TOP 10: Most Badass Television Characters of the Past Decade
Published: June 19, 2012 - 9:51am
Whether you're a crossbow-wielding, zombie-slaying redneck, a damn dirty cop or a Roman soldier, chances are you just landed on my latest top 10 list spotlighting the most recent badasses in television. The range of violent and ruthless characters represented here is brought to you by the following networks: Showtime, HBO, Starz, FX and AMC.
Television has not only improved drastically the past decade but I've noticed an increase in anti-heroes. Or badasses, to be blunt. When coming up with this list, I took into account the many levels of badassness and varying degrees of badassery it takes to bring such memorable characters to the small screen in a big way. This meant taking into consideration psychological violence as well as physical mayhem. One can be a badass and not lift a finger, or you can be a badass and chop someone in half with a sword. The important aspect of a ranked badass list takes into careful consideration all aspects of the title.
Six of the below TV shows featuring badasses are still airing with new episodes and the remainder are all current enough that I could exclude Tom Selleck, Mr. T, Chuck Norris and Kramer. I kept it nice and relevant so enjoy and feel free to debate the following list of television's most badass characters.
#10. Michael C. Hall as Dexter Morgan in Dexter
America's favorite serial killer may have gotten somewhat soft these past few seasons, but that doesn't change the fact his unbridled rage and thirst for blood plants him firmly onto this list. Michael C. Hall ends up on many fan 'wish lists' for superhero roles and it's largely because his character Dexter is a modern day vigilante, dispatching criminals who escape the justice system.
Why he's a badass: He hunts down victims by abusing his police privileges, knocks em out and then hacks them to pieces after he tells them why they deserve to die. Dexter saves a drop of plasma from each victim and nothing is cooler than having a box of blood mementos. Watching him lose his usually calm demeanor and murder that dude in the bathroom during the season five opener was beyond intense.
#9. Rory McCann as The Hound (Sandor Clegane) in Game of Thrones
I had ruled 'The Hound' out of this list until I saw episode 9 of season two, 'Blackwater'. There has been a plethora of badassness throughout both seasons of HBO's dark fantasy drama, but it wasn't until The Hound lost his s*** during the epic battle of Blackwater on the second season that I realized he's the standout of the show. In the source material, The Hound is more outspoken than his TV counterpart, so his on-screen demeanor is more of a silent menace. [Check out the rape rescue sequence in which The Hound guts some thugs in an alley without saying a word to know precisely what I mean.]
Why he's a badass: The disfigured knight is tough as nails despite his fear of flames and the violence he unleashes on that beach in Blackwater is terrifying. He literally chops foes in half with his sword. In the end he also tells the dickhead king Joffrey to go "F*** himself" before abandoning what he deems a lost cause. On a show with so many 'bad' characters, The Hound seems to be the one true badass.
#8. James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in The Sopranos
To some this may seem like an odd choice considering how flawed the character of Tony Soprano was. He constantly visited a psychiatrist and at one point cried because Geese didn't come to his pool anymore. However the mafia boss was still a vindictive, manipulative son of a bitch right until the end.
Why he's a badass: Watching Gandolfini drive his escalade around New Jersey to that amazing intro music alone warrants his inclusion here. But if you want to get technical, just go back and watch the countless times Tony murdered not only rival mafia soldiers, but his own family members. I'm not even just referring to Mafia 'family'. Tony Soprano killed actual family members to protect not only his business, but himself. He made the tough calls but he also led by example by getting his hands dirty and that's why he's a certified badass.
#7. Ray Stevenson as Titus Pullo in Rome
The short lived HBO series Rome was historically accurate. By historically accurate I mean savage and very brutal. The most violence exhibited on-screen stemmed from Ray Stevenson's Titus. The former Roman soldier struggled to fit into society after being discharged from service and ended up becoming an assassin for a crime syndicate, but he didn't need money to kill. More times than not, Titus would drunkenly murder someone in a bar fight anyway.
Why he's a badass: The gladiator sequence at the end of season one is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen on TV. After Titus is imprisoned and facing death in the arena, his emotional comeback and fight for survival solidifies him as a hero and righteous badass of epic proportions. I would have to assume Stevenson's film career exists because of these scenes. Throughout the course of the series Titus smashes people's skulls with his bare hands and strangles women to death, proving his ferocity holds no bounds.
#6. Andy Whitfield and Liam McIntyre as Spartacus in Spartacus
Andy Whitfield and Liam McIntyre share this honor because both of their portrayals of the slave rebellion leader led to an obscene amount of badass moments in the Starz series Spartacus. When Whitfield passed away from cancer after wrapping season one, McIntyre stepped up to the plate for the second season. Both actors honored the role in subtly different ways, but they both delivered astounding performances playing the defining badass of honor.
