The Ten Biggest Alpha Males in TV History

I’m what people call a beta male. That does not mean I have non-existent genitals, and spend all my time crying. Rather, it just means I’m far too relaxed and non-confrontational to ever be a typical alpha male.

They’re cocky, brash, intense and domineering. Sometime they use their dominance for good, others for evil. I tried to go through and find who the biggest alpha males have been throughout TV history. I’m sure you’ll say I missed a few, but check out my list below for yourself.

10. Don Draper

Only at number ten? You  might imagine that the star of Mad Men would be higher up on the list. Last week he made a bunch of women swoon by fixing a leaky sink in his undershirt, but when you see who else is on this list, you’ll probably understand why he’s not higher. He’s charismatic and a born leader, but more often than not he uses his power to sell crap people don’t want and talk women out of their underwear while married.


9. Coach Taylor

I have the Friday Night Lights coach here as sort of a polar opposite from Draper. He’s also charismatic and a leader, but he uses his abilities for good instead. He orders around highschoolers, and finds what’s inside them to make them champions. Fortunately for his wife, he doesn’t use his charm to stray, and is perhaps the best husband in TV history.


8. Jack Donaghy

What list could be complete without Jack Donaghy? The doctor at the hospital reported him as coming out of the womb with perfectly combed hair, wearing a suit. On 30 Rock he balances out Liz Lemon’s insanity, and almost always knows what to do in any given situation. Only his rare moments of weakness keep him from inching higher up this list.


7. Raylan Givens

If I was most like any alpha on this list, it might be Raylan. He’s a lot more relaxed than most figures here (that’s what we have in common), but he’s always one to come out on top in a fight (when I get into a fight, I’ll let you know). Perhaps it’s just that he’s Southern, but even at a slower pace he dominates every situation he gets himself into.


6. Ari Gold

Again, another polar opposite. For as chill as Raylan may be, that’s how intense Ari is. Though I try to scrub the last few seasons of Entourage from my mind, as it was some of the most wretched TV I’ve ever seen, Ari remained a fantastic character right until the last episode where everything went completely to hell. He’s loud, abusive, but always, always gets what he wants in the end.


5. Mal Reynolds

Though I may have his pistol now, I doubt I’ll ever have that indescribable quality that makes Mal Reynolds such a great leader. He’s hot-headed, sure, but commands the respect of his crew. All of this comes with a pretty strict moral conscience as well. Well, a fairly strict one. Well, a variable one at least.


4. Al Swearengen

He smokes, drinks, fights and owns a whorehouse, how much more of a manly man can you possibly be? Swearengen was such a great character, he carried almost all of Deadwood entirely on his back. And of course, he has something all of these other entrants lack so far, a mustache, a must-have for any man’s man.


3. James T. Kirk

The sheer amount of badassery that is James T. Kirk cannot be measured by any list like this. He fights aliens, beds aliens and is home in time for dinner. Through dozens of Star Trek episodes and a few movies, he proved himself to be a great leader and a strong force for good. And a strong force for green alien chicks.


2. Jack Bauer

So who could possibly top Kirk? Why, the one and only world-savior himself, Jack Bauer. He’s saved cities from destruction, the earth from nuclear war, it’s hard to measure just how much he’s done with his fists and a gun. He’s not one for talking (“DAMNIT CHLOE!” being over half of his lines) but he’ll always get the job done by killing the bad guys in the most horrific ways imaginable.


1. Ron Swanson

And who, on earth could ever unseat Jack Bauer for the number one spot? The mustachioed legend, the devourer of bacon, the wizard of woodworking,  miracle of manliness that is Ron Swanson. Don’t believe me? Just watch:


Maybe I’ll write a beta male list now…


  • This list could’ve been easily a top 20+. Two I’d definitely add would be Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS and Eliot Spencer of Leverage (you could argue Nate is more the Alpha there, but I think Eliot is a beta by choice rather than nature)

  • Cheryl

    I would like to submit Tyrion Lannister to the list…

  • the_dude_abides

    wtf no tony soprano? Really ?

  • JZ89


  • JB

    Tony Soprano? Playing with his ducks in the pool? Pass

    Lionel Luthor maybe? or John Winchester?

  • JuanSolo

    Hmmm….So other than Star Trek, television has only existed about a decade.

  • MarkShek

    David Puddy!! (sort of, but not really)

  • the_dude_abides

    Tony Soprano was the boss of the family , killed with his bare hands , and banged tons of chicks. BEing the boss of the family he had to flat on a occasions assert his alpha male-ness. AS head of the mafia he was treated as an alpha male.

  • Suppes

    Walter White, man. The only reason he keeps making meth is because of his damn pride.

  • Sara C.

    Tyrion Lannister and Walter White are not alphas, sorry. They’re the best betas who ever existed. Pull the strings while remaining in the shadows. Betas rule, alphas drool.

  • Keitaro

    I would definitely add Alan Shore from Boston Legal. He can win almost any case and his way with ladies is legendary 🙂

  • Faiaz

    Umm… Mr. Burns!!!!! WTF

  • Ugo Strange

    I was expecting Tony to be on this list…I mean c’mon ! He made a guy who just got laid look like a bitch.

  • Bert

    Replace Ari Gold with Hank Moody and we’re talking. Nobody gives less fucks than Hank.

  • Sean

    J R Ewing. end of discussion.

  • I_Sell_Books

    There is no Fox Mulder on this list.

  • Charlie Ward

    I have no complaints whatsoever. This is possibly the most perfect list ever created. In every published dictionary from now on “Alpha Male” should appear with nothing but a picture of Ron Swanson next to it.

