7 Best Anti-Heroes On Television Who Also Became Most Popular Protagonists  

Anti-heroes are much more complex than heroes. In fact, some would go to say that they are much more realistic than the ideal model of a hero that we traditionally celebrate. 

Heroes usually are the ones who pursue their goals by the book, by the rules, or under the moral guidebook but villains are completely opposite. 

But that’s not the primary difference. Heroes are morally upright whereas Villains lack morality entirely. They are self-absorbed to a limit cause pain and damage to others. 

Both of these archetypes sometimes feel to be too extreme to exist, even if they do. But largely people tend to be gray or at least have shades in them. 

Anti-heroes are those who might to do the right thing but not in the right way or in fiction, they are our protagonists with questionable morality. 

On television, we have seen many such anti-heroes or almost villains but very few of them become extremely popular for one reason or another. 

Here are we enlisting some best anti-heroes on television who become important for their own show shadowing other characters as well. 

 Damon Salvatore 

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Even though there has been a debate regarding whether Damon Salvatore played by Ian Somerhalder is an anti-hero or a villain on the show The Vampire Diaries. 

Surely, he struct as an antagonist when he was first introduced in the show as this cynical, eccentric and sinister brother of Stefan Salvatore, came to ruin his life, and apparently steal his love, Elena. 

But this was more of an impression because as the character grows over time on the audience and protagonist-ish characters like Stefan and Elena, we see more of him than what meets the eye. 

From what he seems, a ruthless, manipulative and unhinged thousand-year-old vampire with no to least regard for human emotions, shown in the first season, comes so far as more seasons pass by. 

Especially when the trio, Stefan, Elena, and Damon become more or less one group together with mutual understanding even though great interpersonal conflicts, the Damon character turns into a hero, for sure. 

But then the element that makes him, the impulsiveness, the dry humor, violence, and other Damon characteristics still with him which he struggles with. 

This even changes when we see his past in contrast with Stefan when they both were human. To the end, his character gets evolved so dramatically that he becomes the brother turning into human to sacrifice himself to make amends and save his brother. 

But overall, he was driven mainly by his desire and not regulated by his moral codes. He is certainly not a villain but sometimes a hero, for his family at least, putting him to the best-fit spot of anti-heroes of television. 

Damon’s character is also immensely popular amongst TVD fans and loved by the audience, especially for his one-liners, sarcasm and bond with Stefan, Elena, Alaric and also Bonnie, which was least expected. 

Eve & Villanelle 

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Coming from the brilliance of Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, these characters from the show Killing Eve are two of the best anti-hero characters, especially in context to each other. 

They have this hate relationship but with great obsession. Something oddly reminds you of the Batman and Joker relationship in the DC universe. 

This one though is much more layered and fascinating though. We get to see how these characters are internally and then what they become after crossing paths with both obsessed with each other. 

Villanelle especially could have been just a straight-up villain in this show but it is so mindfully created and performed that you can’t really put her there. You just can’t. 

And then you want to put Eve as a hero or a protagonist and it seems like that for the most part but it is trickier than that. 

Her obsession with serial killers and innate darkness goes beyond than his everyday by-the-books life, making her a different sort of protagonist to follow but certainly not a hero. 


Image Source: People

It is so hard to not fall in love with Dexter and root for him even when you know he kills people. Correction! He kills only bad guys. 

So technically he is serial killer because he has killed hundreds of people, hence clearly not a traditional hero for sure. And then he kills bad guys, so not a villain too! 

Dexter fits right into the anti-hero but even then, there are a lot of complexities in there that put his character walking between this thin line, beyond that where it becomes straight up hard to accept him as a protagonist. 

But the show did an extremely good job humanizing him, giving him some form of moral code to abide and making him even more relatable, metaphorically. 

The kind of people Dexter kills, you would feel Dexter is actually just the hero the world wants or at least Miami. 

Dexter’s character goes through a traumatic past with this predisposed urge to kill which he learns to hone and control, then directs it to kill serial killers. 

In one line, Dexter is a serial killer who kills serial killers. He also have sociopathic tendencies where he fakes emotion and try to mix in with people but that changes over time as he evolves, to some level for sure. 

Marty Byrde 

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Ozark is basically Breaking Bad reincarnate in some way where Marty Byrde played by Jason Bateman is a spiritual successor of Walter White, who also indeed is in this list (Duh!)

His character’s grey shade comes from his survival instincts and his responsibility to protect his family. But certainly, his character does have In him to pull through building a criminal empire. 

Walter White in Breaking Bad takes some serious time to become the monster that Marty becomes in its own way as a money-laundering family-endangering guy. 

But we still root for him? Well, in his defense, everything happens to him and under the circumstances where he had to do so, in order to protect himself and his family. 

And then from there, it just escalates. But overall, his morals are questionable and by law, he is undoubtedly a crime lord by now. 

Walter White 

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You saw this coming, right? There is no way this list was not including the guy who invented the concept of a good guy turning bad. 

He was initially just a reserved chemistry teacher who starts making and dealing with crystal meth after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, to provide for his family after he is gone. 

But this changes over time and his ego comes into play making him the big breaking bad of the drug world. 

What started with the idea to provide for his family left way behind and turns into something of its own where Walter could have stopped making drugs and came out of it but he didn’t. 

He liked the power and money he gained from this. It was consuming and something not easy to denounce. 

But that’s what makes him relatable because he is not a perfectly good guy as heroes usually are. He can be one of us or we could be him, making him more realistic. 

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