Two words: Mick Carter.
As we celebrate 35 years of Walford woe, which EastEnders characters have made the Top 20?
Brace yourselves people, this could get ugly...
20. Arthur Fowler
Bill Treacher 1985-96
Nick Berry may believe that Every Loser Wins, but poor Arthur would beg to differ. Although he was devoted to his wife Pauline, it’s no wonder that this decent and proud man loved his allotment so much, as nobody could think straight in the chaos of 45 Albert Square. When the long-term unemployed Arthur stole the Christmas Club money in desperation to pay for daughter Michelle’s wedding, it led to a nervous breakdown in scenes which are still shocking and harrowing now. (Even more gallingly, the wedding didn’t even go ahead as Michelle jilted Lofty at the altar).
19. Tiffany Mitchell
Martine McCutcheon 1995-99
Walford’s answer to Lady Di, kind-hearted Tiffany was a massively popular heroine in the 90s. A cheerful barmaid whose smile could light up a room, her friendship with Bianca epitomised Girl Power. But her involvement with Grant proved to be Tiff’s downfall. Yes, there was baby Courtney - named after Courtney Love - but there was also brutality and betrayal. Her discovery via baby monitor that Grant slept with her mum has been ripped off by Soapland ever since. Her death after being hit by a car was poignant and truly memorable. You could say it was a Perfect Moment.
18. Max Branning
Jake Wood 2006-
‘Enders has always had a sleazy side, and nobody symbolises that more than Max. Walford’s women are powerless to resist his signature scent of Eau de Regret, and we can kinda see why. The very definition of ‘so wrong it’s right,’ Max’s inability to keep it in his pants has always been his downfall. His weaknesses have seen him lose his family and end up wrongfully imprisoned. But the Square would be a much less colourful place without his hangdog expression.
17. Cindy Beale
Michelle Collins 1988-90; 1992-98
A relationship with Ian Beale can do strange things to a woman. In vampish Cindy’s case it sent her into the arms of both Ian’s half brother Simon and then Simon’s half brother David. (Don’t ever try to untangle Walford’s family tree). In the end, peroxide piranha Cindy hired a hitman to finish off Ian. The murder attempt failed, she fled with the kids and ended up going down for her efforts. An off-screen death in prison means that Cindy remains top of the fan’s back-from-the-dead wish list.
16. Dan Sullivan
Craig Fairbrass 1999-2001
This charismatic man mountain caused a trail of devastation during his two years in the Square – and he did it all with a smile. Possibly the only hardman to ever beat Phil at his own game, he cheated his way into owning 50% of The Vic, causing Frank and Peggy to have an attack of the vapours. He seduced Mel, made an enemy of Steve Owen, destroyed Ricky and Bianca’s marriage and broke Carol’s heart. A solid gold ’Enders villain.
15. Grant Mitchell
Ross Kemp 1990-99; 2005-06; 2016
One of the characters that defined the 90s, Grant was a volatile individual whose service in the Falklands had left its scars. Impulsive and keen to live up to the Mitchell name, his ‘punch first, think later’ approach caused all kinds of aggro. Despite his brutish ways he could also be very emotional, and several women thought they’d be the one to finally fix him. His sibling rivalry with Phil peaked during the epic ‘Sharongate’ saga, when Grant played a tape of his wife Sharon discussing her infidelity with Phil to a packed Queen Vic. Grant glowering at the pair while a single tear rolls down his cheek is just as gripping now as it was 25 years ago.
14. Pauline Fowler
Wendy Richard 1985-2006
If you look up the phrase ‘long suffering’ there’s a picture of Pauline Fowler pursing her lips. Life was one long slog for Pauline, who started off as a warm, loyal and doting mother. Relentless drudgery and a series of tragedies meant that she ended her days as a poisonous, smothering battle-axe. But along the way the original Walford matriarch embodied EastEnders and went through some huge challenges including a baby in middle age, coping with daughter Michelle’s teenage pregnancy and coming to terms with son Mark’s HIV diagnosis. All while keeping that fruit bowl fully stocked.
13. Mel Owen
Tamzin Outhwaite 1998-2002; 2018-19
Arriving as the local vicar’s sister, girl next door Mel soon became massively popular with viewers as she crossed paths with Dan, Phil and Steve. Her Millennium Eve wedding to Ian remains iconic. Discovering that he’d lied about daughter Lucy’s cancer diagnosis, Mel walked out on Ian just moments after their nuptials with the killer line “Well guess what, Ian? I don’t love you. And I never have done.” The show was so huge at the time that it was shown on a big screen to New Year crowds in London’s Trafalgar Square. Mel caused all kinds of mayhem during her recent return, and deserved much better than being run over by a truck.
12. Mick Carter
Danny Dyer 2013–
Mick Carter was rocking waistcoats long before Gareth Southgate made them popular. Secure in his masculinity, Mick is also partial to strutting around in wife Linda’s pink bathrobe. On first appearances, the Vic’s current gaffer is your typical geezer, keeping Cockney rhyming slang alive and quick with the banter. But look a little deeper and he will surprise you. When the Carters’ then-youngest son Johnny came out as gay, Mick’s wife Linda was horrified. (She couldn’t handle her beloved ‘Sausage’ being a fan of sausage). However, in one of the show’s most genuinely moving scenes Mick reassured his son that he would always be proud of him. In typical Mick style he then lightened the mood by quipping: “So you’re the one we shoulda called Nancy?”
11. Linda Carter
Kellie Bright 2013-
Linda’s love of pink, Princess Diana and flamingos immediately brightened up The Queen Vic when she took over the reins with childhood sweetheart Mick. Their marriage was rock solid and she was devoted to her kids. She’s since endured rape, cancer and all manner of family drama, which has only cemented her status as a classic ’Enders survivor. Linda always paints on a smile for the punters no matter how uptight she’s feeling. Her recent descent into alcoholism has been believable, dramatic and challenging to watch.
Coming tomorrow: We reveal the top 10.