It has been almost 15 years since “Breaking Bad” first aired in 2008 and the show has had an enormous impact on popular culture since its debut, spinning off into another show and Netflix original film. In the expanded “Breaking Bad” universe, there have been an abundance of great and memorable characters that have made a lasting impression on fans.
Honorable Mentions: Ed “the Disappearer” Galbriath, Tuco Salamanca and Lalo Salamanca
10. Hector Salamanca
Rounding out the top 10 is Hector Salamanca, who appears in both “Breaking Bad” and its prequel ,“Better Call Saul.” Salamanca plays a crucial role in both shows, as his fall from grace — from cartel crime lord to becoming a crippled and speechless old man in a nursing home — can be traced throughout both shows. Salamanca is probably best known for his dramatic and expressive eye movements, as actor Mark Margolis had to rely primarily on facial movements rather than speech to portray the emotions of the character at any given moment.
9. Nacho Varga
Ignacio “Nacho” Varga may not appear in “Breaking Bad” at all, but his 59 credited episodes in “Better Call Saul” more than make up for it. Varga is such a complex character because the audience can see his humanity and empathy, but he still is entangled with the cartel despite his best efforts to get out of the game. Varga’s attempt to escape the crime world he unknowingly got himself into is one of the most compelling story arcs in the whole “Breaking Bad” universe.
8. Kimberly Wexler
Another “Better Call Saul” exclusive character is Kimberly Wexler, the love interest and eventual wife of Saul Goodman. Wexler has an opposite arc to Varga, as she starts as a clean-cut lawyer but slowly becomes corrupted through scams performed with Goodman. Rhea Seehorn’s performance as Wexler perfectly encapsulates the inner sweetness that Goodman falls in love with as well the outer toughness that helps her succeed as a lawyer.
7. Charles “Chuck” McGill
Goodman’s older brother, Charles McGill, is a character that fans of “Better Call Saul” love to hate. Portrayed by industry legend Michael McKean, McGill’s efforts to undermine his brother becoming a lawyer are equal parts evil and heartbreaking. The juxtaposition between the relationship of the two brothers in their first episode and last is incredibly poignant — to hear McGill tell Goodman that “[he] never mattered all that much to [him]” is sure to break the heart of any viewer.
6. Hank Schrader
Both a DEA agent and the brother-in-law of Walter White, Hank Schrader is the cop to White’s criminal in the tradition of classic crime stories. Although he is a law enforcement officer, his actions are often questionable, both personally and professionally. However, Dean Norris’ charm while portraying the character made him a beloved character with the fanbase. Schrader’s ending is horrific yet heroic — dying at the hands of the men hired by White despite White begging them to spare Schrader’s life.
5. Gustavo “Gus” Fring
On the surface, Gustavo Fring is just a simple man who owns a fast-food restaurant chain called Los Pollos Hermanos, but under the surface hides a frightening villain. Fring runs the cartel’s meth distribution empire, using his Los Pollos Hermanos trucks to transport product without raising suspicion. Fans get to watch the rise of his empire in “Better Call Saul” and its inevitable fall in “Breaking Bad.” Fring is the best pure villain in the universe because he is able to hide in society and seem like a normal, law-abiding citizen.
4. Jesse Pinkman
Walter White’s sidekick and former student, Jesse Pinkman, is one of the purest and most lovable characters in either show. Pinkman might be accustomed to the brutal meth underworld, but his yearning to get out and live an honorable life makes him the opposite of White, who starts as a clean-cut teacher who desires to get his hands dirty. The dichotomy between the two characters makes their relationship interesting, and the way that White emotionally abuses and manipulates Pinkman is agonizing to watch in the best way. Additionally, Pinkman is one of only a few characters to appear in “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul” and “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.”
3. Michael “Mike” Ehrmantraut
Like Pinkman, Fring’s right-hand man Michael Ehrmantraut also appears in all three main pieces of “Breaking Bad” media. Ehrmantraut, played by Jonathan Banks, is the tough-yet-lovable grandfather figure of both shows. Banks imbues Ehrmantraut with so much personality and spunk that he is made into a fan-favorite character. His take-no-shit attitude and complete competency are refreshing in a world of wishy-washy and indecisive characters like Pinkman and White.
2. Saul Goodman
Introduced in the second season of “Breaking Bad” and then getting his own spinoff show “Better Call Saul,” Bob Odenkirk’s performance as Saul Goodman is one of the most iconic in television history. Goodman provides a burst of hilarious energy in “Breaking Bad” as White’s lawyer. Yet, in his own show, Goodman is a tragic hero whose inability to control his impulses leads to his downfall. Somehow, “Better Call Saul” turned this comic relief character into a compelling protagonist, and his tragic fall from a good-natured public defender to a scummy criminal lawyer is beautifully haunting to watch.
1. Walter White
Love him or hate him, White is undeniably the heart and center of the “Breaking Bad” universe. From standing in the New Mexico desert in his underwear to standing in front of a massive pile of cash, the imagery of White is cemented in popular culture. His transformation from a mild-mannered chemistry teacher to a drug kingpin is one of the most famous in television history, and for good reason. Bryan Cranston gives a breathtaking performance as White, and his ability to slowly and believably change the mannerisms and behavior of White over time makes the character the best in the whole series.