10 Movie Characters That Shocked The World

Sometimes, it's frightening what an audience responds to...

A Clockwork Orange Malcolm McDowell
Warner Bros.

Over the past century, Hollywood has invented its share of larger than life characters; individuals who take hold of the celluloid and walk away with the rest of the picture - even if its a supporting role. This is no accident. They're cooked up in a lab by a sweatshop of undervalued writers and brought to life by dynamic performances and nuanced direction.

But occasionally, as art is wont to do, a character can serve as an avatar for a political or social statement. Their philosophy is intriguing, even if it's repulsive. And this puts audiences in an awkward conundrum: They're fascinated by this figure, perhaps even allured by their ideas, but at the same time the urge to condemn their onscreen antics is equally compelling.

After all, characters that actually achieve a level of popularity must make one question their own values.

It's no accident that many of these characters emerged at times of great political or social anxiety.

Here are just a few that captured the audience, for better or worse.

10. Arthur Fleck - Joker

Malcolm MacDowell in A Clockwork Orange
Warner Bros.

Much has been written about Joaquin Phoenix Oscar-winning turn as Arthur Fleck, the incredibly awkward Travis Bickle-like character in Todd Phillips' non-canonical Joker origin story. Some loved the dark, gritty approach, others wrote it off as aping better films such as Martin Scorsese's squirm comedy The King of Comedy (De Niro, appears in both). But there was no denying Phoenix was excellent, fully embodying even the most absurd of character quirks.

Like Ledger's Joker was a response to the Patriot Act and post-9/11 USA, somehow Phoenix and Phillips tapped into an even bleaker, more cruel existence - psuedo-70s Gotham (or New York City, if you want to split hairs). Joker inspired plenty of hate fuel for the internet, the die-hard comic fans decrying the very concept of an origin story for the clown as defeating the character's reason d'etre.

But there's no denying the film, and if his acceptance speech at the Academy Awards is any indication, Phoenix himself, is mad as hell and won't take it anymore. At last we have a Joker for the Trump era.


Kenny Hedges is carbon-based. So I suppose a simple top 5 in no order will do: Halloween, Crimes and Misdemeanors, L.A. Confidential, Billy Liar, Blow Out He has his own website - thefilmreal.com - and is always looking for new writers with differing views to broaden the discussion.