One of the most exciting things about being a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan is watching the gang fight the forces of evil and finally defeat each season’s “big bad.” You know they’re going to do it (although it was touch-and-go for a minute there during season seven), but there’s that nagging part of you that worries they won’t.
I mean, Buffy has died twice, so anything goes, really. What’s unique about many of the series’ villains is that in addition to being completely evil, some of them were quite charming. Yes, you wanted the gang to win in the end, but you kind of liked the path to the big W. I can’t say the same for EVERY Buffy big bad, but there were some throughout the series’ seven seasons that just hit the mark. Here’s our ranking from worst to best.
17. Adam, season four
Oh god. Groan. Ughhhhhhhh. I like to forget Adam ever existed. Actually, I like to forget about most of season four. Riley, The Initiative, “Beer Bad,” the episode where Buffy and Riley banged the entire time. When it was good, season four delivered. But when it was bad, it was terrible.
Adam – BtVS’s version of Frankenstein’s monster – was the climax of season four’s worst moments. Half man, half robot, no personality, no reason to exist. He just was thrown in there as something for Buffy to fight. Pass.
16. Maggie Walsh, season four
Ah, yes. Adam’s mother. The mother he killed. Whoops. Maggie Walsh was terrible in her own way, from being a shitty professor to the shitty leader of a classified government agency. Probably the only good thing she did was put a chip in Spike’s head, which prevented him from killing humans and gave viewers a solid dose of comedic relief. But then she tried to kill Buffy (lol, get in line, girl) and had this creepy incestuous-feeling codependency with Riley. By the time Adam impaled her, let’s just say we weren’t exactly sad about it.
15. Jonathan, season six
The thing about Jonathan is that he isn’t bad. The character has been a part of the Buffyverse from the very beginning: an outsider who is often overlooked and forgotten at Sunnydale High School and then the “Superstar” (with the help of dark magic) in that randomly hilarious episode in season 4. He’s sweet, timid and his ‘Class Protector’ speech about Buffy at prom will make your heart swell.
He’s just a guy who got caught up in a bad crowd, all because he wanted to feel included. Throughout season six, you wanted him to break away from Andrew and Warren and give him a good talking to. You knew he was better because ultimately, he was more sad than bad.
14. Andrew, season six
Out of season six’s nerd trio, Andrew sits firmly in the middle. You know he’s not completely terrible – there’s still hope – but you also hate him because he’s completely spineless. Andrew’s redeeming quality is his complete nerdiness. His obsession with pop culture references and quirky humor at least make him an entertaining villain. If Andrew and Jonathan came to their senses and intervened, Warren could have been stopped or arrested, but they were too afraid to stand up. Like Jonathan, he’s pretty harmless, but you despise him for not doing what’s right.
13. Warren, season six
Warren, on the other hand, is the trio’s reigning piece of shit. What’s terrifying about him is that he’s not a demon, vampire or any other monster. He’s a man that encompasses everything about rape culture and hypermasculinity. He’s the kind of monster women and femmes fight every day, which is why his character is so unnerving. We have all encountered our own Warren at some point in our lives, which makes his encounter with Dark Willow and his subsequent flaying so damn satisfying.
12. The Master, season one
Though not a great character, The Master holds a special place in our hearts because he was the first big bad. He was also responsible for Buffy’s first death, so props are in order… even if it didn’t stick. Other than that, he’s not a very memorable character. Instead, viewers remember The Anointed One, the kid from the bus attack that The Master turned into his unbelievably irritating right-hand man. Between The Master’s monotone drivel and The Anointed One’s awkward casting and pointless character, season one’s big bads were out of place in a season filled with delightful campiness.
11. Darla, season one
Darla is the first character we’re introduced to in Buffy’s stellar pilot opening. Playing the damsel in distress, she turns the tables on her date and shows her true, vampiric face. That’s Darla’s M.O.: pretend to be a lamb, when she’s really a lion. She’s key to The Master’s crew in season one, but viewers later find out she was the vampire that sired Angel. While she only spent six episodes on Buffy, she made such an impact on viewers that she eventually crossed over into spinoff show, Angel, for 20 episodes.
10. Caleb, season seven
Caleb’s got Warren’s misogynistic streak, except The First Evil is on his side instead of two dweebs. A defrocked priest who enjoys killing women and attempting to end the slayer lineage, Caleb is responsible for bombing The Watchers Council’s headquarters and gouging out Xander’s eye.
Despite being one of the few humans on this list, Caleb does some mega damage — all thanks to The First Evil, which transfers its strength into him. Only Nathan Fillion could make a depraved priest both creepy and charming, which is why Caleb sits in the top 10.
9. Faith, season three
Here’s where we start to get into the emotionally invested big bads. Faith was introduced as the second slayer (remember, Buffy died that one time, then Kendra died too *RIP*) in season three. She was the opposite of Buffy, which made her so fun. Edgy, reckless and free spirited, Faith brought out Buffy’s rebellious side for a few episodes, which was a delight to watch.
