Ranking ‘The Walking Dead’ Villains, From Worst to Best

The Walking Dead - Season 10 Episode 22 - Here’s Negan - Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Josh Stringer/AMC

With one episode of The Walking Dead left to go, we’re wondering what we usually wonder at the end of a season: how are our favorite survivors going to beat the bad guys and save the day?

We’ve had 11 seasons of “the group” emerging victorious over a variety of nasty, and often not entirely sane, villains. From the Wolves to the Claimers, from Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to the Governor (David Morrissey), we’re looking back at some of the biggest antagonists from the show by ranking them from worst to best.

The Walking Dead, Lynn Collins as Leah

Season 10 – The Reapers

We’re guessing these guys were a casualty of Season 11 not being planned as the show’s last. It seemed in Season 10 like the Reapers had a shot at being pretty cool, what with the masks and their mysterious leader… but it all fizzled out in the first eight episodes of the season, which saw them revealed as another religious cult. The Leah (Lynn Collins)-Daryl (Norman Reedus) storyline never got too far off the ground, either.

Jeff Kober, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) and Davi Jay

Season 4 – The Claimers

The back half of Season 4 didn’t have one set villain; if anything, the villain was the distance between all the group members after the prison fell. With that said, the Claimers filled a stereotypical “antagonist” role for a few episodes as Daryl wound up within their ranks… and then Rick (Andrew Lincoln) wound up biting out their leader’s throat. They weren’t the best villains and they didn’t stick around for long, but they did bestow upon us piles of Daryl merch with “Claimed” on it. So, there’s that.

Wolves Not Far Car, The Walking Dead

Season 6 – The Wolves

It always felt like there should’ve been more to the Wolves than there was. They toppled the dominoes for some of the show’s most memorable moments (Carol fighting her way through Alexandria in disguise, “No Way Out”), but we never uncovered much of their backstory or motivations other than their general affection for chaos and penchant for marking their kills.

Josh Hamilton as Lance Hornsby

Season 11 – The Commonwealth

The show’s version of the Commonwealth veered off a bit from the comics, but both versions stood as a distorted reflection of modern society. While they weren’t as enthralling as the totally-off-his-rocker Woodbury governor or Negan wielding his barbed-wire baseball bat, the Commonwealth served its purpose. It commented on the inequalities and selfishness humanity never really gets away from, even in the zombie apocalypse. Josh Hamilton deserves a special shoutout for playing a sleazy, post-apocalyptic version of Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger to perfection.

Andrew J. West as Gareth

Season 5 – Terminus

It’s been years, but we still remember the masterful deception that was the Season 5 Comic-Con trailer. In reality, Rick and his group didn’t work with the “Termites” to go to Washington, D.C., and cure the virus; they almost wound up as meat on the Terminus gang’s grill. (Gross.) While they didn’t stick around for all that long, they gave us one of the show’s best episodes in “No Sanctuary,” and Andrew J. West put in a fantastically creepy performance as Gareth. We wouldn’t mind seeing them show up in an episode of anthology spinoff Tales of the Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead - Season 11 Episode 5 - Ross Marquand as Aaron fighting a walker

Season 1 – Walkers

Are walkers technically villains? Or are they just kind of… doing what they do? They’ve sure killed their fair share of our favorite characters over the years, in excruciating and disgusting ways. One might argue that they were the primary antagonists in Season 1, given that the fight back then was largely against the dead. There’s no denying how essential they are to TWD as a whole, and while we can’t say we like them, they’ve provided plenty of skin-crawling and jaw-dropping moments.

Samantha Morton as Alpha

Season 9 – The Whisperers

On the “creepy scale” of TWD villains, we’d put these guys at the top (or maybe one rung below Gareth). Totally wacky and utterly horrifying in equal measure, the Whisperers helped the show regain the mojo it lost during the two-seasons war with Negan. The infamous pike scene is forever seared in our memories… as is (involuntarily) Negan and Alpha’s, er, romp in the woods. Samantha Morton terrified us as Alpha, and Ryan Hurst left us plenty unnerved as her righthand guy, Beta.

Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln)

Season 2 – Shane

“Lemme ask you somethin’ Rick…” In many ways, Season 2 is a story of Shane (Jon Bernthal) devolving from hardened survivor into a straight-up villain. His determination to protect Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) led him down a dark path, and he never found his way back to the light. Sure, sometimes Shane had a point, but his hot-headedness and tendency to act without fully thinking things through put the whole group in danger.

The Governor (David Morrissey)

Season 3 – The Governor

Before Governor Pamela Milton, we had Governor Philip Blake (David Morrissey). As a villain, he claimed his fair share of the show’s iconic moments — examples include the walker-head tank, Andrea’s (Laurie Holden) shocking death, and the deadly attack on the prison. Morrissey’s performance as a unique brand of post-apocalyptic crazy stands out among the show’s talented cast.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan

Season 7-8 – Negan and the Saviors

What is there to say about Negan that hasn’t already been said? To think of a Walking Dead antagonist is to think of him and his trusty bat, Lucille. Of the villains the show has had, he’s the most iconic, the funniest, and the most quotable (for better or worse). He’s also had the longest tenure of any TWD antagonist, sticking around long after his “defeat” and snagging a spinoff in the process. We are Negan, indeed.