With the series ending with Season 11 (though the franchise will be continuing), The Walking Dead has been an entertainment staple amongst fans for over a decade. As is expected when a show is based in a post-apocalyptic world full of flesh-eating undead and dangerously desperate humans, the character turn-over rate is pretty high, leading to a long list of potential fan favorites.
Users of Ranker have determined their picks for the best Walking Dead characters with over 50,000 voters cumulatively clicking over 472,000 times for the characters they love to love, (or maybe hate to love), the most.
Updated on April 5th, 2022 by Amanda Bruce: As characters come and go in The Walking Dead some of the original characters remain the most beloved. Some characters are even getting their own spin-offs after the original series ends. Negan and Maggie are set for their own series while Carol and Daryl are set for theirs, so fans won’t get to leave all of their favorite characters behind right away.
15 Rosita Espinosa
Rosita becoming a fan favorite might be something of a surprise for series fans who were watching when Christian Serratos joined the series in Season 4 to play the comic book character. Many fans saw Rosita, at the time, as little more than Abraham’s love interest, who didn’t mesh well with the rest of the group. Over time, however, Rosita’s difficult life and background come to light, and she becomes a fierce protector of the community she helps to build. A fighter, a mother, and a woman always looking for a logical solution to a problem, Rosita grows into one of the most loved Walking Dead characters in the TV series.
14 King Ezekiel
Before Khary Payton made his debut as Ezekiel, there was a lot of anticipation for the character’s arrival. Ezekiel’s Kingdom became one of the most interesting communities in the series very quickly as fans were fascinated with just how they operated. As the series continued, Ezekiel’s chemistry with so many characters makes him a fan favorite. Watching his scenes can bring plenty of humor or plenty of drama, depending on the episode in question, and Payton always delivers. It’s hard not to love a leader who cares about his people and has a tiger hanging around during his initial story arc.
13 Jesus Rovia
Jesus has one of the best character introductions in the series, which is only a fraction of the reason fans love him. He’s able to trick seasoned apocalyptic survivors Rick and Daryl and steal their truckful of supplies. He also holds his own in the altercation with them that follows, and saves them from Walkers. A member of the Hilltop community, Jesus becomes their leader following Maggie, but he also maintains close friendships in other communities and shows mercy to those who moved against them. His compassion, his sense of humor, and his talent for theft definitely made him a fan favorite early in his time on the show.
12 Morgan Jones
Whether or not fans love Morgan depends on the story arc, but there’s no denying he’s one of the best Walking Dead characters in the franchise. He’s one of the few characters to appear in both The Walking Dead and its spin-off Fear The Walking Dead. Morgan alternating between using violence as a way to solve every problem and being a complete pacifist is one of the things that makes him so interesting to the audience. He goes through a lot of changes on the series, but he’s always a bit of a philosopher, trying to figure out his place in the world.
11 Carl Grimes
Like Rosita, Carl was not initially beloved by fans at the start. The son of Rick and Lori Grimes, Carl is one of the longest-appearing characters in the series. His tendency to get into the middle of trouble at every opportunity in the early seasons got on the nerves of the audience.
Carl, however, grows up fast when he has to help deliver his baby sister. Looking after her and making sure she survives becomes his mission. He becomes a surprising bridge between his father’s group and others, even advocating for Negan and the Saviors to find peace with them. When Carl sacrifices himself following a Walker bite so his family can survive, the audience misses the person he became, not the child he started the series as.
10 Tyreese Williams
Tyreese, AKA Ty, joined the group alongside his sister, Sasha, in Season 3 and quickly became a fan favorite. Portrayed by Chad Coleman, Ty provides a voice of compassion in a world ravaged by fear and violence. When push comes to shove, Ty can hold his own, but he consistently chooses a path of kindness and forgiveness when possible, (which is the only reason Carol is still with us). He’s also the only reason baby Judith survives the Governor’s prison attack in season 4. Fans mourned his death in season 5, and he holds strong as a fan favorite more than six seasons later.
9 Negan Smith
For fans of the show, it’s likely unsurprising that this devilishly charming villain is the only baddie to make the list. There’s no denying that his horrifically violent actions in season 7 produced some of the most gut-wrenching, soul-crushing scenes in the show, and yet Negan, as portrayed by Jeffery Dean Morgan, is arguably the most charismatic, sometimes even comical character on The Walking Dead. That, mixed with his emotionally complex past and his seemingly genuine concern for Carl and Judith, is enough to leave anyone feeling confused over whether they love to hate him or hate to love him.
8 Abraham Ford
Abraham, portrayed by Michael Cudlitz, is first introduced to the show in season 4. Previously a Sergeant for the US Army, Abraham is loud, humorously obnoxious, and a stubborn brute force to be reckoned with. He also struggles with a deep sense of hopelessness, brought on by a combination of unresolved PTSD and the death of his family, which makes his character more complex than he may first appear. Much to the heartbreak of fans, right as Abraham finds a renewed sense of hope, he meets his fate, unflinching, head held high, looking Negan straight in the eyes.
