Lists, Top 15 Characters — November 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm



Here are my final twenty.  This was the most difficult part to convey, but also the choices I stand the strongest behind.  These are based my favorites, not the worlds greatest, and by the choices of the films that I have seen.  Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment and tell us what you really think!

20. Han Solo played by Harrison Ford in the “Star Wars Original Trilogy”


“I love you.”-Princess Leia  “I know.”

Harrison Ford’s crooked grin became historic as Han Solo became a character everyone loved when Star Wars was released.  This character made Ford a star and gave Star Wars a dynamic character that will be forever idolized.  He may have been a scoundrel but he was a scoundrel the women loved and the men wanted to be.

19. Dory played by Ellen Degeneres in “Finding Nemo”


“Would you quit it? What, the ocean isn’t big enough for you or something like that? You got a problem? Huh? Do ya, do ya, do ya? You wanna piece of me? Yeah, yeah! Ooh, I’m scared now! What?”

Dory is the greatest animated character of all time.  Partially due to the creators at Pixar and partially thanks to Ellen Degeneres, who if ever became a fish, I imagine would be just like Dory.  A character so unique and utterly energetic, with a constant zest for life and adventure, Dory is simply a never ending adventure of life.  She is the total contrast to Marlin, constantly living in the moment.  By the end of the movie Marlin learns something from Dory and she from him resulting in a friendship that continues to teach one another lessons.  Dory will make you laugh, cry, and smile.  She is an incredible leap in characters in the magical world of animation.

18. Scarlett O’Hara played by Vivien Leigh in “Gone With The Wind”


“Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all… tomorrow is another day.”

Vivien Leigh wasn’t given the best lines in Gone With The Wind, Clarke Gable was.  But what Vivien Leigh did with her lines was make them come alive.  She was born to play the role of Scarlett O’Hara.  As debonair and talented an actor as Clark Gable was, he and everyone else was struggling to keep up with the ever dynamic and exasperating Scarlett.  Vivien Leigh perfectly demonstrated the complexity of a woman scorned by the one man she desires, while simultaneously manipulating everyone else around her to attain whatever other desires she had.  Unattainable yet burning with passion, Scarlett was relentless in her desire to thrive in a world that was falling apart around her.  The struggles, sorrows, and pain Scarlett goes through are ones only a woman of her strength and fortitude could survive

17. Jareth: The Goblin King played by David Bowie in”Labyrinth”


“I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.”

This is a 100% personal indulgence on my part.  Since I was a young girl and first saw the Labyrinth, The Goblin King had me at “Hello”.  The magic, the darkness of the movie itself was intriguing enough, but by the arrival of David Bowie’s character Jareth, “The Goblin King”  each scene he is in elevates the level of the movies entertainment.  He brings a sinister and malevolent feel Labyrinth, but also a subtle sensuousness.  His apparent affection for Sarah, and the fact that she loathes him, but is a part of her is still drawn to him, makes their relationship and his challenge bewildering.  As a child and as an adult the character is still stimulating because so much is going on behind his intent to essentially kidnap a baby and turn it into another Goblin slave in his kingdom.  The one who seeks the child is a girl he’s fallen in love with.  He must fight the urge to give her what he wants and desperately tries to steal the child while also stealing her heart.  By trying to have his cake and eat it to, he meets his demise, but something at the end leaves me to believe he may be gone, but not infinitely defeated.  There is something about this character that is haunting.

