This list didn’t come easy. Anyone who’s seen even a minute of Breaking Bad will know how mind-bendingly awesome it is, but a good show is only as good as its characters. And there are loads of great characters in Breaking Bad.
So – what criteria have I actually used to rank them? Good question. I’m not even sure I know, but if pressed I’d say it’s the ones that made the biggest impact – not always the ones I liked the most, but the ones that have stayed with me – that have come out on top.
Oh, and two more quick things before we get started:
1. There are some minor characters who don’t make this list (these tend to be the functional ones that don’t really have much depth or definable character). So if you’re reading this and you’re that ginger bloke who played the character that works for Saul whose name I can’t remember… sorry.
2. There are horrible, horrible spoilers everywhere from now on. If you haven’t seen every episode of Breaking Bad, stop reading this now. And get on Netflix.
2. 33. Jack Welker
Consistently hateable neo-Nazi whose only good moment is his abrupt death at the hands of Walt…
4. 32. Todd
He might look uncannily like Matt Damon, but he’s also a child-murdering nut case.
5. 31. Bogdan Wolynetz
Admittedly he makes barely any impact on the programme as whole, but he scrapes into this list purely on the strength of those fantastic eyebrows.
7. 30. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle
Possibly the most annoying character in the series.
8. 29. Krazy 8
Although he’s nothing but a distant memory by the end of Season 5, it’s Walt’s extended confrontation with Krazy 8 that starts him on the road to becoming the megalomaniac drug Kingpin we all know and love. Imagine if it’d been Season 5 Walt confronting Krazy 8? He’d have used that bike lock without so much as blinking.
10. 28. Elliott Schwartz
Far too smug and successful looking for his own good.
11. 27. Gretchen Schwartz
Far too smug and successful looking for her own good (but ever so slightly less annoying than Elliott).
12. 26. Peter Schuler
Poor old Pete doesn’t get much screen time, but he makes this list on the strength of his morose taste-testing scene alone (one of the many brilliant opening sequences Bad became known for).
13. 25. Ted Beneke
Another annoying character whose only good moment is this bungled escape attempt…
15. 24. Tyrus Kitt
He tries to be all menacing and evil like Gus, but he’s no Gus. He’s just a big pretender.
16. 23. Don Eladio
One of the few times we’re on Gus’ side is when he takes down this smug douchebag.
17. 22. Victor
Basically he’s the rubbish version of Mike, whose main purpose ends up being to show what a ruthless, scary bastard Gus can be.
19. 21. Skinny Pete
Kind of annoying, but also kind of endearing in a way (I’m not really sure why).
20. 20. Andrea Cantillo
One of the few characters in the show that makes Jesse truly happy. As the show progresses she almost escapes her troubled roots, and this makes her death at the hands of Todd even more tragic.
21. 19. Brock Cantillo
Poor old Brock. He’s not developed that much in the show, but ultimately he’s just a sweet kid that serves to bring out Jesse’s human side. Unfortunately, this places him slap bang in the middle of our resident deranged chemist’s firing line…
22. 18. Jane Margolis
Another character who ends up in Walt’s hit list. Jesse’s Season 2 neighbour Jane is almost like a female version of himself, bringing out both his caring side and his self-destructive side. She’s an interesting character, and her death is one that reverberates through the rest of the show (as well as marking a massive turning point for Walt).
24. 17. Gale Boetticher
Oh, Gale. He never really had a chance, did he? Gale is like a more naive version of Season 1 Walt, who ends up becoming a pawn in Walt and Jesse’s standoff with Gus. He might have made some bad decisions and be too trusting for his own good, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel for him.
25. 16. Badger
Definitely the best of Jesse’s drug buddies (and that opening sequence where he gets busted by an undercover agent is completely priceless).
27. 15. Steven Gomez
Steve Gomez. Solid, reliable… not hugely important, but an all-round good bloke none the less. He sticks dependably by Hank throughout, all the way up to his rather quick off-screen death at the hands of Jack’s gang (sorry Steve).
28. 14. Marco Salamanca
Marco and his twin are like two bald, Mexican Terminators; they don’t show emotion, they barely have a line of dialogue between them, and they make killing look as normal and everyday as popping down the shops for milk. They’re completely awesome, in other words. But boy, do they meet their match (more on that later though)…
29. 13. Leonel Salamanca
There’s little to distinguish the two, so I’ve put Leonel above Marco purely because he outlives his twin brother by an episode or two (and there’s that wonderfully ridiculous scene where he drags himself out of his hospital bed and crawls across the floor towards Walt).
