“House of Cards” is full of bad people, from the corrupt and power-hungry Underwoods, to their many lackeys and opponents. With so many shades of gray, we’ve waded into through the series to rank every single character mired in the show’s Washington D.C. swamp.
Yusuf Al Ahmadi (Farshad Farahat)
The terrorist leader of “House of Cards” ISIS analogue ICO doesn’t get much in the way of screen time. His big moment is refusing to play the Underwoods’ game, which results in the beheading of an innocent man — all in all, a pretty terrible dude.
Nathan Green (Jeremy Holm)
FBI Agent Nathan Green is Doug Stamper’s Doug Stamper, but with less of the interesting and horrific baggage and terrible relationships.
Elizabeth Hale (Ellen Burstyn)
Claire and her mother Elizabeth have a pretty terrible relationship. She’s pretty terrible to Claire pretty much all the time, until she dies of cancer. Then again, maybe she was right, since Claire uses her mom’s death for political gain.
Janine Skorsky (Constance Zimmer)
Skorsky is a rough reporter just like Barnes, admitting to using sex to get a story as often as dogged reporting. She comes off like a journalist for whom getting to the truth is everything, but when Zoe Barnes is killed, she cuts and runs. In fact, Skorsky winds up selling out Lucas Goodwin to save herself because she’s so scared of Frank Underwood and his goons. It’s hard to blame her for not wanting to get murdered, but she also bears a lot of responsibility for not stopping Underwood several seasons ago.
Edward Meechum (Nathan Darrow)
The Underwoods have a tendency to inspire intense loyalty in their underlings, and Meechum was one of the most loyal. The Secret Service agent might have even fallen in love with the Underwoods. Like a lot of people in “House of Cards,” though, Meechum was ultimately a bit more of a tool than a person.
Hannah Conway (Dominique McElligott)
Will Conway’s wife wants to be the First Lady, but like Conway, starts to bend under the pressure of all the political garbage. Like a lot of people in “House of Cards,” she’s just not equipped to go up against the Underwoods, but she’s at least a pretty good wife.
Donald Blythe (Reed Birney)
Frank has no respect for his eventual vice president, and despite trying to be a good person and a good politician, Blythe winds up as an Underwood collaborator. He’s spends a lot of the series pretty checked out, except for when he proves what a terrible president he’d be.
Gavin Orsay (Jimmi Simpson)
The shifty computer hacker enlisted by Lucas Goodwin did a pretty good job of extorting everyone for a while there. But he was mostly a tool of Doug Stamper and Frank Underwood, and got himself beat up for trying to game the bad guys.
Kate Baldwin (Kim Dickens)
A journalistic thorn in the administration’s side for a bit, Kate Baldwin never quite amounted to a serious check on the Underwoods. Despite her best efforts, though, she can’t stop Frank and Claire with the mere deployment of the truth.
General Brockhart (Colm Feore)
The Republican vice presidential candidate is actually a pretty good guy. He joins the ticket with the intent to do good in the Middle East and protect soldiers, but of course, the politicking ruins his plans. Unfortunately he’s pretty ineffectual against the Underwoods, on account of not being nearly evil enough.
Garrett Walker (Michel Gill)
Other than Peter Russo, nobody got gamed so completely as former President Walker. After slighting Frank and starting him on his ambitious path, he managed to not realize Frank was manipulating everyone everywhere to take over his presidency. He’s the ultimate example of playing checkers while his opponent was playing 4D chess.
Seth Grayson (Derek Cecil)
For a while, it seemed like Seth might be enough of a shark to handle being the Underwood administration’s press secretary. The longer time goes on, though, the more he’s looking like he’s in over his head and unsure how to get out. It seems lucky Seth hasn’t already gotten crushed under the boot heel of Doug Stamper.
Adam Galloway (Ben Daniels)
Claire managed to turn Galloway’s love for her into hatred when Remy and Raymond Tusk threatened to expose her affair with him. After some maneuvering, the Underwoods managed to shut him up, but for a bit Galloway was the good dude Claire could have been with.
LeAnn Harvey (Neve Campbell)
Like everyone in the Underwoods’ circle, LeAnn’s willing to be ruthless and break the law. If she’s ever feeling any remorse about rampantly breaking the law and probably ruining America, she doesn’t show it.
Christina Gallagher (Kristen Connolly)
Peter Russo’s assistant and girlfriend found him self-destructing under Frank’s influence. As one of the rare seemingly actually good people on “House of Cards,” she fights valiantly for Russo for as long as she can manage, but ultimately can’t help him get himself together.
Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey)
Garrett Walker’s chief of staff talked a big game for a while, but she ultimately had no idea what Frank was doing the entire time he was doing it. Frank at least has a lot of respect for Vasquez, even if he does completely defeat.
Cathy Durant (Jayne Atkinson)
Cathy helped Underwood at plenty of key moments in his bid to oust and replace Walker. It earned her the job of Secretary of State, making her a pretty intense collaborator. She occasionally has misgivings about the awful things the Underwoods are willing to do, but she mostly chooses to look the other way and pretend it’s not happening.
