If there’s a secret to the long-lasting success of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise, it’s this: the characters are lovable, relatable, complicated and unforgettable. In many cases, they’re also total fierce, awesome, butt-kicking heroes. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, BtVS and its spinoff, Angel, drew in countless devoted fans on the strength of its writing and its ensemble. Whedon and his creative team introduced us to all manner of incredible powerful creatures: slayers, vampires, witches, demons and even your garden variety human. Some found their power through their quick wit, others tapped into truly supernatural forces to make their mark.
We’ve taken it upon ourselves to rank each of the Buffyverse’s main characters in terms of their skill and sheer power. With one exception, we narrowed this list down with a pretty simple parameter: if the character was listed in the Buffy and Angel main credit sequence at any given point, they made the list.
With that in mind, here’s Screen Rant’s power ranking of the most important characters in the Buffyverse.
20. Dawn Summers
With a name like “The Key,” you’d think that the Slayer’s little sister would have had a little bit more bite. Unfortunately for Dawn, though, she never displayed any supernatural abilities whatsoever. Yes, she was a mystical vessel that housed a portal to alternate dimensions for a short time there. She could never harness that power though – instead, she just got very angsty about it. The monks that made her were very clear that Dawn Summers was a human — and throughout most of her tenure in Buffy’s life, she ended up being more of a very mortal burden of a sibling. Despite her lack of supernatural ability, she routinely got in over her head with Sunnydale’s supernatural element; from trying to summon her dead mother back from the grave to necking with a really dopey teenage vampire. So not only was she not powerful at all, her lack of common sense all made her a prime target for just about every being that crawled out of the Hellmouth.
19. Xander Harris
No one would argue that Xander wasn’t an integral part of the Scooby Gang from day one. In many cases, he was the heart of the team, always ready to lighten the mood or go toe-to-toe with a vamp or two. We saw, time and again, though, that his role was really more of moral support, and very occasionally muscle. Like Dawn, Xander voiced his insecurity over being the only non-supernatural part of the Slayer’s squad. When he hung around witches, a vengeance demon, a vampire and the Chosen One, it’s hard to blame him for feeling a little left out. Throughout his seven seasons on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander’s lack of power was a frequent punch line – so much so that they devoted a whole episode to just how out-of-the-loop he was, in a supernatural sense. What he lacked in agility, super-strength or mystical powers, he made up for in his willingness to go the extra mile for his friends.
18. Riley Finn
For a hot minute, Riley Finn seemed to be more than your average GI Joe. He could take down the never-ending supply of beasts in Sunnydale without breaking a sweat, and still had the energy left to romance the Slayer. Then we learned that all his super-strength came not from within, but from his creepy boss injecting him with demon juice. After his time in the Initiative was over, he did his best to fight by Buffy’s side, but he knew deep down he wasn’t a match for her — either on the battlefield, or as her boyfriend.
Sure, Riley had some brawn, but he didn’t bring all that much else to the table. At his core, he was a down-home country boy who just wanted someone to order him around. That’s a fine life choice, but it doesn’t exactly make for a great long-term strategy on the Hellmouth.
17. Rupert Giles
Librarian-turned-Magic Shoppe-owner Rupert Giles seems like a must-have resource during any apocalyptic or supernatural event. That’s because he’d be the first to figure out exactly how the world was going to end, and who was going to be doing the ending of it. Giles’ keen intellect and expansive knowledge of vampires, demons and the forces of darkness made him an invaluable ally and mentor to Buffy. In fact, she came to rely on his support so heavily that he felt the only way for her to grow on her own was for him to up and leave her.
Giles’ combat skills, on the other hand, were a little bit lacking. That’s not to say he couldn’t fight his way out of a tough situation; and we saw that he, too, had a dangerous side when he went for revenge after Angel killed his girlfriend, Jenny Calendar. If you remember correctly, though, Angel almost killed him — proving that his mental agility was far more powerful than his physical prowess.
