In seven seasons of fighting vampires, demons and the forces of darkness, Buffy the Vampire Slayer faced countless villains. Some of them only showed up once before our favorite Chosen One managed to do away with them. Others stuck around for a little bit longer. These “big bad” characters, the ones that followed major plot arcs, became an indelible part of series. Sometimes they even gained as many fans as Buffy’s not-quite-so-evil compatriots. With good reason, too — though there were a few clunkers along the way, many of the evil ilk that went toe-to-toe with Buffy were witty, sexy, and impressively powerful. In other words, they were totally awesome — even if they were trying to kill our heroine.
Given so many choices, it can be hard to suss out which Buffy baddies were a cut above the rest — and which can even be considered a major player. That didn’t stop us from trying, though. Here is Screen Rant’s Ranking of the Biggest Villains from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
17. The Anointed One
In theory, the idea of an insanely powerful vampire being stuck in the body of an innocent-looking child is super disturbing. Hey, it worked for Interview with the Vampire. It definitely didn’t, though, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Throughout Season 1 and the early part of Season 2, Collin, aka The Anointed One, was hyped as a serious force to be reckoned with. Drusilla waxed philosophical about his tremendous powers. Giles warned Buffy that he was way more dangerous than he looked. Yet despite all this, he ended up being a completely benign threat.
For all the talk of his sinister intentions for the Slayer, all it took to end him was a grumpy Spike, a bird cage, and a little bit of sunlight. Series creator Joss Whedon has admitted that logistical issues — i.e. casting a rapidly growing child in the role — prevented the Anointed One from becoming a truly threatening villain. Whatever the case, he remains the least effective or interesting villain that Buffy ever produced.
16. Mr. Trick
At the beginning of season 3, Mr. Trick was introduced as the next Buffy big bad. He had style, and he was innovative — at least, for one episode. After hosting SlayerFest ‘98, a monster-filled, multi-stage attack against Buffy and Faith, he mostly faded into the background, becoming a largely forgettable lackey to the season’s real main villain.
That didn’t last very long, either, as Faith staked him barely halfway through the season and took his place at the right hand of the Mayor. In the end, it all worked out; after all, the season’s other antagonists were far more interesting than Trick, who was never given all that much to do. He had his moments — his penchant for ducking out of perilous situations was admirable, and his bizarre but heartfelt musings on the merits of Marmaduke was somewhat memorable. But in the end, all Mr. Trick offered was a momentary diversion in a season full of unforgettable villains.
15. Professor Walsh and the Initiative
The fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer tried admirably to transition away from the “high school is Hell” motif that made the show a breakout cult hit. Unfortunately, it did so by introducing a main villain concept that was half baked at best. The Initiative was a covert government operation designed to track, capture and study the varying monsters lurking around Sunnydale. It was led by a stoic and strict Professor Maggie Walsh, who was secretly turning her undercover team of soldiers — including Buffy’s boyfriend Riley Finn — into superhuman fighters. She didn’t take too kindly to Buffy’s freestyle demon-fighting methods, but only had one embarrassingly failed attempt to kill her before she herself was toast.
After that, Buffy’s beef with the Government more or less faded into the background. The most exciting thing they did — besides getting themselves blown up in the season 4 penultimate episode — was put a chip in Spike’s brain that made him unable to hurt humans. If the series had invested more time in really making the Initiative and Walsh feel like a deeply embedded threat, they might have had a chance at making a Buffy v. The Man storyline intriguing. Instead, they were just plain boring, and generally generally way too “fall-in-line”-y to either mesh with or feel like a legitimate foil to Buffy.
Adam was Professor Smith’s baby, a pet demon project meant to usher in a new wave of unstoppable soldiers. Given his Frankenstein-esque origins and his ability to be perfectly in tune to the world around him, he was the more interesting of the two main villains in season 4. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much, and he ended up feeling more like a clumsily-assembled attempt to salvage the major story of season 4 than a legitimate villain.
Adam didn’t even show up until halfway through Buffy’s first year at UC Sunnydale; and when he did, he spent most of his time orchestrating mayhem in the background, rounding up demons to do his bidding. He quickly disposed of several Initiative henchmen, and left Buffy the worse for wear during their first encounter. So when Buffy and the gang used an ancient spell to combine their powers and take him down, it felt mostly anticlimactic and, honestly, like a little bit of a relief.
Okay, they kinda looked like rejects from a Lord of the Rings battle sequence. The Turok-Han, who first appeared in Buffy’s last season, were still pretty freaking creepy. They were incarnations of an ancient vampire race, brought back from extinction to wreak havoc on the Hellmouth. They possessed supernatural strength and incredibly pointy fangs, but not necessarily the intelligence of some of Buffy’s more modern foes.
The Turok-Han cropped up more than once as Season 7 progressed, acting as emissaries of the First Evil, but Buffy was usually able to fight them off — that is if there was only one of them around. Did we mention there were thousands of them living in the Hellmouth, just waiting for their chance to get above ground? Not exactly a group you’d want to mess with. Still, they were hardly a long-standing threat to the Buffster — and what’s worse, they offered up none of the wit and personality that many of the series’ other villains became so well known for.
