There are so many great movies populated by wonderfully unforgettable characters, it is quite hard to create a list of Top 100 Characters, let alone a Top 10.
Empire Magazine did a related list a few years ago though without any rules, and that’s where that list differs from my own choice of characters. Indeed, for me, if you talk about a “movie character” this character must have originated on the screen, not in a different source work. Therefore, for the intents and purposes of this list literary characters, real life characters, comic book characters, video games characters, characters from remakes, sequels, or spin-offs do not count. We’re talking original, movie-only characters.
Another rule that I have decided to apply is to pick one and only one character from a movie or a single movie “universe”. Without giving too much away, there are some movies where the hero is incredible, and the villain is even better – as Hitchcock said, “The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture”; I would even add: the better the villain, the greater the hero must be. Therefore, choosing a villain AND a hero from the same movie defeats the purpose of this list. It is enough – for me – to choose only the hero or the villain of a single film, with the implication that their nemesis was suitably great and had an impact on their inclusion in the list.
Finally, the criteria I used to define a character as “memorable” are as follows:
- A great and catchy name
- A great backstory, verging on the mythological or legendary, making the character unforgettable and close to having-been-around-for-ever
- A great actor/actress to embody the character
- A great appearance costume, silhouette, or recognizable item in his/her get-up
And so, without further ado, I present to you the list of my top 10 original characters that were created for the Silver Screen…
Honourable Mention: Maverick (Tom Cruise in Top Gun)
In honor of Tony Scott who left the world of movies far too early, Tom Cruise’s Maverick gets an honorable mention here. He fits almost all the criteria listed above, by having a great name, a great appearance (he single-handedly created the look of many a teenager in the ‘80s) and being the break-out role for Tom Cruise.
The only thing missing element to make this character crack the top 10 is an unforgettable backstory. No one really knows who Maverick is, outside of a man looking to beat his father’s track record or redeem his reputation. But it’s a one-line cliché, nothing really transcending. Mystery can be great, as we’ll see further down the list, but lack of character-defining traits should be mixed up with that.
10. Hancock (Will Smith in Hancock)
Will Smith’s character gets a mention here because he’s a Will Smith character. And if there is any actor who has marked more movies in the last 20 years, it’s Will Smith. Of course, Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 are also memorable action roles created by at-the-top-of-their-game action stars. But at the end of day, what Will Smith was able to do is create a memorable, awesome super-hero than can go toe-to-toe with the best of them, yet has no origins in comic books or newspapers. Yet, his superhero is human, relatable, irritable, funny, and immortal! Both on the screen and in our mind.
The only reason why Hancock is at the “last” position of this Top 10 is because his backstory is actually a bit lacking. His origin is quite iffy, and makes little sense. But the way Will Smith plays him makes him amazing and unforgettable.
Runner-up: It is quite hard to select another equally memorable super-character because most super-heroes originated in comic-books, so I’ll go with Uma Thurman’s G-Girl, in My Super-Ex Girlfriend. Mr. or Mrs. Incredible are not listed here because of the higher-positioned Pixar representative.
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