Tһe Wаlkinɡ Deаd: Best Performаnсes in tһe Series, Rаnked

The zombie apocalypse subgenre of horror is an entity all on its own. There are countless movies and shows that have captured the fear of the dead coming back to life. However, not many have captured the mainstream pop culture’s attention as The Walking Dead has. AMC’s The Walking Dead is a drama show that chronicled the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. What started out as a man looking for his family eventually became a thrilling story of found family, love, loss, and rediscovering/redefining what it meant to be alive.

The Walking Dead has created a passionate cult following that had fans rooting for their favorite characters and sobbing at their deaths. The shock value of this show never seemed to fail and even after 11 incredible seasons, we continued to be in awe of the depth and heart that each and every one of these actors brought to their characters. From the one and only Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes to Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee, here is our ranking of the best performances in The Walking Dead.

Update November 3, 2023: Following the conclusion of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon and the upcoming premiere of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live in 2024, this article has been updated with even more great performances in the original series.

15 Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh

Shane The Walking Dead

Characters as dynamic as the ones in The Walking Dead illicit varying reactions from audiences. With Jon Bernthal‘s performance as Shane, we as fans love to hate him. Shane Walsh had his run in the show in the first few seasons. He was Rick’s right-hand man and a protector for his wife and kid. However, as much as Shane remained a valuable asset and ally in the post-apocalyptic world, he ultimately became a danger to the entire group. The complexity of his character from his relationship with Lori to his friendship with Rick, Bernthal made sure that fans will never forget his iconic role in the show.

14 Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel in The Walking Dead

Father Gabriel is one of the best examples of character growth and development in this entire show. Seth Gilliam pulled off a performance that encapsulated a man’s struggle to maintain his morals as a religious man as well as the agony of having to sacrifice some of them in order to survive. The push and pull between fear and survival in his character cemented his place in The Walking Dead and portrayed the harsh realities of a post-apocalyptic world.

13 David Morrissey as The Governor

The Governor The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead villains are a breed all on their own. Alongside the viscousness of the walkers, our main group is forced to face the horrors of the living. One of those examples was The Governor, played by David Morrissey. Morrissey made The Governor one of the most terrifying villains in the series. Accompanied by a tragic backstory, The Governor’s psychotic reign over the community of Woodbury dug its ugly claws into the fabric of our main group’s structure.

12 Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene

The Walking Dead Maggie

The Walking Dead is incomplete without Maggie Greene. Maggie had remained a steadfast presence throughout most of this show. Her character had gone through the wringer, and Lauren Cohan kept Maggie’s character full of life. Along with being a complete badass, she expressed a level of compassion and strength that no other character matched. She went from a strong-willed farm girl to a natural-born leader and mother, an attitude she carried with her in her very own spin-off The Walking Dead: Dead City.

11 Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter

Eugene The Walking Dead

It was hard to tell where Eugene’s character was going when he was introduced in The Walking Dead. Played by the incredible Josh McDermitt, Eugene Porter is just as much a bona fide genius as he is a coward. Ridden with fear, Eugene was willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to protect himself. However, fans began to cling to his character, and whether we loved him or hated him, he become a staple face in the show and grew incredibly in the last few seasons of the series.

10 Lennie James as Morgan Jones

The Walking Dead - Morgan

The deeply introspective and quietly powerful Morgan Jones rescued Rick in the beginning of the juggernaut show, saving the sheriff from imminent death and filling him in on the zombie apocalypse and horrific state of the world. Lennie James possessed a commanding but understated presence as the haunted Morgan, who goes on an epic emotional journey over the course of TWD in which he suffers a mental break before finding inner peace and becoming a pacifist. Morgan’s transformation was fascinating for audiences to witness, and he became such a fan-favorite character that he also nabbed a prominent spot in the companion series Fear the Walking Dead.

9 Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes

Carl The Walking Dead

Carl Grimes was played by the incomparable Chandler Riggs. From the very beginning, it seemed impossible to see anyone play Carl other than Riggs. The audience has had the privilege of watching Carl, and in turn, Riggs, grow up right in front of our eyes. He became a beloved character in the show and was the heart and essentially the hope for the group’s future. His death will continue to be one of the most heartbreaking in the series.

8 Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon

The Walking Dead - Merle

Fans of TWD absolutely loved to hate the antagonistic and violent Merle Dixon, Daryl’s racist and hot-headed brother who causes problems for Rick and the gang throughout the hit show’s first three seasons. Michael Rooker was fantastic as the combative survivor, and despite initially failing to depict any semblance of humanity, was given a redemption story in the latter part of the third season.

