Top 50 Movie Characters

Antigeekness posted on my blog from the other day, about the top 50 movie characters. A morning radio show had the list, from a movie magazine.

Before I even looked at the list, I mentioned the problem I was going to have with it, is that they’d have villains. And, villains have already been done in lists. So, if you are going to have “best movie characters” why not keep that for everyone but the villains? And, limit the actors that can be on the list. I can think of a few characters that Jimmy Stewart and Gregory Peck did, that could easily make the list.

It’s kind of like the problem I had when a magazine did the list of the hottest bond women. To me, you don’t put Halle Berry, Grace Jones and Denise Richardson, because they were famous BEFORE the Bond pictures. Speaking of Bond and villains, Grace Jones was in the Bond picture with Christopher Walker. That was perfect for him, because he wasn’t known for those crazy roles at that point. Imagine if a Bond picture now, with Daniel Craig, used a Dennis Hopper, John Malkovich, or someone like that, as a villain. It would be too distracting and just kind of lame.

Here is the magazines list, and my comments after each one.

  1. Tyler Durden - Fight Club. This character should take up two spots on the list. A good movie, but very highly overrated. And, if you’re putting this character on the list, why at #1? He’s a dude that started fights. And made soap. Can someone please explain to me the rules on how they put this list together? Or, is the first rule of this list, that there is no rule to the list?

  2. Darth Vader - the Star Wars hexology. He would be in my top five of villain. I’d take him off the list and replace him with Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca. Something about him being such a bitter jerk, before we understand why. Yet he still treated his piano player well. And he still did the right thing when it came to his love. Such a class move.

  3. The Joker - The Dark Knight. I’d scratch him from the list, and put T.S. Garp, as played by Robin Williams in one of the most underrated films. It was dark, yes. But his character was so interesting. He wrote quirky short stories that didn’t sell, he was funny, and wasn’t bitter about his mom becoming rich and famous.

  4. Han Solo - the Star Wars hexology. Uh, not sure what is so great about this character. He had the cocky swagger, the looks, but so what. Great movie, an average character. I’d switch this with Harrison Ford from The Fugitive.

  5. Hannibal Lecter - the Hannibal Lecter series. I’d drop the villain, and maybe take Jodi Fosters character. She had to play this rookie FBI agent, clearly in over her head. Not just with a cannibalist criminal that can tell she was white trash and what body lotion she used…but a boss that was borderline sexually harassing her.

  6. Indiana Jones - the Indiana Jones trilogy. I have no problem with this. I did have a problem with the last Indy picture sucking.

  7. The Dude - The Big Lebowski. Great choice. Who doesn’t love the dude? I’m thinking John Goodmans character from this could make the list, too.

  8. Captain Jack Sparrow - the Pirates of the Caribean series. Stupid films, stupid character. He talked like a drunk Keith Richards (wait…that might be redundant). There are at least three other characters Johnny Depp has played that could replace this choice.

  9. Ellen Ripley - the Alien series. I love this pick. She played a tough woman, in a great action/sci fi film.

  10. Vito Corleone - The Godfather. This is a good pick. He would never make the villain list, I don’t think. Because there were reasons why he killed. So, having him on this list is fine.

  11. James Bond - the James Bond series. Yeah, great character. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted him. So much so, that Connery can be old, bald, and play a plumber in a movie. They are still attracted to him.

  12. John McClane - the Die Hard series. I didn’t care for this character. Willis was perfect for the part, but by the time he started doing movies, I was burned out on his cocky persona, which was so great in Moonlighting. His character in Pulp Fiction would be a better choice (a boxer paid to take a dive that doesn’t). Or what about his character in the two M. Night films? 6th Sense and Unbreakable (if you haven’t seen it, rent it; it’s amazing).

  13. Gollum - the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I never saw any of these films.

  14. The Terminator - the Terminator series. I’d put the terminator on the villain list. Oh wait. Doesn’t he become a good terminator in the second or third one? I dunno, I can’t remember.

  15. Ferris Bueller - Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris should be Top 10. Maybe Top 5. People still quote things from this movie.

