The Sopranos successfully pulled off one of the most difficult tricks in storytelling – making despicable people enjoyable. Looking through an objective lens, most of the characters on The Sopranos are terrible people. They steal, murder, cheat, beat people up, and they often act in a horrifically selfish manner. But audiences root for them all the same, as they are highly entertaining and captivating characters.
Most of them. Some characters just never landed with the fandom, either because the story wanted viewers to hate them or just because of personal beliefs. These are the five most likable characters in The Sopranos, and five that fans can’t stand.
Likable: Tony Soprano
A show like this would never work without a captivating lead character. Instead of drawing fans in to the heated world of the mob, they would have been instantly turned off had Tony Soprano come across as unlikable or vicious.
Luckily, David Chase and his team painted Tony as a relatable, if not quite sympathetic, character. He seems human, warts and all. And if that means that he often goes to the edge of likability, then so be it.
Can’t Stand: Tony Soprano
Of course, fans also couldn’t stand Tony when he was at his worst. The Sopranos worked as a wonderful character study, and it wasn’t afraid to paint Tony as a horrible human being at times.
When the audience watched him provoke Janice, murder Christopher, or act racist, they despised him for it. The Sopranos is one of those rare shows that had audiences rooting against the hero, while at the same time forcing them to question their loyalty to him.
Likable: Paulie Walnuts
Real name Paulie Gualtieri, Paulie Walnuts remained a fan favorite throughout all six seasons of the show.
It’s easy to pinpoint just what made Paulie click with audiences. There’s Tony Sirico’s mesmerizing performance, which served as a true redemption story (Sirico had reportedly been arrested 28 times prior to The Sopranos and served time for extortion). But Paulie is also very funny, often providing the show with its greatest and most memorable one-liners.
Can’t Stand: Carmela Soprano
Carmela Soprano faced the same backlash as other characters that opposed the anti-hero protagonist, particularly Skyler White. Some people hated Carmela for standing in Tony’s way. Other people hated her for her selfish and hypocritical behavior.
But, although Carmela was quick to belittle Tony for his actions, she often gleefully participated in the rewards. She’s a complex character, and the show often makes a habit of pointing out her hypocrisy.
Likable: Christopher Moltisanti
Objectively, Christopher was one of the worst people in the show – mostly concerning his treatment of Adriana. He often belittled her, beat and abused her on a regular basis, and even sold her out to Tony when she admitted to working with the FBI.
But he was also rich and complex, embodying normal traits of resentment, jealousy, broken dreams, and general feelings of worthlessness. Christopher was one of the most unhappy characters, and it made him more sympathetic and likable than he perhaps deserved.
Can’t Stand: Ralph Cifaretto
The Sopranos contained many great villains, but perhaps the most despicable of them all was Ralph Cifaretto. Ralphie contained little, if any, redeeming or humanizing qualities, and he often caused consternation and trouble within the gang due to his actions.
He nearly started a war, treated everyone with disrespect, and even laughed after beating Tracee to death. The Sopranos and its tone changed forever upon the introduction of Ralphie.
Likable: Adriana La Cerva
If The Sopranos contained a tragic character, it was Adriana La Cerva. The Sopranos often depicted her as the most tragic and sympathetic character on the show.
Even though she willingly partook in mob business, she always seemed like an innocent outsider. Season four mostly concerns her mental deterioration as she is trapped between Christopher and the FBI, and “Long Term Parking” remains the show’s most iconic episode, owing to her horrific death.
Can’t Stand: Meadow Soprano
A.J. certainly had his fair share of detractors, but Meadow was almost universally disliked. Much of this stems from how she is written. She often acts entitled and vain, and the show makes a point of making fun of her try-hard, snobbish intellectualism.
She has a good heart, but she’s also painfully naive, often defending the mob and the people in it, despite desperately wanting to distance herself from it (and seeing its effects firsthand).
Likable: Little Carmine
Maybe Little Carmine isn’t the most likable character on the show, but he’s certainly one of the most entertaining. When it comes to the show’s funniest characters, it’s a toss-up between Carmine and Paulie.
Most of Carmine’s humor stems from his persistent use of malapropisms. Iconic lines from the show like “Very allegorical,” “The sacred and the propane,” and “We’re in a f***ing stagmire” come from Little Carmine.
Can’t Stand: Noah Tannenbaum
Despite being the subject of Tony’s blatant racism, Noah Tannenbaum is a universally despised character within the fandom. He served as Meadow’s first boyfriend at Columbia and was often laughed at by fans for acting tough, like when he threatened Tony.
He was also portrayed as a snobbish intellectual (like Meadow) who valued his grades above all else and blamed others when they dipped below satisfaction.