These Are The Best And Worst “Downton Abbey” Characters, Ranked

Some characters were great from the start, some took time to grow into their greatness, and some were…not great.

With Downton Abbey: A New Era In theaters, it seemed a good time to revisit the cast of the original show and reflect on their characters.

Nick Briggs / ©Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Ranking them wasn’t easy, as many of the characters were deeply complex and had redeeming character arcs, but we hope you find some you’ll agree with!

Nick Briggs / ©Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

17.

O’Brien

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Where some characters seem justified in their unjust actions, O’Brien’s cruel actions often came across as just that — cruel. It seemed that in all of her meddling, the thing she most sought out to gain was the pain she caused others.

The bright side? She makes a damn good villain.

16.

Mr. Carson

Joss Barratt / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

A conservative man and serious to a fault, Mr. Carson’s views may have been representative of the times, but that didn’t make them any less cruel. While many characters seemed to soften over time, Carson seemed to remain the same, or even grow meaner.

15th.

Robert

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

A rather polarizing character, Robert’s power and use of it made him a serious and sometimes cold person. But at the same time, he was rather progressive in his treatment of his staff and others of different class status in general. While his personal relationships with his own family had their flaws, he was kind and caring to those who worked for him, often going above and beyond to provide for them, and that’s an admirable trait that can’t go ignored.

14.

Mary

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Depending on your stance on the Crawley sisters in general, you may have loved or hated Mary. Her rocky relationship with Edith made her unlikable, but more so to the audience than her peers, which probably made her audience dislike her even more. She’s stern, maybe to a fault, and she certainly has a mean streak. But she’s also human, and she’s suffered her fair share of trauma, which informs her personality and actions. Despite all her drama, by the end of the series, you were probably rooting for her to find happiness and peace.

13.

Mrs. Patmore

Joss Barratt / ©PBS / Via Everett Collection

You could always count on the head of the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore, for a little shade worth a giggle or two. But you could also count on her to push those around her to be their best selves, namely Daisy. It wasn’t just the food that Mrs. Patmore made with love — love was the center of all she gave others, including advice, even if it came across as harsh at times.

12.

Tom Branson

Jaap Buitendijk / © Focus Features / Via Everett Collection

Tom Branson starts the series as a rather grating character: one with an air about him that makes it evident that he views himself as above most people. He doesn’t shy away from making this clear in his words and actions, either, which made a villain out of him for some people. But as Downton Abbey character arcs typically go, he does grow and learn from his mistakes. He calms down by the final season, having evolved into a wiser and older version of himself that is really quite likable.

11.

Daisy

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Daisy starts out quite immature, but by the end of the series, she’d learned a lot of important life lessons, including the skill of heeding good advice. It seemed as though Daisy didn’t always accept the wisdom that her elders tried to impart onto her, but whenever she allowed them to get through to her, she found herself happier and better off.

10.

Edith

Joss Barratt / ©PBS / Via Everett Collection

Edith starts the series as a most hated character — she feels neglected and acts out in response, causing problems for herself and her family. But as time went on, Edith grew and matured, becoming one of the most improved-upon characters in Downton Abbey. Everyone has their own opinions on her, but much like the entire cast of the show, she has a remarkable character arc and is a complex person with reasons behind her actions.

9.

Thomas Barrow

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Many of the characters on Downton Abbey are complex, and Thomas Barrow is no exception to that rule. He starts off as an angry, spiteful, and sometimes evil person, but it is safe to say that his own insecurity and loneliness inspired his uncouth behaviour. As the show progresses, so does the character of Barrow, who has perhaps the most inspired redemption arc, ending on a high note as a genuinely good guy.

8.

Cor

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Cora Crawley was many things: Kind, reasonable, and understanding come to mind. She led with love and care for those around her, rarely one to lose her temper even when it would have been justified. Her level-headed nature was necessary for her family, and she kept her good nature even in the wake of trauma. While she wasn’t always the most thoughtful mother to all of her children, she was there for them often, and her love for her family was clear.

7.

Mr. Bates

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

A kind and fair man, Mr. Bates has lived a quite eventful life, and despite the unfair hands he’s been dealt at times, he persists with a respectable work ethic and a kindness that others in his shoes might not possess. There must be something to admire about the man if he gets the lovely Anna to fall for him!

6.

Matthew

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

The defender of the downtrodden, Matthew was a good-hearted man who wasn’t afraid to support the people who needed it most, like his sister-in-law Edith, even when no one else wanted to take on that role. He was also not above changing his mind on certain things if it made those around him happier, which was perhaps his most affable trait.

5.

Mr. Molesley

Jaap Buitendijk / © Focus Features / Via Everett Collection

Mr. Molesley may not have been one of the show’s biggest characters, but his character made him memorable. His clumsiness was part of his ineffable charm! He maintains a positive spirit in light of difficult situations, and his demeanor makes him a pleasure to be around, or to just watch.

4.

Isobel

Ben Blackall / © Focus Features / Via Everett Collection

Honestly, Isobel’s frenemy-ship with Violet is the biggest reason to love her character. As far as sparring partners go, Isobel was the perfect match for Violet, and without their scenes together, Downton Abbey would have been a totally different show.

3.

Anna

Gary Moyes / ©Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Anna is one of those characters who was lovely from the start, and lovely to the very end. She had a bevy of admirable qualities, one of those being her loyalty, especially to Mary, who she clearly cared a lot for. Her relationship with Bates is so sweet, and a bright spot in the show.

2.

Hughes

Joss Barratt / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

Mrs. Carson, née Hughes, was perhaps the softest one among the elder cast. A kind and nurturing woman, she was fiercely protective of the young staff and understanding of their woes, always offering an ear for venting or some lighthearted advice. A voice of reason, she kept those around her centered as best as she could, and her efforts were appreciated.

1.

Violet

Nick Briggs / © Carnival Films for Masterpiece/PBS / Via Everett Collection

There’s a reason Violet is widely known as everyone’s favorite. The Dowager Countess was the epitome of class and the queen of sass all in one. She could give you the best advice you’ve ever heard, or shade you in such a polite way that you’d think it was a compliment. Either way, she truly had everyone’s best interests at heart.

Was your favorite fairly ranked? Let us know in the comments!