Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Top 10 Movie Characters

I've been asked "What are my ten favorite characters in the history of movies?" Curse you Timothy! And Squish. The question is not something specific like ten favorite characters in Moulin Rouge! (easy) or ten favorite performances by an actress in the past three years or ten favorite Disney villains. No, this question is broader than Ursula's tentacle span. This is like asking someone "What are your ten favorite notes in the history of music?" Insanity. So I'm doing this off the top of my head. I'm avoiding things I talk about too much (Ursula, Lt. Ellen Ripley, Dorothy Gale and any character played by Michelle Pfeiffer). I'm also presenting in chronological order so as to avoid nervous meltings or celluloid breakdowns.

Top Ten Movie Characters

Peter Pan
The movies are full of franchise characters, but usually I stay picky only getting wrapped up for short bursts of time. Take James Bond. It totally depends on the Bond for me. And though I love vampires in general I prefer them when they're not actually Count Dracula himself or Vlad the Impaler or whatever he's calling himself now. I could definitely swing with some Tarzans but I don't seek out his movies. But Peter Pan? From the
silent version in 1924 (starring Betty Bronson) the stage musical (starring whomever... though I always hate that it's a girl playing the impish boy), through the Disney cartoon right up to the underappreciated 2003 incarnation, I'll always watch him fly. Even though I sometimes regret it. Bonus points for Tinkerbell even if Disney is attempting to destroy my love for her [on Tinkerbell and Wendy]

Lucy Warriner
in The Awful Truth (1937)
If I could marry Lucy and Jerry Warriner, played by Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, I would. Every time I watch the movie I fall madly in love with Lucy and fall totally in sync with Jerry. He and I become totally discombobulated. She's impossible and hilarious, sexy and maddening, baffling and endearing all at once and often at the same moment. Though to tell the truth, I could just as easily have picked Hazel Flagg in Nothing Sacred (1937), Susan Vance in Bringing Up Baby (1938), Ellie in It Happened One Night (1934) or Sugarpuss O'Shea in Ball of Fire (1941). There is no list of Greatest Anything that is complete without the screwball comedy.

Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd (1950)
The ur diva actress and arguably the best mirror character for the cinema as a whole, reflecting back on the silents and still projecting forward and resonating today. She's a nightmare avatar of stardom curdled that forever haunts the movies. It doesn't matter how small the pictures get. She's also the unavoidable reminder of the inevitability of aging and death even for the true immortals of the screen.

Clyde Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
I should say "Bonnie and..." but that'd be cheating. And though I love Faye Dunaway's fierce style and her eagerly swift descent into criminality, my heart tips ever so slightly to Warren Beatty's Clyde... beautiful, violent, impotent, infamous Clyde shooting and stealing his way through a short life in those dust bowl days.

Sevérine in Belle de Jour (1967)
For her perversity and beauty... but most of all for her unknowability. Few characters in cinema retain their mystique so well once the credits roll. Was Catherine Deneuve ever better? Then again... when isn't she superb? [more Deneuve]

Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1972)
Doesn't her body drive you wild with desire? I realize there's stiff competition out there but she may well be the most quotable character in all of cinema... or at least within the musicals. [on Cabaret]

Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982)
I never quite understood the deep pathos of the Frankenstein myth until I came face to face with his futuristic descendant, replicant Roy Batty as portrayed by Rutger Hauer. With his white shock hair, adult malice and incongruous little boy pouting he mesmerized. That double emotional arc/climax stunned: the first in which he meets his physical maker and exterminates him, the second in which he himself expires knowing there's no spiritual maker to go home to. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain... [more on Batty]

Freddy Honeychurch in A Room With a View (1986)
When Lucy Honeychurch's uncouth suitor George shouts "Beauty!!!!!" into the open air in this Merchant/Ivory classic, I think not of the landscape he shouts to or of Lucy, but of her little brother Freddy. I think of the young Rupert Graves and his amateur hour musicality, vivid immaturity, impossible bangs (his hair seems as eager to frolic as he is) and uninhibited enthusiasms... "fancy a bath?". What's mo --- okay, okay, it's a sexual fixation. I confess. But it's not like we all don't have them with movie characters. You think Rita Hayworth's Gilda became a classic character strictly for her personality? [previous Freddy Honeychurch]

Suzanne Vale in Postcards From the Edge (1990)
She combines three elements that are utterly amazing on their own, let alone fused: Carrie Fisher's wit, channelled through Meryl Streep's awesomeness in order to illuminate what happens to be my favorite species on earth, the Actress Neurotica. It's not exactly an endangered species but I still think we ought to set up a preservation fund to make sure they never go the way of the dinosaur. And maybe get zoos involved in case things get too dangerous for them in the wild.

