Tony Soprano & 9 More Unforgettable Characters That Redefined the Hero Role

Linda Sharps | Jun 24, 2013 Celebrities

In the wake of actor James Gandolfini's tragic heart attack that took his life at just 51, much is being made of his amazing role in The Sopranos. Gandolfini turned in plenty of great performances over his career (he was memorably creepy in True Romance, and heartbreakingly self-destructive in Killing Them Softly, to name just two), but nothing quite like flawed mob boss Tony Soprano. His pitch-perfect acting brought that character to life in a truly inventive way: Tony was, by many accounts, television's first antihero.

The notion of an antihero -- a character who blurs the the line between hero and villain -- isn't unfamiliar these days, but most of the characters we love to hate (or hate to love, depending on the details of any given episode) owe thanks to Tony Soprano for paving the way.

Check out these 9 unforgettable antiheroes we can't get enough of -- who would you add to the list?

Image via HBO

  • Walter White, 'Breaking Bad'


    One of the most brilliant character arcs in the history of entertainment: Walter's probably devolved to full villainhood at this point. Somewhere along the line, we stopped rooting for Walt and started rooting for the once-deplorable Jesse Pinkman. Truly an amazing example of those lines getting more and more blurred until you're not even sure who's good and who's bad anymore.

  • Dexter, 'Dexter'


    He's a lovable serial killer, for god's sake.

  • Don Draper, 'Mad Men'


    He's a despicable man who does despicable things to the people who love him, and we just keep coming back for more.

  • Nick Brody, 'Homeland'


    If you haven't started watching this show, I won't tell you why he's a classic antihero, but spoiler alert: he is.

  • Dr. Gregory House, 'House'


    He's a drug addict, a liar, and really kind of an asshole -- and we love him for it.

  • Stringer Bell, 'The Wire'


    I'm torn between choosing Omar or Russell "Stringer" Bell, but I have to go with Stringer because mmmm, Idris Elba. 

  • Eric Northman, 'True Blood'

  • Tommy Gavin, 'Rescue Me'


    God, this show was rough. I actually stopped watching it at some point because Tommy had relapsed too many times, but Denis Leary did a fantastic job with the role.

  • Pretty much everyone on 'Sons of Anarchy'


    Some characters are now past redemption (Clay), some hover on the brink (Gemma). Jax is the classic antihero on this show, but almost every member of SAMCRO plays that part to perfection.


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