Saturday, January 9, 2016

My Ten Favorite Movie Characters Of All Time

It's time for another personal favorite list. This one is on my favorite movie characters of all time. To pick ten from the millions of available choices wasn't easy, but if you have read my blog post on my ten all-time favorite films you'll probably figure out most of my choices.

Remember that this list is made up of characters, not performers. If there is one particular performance of a certain character that I love more than others, I will specify that. The only limit I put on this list is that the character must have been in a theatrical feature film. The character doesn't need to have been created just for a film--the character can come from any other medium, just as long as it has been in a film. I'm also going to limit myself to one character per film--if I didn't do that, the entire list would be about the cast of the Star Wars films.

1. DARTH VADER (as portrayed by Dave Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones)
Is Darth Vader the greatest bad guy in cinema history? Maybe not, but he might be the most popular. Kids (such as myself) were absolutely fascinated by him in the Summer of '77. Vader's "look" has never been bettered, although it has been ripped off plenty of times. How powerful is the Dark Lord of the Sith? Despite Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen, he's still the ultimate geek icon.

2. THE MAN WITH NO NAME (as portrayed by Clint Eastwood)
Contrary to popular belief, in every one of the Sergio Leone "Dollars" films, someone does call Clint Eastwood's stoic bounty hunter a name.....but that doesn't matter. Eastwood and Leone changed cinema for ever after, and to this day male leads in an action film have to live up to the standard the Man With No Name set. Who hasn't wanted to handle things in their everyday lives the way Eastwood did?

3. DR. VAN HELSING (as portrayed by Peter Cushing)
Peter Cushing was the greatest monster fighter in movie history, and Dr. Van Helsing was the actor's greatest monster fighting role. Several other performers have played Bram Stoker's vampire hunter over the years, but none of them brought the intensity and sincerity to the role that Peter Cushing did. If you don't think of Cushing as a "tough guy", consider this....the man fought vampires in hand-to-hand combat.

4. JAMES BOND (as portrayed by Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig)
The greatest action hero character of all time. 007 has been indestructible at the box office for over fifty years. The Bond actors, and the Bond movies, have gone up and down in quality, but there's still no feeling like sitting in a theater and seeing the gun barrel opening to a Bond film.

5. JEFFERSON SMITH (as portrayed by James Stewart)
He's naive, humble, earnest, sincere, and an ordinary American....and those values are considered politically incorrect in these times. But wouldn't the world be a better place if we had more Jefferson Smiths? Director Frank Capra provided James Stewart with his greatest role in MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.

6. THE FALSE MARIA (as portrayed by Brigitte Helm)
In Fritz Lang's legendary METROPOLIS, newcomer Brigitte Helm actually played two roles--the sweet & noble Maria, and her evil robotic twin. The "False Maria" steals the show with her uninhibited outlandish behavior. Today we live in an era of supposed sexy bad girls, but Helm outshines them all. A fascinating character from a fascinating silent epic.

7. MOE, LARRY, & CURLY (as portrayed by Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Jerry Howard)
In just about every film the Three Stooges appeared in, they played characters named "Moe", "Larry", and "Curly"--so that's why I'm including them on this list. I've watched these guys since I was a little kid, and they always make me laugh, no matter what the circumstances.

8. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (as portrayed by Lon Chaney)
Erik the Phantom isn't just a horror movie icon--in my opinion, he's one of the greatest romantic characters of all time. A brilliant and devious multi-talented artist, the Phantom risks his life for a sliver of a chance at true love. The Phantom, created by writer Gaston Leroux, is one of the first super-villains of popular culture. Lon Chaney gave the definitive portrayal of the Phantom in the 1925 film adaptation of Leroux's novel. Chaney makes the Phantom a larger-than-life figure, dangerous and obsessive. Anyone who has suffered through unrequited love can appreciate Chaney's Phantom.

9. BEATRIX KIDDO (as portrayed by Uma Thurman)
Better known as "The Bride", Beatrix Kiddo is the heroine of Quentin Tarantino's KILL BILL films. In those two films, Beatrix goes through more difficulties than most characters do in a dozen films or books. It is to Uma Thurman's credit that the character is believable as a strong, accomplished action figure, while still being a sensitive woman.

10. BO ("THE BANDIT") DARVILLE (as portrayed by Burt Reynolds)
There was another film character that American kids loved in the summer of 1977--the gear-jammer known as the Bandit. Snicker if you want, but Burt Reynolds was the man back in the late 70s. In SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT he got to drive around in a cool Firebird, he got to hang out with Sally Field, and he caused police officers to wreck into one another. Maybe it's an American thing, but plenty of people wanted to be the Bandit.

Looking over this list I realize that the ten choices on it all have something in common--they each have a strong visual identity. In other words, if you were shown a picture of each of these characters, most everyone could identify them right away. Certainly how a character is written is very important, but what a character looks like--what a character wears, or how that character presents his or herself--is even more important....especially in a visual medium such as film.


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