Amber Waves in Boogie Nights (1998)
The foxiest bitch in the whole world. In some ways Amber Waves forever cursed Julianne Moore to be seen as "the bad mother" but if you have to get stuck in a typecasting rut, get there by playing one of the most indelible screen creations ever. Bonus points: Good actors spoofing bad acting (see also: Jean Hagen in Singin' in the Rain and Jennifer Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway) is one of the greatest pleasures of the silver screen.

Wither the Aughts? If you're on your movie-loving training wheels --there's no shame in that. We all start with movies of the here and now, whenever our here is now -- and would like this list caged into the past 10 years, well... I decided to save the current decade for a later list. Turns out this wasn't as painful as I thought but fun to create even as it fails on the definitive front. There are just too many characters to embrace.

Who should I tag (i.e. punish)? I really want to see the lists that JA, Dave, Gabriel, Fox and Adam would whip up. And I tag you if you haven't a blog of your own should you like to share in the comments. And tell me what'cha think of my ten ...do we share a few character obsessions?


Fernando Moss said...

Loved it... especially the inclusion of SEVERINE (Buñuel is my all time favorite director).

My list propably woul look like this...

*Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
*The Bride (Kill Bill)
*Viridiana (Viridiana)
*Bom (Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras Chicas del Monton)
*Clementine Kruscinsky (Eternal Sunshine...)
*Nigel (This Is Spinal Tap)
*Cuddles Kovinsky (Polyester)
*Edna Mode (The Incredibles)
*Renton (Trainspotting)
*Blanche Hudson (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?)

Fox said...

Ahhh... than you Nathaniel. Creating this list will be the perfect distraction from two back-to-back annoying days at work!

Sevérine. Such a perfect name. It sounds as naughty as Deneuve's performance in that film.

And on Amber Waves' bad acting, I love how Julienne Moore delivers the "that's a giant c**k" line in the office scene.

ivan said...

Vitto Corleone/The Godfather
Travis Bickle/Taxi Driver
Michael Corleone/The Godfather part II
Sally Bowles/Cabaret
Regan/The Exorcist
J.J. Gittes/Chinatown
Annie Hall/Annie Hall
Colonel Bill Kilgore/Apocalypse Now
Paul/Last Tango in Paris

Alex Forrest/Fatal Attraction
Tony Montana/Scarface
Frank Booth/Blue Velvet
John/Nine 1/2 Weeks
Jake LaMotta/Raging Bull
Marquise de Mertuil/Dangerous Liaisons
Roy Batty/Blade Runner
Sophie Zawistowski/Sophie´s Choice
Jane Craig/Broadcast News

Tyler Durden/Fight Club
Dil/The Crying Game
Marge Gunderson/Fargo
Detective Somerset/Seven
Vincent Vega/Pulp Fiction
Rose Dawson/Titanic
Thelma/Thelma & Louise
Andrew Beckett/Philadelphia
Clarice Straling/The Silence of the Lambs

Ennis Del Mar/Brokeback Mountain
Clementine/Eternal Sunshine
Bill the Butcher/Gangs of NY
Beatrix Kiddo/Kill Bill
Billy Elliot/Billy Elliot
Jack Sparrow/Pirates of the Caribbean
Satine/Moulin Rouge
Joker/The Dark Knight
Frank Slaughtery/25th Hour

Marshall said...

Roy Batty is my favorite of all time. Louis Gossett Jr. owes Rutger Hauer an Oscar.

John T said...

Mine would be, probably in this order:

1 & 2. Blanche DuBois & Stanley Kowalski-the most devastating pair in the history of films: dangerous, fascinating, swaggering, sexy, and above all else mesmerizing.

3. Scarlett O'Hara-Really, the two greatest performances by a woman in the history of the film were given by the same woman. No wonder no one ever talks about the rest of her work.

4. Charles Foster Kane-I could probably put five Welles performances on this list, and it would hold water. Still, there's no topping the original.

5. Jean Brodie-I worship Maggie Smith's goddess in violet.

6. Norma Desmond-Had either Sunset or Eve been one year earlier, the Davis/Swanson/Leigh back-to-back-to-back would have been the greatest run of Best Actresses in the history of the Academy.

7. Michael Corleone-Brando's performance I probably like better than Pacino's, but really, there's no more compelling screen arch than Michael's.