12. The Trio
The idea of normal dudes being supervillains was fun to play around with — but, you know, maybe just for a couple of episodes. Definitely not for an entire season. None of Buffy’s Season 6 writers got that memo, though — and we were left with Warren Mears, Andrew Wells, and Jonathan Levinson, perhaps the lamest supervillain alliance ever assembled. What they lacked in evil genius and legitimate plans for Sunnydale dominance, they made up for in gross misogyny and easily wounded egos.
By season’s end, they’d barely managed to leave their mark on Buffy’s already incredibly dysfunctional life. The biggest villainous dent they made in the Buffyverse was accidentally killing poor Tara and unleashing the black-eyed, apocalypse-bringing version of Willow onto the world. In summary, the Trio were pretty crappy people (at least when they were a cohesive unit), and not much better at being bad guys.
If this list included Angel’s major villains, too, then Darla would most definitely rank higher. Her place in the first season of its sister series, though, was pretty uneventful — and exceedingly short-lived. She’s the first vampire Buffy fans saw on the series — and her ability to seduce her victims by playing up her girlish charms set the precedent for all future fanged enemies.
She played a dutiful role at the Master’s side, rounding up victims and trying to track down The Chosen One. She turned Xander and Willow’s friend Jesse into a vampire, thereby introducing Buffy’s BFFs to the dangers of living on a Hellmouth. As Angel’s sire, she certainly has a prestigious place in Buffy lore — and an obvious ability to get under his pale and incredibly cold skin. For a centuries-old creature of the night, though, she got taken out pretty quickly once she came up against Sunnydale High’s resident slayer.
10. The First Evil
The spooktacular name of this primeval entity — the major villain of Buffy’s seventh season — should be enough to stoke fear in just about anyone. All things concerned, however, the First Evil sounded way scarier on paper. As an incorporeal form, it took on many faces throughout its numerous appearances on the series. By transforming into Jenny Calendar, Jonathan, and even Buffy herself, it was able to manipulate and incapacitate its enemies by preying on their vulnerabilities. That’s pretty impressive — and caused some serious trouble for the Slayer and her friends, starting in Season 3. When it temporarily took the form of all of Buffy‘s other main villains as it was torturing Spike, it served as a spine-tingling reminder of all the other evil she had vanquished.
Its true face, however — a fiery, glowing horned beast-like creature — was pretty unremarkable, given how nightmarish it had been. For an ancient evil that predates even time itself, it kinda seems like it should have done more long-term damage. Plus, it seems like it should have been able to survive the Hellmouth’s destruction, right? Instead, it was defeated pretty handily, proving that even eternal evil has an expiration date in the Buffyverse.
9. The Master
The Master wasn’t just a vampire — at least, not to Buffy. Trapped beneath Sunnydale following a ritual gone awry, the oldest reigning vampire spent the entire first season trying to figure out a way to kill the Slayer and open the Hellmouth. He used his minions — Darla, Luke, and countless other vamps — to try to do his dirty work to no avail. We got a glimpse of his psychic powers when he finally managed to lure Buffy to his underground lair. Hey, he even managed to kill her by drinking her blood before dumping her in a pool of water. Too bad it only stuck for about five minutes.
The Master was the first major Buffy villain to seriously underestimate the power of the Slayer’s squad. Once Xander revived her, Buffy took down the Master in a matter of minutes — and she didn’t even ruin her prom dress in the process. Not all that impressive for a dude that had decades to plan a Hellmouth exit strategy.
She was seductive, sinister, and completely insane. These are the things we love about her, by the way. Drusilla was first introduced as Spike’s infirm lover early in Season 2. She’d been weakened by prolonged torture when they arrived in Sunnydale, so we had to wait quite a while to see her at her most ruthless. With uncanny psychic abilities on top of her bloodlust, she had the incredible potential to be one of Buffy’s most ruthless foes.
They never got a chance to duke it out, though. Instead, she took on Kendra — and took her out in a matter of moments, making her one of only three Buffy villains to kill a Slayer on screen. Most of her time, though, was spent rambling poetically about what her inner eye could see and expressing a depraved delight at the potential for carnage and mass destruction. In many ways, Drusilla was the series’ most underused villain — one who never quite showcased her true potential for evil.
7. Dark Willow
In just four episodes, the evil version of Willow became a more terrifying and viable villain than the Trio could have ever dreamed of becoming. The tragic circumstances that brought Buffy’s best friend to the brink of destruction, though, made for one of the series’ most traumatic moments. After struggling throughout Season 6 to rein in her rapidly expanding magical powers, Willow totally lost it when her girlfriend Tara died in her arms (who wouldn’t, though, honestly?).
Within seconds, she was in full scorched-earth mode, her trademark red hair painted as black as her eyes by the evil coursing through her. Dark Willow nearly killed Giles and flayed Warren alive before trying to annihilate the entire world with her powers. Her quickness to relapse was a resounding, if slightly heavy-handed, reflection on the power that addiction can have. The fact that she was so far gone, she could barely acknowledge the bond she shared with her friends was in some ways even more disturbing than her methods of working through grief.
