The Best Avatars in ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’ Ranked

Ranking the worst Avatars to the best in the ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ franchise

*Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise*

Avatar: The Last Airbender remains one of the all-time great franchises. With its resurgence over the last few years, the ATLA community continues to grow. Fans new and old are getting excited over the new Avatar Studios announcement from Paramount+ and Netflix’s live-action adaption coming out this month. As we draw closer to the live-action release, we’ve ranked the best Avatars in the universe so you can get acquainted.

Who and What Is Included in Ranking the Best Avatars?

Avatar's Roku, Kyoshi, and Aang in front of myriad other Avatars in the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe | Agents of Fandom
There is a long line of Avatars and they aren’t all created equal. Image Credit: Nickelodeon.

The ranking includes the most recent six Avatars, Yangchen through Korra, and the first Avatar, Wan. We will use everything we know from the shows, novels, and comics to sway our opinions. Due to that, there will be plot spoilers for all the material listed above. Yip yip!

7. Avatar Roku

Avatar Roku holding out his hand in Avatar: The Last Airbender | Agents of Fandom
Roku shows off his abilities after mastering all four elements. Image Credit: Nickelodeon.

A theme that will come up often in these rankings is “problems fixed vs problems caused.” It will not be the ultimate decider of where they land, but it will influence some decisions. Avatar Roku is one of the worst offenders of this.

Coming into this Avatar cycle, the world is mostly at peace. Of course, with Roku’s demise comes a completely different story. The Air Nomads are subject to mass genocide as the Fire Nation declares war on the world. However, Avatar Roku could have prevented this and very well should have.

Roku has the opportunity to stop his childhood best friend, Fire Lord Sozin. Sozin unveils his plans to Roku when the Avatar is fully trained. Roku simply replies, “I don’t want to hear about this.” Yet, 17 years later, the Fire Nation is already setting up colonies in the Earth Kingdom.

After a fight between Sozin and Roku, the Avatar lets his former best friend go — essentially with a one-time warning. 25 years later, Sozin has the opportunity to save Roku from a natural volcano disaster. Instead, the Fire Lord leaves the Avatar to die, letting his dreams of “sharing the Fire Nation’s prosperity with the rest of the world” begin.

Roku has the opportunity to prevent Sozin’s genocide but chooses to give his friend one last chance, ultimately leading to his demise.

6. Avatar Kuruk

Avatar Kuruk wearing a polar bear on his head in the Avatar: Generations mobile game | Agents of Fandom
Long a mystery, recent ATLA media is uncovering more of Avatar Kuruk’s legacy. Image Credit: Square Enix.

For many years, we didn’t know much about Avatar Kuruk. From the animated show, all audiences are told is that he was an “easygoing Avatar” who loses his partner to the spirit Koh the Face Stealer. Thanks to both Kyoshi novels, Rise of Kyoshi and Shadow of Kyoshi, and the now-defunct mobile RPG game Avatar: Generations we now know much more.

Kuruk dies young (only 33 years old) in an era of peace. The cause of his death isn’t revealed until the sequel novel — Kuruk is killing spirits. He does have a reason, however: many of the previous Avatar Yangchen’s deals with spirits fell through, as the people went back on their word and built on or destroyed sacred land.

This puts the spirits into a rage that is out of control. Unfortunately, Kuruk decides to kill them. He grows weaker with every spirit he kills until he eventually dies. As the Avatar is the bridge between spirits and humans, the decision to kill one side over the other certainly tips the balance out of Kuruk’s favor.

5. Avatar Yangchen

Yangchen in the spirit world telling Aang he should kill Fire Lord Ozai | Agents of Fandom
Yangchen tells Aang that he should kill Fire Lord Ozai, even though he’s a pacifist. Image Credit: Nickelodeon.

From every novel, and every piece of story about Avatar Yangchen, we are told how perfect she is. With F.C. Yee‘s Dawn of Yangchen title, the air Avatar’s life is truly revealed to the fan base. Yangchen is a bit of a trickster, incredibly quick-witted and mischievous, but always does what is necessary to get a deal done.

All the deals that Yangchen makes work out for the best — in the moment. Yangchen does her job as the Avatar: finding a way for humans and spirits to live together in harmony. Regrettably, Yangchen’s biggest flaws are the deals themselves. She knew that humans couldn’t keep them. She experienced it herself — several times — in her early days as an Avatar.

In the end, the deals she makes to keep the peace are eventually broken. In the graphic novel The Rift, the spirit of General Old Iron goes on a full rampage. The people who lived in the coastal Earth Kingdom village of Tienhaishi made a deal during Yangchen’s era to honor a spirit — ultimately breaking these terms. These broken deals would end up leading to the death of Kuruk and don’t solve anything between spirits and humans in the long term.

4. Avatar Wan

An inked version of Avatar Wan using the Avatar state in The Legend of Korra | Agents of Fandom
Wan takes on his duty as the first Avatar after disrupting the lives of humans and spirits. Image Credit: Nickelodeon.

The first Avatar of the Spirit of Raava, Avatar Wan has perhaps the biggest highs and lows on this list. Wan starts his life in the lowest of poverty, doing anything he can for some bread and his friends. Because of this, Wan is a liar and a thief.

He gains the ability to firebend by stealing from the Lion Turtle and is eventually banished to the Spirit Wilds because of it. Wan then learns, after time, to gain the trust and earn the respect of the spirits in the Wilds. He even learns how to firebend properly from one of the dragons.