8. Lazlo de Almasy-If Nathaniel were to pick his ten favorite performances in Moulin Rouge!, mine would be in The English Patient.

9. Gollum-Easily the most fascinating creation of the decade.

10. Lawrence of Arabia-A crowning achievement by O'Toole.

Hon. Mentions (at least towards the tippy top of the list): Margo Channing, Noah Cross, Gandalf, Ennis del Maar, and Mrs. John Iselin.


Marshall -- so sad that Hauer wasn't even nominated but we all know that science fiction can't contain good acting [/sarcasm]

Fernando ooh Blanche Hudson. damn. how could i forget her?

Fox "let me just check something" HA

IVAN your way (by decade) is probably the only sensible way to go... but even 10 a decade isn't sensible. TOO MANY CHARACTERS

John T regarding 1 & 2... the only reason i didn't give it to one of them is thinking... i'll view them as stage creations first and foremost . that's how i weaseled out!

Kelsy said...

I love Freddy Honeychurch! My favorite moment is when he's playing the piano and Cecil and Lucy leave and the song has some lyric about being in the key of C and he mumbles to his mom, "However, we're in the key of E flat." I'm absolutely charmed.

Wayne B. said...

Wish i had time to compile a list right now, but I like Nathaniel's list, even though the only ones I've seen are "Bonnie and Clyde", Peter Pan, "Boogie Nights" and "Cabaret". Just re-watched "Boogie Nights" over the weekend on IFC and was blown away yet again *no pun intended*. Even my brother is astounded that she lost the Oscar to Kim Basinger.

Jeff M said...

How about a little love for Corky St. Clair from WAITING FOR GUFFMAN?!??! One of the great movie characters - EVER. I'd also like to add Jane Craig from BROADCAST NEWS. I fell head over heels in love with Holly in that movie. She was indeed my "saving grace".

Catherine said...

Oh, God. This is too hard! I'm leaving out the aughts as well (although my heart pangs when I think about Joe from The Station Agent) and I'm furthermore restricting myself to purely cinematic characters (buh-bye Blanche duBois!)


Kit, Badlands
Margo Channing, All About Eve
Holly, Hannah and her Sisters
Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver
Jane Craig, Broadcast News
Agrado, Todo Sobre Mi Madre
Goran, Tilsammans
Jean Harrington/Eve The Lady Eve
Michael/Dorothy Tootsie

My last choice came into my mind unexpectedly and it's a little silly because the film is so inconsequential, but I love it purely because of Anne Bancroft: Estelle Rolfe in Garbo Talks!.

adelutza said...

I love your list, even if mine is completely different :-)

Elvis - Kurt Russel in Elvis . This was the first time I was exposed to the King. I formed an obsession for the rest of my life
Juliete Hard - Brigitte Bardot in "And God Created Woman" - another obsession of mine
Ludovic Cruchot - Luis de Funes from the "gendarme"-series
The Sundance Kid - Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
Ilsa Hund and Rick Blaine - Casablanca
Scarlet O'Hara
Katie Morosky - Barbra Streissand in The Way We Were
Ninotchka - Greta Garbo in Ninotchka
Joe - 'Josephine' - Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot
Beatrix kido - Umma Thurman in Kill Bill

KEVIN M. said...

Jessica Rabbit
Daniel Plainview
Scarlett O'Hara
Margo Channing
Ash (Evil Dead)
Capt. Jack Sparrow
Hannibal Lecter
Dory (Finding Nemo)

Sam said...

Off the top of my head:

Blanche Du Bois
Scarlett O'Hara
Matty Walker
Mary Poppins
Norma Desmond
Crystal Allen
Ennis Del Mar
Margo Channing
Mame Dennis
Rosemary (from Picnic)

liv. said...

you've got a great list =]
mine would be;

Norma Desmond from Sunset Blvd.
Homer Parrish from The Best Years of Our Lives.
Charlotte Vale from Now, Voyager.
Howard Beale from Network.
Harry 'The Preacher' Powell from The Night of the Hunter.
Jean Harrington from The Lady Eve.
Lonesome Rhodes from A Face in the Crowd.
Deanie Loomis from Splendor in the Grass.
Walter Burns from His Girl Friday.
Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate.

Anonymous said...

Work has been crazy busy but I have missed this blog! Off the top of my head, I'd say...

