I was looking at some “Top 100 characters of all time” lists with my daughter the other day and all too often I would see some terrible choices that made the list. So I decided to create my own, for the common man. I’m 41 and I enjoy action, adventure, sci-fi and comedy. There have been some great characters over the years, but I don’t have a lot of respect for the older characters. Yes, movies created in the 50s, 60s and 70s deserve acknowledging. But if I can’t even sit through one of those movies all the way through, then how can I put their lead character on my list? If they’re so great, remake them under today’s technology, effects, and acting ability.
This list is a reflection of your average meat-eating, sports-loving, middle-aged Canadian male. It represents a combination of lasting impact and Western culture popularity both ongoing as well as “at the time”. In some cases, I know very little about the character (such as Norman Bates). But the character’s name recognition and legend have weighed so strongly on my life that it deserves a mention.
My list doesn’t recognize individual performances. I don’t want to get into whining over George Clooney’s Batman vs. Michael Keaton vs. Christian Bale. It’s Batman! One of the most famous characters in history! Just Batman will do.
I also struggled with the one-off movie. How does a great character like Doc Holiday measure up? He was maybe the fifth-ranked character in terms of lines in one movie (Tombstone). I decided to go with impact on my memory and how years later I still get pumped up just thinking about him “I’m your Huckleberry.” Often, characters just appearing in one movie would not make this list unless they truly made an impression.
Regarding cartoons/computer animation: that’s a whole different list. I decided not to inflate the list with cartoon characters (Shrek, Smurfs, Elsa & Anna, etc.)
And finally, I also wrestled with the decisions of great TV characters that made the jump to very bad movies. The A-Team and Dukes of Hazzard come to mind. How can I leave out B.A. Barracus, Hannibal, Face, Daisy Duke, et al? I decided to leave them out. They need to be great in the movies or they don’t get on the list.
Anyone I missed? I’ll be tracking the comments and changing/adding/tweaking to this list. Because I know I’ve forgotten some good ones.
130 Pee-Wee Herman – When you finally stop laughing, if you’re anywhere in that 1972- to 1978- born range you’ll understand how ridiculously trendy he was for several years. His show as so bad it was good. His movies so dumb they were funny, at least in the eyes of an 11-year-old. Bottom line is this – anyone who sees the grey suit and red bowtie will think of this character. Hearing audio of that laugh, we immediately know its origin. Little known fact – Lawrence Fishburne, who appears on this list, plays Cowboy Curtis on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
129 Kermit the Frog – Everyone knows this muppet, and he is in fact the most famous of the Muppets. Admit it – when the muppets started making movies again, you were excited to show your kids.
128 Derek Zoolander – Slow out of the gate, but built a cult following. Like most people, I watched Zoolander and thought it was dumb. And marginally funny. Then I was out at someone’s house and they were watching this movie and I got caught up in it, finding it much funnier. The third time I stumbled on it was again with friends, who found it hilarious and wanted to see “just this part”. We ended up watching the duration and I found it to be funnier still. So cleverly subtle. Ask anyone your age to flash you the “Blue Steel” and they’ll know what to do.
127 Mr. Miyagi – I couldn’t bring myself to put Daniel-san on this list because Ralph Macchio was just such a dork. But I couldn’t ignore the wise words of Mr. Miyagi. “Wax on! Wax off!”
126 Slimer – The only character from Ghostbusters who appears on this list. Why? Because he’s the only one you can name.
125 Darth Maul – The coolest looking and most talented Sith we’ve seen to date (The Force Awakens is not out yet, so I reserve judgment). If Maul made it into more movies, he’d be higher up the list. Say what you will of Phantom Menace, Darth Maul was the highlight of the movie.
124 Ant-Man (Scott Lang) – Marvel took a dumb character and made a great movie out of it. Very funny, and a pretty believable (take that word in context) backstory. With more movie appearances, he will be a well-known character and a household name.