16. Sarah Connor played by Linda Hamilton in “Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day”


“The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”

Obviously Arnold was a star of Terminator as the stoic killing machine that bonded with Ed Furlong, but it was Linda Hamilton’s performance as Sarah Connor that is one of the most intense and complicated performances in the history of actresses and actors.  Sarah was frightened, unknowing an shocked in the first film, reacting to a world she couldn’t yet comprehend, but by the sequel she has become jaded, hardened, and obsessed.  She suffers the fury of knowing the future and no one believing her.  She lost her one true love, and now is burdened with his memory and the desire to protect her son, the boy who destined to one day become the leader of mankind.  In her maternal instinct she tries desperately to change the future in order to protect her son from the death and destruction that lies before him.  In every attempt she fails.  The depth of her character, and Linda Hamilton’s ability to switch gears from ass kicking militia woman, to nurturing mother is astounding.  In the moment where she wants to kill Dyson and knows she cannot do it, when she sees him as a human, a father, instead of a killing machine, her humanity burns through.  That scene alone should have won her an Oscar.  Whether it was overlooked because it was a genre of Science Fiction or not I will never understand, but this role and her performance is one of the best female performances ever.  To endure what she endured, and to know what she knows, and to not only carry that burden, but to live it.

15. Alex DeLarge played by Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange”

“Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now. As I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures!”

The first time I saw Clockwork Orange and was introduced to the character Alex DeLarge I was floored, completely incapacitated by Malcolm McDowell’s performance, but just the bizarre nature of who and how Alex became this sinister creature.  DeLarge is flawlessly maniacal with his gang of friends who live for the ultra-violence.  His desire and urge for perfection can be reflected by his adoration of Beethoven, and his repulsion and loathing for people who don’t fit his ideals of that perfection.  Speaking in strange tongues, almost fluid as music itself DeLarge inflicts his intolerance for others in a most sadistic and brutal way.  Watching the transformation of Alex’s mind unwind is a truly entertaining, while awful, sight to behold.  Though I have many loons in my top twenty, Alex has a special place in my heart.

14. Norman Bates played by Anthony Perkins in “Psycho”


“fals-fals-fals-falsity. Because birds really eat a tremendous lot. But -I-I don’t really know anything about birds. My hobby is stuffing things. You know – taxidermy.”

Each time I watch Psycho, I look for subtle signs, moments where Norman shows he is a little crazy, but it never happens.  The situations with “mother” make sense, but Norman was just as polite and insecure in ever scene, until the monster is revealed.  The story of Norman Bates is horrific, but also tragic.  His sweetness and eagerness to please is evident, but when the truth of who and what he is becomes revealed the character becomes more than a savage killer.  It becomes completely melancholy, for all those that suffered because of Normans illness.  Anthony Perkins was riveting in the role, and unfortunately for him never really got the opportunity to be another character outside Norman.  Maybe his fate was somehow linked with Normans.  Norman Bates is a character that will live on forever.

13. Lestor Burnham played by Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty”


“I feel like I’ve been in a coma for the past twenty years. And I’m just now waking up.”

Kevin Spacey as Lester Burnham gave the “mid-life” crisis a whole new sense of perspective.  What I find most compelling about Lester is how tangible his character truly is.  While we might laugh or cheer at some of the outrageous things he does, his behavior is totally rational.  The character could be any person, in any house, and in any neighborhood.  So many people go through their lives, going through the motions and forget about who they are, the fact that they had dreams and hopes.  When one day you suddenly wake up and realize twenty years are gone.  For me, I always think of the Pink Floyd song “Time” when I think of Lester and these lyrics:

“Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain

You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun”

He lost total sense of who he was.  When this realization came to him, he was logically angry. With an honest sense of mortality, he began to do all things he’d always wanted to do in life.  The fact that he did die a year later was tragic, but at least he experienced life on his terms for a short period of time.  What was so truly brilliant about Kevin Spacey’s performance was he never over did it.  He played the character as authentically as possible, making Lester ever the more common.  What made Lester so special was the fact that he was normal.  Between the writing, direction, and phenomenal acting American Beauty is one of the greatest films ever made.  But because Of Kevin Spacey’s performance of Lester it all came together.

12. Stanley Kowalski played by Marlon Brando in “A Streecar Named Desire”


“Be comfortable. That’s my motto up where I come from. You gonna shack up here? Well, I guess I’m gonna strike you as being the unrefined type, huh?”