1. Gilda in "Gilda"
2. Manuela in "All About My Mother"
3. Tommy Creo in "The Fountain"
4. Joanna Wallace in "Two for the Road"
5. Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest"
6. Patrick 'Kitten' Braden in "Breakfast on Pluto"
7. Corey in "Empire Records"
8. Jett Rink in "Giant"
9. Ben Quick in "Long, Hot Summer"
10. Amelie Poulin in "Amelie"

With honorable mentions of Satine from "Moulin Rouge", Madeline Ashton from "Death Becomes Her", and O-Ren Ishii from "Kill Bill".

The Never Fairy said...

Here's another place to find Peter Pan flying:



Jer Madeline Ashton!



ha ha. such a funny movie.

Rose said...

Amazing list. Definitely some choices I wouldn't have thought to add. Mine would be something along the lines of -

(in no apparent order - whatever popped into my head first):
*Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) - Nights of Cabiria
*Gilda/Elsa (Rita Hayworth) - Gilda/Lady from Shanghai
*Geneviève/Severine (Catherine Deneuve) - Umbrellas of Cherbourg/ Belle de Jour
*Margo Channing (Bette Davis) - All About Eve
*Clementine (Kate Winslet) - Eternal Sunshine
*Ellie (Claudette Colbert) - It Happened One Night
*Dori (Ellen DeGeneres) - Finding Nemo
*Tanya (Marlene Dietrich) - Touch of Evil
*Billie (Judy Holliday) - Born Yesterday
*Camille (Garbo) - Camille
* Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers) - Stage Door

I tried to eliminate one character to make it 10, but I couldn't bear to part with any of them

Wayne B. said...

I definitely think Clementine Krucynski, Michael Corleone, Beatrix Kiddo, Clarice Starling, Carrie White, Travis Bickle deserve any place on a classic character list. But for the sake of keeping it personal, in random order:

1) Gus from "Cinderella" (James MacDonald) - The CUTEST movie character in existence. My favorite play-pretend character when I was a kid.
2) Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci) - The start of a life-long actress obsession. Where is Ricci's Oscar?
3) Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) - I could go hyperbolic on this performance for days on end. Too many adjectives to describe it but I'll try: cool, cunning and a stone-cold fox.
4) Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) - A classic; one performance I can watch anytime. Who doesn't identify in some way with Edward?
5) Tina Turner (Angela Bassett) - Was eight when I first saw this; what an eye-opener! The physical charisma, ferocity and tenderness of Bassett moved my young soul; this is a performance for the ages.

6) Hedwig (John Cameron Mithcell) -
Came at an important time personally. Was doing the teenaged self-loathing about being gay and Hedwig inspired me (and still does) to not be afraid and live freely.
7) Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) - Another hero from my high-school days; love her wit and voice. I see why Winona had so many gaga fans in the early 90s.
8) Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore)
Rented this first weekend it was out; watched it around 2am. One of the closest-to-perfect viewing experiences of my life; was hypnotized and cried so much. A soon-to-be legendary work.
9) O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) - Have always been a Liu fan; at times irrationally so. Her greatest effort so far, she takes her famous brand of cool and injects real fire into it as well. Love how she converys an unspoken emotional connection to The Bride, one not shared by anyone else.
10) Lucia DeLury (Lisa Kudrow) - i remember being devastated that her name wasn't on the Oscar shortlist that year. She really makes being bitter and lonely look funny. Plus, Phoebe was my early Friends favourite; I'm more about Monica now.

KEVIN M. said...


FrenchGirl said...

scarlett o'hara(gone with the wind)
clarice sterling and hannibal lecter(silence of the lambs)
trevor reznik(the machinist)
mickael corleone(godfather 2)
travis pickle(taxi driver)
cyrano de bergerac(cyrano)
patrick bateman(american psycho)
and many other characters!

Catherine said...


how did I forget Jackie Brown?!?

Unknown said...

Absolutely awesome list, Nathaniel! Love the inclusion of Clyde over Bonnie--- not an easy choice.

Addison DeWitt, All About Eve
Annie Hall, Annie Hall
Dory, Finding Nemo
Michael Corleone, The Godfather Trilogy
Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings
Juror #8 (Fonda's character), 12 Angry Men
HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, Some Like it Hot
Bree Daniels, Klute
Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction

But ask tomorrow and it'll change.

Unknown said...

OMG, and just b/c it's Paul Rudd:

Andy, Wet Hot American Summer

ryan said...

LOVE the list Nathaniel. Was so curious to see who of Julianne’s creations would make the cut. Here’s mine (rough/off the top of my head)...