Why he's a badass: Numerous on-screen action sequences showcased Spartacus' ability to slay his opponents in the arts of battle, but it's his unpredictability and righteous honor that fueled his badassery. Whitfield's Spartacus fought from the lowly ranks of slave to gladiator killing machine and McIntyre's Spartacus became a rebel leader stopping at nothing to seek his vengeance. In what was possibly THE most badass kill I've ever seen on the small screen, McIntyre slices the face off one of his own men after he goes off the rails.
#5. Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead
The cross-bow wielding redneck Daryl Dixon has quickly become a fan favorite on the comic adapted AMC series, which is funny since the character wasn't originally in the comic book storyline. Actor Norman Reedus was most well known for his role in the Boondock Saints films, but that's quickly changing after his notoriety as the go-to zombie killer on Walking Dead made a bloody splash onto AMC. Fans have embraced the character to the point where he's constantly noted as the most beloved survivor on the show and are rallying to get Dixon into the comic series.
Why he's a badass: He rides a motorcycle, shoots a crossbow and seems to be the only one with a steady sense of mind in a world gone to hell and overrun by zombies. In an early season two episode, Dixon goes 'Platoon' crazy and makes a necklace out of zombie ears. By season's end he rescues his unlikely damsel in distress via chopper and rides off into the sunset.
#4. Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy
Kurt Sutter's motorcycle club crime drama is overloaded with badassery so it takes a lot to represent such a wicked cast when so many could have made this list. Front man Charlie Hunnam's Jax is a conflicted soldier who constantly questions his loyalty to the club but is always drawn back in, usually in an explosive fashion. It takes one tough as nails mother to go toe-to-toe with Ron Perlman on-screen and Hunnam more than holds his own pedigree.
Why he's a badass: Jax is an unpredictable character, and what makes him such a badass is how far he goes to protect his family and crew. During the course we've seen Jax nonchalantly shoot several people in the face and at one point spit on a porn actress after slapping the shit out of her. I'm not saying beating up chicks is badass, I'm saying that having a lead character be that unpredictably violent and yet carefree makes him all the more dangerous as he embraces the anti-hero role to the fullest.
#3. Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad
Bryan Cranston's transformation from meek chemistry teacher to drug kingpin is one of the most mind boggling character journeys in TV history. After discovering he has cancer, Walter White resorts to drastic measures to secure income and ends up becoming a meth cook and drug dealer. Over the course of the show, we see Cranston's Walter White go places that you never in a million years would have expected him to because we remember who he used to be as an upstanding and law-abiding character. White is well on his way from being a protagonist to the ultimate antagonist. He is not a good person, not in the slightest.
Why he's a badass: The genius that White exhibits as he becomes more immersed in the drug underworld is bar none some of the most extreme and intriguing character development ever showcased on the small screen. White will literally stop at nothing to protect his family and himself, even if it means harming innocent people and actually gunning down rival gangsters. By season four's end, he had completed a transformation that began years ago when we found him half naked in a meth lab camping trailer out in the middle of the desert.
#2. Michael Chiklis as Vic Mackey in The Shield
I've only just begun watching The Wire, but I'm still locked into the belief that The Shield is the best police drama in TV history. The gritty -- and I mean gritty -- police series focuses on detective Vic Mackey and his crew of corrupt officers as they try to make a living by bending the rules. And when I say bend the rules, I'm not talking about driving through red lights. Just watch the pilot's ending to know that Vic is truly not screwing around.
Why he's a badass: What makes Mackey so intriguing is how much you end up cheering for him to avoid getting busted for all the awful things he's done over the course of his career when you know damn well he deserves to get so very humped behind bars. Mackey has morals and he will get the bad guy over the course of the series, but what he does the rest of the time can be downright vile. The Shield was Michael Chiklis' finest hour and during it's epic run the show ended up producing the most badass TV cop of all time.
#1. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Simon Adebisi in OZ
Picking only one badass from what I consider HBO's best TV series of all time should have been far more difficult than it really was. You can come up with numerous graphs and flow charts to determine who the biggest badass is on a TV series showcasing some of the most notorious criminals on the planet, but one still stands out. Adebisi takes the top spot not only on the show, but on this list because he literally stopped at nothing to hurt as many people as he possibly could in order to benefit himself.
Why he's a badass: First and foremost, the way that toque manages to stay on his head nabs him a spot on this list. On top of that add in the fact Adebisi is in prison because he chopped a cop's head off. But that wasn’t even the worst thing he's done, as shown during his time in Oz Adebisi constantly abuses drugs, gets into fights, rapes other inmates and kills more people on the inside then he did when he was a free man. What makes him the ultimate badass isn't just his physical presence, but he's a psychological warrior too. At one point he feeds broken glass to an enemy over time until they hemorrhage to death. Adebisi is pure evil and there is nobody in television that rivals him on any badass list, ever.
[Editor's Note: The opinions found herein are those solely of the author and do not reflect the thoughts, intent or sanction of The Daily BLAM!, it's owners or subsidiarities.]