7 Maggie Greene
Maggie has survived The Walking Dead since season 2. She’s first introduced to fans when Rick and his group stumble upon her family’s farm. When the farm catches fire and is overran by walkers, Maggie flees with the group alongside her father, Hershel, and sister, Beth. Maggie, portrayed by Lauren Cohan, is quick-thinking, strong-willed, loyal, and fair, with a keen sense for survival.
Maggie leaves the group, (and the show), in season 9, shortly after Rick decides to spare Negan, a decision Maggie cannot abide, given what Negan did to her husband, Glenn. Fans greatly felt her absence and were thrilled to see her return at the end of season 10. There’s hopefully still a lot to unpack with her character as she navigates a tenuous alliance with Negan in their spin-off.
6 Hershel Greene
Hershel, portrayed by Scott Wilson, joins the show in season 2 alongside his daughters Maggie and Beth, as well as short-timers Otis, Patricia, and Jimmy, (who don’t make it through the season). He allows Rick’s group to camp on his farm while he tends to Carl after Otis accidentally shoots the boy while hunting. A man of faith, Hershel is initially convinced that the Walkers can be cured, and takes to corralling stray Walkers, (and his undead wife), into his barn for safekeeping. Eventually, Hershel is forced to see the hard truth, and events lead him to become one of Rick’s most trusted advisors and the closest thing the group has to a doctor, as he was a veterinarian pre-apocalypse. It was a huge blow to the group and fans when Hershel died a most heroic death at the hands of The Governor in season 4.
5 Carol Peletier
Carol is one of the two remaining characters from season 1 in the final season of The Walking Dead. Portrayed by Melissa McBride, Carol is introduced to fans as the protective mother of a young girl, Sophia, and the wife of an abusive man, Ed. Much to the relief of Carol and fans, her husband dies early on, giving her character room to breathe. The death of her daughter, Sophia, is one of the first character deaths to have fans reaching for the tissue box, and it becomes a defining moment for Carol, pushing her to become a hardened, sometimes manipulative survivor.
Carol is capable of being ruthless, especially if she feels it’s necessary to protect her loved ones. She’s deeply wounded by loss, which often causes her to push those closest to her away. Still, despite her best efforts to repress how much she cares, she’s heavily influenced by her loyalty to those she considers family.
4 Michonne Hawthorne
Michonne, portrayed by Danai Gurira, has one of the most mysterious introductions to the show. She’s first introduced at the very end of season 2, as a cloaked figure with a katana and a couple of leashed walkers, who saves Andrea from an attacking walker. At first, Michonne seems stoic, hardened, and pragmatic, but as she settles in with the group and begins to let her guard down, deeper layers reveal her as a warm and caring person. She’s fiercely loyal, a true warrior with a sword, and will fight passionately for those she loves. Still alive as far as the audience knows; she leaves the group and the show in season 10 in search of her romantic partner, Rick, after discovering he may still be alive.
3 Rick Grimes
Rick is arguably the show’s main character and the group’s leader until leaving the show in season 9. Portrayed by Andrew Lincoln, Rick is the very first character introduced, as the show begins with him waking up in a hospital bed, alone, dehydrated, and soon to discover the world has been overrun by the undead and his loved ones are missing. Being a sheriff’s deputy, he’s already equipped with some useful survival skills, and he eventually finds his wife, son, and best friend/deputy partner, amid a group of survivors. From then on, Rick becomes the natural leader of the group, forcing him into any number of moral dilemmas as he takes on the responsibility of keeping everyone alive. Often faced with situations where violence is the only recourse, Rick does his best to navigate his group through the challenges of a post-apocalyptic world, while maintaining some semblance of a moral compass. In season 9, Rick is caught in an explosion and the group believes he has been killed. Fans, however, know better as he’s slated to appear in movie follow-ups to the show.
2 Glenn Rhee
Glenn, portrayed by Steven Yeun, is clever, kind, and a bit of a dare-devil. He’s first introduced in season 1, episode 2 when he saves Rick from a swarm of walkers. Always a fan favorite, it’s his quick-thinking, compassion, humor, and optimism that make Glenn a breath of fresh air in an otherwise suffocating situation. His blossoming, and eventually fully realized relationship with Maggie, was a romantic focal point for many fans of the show, which played a big part in making his brutal death at the hands of Negan in season 7, arguably the most traumatizing death that the show has ever produced. Always a loyal, trustworthy, and dependable member of the group, Glenn will forever hold a special place in the hearts of fans.
1 Daryl Dixon
Daryl wasn’t even a character in the comics, yet he continues to be a favorite. Starting off in season 1 as a hot-headed, crossbow-wielding, thorn-in-Ricks-side, Daryl is arguably one of the most transformed characters in The Walking Dead. Fans are first introduced to his softer side in season 2, when he forms a bond with Carol, making it his mission to find her missing daughter. Over time, Daryl learns to deal with the anger he carries from surviving an abusive childhood, and he grows into a respected and relied-upon member of the group, embracing Rick as a brother and the group as his family. A smart, observant, capable survivor and tracker, it’s no surprise Daryl and his closest friend, Carol are slotted to get a spin-off show once The Walking Dead comes to a close at the end of its 11th season. Fans can’t get enough of Daryl Dixon.
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