01. Ada McGrath – “The Piano”
02. Ratso – “Midnight Cowboy”
03. Ricky Fitts – “American Beauty”
04. Luis Molina – “Kiss of the Spider Woman”
05. Hannibal Lecter – “Silence of the Lambs”
06. Travis Bickle – “Taxi Driver”
07. Mrs. Robinson – “The Graduate”
08. Matt Garth – “Red River”
09. The Evil Queen – “Snow White”
10. Margo Channing – “All About Eve”

Ennis Del Mar – “Brokeback Mountain”
Erin Brockovich – “Erin Brockovich”
The Bride – “Kill Bill”
Christiane – “Moulin Rouge”
Ingrid Magnessum – “White Oleander”
The Joker – “The Dark Knight”
Daniel Plainvile – “There Will Be Blood”
Donnie Darko – “Donnie Darko”
Sarah Peirce – “Little Children”
Patrick Bateman - “American Psycho”

...talk about “sophie’s choice-ing".

Casey Fiore said...

I too think it's more sensible to fill out 10 per decade, which i think i could to but i guess I'll try to keep it short for you folks.
In no particular order:

Tyler Durden, Fight Club
The Dude, The Big Lebowski
Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver
John McClane, Die Hard
Edwina McDonough, Raising Arizona
Randall Patrick McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Randy "The Ram" Robinson, The Wrestler
Jules Winnfield, Pulp Fiction
Patrick Bateman, American Psycho
"Fast" Eddie Felson, The Hustler

Glendon said...

Julianne Moore's last shot in Boogie Nights is heartbreaking. Her scene with Heather Graham ("Do you want to be my mom?") as well, and is PTA's favourite scene in the movie.


all these lists that y'all are coming up with are a reminder that the task of ten best movie characters is an insane one (as i initially stated). it totally depends on mood, genre, timeframe, what have you.

i mean you could make a list with only animated characters from one decade and it'd still be respectable and thrilling.

Obviously if i hadn't disallowed the things i'm always mentioning the list woulda been different. Cuz you knnow SUSIE DIAMOND would be on there.

Seeking Amy said...

Tracy Flick-Election
Marge Gunderson-Fargo
Clementine Kruczynski-Eternal Sunshine
Ellen Ripley-Alien(s)
Margo Channing-All About Eve
Cathy Whitaker-Far from Heaven
Daniel Plainview-There Will Be Blood
Diane/Betty-Mulholland Drive
Sonny Wortzik-Dog Day Afternoon
Vicki Lester/Esther Blodgett-A Star is Born

Dear god that was painful I also wanted to include the following but only ten...

Mrs. Robinson-The Graduate
Suzanne Stone Maretto-To Die For
Travis Bickle-Taxi Driver
The Bride-Kill Bill
Eleanor of Aquitaine-The Lion in Winter
Martha-Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?
Ennis del Mar-Brokeback Mountain
Ruth Barron-Holy Smoke!
Sid Vicious-Sid and Nancy
T.E. Lawrence-Lawrence of Arabia
Tina Quintero-Law of Desire

Oh there's so many, if I could, i'd give them all trophies! I probably have one too many in my top ten from the '00s but like you said Nathaniel, it depends on my mood, genre etc.

Deborah said...

The Wicked Queen--Snow White
"Mad Dog" Earle--High Sierra
Columbia--The Rocky Horror Picture Show
"Slim"--To Have and Have Not
Max Bialystock--The Producers
Maude--Harold and Maude
Superman--Superman: The Movie
Nicholas--The "Up" Series
Ennis Del Mar--Brokeback Mountain
James Bond

Finbar McBride--The Station Agent
Alyssa--Chasing Amy
Henry Drummond--Inherit the Wind
Rose Castorini--Moonstruck
Everett--O Brother Where Art Thou?
Josey Wales--The Outlaw Josey Wales
Kirby York--Rio Grande
Amy Jolly--Morrocco

Seeking Amy said...

All of the sudden I thought of Meryl and Woody and now I need to do some serious revisions! Gah, how did I forget about them all of the sudden?!

Paul Outlaw said...

Thanks, Nathaniel. You made me (kind of) surprise myself. Here, with photos: Top 10 Movie Characters

(No Streep, no Hepburn, no DeNiro, no Brando, no Olivier...)

Dimi said...

I shamelessly managed to insert Ron Burgundy into my list although I agree with previous posts about Patrick Bateman and your own Norma Desmond.

I won't bore you with the complete list but obviously, my picture manages to squeeze a spot on the list.

Joanne said...

