This year sees the 20th anniversary of the highly successful cult classic TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. For seven seasons, the adventures of vampire slayer Buffy Summers and her demon-fighting friends captivated us and the show itself became a huge influence on popular culture as it redefined the fantasy genre and changed TV shows forever.
Over the course of the show, Buffy faced off against many bad guys and evil beings, each of them with their own unique brand of evil and master plan to destroy the world. Starting off with the “monster of the week” formula, Buffy The Vampire Slayer also cleverly entwined a much bigger season bad guy that would produce an ultimate showdown at the end of each season. Dubbed “The Big Bad” in Buffy-speak, these evil bad guys roamed the streets of Sunnydale, and the Hellmouth, with the thought of being the one to end Buffy Summers’ life. Some came closer than others – after all Buffy did die twice – but in the end, Buffy came out on top and held back the evil from Hell.
With so many bad guys to choose from, both “Big Bads” and the monster of the week, it’s hard to know exactly who was the most evil. So here is our list of our favorite baddies from Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
15. The Initiative
We start our list with probably one of the weakest “Big Bads” in Buffy and one of the weakest seasons. The end of season three saw Buffy and friends finally graduate high school, so when season four started, the show’s mantra “High School is Hell” had run its course. The Scooby Gang now find themselves in college and struggling to deal with growing up and leaving high school behind them.
As well as tackling the life of a teenager changing from childhood to adulthood, season four also tried to tackle science vs magic. With Buffy and co. drawing their powers and skills from the magic side of life, the government had an answer to deal with this, and that was The Initiative. Run by Professor Maggie Walsh, The Initiative were a government based group of super soldiers that hunted, tracked, and experimented on monsters. Often seen by fans as being a boring foe for Buffy to face, the only reason that The Initiative make our list is because of the chip they put in Spike’s head. The importance of that changed his character and set him up for future soul searching storylines.
14. The Trio
The Trio. Some people love them and others see them as a waste of time and screen space. It’s fair to say that season six was the season for Willow. Having her deal with addiction and her ever growing power was always going to be the ultimate big bad for season six. But what to do to fill up the rest of the season? Have three nerds, who have all read far too many comic books, try and be supervillains.
The idea of three normal humans trying to get the better of a powerful slayer like Buffy was a great idea, although maybe they let this idea over run a little! But the trio never really posed a threat to the Scooby gang and we never feared for Buffy’s safety. What The Trio did do is bring some much needed fun to season six. With Buffy fighting depression after being risen from the dead and Willow going down a dark path, season six often felt overly dark at some points, so The Trio did bring in so much needed fun and silliness to the show.
Along with The Initiative in season four, the main “Big Bad” was a Frankenstein-inspired monster called Adam. Being assembled from humans, demons, and metal, Adam was supposed to be The Initiative’s next age of Man and a new super solider for the new world. Adam quickly learned how to influence and control the world around him, even manipulating Buffy and friends into fighting each other, with the help of a certain platinum-haired vampire. Adam spent a lot of season six behind the scenes as The Initiative took the lead, which we have to say is a shame.
The Initiative, and in particular Riley and his love story with Buffy, became the main focus of season four but the character of Adam had a lot more depth and potential. Whether he’s killing people just to see how they work, giving Buffy a butt-kicking, or taking his vengeance out on The Initiative themselves, Adam should have been the main big bad of this season but unfortunately the writers of Buffy seemed to forget about him.
Season seven saw a lot of Big Bads rolling into town, all of them agents of the season’s main bad guy “The First.” Out of all these agents, one of the most dangerous and deadly was Turok-Han. Although Turok-Han didn’t exactly have the personality and banter that other bad guys have, in fact it couldn’t even speak, but what it did have was power, strength, a freaky appearance, and a single desire to kill.
Being the ancient and original source of the vampires, Turok-Han was brought back from Hell by The First and unleashed into Sunnydale to take out Buffy. Meeting Buffy several times, Turok-Han gave her one of the worst butt-kickings she ever had. Leaving her for dead, Turok-Han seemed too much for the slayer physically. Eventually Buffy would best the vampire, however, she would soon realize that there isn’t just one of these over-powered vampires but the Hellmouth is full of thousands of them and all of them ready to be unleashed on Earth.
11. The First
The conductor for all the evil in season seven is the entity known as The First. Being the sole source of all the evil in the world, The First is an incorporeal entity that can use and manipulate anyone to do its bidding. It can also choose to appear in the form of anyone that is dead. This in itself is a power that ripped the Scooby gang, and the potential slayers, apart.
