Top 100 Movie Characters of all Time

I have a friend who recently posted a list from a website calling itself ‘Premier’ that named ‘The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.’  He was shocked and appalled that Darth Vader was languishing at #84 on the list below such spares as Private Benjamin, Doctor Evil, The Dude, and a host of others.  While I agreed that this was a travesty, I quickly noticed a few notable absences from the list, and the more I looked the more great characters were simply missing from the list, while others, such as Gollum were inexplicably placed near the top of the list.

This is where the obsessive compulsive part of my personality kicked in.  I began to look at their list with a more critical eye.  The fist thing I noticed was that some of the characters seemed to be shoe-horned into the list, and often these characters were female.  I’m not trying to say that there are no great female characters in movie history, but it may be a fair indictment to accuse the industry for not writing strong female roles, especially in the early years of cinema, and perhaps just as much today.  This may well be the case, but I don’t think the cure for it is to falsely elevate existing female roles above their actual station as ir appears that Premier did (Bonnie from Bonnie and Clyde and Private Benjamin a two good examples).

I further fed my obsession by attempting to think if all the good characters that they left off their list.  I came up with another 109 examples, some more strong than others and quite a few whose omissions were simply egregious.  Then, I sat down with all 209 names and made my own Top 100 Movie Characters of all Time list.  The biggest deficiency of my list is the fact that I have not seen all of the old classics (though I am currently on a classic movie binge).  Characters like Fred C. Dobbs of Treasure of the Sierra Madre and a few others may suffer unfairly because of this, but I have no regrets about leaving a character like Ninotchka off the list because I, my family and my friends have never heard of her (shoe-horned). 

I tried to take several things into account.  How well the character endures, how much effect the character has had on popular culture, the importance of the character and whether that role or the movie it was associated with received awards while it was out.  Accepting the possible shortcomings and the obvious advantages of my list, I am putting it out, and still argue that it is much better than the list provided by Premier.  Enjoy.