Thought this would be hard but came up with some characters fairly easily. These characters have stayed vivid in my mind for ever.


Alex- A Clockwork Orange

Adam/Felicia- Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Miranda- Picnic at Hanging Rock brief appearance but sustains the whole film. A haunting performance from Anne Lambert.

Rose Darco- Donnie Darco. The only just holding it together heart and soul of the film.

Willy Wonka- the character as played by both Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp.

The Joker- as played by by Heath as I still can't get the character out of my mind.

Ben Obi Wan Kenobi- from Ep 3 to Ep 6, Sir Alec to Ewan

Dr Frank N Furter- as played by Tim Curry. Not the guy I saw perform on stage. Can't remember his name anyway...

Howler said...

I probably wouldn't be able to list TEN characters without feeling guilty about snubbing the eleventh and twelfth and thirteenth... (I change my mind constantly), but if I were to choose one, I'd say Clementine Kruczynski. It's a terifically written character, and probably my favourite performance of the decade. I like to imagine that's the one for which Kate won her Oscar.

Anna said...

My picks are pretty standard:

* Clementine Krucinsky (Eternal Sunshine... ) - If we had to tally these up, I think she would be #1

* Oda Mae Brown (Ghost)

* Velma Kelly (Chicago)

* Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins)

* Ariel (Little Mermaid)

* Hannibal Lecter (all of the movies - even Hannibal Rising)

* Gandalf (LOTR)

* Scarlett O'Hara (Gone With The Wind)

* Dr Frank Furter (Rocky Horror)

* Mary McFly (Back to The Future)

* Roger "Verbal" King (The Usual Suspects)

* Darcy (Pride and Prejudice... all reincarnations)

* Ennis Delmar (Brokeback Mountain)

- I guess that's 13... woops! That's very hard!

adri said...

I agree that Roy Batty's death scene is one of the most moving, ever.

Impossible to pick ten, but these are favorites, not necessarily the "best".

- Charlie Baltimore in "The Long Kiss Goodnight" (Geena Davis)
- Wolverine in the "X-Men" series (Hugh Jackman)
- Jean Harrington in "The Lady Eve" (Barbara Stanwyck)
- The Tramp in "The Kid" (Charlie Chaplin)
- Yossarian in "Catch-22" (Alan Arkin)
- Elinor Dashwood in "Sense and Sensibility" (Emma Thompson)
- Martin Blank in "Grosse Pointe Blank" (John Cusack)
- Hubert Fiorentino in "Wasabi" (Jean Reno) and/or Leon in "The Professional" (Jean Reno)
- Libby in "Double Jeopardy" (Ashley Judd)
- Max Washington in "Tap" (Gregory Hines)

alyssa xo said...

How is it that no one said Streep in Sophies Choice ?!

1. Meryl Streep as Sophie in Sophies Choice
2. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago
3. George Clooney in all the oceans movies
4. Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolfe in The Hours
5. Johnny Depp in all the pirates movies
6. Streep again as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada
7. Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
8. Roberto Begnini in Life is Beautiful
9. Natasha Richardson in Cabaret as Sally Bowelles, I don't care if it was on broadway and not a movie she was amazing rip:(
10. Jodie Foster as Nell in Nell

alyssa xo said...

How is it that no one said Streep in Sophies Choice ?!

1. Meryl Streep as Sophie in Sophies Choice
2. Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago
3. George Clooney in all the oceans movies
4. Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolfe in The Hours
5. Johnny Depp in all the pirates movies
6. Streep again as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada
7. Robert De Niro in Raging Bull
8. Roberto Begnini in Life is Beautiful
9. Natasha Richardson in Cabaret as Sally Bowelles, I don't care if it was on broadway and not a movie she was amazing rip:(
10. Jodie Foster as Nell in Nell

Vincetastic said...

This is a really great top ten list, nice pick of Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde, quintessential Beatty. Harrison Ford's Role in Blade Runner is also on my top ten. You can post this to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/ and then link back to your site. We are looking for top ten lists and our users can track back to your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.


well the idea of this meme wasn't about the quality of performances but the character itself (obviously sometimes it's hard to separate those things)

a list of the greatest performances would be entirely different.

Carl said...

