The Greatest Antiheroes on Television

Wikipedia describes an anti-hero as a ” protagonist who has no heroic virtues or qualities (such as being morally good, idealistic, courageous,  noble, or possessing fortitude) blurring the line between hero and villain” 

After The Sopranos aired in 1999, the new “Golden Era of Television” began with shows predominately featuring gritty antiheroes. While The Sopranos was the first show to have a truly despicable character as it’s protagonist, shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have perfected the use of antiheroes. Here we have a list of the greatest antiheroes on television.

Tony Soprano

antiheroes on television

The OG, literally the original gangster, when you first start watching the Sopranos you sympathize with the large-and-in-charge leader of the DiMeo crime family. Tony suffers a panic attack brought on by the sight of seeing ducklings fly out of his pool, his psychiatrist traces to his internal fear that he will lose his family. He cries and you genuinely view Tony as a tragic character, but this doesn’t last for long. Throughout the series Tony reveals himself to be a selfish monster who will eliminate anybody in his way. This includes whacking his good friend Big “Pussy” Bonpensiero, Adriana La Cerva, and his own cousin Christopher Moltisanti. He beats up a man for sleeping with his spurned ex-goomah just because he has a sense of propriety. You may be rooting for Tony throughout the entire series but when he (allegedly) dies, it is the death of an awful man, he is no “soldier”.

Don Draper


I have had several arguments with my friends over Draper’s status as an anti-hero. Sure Don Draper has never poisoned a child, or strangled a man with piano wire but Don Draper is undoubtedly an anti-hero. Draper’s personality can best be described as self serving. There are fleeting moments of genuine humanism in one episode only to be completely turned on its head in the next. A great example of this is when Don visits Peggy in the hospital after she has given birth to Pete’s bastard child, he says, ”  Peggy, listen to me, get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.” Wise words about moving on and recreating yourself in tragedy. However, it’s only a couple episodes later when Don throws money in Peggy’s face and treats her like dirt. He is a womanizer, a drunk, a generally poor father (although the season 5 finale hints at a change), and a slave to his impulses.

 Walter White (Heisenberg)


Perhaps the greatest shift from a good to evil, Breaking Bad’s Walter White began as man simply hoping to provide for his family the only way he knew how– chemistry. Over the past five seasons Walter has transitioned into the murderous, power hungry Heisenberg. Aside from producing one of the most dangerous and addictive substances known to man, Heisenberg has been either directly or indirectly responsible for  23 deaths, the poisoning of a child, and the deaths of family members. He has destroyed everything he worked so hard to preserve. What will be Heisenbergs fate? Tune in next week for conclusion of one of the greatest television shows of all time.

Dexter Morgan


Pretty much the exact definition of an anti-hero Dexter’s titular character was “born in blood” and uses is murderous impulses to enact vigilante justice. Despite the fact that Dexter is predominately murdering the “bad guys” you can’t really get over the fact that he is TORTURING people. Dexter may follow his father’s “code” but that doesn’t mitigate Dexter’s horrific actions, especially when he actively impedes criminal investigations.

Colonel Saul Tigh


While Battlestar Galactica  lacks the gritty realism of Breaking Bad or The Soprano’s (it takes place in space with human-impersonating robots!) Colonel Saul Tigh is ultimately a good person with more than a couple nasty habits. Tigh is a racist, sexist, alcoholic with a general disregard for the lives of people he does not feel fit to work on the Galactica. Tigh’s most heart wrenching moment? He must murder his sexually rambunctious wife after it is revealed that she has been leaking information to the Cylons, a group of robots created by humans.

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