Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is one of the greatest TV show heroes of all time. Her heart, perseverance, and humanity are what make her such an admirable hero, but a hero is nothing without equally fascinating villains. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains are a critical part of the TV show. They helped make Buffy the Vampire Slayer one of the best superhero TV shows of all time.
The Big Bad reveals each season was always one of the most exciting and integral parts of the TV show. The villains helped make the show must-watch television, even over 25 years later. I limited this villains ranking to only the half-season or season-long villains. My criteria for ranking was based on a few aspects: how scary they were as a villain, how exciting they were to watch, the damage they caused to the Scooby Gang, and the potential of their world-destroying plan to work. Let’s get to the ranking!
Warning: spoilers about the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series ahead. Proceed with caution.
11. Adam And The Initiative (Season 4)
Adam (George Hertzberg) and the Initiative, mainly run by Dr. Walsh (Lindsay Crouse), were the big villains of Season 4. A lot of mystery surrounded the Initiative when the season began, so it was surprising when one of Buffy’s favorite teachers and her new love interest, Riley (Marc Blucas), were main parts of the Initiative. However, the excitement surrounding the Initiative quickly faded.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer did a Frankenstein story before in Season 2, “Some Assembly Required,” and even though that wasn’t one of the series’ strongest episodes, it worked better than the Adam storyline. Adam is the first villain that doesn’t even survive to the season finale. The Initiative and Adam’s best contribution to Buffy was helping to make Spike (James Marsters) an unwilling part of the Scooby Gang.
10. The Trio (Season 6)
Warren (Adam Busch) entered the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Season 5. He was always a dubious character, so it shocked no one when it turned out he wanted to become a supervillain. However, viewers were a little surprised to see Jonathan (Danny Strong), a fun recurring character, alongside him. No one knew who the hell Andrew (Tom Lenk) was, so viewers didn’t know what to make of him. During Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6, viewers watch the Trio take off their villain training wheels as they try to mess with Buffy.
At first, Buffy and the viewers don’t take them that seriously, but Warren becomes a figure capable of anything. The Trio being these everyday nerds who people didn’t take too seriously, but being completely dangerous, especially Warren, made them the most realistic monsters. The Trio helped further the themes in Season 6, which made them important villains, but compared to most of the other Big Bads, they didn’t impact the show as much
9. Caleb (Season 7)
Caleb (Nathan Fillion) appears in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 7. He was a major player in the First Evil’s quest to destroy the world. This priest/serial killer caused a lot of darkness in the season, including killing potential slayers and causing Xander (Nicholas Brendon) to lose sight in one eye. Despite Caleb being very dangerous, he didn’t appear until towards the end of the series.
His appearance was so late in the show that many people may have forgotten that Nathan Fillion appeared on Buffy. It was fun to see a Firefly cast member appear on Buffy in such a major role, but Caleb just sort-of fell flat as a villain and character.
8. Faith (Season 3)
Faith (Eliza Dushku) became a major recurring character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3. She was the vampire slayer who replaced Kendra (Bianca Lawson) after she died, and Kendra replaced Buffy when she briefly died in Season 1. Faith started off the show as this unpredictable slayer. She brought out Buffy’s wilder side, until Faith accidentally killed a human. That incident haunts both Buffy and her, and it’s where the two slayers diverge in their paths.
Faith decides to go towards the dark side… for a while. Faith becomes a very important part of the Buffy universe. She makes appearances throughout the show, and its spin-off Angel. Faith becomes such a fascinating character that we would have loved to see a spin-off about her. Faith is an interesting character, but she doesn’t completely fit the villain narrative. She’s more of a lost girl. She is a great villain when she is one, but she’s often a girl running and haunted by her mistakes.
7. Spike And Dru (Season 2)
Spike and Drusilla (Juliet Landau) are introduced as the main antagonists of Season 2. They have ties to Angel (David Boreanaz), as he turned Dru into a vampire, and they all used to be part of a gang with Darla (Julie Benz). Spike and Dru create a lot of havoc for Buffy and her friends at the start, but when the tides turn and Angel takes over, Spike is pushed to the back of the villain train.