Unlike Buffy, Faith lacked the stability and emotional support of friends and family — which is pretty essential in the life of a slayer. So when The Mayor took to her, she saw the father figure missing from her life and latched on. You could almost understand her descent into evil, which made her character even more heartbreaking.
8. Dark Willow, season six
Out of the entire Scooby Gang, sweet Willow is the last one you’d think of as a potential big bad. After overcoming a magic addiction and reconciling with her girlfriend, Tara, things were starting to get better in Willow’s life. That ended the moment she witnessed Tara’s murder, as a stray bullet came through their window and hit the love of her life. After she worked so hard to win everything back, it was all unexpectedly taken from her, leading her to a deep descent into dark arts. You hurt for Willow but were equally afraid of what she could do with her massive powers.
7. The First Evil, season seven
The First Evil is different from all other big bads on the show. Unlike the rest, The First Evil is a manifestation. It’s abstract and appears to each person in a different way. It’s not a body to kill, rather a force that predates humans and demons. Super frustrating to watch, TBH.
All throughout season seven, The First haunted Buffy and those closest to her in the form of deceased friends, relatives and opponents, exploiting their deepest emotions and fears. It summons an army from the Hellmouth, complete with ubervamps Turok-Han, vampires so ancient they possess more power and strength than your average vampire. In order to destroy The First, Buffy and the gang must destroy its army. Not easy, unless you activate dozens of potential slayers to help.
6. The Mayor, season three
But he’s so nice! That’s what makes Mayor Richard Wilkins so enchanting. The family man obsessed with cleanliness and keeping a positive attitude is also the dude working toward becoming an immortal snake-thing and taking over the world.
Just as clever as he is evil, he sees potential in Faith and takes her in, providing for her like a father would. This manipulation leads Faith to turn her back on the Scooby Gang and team up with Mayor Wilkins, making his ascension an even bigger challenge for Buffy. The season finale goes down as one of the most eventful graduation episodes TV has ever seen.
5. Drusilla, season two
Drusilla’s quirky personality, goth style and dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship with Spike easily make her one of Buffy’s most memorable characters, despite only showing up in 17 episodes throughout the series. She’s a clever character whose mental health is often prodded at for joke purposes, making her even more complex. What sets Drusilla apart from every vampire on the show is her psychic abilities, which she had as a mortal and kept throughout her undead life.
Her ties to Spike and Angel are deep. Angel tortured and murdered her family in front of her before he turned her into a vampire. Spike, on the other hand, was a sad, pathetic poet before Drusilla turned him into one of our favorite vamps. Watching that trio’s dynamic during season two was dramatic, to say the least.
4. Glory, season five
Glory is one of Buffy’s toughest opponents. She’s not a monster, demon or vampire. She’s a god who’s after The Key, which was given to Buffy to be protected in human form as her sister, Dawn. (Yes, that whole thing gave us all a headache.) Unlike other big bads, Glory is young and pretty with expensive taste. She’s witty to the point where we forget how powerful she is, until a fight with Buffy reminds us, “Oh, right. She’s an effing god.” She’s the second big bad to kill Buffy, albeit indirectly. Glory makes it so Buffy has to choose between her life and Dawn’s as demon dimensions are surfacing on earth, which gives us the most powerful moment in the entire series.
3. The Gentlemen, season four
Though they only lasted one episode, “Hush,” The Gentlemen made more of an impact than any other “monster of the week” in the series. Silent and floating throughout Sunnydale, they cast a spell that made the whole town go silent. At night, they’d hunt for human hearts, using the silence as an advantage, as their victims could not scream for help. The episode is arguably Buffy’s best (the only one ever nominated for an Emmy!), and The Gentlemen, with their creepy smiles and silent stalking, are a big part of that.
2. Spike, season two
Spike, the conflicted antihero, is easily one of Buffy’s top characters of all time — evil or not. Who knew a violent vampire could bring so much comedic relief? He came barreling into Sunnydale with Drusilla and stayed around until the series finale, all while developing from villain to sympathetic love interest to villain, again, to unlikely hero. It was a whirlwind.
The Spike from season two is a much different Spike than the one in season seven, with the character maintaining his charisma throughout the character growth. His unsolicited quips were some of Buffy‘s best dialogue moments. Joss Whedon almost had a perfect character in Spike but lost it when he wrote sexual assault into the sixth season. C’mon, man. You were so close.
1. Angelus, season two
What makes Angelus special isn’t necessarily the character himself, but the circumstances surrounding him. Before he was Buffy’s sweet vampire boyfriend Angel, he was Angelus, an evil and vindictive creature that terrorized people for centuries. A curse was put on him to restore his soul and the curse would only break when he experienced a true moment of happiness. In some weird after-school-special storyline, that “true moment” was sex with Buffy.
The morning after, Buffy awoke to a completely different boyfriend. (Metaphors!) One who became meticulous at torturing her friends and family. Angelus is the big bad with the most baggage. You don’t want him to die because you know he can be good. And even when he’s Angelus, you can catch glimpses of Angel, because what David Boreanaz does best is giving the character humanity, even when he’s at his worst. The writing, acting, soundtrack, and imagery during his death makes this big bad the toughest to say goodbye to.