Top 10 best Yellowstone characters

Jakob Barnes
John and Beth Dutton in Yellowstone

Despite their villainous ways, we can’t help but root for many of the Yellowstone characters. From the Duttons themselves to their numerous enemies, here’s our top 10 Yellowstone characters, ranked.

Ever since Yellowstone first aired in 2018, the cowboy mind virus has well and truly gripped America and the TV series is now the most popular show on the small screen. A large part of that success is down to the fascinating characters Taylor Sheridan has created.

There’s far more to Yellowstone than rodeos and ranch duty, and this fictionalized version of Montana is inhabited by proud Native Americans, predatory businessmen, and environmental protestors.

Below are the 10 best Yellowstone characters. This ranking could be down to a character’s undeniable charm, their ability to stir up drama, or simply due to the fact they’re an absolute badass. So, saddle up, it’s time to get ranking.

10. Summer Higgins

Summer Higgins in Yellowstone

If this was a popularity contest, Summer Higgins would be closer to the back of the line, but there’s no denying her impact on the show since her arrival in Season 4. Her involvement in environmental activism may be the antithesis of John Dutton’s ideologies at first, but she soon ends up falling for the king of Yellowstone.

This relationship on its own is nothing special, but how it riles Beth Dutton up is absolutely hilarious. Beth schemes to get Summer sent to jail, but even that doesn’t stop her from shacking up with Daddy Dutton. Eventually, it turns out Beth and Summer just needed a good, old-fashioned fistfight to find their common ground – an altercation Taylor Sheridan devotes a full 10 minutes of screen time to.

9. Jimmy Hurdstrom

Jimmy Hurdstrom in Yellowstone

Of all the characters in Yellowstone, Jimmy arguably evolves the most over time, going from a simple crook to a bona fide cowboy. He earns the respect of his fellow ranch hands – and even John Dutton himself – for his tireless commitment to becoming a better man, and it’s the kind of character development that you just can’t help but find endearing. Jimmy isn’t perfect. He makes plenty of mistakes along the way (like returning to the rodeo after injuring himself), but it’s this that helps him grow so organically throughout the show.

Jimmy will play a central role in the Yellowstone 6666 spinoff, where we will likely learn more about his time at the Texan ranch. It’s there that Jimmy truly throws himself into the cowboy lifestyle, becoming an expert with the lasso, and with the ladies, too. Bonus points to Jimmy for returning to the Yellowstone ranch with his new wife in tow, completely oblivious to the fact that his ex-girlfriend is there waiting for him. Let’s just say she’s ready to throw hands!

8. Mo

Mo in Yellowstone

In this world of rather selfish, nasty, and violent men, it’s refreshing to have at least one guy who is just a genuinely nice dude. Mo is the right-hand man of Thomas Rainwater, the chief of the Broken Rock Reservation, and he’s proven on occasion that he knows how to handle himself, but only when he absolutely has to.

To say he’s a ruthless bodyguard, Mo is actually one of the wisest and most calm characters in Yellowstone, and it’s easy to see why Rainwater trusts him with his life. Mo is the kind of person we’d love to be friends with, and absolutely hate to get on the wrong side of.

7. Travis Wheatley

Taylor Sheridan as Travis Wheatley

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that Taylor Sheridan will always cast himself as the coolest character in any of his TV shows (shoutout to Charles Goodnight in 1883). That trend started as early as Season 1 of Yellowstone when Sheridan popped up as Travis Wheatley, a no-nonsense rodeo king from Texas who just happens to be good friends with John Dutton.

Put simply: if you’re a fan of foul-mouthed bravado, you’ll love Travis. Still, while he may not be the nicest cowboy around, Travis is damn good at what he does, and he does eventually soften up ever so slightly after taking Jimmy under his wing.

6. Dan Jenkins

Dan Jenkins in Yellowstone

Yellowstone has struggled to produce a convincing villain for a while now, and the show arguably peaked in that respect with Dan Jenkins in Season 1. He was just the right level of sleazy, sneaky, and sniveling; the kind of guy that makes your skin crawl, but in such a pathetic way that you almost pity him.

To be fair, the guy just wanted to build a nice golf course and hotel, but he learned the hard way that people in Montana don’t like change. Over his two seasons in the show, Jenkins was hanged from a tree, punched (a lot), and ended up on the receiving end of a bullet to the head, so at least his time in Yellowstone was eventful. 

