Top 100 Favorite Characters In Film
60. Captain Quint played by Robert Shaw in “Jaws”
“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
Captain Quint’s physical appearance has been compared to the notorious Captain Ahab. While the similarities exist, Robert Shaw was born to play Captain Quint. Quint, the professional Shark Hunter, is even overcome by the urge to catch the man eating monster. His dementia causes him to even destroy the radio, so he can kill the Shark on his own without the coastguards help. At every turn the shark seems to outwit him, and in his very last moments he is still fighting. What makes a man be like Quint is unknown to me, but the mystery of his character, and his determination makes him one of the most interesting character’s ever onscreen.
59. Wilma “Deanie” Lommis played by Natalie Wood in “Splendor In The Grass”
“Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower, we will grieve not; rather find strength in what remains behind.”
In just about any role Natalie Wood played, a certain fire and passion came through, but in no role more so than Wilma “Deanie” Lommis in Splendor In The Grass. Playing opposite a very young Warren Beatty she falls tragically in love with his character “Bud”, who is the most popular guy in school. When life doesn’t turn out exactly as Deanie had intended Natalie Wood takes this character to the mattresses. She emotes a broken heart like no one I’d ever seen on screen before or since. Just picturing her mangled and distorted face pained by the loss of her love brings a sense of sorrow over me. Anyone who’s ever really been in love and had their heart broken, knows it feels that intense. Every time I watch this movie it makes me miss Natalie Wood that much more.
58. Vito Corleone played by Marlon Brando in “The Godfather 1 & 2”
“But let me say this. I am a superstitious man, a ridiculous failing but I must confess it here. And so if some unlucky accident should befall my youngest son, if some police officer should accidentally shoot him, if he should hang himself while in his jail cell, if new witnesses appear to testify to his guilt, my superstition will make me feel that it was the result of the ill will still borne me by some people here. Let me go further. If my son is struck by a bolt of lightning I will blame some of the people here. If his plane show fall into the sea or his ship sink beneath the waves of the ocean, if he should catch a mortal fever, if his automobile should be struck by a train, such is my superstition that I would blame the ill will felt by people here.”
The cunning Vito Corleone has judges on the payroll and the illegal made legal in his world. He comes rough world and a rough life and built his family from his own two hands. This old man has seen more evil and committed more evil than most people could imagine on their worst day. He’s become the Don, the one in charge, instead of being a victim of others more powerful than him. Brando ignites this melancholy character and says more by saying very little, because when he does speak those words mean everything. The resolve of his strength growls behind menacing eyes, and though the same eyes can twinkle with joy when around family, the deadly glint is always there. Nobody but Marlon Brando could have played this role and made it as right as he did.
57. Red played by Morgan Freeman in “Shawshank Redemption”
“There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try and talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone and this old man is all that’s left. I got to live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bulls**t word. So you go on and stamp your form, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a s**t. “
Red, played by Morgan Freeman, was the perfect match for Robbins, with an outer strength, but a heart willing to give. Morgan Freeman is like a fine wine, he simply gets better with age. The friendship developed between them is one of the most tangible things ever in a film. This performance may be subtle but it speaks a thousand words. This is one of Morgan Freeman’s finest performances and that’s really saying something.
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Inigo’s personal conviction and his dedication to finding the six fingered man who killed his father. His loyalty is admirable, and his comic timing is brilliant. The fencing Mandy Pantikin does for this character in The Princess Bride is some of the best in cinema history. His character is electrifying, and one of the most exciting to watch in any film. He brings his own personal magic to a movie that already has plenty of stars with overwhelming talent, but he stands out the most.
55. Axel Foley played by Eddie Murphy in “Beverly Hills Cop Trilogy”
“Tell Victor that Ramon – -the fella he met about a week ago? – -tell him that Ramon went to the clinic today, and I found out that I have, um, herpes simplex 10, and I think Victor should go check himself out with his physician to make sure everything is fine before things start falling off on the man.”
Even though Murphy’s overwhelming funny trickles into many aspects of the film, there is a hardness and seriousness that never leaves. His character, Axel Foley, is obviously a complex man. From the first scene we discover he was thief, turned cop, but he’s a cop who still doesn’t necessarily follow the rules set up for him. It seemed so easy for Murphy to slip from comedy to dead pan hard ass, and it was so natural to watch, you had to believe Foley. It’s one of the best action roles ever and my favorite Eddie Murphy role.
54. Jason Bourne played by Matt Damon in “The Bourne Trilogy”
“I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?”