First showing its ugly head way back in season three, in which The First tried to convince Angel to kill himself, which almost worked, The First has been an underlying threat for a lot of the show but by season seven it got tired of waiting and decided to take the world back and plunge it into Hell. Being able to taunt Buffy and company by wearing the body of their dead friends, as well as using Spike as a weapon to kill people, gave The First an edge that a lot of Buffy’s bad guys didn’t have. The First wasn’t just playing evil, it was evil and the world was going to feel its wrath.
10. The Gentlemen
Although The Gentlemen only appeared in one episode and were never a season Big Bad, but they became such a memorable group of monsters that they deserve a place on our list. In the incredible episode “Hush,” which still gives us nightmares, the town of Sunnydale is plunged into silence and The Gentlemen come out of the shadows to wreak their havoc.
Being praised by fans and critics as being one of the best, and scariest, stand alone episodes, “Hush” and The Gentlemen made a truly terrifying foe for Buffy and brought many people’s nightmares of being unable to scream when in trouble come to life. Incidentally the episode itself came from the fact that the infamous Buffy-speak was starting to find its place in our culture. Not one to just sit there and let the praise come in, Joss Whedon decided to get rid of his famous dialogue and made an episode with no words at all. Clever, witty, and scary and yet, The Gentlemen never said a word.
9. The Mayor
A lot of the villains in the Buffyverse share some similar traits; they have to be evil, have a witty banter fight with Buffy, and for some reason they have to tell someone their diabolic plans and schemes. The Mayor has all of these things in spades but he has something that none of the others have: he’s actually likeable as a person. The Mayor of Sunnydale is a simple, down to Earth, family-orientated kind of guy who always has a peppy outlook and a can-do attitude. The Mayor is just a joy to watch on screen.
Oh, and he is also a powerful sorcerer who made a deal with a demon in order to become immortal. Wanting to be a true Demon, The Mayor must perform certain tasks and sacrifices in order to “ascend” to the next level. The Mayor caused many problems for The Scooby gang but he always did it in an upbeat way and with a smile on his face. The other interesting quality that The Mayor had was his fatherly tendencies he had for looking after people, in particular, the bad vampire slayer Faith. The chemistry between them made season three one of the best and pushed The Mayor into one of the best Big Bads the show has had.
8. The Master
The first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a bit hit and miss. The entire season felt like one long pilot episode in which the show, the actors, and the writers were trying to figure out what exactly the show was and where it was going. With some pointless villains such as “The Anointed One,” which we have to say was one of the biggest disappointments and unused potential throughout the entire Buffyverse. Although having a child as a powerful and ancient being is a great idea, the show didn’t really utilize this concept.
However, what season one did give us was The Master, the first major Big Bad of the show and a great one to start off with. Although most of the season saw the ancient vampire trapped underneath Sunnydale, we still got some great moments and even some banter between the hero and the villain. Not only that but when The Master finally broke free from his prison, he did one thing that many other villains wished they could have done, and that’s kill Buffy. For that reason alone, The Master deserves a high place on the list.
7. Dark Willow
When Buffy The Vampire Slayer first started, its original concept saw Buffy as the hero, Xander as the wisecracking best friend, and Willow as the book smart nerd. Out of the main three characters of the show, Willow’s journey and story is by far the most interesting, and at times the most heartbreaking. Struggling with her place in the world, Willow has ventured from werewolf boyfriends to a powerful witch girlfriend and her biggest foe throughout the whole show has been magic.
First being a metaphor for drugs and her own sexuality, magic and Willow have caused some serious problems and damage within the Buffyverse. This all came to a head in season six when Willow’s addiction to powerful magic, and the death of her girlfriend Tara, consumed her and she became the Big Bad for the season. Skinning The Trio’s Warren alive as well as trying to destroy the entire world, Dark Willow was one bad ass witch and this was one Big Bad that Buffy couldn’t stop. Instead it was left to Xander to bring the witch back down to Earth.
The next entry on our list is a vampire that has caused much death, heartbreak, and terrifying moments within the Buffyverse. Being mainly seen on screen with her eternal love Spike, Drusilla came into Sunnydale in season two and very quickly planted herself deep within the show’s mythos and legacy. The charming, sensual, and completely insane Drusilla wrecked her own special brand of mayhem and torture on the residences of Sunnydale and even on her dear old Spike.
