The Real Housewives franchise is a guaranteed source of reality TV ~drama~. A bunch of catty, rich older women sniping at each other and flipping tables? What’s not to love?! The franchise now spans across nine different cities (with a few international installments!) and countless spin-offs. God bless Andy Cohen and his endless goal to bring us quality content.
Through so many cities, with casts rotating sporadically, there are predictably some housewives that are better than the rest. They may bring more drama or crazy to the mix, and provide endlessly entertaining plotlines. Narrowing it down to the top 20 Real Housewives was a little hard, but we did it. Will your fave be number one? Keep reading to find out!
20. Melissa Gorga, The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Gorga had the pleasure of coming on the show because she’s married to Teresa Giudice’s brother and their sister-in-law rivalry has defined her tenure on the show ever since. Gorga is fine on her own, maybe a little self-centered, but when it comes to interactions with her and Teresa? That’s where the real magic happens. Gorga ranks low because she’s pretty much nothing without her nemesis. The most recent seasons has the two playing nice and it makes it a little hard to care about Melissa running a store instead of running her mouth. At least we’ll always have “On Display,” one of the best (aka worst) Real Housewives songs of all time.
19. Kim Richards, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Richards is one of the few Real Housewives who was actually somebody before they were on the show. She was a former child star, starring in shows like Nanny and the Professor. Richards is great at drama on screen and off, and that’s not always a good thing. While she was always great fun to watch on the show, it’s hard to rank her higher due to her very clear issues with substance abuse and mental health. While it seems she’s cleaned her act up now — and doesn’t plan to return to the franchise again — some of her more dramatic moments are hard to digest knowing how troubled she was.
18. Joanna Krupa, The Real Housewives of Miami
The Real Housewives of Miami isn’t the most popular branch of the franchise, but it did bring us Krupa so bless it. The former model is always a good time when she gets unruly and drunk on the show — well except for that time she got punched in the face by a fellow cast member. She’s not the most exciting cast member — they all get drunk and unruly — but she’s on the list for one big reason: her lawsuit against Brandi Glanville. Glanville, a star on a different Real Housewives show, said Krupa had a “smelly p*ssy” and Krupa sued her for defamation, settling last month after 2.5 years.
17. Heather Dubrow, The Real Housewives of The O.C.
Heather isn’t the most dramatic housewife, and she seems to have an actually happy marriage, but that’s what makes her great. Spanning all of the housewives franchises, Heather is one of the most level-headed, classy women the show’s ever seen. She has sophistication and snark and it’s amazing. She’s a little low on the list due to her lack of drama, but she deserves a spot for being, for the most part, an adult when many of her counterparts can get a bit childish.
16. Kim Zolciak, The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Zolciak has gifted us with the very best Real Housewives original song: “Tardy for the Party.” And for that, she’ll always deserve a spot on any list ranking housewives. She’s one of the most controversial housewives of all time and probably one of the only ones to have a sugar daddy while on the show. Kim lives for the drama, but she’s also kind of a hot mess which makes it hard to rank her too high and not feel guilty about capitalizing on a woman who clearly has some issues.
15. Caroline Manzo, The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Manzo and her family are thick as thieves, and she’s the most ride-or-die housewife there is. Her unwavering loyalty to her family and friends makes her a standout — as well as her brutal takedowns of castmates Teresa Giudice and Danielle Staub. She has absolutely no fear of telling it like it is which makes her insanely entertaining to watch. Towards the end of her tenure, she got a little preachy (no one’s right all the time) so she ranks a little lower on the list.
14. Kenya Moore, The Real Housewives of Atlanta
The Atlanta women are crazy, and Moore may be one of the craziest. She’s the ultimate antagonist, always willing to initiate a fight or rile people up. She is the Queen at throwing shade and being the snarkiest. She once stirred up so much sh*t at a reunion that former castmate Porsha Williams pulled her to the ground by her hair and had to be dragged out after the assault. Kenya makes for great television, but she’s also kind of a jerk so she ranks around the middle on this list.
13. Kyle Richards, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Like her sister Kim, who ranked a little lower on this list, Kyle started out as a child actor. She appeared on Little House on the Prairie and in the film Halloween before her acting career faltered in the ’80s. Kyle is easy to root for while still bringing the drama. Her season one feud with Camille Grammer is classic, but not as classic as her feuding with her own sister on national television. Most of the time though she’s pretty calm, cool, and collected — making her a refreshing change of pace.
12. Jacequline Laurita, The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Jac started out so likable and relatable, and slowly slipped a little off the rails. Her on-again-off-again friendship with Teresa fueled most of her storylines, and it became pretty sad watching her chase someone who clearly didn’t want to be in her life anymore. She went from chill Jersey girl to crazed clinger over her time on the show. She ranks in the middle for her ability to make Teresa seem likable during the highs of their friendship. And also for her touching devotion to her son Nicholas who struggles with autism.
11. Michaele Salahi, The Real Housewives of Washington D.C.
The Real Housewives of D.C. was a forgettable trainwreck, but it did breed one good thing: the Salahi debacle. The Salahi’s are known for gatecrashing the 2009 White House State Dinner and posing for pictures with Barack Obama after sneaking their way in. It’s one of the most inflammatory things a housewife has ever done — and prompted a serious investigation! For this incident alone (since nobody remembers anything else about her), she gets to live in infamy on this list.