Bourne is the thinking mans action hero. Jason Bourne is the character that changed how action movies were viewed and made. However, if not for Martin Riggs, Jason Bourne wouldn’t exist, but let me not get ahead of myself. Bourne took the element of Riggs that was more than a killing, gun toting machine, but a real man with events in life that made him the killer he is. The complexity of his character, and the desire to discover who he is, is a battle we all struggle with on some level or another. While Bourne is trying to understand who he is and how he got to the point in his life, there is a real metaphor there for anyone who looks hard enough, which is why this character is so tangible when he has super assassin skills. His style of fighting, and his reluctance to the world of violence, even though he lives and breathes violence makes this character have the depth and complexity to have far greater impact with years to come.
“Saved by kitty litter.”
Action-Adventure movies, those of the science fiction genre, and fantasy suffer this fate of often not being acknowledged for great performances. Michelle Pfieffer was a victim of this with her tour de force performance as Catwoman in Batman Returns. This sequel was every bit as dark and powerful as Batman in 1989 and part of what made it so much fun was the exhilarating performance by Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman. Her sensuality, but also her maniacal twistedness made her insatiable. When Catwoman and Batman realize who each other are it gave a new meaning to the term, “star crossed lovers”. This role may have been fun with another actress, but Michelle Pfieffer made it something more. Because of her performance Batman Returns was maybe a little better than it should have been.
52. The Wicked Witch Of The West played by Margaret Hamilton in “The Wizard Of Oz”
“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too! HEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE”
Judy Garland was a huge part of what made The Wizard Of Oz so important, but The Wicked Witch Of The West was the other half. Margaret Hamilton was sinister, calculating, and divinely wicked. She made the Wicked Witch absolutely terrifying, but also intriguing and enigmatic. The book “Wicked” and “Son Of A Witch” probably wouldn’t have been written without her powerful performance. She was the perfect villain.
51. Frank TJ Mackey played by Tom Cruise in “Magnolia”
“In this life, it’s not what you hope for, it’s not what you deserve – it’s what you take!”
Frank TJ Mackey may be the greatest pig ever created. He is the epitome of jerk and male chauvinist, and yet there is something so enigmatic about everything he says and does that makes you unable to take your eyes off his obnoxious face. After awhile you start to question what would make a person be that way, and realize the reason it’s so compelling is because it’s true. It’s real. There are Frank TJ Mackey’s in the world. Cruise played this part so well. It still surprises me that he would play such an unlikable character, but this was the role of a lifetime and I can’t picture anyone as Frank other than Cruise.
50. Blanche DuBois played by Vivien Leigh in “A Streetcar Named Desire”
“What you are talking about is brutal desire. Just desire. The name of that rattletrap streetcar that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another.”
Vivien Leigh was a complex woman in her own right, which may have been why she was so intriguing playing women who were just a little bit on the crazy side. Blanche Dubois’s sensuality mixed with a little bit of psychosis made her impossible not to watch. Even though Blanche came off as a cold and tough woman, there was a soft vulnerability below it all that Vivien Leigh balanced perfectly. Everything about this performance was intimate and invigorating and is one of my favorites by Vivien Leigh. There are few scenes better in cinema than those shared between Leigh and Brando.
49. Katsumoto played by Ken Watanable in “The Last Samurai”
“If The Emperor wishes my death, he has but to ask. “
Marc already described this performance eloquently, but I will try this my way the best I can. The last Samurai did have the potential to be a poor mans “Dances With Wolves”, but for the saving grace of Ken Watanabe. Cruise did a fine job of his role as Algren, but was considerably shadowed by Watanabe. There was a soul and simplicity to each line he spoke and each movement he made. The deliberate intricacies of his portrayal of Katsumoto made me believe he was this Samurai, and even though his fate was sealed, in my heart I longed for him to somehow change the fate of history. Few actors can speak with their eyes. DeNiro is one, and Ken Watanabe is another.
48. Sofia played by Oprah in “The Color Purple”
“All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my uncles. I had to fight my brothers. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men, but I ain’t never thought I’d have to fight in my own house!”
Sofia was tough as nails, and her strength went straight to her core, but her overwhelming pride became a negative attribute in the world she lived in. Oprah displayed incredible range as an actress, from the bitter and hardened Sofia, to the beaten and tormented woman who was only a shadow of the fighter that once commanded a room and demanded respect. The sadness of Sofia’s story and the full effect of what racism could do to a human of her inner strength was a heartbreaking tragedy. What she went through was a tragedy, but what she survived was a triumph.
47. The Joker played by Jack Nicholson in “Batman”
“Batman… Batman… Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in, where a man dressed up as a *bat* gets all of my press? This town needs an enema!”
