Twenty-six Big Brother houseguests have expected the unexpected, secured their safety with competition wins, lied, schemed and manipulated their way to that big grand prize. But who did it the best?
More from TVLine
Now that Big Brother‘s 25th season on CBS has concluded, ending with a history-making victory for Jag Bains, TVLine is taking stock of the summer staple’s best and worst winners. In the list below, we’re considering every facet that makes for a deserving BB winner — alliance loyalty, comp prowess, savvy gameplay and strategy, and even a player’s general entertainment value — to help us determine who is the best of the best and who is, well, Adam. (Spoiler alert!)
Below you’ll find heavy hitters who formed the strongest of alliances (such as The Brigade’s Hayden Moss), along with some of the game’s most famous faces (BB12 and 13‘s Rachel Reilly and BB16‘s Derrick Levasseur). Plus, we’ve ranked the game’s most infamous villains (including Season 8’s “Evel” Dick Donato), and its sole streaming-only winner (Over the Top‘s Morgan Willett). And recency bias be damned, find out where Bains landed after emerging triumphant from Season 25.
Have opinions of your own? We want to hear ’em! View our carefully crafted ranking below, then light up the comments section to let us know what your Top 10 would look like.
26. Adam Jasinski (Season 9)
We wouldn’t blame you for hardly remembering Adam’s victory at all: He was the winner of Big Brother‘s first-ever winter season (thanks to the writers’ strike of 2007-08), an underwhelming cycle that forced the contestants to pair up and forge half-hearted romantic connections as part of its “Til Death Do You Part” theme. But in addition to being the unmemorable winner of a weak season, Adam makes the bottom of our list for other reasons, including his eventual conviction for drug trafficking and tax evasion after the show.
25. Eddie McGee (Season 1)
Eddie was the history-making winner of Big Brother‘s inaugural season, emerging with a victory from CBS’ new and fascinating social experiment. But it’s hard to find a place for him on this list, given how much the game has changed since he won: When Big Brother debuted in 2000, it aired live almost every night of the week, and weekly evictions — called “banishments” at the time — were voted on by America instead of the houseguests. Since Eddie’s win was based more on popularity than it was strategy, the triumph comes with an asterisk.
24. Andy Herren (Season 15)
Season 15 remains one of the darkest blemishes on Big Brother‘s spotty track record, due to the despicable behavior of racist and foul-mouthed houseguests like Aaryn Gries and Amanda Zuckerman; Andy, who said plenty of cruel things about his housemates behind their backs, actually emerged as one of the less controversial players, which is telling. On the game side, Andy did win three Head of Households and two Power of Vetos, and getting to the Final Two is an accomplishment by any standard — but next to eventual runner-up GinaMarie Zimmerman, Andy’s victory was really a “lesser of two evils” situation.
23. Steve Moses (Season 17)
Let’s be real: Vanessa Rousso should’ve won this season, and the fact that she didn’t makes her one of the greatest players to never win. Steve’s victory, meanwhile, was a whimper in BB history. Sure, he played a bit harder toward the end of the game — plus, he cast the crucial sole vote to evict Vanessa in the Final Three — but we can’t say we were anywhere near excited to see him snag the check.
22. Nicole Franzel (Season 18)
Playing under the radar is certainly a strategy, but in Nicole’s case, it was more like riding coattails: She spent the majority of the season hiding behind Paulie Calafiore and new showmance partner Corey Brooks. Nicole did snag two Head of Households and two Power of Vetos, got to the end and became the first female to defeat a male in the Final Two — but we’re not so sure it was a respectable win.
21. Jordan Lloyd (Season 11)
Big Brother is so rooted in ruthless backstabbing that it’s rare and refreshing to see a likable player go far in the game. Such was the case with Jordan, who was sweet and honest — sometimes too honest for her own good — throughout the summer, but also stepped up her competitive game when the stakes were highest.
20. Josh Martinez (Season 19)
Josh could be entertaining, but his big emotions proved to be an even bigger liability to his game. We’ll give him points for stirring the pot and picking fights with Kevin, Mark, Elena, Cody, Jessica and, well, almost everybody, but the only reason he won was because he was not Paul Abrahamian. Plus, he totally stole the pots and pans gag from Season 8 champ Evel Dick.
19. Jackson Michie (Season 21)
Jackson’s strong gameplay was tough to appreciate, mired as Season 21 was in controversy involving racist and sexist remarks from the houseguests; in fact, Jackson’s victory was noticeably (and sorta hilariously) muted, after host Julie Chen Moonves informed Jackson on live television that his behavior had been perceived as racist and derogatory. On the competitive front, Jackson was a force: He won four Head of Households and four Power of Vetos — an objectively impressive feat — and he leaned on his sizable alliance and showmance with Holly Allen to get himself out of strategic scrapes. With that résumé, he’d rank much higher, had his degrading comments gone unsaid.
