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Top 10 Film Characters of All Time April 3, 2009

Posted by vorpalkeith in Film Thing, Movie Review.

Christian threw down the gauntlet. If you go over to his blog you will see that he’d been tagged in an Internet meme to list your favorite film characters of all time. While his list is good, it just doesn’t hold a candle to mine.

I put stipulations on myself for this. First, I would be allowed five honorable mentions to be put after the list. Second, the choices I made could not have appeared in any other media first, or be based on real people. That means nothing from books, plays, TV shows, comics. No Joker, no Ed Wood, and no Inigo Montoya (all would have made this list otherwise).

Here, for your consideration, is what I arrived at:

Number Ten

Martin Q. Blank; portrayed by John Cusack
from “Gross Pointe Blank”
Directed by George Armitage (1997)

Even a hitman has to come from somewhere. Sure, John Cusack may be playing a variation on himself in this story of a wacky hitman and a high school reunion, but do we really mind?

“Oh, the reason I called… Could you find out who else is in town? I’ve made two spooks and a ghoul already, so if they’ve double-booked the job, and/or they’re going to kill me, I’d like to know. If you could find that out, that’d be great. “  – Martin Blank


Number Nine

The Man With No Name; portrayed by Clint Eastwood
first appeared in “A Fistful of Dollars”
Directed by Sergio Leone (1964)

Never before or after has a man said so much without actually opening his eyes. Whether it’s chewing on the end of a cigarillo, or just squinting in the afternoon sun, everything about this man screams badass. You always want him to have your back in a gunfight.

“. . .” – The Man With No Name


Number Eight

Chris Pratt; portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
from “The Lookout”
Directed by Scott Frank (2007)

You have to be cautious at best saying someone from so recent a film is one of the best characters ever, but in this case the performance is just so amazing that I know it will stick with me. Chris is a kid who had everything going for him until it was all stolen by a horrible accident that left every waking instant a challenge for him. His moods shift sporadically, he confuses easily, and sometimes he can’t even tell what event happened before another. He gets manipulated into a heist, but in the end overcomes his challenges to be a hero.

“Once upon a time, I woke up. I took a shower with soap.” – Chris Pratt


Number Seven

Kambei Shimada; portrayed by Takashi Shimura
from “Seven Samurai”
Directed by Akira Kurosawa (1954)

The leader of a group of masterless samurai hired to defend a village from bandist. Shimura plays the role with a quiet dignity. He is a man wearied by years of fighting, the toils of age. He is the leader that any group of warriors could ever hope to have. He is thoughtful, tactical, and leads from the front with sword in hand.

“You embarrass me. You’re overestimating me. Listen, I’m not a man with any special skill, but I’ve had plenty of experience in battles; losing battles, all of them. In short, that’s all I am. Drop such an idea for your own good.” – Kambei Shimada


Number Six

Kikuchiyo; portrayed by Toshiro Mifune
from “Seven Samurai”
Directed by Akira Kurosawa (1954)

Two characters from the same movie, you ask? Well, that’s just a statement to the power of Kurosawa and the brilliant actors he casts. Mifune plays this quixotic samurai with zeal. He’s a wild man, howling and flying about the screen with an energy not seen since. He’s such a curious study too. A man who so desperately wants to be the samurai he isn’t, but is also willing to call them out for their own sins. Brilliant.

“What do you think of farmers? You think they’re saints? Hah! They’re foxy beasts! They say, “We’ve got no rice, we’ve no wheat. We’ve got nothing!” But they have! They have everything! Dig under the floors! Or search the barns! You’ll find plenty! Beans, salt, rice, sake! Look in the valleys, they’ve got hidden warehouses! They pose as saints but are full of lies! If they smell a battle, they hunt the defeated! They’re nothing but stingy, greedy, blubbering, foxy, and mean! God damn it all! But then who made them such beasts? You did! You samurai did it! You burn their villages! Destroy their farms! Steal their food! Force them to labour! Take their women! And kill them if they resist! So what should farmers do?” – Kikuchiyo


Number Five

The Dude; portrayed by Jeff Bridges
from “The Big Lebowski”
Directed by The Coen Brothers (1998)

Does this one really need explanation? The Dude is an avatar of coolness in the shape of a man.