  • 420bobo

    Ron F*****G Swanson!!!
    GO RON!

  • Pharmakeus Ubik

    Jim Profit.

  • Korky

    I’d add some people from Oz and The Shield to this list.

  • Jibber

    No Walking Dead? Shane? Rick?

  • RichMahogany

    Arthur Fonzarelli would like to see you in his office. NOW.

  • Gerg

    Sterling Archer anyone?

  • Phil

    No Vic Mackey? He makes the world his bi*ch…

  • Dave

    Come on internet, do me a favor, watch something that existed before 2005 and isn’t science fiction.

    Sam Malone? Archie Bunker? JR Ewing? What about Ricky Ricardo? The way he used to cuss out Lucy with his latin charm. Marshall Dillon? How about the muthaf-ing Fonz?!?!?!?

    Such a disappointment…

  • Todd

    I can’t really say how accurate that list is as of that entire list I have only seen Star Trek and Firefly. The rest of those shows, from the descriptions given of the characters, sound like rubbish, so I don’t think I’ve missed anything.

  • Matt

    Three actors on this list were in the Deadwood pilot episode (1,4,7) — does that make it the manliest show?

  • Robert J

    Admiral William Adama – kicks Cylon butt, deposes a president in a coup, can still fly his Viper and makes a mean judge too.

  • Shelly

    I agree with some of your list and disagree with some of your list, but I’m mostly commenting to thank you for not making me click through a slideshow to see your list. Thank you.

  • godzilla’s_foil

    I’m not so sure about alphas and betas, but it looks like everybody forgot about Gregory House. You want to get things done your way, in the process diminishing every other male around? Call Dr. House.

  • Mel

    Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett. Robert Stack as Eliot Ness. Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo. Richard Dean Anderson as MACGYVER, for frak’s sake!

  • Jake E

    Ah, kids these days. If you’re talking alpha, talking macho, you gotta go with the westerns. And I’m sorry to say this, but the alpha male on TV has been dead since the 1980s. These new guys, they’re nice, but they’re not ready for the big chair.

    1. WITH A BULLET. Clint Eastwood, Rawhide. Rowdy f–kin’ Yates. The TV alpha male’s alpha male. Even had a macho theme song.

    Seriously, people, no one on this list even comes close to Clint.

    2. Ronald Reagan, yes, the Ronald Reagan, Wagon Train.

    3. Chuck Conners, Rifleman.

    4. Matt Dillon, Gunsmoke.

    5. Robert Conrad, Wild Wild West. Or Black Sheep. Take your pick.

    6. Vic Morrow, Combat!

    7. Telly Savalas, Kojak.

    8. Lorne Greene, Bonanza. Or Battlestar Galactica.

    9. Lloyd Bridges, Sea Hunt.

    10. For a softer alpha: Ed Asner as Lou Grant, pick the series; there were several. Or, for a more intellectual alpha, Patrick McGoohan, The Prisoner.

  • dlauthor

    Frank Pembleton. Homicide. God damn period.

  • Mike

    Arthur “the Fonz” Fonzarelli
    Col. Hogan
    Special Agent Elliot Ness
    Lt Joe Friday
    Lt Theo Kojak
    Marshal Matt Dillon

    Just some thoughts.

    Thanks for not making it a slide show.

  • Richard Cheese

    Mal Reynolds? Really? You ‘Firefly’ fanboys are too much. Alpha male…HAAAHahahahaha….

    Try again.

  • Ashley

    A lot of people are confusing what they think are great male characters with the definition of an Alpha Male. This list is pretty legit.

  • Carlito

    And Charlie Sheen? more alpha impossible…

  • Sean Connery…as 007. James Bond. No one is more alpha than that except John Wayne, in…well…everything.

  • Anthony

    If you don’t know these characters, you’re missing out.

    Col. Hogan
    Col. Potter
    Capt. Picard
    Archie Bunker
    George Jefferson
    Fred Sanford
    Ricky Ricardo
    B. J. Hunnicutt

  • Stretch

    Mike “always carry a .45 auto” Hammer!
    Joe Friday
    Matt Dillon

  • Jed

    Sheriff Lucas Buck.

  • Anon

    Al Bundy.

    He once scored 4 touchdowns in a single game.

  • Charlie

    OK, I’ll offer a character that no one would consider, but think about it-

    Frank Barone.

    OK, he is Raymond’s (the ultimate Beta) dad.

    After service in the Korean War, bald as an egg, and mouthy as an acre of snakes, he still kept a 6’7″ giant, a newspaper writer and (shudder) Doris Roberts in line for ten years. He probably SAW all the TV characters listed, and could still kick their respective asses.

    I’m a man of a certain age myself (they make movies about my war), and Frank tops them all.

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  • RicCeSo

    I just say……Dom Corleone

  • James

    Tony soprano?

  • Tom

    No Tony Soprano, shocking!

  • Morgan

    need to consider
    Maj. Richard D. Winters played by Damian Lewis on Band of Brothers…

    counts as tv (cable)
    Real Person… Real Alpha Man

  • Green123

    Where’s Vic Mackey? Tony Soprano? The Fonz? Ponch? Buck Rogers? Bo and/or Luke? Sheriff Andy Taylor(for its time)? Michael Knight?

  • Bryan

    Uh Magnum? Michael Weston (Burn Notice)?

  • Dennis

    Harvey specter? anyone?

  • Raven

    Barney Stinson, definitely, for me. 🙂