Like Jack Nicholson in the role Col. Jessup, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski is the good fortune of having one of cinemas greatest actors get to read brilliant writing.  The dark and morose Stanley who feeds off the rawness of gut instinct and emotion, had a raw sensuality that made the inevitable force of his own powerful demeanor clash on a cataclysmic level with Blanche.  The result was some of the greatest character tension ever onscreen, and some of the greatest moments ever in cinema.  This is the role that made me love Marlon Brando.  Every actor should aspire to be half as good as he was as Stanley Kowalski.  “Steeeeeeeelllllllllaaaa”

11. Annie Wilkes played by Kathy Bates in “Misery”


“I am your number one fan. There is nothing to worry about. You are going to be just fine. I am your number one fan.”

Nobody can write original horror like Stephen King or could have created the character Annie Wilkes.  But no one could have played the character like Kathy Bates.  Since Misery came out the phrase, “I’m your number one fan” has a new sinister connotation.  Annie Wilkes, almost the reluctant villain coined the phrase and showed the world what true psychotic obsession really was.  The inner battle she faced between her unhealthy adoration of Paul and the novel character he created named Misery with her own strange moral code regarding politeness and etiquette, and conflicted with the necessity of keeping Paul there to “help” him was how she kept a balance.  The paradox of who she was and her ultimate reaction to Paul’s rejection makes her one of the most memorable characters ever devised and executed.

10. Gollum/Smeagal played by Andy Serkis/Weta SFX in “Lord Of The Rings Trilogy”


“We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!”

Never before has a computer generated character come across the screen as so three dimensional.  There is never a moment where you ask yourself if Gollum is CGI because he is so realistic.  Played by Andy Serkis, this interpretation of a character that is so twisted and demented would be difficult to pull off by your most talented actor, and yet combined with technology and the amazing voice over and physicality of Andy Serkis; Gollum becomes one of the greatest good/evil character’s of all time.  Split personalities seem to be a running theme in my top twenty, but doesn’t everyone have a light and dark side?  It just becomes that much more entertaining when people (or creatures) entertain those dark urges.  Gollum has the combination of being a brutal murderous creature, but also being the unfortunate victim of evil.  After years of isolation and personal loathing, only one thing belongs to both Gollum and Smeagal: The Precious.

9. Dr. Ian Malcolm played by Jeff Goldblum in “Jurassic Park”


“I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here: it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility… for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it!”

In some ways I’ve always felt Ian Malcolm was the voice of Crichton.  It was obvious in his novels he had a love affair with the character.  Always the voice of reason, sanity, or insanity, Malcolm was always used as the character to reflect and analyze and finally understand the situations, and world before him.  In a cynical mad scientist kind of way, and Jeff Goldblum fully captured that part of Malcolm, while also placating to his over enthusiastic sarcasm in an almost charming way.  Some people hated Goldblum’s performance, but his character was exactly how Crichton wrote him to be and exactly as I envisioned it.  To hate Ian Malcolm, part of you had to have hated the bigger picture and point of Jurassic Park.  He was the eloquence, he was the character that fully understood the devastation of what science has done and is doing to the world, though in a very entertaining way of course.  He warned us, explained it to us, and we salivated in anticipation for the destruction of it’s future.  Jurassic Park is one of the greatest films of all time and would have been a trite monster movie without Ian Malcolm……….and maybe those dinosaurs too.

8. Tommy DeVito played by Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas”


“You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?”

There have been few gangsters or merciless killers have come close to measuring up to the deviant bravado of Tommy Devito.  His blatant disregard for any that pose a threat to him, the cruel demeanor in which he confronts others, and his sense of of entitlement is complemented by a harsh sense of humor, that others go along with simply out of fear.  Tommy may not have the maniacal or psychological issues some of the others on the list here have, because he has a learned violence instilled to his very core, embraced and encouraged by those who surround him.  In our world, Tommy is a monster, but in his world he is a hero among the nastiest and cruelest of the cruel.  As bad as Tommy is, you just can’t help but love him, just a little, though you should never laugh at him.

