Just for fun, here is a list of my ten favorite characters from The Wire. At least, these are my ten favorite characters right now. Had I made this list an hour from now, maybe it would be different. There are really too many great characters on this show to narrow down to ten. If you haven't watched the series, you might want to skip this. I did my best to avoid any spoilers, but you never know.
This character was introduced late in the second season and got very little screen time... until he became the main star of season 3. He was a crusading police officer who was so close to retirement that he figured he no longer had to play it safe or worry about the politics of the department. Bunny was a brilliantly realized character portrayed to perfection by Robert Wisdom. I don't know how that guy didn't get an Emmy Award.
9. Proposition Joe
It took me a while to like this character. At first he is unassuming and maybe even a little boring... but that's part of his charm and mystique. While people like Marlo and Avon flex their muscle around the streets, Prop Joe is quickly building his own empire that rivals almost any other drug dealer in the city. Why? Because he's just so damn smart. I'd buy my drugs from this guy.
Lester's character perfectly captures the entire universe of the series. He is the smartest police officer in the entire city of Baltimore, but he is kept in the basement shuffling paperwork because he refuses to play the political games needed to move up in the department. But he is damn good police, makes excellent doll house furniture, and manages to bag a hot chick who could've been his daughter. Good on ya, Lester.
7. Kima Greggs
One thing I'll say about The Wire is that strong, female characters are kind of rare. There are a few, but considering the epic cast, just a few is pretty sad indeed. But Kima is awesome. She's the strong, silent type, who is smarter, stronger, and has bigger balls than most of the men on the show. The writers never really knew what to do with Kima, so her story arc kind of fizzles out in the last couple of seasons, but actress Sonja Sohn is so great that she's always fun to watch all the same.
6. Clay Davis
The best portrayal of a corrupt politician ever. Every time actor Isiah Whitlock Jr. was on screen, I was laughing. I loved this character.
5. D'Angelo Barksdale
D'Angelo is only in the first two seasons, but actor Larry Gilliard Jr.'s performance makes such an indelible mark that he was never really forgotten. I just loved this character, thought his overall story arc was incredibly well done, and just enjoyed every moment Gilliard spent on screen.
Ostensibly the star of the show, McNulty is unlike any cop you've seen on TV. Basically, he's a total and complete asshole, but he's good, natural poh-leece. He screws other people over almost as much as he screws himself over in order to get the bad guys... but not nearly as often as he screws lots of chicks. He is played by English actor Dominic West, who never quite mastered the Baltimore accent, but he got close enough.
3. Stringer Bell
As characters go, Stringer Bell isn't actually all that great, but Idris Elba is one of the coolest actor ever. Stringer Bell is a drug dealer who fancies himself as something of an entrepreneur who runs meetings with his associates by following Robert's Rules of Order. He's a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction.
I Googled the topic before writing this list, and mine seems to be the only list that hasn't picked Omar as the all time best character on The Wire. And I can see why, since he's a brilliantly funny, engaging, and enigmatic character. Omar, as played by Michael K. Williams, is a character that lives on the streets and was created by the streets. Not quite a Robin Hood, but as close to a hero as this show could possible get. And he's just cool as hell. Indeed.
In my opinion, the entire show is about Bubbles. There's no character more fun to watch or whose entire story arc is more emotionally moving, satisfying, saddening, or entertaining. Bubbles is just a great character, and actor Andre Royo gives one of the best acting performances I've ever seen in my entire life. When Bubbles first came on screen, I honestly thought the producers had found an actual junkie and worked him into a scene, but then the character became a regular, and I was blown away. There has never been -- and probably never will be -- a better, more raw, more realistic portrayal of a drug addict than the one Andre Royo created as Bubbles.