Merle was able to go out in style and was defiant until the bitter end, and his brutal death and reanimation as a walker led to a devastating and cathartic moment for Daryl, who ultimately put his big brother down once and for all.

7 Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene

The Walking Dead - Hershel Greene

Hershel Green instilled hope and a profound comfort within both his fellow survivors and devoted audiences, serving as the group’s moral compass and calming presence after he was first introduced in season 2. The late and great Scott Wilson‘s on-screen counterpart was fiercely protective of his family and friends and never allowed his faith to waver, even in the face of unfathomable darkness and despair. Hershel spent his dying breath trying to reason with The Governor and push for peace, and his shocking and heartbreaking death rocked fans to their core.

6 Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier

Melissa McBride as Carol in The Walking Dead

Melissa McBride‘s performance as Carol in The Walking Dead deserves a standing ovation. Carol started off as the most fragile of flowers and blossomed into a complete badass. Her character initiates an undeniable sense of comfort and familiarity within the other characters and in the audience as well. McBride’s ability to channel Carol’s motherly aura and draw strength from that is what makes this character so loved. McBride will return as Carol in season 2 of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, which will be subtitled The Book of Carol.

5 Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee

Glenn on The Walking Dead.

Steven Yeun is all the lovable energy that we got from Glenn in The Walking Dead. In this house, we love and miss Glenn. His run in The Walking Dead had him grow from a boy into a man. He found love, heartache, and a family that had to watch him perish at the hands of Negan. Another fan-favorite character, he kept the show grounded most of all. His character was reliable and loyal in ways that kept the group going for so long. It is no wonder that Yeun has moved on to become such a major star in series like Invincible and Beef as well as films like Minari and Nope.

4 Danai Gurira as Michonne

Danai Gurira as Michonne on The Walking Dead

Michonne, played by Danai Gurira, is the lone wolf who found a family in all the mess. For the longest time, Michonne had to fend for herself. She was alone after losing so much until she found Rick and his group. She has consistently been an amazing fighter and held her own in that group. Gurira perfectly played Michonne from all angles. She was a warrior, a mother, and a fighter.

The role launched Gurira into superstardom and allowed her to play the role of Okoye in various Marvel Cinematic Universe projects. Fans eagerly await her return to The Walking Dead universe with the spin-off, The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

3 Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead on AMC+

Fan favorite alert! Norman Reedus is mainly known in his career for playing the motorcycle-riding, crossbow-wielding man of nature with a heart of gold, Daryl Dixon. The Walking Dead is known to kill many beloved characters unexpectedly. However, every new season that came around the corner had fans pleading with writers to spare Daryl’s life.

Reedus managed to make this character something that no fan of the show could let go of. Reedus is likely one of the biggest breakout stars of the series so it was no shock when it was announced he would get a spin-off. The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon premiered on AMC on September 10, 2023, and concluded on October 15, 2023. It allowed Reedus to step into a lead role and show some real range as an actor and flesh out the character. The series is currently set to get a second season sometime in 2024.

2 Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan

The Walking Dead Negan

Negan has easily been the most terrifying villain in the many seasons of The Walking Dead. Up to the point where he was introduced into this world, our main group has faced many foes and experienced so much loss. However, Negan changed things. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as easy as he is on the eyes, brought Negan into the limelight. He tore down the strongest members of our group. He broke them down and had them in complete submission without skipping a beat.

His charisma, paired with the power he wielded on his belt, made him a force to be reckoned with and a threat that no one was prepared for. What he did and his character’s development on-screen were nothing short of spectacular. It is no wonder the character was spun-off into The Walking Dead: Dead City, which is already confirmed for a season 2.

1 Andrew Lincon as Rick Grimes

The Walking Dead

The one and only Rick Grimes is the face of The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes is the kind of character that defines an actor’s career. Although it had been a while since Andrew Lincoln‘s departure from the show, his presence left its mark. Rick has been the leader, the one to call the hard shots. He put the safety of his people and his family above everything else and was willing to sacrifice anything for them.

Lincoln was Rick through and through and made sure that he kept the authenticity of his character up to par with where the story went. When the character left the series, something felt missing. Still, hopefully, with the upcoming premiere of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, audiences will jump back in to revisit the fan-favorite character.

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