Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My 25 greatest movie characters (part 1)

Empire magazine has published a list of "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters", to wit:

25. Yoda (Empire Strikes Back)
24. Ash (Evil Dead)

23. Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry)
22. Red (The Shawshank Redemption)
21. Michael Corleone (The Godfather series)
20. Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump)
19. Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction)
18. Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver)

17. Hans Gruber (Die Hard)

16. Neo (The Matrix trilogy)

15. Ferris Bueller (Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
14. The Terminator (The Terminator series)

13. Gollum (The Lord of the Rings trilogy)

12. John McClane (Die Hard series)

11. James Bond (007 series)

10. Vito Corleone (The Godfather I & II)

9. Ellen Ripley (Alien quadrology)

8. Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy)

7. The Dude (The Big Lebowski)

6. Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones series)

5. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)

4. Han Solo (Star Wars trilogy)
3. The Joker (The Dark Knight)

2. Darth Vader (Star Wars series)

1. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

However, the guys at Yahoo! Movies took issue with Empire's selection, so they drew up a list of their own:

25. Willy Wonka (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
24. Khan (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

23. Tony Manero (Saturday Night Fever)

22. Dr. Evil (Austin Powers series)

21. Mad Max (Mad Max trilogy)

20. Annie Wilkes (Misery)

19. John Rambo (Rambo series)

18. Superman (Superman, Superman II)

17. Popeye Doyle (The French Connection)

16. Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels (Tootsie)

15. Jake La Motta (Raging Bull)

14. Annie Hall (Annie Hall)

13. Will Kane (High Noon)

12. Norma Desmond (Sunset Blvd.)

11. Harry Lime (The Third Man)

10. Gordon Gekko (Wall Street)

9. Yojimbo (Yojimbo, Sanjuro)

8. Tracy Flick (Election)

7. T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

6. Colonel Kurtz (Apocalypse Now)

5. Shaft (Shaft)

4. Jake Gittes (Chinatown)

3. Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

2. Mr. Miyagi (The Karate Kid series)

1. The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin's films)

Allow me to jump into the fray and present my personal picks for the top 25. To make things easier, I didn't consider any non-fictional characters (e.g. Tony Montana as portrayed by Al Pacino, Queen Elizabeth as portrayed by Cate Blanchett, Oskar Schindler as portrayed by Liam Neeson). Moreover, I excluded characters in film adaptations who are more strongly identified with the original literary work (e.g. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, and Harry Potter), and I exempted icons who in my mind belong in some kind of character Hall of Fame (the likes of King Kong, Dracula, E.T., and the Wicked Witch of the West). I also tried to limit myself to one name per movie/movie franchise (otherwise my list would be overpopulated with Star Wars characters), one character per actor (or Al Pacino might hog several slots), and I nixed well-known characters from movies I have yet to watch (e.g. Dirty Harry, Rocky Balboa, The Terminator, et al).

My main criteria: 1) the character is larger-than-life, and "bigger" than the actor playing him/her; 2) the character's name is instantly familiar to most people; 3) the character is often used as a pop culture reference; and 4) the character is just too frickin' cool.

25. Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

Inigo really should be higher up on the list, but since The Princess Bride is one of those American cult classics that few Filipinos have seen, I didn't think he'd resonate with my readers. In any case I included him in my top 25 because he is the most amusing combination of at least 3 film archetypes: the henchman, the sidekick, and the avenger. AND because of the immortal line: "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
Inigo Montoya has the skill of a master swordsman and the soul of a poet, and while he's not the real hero of the fairy tale, he certainly stands out as the guy who's even cooler than the hero (sorry Westley).

24. Derek Zoolander (Zoolander)

Two words: Blue Steel. 'Nuff said.

23. Mrs. Doubtfire (Mrs. Doubtfire)

While I was tempted to go with my personal favorite Robin Williams character (John Keating from Dead Poets Society), I decided to go with Mrs. Doubtfire instead because a) she's a character within a character who's actually more memorable than the "real" character; b) she's wonderfully warm and maternal yet strong and ballsy (I guess that's understandable); and c) I thought it would be nice to have at least one cross-dresser on my list.

22. Castor Troy (Face/off)

Played by 2 very different actors, terrorist-for-hire Castor Troy still comes through as a personality all his own, like a life force that's too potent to be contained in any one body. Reckless, remorseless and a ticking time-bomb of psychosis, Castor belongs to that rare breed of villain who by all accounts should be totally despicable, yet instead of hating him, you end up in stitches over his devilish antics and in awe of how he operates. Plus, it's actually touching how he looks out for his kid brother Pollux... albeit touching in a twisted way, as twisted as Castor Troy himself.