16. Wesley Wyndham-Price
In the “points for growth” category, the foppish-then-ferocious Wesley Wyndham-Price would give many other characters in this list a run for their money. He started out his time on Buffy as the hopelessly out-of-touch replacement watcher for Faith Lehane. He was so ill-prepared to take on any actual creatures of the night that he lasted approximately two seconds in the Sunnydale High graduation battle. When he reemerged as a toughened “rogue demon hunter” on Angel, it was still pretty hard to take him seriously. Over time, though, he proved his mettle as an ally and foe, using his smarts to get Angel and his crew out of some incredibly dangerous situations. What’s more, he survived all manner of scary circumstances — including facing down Angelus. No, he was never going to become the most fearsome character in the Buffyverse — but he definitely did his best to prove his worth while he was around.
15. Allen Francis Doyle
The first bonafide non-human character on our list was sadly the shortest-lived main character in the Buffyverse. Allen Francis Doyle, known to his friends simply by his surname, looked human enough most of the time — but that was only when his half-Brachen demon side didn’t come out to play. He spent most of his adult life trying to hide his supernatural side, though — and it wasn’t until he was forced to confront it that he used his special abilities. His visions, not inherited from his demonness, but granted by The Powers That Be — ultimately led him right to Angel’s side. That doesn’t mean he ended up being much of a fighter in the short time he was on Angel, though. Doyle grappled with his less-than-human nature, and rejected any of the more demonic qualities he possessed. As a result, his empathic, telepathic qualities ended up being his biggest asset in the fight against evil.
14. Daniel “Oz” Osborne
Part-time werewolf, full-time mediocre musician. Willow’s first real boyfriend, Oz, was undeniably a sweetheart — even if he tended to keep his thoughts and feelings mostly to himself. When she discovered that he happened to turn a bit beastly during the full moon, it didn’t stop her from pursuing a relationship with him. Ultimately, though, Oz’s lycanthropic side proved to be an irreconcilable issue for the couple. While there’s no denying a werewolf is a powerful creature, Oz was perpetually terrified of hurting others when he transformed. He did everything he could to control and suppress his lycanthropic side rather than use it to his advantage. He even traveled all the way across the world just to find a way to avoid losing control when the moon got full (spoiler alert: it didn’t work). That makes him an incredibly decent human — but definitely not a very powerful creature at the end of the day.
Krevlornswath — a.k.a. Lorne — certainly had one of the most interesting mystical powers on Angel, and throughout the Buffyverse at large. Hailing from the Deathwok Clan of demons, he was able to read others’ auras and see into their futures whenever they sang. He was the host at a killer karaoke bar when Angel met him, desperate for a little guidance, and over time, Lorne turned out to be an essential ally to our favorite vampire-turned-PI. Lorne also had some other pretty snazzy demonic powers to boot; he had super-hearing, could create some wicked high frequencies to distract enemies, and was pretty hard to kill — even by dismemberment. He, like Doyle before him, was ultimately more of a lover than a fighter, though; he was always reticent to join the fray when it came to actually fighting other demons, which means we never got that much of a chance to see his true powerful potential.
12. Tara Maclay
Tara Maclay was a very powerful witch. Sometimes, we even got the opportunity to see her work her wiccan mojo. Throughout her tenure on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though, Tara was often more relegated to the role of Willow’s girlfriend or Dawn’s caretaker. Her introverted personality was in many ways what so many Buffy fans liked about her — but it also meant that she never really went out of her way to put her full powers on display. Yes, she did some awesome spells with Willow, including one that helped the Gang confirm that Faith had taken over Buffy’s body. In the end, she wasn’t willing to use magic if it meant harming others or interfering with the natural order of things. That principle not only insured that we would never really get a chance to see her reach her full powerful potential; it put her relationship with Willow on the rocks, and pushed her mostly into the background until her tragic end.
11. Charles Gunn
There’s something to be said for a Buffyverse character who was more awesome before he was imbued with special powers. That’s definitely the case for Charles Gunn, the young man who fended off the forces of darkness on the streets of L.A. long before Angel showed up in his flappy black coat. He was, in many ways, the strongest of any non-supernatural character on Angel; skilled in martial arts and combat, and incredibly smart, to the point that the evil lawyers of Wolfram and Hart recruited him. They rewarded him for changing his loyalty by making him what basically amounts to a superlawyer. While knowing the finer points of the law is potentially one of the lamest superpowers ever, there’s still no denying that Gunn was, until the final moments of Angel, a true warrior — one that both demons and mortals would have hesitated to cross.