18. Drew Daniel (Season 5)
There was so much going on in Season 5 that Drew’s eventual win seemed more like a footnote than the actual focus of the summer. Between the first-ever Twin Twist, the long-lost siblings who competed on the show together and the Four Horsemen alliance that was mostly comprised of buffoons (but kept Drew well-protected), Drew was able to fly under the radar for most of the summer before snagging the check for $500,000. His boldest move? Sending his in-house showmance, Diane Henry, packing just before she reached the Final Two.
17. Morgan Willett (Big Brother: Over the Top)
Whoever says all-female alliances never work on Big Brother definitely skipped out on OTT. As part of the Ballsmashers alliance, Morgan proved her loyalty while simultaneously allowing her sister Alex and alliance-mate Shelby to be her shields. She also won key competitions to secure her spot in the finale, where she became the second winner crowned by America’s vote. Who doesn’t love an underdog story?
16. Hayden Moss (Season 12)
The Brigade was surely one of the show’s smoothest alliances, and Hayden was a major reason why it was so successful. His four HOH wins were also quite impressive, as he, Enzo Palumbo, Lane Elenburg and Matt Hoffman worked behind the scenes to pick off their side partners and the rest of the house. Was it boring at times to watch? Yeah. But was it expertly done? Without a doubt.
15. Jag Bains (Season 25)
Jag’s Season 25 victory was among the stranger Big Brother cases, seeing as he was evicted by a 10-0 vote in the season’s fourth week. He was ultimately saved by his ally Matt’s Power of Invincibility and went on to become a strategic and competitive beast (seven vetoes!) throughout the rest of the season, teaming up with Matt to efficiently remove all of their fellow houseguests from the game. Still, it’s hard to assess a Big Brother winner who was kept in the game by a last-minute twist; given that asterisk on Jag’s record and his weak jury management, we suspect he might have lost to Matt on finale night if Matt had prepared better answers to the jury’s final interrogation.
14. Lisa Donahue (Season 3)
Lisa won her fair share of competitions throughout Season 3, and memorably made the critical strategic decision not to vote her showmance, Eric Ouellette, back into the house when presented with the opportunity. But Big Brother‘s editing team really clinched the win for Lisa: After she and Danielle Reyes reached the Final Two together, the jury members became privy to some of Lisa and Danielle’s most incriminating Diary Room confessionals — including an unforgettable moment in which Danielle called fellow houseguest Roddy Mancuso “the devil.” Although Danielle was arguably the better season-long player, she made enough enemies on the jury, via those DR sessions, to give Lisa the ultimate victory.
13. Mike “Boogie” Malin (Season 7)
Let’s face it: Big Brother‘s All-Stars season was Will Kirby’s to lose. If Janelle Pierzina hadn’t gotten her head on straight and sent Will packing in a fourth-place finish, the doc would have easily become a two-time champion. Instead, Mike Boogie rode his alliance member’s coattails all the way to the Final Two, where he was tasked with convincing the jury he’d actually earned that $500,000 prize. In fairness, Boogie did notch several competition wins and schemed alongside Will to make some big moves… but then he went and called his showmance with Erika Landin a “ho-mance” in the Diary Room, and we were instantly rooting against him.
12. Maggie Ausburn (Season 6)
For those of us cheering on Janelle Pierzina, Kaysar Ridha and Howie Gordon from our couches, the rise of Maggie’s strangely named alliance — The Friendship, blech — was disappointing to behold. But Maggie was a shrewd player in her own right, developing enough solid bonds with other players that she could avoid eviction every time she was on the block, and get to the finale despite winning only one HOH and POV along the way. (We’ll stop short of giving Maggie and The Friendship too much credit, though: They were not nice people.)
11. Jun Song (Season 4)
Big Brother‘s fourth go-round was unforgettable for a whole slew of non-game-related reasons; most notably, it was the first year in which two contestants actually had sex in the BB house. But Jun emerged as one of that summer’s savviest players, winning multiple competitions and smartly forming an under-the-radar alliance with ex-boyfriend Jee Choe to survive in the game. If a third All-Stars season — or, better yet, an all-winners season — ever comes to fruition, we’d love to see Jun return after so many years.
10. Cody Calafiore (Season 22)
Whereas Big Brother‘s first All-Stars season was among the show’s best cycles ever, the second attempt at creating that magic fell short: Season 22 found the six-person Committee alliance running the house all season, resulting in a massively predictable (and often disheartening) series of evictions. Plus, rumors swirled that The Committee’s formation was the result of preseason gameplay and coaching from other former BB players, casting a frustrating pall over the season’s events. Still, despite the controversy, Cody had an undeniably dominant and impressive run, winning a whopping eight competitions, avoiding the nomination block all season and winning unanimously over Enzo Palumbo. BB22 may have been a snooze, but Cody’s triumph was earned.
9. Rachel Reilly (Season 13)
Say what you will about Rachel’s penchant for picking fights with other houseguests (“Floaters, grab a life vest!”), or her showmance-turned-real-life romance with Brendon Villegas. The girl could pull out competition wins when she needed them most — six total, between HOH and POV — and once she learned from her BB12 mistakes and stopped acting quite so catty, Rachel’s Season 13 win was much-deserved.
