of a leadership role within the Hilltop community. He even has the beard and mustache to match!
20. Rosita Espinosa
Actress: Christian Serratos
Rosita enters the show as a feisty, hot-headed, militant young woman who is resistant to following orders and likes to do things her own way. She is often falling out with someone only to reconcile later. We see her warmer side come out when she saves Abraham’s life after he breaks up with her and by the fact that she doesn’t hold Eugene’s big lie about having the virus cure against him.
19. The Armoured Zombie – Winslow
Died: Season 7
Actor: Gino Crognale
It would be easy to overlook this character because, as fascinating as he was, Winslow is one of the walking dead. He may be a villain of the show but Winslow was part of one of TWD’s most memorable scenes – remember when Rick went head-to-head with this completely armored and spiked walker in a scrapyard fighting ring? Against all odds, Rick beats Winslow, decapitating him and earning some respect from The Scavengers. In real life, Winslow is played by Gino Crognale, one of the senior special effects make-up artists on The Walking Dead. He is said to have endured extremely high temperatures while in Winslow’s prosthesis.
Died: Season 6
Actor: John Carroll Lynch
Eastman is one of the show’s most remarkable characters. In a time when the remaining population are learning to fight the dead and each other, Eastman is essentially a pacifist and finds peace through not harming other human beings, only defending himself against the dead. He practices his defense skills and mindfulness using Aikido and is eventually able to pass this along to Morgan, who arrives an angry, bitter man and leaves a much more peaceful one.
17. Dale Horvath
Died: Season 2
Actor: Jeffrey DeMunn
Oh, how we miss Dale – the once-was voice of reason and the conscience of Rick’s group. He was also a father-figure and counsellor to many. A lot of watchers were genuinely shocked when the fishing hat-toting, old campervan-driving, Dale made his exit and felt the show had pulled one of its best characters. RIP.
16. Hershel Greene
Died: Season 4
Actor: Scott Wilson
Lest we forget! Dr Hershel Greene lets Rick’s group take refuge at his farm and tends to their medical ailments as well as feeding them from his land. He perpetuates what is possibly one of the most stable phases in the entire series. His grit and wisdom are lost when he dies and are still very much missing in the show today. RIP.
15. Tara Chambler
Actress: Alanna Masterson
Tara has well and truly become a fixture of TWD. She has an uncommon mixture of extreme anxiety and fear which she pushes to one side when she is called upon to act. She is brave in the face of unspeakable tragedy, including the death of her girlfriend, Denise and she is one of the most down-to-earth and likeable characters,bringing a sense of normality to the show.
14. Shane Walsh
Died: Season 2
Actor: Jon Bernthal
Back when it was mainly just man vs. walker, we had one of our first controversial human characters evolving. Shane, who was Rick Grimes’ police partner, and who was also having an affair with his wife, has to come face-to-face with the man whom he thought was dead and whose place he had taken in Rick’s family. Some loved him, others hated him but there’s no denying that Shane brought controversy and interest to the show, early on in the seasons. His death was also one of the most captivating of the series.
Actor: Lennie James
Morgan Jones, played by the inimitable Lennie James, is a complex and fascinating protagonist. At the beginning of the series, he is haunted by his beloved wife-turned-walker who staggers up and down the family’s street, bringing his sorrow and anger to breaking point. We later see a Morgan who is nearly out of his mind with rage and mental torture and then again later, we see him when he finally finds peace. He becomes a new man who believes that every life is sacred and is worthy of living but this is tested to the maximum when the Saviors attack his crew and he is forced to kill – a huge moment in the series and a character that truly represents the test of humanity.
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12. The Governor
Died: Season 4
Actor: David Morrissey
Philip ‘The Governor’ Blake was as evil as they come. In fact he was the first ‘big bad’ that came along before Negan. His initial, false congeniality is soon replaced by brutal, homicidal acts and he shows absolutely no remorse, even going so far as to kill his once-lover, Andrea, in a merciless way. His one vulnerability, and the only one he can show love to, is his daughter who has turned but whom he keeps hidden away and whom he lovingly talks to despite her obvious ferality. A captivating character that is remembered until this very day.
11. Eugene Porter
Actor: Josh McDermitt
Eugene is what Robert Kirkman feels most of us would be like in the same circumstances as the survivors (sans mullet and geeky genius). Eugene is highly agitated, self-preserving and initially claims he has the cure to the virus causing people to turn. After discovering his cowardice and lie, many of Rick’s crew are devastated. Eugene disappointingly ends up defecting to Negan’s side due to the fear of what he will undergo if he does not. One of the very few to betray Rick, this character is sure one to keep an eye on.
