Night has fallen on Sunnydale High School as a young couple looking to find some privacy wander the darkened hallways. Spooked, the girl asks the boy to take a look around, but as he turns to assure her they’re safe, the once-helpless beauty easily sinks her teeth into his prone and unsuspecting neck. So begins Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the most iconic series of the ‘90s and what would become Joss Whedon’s first indelible mark on pop culture.
The concept for Buffy is simple, centering around a “Chosen One” called upon by the universe to protect the innocent world from various (and seemingly endless) demonic shenanigans. That One is Buffy Summers, a clever subversion of the “little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and dies in every horror film,” who reserves as much affection for frosted lip gloss and miniskirts as for a freshly sharpened stake and a witty zinger. The series, which ran on the WB (and later UPN) for seven glorious seasons, featured Sarah Michelle Gellar in the titular role as a member of the eventually nicknamed “Scooby Gang,” with Alyson Hannigan as the witchy Willow and Nicholas Brendon as the ever-dopey Xander in tow. And while the scope of the show was never what you could call small, each season was devoted to the vanquishing of a unique “Big Bad” (a term eventually coined by Whedon in Season 3), meaning a specific evil generally hell-bent on bringing destruction to the world as we know it.
Impossibly, it’s been two decades since ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth,’ the series’ first episode, aired, beginning a legacy of female-centric television and Whedon witticism that continue to this day. In honor of its anniversary, we’ve got all seven of those Big Bads, ranked from the totally silly to the deliciously evil. Cue that Nerf Herder theme song.