When you look back and actually read the lines the Joker has in this film, it’s not sensational writing, but Nicholson’s performance made each and every delivery of those lines into something more. The Joker was larger than life, but Nicholson’s interpretation walked that fine line between being a cartoon and something completely different. He was sadistic and homicidal, but also charismatic and hilarious. Nicholson’s Joker is one of the best character interpretations ever onscreen. However, I wouldn’t dare compare his Joker to Ledger’s. Each carry a genius that is very separate from one another, and the likeness only remains in the name. Nicholson managed to make the movie called Batman more about the Joker. That’s talent.
46. Travis Bickle played by Robert DeNiro in “Taxi Driver”
“Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man… June 8th. My life has taken another turn again. The days can go on with regularity over and over, one day indistinguishable from the next. A long continuous chain. Then suddenly, there is a change.”
The consummate loner who smiles and seems like a good ole boy is hiding something dark. The forbidding scars caused by a life of emptiness and loneliness. His empty broken eyes are what separates him from every normal person on the street. There is something sexual, but repressed about him that evokes the carnal undertones of his character. Like Holden Caulfield, it was only a matter of time before he snapped. DeNiro made this character come to life with his vacant, terrifyingly dangerous eyes and it remains one of the greatest performances of all time.
45. Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas in “Wallstreet”
“Greed captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.”
From the man who says, “Greed Is Good” Gordon Gekko is one of the nastiest character’s to ever grace the screen. Michael Douglas in his absolute prime encapsulates what it is to personify cruelty and live for the glory of success, money, and power. Gekko, the smooth talking slick as rain snake in the grass, is a painful representative of how money can corrupt the soul, the fixation on material things, and having them identify who you are as human being. At the end when Bud says he realized he could only be Bud, and that there was only one Gordon Gekko, he was right. This ruthless scoundrel is about as nasty and heartless as they come, but it’s a fun ride watching him operate.
44. Martin Riggs played by Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon Quadrilogy”
“I don’t make things difficult. They make themselves difficult all by themselves.”
What Jason Bourne is doing for action heroes now wouldn’t be possible without Martin Riggs. Riggs is the original thinking and complex character that made action heroes more than muscles and one liners. Character’s don’t get more complex and twisted than Riggs, and everyone could see it but him. Tormented by the death of his wife, and haunted by years in the special ops, he was a loose cannon, but could get the job done like no one else. Mel Gibson is as talented as actors come, but even with his wide range of roles, Riggs, is by far superior to them all. He balanced the tough exterior, the unpredictability of his psychosis, and the much needed comedic relief in each of the Lethal Weapon films. Riggs is classic.
43. Derek Vinyard played by Edward Norton in “American History X”
“One in every three black males is in some phase of the correctional system. Is that a coincidence or do these people have, you know, like a racial commitment to crime?”
This character was the easiest character to hate in the world, and the strange thing is the point of his character was teaching that hate, violence, and racism was wrong. Derek was a product of being influenced by others. First his father, and then a local group that took him in. They made him feel like he was a part of something important and true, and in his mind he was doing what was right. Only after he went to jail for a brutal murder did he see the error in his ways, and the hypocrisy of who and what he was. When he began to think for himself, life suddenly became clearer. Derek, as strong minded and intelligent as he was represented the everyman. The right circumstances could have put many people in his position. What he goes through, and the changes he makes is what makes him different, and his character relevant.
42. Catherine Tramell played by Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct”
“You know I don’t like to wear any underwear, don’t you, Nick?”
Sharon Stone rattled windows and broke down barriers in this role. As the sociopath author of a murder suspense novel, the thrill of this film is not knowing if Catherine Tramell is really the killer or not, it is that at some point Stone makes the seductress so appealing, you almost want her to be the killer and hope she gets away with it. Sex and Psychology are like peas and carrots, and while this film exploits that combination to the fullest degree, Sharon Stone makes it about more than a woman who enjoys sex. As far as women and sexuality is concerned, Sharon Stone destroyed the stigma that women couldn’t be just as dominant as me and brought a new light to women in power outside the “Working Girl” idealism. She is the ultimate femme fatale. Sex, brains, and intelligence. Like men ever had a chance.
41. Maximus played by Russell Crowe in “Gladiator”
“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”
The story of Maximus is incredibly powerful. It depicts the motivation and dedication that inner strength and determination can have in any situation. Maximus is a slave but suddenly becomes more powerful than the Emperor himself. He is so supreme that Commodus cannot even have him murdered. The resolve Maximus has to earn his freedom back and to give a dying friend his last wishes is overwhelming. As strong as he is physically, and the great warrior he is, is captivating, but his simplistic resolve to honor is what really makes Maximus. It is about honor and doing what’s right. Russell Crowe was born to play this role. Gladiator is one of my favorite movies of all time and it’s entirely because of Crowe as Maximus.