30. 12. Hector Salamanca
If you want to see real acting, just observe the range of brilliant and bizarre expressions that animate Hector’s face over the course of a single minute. Outstanding.
34. 10. Marie Schrader
Taking us into the top 10 is Marie, in all of her shrill, slightly hysterical glory. She’s a pretty big character, but the reason she doesn’t make it higher up is because she’s patchy. Her Kleptomaniac tendencies pop up every now and then (almost whenever the script-writers have a need for them), and ultimately she’s overshadowed by Hank, Skyler and Walt. On the other hand, she sure knows how to deliver a good slap…
36. 9. Tuco Salamanca
Crazy old Tuco might just be the most entertaining villain in the show. He’s got great comedy value, and his wild unpredictability makes him a constantly unnerving presence (think of the scene where he beats one of his henchmen to death for absolutely no reason whatsoever, for instance).
38. 8. Walter White, Jr.
Walt Junior might be the character we feel for the most by the end of Breaking Bad. He’s loyal and loving to his Dad throughout, and that makes it all the more painful when he eventually finds out about everything Walt’s done. His final conversation with Walt over the phone at the end of Season 5 is one of the most emotional moments in the show.
39. 7. Skyler White
Skyler’s a bit of a tricky one. She has plenty of excellent moments throughout the show, but her character can also be annoying and – on one or two occasions – downright dislikable. Having said that, she’s also hard as nails and incredibly resourceful at times. And she’s in a nightmare position for most of the show (it’s not every day your nerdy husband reveals himself to be a meth dealer, after all).
40. 6. Gus Fring
Tuco may be wacky and his cousins may be relentless killing machines, but when it comes to the show’s villains, Gus is the real deal. He’s the perfect blend of intimidating, unpredictable, smart and ruthless, which makes him both entertaining to watch and the ultimate match for Walt. A lot of people would also argue that he’s got the best death in the whole show…
42. 5. Mike Ehrmantraut
The top five countdown begins. In at number five is everyone’s favourite hit man, Mr Mike Ehrmantraut. Mike is not only ridiculously good at what he does (you know, killing people), but also because – and it sounds strange to say this about someone whose default setting is cold and ruthless – his heart is in the right place. He’s very loyal, in other words, and he loves his granddaughter. There’s also this excellent scene, where his only reaction to the top part of his ear being blown off is mild annoyance…
44. 4. Saul Goodman
Saul is consistently entertaining, bringing some much-needed light relief to the show and balancing out the darker moments. He’s second only to Huell in terms of comedy value, and despite the fact that he’s impossibly sleazy, we still love him. PLUS HE’S GETTING HIS OWN SERIES.
45. 3. Hank Schrader
I’m not going to lie, I bloody love Hank. I was dangerously close to putting him in the number 2 (or even number 1) spot, and the only reason I didn’t is that his character doesn’t change or develop as much as the two that top this list. He’s consistent, in other words. Consistently awesome. He’s also the main man in the Season 3 car park shootout scene with the cousins, which may just be the best action sequence in any TV series, ever.
47. 2. Walter White
Controversial, I know. Some would argue that Walt is hands down the best character on Bad (and they’d have a good case for it), but I disagree. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s an absolutely brilliant character, but he loses out on the number one spot purely because, around the beginning half of Season 5, I actually stopped liking him for a while. The way his character develops over five seasons is handled perfectly by the show’s script-writers (for someone with such a ridiculous story, Walt as a character is surprisingly believable), but that doesn’t stop him from becoming a wee bit hatable when he starts organising prison killings, poisoning children and not thinking about anyone but himself. He does go some way towards redeeming himself in the last episode of the show, of course, but… well, by that point the damage is done…
49. 1. Jesse Pinkman
So there you have it. Jesse takes the number one spot, and that’s because – although his character’s development is on a par with Walt’s – he ends up being the one we root for the most. He’s prone to annoying ticks in the earlier seasons, but by the end of five he’s the most likable character in the show. We don’t know where he’ll end up or whether or not he’ll find his wooden box, but we really hope he does…