1. Don Michael Corleone of The Godfather: Part II

2. Charles Foster Kane of Citizen Kane

3. Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird

4. Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With the Wind

5. Indiana Jones of Raiders of the Lost Ark

6. William Wallace of Braveheart

7. Darth Vader of Star Wars

8. Hannibal Lecter of The Silence of the Lambs

9. Robin Hood of The Adventures of Robin Hood

10. Dorothy Gale of The Wizard of Oz

11. Rick Blaine of Casablanca

12. Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List

13. General George S. Patton of Patton

14. Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty

15. Maximus Decimus Meridius of Gladiator

16. Cool Hand Luke of Cool Hand Luke

17. Shane of Shane

18. Marshall Will Kane of High Noon

19. George Bailey of It’s a Wonderful Life

20. Vito Corleone of The Godfather

21. Tom Joad of The Grapes of Wrath

22. Moses of the Ten Commandments

23. James Bond of Dr. No

24. Andy Dufresne of The Shawshank Redemption

25. Jake La Motta of Raging Bull

26. Forrest Gump of Forrest Gump

27. Sparticus of Sparticus

28. Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

29. Doc Holiday of Tombstone

30. Jefferson Smith of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

31. T.E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia

32. Ben Hur of Ben Hur

33. Jim Stark of Rebel Without a Cause

34. Rooster Cogburn of True Grit

35. E.T. of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

36. Batman of Batman

37. Randle McMurphy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

38. Frankenstein of Frankenstein

39. Spock of Star Trek

40. Spiderman of Spiderman

41. Dracula of Dracula

42. Superman of Superman

43. Harry Potter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

44. Gordon Gekko of Wall Street

45. Navin Johnson of The Jerk

46. Norman Bates of Psycho

47. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman of Full Metal Jacket

48. Karl Childers of Sling Blade

49. Butch Cassidy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

50. Dirty Harry Callahan of Dirty Harry

51. Ferris Bueller of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

52. George Taylor of Planet of the Apes

53. Daniel E. ‘Rudy’ Ruettiger of Rudy

54. Jeff Spicoli of Fast Times at Ridgemont High

55. Tarzan of Tarzan the Ape Man

56. Jake Blues of The Blues Brothers

57. John Rambo of First Blood

58. Captain Quint of Jaws

59. King Kong of King Kong

60. Willy Wonka of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

61. Mary Poppins of Mary Poppins

62. The Terminator of The Terminator

63. Jules Winnfield of Pulp Fiction

64. Mrs. Robinson of The Graduate

65. Rocky Balboa of Rocky

66. Tommy DeVito of GoodFellas

67. Raymond Babbitt of Rain Man

68. King Arthur of Camelot/Excalibur

69. Annie Wilkes of Misery

70. John McClane of Die Hard

71. Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley of An Officer and a Gentleman

72. Lt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell of Top Gun

73. Mad Max Rockatansky of Mad Max

74. Sandy Olsson of Grease

75. John “Bluto” Blutarsky of Animal House

76. Jack Torrance of The Shining

77. Baronin Maria von Trapp of The Sound of Music

78. Hedley Lamar of Blazing Saddles

79. William Cutting of Gangs of New York

80. Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street

81. Ralphie Parker of A Christmas Story

82. Max Cady of Cape Fear

83. Regan MacNeil of The Exorcist

84. Jason of Friday the 13th

85. Mrs. Doubtfire of Mrs Doubtfire

86. Carrie White of Carrie

87. Carl Spackler of Caddyshack

88. Captain Marko Ramius of The Hunt for Red October

89. Captain Hook of Peter Pan

90. Norma Rae of Norma Rae

91. Mona Lisa Vito of My Cousin Vinny

92. Sally Albright of When Harry Met Sally

93. Marge Gunderson of Fargo

94. Sergeant Martin Riggs of Lethal Weapon

95. Crash Davis of Bull Durham

96. Marty McFly of Back to the Future

97. Inigo Montoya of The Princess Bride

98. Bo ‘Bandit’ Darville of Smokey and the Bandit

99. Lane Meyer of Better Off Dead

100. Curly Washburn of City Slickers

 

Just to prove that I did my homework, here are the other 109 that were considered, but did not make the list in alphabetical order (my friend hates it when I do this):

 

Frank Abignale Jr. of Catch Me If You Can

Gust Avrakotos of Charlie Wilson’s War

Arthur Bach of Arthur

Howard Beale of Network

Hans Beckert of M

Judy Benjamin of Private Benjamin

Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver

Blondie of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Frank Booth of Blue Velvet

Borat of Borat

Erin Brockovich of Erin Brockovich

Oda Mae Brown of Ghost

Truman Burbank of The Truman Show

Truman Capote of Capote

Chance the Gardener of Being There

Margo Channing of All About Eve

Inspector Clouseau of The Pink Panther

Conan of Conan the Barbarian

Frank Costello of The Departed

Jane Craig of Broadcast News

Paul Crewe of The Longest Yard

David Crockett of The Alamo

Melanie Daniels of The Birds

Daphne/Jerry of Some Like it Hot

Donnie Darko of Donnie Darko

Rick Deckard of Blade Runner

Alex DeLarge of A Clockwork Orange

Norma Desmond of Sunset Boulevard

Phyliss Dietrichson of Double Indemnity

Dil of The Crying Game

Fred C. Dobbs of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Lloyd Dobler of Say Anything

Antoine Doinel of The 400 Blow

Michael Dorsey/Dorthy Michaels of Tootsie

The Dude of The Big Lebowski

Lt. John J. Dunbar of Dances With Wolves

Napoleon Dynamite of Napoleon Dynamite

Wyatt Earp of Gunfight at the OK Corral

Eathan Edwards of The Searchers

Sergeant Elias of Platoon

Dr. Evil of Austin Powers

Irwin ‘Fletch’ Fletcher of Fletch

Gaylord ‘Greg’ Focker of Meet the Parents

Fogell or ‘McLovin’ of Superbad

Axel Foley of Beverly Hills Cop

Alex Forrest of Fatal Attraction

Gandalf Of The Lord of The Rings The Fellowship of the Rings

Ghandi of Ghandi

Happy Gilmore of Happy Gilmore

Jake Gittes of Chinatown

Godzilla of Godzilla

Holly Golightly of Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Gollum of Lord of the Rings

