20 Most Iconic TV Characters of the Decade
It's been a monumental decade for TV both in terms of what we are watching and how we are watching it. The standard has risen to astronomical heights and it's growing more difficult to stand out from the crowd.
However, some shows and the characters in them will always be synonymous with this decade. The roles you simply cannot imagine anyone else playing and the characters you recognise whether you watch the show or not.
Here are the leading ladies and leading men who left their mark between 2010 and 2019.
20. Villanelle | 'Killing Eve'
Has there ever been a more fashionable and sassy assassin? Villanelle may be a complete psychopath but dammit, she's an entertaining one. Played by Jodie Comer, she moves with ease between charming chats and dry one-liners to cold, calculated assassin with a unique talent yet boredom for the job. Phoebe Waller-Bridge originally adapted 'Killing Eve' for the small screen, and is no doubt responsible for a lot of the wit the character is known for. She even wrote that iconic pink dress into the script for season one.
19. Sherlock Holmes | 'Sherlock'
Reimagined for the 21st century by writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, Benedict Cumberbatch made us all fascinated with the famous detective all over again. An insanely smart but utterly strange fish, Sherlock Holmes is a character for the ages and one that will no doubt have many iterations. Hopefully, they can all live up to this.
18. Alicia Florrick | 'The Good Wife'
An absolute powerhouse of a character, Alicia Florrick has no doubt inspired a generation into the law profession. Smart, resourceful and strong, Alicia, played by Julianne Margulies, overcame every obstacle that was thrown at her. Her resilience made you respect her while her flaws made you love her.
17. Carrie Mathison | 'Homeland'
Claire Danes's cry face alone is a reason enough to be on this list. From CIA agent to mother to presidential advisor, we've seen Carrie through it all. And doing it while battling through a bipolar disorder. She can be rash, selfish and a total hot mess at times, but you still can't help but root for her,
16. Selina Meyers | 'Veep'
Once Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets her claws into a character you can expect greatness. She's essentially the Meryl Streep of TV awards shows and must be tripping over her Emmys at this stage. Selina Meyers and her merry band of misfits have made for some of the funniest TV of the decade. Yes, they're all terrible people but brilliantly competent in their incompetence and hilarious in their delivery.
15. Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren | 'Orange is the New Black'
'Orange is the New Black' graced us with a fantastically diverse cast when it arrived on Netflix in 2013. But none has stood out more or received greater praise than Uzo Aduba who played the role of Suzanne, nicknamed "Crazy Eyes". She left her mark, quite literally, early on in the series when she urinated on the floor beside Piper. It's about then we knew, for good or for bad, we could never predict what Suzanne might do or say next. Prone to emotional extremes, she's intense but extremely loveable and steals every scene. So much so that Aduba earned many an accolade for her role including two Emmys.
14. Rick Grimes | 'The Walking Dead'
He will always be the bloke holding signs outside Keira Knightley's gaff in 'Love Actually' but Andrew Lincoln is also the star of a TV series that has been running the entire decade. They also want to continue the show for another ten years so get used to seeing Rick Grimes's noggin for the foreseeable. No better man would you want by your side in a zombie apocalypse.
13. Hannah | 'Girls'
Lena Dunham may divide opinions but if 'Sex and the City' was the show that launched a thousand TV shows about women, 'Girls', created by Dunham, was the show that, eh, captained that first ship. (Does that work? Let's go with it.) Although Hannah couldn't be any further from the character of Carrie Bradshaw. 'Girls' served as a much more grittier, at times pessimistic portrayal of love and friendship and the humour was much, much darker. However, it was the ultimate millennial show and love her or hate her, Hannah deserves a place on this list.
12. Nidge | 'Love/Hate'
He may not be iconic to the rest of the world, but on these shores, this is a face we will never forget. Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, a whippet of a fella really, managed to make Nidge the most intimidating and unpredictable character we have ever had on our screens in this country. He elevated that show to a class of its own and we couldn't help but be compelled to watch his volatile nature unravel on-screen season after season. He was in a different league, our Nidgey.