  16. Neo - the Matrix trilogy. I only saw the first Matrix. It was good, although highly overrated. Not sure if Neo was the good guy or Keanu Reeves. I’d take him off the list, and replace him with Jimmy Stewart as the Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance (or as you find out, never did; but he did punch John Wayne in the face, which was kinda cool).

  17. Hans Gruber - Die Hard. See bad guy list.

  18. Travis Bickle - Taxi Driver. This is a great choice. I wonder how many people, when this film came out, hated it simply because they couldn’t figure Bickle out. In fact, there’s not anything to figure out. He’s a nut job, but thinks he’s doing the right thing (trying to save Jodi Foster from prostitution, etc.) A lot of people think of nut cases being like Charles Manson. Sometimes they are people like this, that try to do the right thing, but are so messed up in the head. Mixed with a bit of stupidity, and they’re like functioning killers. They hold down jobs and go out on dates (he was a cabbie that scored a date with Cybil Shephard in this…only blowing it when he takes her to an X-rated film).

  19. Jules Winnfield - Pulp Fiction. Sam Jackson was so great in this. Not sure about his hair, though. Pulp Fiction was so good, I might’ve made a rule that you could only have two characters from each movie. Otherwise, Pulp Fiction might get Christopher Walker, Travolta, Amanda Plumber (a short, but sweet part), Eric Stoltz, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel (what, exactly, is his profession in this movie?)...and isn't Travolta's character the more interesting of the two? He's the one that brings up topics like giving a foot massage isn't the same as having an affair with a woman. Or about how there are slight differences between Europe and the U.S. Jackson just nods or disagrees.

  20. Forrest Gump. Good choice. The movie’s a modern day classic.

  21. Michael Corleone - the Godfather trilogy. Okay, wait. Now I’m confused. I’m not one of those guys that always watches this when it’s on TV. Is he Pacino or Brando? Either way, enough with Godfather. Goodfellas was a better film. Remove this character, put in Ray Liotta from Goodfellas.

  22. Ellis “Red” Redding - The Shawshank Redemption. Nope. No movies where Morgan Freeman is the narrator. The more interesting character was Tim Robbins. Nobody knew if he was guilty or innocent. Or why he was so quiet. They did know he was intelligent. And he was nice, in a place where there weren’t many people that were nice.

  23. Harry Callahan - the Dirty Harry series. Yeah…anyone that goes out and gets revenge, is on my list. And as a kid growing up in the 70s, he and Charles Bronson were my heroes.

  24. Ash - the Evil Dead trilogy. I never saw any of these films. But if you’re going horror, why not Linda Blair from the Exorcist? Oh wait, she’d be considered a villain. How about Yassarian, from Catch 22? The movie didn’t do as well as the wonderful book by Joseph Heller. But Alan Arkin was perfect casting.

  25. Yoda - the Star Wars hexology. Yoda was cool. But…why does this alien get put on the list ahead of E.T.? Maybe because this green dude didn’t sell out with product placement for M&Ms.

  26. Ron Burgundy – Anchorman. This movie is so ridiculously overrated. Five funny scenes, tops. Extra points because he’s a San Diego newscaster, but still. I’ll replace this with his racing character from Talladega Nights, which was funnier.

  27. Tony Montana – Scarface. Overrated. Unless you’re a rapper, this guy shouldn’t be on your list. What about one of Al Pacinos other many great characters, instead of his over-the-top, over acted performance in this?

  28. Gandalf - the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Never saw this. So, I’m replacing it with Sydney Pollacks character from Tootsie. The way he always gets mad at Dustin Hoffman, is just hysterical.

  29. Daniel Plainview - There Will Be Blood. He goes on my villain list. But, since this was a Paul Thomas Anderson movie, I’ll replace him with Dirk Diggler from Boogie Nights. Mark Walhberg should’ve gotten an Oscar nod for that portrail of a young, confused guy who gets into porno, gets rich and famous, and becomes a druggie loser. All of this, surprisingly entertaining and funny. In large part due to his performance.

