Buffy characters ranked

Every major Buffy the Vampire Slayer character definitively ranked from worst to best

No Dawn slander here please!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show where its characters are truly everything. Even on the rare occasion where an episode isn’t really up to scratch, you’re so happy to be in the company of Sunnydale’s finest you can overlook it. The characters are simply a joy to be around, making even the daftest subplot a blast with their quips, intricacies and perfectly written depth. But who’s the best? Here are all the major characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, ranked by a superfan with nothing better to do!

37. Forrest and Graham

Lumping these enemies together because that’s what they deserve. Forrest is truly insufferable, his attitude to Buffy is giving full misogyny and I’m convinced he’s secretly in love with Riley and that’s why he resents Buffy so much. The dregs of ranked Buffy characters. Graham is as dry as the Sahara.

36. Warren

Warren Mears is one of the vilest specimens to ever grace the small screen. Don’t want to even waste my breath on this pig.

35. Ben

The worst acting performance in Buffy history comes courtesy of Charlie Weber as Ben. The only thing interesting about this Judas betrayer is that he has the iconic Glory residing inside his bland hospital scrubs. It was a moment of euphoria when Giles suffocated him and put us all out of our misery.

34. Kennedy

Don’t hate Kennedy because Willow got with her after Tara died, hate her because she’s bloody loaded. EAT THE RICH!

33. Adam and Professor Maggie Walsh

Just a bland reminder of why season four’s Initiative plot line never fully takes flight. Maggie Walsh was more interesting than Adam, but Lindsay Crouse wanted out of her contract and she was offed by her Frankenstein’s monster. Adam was a fine idea that got old fast, and both are a bit of a blip in Buffy history.

32. The Potentials

Basically, all the others from season seven except Kennedy who actually got a crumb of characterisation. The rest just sort of exist as set dressing in Buffy’s house. The saddest thing about them is that they’re named after what the writer’s squandered and wasted: their potential.

31. Amy

Amy had a Buffy rollercoaster. Innocently possessed by her wicked mother all the way back in episode three, then helping Xander with love spells in season two, almost being burnt at the stake in season three, stuck as a rat until season six, a frenemy of Willow’s and then all out villain? Whew. Every time she appears she’s just a little bit more annoying!

30. Riley

Everyone’s loathed Buffy lover! The definition of toxic masculinity, but I think Riley is a big product of his environment. In another life, he’d have been a great guy. I’m glad he got some redemption when he popped back to show off his new wife in season six.

29. Principal Snyder

A petty little human villain for Buffy and the gang to get annoyed by in the high school years, that she’s unable to kill with a pointy stick. He’s a menace, but comedy gold. It’s sheer euphoria when the Mayor swallows him whole.

28. Robin Wood

I wish there was a world where Robin Wood got introduced earlier, because by the time his character gets good the series reaches its conclusion. There’s too much implication that he’s a villain early on in season seven, which makes rewatches a bit of a jarring slog because there’s 0 tension to all his suspicious antics.

27. Wesley

Buffy characters ranked

Season three’s recurring sitcom joke, and used to make Giles look cool and the council look like a big whopping flop. Which they are. I’m not taking into account Wesley’s journey on Angel here. This is season three ONLY – and whilst he’s a laugh, he’s not got much use besides being a bit of a buffoon. Deserves a low ranking for the shit kiss with Cordelia alone.

26. Caleb

Buffy characters ranked

Nathan Fillion is terrifying as Caleb, and he gives season seven a much needed corporeal villain to cause physical harm and gauge out main character’s eyeballs. I just WISH they got him in straight away at the start of season seven. Too little, too late when it comes to Buffy characters ranked, I’m afraid.

25. The Master

Buffy characters ranked

Both high camp AND high threat. Get you a vampire who can do both! The perfect Big Bad for season one – flounces about all old school, manages to kill Buffy but still pales in comparison to the evil to come. Season seven Buffy could kill him with just a look.

