Television’s 10 Best Anti-Heroes of All Time

Back when TV was black and white, so were its main characters. So much so that an altogether good guy like James Garner’s Bret Maverick was sometimes called an anti-hero.

But reluctant heroes like Maverick or Rockford are just heroes—though they did presage a more realistic television protagonist who wasn’t all that eager to either catch a bullet or deliver one.

Even though the movies have had protagonists who are outlaws, gangsters, and con men since the '30 — and film noir featured all kinds of dark protagonists battling even worse people since the 1950s — the television anti-hero really only came of age in the late 1990s.

So that’s why this list of all-time best television anti-heroes are all within recent memory. These characters are not merely flawed heroes, but often times have a fatal flaw that means we know — and sometimes hope — it will not end well for them, no matter how caught up we get in their drama.

10. Jaime Lannister (Game of Thrones)

It’s so hard to find real heroes in Game of Thrones that the one truly noble character still dominates — even though he has been dead for five full seasons and everyone else working their way up to hero happens to be his offspring.

And when we first met Jaimie Lannister, (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) biological father of the loathsome Crown Prince Joffrey, whose mother is the scheming Queen Cersei and Jamie’s twin sister, (yes, ewwwwww!), he has just pushed a child out of a window. His nickname is the scornful “Kingslayer” because of a previous act of regicide; it seems unlikely that he would ever show a heroic side.

But this is Game of Thrones, where heroism is in short supply, and it turns out there are things that Jaime just won’t do — and he is willing to put his life on the line not to do them. I’m doubtful that things will ultimately end up well for Jamie, but he is well along the road to redemption.

Jaime’s brother Tyrion would have made this list, except that by Game of Thrones standards the sarcastic dwarf is an unabashed hero, as his sins are mostly against himself, brought on by the shame his sister and father direct toward him.