7. Darth Vader voiced by James Earl Jones and portrayed physically by David Prowse in “Star Wars”


“The force is with you young Skywalker, but you’re not a Jedi yet.”

Darth Vader is probably one of the most recognizable characters in the history of film, and for good reason.  He’s the ultimate villain of villains.  The dark warrior who on a whim may feel the urge to force choke the life out of you.  Maybe you glanced sideways at him.  Maybe he doesn’t like your hair.  Maybe he was just stretching and you got in the way.  Either way, Vader is the biggest bad of the big bads.  Perhaps Lord Vader was an instrument of the Emperor, but he was the most deadly weapon to ever wander the galaxy.  Evil, maniacal, and cold to the very bone, Vader gives the impression that he is beyond humanity until The Empire Strikes Back and suddenly his obsession with finding Luke Skywalker goes beyond a mission for his master.  It was the search for a lost son.  There is no explanation in the original series as to why or how Luke grew up with his aunt and uncle, but the truth that the films hero, all good in the force, was the son of the most evil being in the entire galaxy is a staggering moment in the tale of Vader.  The story Obi-Wan told of Vader once being Anakin Skywalker and being turned by the dark side of the force complicates his character even more and gains serious relevance at this point.  The two sides of Vader slowly reveal themselves, and by the end of Return Of The Jedi when he tells Luke, “It’s too late for me”  it has a resounding and powerful impact.  It doesn’t get much better than Darth Vader.

6. Jules Winnfield played by Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”


“I’m sorry, did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue, you were saying something about best intentions. What’s the matter? Oh, you were finished! Well, allow me to retort. What does Marsellus Wallace look like?”

It’s a heavy responsibility to carry a mans soul around in your suitcase, but it was a job a guy like Jules Winnfield would take on.  The greatest epiphany that changed a cool cold blooded killers perception of reality.  When Jules feels the almighty intervened in his life he makes a choice to end his life as a criminal and start fresh, but the road of his journey is not one easily changed.  His partner, Vincent Vega, does not see the light and his trepidations of the wicked takes him down a path that ultimately leads to his death, while Jules revelation leads him to as much peace as a man of his nature can live with.  Jules is about as smooth and tough as they come, even though he gave up crime he’s still one bad muthaf***er.

5. Dr. Gonzo/ Oscar Z. Acosta played by Benicio Del Toro in “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas”


“Sounds like big trouble. You’re going to need plenty of legal advice before this thing is over. As your attorney, I advise you to rent a very fast car with no top. And you’ll need the cocaine. Tape recorder for special music. Acapulco shirts. Get the hell out of L.A. for at least 48 hours. Blows my weekend.”

Dr. Gonzo’s partner in crime, Duke, may have been the more eloquent speaker, and have more in depth reflections on the situations they found themselves in, but most of those situations revolved around whatever psychedelic drug induced debacle Dr. Gonzo had gotten them into.  Benicio Del Toro in this role was the chance of a lifetime to perform.  Overweight, dirty, in full on drug heaven and hell, Del Toro played Gonzo so in depth it was matter of question whether he’d been there himself.  Just as easily as Dr. Gonzo could be speaking eloquently and reflectively he could turn into a savage monster only seconds later.  Very seldom does he make any lucid kind of sense, and rationalizes his urges and desires by ordering Duke as his lawyer to make certain choices.  Dr. Gonzo is hysterical and and menacing all in the same breath.  There is no one like Dr. Gonzo.

4. Patrick Bateman played by Christian Bale in “American Psycho”

“There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real me: only an entity, something illusory. And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable… I simply am not there.”