  30. Jigsaw - the Saw series. I didn’t see it. I’m replacing him with Nicholson from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. But, an argument could be made that the Indian was a more interesting character. He was quiet. He was smart. Nicholson was just a trouble maker, that wanted to cause trouble for Nurse Ratchet.

  31. Aragorn - the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I didn’t see it. I’m going to replace him with Nicholson in Terms of Enderment. Okay, scratch that. I could probably replace this entire list with characters Nicholson has done. I’ll limit him to one. I’ll replace him with Nick Nolte’s character in Prince of Tides. To play a tough guy football coach from the south, who also knows a little about classical music and…oh well, it was just a well-written part. See this movie if you haven’t. I’m sure the book is great, because Pat Conroy is an amazing writer. I’ve just never gotten around to it.

  32. Jason Bourne - the Bourne trilogy. Good character, but he’s like a James Bond that’s a better fighter. I’m taking him off the list, and replacing him with Kevin Costner from Bull Durham. It was so well written, and perfectly cast.

  33. Tequila – Hardboiled. What does this even mean? Is this a movie? If so, it’s one I’ve never heard of. I remember Tequila Sunrise, with Kurt Russell and Mel Gibson. I have no clue what this is. I’ll replace it with Mel Gibson from Lethal Weapon. A tough guy cop that’s suicidal because of his wifes death.

  34. Rocky Balboa. Great choice. I might rank him higher. And, because I love boxing films (when they’re done right), I might put Anthony Quinn from Requiem of a Heavyweight (great casting with Mickey Rooney as the trainer, Jackie Gleason as the sleazy fight promoter, and a young Cassius Clay as one of his opponents).

  35. Maximus Decimus Meridius – Gladiator. Great character. I didn’t think I’d like the movie, but watching Russell Crowe fight so well with a sword and not a telephone, was really something.

  36. Harry Potter. I’m not a 12-year-old, so I’m taking this Harry off the list, and replacing him with Harry (Billy Crystal), from When Harry Met Sally. Because, a short, geeky Jewish guy really has no business getting a woman like Meg Ryan. But he was so hip and funny in it, we could actually believe it happened. And it was so sweet that their relationship developed from a friendship to a romance. Most romantic comedies try to pull that off, and do it poorly.

  37. Edward Scissorhands. This is the weirdest, lamest character ever. Tim Burton has great visuals in his films…but this is only mildly amusing. Since Depp played Willie Wonka, I’m replacing this with Gene Wilder’s Willie Wonka. No wait…with Gene Wilder in Producers. Or, better yet…got it. I’m going with Young Frankenstein character. He edges out his Blazing Saddles character, which was also great. He was just so manic and bizarre in Young Frankenstein. And many don’t realize, he actually wrote that script, too.

  38. Donnie Darko. Good movie, but I’m not so sure the character was that interesting. Patrick Swayze was more interesting, as a guy who has gotten rich with these cheesy motivational speaking infomercials and appearances. He then turns out to be a child molester. But, on the subject of Swayze, let’s take his character from Ghost. The dude was murdered, but his ghost qualifies.

  39. Marty McFly - Back To The Future. Great character. Great movie. But…why is this character better than the weird scientist Christopher Lloyd played?

  40. Patrick Bateman - American Psycho. A good movie, but overrated. I’d take Christian Bale in The Machinist over this. Rent that movie. A bit weird and dark at first, but it finishes nicely.

  41. Mary Poppins. A classic. Maybe not on my list, but…who can you replace Mary Poppins with?

  42. Alex DeLarge - A Clockwork Orange. One of the classic movies that I didn’t care for. I did see it when I was only 15.

  43. The Man With No Name - spaghetti western trilogy. I only saw bits and pieces of these films. If it’s going to be a western, I’d gladly replace this character with Shane…or the main guy in High Noon (was that Gary Cooper?), or any character in Unforgiven – Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, or the young gun slinger, who talks a big game, but turns out to be very remorseful once he kills his first (and only) victim.

