Happy Aang and Katara: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Ranking the Best ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Characters Wasn’t Easy, but We Did It

Ranking the best Avatar The Last Airbender characters is like ranking the best One Punch Man punches—they’re all so powerful! They all leave a mark! The characters are so enduring that they just keep casting new people to play them! With varying degrees of success.

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But who’s the very best of the best? The brightest rose of the bunch? Like that one scholar in Wong She Tong’s library, you’ll have to read on.

10. King Bumi

King Bumi in Avatar: The Last Airbender
(Nickelodeon)

King Bumi was the first-ever plot twist in Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Mad Genius was the perfect foil for a fresh-out-the-iceberg Avatar Aang. He had it all. He was the ruler of an iconic city. He had some serious Earth Kingdom royal drip. He had newly refurbished chambers that were once bad. And he had jokes. “Lettuce leaf?” Comedy gold. The surprise reveal that the old geezer was actually Aang’s long lost bestie Bumi was a heartwarming touch, and the King’s arduous trials to help Aang grow were proof that his love for the last airbender never waned. A homie until the end. Pair that with the moment he singlehandedly liberated his city from Fire Nation occupation and you’ve got character greatness on your hands.

9. Ko The Face Stealer

The centipede spirit Koh the Face Stealer in a cave from "Avatar: The Last Airbender"
(Nickelodeon)

Ko The Face Stealer is nightmare fuel, easily the most sinister character in the entire Avatar universe, and yes, I am including The Legend of Korra‘s Zaheer in my considerations. Ko The Face Stealer is perhaps the only being in history to singlehandedly drive an Avatar to utter despair. He stole the face of Avatar Kuruk’s lover, contributing to Kuruk’s precipitous mental decline and untimely death. The spirit is manipulative, malicious, and worst of all … patient. His encounter with Aang leads one to believe that he has been trying to steal the face of an Avatar for as long as the Avatar has existed, and he has no problem waiting until one finally slips up and shows the slightest facial expression in his presence. What expression? Fear and loathing.

8. Suki

Suki in battle dress fighting in a fire in "Avatar The Last Airbender"
(Nickelodeon)

Suki is one of the most influential female characters that we are introduced to in the world of Avatar. The leader of the Kyoshi warriors is disciplined, powerful, level-headed, and kind-hearted. One of her greatest early contributions to the story? Taking Sokka down a peg. After the Water Tribe warrior is thoroughly embarrassed in a sparring match with Suki, Sokka examines his own sexist prejudices, and his character begins to change. Pair that with her help in freeing the captives from the Fire Nation prison The Boiling Rock and her numerous contributions to the war effort, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the best side characters in the series on your hands.

7. Azula

Azula in the Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon
(Nickelodeon)

Azula is HER—the actual final antagonist of the series (sorry, Fire Lord Ozai) Princess Azula is perhaps the most terrifying force of evil in the series. It’s easy to categorize Azula sociopath. She’s manipulative and power hungry, and her only focus in the world is capturing the Avatar in order to have a shot at succeeding the Fire Lord. She has a shallow relationship with her “friends” Ty Lee and Mai and uses them for their Avatar-hunting abilities.

Her unfeeling personality is all a cover for her tragic character weakness: a bad case of mommy issues. Azula was continually rejected by her mother and praised by her father, leading her to feel worthless unless she proved that worth through personal achievement. Azula is a cautionary tale of what a lack of love from a caretaker will do to a person. The real villain her is her mom, Ursa.

6. Sokka

Sokka from the animated Avatar The Last Airbender
(Nickelodeon)

Sokka, the bomerang slinging, quip making, moon rizzing, haiku spitting, master planning Meat and Sarcasm Guy. Sokka starts the series as the butt of the joke and grows into the one of the most mature characters. The Water Tribe warrior is eager to prove himself as a man, as he was among the few boys left behind when his father and the rest of the Southern Water Tribe’s finest went to war. As a result, Sokka has a chip on his shoulder that is slowly but surely brushed off by the many women who humble him throughout his life. While it’s easy to praise him for his comedy chops and tactical genius, it’s his willingness to learn and grow from his personal shortcomings that truly make him a man worthy of the utmost respect.