8. Kaycee Clark (Season 20)
After years of controversial casts and half-baked game twists, Big Brother 20 was a welcome return to form for the show, which delivered an entertaining cast and nailbiting competitions throughout that cycle. To that end, Kaycee and Tyler Crispen were an evenly matched Final Two (with the 5-4 jury vote proving how deserving they both were). But as bummed as some viewers were not to see Tyler emerge victorious, Kaycee was a truly formidable competitor — five veto wins, including a string of three in a row! — and demonstrated respectable loyalty.
7. Taylor Hale (Season 24)
Taylor’s journey in the Big Brother game was unique and unprecedented: Arbitrarily targeted from Week 1, she ultimately sat on the block a total of six times — and yet, she evaded eviction every time. Yeah, her competitive résumé was admittedly thin compared to runner-up Monte Taylor — across the season, she won just two Head of Households — but there was something more impressive and meaningful at play. By developing positive personal relationships with her fellow houseguests and playing a phenomenal social game (quite gracefully, too, in the face of wicked behavior from others), Taylor defied her initially low place on the BB24 totem pole, rising through the ranks to become Big Brother‘s first-ever Black female winner.
6. Xavier Prather (Season 23)
Xavier may have had the protection of the Cookout alliance, which ensured that a Black houseguest would win Big Brother for the first time ever, but we feel comfortable assuming that he would have won Season 23 without that safety net, too. Xavier was a sly, intelligent strategist, forging positive relationships with those inside and outside of The Cookout — and when he needed a competition win to secure his own safety, he pulled those out with ease, nabbing three HOHs and three POVs. And he only touched the block once! Whether he was sitting next to runner-up Derek Frazier, or someone else entirely, that unanimous jury vote on finale night would have been justified.
5. Ian Terry (Season 14)
Let’s give Ian the credit he deserves: A Big Brother superfan, he won plenty of competitions, played a smart social game and, in a deliciously bold move, orchestrated Mike Boogie’s eviction (and recorded one of the best-ever goodbye messages for him). The asterisk on Ian’s win, of course, is that Dan Gheesling was the rightful victor of Season 14, having played an even more masterfully deceitful game than he did in Season 10. Unfortunately for Dan, the jury was just too bitter to reward his cutthroat gameplay, leaving that season’s very worthy runner-up to become the winner in the end.
4. “Evel” Dick Donato (Season 8)
To be clear, Evel Dick’s high ranking on our list is not an endorsement for his antagonistic, often-menacing behavior in the house, much of which would likely be grounds for removal from the competition these days. If we’re prioritizing gameplay, though, it’s hard to deny that he was a solid competitor and an excellent strategist alongside his daughter, Daniele. Despite the father/daughter drama that clouded Dick and Daniele’s time in the house, the Donatos knew how to play the game and make moves in their best interests, making way for the pair to sit in the Final Two together.
3. Derrick Levasseur (Season 16)
Sixteen seasons in, Derrick proved that a unique and flawless Big Brother game could still be played: He kept his true occupation as an undercover cop from the houseguests; manipulated every Head of Household into fulfilling his own personal agenda (without making any real enemies); survived the entire season without getting nominated; and forged a ride-or-die alliance with Cody Calafiore (aka The Hitmen), who took Derrick to the Final Two even though that decision guaranteed him a second-place finish. Derrick was sneaky, persuasive and — perhaps most impressively — totally likable all season, cementing his status as one of the all-time greats.
2. Dan Gheesling (Season 10)
The gutsy, legendary strategic move for which Dan is best remembered — his Big Brother funeral — actually took place in Season 14, which was Dan’s second time in the BB house. But even before that iconic display, Dan had established himself as one of the franchise’s best players back in Season 10, where he was responsible for countless evictions but was rarely targeted himself. A master manipulator of his fellow houseguests, Dan made quite a few enemies throughout the summer, but used his stellar social game and partnership with Memphis Garrett (aka The Renegades) to do the near-impossible: Win anyway. Unanimously, at that!
1. Will Kirby (Season 2)
Frankly — and we know it’d just inflate Will’s ego to hear us say this — we’re not sure we’ll see a Big Brother player like Will again. Effortlessly manipulative and often openly selfish with his approach to the game, Will still managed to charm and placate his housemates just enough to stay in the house, ultimately winning Season 2 in a 5-2 landslide. Years later, during Big Brother‘s first All-Stars season, Will doubled down on being the house’s No. 1 target (his “I hate you all” speech is an all-timer) and still evaded eviction until the Final Four. Powerhouses like Dan Gheesling and Derrick Levasseur have given Will a run for his money, but no one else has found his balance of deviousness, showmanship, charisma and so-crazy-it-just-might-work gameplay. In fact, we’re not sure anyone should try.
Best of TVLine