Is Nick Viall the best Bachelor the franchise has ever seen? It’s been a rough ride for Viall, who’s preparing to dole out the final rose on Monday night’s three-hour finale. But, HA! Absolutely not. That’s a stupid question. A better question to ponder is whether Nick Viall is the worst Bachelor ever. He hasn’t been very good. Remember: He let Corinne command the show for the first few episodes? Or last week, when he told Vanessa he doesn’t want to move to Montreal because he’s “really proud to be an American”? This is a man with an affinity for terrible poetry, after all. But the question still remains, just how bad of a Bachelor is he? There’s only one way to know for sure, and that’s to rank all 21 of the Bachelors in The Bachelor history.
It’s important to clarify what makes a good Bachelor. It doesn’t matter if they are still in a relationship with whomever they gave the final rose. True love does not matter on this show. It doesn’t matter if they seem like a “decent” person. It doesn’t even matter that much if they are smart or even good-looking. (By the way, Bachelor handsome is very different from the actual definition of handsome.)
Instead, we’ve selected five criteria by which to judge these dudes on a scale of 1 to 10:
- Personality: We’re not here to make character assessments, it’s more a question of “Does this guy have one?” If being a certain kind of evil makes you interesting to watch, so be it.
- Occupation: Some jobs (farmer, pilot, prince) are storybook perfect for a Bachelor contestant. Others (software salesmen, management consultant) sound made up, boring, and undateable.
- Dating Ability: Do they seem like they respect women, like women, and want to plan fun dates for women? Or do they seem like they have deep-seated issues with women that they are working through with the help of Chris Harrison, Neil Lane, and a florist?
- Personal Investment: Simply, do we care about them?
- Jawline: This has nothing to do with how “attractive” they are and everything to do with how closely their jawline resembles that of a Disney prince.
OK, here we go. From Bachelor patient zero, Alex Michel, to our current Bach-demon Nick Viall, these are our rankings:
21. Alex Michel (Season 1)
Allison P. Davis: It’s hard to believe that this douchenozzle was the first Bachelor. I understand that everything about the franchise was incredibly janky in 2002—the production value, the house, the dates, the fashions, the hairstyles—but I’m still surprised the first fantasy man, the Adam in the Bachelor Garden of Eden—was a total nightmare. Alex dressed like low-budget Blade Runner, had the sociopathic tendencies of an ’80s movie villain (but none of the bangability), and ogled breasts in a deeply disturbing way. The fact that this man was the Big Bang for 21 seasons of romantic fantasies makes me question the entire fabric of the franchise.
20. Jason Mesnick (Season 13)
Davis: Listen, you cannot propose to Melissa Rycroft only to go on national, live television to trade a Melissa for a Molly and not face severe consequences. Mesnick is responsible for one of the most cringeworthy moments in the history of the franchise. I don’t care if Molly and Jason are still happily married with children and perhaps the most successful couple in Bachelor history, it started from a place of betrayal. Nobody is going to reward this kind of savagery. We might watch it over and over again, but we will not reward it.
19. Nick Viall (Season 21)
Andrew Gruttadaro: Nick has been in the Bachelor system for so long that you’d think he’d be better at being the Bachelor. Instead, he’s vacillated between being a cold-hearted savage and a blubbering mess. One minute he’s kicking Danielle L. off the show for having the gall to tell him she’s falling in love with him, the next he’s shedding tears at an alarming rate, explaining how scared he is that he won’t find love. If you didn’t break up with women who openly like you, this wouldn’t be an issue, dude!
18. Juan Pablo Galavis (Season 18)
Gruttadaro: Just to get this out of the way: Juan Pablo’s season of The Bachelor was a classic. It featured two all-time moments: Andi Dorfman leaving the show in utter “I want to die” frustration and Clare Crawley telling off JP after he didn’t choose her. Both of those moments, however, were necessitated by the fact that Juan Pablo was a terrible Bachelor. He was condescending, vapid, and skeevy—watching him cup women’s chins as a display of affection still haunts me to this day. That multiple women actively rebelled against Juan Pablo made for a memorable season—I’m actually waiting for Bachelor producers to pursue this hate-date strategy once again—but since this is a list specifically about the Bachelors, JP needs to be towards the bottom like the garbage fire he is.
