The multi-award winning HBO television series The Sopranos was arguably the best television show ever produced, revolutionizing how shows were made in the future. If it wasn’t for this program, shows like Sons of Anarchy, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones would not have existed. In a world ruled by Seinfeld, ER and other shows similar to those, there had been nothing similar to The Sopranos up until its inception in 1999 (except for maybe HBO’s Oz).
The Sopranos wasn’t just a drama focused on a New Jersey crime family; it was comedic, extremely violent, and mocked a lot of the ideas and aspects of the Mafia.
The characters frequently in the limelight were Tony Soprano, and his crew made up of Silvio Dante, Paulie Gualtieri, and his nephew Christopher Moltisanti. Other main characters include Tony’s uncle Junior Soprano, and his psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi.
The cast was large and fruitful, so a lot of characters went unnoticed, but were somewhat underrated when it came to their place on the program.
Here are 10 underappreciated characters from David Chase’s mega-hit creation:
10 Furio Giunta (Federico Castellucio)
The feared enforcer had moments of comedic brilliance on the show, yet he didn’t play nice too often, either. He was integral in being the family’s muscle, and even showed up on Jean-Pierre Colbert’s door after he is tasked to reclaiming Tony’s $50,000 debt to Artie Bucco.
Furio will be remembered mostly for his infatuation with Carmela Soprano, and the feeling was mutual for the boss’ wife, too. Not only did they make excuses to see each other, but Furio also thought about killing Tony by pushing him into the helicopter blades when they were urinating next to each other after a party.
9 Bobby Baccalieri Jr. aka Bobby Bacala (Angelo Massagli)
Bobby Bacala may have been the butt end of many jokes on the show, but he was the kindest and softhearted mobster you’d ever see. He was responsible for Junior’s loansharking business, and in due time, he was a major character on the show and a top guy in the DiMeo crime family. After he lost his wife Karen, he engaged in a relationship with Tony’s sister Janice Soprano, who was an incredibly difficult and egotistical person to deal with.
He started to come into his own by the sixth season, and that’s when the notorious trip with Janice, Tony and Carmella took a turn for the worse, as he punched Tony for ridiculing Janice over a game of Monopoly and won the fight against his boss.
As a result, Bobby had to murder a young man in Canada, which was something he hoped to never do.
8 Vito Spatafore (Joseph R. Gannascoli)
With ties to the Aprile family, Vito may have been remembered mostly because of his homosexuality (or possible bisexuality) in a homophobic crime world, yet he also played a major role elsewhere in the show. He was the one who murdered Jackie Aprile Jr. after the youngster attacked Ralph Cifaretto’s card game. He also rose to Capo status after Ralph’s death.
Ultimately, Meadow Sopranos’ boyfriend at the time, Finn Detrolio, caught Vito performing oral sex on another man in a vehicle, which led to his demise when two Lupertazzi Family associates caught him in a gay bar.
His time in hiding was pretty hysterical, since he had to work a normal job and complained about the time passing by slowly. His death was quite sad, as Phil Leotardo and two assailants did the job and also stuck a pool cue in his rectum for the detectives to find.
7 Adriana La Cerva (Drea de Matteo)
Christopher was the envy of all men contained in the male demographic between ages 13 to 49, because his girlfriend was one of the most desirable women on television in the late nineties. Adriana had the dolled up looks, the lingo, and the attitude necessary to make her a mobster’s bride-to-be, and the creators built her character wisely since she was the niece of brothers Jackie and Richie Aprile. She came from a Mafia family.
She was put in an unfortunate scenario when the FBI targeted her, tricking her into befriending Deborah Ciccerone, which would later prove to be her demise. They tried to threaten her with cocaine distribution at the nightclub she managed, and then eventually told her she would be an accessory to a murder that took place in her Crazy Horse nightclub.
Observers ended up feeling remorseful for Adriana, since she showed the utmost loyalty to the family until the government pinpointed her. Her death is one of the show’s most difficult to watch, and even the camera focused solely on Silvio when he executed her in the forest.
6 Artie Bucco (John Ventimiglia)
The often-foolish restaurant owner got himself into a boatload of unfortunate incidents, including loans, arguments, and fights he couldn’t live up to on his end. His childhood ties to Tony kept him afloat for so long, yet he was too interested in the family’s business for his own good. It was hard to feel bad for Artie, even though he showed himself to be a kind human being. He never learned from his mistakes, and it led to his divorce in season five.