Viktor Petrov (Lars Mikkelsen)
The “House of Cards” version of Russian president Vladimir Putin is a lot like Frank Underwood, but more hilariously rude. The only thing better than being a hyper-intelligent Machiavellian mastermind is being an insulting one.
Will Conway (Joel Kinnaman)
The Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 election isn’t quite as slimy as Frank Underwood, but he’s no saint. Conway would steal an election if he could — and he tried, a bit — and Kinnaman plays him with a simmering rage that makes him seem like he could start beating his wife at any moment.
Rachel Posner (Rachel Brosnahan)
After getting stuck in the weird prisoner-slash-ward relationship with Doug Stamper, Rachel fought pretty hard to escape his grasp. She almost managed it, too, and her cracking of Doug’s skull was pretty powerful moment. But loose ends don’t escape the Underwoods, unfortunately.
Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus)
Good guy Lucas is like a knight trying to slay a dragon. He’s way out of his depth as he tries to go after Frank Underwood for Zoe Barnes’ death, and gets immediately squashed because of it. He gets closer than anyone to taking down Frank, but only with a suicidal assassination attempt.
Tom Hammerschmidt (Boris McGiver)
The journalist who grabbed up the mantle after Lucas Goodwin and Zoe Barnes were both killed took an awful long time to come around on believing in the corruption of the Underwoods, but he’s become the most dogged truth-seeker still operating in “House of Cards.” Hammerschmidt’s has to figure he’s in the crosshairs by now, but his unwillingness to give up on exposing the Underwoods’ actions to the light of day is making him the best hero the show has.
Zoe Barnes (Kata Mara)
Zoe is one of those TV journalists who’s got no ethics and does anything for a story — which makes for good TV but not actually for good journalism. Better journalistic ethics might have saved her from getting tossed in front of a train by Frank Underwood.
Peter Russo (Corey Stoll)
Nobody’s sadder in the world of “House of Cards” than Peter Russo. A politician who came to Washington to try to do some good, he can’t stop self-destructing — with Frank Underwood‘s assistance, of course. It’s a bummer what a schlub he was, considering how much he wants to be a good guy.
Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel)
For a bit, Heather Dunbar seemed like an actual good guy in the world of “House of Cards,” when she served as special prosecutor on the Walker case, and later as the Democratic candidate against Frank. But politics got the best of her, and when she turned away Lucas Goodwin when he begged her for help taking Frank because it didn’t look great politically, it wound up costing her campaign.
Freddy (Reg E. Cathey)
If Frank ever actually had a real friend, it might have been Freddy. Except Freddy didn’t think so, because as he made clear, Frank only knows how to use people. Though Frank’s battles with Remy wrecked Freddy’s chance at franchising his rib restaurant, he at least got to call the president a motherf—er.
Raymond Tusk (Gerald McRaney)
Billionaire Tusk was a formidable opponent for Underwood, at least for a while. His “general on the battlefield” air and easygoing nature makes him a fun bad guy to watch while he used his money and power to ruin people close to Frank.
Remy Danton (Mahershala Ali)
Remy’s always known what the deal is with Frank, and for a while there, he seemed like he could keep up. But between his affair with Jackie Sharp and his throwing in with Raymond Tusk, Remy eventually couldn’t keep up with the King of Corruption.
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey)
There’s a reason there are five seasons of “House of Cards.” For some reason, it’s a lot of fun to watch a shockingly evil guy shock us with his evil over and over. He’s pretty much a cartoon supervillain. What’s strange about Frank is that he wants the presidency really badly, but doesn’t really seem to want to do anything with it. He’s always politicking, but never actually accomplishing anything. You’d think endless ambition would get boring. It doesn’t, though.
Tom Yates (Paul Sparks)
Flawed, weird and fascinating, writer Tom Yates gets close to the Underwoods and then can’t seem to pull away from them. His disaffected air of willingness to see how spooky the Underwoods can be, and write about it, matches well with his attachment to Claire, making him one of the most complex non-Underwood characters on the show.
Doug Stamper (Michael Kelly)
Frank’s personal Darth Vader is unfailingly, ridiculously loyal. He’s also an awful intense creeper of a guy who keeps wrecking people with his personal relationships. Stamper is incredibly screwed up, which makes him a compelling, but cringe-worthy watch.
Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker)
Jackie’s struggle with the mess Frank continually pulled her into was one of the key engines that ran the early seasons of “House of Cards.” Her internal battle between ambition and corruption, and not being a completely terrible person, was an interesting counter to the Underwood machinations. Her eventual attempt to strike back at Underwood ultimately failed, but at least she got to give it a shot.
Claire Underwood (Robin Wright)
The only person proven to be Frank’s equal in cunning, ruthlessness and ambition is Claire. She beats him out in guile, though, because where Frank can’t help but gloat, Claire’s more stealthy in her means of destroying people and consolidating power. Probably before the end, she’s going to take down everyone in her way, including her husband.