17. Travis Lane Stork (Season 8)
Gruttadaro: Wikipedia insists that Travis Lane Stork (solid three-part name right there) was the suitor in the eighth season of The Bachelor, but I’m not so sure. There is no video evidence—there’s hardly photo evidence—that Stork was ever the Bachelor. For all we know, he’s just a dude on The Doctors who made a joke one day that everyone misunderstood as a statement of fact. But until this mystery is solved, let’s judge Stork on what we do know: He was a doctor, which is good if a little basic; he took his ladies on some impressive dates—a cruise on the Seine, picnics at the Eiffel Tower—though that was less on him and more on the fact that ABC set season 8 in Paris; and he had an average jaw. If, in fact, Travis Lane Stork was a Bachelor, he was a mind-numbingly mediocre one.
16. Ben Higgins (Season 20)
Davis: Ben Higgins is tall. He is dark. He is handsome. He is decent. He has very white teeth. He gives off strong Stepford Republican Husband vibes, reinforced by his post-Bach stint that included a flirtation with a run for office. Ben is also boring. So boring. Why did everyone like Ben so much? Was it because his face was a composite of all the other faces of the Bachelors before him? My theory: Ben had the self-awareness to realize how boring he was and overcompensated with some dope dates that were fun to watch: attending fashion week, swimming with pigs at Pig Beach, and an Amos Lee concert, an artist who is sort of lame but significantly less lame than so many other musical guests on The Bachelor.
15. Charlie O’Connell (Season 7)
Gruttadaro: Whether you liked Charlie O’Connell as a Bachelor says less about him and more about what you think this show should be. O’Connell, Jerry’s less famous brother, was a Long Island party boy through and through. On his first group date of the season, HE DID BODY SHOTS OFF OF MULTIPLE CONTESTANTS. For a season, he had The Bachelor looking like The Real World. While that’s a good recipe for reality TV on the whole, it doesn’t quite work on The Bachelor. I prefer my Prince Charming to not be a lax bro hiding in a tuxedo.
Counterpoint, Davis: The O’Connell connection and love of body shots actually should have earned him a spot in the top 10. Plus, he has a butt chin like Gaston’s in Beauty and the Beast. How do you not reward that?
14. Aaron Buerge (Season 2)
Gruttadaro: Buerge was a dramatic improvement from the first Bachelor, but as my confidante Allison explained, Alex Michel set a laughably low bar. A man with a respectable jawline, Buerge was a pompous banker (an apparently bad one—“Former ‘Bachelor’ Aaron Buerge Now Starring in Bankruptcy Court,” The Wall Street Journal reported in 2011) who was good at dating (hot-air balloon rides are the most romantic) and stirring up drama. On the flip side, though, he telegraphed his final rose choice, Helene Eksterowicz, from day one.
13. Andrew Firestone (Season 3)
Gruttadaro: All Prince Charmings are just fuckboys who inherited everything from their fathers, so in a sense, Andrew Firestone’s occupation of “family estate sales manager” was very appropriate for The Bachelor. But dude was a goober. On the Season 3 finale, he described his idea of a perfect day to eventual winner Jen Schefft as “massage, steak well-done, couple glasses of good wine, and you.” That’s classic Bachelor cheese, but can we go back to the steak thing? Well-done? Do you really expect me to not make any drastic comparisons to other disreputable well-done steak eaters?
12. Ben Flajnik (Season 16)
Davis: At first, Flajnik seemed sort of like the hipster Bachelor—he lived near San Francisco, he wore plaid shirts, he owned a vineyard, he did not have square jaw; in fact, his jawline sort of sucked. But then Ben Flajnik went on to date Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kris Jenner (or at the very least drove her Bentley), so….turns out he is just the human equivalent of a John Mayer song and a huge disappointment.
