8 of the Most Iconic Characters from Television

In the so-called “golden age” of television and film, many characters have become iconic within the industry, but more than that, they contribute to popular culture in a way that would probably never have been predicted in the past.

Indeed, similarly to the ways in which literary characters have always had profound effects on readers, characters from successful films and movies seem to resonate with people deeply and profoundly. Some are characters that viewers admire and look up to, while others have become popular due to their notoriety and the fact that they boast so much depth and intrigue.

But what is it that makes these television characters so iconic? What is it that separates these characters from the ones who we don’t really think twice about, and how do writers create characters who are so loved and revered among audiences?

We’re going to explore these ideas in depth by first looking into some of the things that make characters so unforgettable, followed by a list of 8 of the most iconic characters from television.

What Makes Television Characters Unforgettable?

  • Relatability: Arguably selfishly, something that makes characters is popular is how relatable they are – whether that is overall (who their character is as a person), or even specific traits they have and things they do.
  • Depth: One major thing that sets a really good character apart from average characters is their depth – the ability to make a character seem multi-dimensional, complex and interesting. This contributes to them being more relatable too.
  • Cultural Impact: Some characters have gained notoriety due to the profound cultural impact they’ve had, whether expected or not. This could be due to their being resilient in the face of adversity, or even representing particular ideals. The cultural impact that a character has is completely dependent on what’s happening in the world at the time.
  • Performance: Naturally, an actor or actress’s ability to successfully and convincingly portray a character is often what makes or breaks the popularity of the character in question.
  • Memorable Traits: A lot of characters are overdone, and viewers find that many shows follow a fairly consistent template. So, if you’re able to write and create a character that stands out due to specific characteristics and depth, this makes them more memorable.
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Top 8 Most Iconic Television Characters of All Time

Clearly, creating an unforgettable character that can intrigue and capture audiences through time is something that involves a plethora of different considerations.

With these things in mind, let’s dive right into our list of the top 8 most iconic television characters of all time.

  • Walter White – Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is easily one of modern television’s most action-packed and successful stories, starring Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned drug dealer. As a meth kingpin, Walter White quickly became one of television’s most complex characters, his transformation into the ruthless Heisenberg representing a true masterclass in character development.

White’s moral ambiguity and his somewhat relatable descent into darkness captivated audiences and set a whole new bar for television drama.

  • Tony Soprano – The Sopranos

Tony Soprano, the main character from The Sopranos, revolutionized televisions archetypical antihero. James Gandolfini portrayed a mob boss struggling with a combination of both personal and professional challenges, enduring many difficulties and creating unprecedented depth.

In particular, it was Tony Soprano’s sessions with his psychiatrist that really provided a window into the character’s complex psyche, making him one of the most compelling characters in the history of television.

  • Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock

Benedict Cumberbatch made the seemingly impossible possible by embracing a modern take on Sherlock Holmes and, consequently, bringing a new dimension to the legendary detective. His portrayal of Holmes in Sherlock, characterized by sharp intellect and eccentric behaviour, breathed new life into a character that many people believed had been attempted one too many times.

Furthermore, the contemporary setting and intricate storytelling of the show made it stand out.

  • Lucy Ricardo – I Love Lucy

The protagonist of the 1951 sitcom, I Love Lucy, the character of Lucy Ricardo has created a template for sitcom characters in the world of comedy. Lucille Ball’s portrayal of Lucy brought the character to life with her antics, exaggerated expressions and impeccable timing.

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Indeed, her influence on the industry more generally is evident in the countless performances that follower I Love Lucy, following Ball’s template, making the character of Lucy Ricardo an enduring icon.

  • Don Draper – Mad Men

Don Draper accurately embodies the enigmatic personality of a 1960s ad executive, perfectly exhibiting a suave exterior and hiding a tumultuous inner life full of secrets and regrets.

Jon Hamm, as Draper, portrays a journey through the rapidly changing landscape of American society, providing a rich and multifaceted experience that continues to fascinate viewers.

  • Omar Little – The Wire

Omar Little, portrayed by Michael K. William, stands out in the gritty world of The Wire. The character quickly became known for his strict code of ethics and his Robin Hood-like behaviour, making for a unique character in the crime drama genre.

Little’s complexity, fearlessness and moral code are just a few things that have made him one of the most unforgettable characters in the history of television.

  • Rachel Green – Friends

Not only did Friends become one of the most popular television series of all time, but the character of Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, has become absolutely iconic.

Starting as a runaway bride, Rachel’s evolution into a successful, independent and professional mother is both aspirational and relatable. Her fashion sense, signature hairstyle and memorable moments have solidified her place in TV history.

  • Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Sarah Michelle Gellar expertly captured the role of Buffy Summers, somewhat redefining the classic trope of female, teenage heroine. She did so well that Buffy has inspired everything from fan fiction to a slot game like those you’d find at Treasure Mile casino.

Buffy’s vulnerability, wit and strength made her a powerful symbol of empowerment in her battles against supernatural forces. The show used her to explore real-life issues through supernatural metaphors that resonated deeply with audiences through time.

 

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