  44. Peter Venkman – Ghostbusters. I thought this movie sucked so bad. It had a few funny moments, and was mildy cute. But with the talent involved in this picture, I think it could’ve been so much more. I’m going to throw this character out, and go with Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. That was such a great, interesting, thought provoking film. A close second would be Murray in that movie where he’s a bank robber dressed as a clown. A very underrated comedy.

  45. Amelie Poulain – Amelie. This movie had it’s moments, but was highly overrated because it was an indie picture. I’ll replace it with a character from an indie picture here…Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove (he played a few different roles). It’s now considered a classic, but I believe it was classified as “indie” when it came out. I was also thinking of Sellers from Being There, but Forrest Gump was 10 times better.

  46. Anton Chigurh - No Country For Old Men. Villain list. But, I can’t just replace him with Tommy Lee Jones, although that character was interesting. Jones was more interesting in Fugitive, but I already have that represented with Ford. I’m replacing him with Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in The French Connection (nobody better bring up The Conversation…an okay movie that seems to be labeled a masterpiece nowdays).

  47. Blade. What is this? I think it’s a Wesley Snipes movie, but I’m not sure. Okay…well, I’ll replace it with Snipes in White Men Can’t Jump. A great hoopster that gets hustled by Woody Harrelson, but ends up getting revenge. No wait…I’ll go with Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours.

  48. Tony Stark - Iron Man. Hmmm. I liked the character. But, is Robert Downey Jr. any better than Christopher Reeve as Superman? Or Bale as Batman? Yes, he’s better than Keaton or Clooney as Batman…but not sure why he’d be near the top of the super heroes. I’ll replace him with Joe Montagne’s character from House of Games, my favorite of all David Mamet films.

  49. Walter Sobchak - The Big Lebowski. Oh…they did put another Lebowski character in. I have no problem with this character, but with these lists, it would be so much more variety to keep it to one character per movie. I’m going to take another Coehn Brothers movie, Fargo. And I’ll replace Walter with Marge, played by Frances M.

  50. Quint – Jaws. I would put Robert Shaw in my Top 15 of this list. He’s such an amazing talent (he was a writer, as well as playing bad guys in movies like The Sting). Apparently, he ad-libbed the famous scene where he’s talking about sharks eating people on the U.S.S. Indianapolis, and showing his scars. And, you can’t really call Quint a villain. He’s just a jerk, that is used to doing his things way.


Ugh, that is a bad list. Most of those choices are too modern by people who don't know what quality films are. Not one silent, noir, swashbuckler or even a Hitchcock. What is wrong with people?

I agree with the Bond and LOTR choices. Aragorn and Shir Sean Connery are The Men!

I LOLed when I saw "The Dude" come in at #7. What a great choice.

You have to check out the whole 100 from Empire mag, JB. The Mel Gibson character from Lethal Weapon was #100. Some of your other replacements are good.

But I 'still' can't believe you haven't seen the LOTR triology. That's just crazy. Viggo rocked it as Aragorn. Thank God they replaced Stuart Townsend with Viggo just a few days into the shoot.

I've gotta think about this some more, but a REALLY conspicuous omission to me is Karl Childers, Billy Bob Thornton's character from Sling Blade, one of my favorite films. Absolutely compelling.

Damn, I'm hungry. Maybe some french-fried taters...

Out of 50 characters listed, only 3 were female!! I guess that shows how many good rolls are available for women, doesn't it?

I'm assuming you're a broad, sattin. Good point. I could see Susan Sarandon or Gena Davis making it on the list from that road picture they did. John Lithgow from Garp should count, since he had a sex change in that movie.

I'm sure some people would think Uma Thurman from Kill Bill...but those movies didn't do a lot for me.

And anti...I agree. Slingblade is an amazing film.

Oh...and fifi, the problem with older movies is, the characters don't stand out as much. For example, have you ever sat and watched an episode of Leave it to Beaver? There's really nothing there. It's not bad. It's just blah. Kind of like old movies.