Gruttadaro: I would also like to point out that Ben picked Courtney Robertson in the most misguided decision in Bachelor history. Literally no one was surprised when Robertson blew up Ben’s spot in a tell-all book two years later.
11. Sean Lowe (Season 17)
Gruttadaro: I think I would marry Sean Lowe. He had a million-gigawatt smile and Bachelor-grade abs, and he was one of the few Bachelors to seem genuinely invested in the show and the people he was interacting with. Watch the clip below of Lowe talking to a very skeptical brother of one of the contestants—he’s highly endearing!
However, Lowe’s occupation was “insurance agent”—not sexy. For that reason, he gets knocked down a couple pegs. He’s a model human being, but a middling Bachelor.
Davis: Andrew, you can do so much better than Sean.
10. Chris Soules (Season 19)
Davis: Chris Soules is a farmer, a profession that suggests you should be sweaty and shirtless, throwing bales of hay on the cover of a trashy romance novel, which, by extension, suggests you should dominate the trashy romance novel of TV shows. Unfortunately, it seems like Chris had zero game. Maybe it’s because he looks like a bird when he makes out (and about 85 percent of the footage from season 19 was of him doing just that), but I firmly believe that Chris Soules had no idea what to do with women. I have a weird soft spot for men who seem totally clueless (which is how I personally end up in so many predicaments). How incredible for a man with no natural talent to ascend to such a great heights as The Bachelor mansion.
9. Matt Grant (Season 12)
Gruttadaro: Also known as The British One, Matt Grant was equal parts smarmy, charming, and daffy—like if you asked Friends to create an English guy. That translated to a pretty entertaining Bachelor performance: He impersonated Austin Powers one time and said, “You make me very horny,” and curated a fun dating environment in general. He, too, telegraphed his final pick—Shayne Lamas, daughter of Falcon Crest standout Lorenzo Lamas—but this time around, no one seemed to be bothered by that. I mean, look at the tribute videos Grant and Lamas (dubbed “Mayne” by fans) inspired:
8. Bob Guiney (Season 4)
Davis: Oh Bob. Bob! You big goofy lunk. Did you know Bob Guiney went on to form a band called Band From TV that you can book to play your next family barbecue? Now he spends most of his time Instagramming his dog, Phoebe. They just celebrated their 10th anniversary together. It’s now clear that this man had no business being on The Bachelor, but he shored up what little game he had and fumbled his way through it—somehow, inexplicably, he had the most sex in Bachelor history. For that hard work, he deserves a spot in the top 10, and our hearts, and obviously the fantasy suite hall of fame.
Gruttadaro: I think Bob is the reason The Bachelor didn’t get canceled. I have no evidence to back this theory up.
7. Andrew Baldwin (Season 10)
Gruttadaro: Andy Baldwin was a doctor in the Navy, which is the stuff Bachelor fantasies are made of. Case in point: They named this season after the iconic romance flick An Officer and a Gentleman, a peak moment in Bachelor emotional manipulation. Beyond that, Baldwin also had a way of making his dates feel like genuine interactions—his relationship with winner Tessa Horst was the first one I can remember being invested in. He was also boring as dirt and had a intermittent issue with mumbling. Having him in the top 10 feels appropriate, putting him any higher than seventh would’ve been pushing it.
6. Brad Womack 1.0 (Season 11)
Gruttadaro: Womack 1.0’s narrative arc may be the most satisfying that The Bachelor ever stumbled upon. He went from being an “aw, shucks” Austin bar owner—a solid occupation that shows relatability and a high business aptitude—to the most hated man on reality TV when he dumped both of his final picks on the season finale. I can’t overstate how stunning this was, an absolute dismantling of The Bachelor’s Happily Ever After premise that had Ellen calling Womack a jerk and other women lining up to slap him. Any Bachelor who can inspire that sort of emotion is great in my book. But also, can we take a moment to give Womack props for rebelling against the Bachelor Industrial Complex? He was a revolutionary, not a miscreant. He was also Sad Keanu years before Sad Keanu was a thing:
5. Jesse Palmer (Season 5)
Gruttadaro: He had one of his female friends—who was MARRIED—join the show as a contestant so that she could tattle to him about all the other girls. What an insane/amazing thing to do, god bless this man.