Talk about delusions of evil and ideas of grandeur.  Patrick Bateman is the ultimate sociopath.  His ability to blend so efficiently in society yet be so detached is the most compelling aspect of Patrick Bateman to endure.  His fixation with Huey Lewis and Phil Collins showed an obsession with details and things, but an indifference to people and life.  Obsessing over his business card and the best restaurant in town becomes an anxiety driven focus.  His apathy towards the people that he was supposedly engaged with in friendships, relationships, or sexual partners with has moments of pure and utter amusement, but only because we are perceiving the situations from Bateman’s perspective.  The impassive perspective of his vision of the world is strange and darkly enchanting.  Even in his most grave moments of violence and reality being distorted, there is something gruesomely delightful about it all, but I guess that’s the point.

3. Indiana Jones played by Harrison Ford in “Indiana Jones Quadlogy”


“Snakes… why did it have to be snakes?”

The depth and complexity of Indiana Jones goes past intriguing and delves directly into a bonafide enigma.  The only person who could fully understand Indiana Jones is himself.  While he doesn’t necessarily crave danger, but he does not cower from it either.  He crashes through barriers with no regard for his personal safety, only mission in mind.  The intellect of the character coupled with the amazing charisma of Harrison Ford and his clever demeanor makes women adore him and men dream about being him.  His natural charm, dazzling smile, and whimsical bravado make him the greatest hero of all time.  While Han Solo is one of Ford’s greatest roles ever, Harrison Ford said years ago that he couldn’t play a character as one dimensional as Han Solo again, but he’d never say no to Indiana Jones, as he is even his favorite role of all time.  If they made a movie about zombies and Indiana Jones chasing them down in a wheelchair; I’d watch it.

2. Ellen Ripley played by Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens”


Get away from her, you *bitch!*

Ellen Ripley is the inspiration from which so many heroines have since stemmed.  I don’t believe any have succeed in coming close to having achieved what she did with this character, though many have tried.   What was so extraordinary about Ripley was the fact that she wasn’t necessarily equipped to handle the battles she eventually had to overcome.  She did not persevere by muscles, super strength, or overt intelligence, she is resolved by sheer will and inner strength.  When faced with her nightmares a second time she makes the actual choice to face her demons (who happen to be actual demons) but she does this knowing what the ultimate result with likely be.  Her strength and her determination to persist is what makes her so palpable, yet so unique.  By the third and fourth editions the films lose some of their integrity, but Ripley does not.  Her character remains steadfast in who she was from the first scene she was in.  Her passion, resolve, and complexity make her one of my personal heroes, and by far the greatest female character ever created.

1. Tyler Durden played by Brad Pitt in “Fight Club”


“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off. “

At a crossroads in life Tyler Durden emerges and unleashes hell.  The narrator is at his wits end, in a mundane world, living a mundane life, with no essential meaning.  He runs into Tyler Durden a man bound by no rules or expectations society has set.  “Only after you’ve lost everything can you really be free” is Tyler’s mantra for life.  Though his actions seem to have meaning, his true intentions are an enigma.  He lives in the moment, embracing his desires, but only the carnal desires of true human nature.  Not something as capricious as a possession or title.  Tyler represents a rage against the drones of humanity.  He is a warrior against the pathetic emptiness of consumers making more garbage we don’t need to litter our minds and our bodies.  He is a mind that has evolved far beyond all of our own, and his idealism’s are so extreme the true owner of his thoughts cannot even face them for what they are, as he cowers and hides in fear of knowing and thinking the things he does, while Tyler has the strength to live them.  This character is so almighty and powerful, the only people who may truly understand Tyler is his creator and the vessel in which he is portrayed.



  • I thought for sure I would see Ripley-Vader for 1-2.

    Great list. It still shames me that I haven’t seen Labyrinth, which is surprising because I love me some David Bowie.

  • Ripley at #2, I didn’t see that coming, I thought she was nailed on for the top spot.