After protecting the spirits from several human attacks, Wan goes off on his own and makes the biggest mistake of any character in the franchise. Wan frees Vaatu, the spirit of darkness and chaos, from Raava, the spirit of life and peace. With this comes an era of evil chaos in the Wilds. Raava, begrudgingly, teams up with Wan to stop Vaatu and eventually take down the dark spirit — becoming one during Harmonic Convergence and beginning the Avatar cycle.

Wan stands out because his duty to “be the Avatar” is self-made and self-governed. As he is the first Avatar of the Spirit of Raava, he doesn’t have any prior lives telling him what to do with this new role and how to act on it. It is up to him to decide what it means to be the bridge between spirits and humans. It is up to him that his mission (the Avatar’s mission) is to bring balance to both. That decision, that duty, was made by Wan himself — nobody made it for him.

3. Avatar Aang

Aang showing off his power as the master of all four elements in his fight against Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar: The Last Airbender | Agents of Fandom
Aang shows off the full power of the Avatar State in his fight against Fire Lord Ozai. Image Credit: Nickelodeon.

Having Aang this low on the ranking is upsetting, we totally understand. Avatar Aang introduced us all to this world of bending and the Avatar cycle. Aang aimed to end the 100-Year War without killing Fire Lord Ozai, created peace within the world and Fire Nation, and set up Republic City. Alas, for Aang, there is one thing that sets him back from the other two Avatars above him — his family role.

In Avatar: Legend of Korra, we are introduced to his son, Tenzen. Tenzen is the first Airbender born since the genocide of the Air Nomads. He holds his father in high regard but is not Aang’s only child. Kaya and Bumi are Aang’s oldest children; Kaya is born a Waterbender and Bumi is not born with bending abilities. According to Kaya and Bumi in an episode where the three siblings enter the Spirit World, Aang prioritizes Tenzen over the others. It does make sense, as Tenzen is seen as the future of the Air Nation. Sadly, this favoritism paints Aang in a negative light.

There are questions about Aang’s seemingly perfect, non-violent ways with spirits. In The Rift, mentioned before, General Old Iron comes back to destroy a village that goes back on their deal. Aang tries to handle it peacefully, but in the end, he needs to take out the spirit with force. Per General Old Iron, Aang “vanquishes” him and the spirit retreats into the ocean.

Aang still remains a great character, despite a few flaws. The characters in this universe are relatable because nobody is perfect — not even the Avatar who ended the 100-Year War.

2. Avatar Korra

Korra elevates above a cliff with water droplets around her after unlocking the Avatar State for the first time in The Legend of Korra | Agents of Fandom
Korra unlocks the Avatar State for the first time. Image Credit: Nickelodeon.

Korra is the latest in the line of Avatars, the successor to Aang. Many will quickly point to her faults: she loses her bending at one point, the ability to connect to past lives is severed under her Avatar-hood, and the Avatar cycle as a whole almost ends with her. Though, to Korra’s faults, she has an equal amount of strengths and accomplishments.

Many Avatars begin their tenure with issues. For Korra, even though Ozai is long gone, new opposition rises up — many new villains, actually. You see, Korra easily has the best rogues’ gallery amongst previous Avatars. She goes up against a revolutionary leader, Amon, who has “the ability to take bending away” and exposes him.

She faces Vaatu during Harmonic Convergence and, though her past connections are severed, she ultimately wins. Zaheer is commonly looked at as one of the greatest villains in the entire franchise, as he fills in the role of an evil airbender. Korra, though it comes close, defeats him too.

Korra’s feats are much grander than just defeating villains, however. Her two major accomplishments are some of the grandest of any Avatar. Thanks to Korra, Airbenders outside of Aang’s descendants return to society. She also re-opens the spirit portal, allowing anyone to freely travel between the spirit and human worlds. The duty of the Avatar is to keep peace among people, as well as be the bridge between humans and spirits. Korra achieves that and more.

1. Avatar Kyoshi

Kyoshi shows why she is the best Avatar, as she proudly reveals she killed the warlord Chin the Conqueror in Avatar: The Last Airbender | Agents of Fandom
Kyoshi’s tenure as Avatar stands as the pinnacle on which all Avatars should aim to achieve. Image Credit: Nickelodeon.

To current canon, there is no character who has a harder path to becoming the Avatar than Kyoshi. She starts her life poor and works in a house where the (believed) Avatar is training. She loses her mentor, loses her close friend, and eventually goes on the run — learning that she is actually the Avatar all along.

Alas, Kyoshi is by far the most complicated Avatar in the entire franchise. She keeps her morals tight to her chest, with the truths and secrets she holds about her parents and origin. Facing betrayal from the start by the sages, Kyoshi’s trust needs to be rightfully earned over time.

The majority of what we truly know of Kyoshi comes from the F.C. Yee novels. At one point her “Team Avatar” consists of her firebending teacher and girlfriend Rangi and a lovable gang of outlaws known as The Flying Opera Company. Everything about Kyoshi shows that she should be a step behind as Avatar, but she prevails, time and time again.

X/Twitter Helps Rank the Best Avatars

Kyoshi Gets Some Love

The One Who Started It All

Rolling the Dice on Roku

Kuruk’s Compelling Story

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Avatars Ranked

  1. Avatar Roku
  2. Avatar Kuruk
  3. Avatar Yangchen
  4. Avatar Wan
  5. Avatar Aang
  6. Avatar Korra
  7. Avatar Kyoshi

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