Joel Goodson of Risky Business

Aurora Greenway of Terms of Endearment

Clark Griswold of Vacation

Annie Hall of Annie Hall

Hawkeye (Nathaniel Poe) of The Last of the Mohicans

Pee Wee Herman of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure

Sherlock Holmes of The Hound of the Baskervilles

J.J. Hunsecker of Sweet Smell of Success

Mrs. Iselin of The Manchurian Candidate

Paul Kersey of Deathwish

Lt. Kilgore of Apocalypse Now

Ray Kinsella of Field of Dreams

Roger “Verbal” Kint of The Usual Suspects

Stanley Kowalski of A Streetcar Named Desire

Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire

Harry Lime of The Third Man

The Little Tramp of Mabel’s Strange Predicament

Logan 5 of Logan’s Run

Jerry Maguire of Jerry Maguire

John Malkovich of Being John Malkovich

Terry Malloy of On the Waterfront

Jim Malone of The Untouchables

Tony Manero of Saturday Night Fever

Kevin McCallister of Home Alone

Tony Montana of Scarface

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of Amadeus

John Nash of A Beautiful Mind

Captain Marc Nemo of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Ninotchka of Ninotchka

Danny Ocean of Ocean’s Eleven

Henri ‘Papillon’ Charriere of Papillon

Bonnie Parker of Bonnie and Clyde

Rev. Harry Powell of The Night of the Hunter

Tom Powers of The Public Enemy

Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada

Buford Pusser of Walking Tall

Matthew Quigley of Quigley Down Under

Jessica Rabbit of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Ellen Ripley of Alien

Ratso Rizzo of Midnight Cowboy

Rose Sayer of The African Queen

Ebenezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol

Edward Scissorhands of Edward Scissorhands

John Shaft of Shaft

Han Solo of Star Wars

Sam Spade of The Maltese Falcon

Steve Stiffler of American Pie

Willard Stiles of Willard

Dr. Strangelove of Dr. Strangelove

Alan Swann of My Favorite Year

Catherine Tramell of Basic Instinct

Virgil Tibbs of In the Heat of the Night

Susan Vance of Bringing up Baby

Dr. Peter Venkman of Ghostbusters

Ace Ventura of Ace Ventura,: Pet Detective

Vivian Ward of Pretty Woman

Top 50 War Movies #10-1

10) Platoon– (87/100)- This is the best movie ever made concerning the War in Vietnam.  This film was written and directed by Oliver Stone, and won the 1986 Academy Award for best picture.  Though it is fictional, it is one of the best portrayals of battle from a soldier’s perspective that can be found.  It shows both the good and the bad side of individual soldiers which is refreshing for something directed by Oliver Stone.

9) Saving Private Ryan– (87/100)- This fictionalized account of a platoon (led by Tom Hanks) on a ‘special mission’ in post D-Day Europe is undeniably the best movie ever made from the soldier’s point of view.  The first twenty minutes of the film recounts the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach from a soldier’s point of view in a way that could not be topped.  Sheer gold.  It has everything, and if it had just been a true story, it may have been #1.

8 ) Patton– (90-100)- Argue with the greatness of this movie,…and fail.  This is a great movie about a great man.  It may not be big on battles, but it makes up for that by exposing us to sheer military genius.

7) Braveheart– (90/100)- This also could have been #1, if it had not taken a little too much license with history.  The battle scenes are unrivaled in medieval genre.  However, having the Battle of Falkirk Bridge without a bridge is more than a slight oversight.  With all of these criticisms, this is still my personal all-time favorite movie.  It’s just not the best ‘war movie.’

