Here we rank the top ten iconic characters from the AMC series The Walking Dead. We’re looking at the most compelling storylines and overall popularity of the characters among the series’ broad audience.
10. Carl Grimes
“I want to show you the new world, Carl. I want to make it a reality for you. Please, Carl… let me show you.”
Carl Grimes, the son of our hero, places tenth on our list.
Carl’s story line introduces us to him as a normally shy and innocent 12-year-old boy sheltered by his mother and father from the horrors of the outside world. During the apocalypse, Carl is forced to wean himself from the safety of his parents and learns how to fend for himself, proving to be a commendable, brave, and honest person.
However, after the death of Lori, Carl starts down a slippery, dark path — one which makes him more ruthless, cold, and uncaring. He begins to resemble a young Shane, and debatably, even a young Governor.
It is only when he escapes the prison with his wounded father that he begins to finally express his feelings of grief, loss, and estrangement, leading him to believe that he can protect himself without his father. This proves very wrong indeed in the pivotal scene in which Carl believes his father has reanimated. After everything Carl had said and experienced, he still needed his father. This incredibly touching scene between father and son highlights the dichotomy of their relationship: even in the apocalypse, a father who is a killer can still care for his son, and the son can still care for his father in spite of being a killer himself.
His transitional journey from a young boy to a young warrior as the series has developed has landed him on our top ten list. Going forward, as he follows in his father’s footsteps, he continues to be a symbol of hope and future of our survivor group.
9. Abraham Ford
“We don’t stop, we don’t go back. We’re at war, and retreat means we lose. The road fights back. You all know that. Now we will get through this because we have to. Every direction is a question … WE DON’T GO BACK.”
Our favorite sardonic and yet emotionally battle-scarred U.S Army sergeant comes in ninth on our list.
Abraham‘s story is one of the most notable of the series thus far. This stern, hardened, and yet dutiful man needs a mission in order to function. His back story includes the loss of his entire family as a result of Abraham’s vengeful brutality, and yet Abraham holds himself responsible.
Abraham suffers from crippling PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which manifests itself as aggressiveness; however, it is through his friendships with Rosita and Eugene that we’re able to see him moving forward. His will to go on in spite of having lost everything that mattered to him is both inspiring and tragic. Without a mission, Abraham seems to be a purposeless shell. And yet we see a seed of hope as he develops respect for his fellow survivor Sasha Williams, whom he appears to be romantically interested in. How this will play out remains to be seen in season seven.
8. Shane Walsh
“Rick, you can’t just expect to be the ‘good guy’ and expect to live, okay? Not anymore.”
The former deputy sheriff and best friend-turned-antagonist comes in eighth on our list.
Shane‘s character begins as the beloved best friend (brother-in arms) of Rick Grimes — a cocky, charismatic, flirtatious, and yet rough ‘n’ tough man ready to protect those he cares about. After the apocalypse, Shane, believing that his best friend Rick has died in the hospital, engages in a relationship with Rick’s wife. When Rick returns, the dark side of Shane begins to seep through to the surface.
His steady progression from a caring man into a ruthless and pragmatic survivor throughout season two is strong evidence that Shane has adapted to the apocalypse far sooner than any other survivor. However, his jealous, aggressive tendencies and brutality escalates over and over again, eventually leading to a final confrontation between him and Rick. Shane’s fit of rage and frustration leaves Rick with no alternative, and he is murdered by his best friend.
Although now dead, Shane has left a significant mark upon his friend and thus his legacy silently continues throughout The Walking Dead and his methods and philosophy occasionally shine through Rick.
7. The Governor (Philip Blake)
“In this life now you kill or you die …. or you die and you kill.”
Seventh on our list is the iconic eye-patched leader of Woodbury, Georgia, known as The Governor. On the surface, he is a smoothly charming, congenial man. However, behind that mask, hides a deranged, sociopathic and cold-blooded savage. Cunning, resourceful and manipulative, he coerces others to do his bidding according to his plan.
Although Phillip, known as The Governor, is a mass murderer on a warpath, we have a single, deep reason to feel compassion for him. The loss of his daughter, Penny, changed him — broke him. And so the thing that makes us feel sorry for him as a human, is the one thing that makes him a soul-less murderer.
Even as the human side of this monster has been very rarely expressed, it is in season four that Philip becomes a lost and aimless survivor. And yet in spite of having been adopted into a makeshift family, his redemption proves futile. He returns to his wartime persona which results in his own tragic demise. But his actions have a lasting impact: the destruction of the prison and thus the scattering of our fellow survivors.
“You see, Rick whatever you do, no matter what you, don’t mess with the new world order. New world order is this, and it’s really very simple… so even if you’re stupid, which you very well may be, you can understand it. You ready? Here goes. Pay attention. GIVE ME YOUR S@#$ OR I WILL KILL YOU”
Every great hero needs a great villain, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance was an exhilarating performance of the essence of the character. Even without the use of colorful, expressive, and foul language which many comic book fans know him for, Morgan still manages to portray the same funny and psychopathic adversary to Rick Grimes.
Fans have been anticipating his arrival to the series for quite some time now, ever since the death of The Governor (David Morrissey), and while there have been several minor villains, none have been able to match Negan’s presence. Every phrase spoken by him is bone-chilling and ultimately terrifying, and that’s what makes him great. We’ve only seen a glimpse of what he’s capable of, leading us to expect a lot from Negan in season seven of The Walking Dead.