“The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.” – The Stranger


Number Four

Shaun; portrayed by Simon Pegg
from “Shaun of the Dead”
Directed by Edgar Wright (2004)

A loyal friend, misguided boyfriend, devoted son, and slapdash hero. We can all related to Shaun in some way, whether he’s trying to save his relationship or killing a zombie with a cricket bat. He’s an everyman in a terrible situation, hilarious, but also surprisingly emotionally effecting at the dark times. You can’t help but root him on.

“Take car. Go to Mum’s. Kill Phil – “Sorry.” – grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How’s that for a slice of fried gold?” – Shaun


Number Three

Sean Maguire; portrayed by Robin Williams
from “Good Will Hunting”
Directed by Gus Van Sant (1997)

Mentor characters are a dime a dozen in movies. They’re also an essential part of the language of cinema, very much so because they’re a part of our lives. We all need them, these surrogate parents, who will guide us through the dark times. They also serve as an essential part on the heroes journey. Often a wizard, or wise man, who sets the hero on his path to adventure. Few of us are ever lucky enough to get a mentor like Sean Maguire, but don’t we all wish we had one?

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you… I don’t see an intelligent, confident man… I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you’re a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my fucking life apart. You’re an orphan right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally… I don’t give a shit about all that, because you know what, I can’t learn anything from you, I can’t read in some fuckin’ book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want to do that do you sport? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.” – Sean Maguire

That man earned his Oscar.


Number Two

Indiana Jones; portrayed by Harrison Ford
first appeared in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
Directed by Steven Spielburg (1981)

Christian is going to say that I shouldn’t have put this on here because it’s too obvious. But I’m going to say that’s ridiculous. How can you not include the man who is the greatest film hero of all time? You can’t! The man finds ancient artifacts, has a mean whip, fights Nazis, and gets the girl. I would like to be him.

“You stood up to be counted with the enemies of everything the Grail stands for! Who gives a *damn* what you believe? “  – Indiana Jones


Number One

Darth Vader; portrayed by David Prowse and James Earl Jones
first appeared in “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”
Directed by George Lucas (1977)

And it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

What we have here is a dynamic character. The greatest screen villain of all time, who was once one of the Galaxy’s greatest heroes, only to fall to darkness. In the end it was the love of his son that redeemed him and brought him back to the light. That, my friends, is what we call a character arc.

Darth Vader: “Luke… help me take this mask off.”
Luke Skywalker: “But you’ll die.”
Darth Vader: “Nothing… can stop that now. Just for once… let me… look on you with my *own* eyes.”


Honorable Mentions:

The Killer Rabbit;
from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”
Directed by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam (1975)

“Follow. But. Follow only if ye be men of valour, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived. Bones of full fifty men lie strewn about its lair. So, brave knights, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth. “  – Tim the Enchanter

first appeared in “Gojira”
Directed by Ishiro Honda (1954)

“I can’t believe that Godzilla was the only surviving member of its species… But if we continue conducting nuclear tests… it’s possible that another Godzilla might appear somewhere in the world again. ”  – Kyohei Yamane-hakase

King Kong;
from “King Kong”
Directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (1933)

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive – a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World. “ – Carl Denham

Richard B. Riddick; portrayed by Vin Diesel
first appeared in “Pitch Black”
Directed by David Twohy (2000)

“They say most of your brain shuts down during cryo-sleep. All but the primitive side, the animal side. No wonder I’m still awake.”  – Riddick

Yoda; portrayed by Frank Oz
first appeared in “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
Directed by Irving Kershner (1980)

“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship. “  – Yoda



1. Christian Kocinski - April 3, 2009

You dissapoint me sir… I think my list is better. We could do a whole entire list of Indiana jones’ pishaw sir pishaw.

Robin Williams was a good choice though. As was john cusack… It’s like Lloyd Dobler might be too obvious… But this was a good choice.

I will give you darth vader though…

2. Barb - April 6, 2009

Actually I like this list better because of the stipulation of not including characters from other media. I think if it’s a character based on a novel then it’s not really a film character. It’s a book character brought to life through a movie. That’s just the way I see it, anyway.

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