Being sired by Angelus, who was sired by Darla, who then went on to sire Spike, these four vampires became an almost Godfather-like family at the heart of both Buffy and Angel. Spanning centuries, the four vampires are responsible for much of the death in the world. Although Drusilla at times was overshadowed by the other three members of her vampire family, she still held her own. This was shown at the end of season two in which Drusilla killed vampire slayer Kendra with ease and then tortured Giles. This is one vampiress that no one wants to mess with.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer dealt with a lot of themes. The most prominent of all this issues is the idea of Karma and Yin and Yang. In other words, there is two sides to everything and every action has its consequences. The best example of this is Faith. After Buffy was killed by The Master in season one, a new slayer was called in the form of Kendra. However, once Drusilla finished her off quickly, the next slayer came to town, and that was Faith. A street smart kid who had suddenly been given super powers, Faith was the complete opposite of Buffy.
Using her abilities to do whatever she wanted, Faith tried to get Buffy on her side but when her lifestyle caught up with her and Faith killed a man. She soon realized that the good side wasn’t for her. Being jealous of the relationship Buffy and Giles had, Faith craved a father figure, which she found in the evil Mayor. The two of them wreaked havoc in season three with The Mayor as the brains and Faith as the muscle. Out of all the foes Buffy has faced, Faith was one of the more difficult and one that Buffy never truly stopped.
We must confess that we love Nathan Fillion. Whether he plays the main character in a show or just appears for a cameo, Fillion steals every scene he’s in and always gives a memorable performance. Because of this, his portrayal of the evil Caleb is one of the best baddies in the Buffyverse.
Season seven saw the gang up against the First Evil, and because of its lack of body, The First had to use lackeys to do its bidding and the best, and worst, of them all was Caleb. Already making his way up the evil ladder by being a serial killing former man of the cloth, Caleb’s blood lust got worse when The First granted him powers. Taking it upon himself to wipe out the potential slayer line, to which he killed many innocent girls, Caleb also more than held his own against Buffy and her friends. Taking her out in several hand to hand fights, Caleb also gave the rest of the Scooby gang a serious beating as well as blinding Xander in one eye. All of this evil and strength was mixed in with Caleb’s arrogant and preaching rants, which made the character addictive viewing.
Apart from the villains that integrated themselves into the Buffyverse, such as Angelus and Spike, Glory has to be the ultimate and best bad guy that Buffy has ever faced.
Season five saw a big shake up within the show and to the characters, most notably with the inclusion of Buffy’s sister Dawn. Actually being a magical entity that can open a door to another dimension, Dawn was put into the protection of Buffy. However, everyone’s memory had been changed and everyone thought that Buffy had always had a sister. The fact is that interdimensional goddess Glory wanted the key in order to go home, and also create Hell on Earth in the process. Once Buffy found out who and what Dawn really was, she swore to protect her no matter what the cost.
This included going up against Glory several times and each time, Buffy came off worse, so much so that Buffy couldn’t stop her and the only way for Buffy to win and protect her loved ones was to sacrifice herself. Glory became the second person to directly cause the death of Buffy which makes her one of the deadliest villains that have ever graced the Buffyverse.
Now we come into our top two of best baddies in Buffy. Out of everyone on our list it’s difficult to pick our very favorite but the fact is that without these two leading men, Buffy would be a very different, and worse, TV show. So our number two spot goes to the punky, English, platinum-haired vampire Spike. Probably having the best and most complicated character change that anyone in the Buffyverse has had, Spike would eventually go on to reclaim his soul and become a champion for good.
But before all of that, Spike was bad to the bone. Entering Sunnydale in season two with his eternal love Drusilla, Spike was purely there to kill the slayer. After all, he’s one of the few vampires in history to kill not one but two vampire slayers. Spike’s blood lust, snarly attitude, and fondness for chaos made season two one of the best seasons of Buffy and made Spike one of the most popular characters in both Buffy and its spin-off, Angel.
The number one spot has to go to the vampire with a soul himself, Angel. Angel, or more specifically his evil alter ego Angelus, may not have killed Buffy like others on our list but he was certainly the most devastating foe Buffy has ever faced. The vampire with a soul and the vampire slayer quickly became star crossed lovers within the show and when they finally got together, Buffy could never have imagined what would follow. Due to Angel’s curse, after spending a night with Buffy, he lost his soul and reverted back to Angelus.
Angelus didn’t just want to kill Buffy, he wanted to torture and punish her and all her friends for making him feel human. Teaming up with Spike and Drusilla in season two, Angelus set about destroying everything. Not content with opening a portal and sucking the world into hell, Angelus also gave the Scooby gang one of their most devastating moments when he killed Giles’ girlfriend Jenny. Everything that Angelus did broke Buffy a little more until everything came to a head and Buffy had no choice but to kill Angel in order to save the world.