Died: Season 7
Actress: Sonequa Martin-Green
Sasha is brave and combative from the start. Being a smart-cookie and one who’s very good with weaponary, she often gives the others a good pep talk when they need it and almost never displays her weaknesses. TWD fans will never forget the scene where Sasha sacrifices herself for the group. A turned-Sasha, who having taken a poison pill, attacks Negan as soon as the coffin is opened. What an epic scene. RIP.
Actor: Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Negan is perhaps the most ruthless and twisted characters TWD has ever seen. He takes an immense amount of pleasure in the torture, death or harm of anyone and the most despicable act we’ve seen him commit is bashing in the heads of Abraham and Glenn in front of their loved ones using Lucille, his barbed wire baseball bat. Why is he ranked at number 8 you might ask? We hate to say it, but Negan is funny. His outrageous lines bring some humor to the show and after all, he is the only villain to ever leave Rick’s group so defeated. We’re interested to see where things go from here with Negan – we truly love to hate him.
8. Abraham Ford
Died: Season 6
Actor: Michael Cudlitz
Abraham is the most militant Survivors we’ve seen in a long time. He was loyal to a fault and constantly put himself in harm’s way to protect others. Ab was respected for his take-no-prisoner’s attitude and his dedication to the group and one of the most chilling scenes in the TWD was when he was killed at Negan’s hand by Lucille shouting a last, defiant ‘suck my nuts!’
7. Carl Grimes
Died: Season 8
Actor: Chandler Riggs
Little, timid, Carl grows into a fearless, measured and clever character. After surviving two near-death experiences (one that includes him losing his eyeball), he refuses to be thought of as a child and convinces Rick to let him fight in the most gruesome of battles. He has a way of dispatching walkers with seeming ease and will do anything to protect his baby sister, Judith, and his dad. It sucks that we won’t get to see the adult version of Carl – he was bound to be the hero of the post-apocalyptic world.
6. Maggie Greene
Actress: Lauren Cohan
Maggie has been an anchor for this show since the very beginning. Despite being a ferocious defender of her group, she is also kind, gentle and sheds the most tears. We’ve seen her go through ups and terrible downs with the death of her family, more recently her father and sister, and then the worst thing that could happen to her – the death of her husband, Glenn. We find an angry, subdued Maggie who could be leader of the Hilltop but decides instead to focus on the people around her and to plot Negan’s demise.
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5. Rick Grimes
Actor: Andrew Lincoln
English actor, Andrew Lincoln, has been good-naturedly mocked for his faux American accent and his character was criticized for becoming more prone to violence without proper thought. Despite this, he largely remained the hero and leader of the story throughout the show’s eight seasons. He always put his group first, he took on the difficult mantle of leader, he almost had a breakdown when confronted by Negan but rallied his people to attack the Saviors in what they thought would be a death blow. He constantly protected his people, strategizing ways of keeping them alive and ultimately was a very relatable character. It’s a damn shame he’s gone.
4. Glenn Rhee
Died: Season 6
Actor: Steven Yeun
Unsurprisingly, when the loving, funny but also very fierce character of Glen Rhee was killed by Negan in front of Maggie’s eyes, a lot of people stopped watching the series. He was such a beloved character and his love for Maggie and their child was beautiful to watch. Glenn is most probably the most missed character in the history of TWD.
Actress: Danai Gurira
Michonne appears to the untrained eye as a ruthless killer and a hardened survivalist who doesn’t need anyone. In reality, even though she rarely lets her guard down, you see her softer side, especially with Carl and when she gets into a romantic relationship with Rick. She is famous for slicing and dicing the heads of anything she considers evil with her lethal katana – this girl is badass and she better not go anywhere!
2. Carol Peletier
Actress: Melissa McBride
Carol was the down-trodden, abused housewife who defied the odds and learned to stand very solidly on her own two feet. Despite breaking down a few times, Carol becomes one of the strongest female characters to ever grace our TV screens and is somewhat an inspiration to many. We’ve seen her take out enemies single-handedly and act as the ideal killing machine against those we hate most. Ranked as the second best TWD character, this knitting, cookie-baking babysitter is a strong, unstoppable, and fierce asset to her group. We’ll riot if she dies.
1. Daryl Dixon
Actor: Norman Reedus
Daryl was the ultimate Redneck bikie. His wild, leather-clad, motorcycle-riding look made us wonder how he would turn out. He’s proved to arguably be the most popular and best character on the show. From his scuffy hair, down to his complete fearlessness, Daryl has grown to become a TV icon and a true fan favorite – the bow-wielding bad boy is often attributed to the reason that fans keep on watching. No one can imagine the show without good old Mr Dixon!
TWD would not be what it is without these 26 crucial characters. Who is your most remarkable Walking Dead legend? Sound off in the comments below!
Know someone who’s a huge fan of the show? Scroll through our Walking Dead gift guide which includes games, pillows and even figurines of the best characters!