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John Eric Winchester is a fictional character on The CW's series Supernatural, and the protagonist of the comic book spin-off series Supernatural: Origins. Developed by series creator Eric Kripke, the character is mainly portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. John is the father of Sam and Dean Winchester, the show's protagonists.

Seeking revenge after his wife Mary was killed by the demon Azazel, John Winchester became a hunter and raised his two sons to fight the supernatural. John disappears early in Supernatural, and the first season revolves primarily around Sam and Dean trying to find him. Morgan was also filming episodes of Grey's Anatomy while the first season of Supernatural was under production, and future appearances of the character were hindered by his busy schedule. While Morgan's portrayal has been praised, fans and critics were generally frustrated at the character for keeping so many secrets.

The father of series protagonists Sam and Dean Winchester, John Winchester first appears in the pilot episode of the series, set in 1983 (age 29), but plot devices such as flashbacks and time travel detail his background in later seasons. Apparently abandoned by his father at a young age—his father actually died while serving a secret order known as the Men of Letters—John Winchester grew up hating the man. John left high school to join the Marine Corps, eventually attaining the rank of corporal and receiving many medals for his service in Vietnam. After leaving the service, he found a job as a mechanic, and fell in love with Mary Campbell.

In the fourth season episode "In the Beginning," Dean is sent back through time by the angel Castiel. Dean meets his parents' former selves, and ends up convincing John to buy the 67 Chevy Impala that he eventually inherits. Dean later watches John being killed by Azazel, though the demon then resurrects him in exchange for Mary's permission to enter her house in ten years. When the angel Anna Milton travels back in time in the fifth-season episode "The Song Remains the Same" to prevent the births of Sam and Dean, John agrees to serve as a temporary vessel for the archangel Michael to stop her. Michael subsequently kills Anna and erases John and Mary's memories of the incident.

Azazel later uses his pact with Mary to enter their home in the pilot episode, and ultimately kills her. The second-season episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" reveals that she had witnessed the demon secretly feeding his blood to Sam. John investigated the incident and learned of the existence of the supernatural. His desire to find and kill Azazel led him to become a hunter of supernatural creatures. He took his sons with him during his travels, but often left them alone in motels for long periods of time during his hunts, leaving Dean with instructions to "shoot first and ask questions later" while watching over Sam.

As revealed in the fourth season episode "Jump the Shark," John slept with a woman he met while away on a hunt. Learning over a decade later that he had fathered her son Adam, John made occasional visits over the years to partake in father-son activities with him. He hid the truth from Adam to protect him, and never revealed to him the existence of Sam and Dean, nor vice versa. Meanwhile, John trained Sam and Dean to become hunters. However, Sam later left this life to start anew in college, leading to a fallout between John and his son.

Twenty-two years after Mary's death, John disappears while on a hunt, forcing Sam and Dean to reunite in an unsuccessful attempt to find him. Sam returns to the life of a hunter after Azazel kills his girlfriend. John reluctantly chooses to avoid his sons throughout most of the season while he investigates something, eventually reuniting with them in the episode "Shadow." However, the demonic Meg Masters attacks them and reveals that Azazel is after John. After escaping from Meg, the brothers split up from their father to keep him from the demons. When vampires murder his old mentor and steal the Colt—a mystical gun capable of killing anything—John teams up with Sam and Dean in "Dead Man's Blood" to retrieve it. Because demons cannot be killed by conventional means, they hope that the Colt will be effective against Azazel. In response, Meg begins killing the Winchesters' friends in "Salvation," and threatens to kill more unless they deliver the Colt. John is captured after trying to give her a fake gun, and reveals himself to be possessed by Azazel when the brothers come to his rescue in the first-season finale "Devil's Trap." However, he manages to resist the demon's control. Despite John's pleas for Sam to shoot him with the Colt, Sam cannot bring himself to do so and allows Azazel to escape. As the Winchesters flee in Dean's Impala, a demonically-possessed trucker crashes into them.

In the second-season premiere, "In My Time of Dying," Sam and John awake in the hospital with only minor injuries, but a dying Dean is comatose. John secretly summons Azazel, and seems to know what the demon's plans are. He then makes a deal to save Dean, giving up his life, soul, and the Colt. Before dying, John tells Dean, if he can't save Sam, he'll have to kill him, should he become evil. The fourth season episode "On the Head of a Pin" reveals that the demon Alastair tortured John in Hell for over a century, with John refusing the demon's offer to stop if he himself would torture someone else. His soul escapes from Hell in the second-season finale "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2" when a gateway to Hell is opened. He saves Dean from Azazel, and distracts the demon by temporarily forcing him out of his host, long enough for Dean to kill Azazel with the Colt when he returns to his usual body. John then gives Sam and Dean a loving smile before becoming engulfed in a white light. However, the fifth-season episode "Dark Side of the Moon" suggests that he might not be in Heaven.

In the show's 300th episode, "Lebanon", Sam and Dean accidentally draw John from 2003 into their timeline when they acquire a Chinese pearl that grants the owner's greatest wish. This 'trip' allows John to learn of his father's disappearance, confirm his knowledge of the Apocalypse, witness the Men of Letters bunker, and learn about Mary's resurrection, as well as allowing Sam and Dean a chance to apologize to him for their past fights and forgive him for his failings as a parent. However, John being drawn into the future begins to cause changes to history; Dean and Sam see 'Wanted' posters identifying Dean as a serial killer, Sam is now an internet celebrity who is also the head of his own law firm, and Castiel is still a loyal servant of Heaven and the living Zachariah who attack the Winchesters to investigate the disruption to the timeline, although the Winchesters are able to kill Zachariah and banish Castiel. While the Winchesters debate about their next course of action before the new timeline changes them as well as everything else, they are eventually forced to send John back to his time believing that his trip to the future was just a dream, but he departs accepting his fate and assuring Dean and Sam that he understands their decision, also adding that he is proud of the men his sons have become.

After Mary is accidentally killed by the Nephilim Jack Kline in "Absence", Castiel attempts to retrieve her from Heaven, but decides to leave her alone when he finds that she is with John Winchester once again, affirming that John went to Heaven after his escape from Hell. In the next episode, the angel Dumah confirms John and Mary are sharing a Heaven together and threatens to end their peace with a snap of her fingers to force Castiel to comply with her demands. In retaliation, Castiel kills Dumah with an angel blade to protect John and Mary and end her reign of terror.