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

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Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1982

20.  “Twilight Zone”, Golden Earring– This was one of the first videos I ever saw before I had MTV, and we had to wait for Friday Night Videos to be shown on one of the local UHF channels in the Dallas area.  It was the first video to feature a cinematic storyline, and it would make my Top Ten One Hit Wonders List (maybe I’ll have to do that sometime).  The song was very edgy with a great strong guitar part and a four note baseline that every bassist learned as quickly a he picked one up.  It charted through 1983 for the Dutch band, but there was so much great music in 1983 that I pushed this one back so that I could get more into that year.

19.  “The Safety Dance”, Men Without Hats– The video for this one had everything:  medieval setting, hot girl, weird lead singer prancing around, irritating echo, and creepy dwarf, all swirling around singing a song that somehow championed safe sex.  The tune was catchy, and employing the cheer-like tactic of spelling out the word harkened back to the days of the Village People, and their mega-hit “YMCA”.  It would also make the Top Ten One Hit Wonders List.

18.  “I Melt with You” Modern English– This is the first hit by the British new wave band Modern English.  It has a great chorus, and is easy and enjoyable to sing along with.  It had a popular video, and was featured in the Nicholas Cage star vehicle Valley Girl.

17.  “Sweet Dreams”, Air Supply– This Air Supply song has a synthesized ethereal keyboard sound that is a little different from their other stuff.  The voices almost sound like they are going through a harmonizer.  It was a top ten hit, and I liked it better that their other hit that year, “Even the Nights Are Better.”

16.  “I Can’t Go For That”, Daryl Hall and John Oates– was the fourth Billboard #1 hit for Hall and Oates and the second song released off of the album, Privates Eyes.  It knocked Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” out of the top spot after an amazing 10 weeks at the top of the list.  It also topped the US R&B chart which is unusual for a couple of white guys (one did have a huge ‘fro).  I like it better than “Private Eyes” which also charted in 1982.  It is still one of the most sampled songs by modern Rap and Hip Hop groups.

15.  “Do You Believe In Love”, Huey Lewis and The News– This was the first song to hit the top ten by one of my favorite 80s bands.  Huey Lewis has a great, powerful voice that is easy to listen to, and the band had the coolest looking bassist in the business (I remember buying a pair of those sunglasses and a London Fog trench coat in the early 80s).  The back-up singers’ dissonant harmony helps make the chorus of this one

14.  “I Love Rock N’ Roll”, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts– This is simply a cool song.  She’s got a sexy voice, and the strong beat is hard to forget.   It held Billboard’s #1 slot for 7 weeks.

13.  “Abracadabra”, Steve Miller Band– If you have not had enough whammy-bar in your music lately, check out this hit from the Steve Miller Band.  It is a tune that you hum for the rest of the day once you hear it.

12.  “You Can’t Hurry Love”, Phil Collins– As I said in my criteria for this list, I was not going to include a lot of ‘covers.’  For the most part, I am against the cover.  Unless you are Willie Nelson or Elvis, or unless you do a significantly different and worthy remake of the original, there is no reason to cover it in the first place.  My only other exception to this rule is when I like a cover song better than the original which is extremely rare.  Notable examples of this are Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”, Joan Jett’s “Crimson and Clover” (thank the Lord someone finally removed the voice harmonics and made a good version of this song), and of course the greatness that is Phil Collins’ rerelease of “You Can’t Hurry Love.”  The fun and upbeat style of this song almost forces you to sing along.  I loved the video with Phil and the three back-up Phils (complete with different personalities) singing perfect harmony.  Fun times.

11.  “We Got The Beat”, Go-Go’s– This song was a huge hit for the British all-girl band the Go Gos.  I could still listen to this song in the right atmosphere, but too much of this type of music would make me tired.

10.  “Ebony And Ivory”, Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder– This was a great duet that dealt with an unusual topic for Pop Music, racial harmony.  McCartney and Wonder sound very good together.

9.  “Physical”, Olivia Newton-John– This single was huge.  It was not my favorite song ever, what with the workout craze that it helped to start, but I still considered Olivia Newton-John to be the girl who wore the black leather and tights in Grease.  Any chance to see her jumping around in something that was tight-fitting was a bonus.

8.  “Waiting For A Girl Like You”, Foreigner– This is one of the great power ballads of the early eighties.  I really like the tone of Lou Graham’s voice when he sings a ballad.  It is a very nice sound when someone can have an edge to their vocals as they enter their higher range, but still have the tone sound whole without any screeching.  You will find this to be the case with this song.