10. Cordelia Chase
If Cordelia Chase had never evolved past the self-absorbed cheerleader we first met on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she would likely be hanging out with Dawn and Xander at the bottom of this list. But she truly transformed over the years, particularly when she made the leap to become Angel’s right-hand girl in his spinoff series. After Doyle passed on his visions to Cordy, she had the weight of L.A.’s downtrodden on her shoulders. Though she often struggled to overcome the side effects of her newfound powers, she was, in every sense of the word, a fighter. She took time to improve her fighting skills, and never hesitated to stand up for herself and what she wanted, despite the fact that her life took a sharp turn from what she originally imagined it would be. She was even able to get the Powers That Be to let her manifest out of her comatose body just so she could get Angel out of a funk — how’s that for powerful? This combination of supernatural ability and pure resilience might fly under the radar in the face of other, more powerful characters on this list — but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth noting.
9. Harmony Kendall
She’s the first vampire to make the list — but definitely won’t be the last. Harmony Kendall started out as a supporting character — and one of Cordelia’s best friends — on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After she was turned into a vampire during the Mayor’s graduation day ascension attempt, she stuck around Sunnydale, trying to be a menace to Buffy and her friends and to get Spike to be her boyfriend. She failed on both accounts, for the record. She turned up as a main character in the last season of Angel, where she continued her reign of mildly annoying and unintentionally humorous attempts to prove herself.
That’s not to say she was entirely benign. Though not always the sharpest stake in the weapons chest, Harmony did know how to use her best assets — her sex appeal– to her advantage, which proved to help her survive more than one tough situation. Besides despite the fact that Harmony rarely seemed to pose a genuine threat to anyone, she was, at the end of the day, an immortal, soulless demon with a serious lust for blood, which gives her a big leg up, power-wise, on many of her mortal Buffyverse counterparts.
On just about any list of annoying Buffyverse characters, Angel’s super-angsty son can usually be found hovering near the top. Despite his penchant for moodiness and murder, the dude was also a force to be reckoned with. Half-human, half-vampire, he was a dangerously powerful hybrid from the get-go — and growing up in a Hell dimension definitely didn’t help his disposition. When he returned to earth, he wore a necklace adorned with boney souvenirs from the demons he’d already killed. He was a skilled hunter, an even better fighter, and he had a whole lot of pent up anger toward his father and anyone who associated with him. With superhuman capabilities and a certified bloodlust, he had all the makings of a truly powerful entity. The only thing that really stopped Connor from becoming one of the most powerful characters in Buffy or Angel was the fact that he had his memory rewired so that he believed he’d grown up happy, rather than in Hell.
7. Faith Lehane
From the moment she entered the scene at the Hellmouth, Buffy fans knew that Faith was a different kind of slayer. Brash, impulsive and energetic, she brought a fire to fighting evil that was captivating. On a physical level, she was hard to beat — a tremendous fighter with a lust for the kill that her fellow slayer struggled to tap into. She and Buffy faced off multiple times throughout the series before finally becoming allies again in Season 7, and most of the time it was hard to say who came out on top.
Faith’s emotional demons were ultimately what made her less powerful than Buffy. She didn’t fit easily into the Scooby Gang, and was at times both paranoid and downright hostile to the idea of having any kind of friends or support. When left to her own devices, her regret over past mistakes overwhelmed her — and made her impulsivity dangerous not only to others, but to herself.
6. Anya Jenkins
For much of her time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Anya Jenkins was a mere mortal — but one with a seriously immortal background. At 1116 years old, she’d spent decades fulfilling the wishes of jilted women, regardless of how many lives were ruined or ended in the process. As a vengeance demon, she had the power to be truly terrifying. ACase in point: she massacred an entire fraternity and created an alternate dimension in which Xander and Willow were vampires that feasted on Cordelia and Buffy died at the hands of the Master. In her demon state, she was also able to teleport, and could rapidly heal herself, which made her incredibly difficult to kill — which Buffy learned after impaling her with a sword. In the end, Anya fought and died for the good guys — but showed on more than one occasion just how truly dangerous she could be.