In case you forgot, Jesse Palmer also did this:
4. Byron Velvick (Season 6)
Gruttadaro: Three words: PRO. BASS. FISHERMAN. It’s been more than 12 years since Velvick’s season, so you’re forgiven if you’ve forgotten about him, but really there’s only one thing to remember: PRO. BASS. FISHERMAN. It’s an incredibly good occupation for a Bachelor to have—in a sea of salesmen, doctors, and executives, Byron Velvick’s out there reeling in largemouths. He was a salt-of-the-earth guy—the OG Chris Soules—who won the only Bachelor-off, a season premiere gimmick in which the contestants voted on who the suitor should be based on personality and résumé alone.
Velvick was such a charmer that the woman he chose, a Tampa Bay cheerleader named Mary Delgado, also got into pro bass fishing! Their relationship ended in ugly fashion—in 2007, Delgado was charged with battery for punching Velvick in the mouth—but that shouldn’t take away from the good work he put in as the Bachelor.
3. Jake Pavelka (Season 14)
Gruttadaro: In my mind, Jake Pavelka is the quintessential Bachelor. He checks all the boxes that matter to me: He was a pilot, a great occupation for fantasy; he had a jaw sculpted out of marble; and he was an absolute sociopath who appealed to the Bachelorettes while also making them want to strangle him. I totally understand why so many hate Pavelka—he seems like a legitimately terrible human being—but that’s why he was a great Bachelor. As a reality TV character, he was magnetic, like if ABC decided to make Chad from last season of The Bachelorette the Bachelor. The special with Pavelka and Vienna Girardi (the woman he chose, then dumped in a breakup that played out in the pages of tabloid magazine) that aired after an episode of The Bachelorette is a perfect encapsulation of his gift as a reality TV villain. The 20-plus-minute interview devolved into a fight that was painfully awkward and shamefully harsh. Pavelka basically said, “Hey Chris Harrison, here’s why I would never sleep with this girl” with a smirk on his face. It was impossible to watch that and not come away feeling slimy. But at the same time, it’s one of the most memorable moments in franchise history. That’s Jake Pavelka.
2. Lorenzo Borghese (Season 9)
Davis: Lorenzo Borghese sounds like a fancy sports car or a cheesy pasta dish. How apt for a man who descends from Italian nobility but also went on The Bachelor to find love. But Borghese was a consummate Bachelor: His season was in Rome and he was a hobbyist pilot, which is much more badass than real pilot as a career. He also actively tried to woo the contestants. For once it felt like it was all about them: There were dates to the opera, sleepover pool parties in actual castles, spa dates in ancient baths. He oozed suave without oozing sleaze. Top that Viall. Oh, you can’t.
1. Brad Womack 2.0 (Season 15)
Davis: I was surprised as anybody that this jerkward came in at number one, but we can’t argue with math—real or fake. But here’s the thing: Womack went from being the biggest jerk on this planet, as my esteemed colleague Andrew outlined above, to sort of seeming like an OK guy, at least by Chris Harrison’s standards. Womack 2.0 came back and stood under America’s window with a boombox and said to America: You know, I messed up. And I want—no—need love. The “I’m a better man” narrative in his second season was on par with LeBron’s return to Cleveland: The Season 15 premiere focused on how Womack had realized he was a commitment-phobe and went to therapy to work out his “deep-rooted issues with his father.” (There is only one diagnosis in Bachelor Nation: daddy issues.) Then, after convincing us of a total turn-around, he confirmed it by choosing Emily Maynard, the Southern-belle single mom with the most tragic backstory of all time. Brad may or may not be a good guy, but he’s the best Bachelor. Because if there’s one thing America loves as much as it loves highly produced “love stories,” it’s a redemption story. Also, this man’s jaw is made of two right angles and perfect, golden scruff.