I have deliberately avoided reading any of the posts here (except Nathaniel’s, obviously) in an effort to make this list as unbiased as possible by other opinions. It will be interesting to go back and look. Turns out I apparently love bad, damaged characters more than sweetness and light. As to your question, Nathaniel, I completely disagree with your choices (they aren’t bad, just informed by completely different life experiences.) And, since I am blogless, I now clog this thread with my choices:

The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) – “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)

The two ‘oldest’ characters on my list are two of the most charismatic personifications of feminine evil in the history of cinema. I saw this for the first time on television in the mid-60’s, when color television was new and rare. The shock of seeing a green character relentlessly pursuing a girl and her footwear burned itself into my psyche so intensely that I have never been able to shake her…and neither has a world that knows immediately who you are talking about when you cackle shrilly, “I’ll get you, my pretty…”

Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) – “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962)

I freely admit this choice may be clouded by Nathaniel’s 01 March feature. Still, the discussion reminded me of how unutterably cold and calculating this creature was. The quintessential villain, and one of my favorites because of the visceral emotions that memories of her performance raise in me to this day.

Claude R. Fitzwilliam (Dick Van Dyke) – “Fitzwilly” (1967)

I like crooks, and this one takes the cake for pure charm. I love every performance in this movie, but it is the thieving mastermind butler who warms my heart every Christmas – and I do watch this every Christmas.

General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) – “Patton” (1970)

Two characters on this list owe their placements to brilliant interpretations by performers who brought historical figures to life on the big screen. The first is the complex and conflicted commander of Third Army who tore through the Wehrmacht after D-Day. Patton became someone you could admire, respect, loathe, and revile, sometimes all in the same scene. And like Virginia Woolf, below, I loved how richly and memorably these characters were evoked.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) – “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)

Too damn much fun for one man to stand. Who doesn’t love this over-the-top performance?

Sam Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) – “The Fugitive” (1993)

I paid to see “The Fugitive” in its first theatrical release about a dozen times when I wasn’t even sure I would have enough money for Fall tuition. As good as the movie was, I wouldn’t have paid more than once if it weren’t for the fun I had watching the irascible U.S. Marshal chase down both Dr. Richard Kimble and the truth. A performance so good that this supporting character generated his own sequel five years later. Easily the best performance by an actor in a supporting role I had ever seen. Tommy Lee Jones would hold that title exactly one year, because…

Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman) – “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994)

This character showed that you can, indeed, have one of the greatest performances in history as, predominately, a voice-over narrator. One of the best-loved movies of the last two decades, in large part because we loved “...the only guilty man in Shawshank.”

Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) – “The Hours” (2002)

Lois McMaster Bujold uses a made-up word in her works, “gob-smacked.” This is the look of someone who is so stunned and overcome by what is going on that all he can do is stare ahead with a stupefied look on his face. This has happened to me twice in the last decade at the movies, once in 2007 (see below) and at the end of “The Hours.” I became so absorbed by the tortured soul that was Virginia Woolf that I completely forgot anyone was even playing her. Fighting words among the actressexuals, I know, but I still think this was the best performance I have ever seen – and it wasn’t just the damned nose.

ElastiGirl (Holly Hunter) – “The Incredibles” (2004)

This near-Best Picture nominee owes much of its enormous popularity to how much we identify with, and fall in love with, its collection of wonderful characters. Much as I adore Edna Mode, however, it is the strong, sensible mother figure who makes me feel the most warm and fuzzy.

Giselle (Amy Adams) – “Enchanted” (2007)

I have gushed enough over this one during the last couple of years. ‘nuff said.

Andrew David said...

This is too difficult... and my list is far too recent as well... so I'm using some choices to cover others.

* Clementine (Kate Winslet) - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

* Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) - There Will Be Blood -- and this includes Eli Sunday, who makes it up here as well.

* Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) - The Silence of the Lambs -- the film has two absolutely iconic villains in it, but Clarice takes the cake.

* Margaret White (Piper Laurie) - Carrie -- this covers the other two members of the club, Annie Wilkes from Misery and Mrs Carmody from The Mist.

* Frodo (Elijah Wood) - Lord of the Rings -- comes in just ahead of Gandalf and Gollum for me.

* A Tilda Swinton character... I'm thinking either Karen Crowder from Michael Clayton or the White Witch from Narnia, but Lydie Crane from Stephanie Daley and Orlando are just as essential.

* Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) - The Hours -- is the choice Julianne Moore character for me, although many more of her roles deserve a spot. And the other two leads in The Hours, for that matter.

* Randy the Ram Robinson (Mickey Rourke) - The Wrestler

* Grace (Nicole Kidman/Bryce Dallas Howard) - Dogville/Manderlay

* Sunny Wortzik (Al Pacino) - Dog Day Afternoon

Chris Na Taraja said...

OK, my favorite film Characters of all time come in pairs, or groups....