5. Kayce Dutton

Kayce Dutton

It says a lot about the Dutton family that Kayce – a man whose kill count is through the roof – has the strongest moral compass of them all. While he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, Kayce is solely driven by an intense desire to protect the people he loves, and there’s something very admirable about that.

The only problem is Kayce constantly finds himself torn between his loyalties to his father, and his wife and son. When serving the interests of the ranch Kayce is a cold-blooded killer, operating as little more than a gun-for-hire, but when he puts Monica and Tate first, we see a more compassionate side to Kayce which makes him intensely likable.

4. Lloyd Pierce

Lloyd Pierce

If Lloyd strikes you as a very convincing ranch hand, that’s because Forrie J. Smith, the actor who plays him, is a real-life cowboy. Smith not only brings experience and authenticity to the role, but also a wonderful spirit, with Lloyd hiding a heart of gold deep down beneath his prickly exterior.

You can never accuse Lloyd of being anything but loyal to the cause, and his relationship with Rip is a fine example of this. Lloyd takes on a fatherly role to Rip when he first arrives at the ranch, and sticks by him through thick and thin. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Lloyd, Rip wouldn’t be half the man he is today. Lloyd’s finest moment, however, comes in Season 4, when he ends his long-standing feud with Walker and buys him a new guitar, proving he can put his pride and anger aside and learn from his mistakes. 

3. Beth Dutton

Beth Dutton in Yellowstone

Yellowstone may be a man’s world, but even the strongest and smartest men in Montana are no match for Beth Dutton. She is the ultimate badass and a truly unstoppable force, but she manages to toe the line of the ‘powerful woman’ cliché perfectly, which is a testament to Kelly Reilly’s performance. Even though Beth can appear larger than life at times, Reilly imbues her character with all the charisma, passion, and ferocity needed to make her feel frighteningly real.

Beth has previously compared herself to a tornado, and a cockroach, and she’s not wrong on either of those fronts. She is more than capable of destroying anything in her path and – having seen her walk away from multiple deadly situations – we’re pretty sure she is immortal, too.

2. John Dutton

Kevin Costner as John Dutton in Yellowstone

Kevin Costner is the undisputed king of the Yellowstone cast, and for five seasons, the legendary actor has been the glue holding the whole thing together. Sadly, due to disagreements between Costner and Sheridan, we’re not even sure the former will be involved in the final episodes of this incredible TV series, which would be a real shame.

John Dutton isn’t a complex character: he loves his family, he enjoys herding cattle, and he doesn’t want anything to change. But, what John lacks in nuance, he makes up for in dry humor and a bullish approach to life. The best part about John, though, is that every so often he is capable of producing a pearl of wisdom so profound it can shake you to your core.

1. Rip Wheeler

Rip Wheeler in Yellowstone

He started off as a man full of hate and bitterness, but by Season 5 Rip Wheeler has softened into a loving husband, a firm but fair father figure, and a pragmatic leader around the ranch. A lot of that is down to the effect Beth has on him, but Rip genuinely does evolve into a character who learns to recognize what is valuable in life, and someone who understands when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

Rip started as an orphan with literally no hope in the world, but being a part of something at the Dutton Ranch gave him purpose, and more importantly, a family. There’s nothing we love more than a good underdog story, and Rip’s rise to the top in Yellowstone is right up there as one of the most satisfying and heartwarming of them all… excusing the odd murder here and there, that is.

You can also check out our other Yellowstone coverage below:

Shows if you love Yellowstone | Why Kevin Costner’s leaving Yellowstone | Is Yellowstone on tonight? | 6666 Yellowstone | 1923 cast | Yellowstone cast | Will Kevin Costner be in S5P2? | Does Tate die in Yellowstone? | Does Beth die in Yellowstone? | Matthew McConaughey’s Yellowstone series | Yellowstone CBS changes explained | Yellowstone spinoffs timeline explained | Does Monica die in Yellowstone? | Is Lawmen: Bass Reeves a spinoff? | Are Yellowstone stars in Lawmen: Bass Reeves? | Yellowstone finale release date | Dutton family tree explained | Movies if you love Yellowstone

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