Agent Smith (the Matrix trilogy)

Of all the cool Matrix characters (Morpheus being the coolest of the lot), why did I go with Agent Smith? Because not since Will Smith donned a suit and Ray Bans in Men in Black has dressing like a spook been so impressive. And because no one has uttered someone's name so robotically yet so menacingly as Agent Smith drawls "Mis...ter Andersonnn." Ruthless and relentless, Agent Smith is the last person (or computer program) you'd want hunting you down, in the Matrix or out-- don't let the receding hairline fool you.

Maria (The Sound of Music)

How do you solve a problem like Maria? Kick her out of the convent and send her to become a governess to 7 difficult children. The ultimate super-nanny, Maria sings, plays guitar, climbs trees and sews playclothes out of drapes... and in the process becomes her wards' best friend AND makes their handsome father fall in love with her. And that's in spite of her horrible androgynous hairstyle too.

Elle Woods (Legally Blonde)

The quintessential Woo Girl (and if you don't know what a Woo Girl is you gotta start watching How I Met Your Mother), Elle is the lovable dumb blonde who proves that not only is she not that dumb, she has a heart of gold to match her hair. Elle reminds us that not all blond bombshells are Paris Hiltons and Jessica Simpsons, and that we should never judge a babe by her Prada pumps.

18. Holly Golightly (Breakfast at Tiffany's)

This one's a classic. Oversized shades, upswept 'do, LBD, strands of pearls, long black gloves, and coffee and a breakfast roll in a brown bag-- who doesn't recognize the gorgeous girl standing in front of the window of Tiffany's? Given any other woman, Holly's flighty nature and carefree (almost careless) lifestyle would seem improbably irresponsible and irritating, but because of her odd mix of naivete and street smarts, she just comes off as gosh-darn charming.

17. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

The first rule of Fight Club is, we do not talk about Fight Club. But let's talk about Tyler Durden, Fight Club's founder. This soap salesman-by-day, brawler-by-night is a loose cannon, unfettered by morality, and acts with absolute disregard for the rules of society. Tyler is hellbent on wreaking mayhem on the world as part of some kind of anarchistic/nihilistic movement, but scarily, he actually makes sense in the brutal, coldly pragmatic dogma he preaches to his battered brethren. Soap has never been so subversively destructive.

16. Ferris Bueller (Ferris Bueller's Day Off)

Only the slickest, savviest, and luckiest high school kid in the history of cinema could pull off the craziest day of playing hooky in the history of playing hooky. Ferris Bueller's boy-next-door looks are deceiving, and they probably help him get away with such outlandish stunts as sneaking
onto a float and performing "Twist and Shout" in a big city parade, or convincing his best friend to "borrow" his dad's Ferrari. All this while successfully eluding his school's angry dean, his spiteful sister, and his clueless father. As a former teacher, I'd never condone playing hooky, but as a former student, I gotta give mad props to Ferris Bueller.

Dr. Evil (the Austin Powers series)

Dr. Evil edged out the eponymous hero by virtue of being funnier, stupider, and dorkier. Indeed, he's so frickin' dorky, he's frickin' cool. Besides, what other supervillains have a clone 1/8 their size?

14. C
aptain Jack Sparrow (the Pirates of the Caribbean series)

Johnny Depp has played many a memorable character (Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, and Sweeney Todd, among others), but Jack Sparrow stands out as the most audacious, irrepressible and wildly entertaining of the lot. He swaggers, he swashbuckles, he swears like... well, like a pirate, and he wears dreadlocks and guyliner. Part drunken rock star, part unwashed street rat, he's a dirty rotten scoundrel who can't seem to stop himself from doing the right thing, even when his innate selfishness and cowardice direct him otherwise. It's this battle within that makes him such a lovable anti-hero, and arguably the coolest morally questionable Disney character of all time.

13. Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Scent of a Woman)

He can assemble a firearm in seconds, drive the hell out of a Porsche, make love to beautiful women, and dance a helluva sexy tango. And oh yeah, he's blind. Frank Slade is a wounded man both physically and psychologically, but he's also a tough-as-nails SOB. I've practically memorized the fiery speech he delivers at the end of the movie ("If I were the man I was 5 years ago, I'd take a flame-thrower to this place!!"). Ultimately though, Frank Slade's charisma stems from the generous and compassionate spirit that dwells underneath the bile and bravado
, and the vulnerability they barely conceal.



Post a Comment

<< Home