11. Eleven | 'Stranger Things'
'Stranger Things' has become Netflix's most successful show and sure it's difficult not to love this annual instalment of delightful '80s goodness. From Demogorgons to Mind Flayers, those Hawkins kids would be long gone if they didn't have Eleven and her awesome powers in their corner. The character has shot Millie Bobby Brown to superstardom and no doubt she will continue to kick ass for many a season to come.
10. The Dowager aka Violet Crawley | Downton Abbey
The sharpest tongue in all the land, where would 'Downton Abbey' be without the scathing wit of The Dowager Countess? She could annihilate someone in mere seconds with just one sentence and is responsible for some absolute zingers over the years. Time also seems to have forgotten about her too and thank goodness for that.
9. Rust Cohle | 'True Detective'
Smack bang in the middle of his McConaissance, Matthew McConaughey proved he was far more than the leaning-in guy on a rom-com poster and delivered a fantastic performance as the wonderfully weird Rust Cohle. He may have been away with the fairies half the time but we couldn't help but hang on his every word. Who's to say time isn't a flat circle, huh?
8. June / Offred | 'The Handmaid's Tale'
If we made a list of the most difficult shows to watch this decade, 'The Handmaid's Tale' would be top of it. Watching what June has to go through in Gilead is torture in its own right. This show is undoubtedly one of the most important of recent years and Elizabeth Moss's face in that white bonnet and the red robe is one of the most iconic images of the decade.
7. Phil Dunphy | 'Modern Family'
Probably the most loveable character to make the list. This role was the turning point for actor Ty Burrell's career, who previously had minor roles in TV and movies, but nothing to really write home about. Phil Dunphy has become this decade's ultimate TV dad, complete with terrible jokes and permanent foot in mouth syndrome. He always has the best of intentions though no matter how much things may go wrong for him. He's also had some amazing one-liners down the years, made all the better by the sincerity of his delivery. "WTF, why the face?"
6. Fleabag | 'Fleabag'
Phoebe Waller-Bridge blazed into our lives in 2016 with 'Fleabag', the show adapted from her Edinburgh Fringe one-woman play of the same name. Our love for the character of Fleabag and indeed Phoebe Waller-Bridge was cemented with the critically acclaimed second season of the show earlier this year. For all her flaws, Fleabag's complexities and sharp, unflinching wit made her one of the most compelling female characters we've had in the last decade.
5. Thomas Shelby | 'Peaky Blinders'
Tommy Shelby - war hero, criminal, politician - there's no end to this man's talents and while his many foes have kept him busy over the years, Thomas Shelby has always been his own worst enemy. Played to perfection by Cillian Murphy, the enigmatic Thomas Shelby is one of TV's best anti-heroes in recent years.
4. Jon Snow | 'Game of Thrones'
The world and their mother knew who Jon Snow was after that shocking season finale of 'Game of Thrones' back in 2015 which left us questioning this character's fate for a year. Whether it was those luscious locks of hair, his self-destructive sense of honour or that heart-breaking love story with his now real-life wife, Jon Snow was a true hero to root for in a TV landscape crammed with anti-heroes. Even if he did know nothing.
3. Don Draper | 'Mad Men'
Even the name - Don Draper - has reached iconic levels at this stage, and Jon Hamm along with it as the man who played him. A womanising, arrogant, cigarette-smoking, Old Fashioned drinking advertising mogul of the 1960s, Don Draper was a complex mess of a man at times but utterly captivating to watch.
2. Daenerys Targaryen | 'Game of Thrones'
Forget Jon Snow, forget all of them. It's this shock of white hair that everyone knows from 'Game of Thrones'. Her face on the buses, her dragons that became synonymous with every aspect of the show. Daenerys Targaryen was our Queen, our Khaleesi, breaker of chains... you get the idea. She was a big deal. They are even making a spin-off about the Targaryen history so hopefully, the decade ahead may provide us with a couple more iconic queens of dragons. Jokes. There can only be one.
1. Walter White | 'Breaking Bad'
It had to be good old Walter White on top, it just had to. Walter White's journey from a self-conscious science teacher to a narcissistic criminal mastermind made for one of the most compelling character arcs of the decade. Bryan Cranston proved to the world he was far more than just Malcolm's dad, he was the one who knocks. Walter White's gradual moral decline and power-hungry descent into the villainy of Heisenberg made him a TV character for the ages.