24. Jenny Calendar

RIP queen. I think a lot about how nice it would be to have Giles and Jenny together til the end of the show. A Giles wedding ep! Still, her death remains one of the most shocking moments in the entire show – a complete gear shift that proved this was no ordinary teen drama and that the show was willing to go there, in all the neck-snapping grisliness.

23. Halfrek

Huge gay icon. I’d come out to her.

22. D’Hoffryn

D’Hoffryn crops up in four episodes but he lives rent free in my mind. Every day I think of his line delivery. He’s so camp. “It’s like somebody slaughtered an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue” is timeless.

21. Darla

Darla has the honour of being the first ever vampire to be seen on the show, and she’s a genre subversion from the get go. That scene sums up the ethos of Buffy so perfectly, and they picked such an iconic and scary vamp to kick it all off with. I wish Julie Benz got to get to the final of season one but her antics in Angel are a highlight of season one, and we only get to see more of her prowess in the flashback episodes. Every ep she’s in is iconic. Including on Angel, which I know I’m not factoring in on these Buffy characters ranked but it still is worth noting.

20. Jonathan

Jonathan is the recurring character king of the show. He crops up steadily in all the seasons except one and five – and every time he appears he feels like a friend even when he’s a foe. Danny Strong is so likeable. His death is tragic, but what an amazing character arc for a background nerd at Sunnydale High.

19. Drusilla

THEE female vampire of the franchise. Drusilla stole the show from the moment she eerily sauntered in during School Hard as Spike’s mentally and physically fragile girlfriend. Drusilla regaining her strength and killing a Slayer in the form of Kendra is heartbreaking and terrifying – and Juliet Landau plays her with the perfect amount of menace.

18. The Mayor

The Mayor is unquestionably one of Buffy’s greatest villains, because it’s his friendly family-man demeanour that gives his murderous and demonic intent it’s extra-frightening appeal. The dad vibes and the hate for swearing and dirt, all delivered with a spritely glee, gives Mayor Richard Wilkins a real life serial killer feel. His relationship with Faith is one of the most interesting the show has ever done, and I love the parallels between Giles/Buffy and Faith/Wilkins. A joy every time he’s on screen.

17. Glory

Buffy characters ranked

The best of all the villains ranked amongst Buffy characters, and with good reason. She’s the toughest foe Buffy’s ever faced. A literal god in a “kind of like Cordelia, actually” package. If season five was Buffy’s final season, Glory would have been a hell of a villain to go out with. She’s just iconic, honestly. And feels so dangerous. If she wasn’t sharing a body with Ben, I have no clue how any of the gang could have beaten her.

16. Harmony

Buffy characters ranked

How Harmony was never a main character on Buffy is beyond me. ICON.

15. Xander

Buffy characters ranked

Xander is a product of the time. I stand by the fact that he’s a flawed character, but an accurate one – and not some dismissive mess of misogyny that some would like to paint him as. He’s the most immature of the gang, the most volatile and likely to do something rash because his heart could not be more on his sleeve. But he remains lovable to me. Maybe it’s just my nostalgia talking, but yes. He is the worst of the core group – but the show wouldn’t be the same or right without him.

14. Oz

Our king of stoicism. Oz is so iconic for seasons two and three that I can overlook his horrible ending and blame all that on Seth Green wanting out of his contract. Some of the funniest lines in the show’s history are spoken by Oz. Period.

13. Angel

Angel defines the first three years of Buffy, and we must acknowledge that. When he’s good, I don’t tend to care that much. I care because Buffy, who I love, cares. When he’s villainous in season two? He’s outstanding. Terrifying. Sadistic. Makes perfect television.

12. Clem

Not to be dramatic but I would die for him.

11. Andrew

“I prefer to think of myself as a ‘guestage'”. Andrew singlehandedly makes season seven worth watching. Honestly, the saviour of that entire season. Would be worthless without him.

10. Joyce

Buffy characters ranked

The best mum in the history of fiction. I love Joyce so much – for all her flaws! She’s just so realistic and takes everything in her stride. Also is kind of responsible for the saddest and best hour of TV ever made.