5. Toph

Toph stands in a fighting stance in a dimly lit arena in Avatar: The Last Airbender
(Nickelodeon)

Toph. Beifong. What. Else. Do. I. Have. To. Say? The Blind Bandit. The First Metalbender. The Melon Lord. On the surface, she appears as a fragile rich girl, but beneath the surface, she has the will of the iron she bends. Toph is without a doubt the most powerful earth bender in history, and her influence upon the art cannot be overstated. Pair that with the fact that she’s fun, confident, and unafraid to follow her friends into the mud, and you’ve got a vital member of Team Avatar.

4. Katara

Katara waterbending in "Avatar The Last Airbender"
(Nickelodeon)

Katara is the lifeblood of Team Avatar. The glue that holds them all together. When spirits are down, she’s there. When the plan falls apart, she’s the person who has to pick the group up off the floor. Katara has never had it easy. She was forced to become her brother’s caretaker after the death of her mother. She had to overcome the gender prejudices of her people in order to gain recognition as the waterbending master. She held the life of the dying Avatar in her hands after the team’s disastrous defeat at Ba Sing Se. And do you hear her complaining? Not ever. Katara’s grit, determination, and generosity of spirt make her one of the most important members of Team Avatar, second only to the Avatar himself. She earns bonus points for defeating Fire Nation Princess Azula in one-on-one combat. Not even Avatar Aang was able to do that.

3. Aang

Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Episode 1
(Nickelodeon)

Oh Aang. Poor, sweet baby Aang. You went through so much, and you were so little. Aang’s been through it. He’s the sole surviving member of a genocide from a hundred years ago and, despite his young age, is the only person able to stop a war that threatens to tear the world apart. And all he wants to do is go penguin sledding! He’s TWELVE. HE SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THAT. Avatar Aang had to grow up fast, mastering the other three elements in under a year. And was that training easy? No—not just because mastering one element takes a lifetime for most, but because people kept trying to hunt and MURDER him the entire time he was doing it. Despite his tender age, Aang grows into perhaps one of the most important figures in history since Avatar Wan, the first avatar. He ends the war and unites the Four Nations, ushering in an age of peace and prosperity the likes of which the world has never seen.

2. Iroh

uncle iroh, one of the greatest characters of all time
(Nickelodeon)

Uncle Iroh is the grandfather we all wish we had. A man who starts the series as comic relief quickly blossoms into one of the most stalwart pillars of wisdom, justice, and serenity in Avatar. Iroh wasn’t always this way. He was once known as The Dragon of the West, the esteemed Fire Nation general that brought Ba Sing Se to its knees. After the death of his son Lu Ten, everything changed. Iroh began to question the war, question his nation, question what it means to be a force of positive change in the world. He dedicated his life to watching over his nephew Zuko, attempting to shape the banished prince into the wise and compassionate Fire Lord that the world needed. Iroh was always there to help, always there to lend a sympathetic ear. He’s living proof that people can change, that you can teach an old dog new tricks, and that inner peace is the only thing worth striving for—that and a good cup of jasmine tea.

1. Zuko

Zuko scowls in the desert in "Zuko Alone"
(Nickelodeon)

Prince Zuko easily has the most impressive character arc in all of Avatar: The Last Airbender. He starts off as a petulant, irritable young man and slowly but surely matures into a wise and generous force of good. Of all the characters in the series, Zuko’s growth is the most explosive. He forsakes the home that he once pined for, the honor that he once coveted, and the father that he once respected in order to bring peace to the world.

Zuko is proof that even the worst of us are redeemable. Even the most cruel are capable of kindness. Even the most broken are able to heal. Like his mortal enemy turned best friend Aang, Prince Zuko becomes one of the most influential figures in the history of the world. He and the Avatar create an era of peace, open mindedness, and prosperity that had never before been seen in the world. The Fire Lord and the Avatar laid the groundwork for democracy to exist, for every person’s life to be valued, for a better world than before.

(featured image: Nickelodeon)


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.