5. Carol Peltier
“If you care about people, there are people to protect. There are people who you will kill for. If you don’t want to kill or if you can’t, then you have to get away from them. You do not get both. You should know that.” — Carol to Morgan.
The cookie-baking, formerly abused housewife and sly killer comes in fifth on our list.
A direct contrast from her comic book counterpart — a weaker and mentally unstable character — the Carol Peltier of the AMC tv series is drastically different. Carol’s transformation from a meek, abused woman into a hardened warrior is probably the strongest transition of any character. She has proven that she possess enough strength to do whatever it takes to defend those she cares about.
As the series progresses, she becomes a morally “gray” survivor as the line between good and bad in the choices she must make becomes blurred. She uses a cunning, calculative, and even cold methodology to her advantage, putting her in direct conflict with the zen-like warrior Morgan Jones, who eventually saves her. Carol is an incredibly complex character, displaying a ‘tough exterior’ as a counterpart to the side of her persona where she is burdened by the difficult and at time morally breaking choices which she has been forced to make. She is affected deeply, to the point of abandoning her fellow survivors.
4. Hershel Greene
“You step outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. And nowadays you breathe and risk your life. Every moment now you don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.”
The humble veterinarian and apocalypse “Father Christmas” comes in fourth on our list.
When we first meet Hershel Greene, he appears as the stern, stubborn, archetypical father residing on a farm with his family. He keeps a dread secret: storing several walkers in a barn, initially believing them to be a cure for the disease. Eventually the group is informed by the CDC that there is no possible cure. His actions, though noble, are were misguided.
After facing depression and alcoholism, he is brought back into the fold by Rick, who inspires him to continue. His growing respect for and friendship with the brave sheriff deputy is a key theme in The Walking Dead as he acts as a voice of wisdom and later mentor to him and the flock.
A man of religion, Hershel always looks for the light instead of the dark in circumstances. He inspires his friends to believe that there is a plan for all of them, and respects and loves them as if they were all his family. He acts as the moral core of the group. His genuine, warm-hearted nature blossoms in a time of hardship and depravity, ultimately deserving our respect.
“Have you ever had to kill people because they had already killed your friends and were coming for you next? Have you ever done things that made you feel afraid of yourself afterward? Have you ever been covered in so much blood that you didn’t know if it was yours or walkers or your friends? Huh? Then you DON’T know.”
The silent-but-deadly, katana-wielding survivor arrives third on our list.
Michonne is initially a mysterious character with details of her past largely unknown. This cool, pragmatic survivor whose morals and motives were highly unpredictable to begin with, is eventually revealed as a warm-hearted, compassionate, and strong woman. It is through her interactions with Carl and Rick that Michonne is able to rebuild and rebound from her past experiences and tragedies.
Michonne, having lost her entire family to the apocalypse, develops from an apathetic, ruthless survivor into an individual reborn with purpose. We see her fight for those who brought her back from the edge of darkness. She is a character of great strength, humanity and loyalty and definitely serves as vital core part of The Walking Dead‘s incredible storytelling for years to follow.
2. Rick Grimes
“He’s a man with a good heart who feels the things he does — the things he has to do.” – Maggie Greene
Rick Grimes, our favorite everyman and sharpshooter sheriff’s deputy, comes in second place on our top ten list.
Rick’s journey begins with him acting as a humble sheriff’s deputy who has been shot in the line of duty, and awakens from a coma to a ravaged new world. The life he once knew, now gone, Rick’s sole mission becomes finding his wife and son.
Rick’s development is one of the key storylines of The Walking Dead. His gradual shift from an earnest, well intentioned, lawful man into to a brutal, ruthless and vicious killer is noteworthy. His morality is challenged in many ways which require mental gymnastics. Rick is a man who realizes that to survive sometimes means “getting blood on your hands.” An able hand-to-hand combatant and skilled marksman, Rick is definitely a force to be reckoned with and he’s a pleasure to watch.
Beneath a hardened exterior molded by pain, suffering and loss, Rick is essentially the same compassionate, brave and loyal man he always was pre-apocalypse. His dedication toward his group is inspiring, as he puts his life on the line for the safety and well-being of others. His most deep sense of purpose which makes him continue to fight in the savageness of the apocalypse, and in spite of having lost almost everything that mattered to him, is his son Carl.
1. Daryl Dixon
“You gotta say who you are, not who you were.” – Beth Greene
Our beloved badass, crossbow-wielding, motorcycle-enthusiast redneck tops our list.
While on the surface, Daryl Dixon is volatile, foul-mouthed and aggressive northern redneck, the deeper history of his character reveals a troubled and damaged soul raised in abuse and darkness.
The unique thing about Daryl is that unlike the majority of the other characters, he possesses no comic-book counterpart. Therefore his existence is unique to the AMC tv series, making it incredibly difficult to determine what and where his fate rests.
As the series progresses, Daryl begins to gradually integrate himself into the group. He forms a bond with Rick, who in many ways is the brother that Merle never was due to the alignment of their ideals. Carol is another victim of abuse who bonds with Daryl over past experiences and their relationship is one of the show’s biggest successes.
Daryl is a living example for those who have suffered neglect, abuse and loneliness, showcasing that one’s past experiences do not have to define them. His example has proven that in spite of his past, he can be a friend to his group and the one who will safeguard to the point of killing and dying for them.