I mean, I'd gladly put Chaplin from City Lights on the list. Harold Lloyd probably did a character or two that could make it. But yeah, the magazine knows that a lot of younger people won't know the names, so they're avoided.

Christopher Walken (not Christopher Walker).. also he was still pretty crazy in Deer Hunter playing Russian roulette.

Where is;

Dorothy - The Wizard of Oz Jack Ryan, Spy - from Tom Clancy movies. Austin Powers - wtf? Jack Torrance - The Shining. Norman Bates - Anthony Perkins, Psycho Mrs. Robinson - The Graduate Raymond Babbit - Rainman Henry Gondorf - The Sting Axel Foley - Beverly Hills Cop Maverick - Tom Cruise, Top Gun Charles Foster Kane - Citizen Kane

Some of the ones being mentioned are actually in the Top 100 on that list, which can be found here:

...among other places. The reason I hesitate to put the link to the Empire site is that it's now got a "This Site May Harm Your Computer" warning that comes up when it's Googled.

As for the females, how about Cate Blanchett's imposing Elizabeth? Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning performance as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster was called "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema" by Ebert. I'd say she deserves a spot on that list.

But of course, that's a villain. As is Robert DeNiro's Max Cady from the 1991 version of Cape Fear, but he should be on there, too. I don't really get your argument that the character and villain list should be mutually exclusive. A LOT of the greatest movie characters have been villains.

I was going to suggest Chaplin for City Lights, too. And how can you not have Max Schreck as Nosferatu? Or Bette Davis from Jezebel? Or Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard?

Where's Peter O'Toole as Lawrence of Arabia? Albert Finney for Tom Jones? Heck, I'd even put Rex Harrison's Doctor Dolittle on there before some of the others.

In fact, we could probably sit here all day & just go through the Best Actor / Best Actress Oscar winners and nominees, and fill the list without doing much else.


You have to see Lord of the Rings. It's really wonderful.

The movie you reference with Bill Murray as the clown was "Quick Change," which was hilarious - partly because it had Randy Quaid (and Gena Davis). Quaid and Murray are also hilarious in King Pins, which I prefer to The Big Lebowski. I guess I am the only one who doesn't love "the dude." In fact, if I had to hear him say "duuude" one more time I felt like screaming.

I like Ponzi's list.

There's so many - it's hard to choose.

What about Jim Carey's character in The Cable Guy? Broderick's character in that was good too, as well as the teacher he played in Election.

Yeah, these are all more modern movies, but that's our generation.


Ponzi..that was a type on Walken. My bad. Nice list. Bates was on my villian list (and have to do a separate list, because so many villian lists have come out, and then all of the list would be bad guys, because they are so much more interesting and great acting required to pull them off; why have duplicates on both lists?)

Regarding Ponzis, though...Dorothy is good. Austin Powers, nice. But Jack Torrance? He was playing Jack Nicholson (don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but still). Same with Axel Foley. He was playing Eddie Murphy (including the laugh). Mrs. Robinson doesn't deserve to make the list, but maybe Hoffman, who plays a confused young man. Robinson was just a drunken lush (again, nothing wrong with that, but hardly makes her "interesting"...just a bit pathetic). Rainman, good choice. And Gandolf..YES! The Sting rules. You can take all the characters in that movie and put them on the list, as far as I'm concerned.

Maverick, no. But I'd put Tom Skerrits character from that. I love tough guys in movie, that really do care about the people they work with (ie Lou Gossett Jr. in Officer and Gentleman)/

Anti...Swanson was great in Sunset Boulevard, as was everyone in that picture. I also liked Dianne Wiest, playing a similar character in a Woody Allen movie from 15 years ago.

TFB...Quick Change was a great comedy. I especially like that Jason Robards (who did many characters that could make the list) wasn't some bumbling idiot of a cop. He was smart, and right on Murrays tail.

Here's a potentially GREAT character. The story of which he was a part has been covered. But it would be great to see a new take on it, exclusively from his perspective.

He died today in Santa Rosa, at the age of 95. His old associate Bob Woodward co-reported it, in the Post:

"Follow the money." Always good advice.

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