123 Storm (Ororo Munroe) – Halle Berry made a great Storm. Alexandra Shipp could take Storm, in full mohawk form, to the next level. But we’ll have to wait and see.
122 Wayne Campbell – “Schwing!” If you don’t know what that means, you’re under the age of 25.
121 Star-Lord – Possibly the funniest on-screen Marvel character to date, we’ll just need a bigger body of work to know for sure if he can me laugh more than Tony Stark or Scott Lang. Right now he’s still better known as “one of the Guardians of the Galaxy”.
120 The Bride – Kill Bill never really made an impact on me, but this character made everyone else’s Top 100 list so I guess it’s worth a mention. Decent set of movies, but I only watched them once and have felt zero compulsion to watch them a second time. Perhaps, upon second viewing, The Bride gains more prominence in my mind.
119 Danny Ocean – This was a good trilogy of movies, but it wasn’t led by any one character. The whole group of them, the “Ocean’s 11” if you will, made it what it was. But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the leader.
118 Lara Croft – Without the video game franchise, the weak movies weren’t good enough to make this character great. So admittedly it got a boost outside of the movies.
117 Jerry Maguire – I guess I have a soft spot for slick sports agents? This movie has a lot of quotable lines and the name itself is recognized worldwide.
116 Silver Surfer (Norrin Radd) – Bad movie, great character. I really liked how Silver Surfer looked here (and Lawrence Fishburne adding the voice really worked for me). I hope Marvel finds a way to get him for the final Avengers movie in a few years.
115 Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr) – Excellent comic character, great job bringing him to life in the movies.
114 Chucky (Charles Lee Ray) – This character was released right in the wheelhouse of my life’s timeline. I was 14, 16 and 17 for the first three movies. After that, things took a turn for the stupid (or maybe they did immediately, but I was too young and dumb). To this day though, when you hear the name “Chucky” you think of the psycho doll.
113 Agent K – Tommy Lee Jones from Men In Black. I don’t think these movies got the credit they deserve. Clever, funny, with decent enough action.
112 Lloyd Christmas – The dumberer of the Dumb and Dumber franchise. I’m a fan of this kind of humor, just make me laugh.
111 Lando Calrissian – Gambler, lady’s man, General.
110 Mr. Blonde – In my opinion, the coolest of the Resevoir Dogs. Great movies deserves a character on the list, though much like with “Oceans” the greatness here is due to the entire cast rather than an individual.
109 Steve Stifler – The idiot of American Pie. The franchise made him annoying by the third movie, but his character in the first two movies was what made him a classic. I only wish they kept that style rather than make him cruder and dumber.
108 Marty McFly – Your average dorky teen suddenly moves through time. His name (and the movies) gained more prominence with the recent relaunch thanks to hitting the date that he landed in the future (October 21, 2015).
107 Jean Grey (The Phoenix) – Awesome power, well put together in the movies. Almost too powerful to move higher on this list – Phoenix is like a god, so there isn’t anywhere to go with that.
106 RoboCop – Who doesn’t know RoboCop?
105 Beetlejuice – When this movie came out it probably caused a bigger stir than it deserved, but the character spawned a sequel (forthcoming) and a cartoon spinoff so the humor obviously suited many. I was 14 when it came out and although I liked the movie, I wasn’t ga-ga over it. Just not the right age, I guess.
104 Mickey Knox – Woody Harrelson was brilliant in Natural Born Killers and this movie had a cult following. At least in my circles.
103 Will Hunting – “Do you like apples?” I think this was used throughout university by men everywhere. “I got her number – how do you like those apples?”
102 Bill Lumbergh – Needs no introduction. Only this clip…
101 Nick Fury – The straw that stirs the Avengers’ drink. The man who brings it all together. Marvel was genius in how they use Nick Fury in all the solo movies to bring together (and hype up) the team of superheros. And Samuel L. Jackson is perfect for the role.