6) Tora! Tora! Tora!– Many of the movies in the tops six have something in common.  They are very historically accurate, and tell the complete story of a very important battle.   They are definitely epics, have memorable scores and extensive casts full of some of the best actors of their eras.  Tora! Tora! Tora! is a fair example of these.  It was one of the first major Hollywood films that showed a battle from the Japanese perspective (at least their commanders).  The effects reflect the time in which it was made, but respect has to be made to the effort which resulted in building replica, flying examples of Japanese warplanes, some of which are the only such flying examples of these planes still found today.  I’ll take that kind of effort over CG any day.

5) Midway– (92/100)- This movie is a lot like Tora! Tora! Tora!.  The stock battle footage does not always match well with the actual film, but it reflects the era in which it was made (before CG), and shows the director’s reticence to use models that look like toy boats in a movie about aircraft carriers.  It would be hard to determine whether this movie or Tora! Tora! Tora! is better, but I gave the nod to Midway because it was the Pacific equal of D-Day in importance, and it was an American victory.

4) A Bridge Too Far– (92/100)- This is one of the two great war movies based on the two great books by author Cornelius Ryan.  The books are an exhaustive and great read full of asides and first person history.  A Bridge Too Far does a great job of following the book, and it does an admirable job of getting a good deal of the history and issues involved in this huge Allied undertaking across to the viewer.  The battle for the bridge at Arnhem is very realistic, and was done so without the aid of CG.  Check out this cast:  Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Elliot Gould, Sean Connery, James Caan, Dirk Bogarde, Gene Hackman, Ryan O’Neal, Lawrence Olivier, Robert Redford, Maximilian Schell, Liv Ullman, Colin Farrell (odd), John Ratzenberger (even odder), and many others.

3) Glory– (93/100)- This is a great movie that tells the important story of the Fighting 54th, the first black regiment to see combat during the Civil War.  It has a great message, and a great score.  The script and acting are superb, including: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Ewels, and Morgan Freeman.  The movie has the odd ability to point out racial issues in America while at the same time making you feel patriotic.  Simply great.

2) Gettysburg– (95/100)- Easily the best movie that has been made about the Civil War.  It tackles the most important battle of the war by using the novel The Killer Angels, a great work of historical fiction that itself drew heavily on first person accounts of the battle and is very accurate as far as detailing the order and events of the battle.  It has a great score, and a great cast including, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen, Tom Berenger, Sam Elloit, and C. Thomas Howell.  The battle scenes in the movie are great, and accurately portray the tactical issues facing everyone involved in the conflict.

This movie suffered because it was originally going to be a TNT miniseries.  At some point, the powers that be at the network, decided that it was too big for television, and decided to release it widely as a feature film.  The problem was that many of the battles scenes had already been shot on video, and video does not transfer as well cinematically to film as film does to video.  As a result, the film was passed-over by the Academy.

1) The Longest Day– (95-100)- The first of the great WWII books by Cornelius Ryan to be turned into a movie.  It accurately portrays the entirety of Operation Overlord, also know as D-Day.  The battle is still the greatest sea-born invasion in history, and is one of the most important battles in WWII (possible all of history).  The book itself is a history of the battle, and the movie follows the book very well.  The score is good, as is the cinematography.  The battle scenes considering the time that they were made are great.  Like A Bridge Too Far, the movie does a great job of explaining the big picture strategy of the battle while at the same time focusing on the trials and tribulation of individual soldiers (and heroes) involved in the battle something that a movie like Saving Private Ryan does not accomplish as well.  It would be hard to assemble as great a group of actors outside of Oscar Night as appears in this film.  It includes: John Wayne, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Rod Streiger, Rober Wagoner, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Eddie Albert, Sal Mineo, Red Buttons, Paul Anka, and Fabian among others.

 

Feel free to post a comment and to disagree (tastefully) with anything I have here.  I’m sure I left out some very important films so left me know, and I will correct the list, maybe.

Top 50 War Movies Criteria

Top 50 War Movies 10-1

Top 50 War Movies 20-11

Top 50 War Movies 30-21

Top 50 War Movies 40-31

Top 50 War Movies 45-41

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