1. R2D2 and C3PO (Star Wars)

2. Josephine/Joe and Daphne/Gerry (Some Like it Hot)

3. Vincent Vega and Jules (Pulp Fiction)

4. Dorothy and all her friends (Wizard of Oz)

5. Rhett and Scarlett (Gone with the Wind)

6. Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibel Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)

7. Buzz Lightyear and Woody (Toy Story)

8. Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs (Snow White)

9. Ben Braddock and Mrs. Robinson (the Graduate)

10. Frankenstein and his bride (all films including Gods and Monsters)

ok 11. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but also Gondorf and Hooker (the Sting) basically any time Newman and Redford got together.

Mikadzuki said...

This was tough.

Nick (The Deer Hunter)
Barry Egan (Punch-Drunk Love)
Grandma Helena (Fanny and Alexander)
Private Witt (The Thin Red Line)
Alvin Straight (The Straight Story)
Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver)
Bob Harris (Lost in Translation)
"Pocahontas" (The New World)
The Dude (The Big Lebowski)
Faye (Chungking Express)

cal roth said...

T.E. Lawrence, Peter O'Toole, Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean

Michael Corleone, Al Pacino, The Godfather Part II, Francis Ford Coppola

Holly Golightly, Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Blake Edwards

Angela, Anna Karina, A Woman is a Woman, Jean-Luc Godard

Don Fefe, Marcello Mastroianni, Divorce Italian Style, Pietro Germi

Jeff Costello, Alain Delon, The Samurai, Jean Pierre Melville

Tom Doniphon, John Wayne, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Ford

Hendrik Hoefgen, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Mephisto, Istvan Szabo

Ingemar, Anton Glanzelius, My Life as a Dog, Lasse Hallstrom

Frank Dunn, Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood

Anonymous said...

Seeking Amy - Tracy Flick! How could I forget her!?

And Cal Roth - Jeff from Le Samurai... so good!

And yes, Nate... that is exactly the interaction that played in my head when I named Madeleine Ashton. I freakin' love the camp in that movie.

"Do you remember where we parked the car??"

Andrew David said...

And also -- I clicked on your "Ursula" tag and rifled through a page or so... I have the exact same mad love for Ursula. I throw in quotes from her song in conversation. The Little Mermaid is such an inspired movie.

Jason Adams said...

It nearly killed me, but I did it.

Anonymous said...

1. Indiana Jones
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi
3. Michael Corleone (Godfather I and II)
4. Ricky Fitts (American Beauty)
5. Mark Renton (Trainspotting)
6. Michael Sullivan Sr. (Road to Perdition)
7. Frank Ginsberg (Little Miss Sunshine)
8. Hannibal Lecter
9. Anne Shirley (of Green Gables)
10. Rorschach (Watchmen)

Dave said...

Done. I'd thank you for the tag, but... no. That was painful.

Also, must thank you for naming Freddy Honeychurch... I saw Maurice about six months ago and it still lives in my head due solely to Rupert Graves' sexiness, so I went back to A Room With A View after seeing Freddy in this post and it's really a fantastic movie (not just for Rupert!). I can definitely see why he's on your list, an inspired choice.

Dave Anderson said...

Here are a few characters that haven't been mentioned yet:

* Sgt Hartman, in Full Metal Jacket
* Fester Addams, in The Addams Family
* Reginald Kincade (as Sherlock Holmes) in Without a Clue
* Suzette, in The Banger Sisters
* General Jack D. Ripper, in Dr. Strangelove
* Edgar (as the bug), in Men in Black
* Inigo Montoya, in The Princess Bride
* Zaphod Beeblebrox, in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
* Marv, in Sin City
* Betty Parker, in Pleasantville

Jhon Amstrong said...

Good article,.... i love this one, stay update yeah !!!

Joel said...

I'm happy that someone said Marge Gunderson from "Fargo" - priceless

And no one has mentioned this - and probably won't - but Flealick from "Babe: PIg in the City" is simply awesome

Anonymous said...

In no specific order:

Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lamb)
Annie Hall (Annie Hall)
Vincent Vega (Pulp Fiction)
Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
Marge Gunderson (Fargo)
Vitto Corleone (The Godfather)
Ellen Ripley (Alien)
Nurse Ratched and Randal McMurphy (One Flew Over the Cuckos Nest)
The Bride (Kill Bill)
Joker (The Dark Knight)
Jack Sparrow (POTC)
Norma Rae Webster (Norma Rae)
Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver)

trao said...

good article