9. Dawn

Buffy characters ranked

Dawn haters, this is not a safe space for you. Michelle Trachtenberg is so underrated in her amazing performance as Dawn. She is the most believable 14 year old ever, then gets told she’s whiny by the fandom every 10 minutes. I’d be whining a bit too if I found out my whole life was a made up lie, then lost my mother and sister in the space of a few weeks. Give her a break!

8. Tara

Buffy characters ranked

If you’re getting Buffy characters ranked and you aren’t putting Tara Maclay in your top 10, there’s something wrong with you I fear. A groundbreaking character that changed TV for LGBTQ+ people, and one whose death I will never truly recover from. An angel on earth.

7. Spike

Buffy characters ranked

Of all the Buffy characters ranked here, it is Spike that is most complex. From villain, to comic relief, to love interest, to attempted rapist and then to… redemption? I do not know where I stand on all the facets of Spike – but he is a soulless demon and should be regarded as such even in his heroic moments. When Spike is on bad form (Season seven), he’s a slog. But for most of the show, he’s an absolute rip-roaring highlight with an outrageous story arc.

6. Cordelia

Buffy characters ranked

It’s pretty wild that the characters of Buffy are so great that Cordelia, who I love with all my heart and soul, isn’t even quite ranked in the top five. Again, this isn’t including Angel. My only reason for not giving Cordy a top five placement is that we never get to see her again after season three? I beg for a crossover episode to this day. Cordelia is an icon and one of the funnest and most redeemed characters in the show. Charisma Carpenter plays her NOTE PERFECT.

5. Faith

Buffy characters ranked

Faith is one of the best characters in Buffy because you always root for her. Her villainy is sad, because you know it’s not who she actually is. She’s got a good heart, she’s just lost her way. Unstable yes, evil no. Her evil acts are tragic, not truly evil. She’s the perfect anti-Buffy whilst still being a great hero in her own right. Every episode Faith is in is wonderful. I’m so glad she returned for season seven to see out the finale.

4. Anya

Buffy characters ranked

The concept of Anya, a 1000 year old demon stuck on earth as a human forced to live out her mortal life and die, is a treasure trove the writers never fail to make the most of. Anya’s lack of awareness of human behaviour and culture is a trick that never gets old. Always hilarious, always a joy to watch thanks to Emma Caulfield’s iconic comic timing and a late regular to the show who somehow manages to make you feel like there was never a time she wasn’t an integral member of the Scooby Gang.

3. Giles

Giles is the heart that holds the show together, and when Anthony Head went from regular to guest season six onwards I really feel like the show never truly feels the same. It’s a testament to the writers and to Head and Gellar that Buffy and Giles’ relationship never once feels strange – it feels fatherly from the off. Giles gets some of the most heartbreaking moments, the funniest lines and some action set pieces that take him out of the tweed and into battle. I’d do anything for a hug with him, honestly. He’s also the greatest rock vocalist of our time!

2. Willow

Buffy characters ranked

The best arc on the show by a mile. Potentially the best arc from any TV show… ever? Willow’s evolution from the weakest member of the Scooby gang to more powerful than Buffy herself is wonderful to watch. Her adept magic skills descending into an addiction and a turn evil still makes for a thrilling and dark watch, and as an LGBTQ icon you don’t get many better than Willow. Alyson Hannigan imbues her with such warmth and love that from an episode you feel like you’ve known her your whole life.

1. Buffy

Buffy characters ranked

Find me another show where the main character is also, without a shadow of a doubt, the best. Buffy Summers is a pop culture icon. A feminist icon. She’s someone I watched on TV and always wanted to be. Strong, beautiful, hilarious, intelligent, resourceful, groundbreaking but NEVER perfect. She’s a character and a leader that makes mistakes, and that nuance makes her all the more legendary. An unproblematic heroine for the ages, and of all the characters ranked here it is Buffy that slays every inch of my heart.

Recommended stories by this writer:

• Only the Chosen One is getting full marks on this impossible Buffy The Vampire Slayer quiz

• Happy 20th birthday to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the best thing to come out of the nineties

• Celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary by taking this quiz to find out which Buffy female character you are