Spike and Dru are probably two of Buffy-verse's most well-known villains, because they constantly made appearances throughout Angel and Buffy. Spike eventually becomes a series regular on both shows. I believe that Spike and Dru are some of the most important characters in the Buffy-universe, but as villains, they always had a human side to them. Even before the chip, and eventual soul, Spike acted and thought with his emotions more than many other vampires we met in the TV show. Dru was just as passionate as Spike, which made them a good pair for centuries.
6. The First Evil (Season 7)
The First is an entity that first made an appearance all the way back in Season 3. The First becomes the Big Bad of the final season, Season 7. Its abilities include taking on the face of any creature who once died. Like most Big Bads, its mission is to bring hell on Earth.
Though The First doesn’t do much physically itself to harm its victims, it's able to manipulate people quite well. It uses its power to have others do its work. Buffy needs every potential slayer and to destroy the hell mouth to stop it completely. Because the First transcends human ability and physical form, there is always the threat of the First’s return.
5. The Master (Season 1)
The Master (Mark Metcalf) was the first Big Bad on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He’s a centuries-old vampire who wants to open the portal to hell (don’t they all). The Master seems like an undefeatable villain from the start. Viewers watch as Buffy is already in a battle that she’s destined to lose.
The Master’s physical appearance makes him one of the show’s scariest-looking villains. He also carries himself in a way that without doing much, you’re horrified. The Master is the villain to kick off the TV series and set the tone for future Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains. The Master’s presence also gives old-school vampire swag that people who love vampire movies and TV shows have to kind of admire.
4. Glory (Season 5)
What is scarier than an ancient vampire? A deadly god! Glory (Clare Kramer) helped make Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 5 one of the best seasons. She’s both a terrifying villain and really fun to watch. Glory is one of the few Buffy villains that seemed nearly unbeatable, which made it all the more glorious when Buffy found a loophole to save the world and Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg). This led to one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s best episodes, “The Gift.”
Glory proved that gods can be just as scary as monsters, especially when their agenda is to take over or destroy the world. Glory also had one of the show’s best villain twists. Her sharing a body with Ben (Charlie Weber) was an unexpected plot twist that showcased the power of Buffy’s clever writing team.
3. The Mayor (Season 3)
The Mayor (Harry Groener) was one of Buffy’s most frightening villains. He was made even more eerie because he could wear that mask of this jolly good natured man, only to be a literal and figurative monster.
The Mayor was also one of the most terrifying villains, because like the Trio, he’s one of the villains that felt too close to home. Many have encountered a powerful person, whether it's a political figure or someone with authority, who uses their power to harm others.
2. Dark Willow (Season 6)
Warren kills Tara (Amber Benson) by accident while trying to kill Buffy. Tara dies in Willow's (Alyson Hannigan) arms. This triggers Willow’s magic addiction and vengeful side. She then wreaks havoc on Sunnydale leading up to the Buffy Season 6 finale.
In my opinion, the scariest and most heartbreaking Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains are the ones viewers come to love and trust, only for them to betray us by going evil. Dark Willow is grief personified. Dark Willow represents what can happen when someone lets grief consume them. Willow is not only scary because she’s someone viewers know and love, but she’s also scary because she’s terrifying as a villain. She’s too powerful, too emotionless, and too set on burning it all down. It’s no wonder Alyson Hannigan hasn’t shown Buffy to her kids due to some of its scary content in later seasons.
1. Angelus (Season 2)
The first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer established that Angel used to be this terrible vampire who did terrible things until he did them to the wrong people. They cursed him with a soul. Viewers and Buffy trust Angel, until one day he and Buffy have sex for the first time. This allows Angel a moment of happiness, which breaks the curse and Angelus awakens. Everyone is screwed.
Angelus then spends the rest of the Buffy Season 2 torturing and killing people that Buffy cares about, until Buffy has to send him to a hell dimension. Angelus isn’t Buffy’s scariest foe because he’s this undefeatable creature. He’s literally a vampire, and Buffy has killed so many of those. He’s scary because viewers and Buffy don't see it coming. Even with Dark Willow, viewers are constantly warned about how her magic addiction could become really bad for everyone. With Angelus, no one is prepared. It also happens in the second season, so it shows viewers to not get comfortable, anyone can turn into an asshole. It also shows how heartbreaking it is when someone you trust becomes the villain.
The Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains are key to the DNA of the show, so viewers have been fortunate to have so many great ones. You can watch your favorite Big Bad by streaming Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Hulu.
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Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.