The First Evil had a lot of groupies, and none of them were particularly pleasant. Caleb, though, took the cake, mostly because he was already pretty evil himself when he hitched his horse to their wagon in Season 7. A sadistic serial killer and former man of the cloth, he used his religious garb to trick women into trusting him before taking their lives. He joyfully hated the opposite sex, and took outright pleasure in murdering potential Slayers on their way to sanctuary in Sunnydale.
Though still human, he was able to handily defeat Buffy and her friends by becoming a thruway for the First and utilizing their superhuman strength. Plus, he was able to come back from the dead, thanks to said Evil infusion, making him particularly difficult to defeat. Before he was done with the Scoobies, he gouged Xander’s eye out, leaving one of the most permanent marks of any Buffy villain. All this, and he still had the stones to preach to the Slayer about sinning.
5. The Mayor
Many of Buffy’s major villains are memorable — but are any of them as likable as Richard Wilkins? Sunnydale’s mayor became a big player in Season 3 (quite possibly the show’s finest entry) as he began to plan for his Ascension. It took Buffy and her friends a while to figure out what that meant — which was that he’d turn into a giant, nigh-unkillable snake monster and feast on Sunnydale High’s entire graduating class.
While his big moment ended up being cut, the time we spent with the non-snake version of Mayor Wilkins was positively delightful. Despite his evil intentions, he had a real soft spot for his partners-in-crime. He found such authentic joy in planning for mass murder and killing anyone who stood in his way that it was hard not to smile with him. Plus, you have to give a guy credit when he can fit his mayoral duties right alongside “become immortal” on a to-do list. That’s a commitment to evil that no other Buffy villain could ever hope to aspire to.
Sultry, demanding, and with a terrifying amount of power, Glory was unlike any other big Buffy villain. A goddess banished from her hell dimension, she spent much of Season 5 desperately searching for her key back home. That key, as we know, was Buffy’s sister-but-not-really-her-sister Dawn — and Buffy fought Glorificus mightily in an attempt to protect her.
Her barely-tethered hold on basic decorum, her relentless and merciless pursuit of what she wanted, and her ability to kick ass in a pair of stilettos made her an unforgettable adversary. Ultimately, though, it was her unmatched strength and ability to draw life (and sanity) directly from any human brain she chose — including Tara’s — that truly set her apart. In seven seasons, she felt like the most consistently dangerous villain that Buffy ever fought. Maybe that’s just because her actions led to our heroine’s selfless death (for real, this time).
From the moment Faith Lehane set foot in Sunnydale, it was clear that she was completely different from Buffy. Her rough-and-tumble attitude and thirst for violence made her a vibrant part of the Scooby gang, but also served as a volatile presence. Throughout her time on Buffy, Faith struggled against her inner demons, growing increasingly jealous of her fellow slayer’s relationship with her friends, family and boyfriend.
Once she accidentally killed a human and realized that she’d face some serious consequences, she completely snapped. She worked tirelessly and sometimes gleefully to kill everyone in the Scooby Gang more than once. When that didn’t work, she tried to switch bodies with Buffy so she could once again evade justice. Faith was ultimately redeemed, and stood side by side with her against the First Evil. Despite her eventual redemption, her turn to the dark side hit Buffy too close to home — and as a result, she was nearly impossible to defeat.
Arch-nemesis, reluctant ally, lover, predator, friend. Spike played a lot of roles during his five years on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His murderous reputation preceded him — most notably, that he was single-handedly responsible for the death of two slayers. Though he was far less effective in villainy once he met Ms. Summers, he managed to serve as both a direct threat and a nuisance to her for more than two seasons. Though he eventually ended up as an unlikely ally, Spike was still responsible for some of the darkest moments in Buffy history — and that’s even after he lost the ability to hurt humans.
See, for Spike, love and pain were interchangeable. Once he realized he had it bad for the slayer, it was only inevitable that his obsessive affections would hurt her profoundly, both physically and mentally. Some fans forgave him for nearly raping Buffy, while others burned their Team Spike gear after he took his affections way too far. No matter where you are on the spectrum, there’s no question he was one of the longest-lasting and most complicated bad guys ever to show up in Sunnydale.
As a soul-having, penance-seeking vampire, Angel was a bit of a bore. When he returned to full-evil mode after having sex with Buffy in Season 2, he was an absolute monster. Though Angelus was only without the Gypsy curse that restored his soul for a handful of episodes, the effect his demonic actions had on Buffy and her friends was immeasurable. Angel turning evil was in many ways Buffy’s most surprising and heart-wrenching twist. He knew more about her than anyone — so Angelus knew how to hurt her better than any other villain she ever faced. Whether it was slowly terrorizing her by creeping into her room at night, stalking her mother, or murdering one of her friends, he relished in the slow-burn menace.
At her most vulnerable, Buffy struggled mightily to get herself ready to kill Angelus. When she was finally ready, it was in some ways already too late. While many of her other opponents tried to batter her spirit, Angelus was the only one who was able to break her heart.
Who do you think was the best Buffy villain? Let us know in the comments!