10. LuAnn “The Countess” de Lesseps, The Real Housewives of New York City
LuAnn was actual royalty for a time, being married to a French count and all. She also literally wrote the book on etiquette (and released a few singles, but we won’t talk about those here…). Despite being a lady of the highest order, she brings it when it comes to crazy, crazy drama. Her tumultuous relationship with her second husband is well-documented on the show, right to the bitter end. And we already have a preview of next season as Lesseps was arrested for disorderly conduct and public intoxication last month and just left rehab to get back to filming on the show! That’s dedication to being a housewife and we’re here for it.
9. Danielle Staub, The Real Housewives of New Jersey
Oh Danielle, you big ball of crazy. The only housewife to ever bring “security” to a sit-down conversation with another housewife because she thought she was that important. She’s been engaged “19 times!!!” and was the catalyst behind the infamous Real Housewives of New Jersey table flip that put the franchise on the map. For that, she’s definitely in the top 10, but she’s also faker than most housewives’ boobs. Recently she returned to the show as a “friend of the housewives” (oh, burn) and she is kissing all their asses to get back to full-time housewife status. And for that desperation, she ranks in the middle of this list.
8. Vicki Gunvalson, The Real Housewives of the O.C.
Vicki is the OG real housewife from the very first series in the franchise, so she’s kind of a big deal. She has never been afraid to let the cameras into her life and has become one of the rawest and most emotional housewives of all time. She’s also a freakin’ boss and achieved her own success in the business world before she was ever even on the show. And despite all this, she’s a party animal and dated guy who probably faked cancer for way too long. While she’s had some controversial moments, she’s still a true original and one of the best housewives of all time.
7. Camille Grammer, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
While she was the one-time wife of actor Kelsey Grammer, Camille definitely didn’t sit in his shadow. She was one of most villainous housewives of all time when she was introduced to the show, though she’s softened since. Life & Style magazine even had her on the cover once asking the question of if she was the most hated housewife of all time. She was definitely not interested in making friends from the start and had enough on her plate with her tumultuous marriage. Villainy doesn’t work anywhere else other than reality television where it makes for some amazing entertainment.
6. Sheree Whitfield, The Real Housewives of Atlanta
One of the most iconic scenes in the Real Housewives history is Sheree going at it with her party planner. What happened to customer service?! And who’s gonna check her, boo?! It’s amazing, dramatic, and such an unhinged moment of television that you almost can’t believe what you’re watching. How about the time she pulled Kim Zolciak’s wig while Kim was inexplicably out to dinner with Michael Lohan? She’s an icon through and through and deserves a respectable spot in the top 10 for sure.
5. Ramona Singer, The Real Housewives of New York City
During the classic “scary island” plotline on the show, Singer was an insane ball of fun. She got drunk on pinot grigio and yelled “turtle time!” and it made absolutely zero sense. But it’s iconic nonetheless because Ramona is just incredible TV. This is a woman who had to google “white trash” because she didn’t know what it meant. Amazing. She even pretended to be asleep at a reunion show while two housewives talked about their dead husbands. Wildly disrespectful, and wildly bizarre. Like everything Ramona does on the show.
4. Lisa Vanderpump, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
Vanderpump is a restauranteur, a lady, and usually pretty tame. But she made one amazing contribution to our lives that we can’t ignore: Vanderpump Rules. Set at her restaurant SUR, the show focuses on her young and insane staff and it’s the best Real Housewives spinoff of all time. As far as her time on the housewives, she has no issue duking it out with her co-stars but she’s always good for a laugh or two too. And all of this definitely warrants her top five status.
3. NeNe Leakes, The Real Housewives of Atlanta
NeNe is the master at cultivating drama and being a true character on the show. She’s also one of the most recognizable faces outside the show with legitimate acting gigs on a plethora of TV shows. NeNe is just a legend. She’s been in fist fights and hair pulls, she’s sassed everyone, and gotten pretty emotionally raw on several occasions. She’s truly a pro at doing the show and for that, she’s definitely a top three housewife.
2. Bethenny Frankel, The Real Housewives of New York
Frankel is a boss bitch. She’s created her Skinny Girl empire, along with books and TV appearances. And she’s witty as hell. Most women — and men! — who don’t watch the show still know Frankel by her products and influence. She started as an underdog on the show and truly made something of herself, surpassing all of her castmates in fame. Plus, any woman who makes it so I can have a low-calorie cocktail is definitely going to be top two.
1. Teresa Giudice, The Real Housewives of New Jersey
The woman. The Myth. The Legend. Teresa is the most famous — and infamous — housewife of all time. She flipped a table towards a “prostitution whore!” and put the Real Housewives franchise on the map. And then she feuded with her family on national television and gave us some of the best fights the franchise has ever delivered. But then fame turned on the garden state wife and she and her husband were indicted on a number of charges and both served jail time (Joe Giudice is still serving his time). A housewife went to jail — and then came back and did the show again! Amazing. She’s a true Jersey girl, loud and brash and never boring. And for that, she is most definitely number one.