7.  “Heat Of The Moment”, Asia The first thing that I think of when I hear this song is the television commercial campaign that accompanied the release of the album.  They were the first band that I associated with a logo (their band name in the shape of a pyramid was iconic).  The use of distortion on the guitar together with the keyboard that sounded like rain dropping at the end of a line sounded good.  I like the strong vocal also.

6.  “Love Me Tomorrow”, Chicago– Chicago 17 may have been a better album from top to bottom, but my two favorite Chicago songs were both from Chicago 16, and they were both released in 1982.  They were of course, “Love Me Tomorrow” and “Hard To Say I’m Sorry”.  These are two of my all time favorite ballads.  The guitar part in “Love Me Tomorrow” makes it more of a power ballad while the keyboard led melody of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” makes it more of a soft rock song.  Neither song has the Tower of Power horn sound that is usually found on Chicago songs, but they do not suffer for it.  “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” hit #1, but in the end I chose “Love Me Tomorrow” because of the terrible idea that the band had for ending the “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” with “Get Away”.  Most radio stations refused to play the tagged song and opted for an awkward ending that simply truncated the song before “Get Away” could get started.  It was better that way.  The best analogy I could come up with is this.  Imagine Charles Monet painting his famous Lilli Pads, and at the very end, Jackson Pollock is brought in to provide the final touches.  The resulting mess would be the visual equivalent of marrying these two songs together.

In the end, I chose “Love me Tomorrow” because it did not have anything to take away from its greatness.

5.  “Eye Of The Tiger”, Survivor– In a world desperate for more of the good feelings given them by the first two Rocky movies, Stallone and the group Survivor delivered with this song featured in the third installment of the movie.  It was a physical education anthem when I was growing up, and who would not be inspired to run in place a little faster or do their jumping jacks a little harder while listening to this great song.  And at the end of the routine, you always had to suppress the urge to clench your fists and put your arms straight up in the air as if you too were a champion.

4.  “Open Arms”, Journey– This is one of Journey’s two best power ballads (the other being “Faithfully”).  It only reached #2 during its release, but the song has had as much staying power as any song from the 80s.  It is one of my all-time favorites.  As with most of the Journey power ballads, Neil Schon was not a fan.  He said that it “sounded kind of Mary Poppins,” and tried to keep it off the album.  Luckily for the rest of us, sanity prevailed and we were presented with on of the greatest love songs ever.

3.  “Centerfold”, J. Geils Band– I remember my mom finding the 45 for this song in my little sister’s room and throwing it away.  I did not even know she had it, but by the time it was banished, I had already become a big fan of the song on my own.  The quirky sound provided by the keyboard, sax and harmonica is great.  The baseline is good, and I really like the whistle that accompanies the music at the end.  The fade-out to this has you whistling for the rest of the day.  The video provided some nice leggy eye-candy, but my favorite part of it was the reprise when the percussionist really lays it on the snare drum, and we are surprised by the effect as the top of the drum is covered in milk.  Great song.

2.  “Rosanna”, Toto– One of the best songs of the 80s.  The base line lets you know what song playing in a couple of notes.  I love how it builds toward the chorus, then smacks you with a strong rock beat, and a full horn section.  It has a very Chicago-like quality to it.  The video with the hot blonde simply dancing around in a Marylin Monroe style dress while the bad plays is very good.  It is the best song provided by the band, Toto.

1.  “Down Under”, Men at Work– I put this song on the list at #1 as an homage to the kid that I was in 1982.  At the time, I was a goofy 7th grader who was just getting into Pop music, and this was the perfect goofy song for me to really like.  To describe it and the band as quirky, would be an understatement, but the song was huge.  The flute part has a whimsical quality which matches well with the band’s lifestyle.  It was played a lot during the early 80s, and I’m sure Australia is still trying to get away from the association.  Today, I smile when I rarely hear it played somewhere, and I have to admit that I do not remember choosing to play it for myself in the last 15 years.

Top 20 80s Pop/Rock Songs (Category)

Top 20 1980’s Pop/Rock Songs By Year (Criteria)

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1980

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1981

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1983

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1984

Top 20 Pop Rock Songs from 1985

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1986

Top 20 Pop/Rock Songs from 1987