5. Rick Grimes
Often with fantasy/adventure shows, faithful viewers love everybody but the hero; the man or woman at the center of the story is too tortured or too square. But while former sheriff Rick Grimes has had plenty of stretches where he's been overwhelmed by his emotions or has made outright idiotic decisions, he's ultimately remained the compelling, charismatic character that he was when we first met him. He represents The Walking Dead's conflicted core, the conduit that writers use to explore both the hard choices a successful survivalist has to make and what it costs people when they become unfazed by death. The role has also turned British actor Andrew Lincoln into a stubbly sex symbol and provided the show with too many unforgettable moments to count. It may be more fun sometimes to hang out with the rest of the cast. But to grasp what the series is really about, it's necessary to understand what the head of the Grimes family is going through as the show moves from one test of will to the next.