Perhaps the most hilarious moment of Artie’s tenure on the show is when he hypes himself up in front of the mirror to go collect his money from Jean-Pierre, only to get beaten up by the Frenchman when he tried to size him up.
5 Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore)
“Big Pussy” was incredibly mean and volatile during his short span on the show. Nevertheless, he was still a lovable character for the spectators. His name derives from his early days as a cat burglar. You could say he was a respected member of the big four, which included Tony, Silvio and Paulie. He was a main character in the first two seasons, along with Christopher as well, but his high ranking separated him and his peers.
He didn’t last long, though, forced to wear a wire by the FBI at A.J. Sopranos’ confirmation, which was Tony’s youngest child. Sobbing in the washroom after speaking with A.J. hinted at his eventual demise.
The well-respected and entertaining gangster was shot and killed by his three closest confidents after being tricked into checking out a new boat, which resulted in his memory haunting the three of them as the program progressed.
4 Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni (Vincent Curatola)
There wasn’t a character more elusive or earnest as the somber Johnny Sack. His outbursts were sudden and often amusing, while he tried to maintain composure during serious matters. He became furious when affiliates such as Ralphie made fun of his obese wife Ginny’s weight.
He had conned Paulie into giving him information about the Soprano family in jail, and maintained a heated relationship with Tony. As much as they got along and called themselves friends, they were also at each other’s throats when the time came for dominance.
It was hard to watch Sack’s downfall. Not only was he led out of his daughter Allegra’s wedding after a six-hour maximum of free time, he died slowly as a result of cancer. The heartbreaking scenes of him in the hospital smoking in front of his family made you cringe for a man who was so unmerciful when he wanted to be.
3 Phil Leotardo (Frank Vincent)
Frank Vincent was in a handful of mobster movies, including Goodfellas, Casino, Wise Guys and This Thing of Ours, and thankfully for his fans, he continued his vicious streak on The Sopranos as Phil Leotardo. He also was the voice of Salvatore Leone in Grand Theft Auto III. The ruthless villain made it easy for you to despise him, being involved in multiple murders on the show. His most famous killing was when he watched Vito being beaten into a bloody pulp.
Phil was always at odds with Tony, and watching the lack of progress in their relationship hinted at the worst of outcomes. In the end, Phil was able to dispose of Bobby Bacala, and sent Silvio into a coma. Unluckily for him, a soldier associated with the DiMeo family murdered him, and viewers witnessed his head being crushed by a car as a result in the series finale.
Quite a gruesome death for a gruesome character.
2 Ralph Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano)
“Ralphie” was an incredible heel, simply put.
He was incredibly successful when it came to money and earnings, but the Capo simply couldn’t control his anger, which led to outbursts and violence. He also became infatuated with Ridley Scott's masterpiece, Gladiator.
He was incredibly rude as well, which infuriated Tony. The two didn’t get along, mainly for leadership reasons, and some viewers rejoiced when Tony killed Ralph with his bear hands in his own home.
The only time Ralph truly hits the heart of his onlookers was when his son Justin was dying in the hospital, in a comatose state. Other than that, his most brutal work was done on Tracee, a young stripper working at Bada Bing he accidentally impregnated. Ralph brutally stomped on the young girl outside of the VIP lounge, leaving her for dead.
1 Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco)
Carmela isn’t exactly underrated, since she’s a primary character who has a huge role in the show. She takes up a significant amount of time in almost every episode, playing her part in major story lines, as well.
How Edie Falco transformed herself into the stereotypical Italian-American wife was superbly done, not to mention a mobster’s wife in general. She was perfect in her role; the way she spoke, her insecurities, and how she pulled the viewers’ strings by using so many different emotions. She was the most prominent female character on the show (alongside Dr. Melfi), and her outbursts against her husband were incredibly memorable and fun to watch. She actually brought the best out in James Gandolfini while they worked together.
Her defining moment was in season six in an episode titled, “Join The Club,” where she brings forth a masterful performance while trying to talk to her husband while he’s in a coma. The acting was magnificent, and there’s no wondering why Falco won three Emmy awards for her work on the show.