HBO’s The Sopranos is one of the most popular television shows ever produced and its ecosystem of East coast wiseguys created a fictional world of betrayal and murder more epic than even sprawling fantasy sagas of empires and armies.
The show was always driven forward by its exploration of its distinct characters with the life of violent crime that they either inhabit or revolve around bringing out the best of the worst in them, resulting in characters that were entertainingly evil and painfully tragic to watch. Here are the characters that fans most loved to hate and hated to love.
Loved to Hate: Ralph Cifaretto
One of the most out and out villains to ever grace the show, Joe Pantoliano made Ralphie Cifaretto one of the most committedly detestable characters in the history of television.
His overconfidence and selfishness rivaled even the most unhinged members of Tony’s crew and his unwaveringly unrepentant attitude made him a precursor to other HBO slimeball icons like Game of Thrones‘ Joffrey Baratheon.
Hated to Love: Christopher Moltisanti
Where do you even start with Christopher? The unreliable ladder-climber is groomed with the hopes of one day taking Tony Soprano’s place at the head of the family but his problems with self-control lead to addiction and a fatal lack of dependability.
Tony clearly feels sympathy for Christopher, whose arguably even-greater psychological problems stem from an arguably even-greater level of self-awareness. But his awful treatment of Adriana and general lack of issue with killing ultimately leads the audience to side with Tony when he decides that Christopher just isn’t worth the hassle that he causes.
Loved to Hate: Phil Leotardo
The last great villain on The Sopranos but by no means its least. Phil Leotardo was an uncompromising force in the final acts of The Sopranos‘ story and an effectively blunt adversary to all of Tony’s charms and diplomacy.
Phil wasn’t just a bad guy but a guy who made sure to let you know how much he enjoyed whatever awful thing he was doing to you and his colorful insults made up so many of the show’s most quotable exchanges.
Hated to Love: Vito Spatafore
One of the more unique and complex of the character studies on the show, Vito is an awful person for the usual reasons but made vastly different due to his closeted homosexuality.
Vito eventually lets the facade slip in a way that he can’t cover for and the intense homophobia of his lifestyle causes him to flee. He’s one of the many characters that are given brief glimpses into a life beyond the one that they chose and it serves to only make his desperation as he heads towards an inevitable fate all the sadder.
Loved to Hate: Richie Aprile
Richie is one of the biggest thorns to ever get in the side of Tony Soprano throughout the show and his mercilessly violent behavior is only matched by his tact and skill in carving out his own authority.
Richie is fearless and old-fashioned in all the wrong ways but it’s what makes him such a great villain on the show and what also makes the blindsiding of his fatal mistake all the more satisfying.
Hated to Love: Salvatore Bonpensiero
Sal is one of the most trusted and integral parts of Tony’s original crew and it’s ultimately his undoing. Once he’s flipped into becoming an informer on a serious drug charge, Sal steadily deludes himself into thinking that he can turn his life around to the point where even his handler begins to feel sorry for him.
Sal is a beloved figure in the group and ultimately ends up left with nothing but a lonely, watery, grave when his own best friends discover his betrayal and confront him.
Loved to Hate: Corrado ‘Junior’ Soprano
Rarely caught without a wisecrack or a sarcastic putdown, Junior is the elderly uncle of Tony Soprano and one of his most consistently serious threats.
His willingness to stab even his own nephew in the back for more power makes him stand out in an already quite deplorable family but his humiliating comeuppances are never far behind his schemes.
Hated to Love: Tony “That Animal” Blundetto
The sad ballad of Tony B was one of the most memorably tragic story arcs of the entire series and created one of Tony S’s most complex rivalries.
Tony B is released from prison and only enters the series at the beginning of season five but makes no less of an impact than some of the show’s longest-running characters. His honest attempts at going straight, and quick slide back into an uncontrollable life of murder for hire, make him a tragically compelling dilemma for his indebted cousin, Tony Soprano.
Loved to Hate: Livia Soprano
Tony’s controlling mother is one of the series’ often-undersung masterminds who carves out a powerful position of influence in her violent world whilst appearing almost entirely detached from it.
Livia, who has little issue with having her own son killed, is deceptively intelligent and probably the most important character in the building of Tony’s personality even long after her death.
Hated to Love: Tony Soprano
Anthony Soprano stands as one of the most accomplished depictions of a violent psychopath in television history, with his relatable introspection being peppered with explosive character flaws that made him impossible not to watch.
Tony is capable of doing both very noble and very selfish things as a result of this, keeping the audience in suspense as to whether he can be redeemed and whether he even deserves it.