5. Fred Burkle/Illyria
Winnifred “Fred” Burkle was really put through the ringer — like, really. When we first met the Angel main character, she was a slave in Pylea, an experience that left her emotionally scarred after her return to L.A. Despite her hardships, she adjusted to her newfound freedom and became an essential part of the Angel Investigations team, who relied on her keen intellect to help them solve cases. It wasn’t long, though, before her body was completely overtaken by the essence of Illyria. The sweet, brilliant Fred losing herself to the ancient, pure-breed demon was one of the most tragic stories within the entire Buffyverse — one that paved the way for one of its most powerful creatures. Illyria could open portals, cause mass destruction, obliterate her enemies and jump through time — all without exerting much effort at all. Her goddess status made her essentially unkillable as long as her powers were intact, making her an asset to Angel and his friends — who remained on her good side — and a threat to basically anyone else that dared cross them.
William the Bloody’s reputation preceded him — and he more than lived up to it during his years on both Buffy and Angel. Known throughout the world for taking down multiple slayers, Spike was undoubtedly one of the most powerful vampires Buffy ever encountered. That’s not just because he had a century of sucking blood under his belt, but because his unorthodox way of going about life as a creature of the night helped him survive scores of sticky situations. He was a fighter, but most importantly, he was a survivor — willing to go to just about any lengths to insure he’d live to be undead another day. The only thing that kept Spike from being truly unstoppable was the Initiative’s microchip in his brain, which prevented him from harming human beings. In many ways, that rendered Spike unable to do the most essential of vampire activities — feed. It didn’t stop him from kicking the crap out of his fellow demons whenever he was given the chance, though.
Say what you want about Angel’s moody behavior over the years — he definitely had his moments, and they weren’t always good. No Buffy fan can deny, though, that he was a formidable foe to just about everyone who crossed him — even when he was soul-having. As Angelus, he was truly a monster — arguably the worst villain that Buffy and her friends ever encountered, because he knew how to make the fight personal (just ask Giles). When he had his darker alter ego under control, he was still a constant threat to the unsavory creatures that roamed the streets of Sunnydale and Los Angeles. He survived Hell, where he was tortured, fought back multiple mini-apocalypses, and engaged in countless battles against monsters, demons, supernatural spirits and other vampires. He fought, and mostly conquered, his own mental demons, too — the ones that took him to task for the innocent lives he’d gleefully taken over the years before that gypsy tribe restored his soul. Ultimately, much of Angel’s strength came from the inherent power that comes with being a vampire. Still, you gotta give the guy some credit for fighting that uphill battle with himself and coming out on top.
2. Buffy Summers
At this point, it almost seems silly to list out the reasons why Buffy — the Slayer, the Chosen One, the scourge of Sunnydale’s demonic population — deserves her spot on this list. We’ll give it a go, anyway. With an almost unbeatable strength and a stake in her hand, she could single-handedly take on scores of vampires — including some of the oldest and most renowned, like The Master and Dracula himself. Buffy wasn’t just powerful because of her supernatural skills, though — she was smart enough to realize that strength came not just from herself, but from those she surrounded herself with. Relying on her friends and allies made Buffy far stronger than any other Slayer that came before her — and gave her the will to keep fighting the tough battles she faced. Buffy beat every major foe she faced — huge snakes, gods, her psycho ex-boyfriend and even the First Evil. As we saw when she was stripped of her powers, though, or far too weak to go on, it was her mental wherewithal — her unwillingness to give up — that made her virtually unstoppable.
1. Willow Rosenberg
Sure, Buffy saved the world a lot. Willow’s murderous tear through Sunnydale at the end of Season 6 was legitimately the closest a character ever got to actually ending the world, though. To say that Willow went through some incredible ups and downs over the years would be an understatement — after all, it’s hard to come back from flaying someone alive with a flick of your hand and raining chaos down upon your hometown. Even when she wasn’t falling down the rabbit hole of dark magic, Willow proved she could be incredibly reckless with the power she possessed. Bringing Buffy back to life was cool, yeah, but not really all that responsible at the end of the day. Eventually, our young Ms. Rosenberg found a way to harness her power and use it for the ultimate good. By tapping into a primal magic and activating all potential slayers, Willow proved herself to be the most powerful character in the Buffyverse by creating a legion of other powerful women around the world.
Which Buffy or Angel character do you think was the most powerful? Let us know in the comments!