We asked. You voted (in your thousands). And here it is - Empire's definitive (and not a little surprising) tally of the most memorable, beautiful, powerful, heroic, despicable, hilarious and downright barking characters who have ever graced the big screen.
100. Edna Mode
APPEARANCE: The Incredibles (2004) CREATOR: Brad Bird PERFORMER: Brad Bird DEFINING MOMENT: “No capes!” — Mode’s more than eccentric personality hides a distinctly practical approach to superhero fashion. FASCINATING FACT: Edna appeared alongside Pierce Brosnan to present the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in February 2005. She’s a Lord Of The Rings fan.
99. Randle McMurphy
APPEARANCE: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) CREATOR: Ken Kesey, Bo Goldman PERFORMER: Jack Nicholson DEFINING MOMENT: When Nurse Ratched bans the World Series, McMurphy improvises a commentary. FASCINATING FACT: Kirk Douglas played McMurphy on stage but was considered too old for the part by the time his son Michael, as producer, put the film together.
98. Optimus Prime
APPEARANCE: The Transformers series (2007-2014) CREATOR: Denny O’Neil, Jim Shooter, Bob Budiansky PERFORMER: Peter Cullen (voice) DEFINING MOMENT: Riding high on a mecha dinosaur in Age Of Extinction. FASCINATING FACT: He has his own Mr. Potatohead, called Optimash Prime (“More than meets the fry”).
97. Norman Bates
APPEARANCE: The Psycho films (1960-1990), Psycho remake (1998) CREATOR: Robert Bloch PERFORMER: Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Vince Vaughn DEFINING MOMENT: With a superimposed skull, he says, “I wouldn’t hurt a fly.” FASCINATING FACT: Hitchcock always addressed Anthony Perkins on set as ‘Master Bates’. Ho ho ho.
96. The Minions
APPEARANCE: Despicable Me movies (2010-2013), the Minions movie (2015) CREATOR: Sergio Pablos DEFINING MOMENT: Singing “banana” to the tune of Barbara Ann during the Despicable Me 2 trailer. FASCINATING FACT: In Minion, Bu ta na ma ka means ‘To infinity and beyond!’
APPEARANCE: Gladiator (2000) CREATOR: David Franzoni, John Logan, William Nicholson PERFORMER: Russell Crowe DEFINING MOMENT: Rousing the troops with his immortal line, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity!” FASCINATING FACT: Original choice Mel Gibson pronounced himself too old, opening the way for Russell Crowe amd establishing his and Ridley Scott’s legendary collaboration.
APPEARANCE: The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies (2001-2014) CREATOR: J. R. R. Tolkien PERFORMER: Orlando Bloom DEFINING MOMENT: With the rest of the Fellowship bogged down in a snowdrift, Legolas walks across, not leaving a mark. FASCINATING FACT: Among his myriad talents, Legolas can talk to stones. A passage in Fellowship Of The Ring sees the nimble elf listening to the lament of grieving rocks. A useful skill if ever there were one.
93. Wednesday Addams
APPEARANCE: The Addams Family films (1991-1993) CREATOR: Charles Addams PERFORMER: Christina Ricci DEFINING MOMENT: At a costume party as herself — “I am a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else.” FASCINATING FACT: The character takes her name from a line in a Mother Goose nursery rhyme: "Wednesday's child is full of woe."
92. Inspector Clouseau
APPEARANCE: The Pink Panther films (1963-2009) CREATOR: Blake Edwards, Maurice Richlin PERFORMER: Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin, Steve Martin DEFINING MOMENT: “I suspect everyone and I suspect no-one!” FASCINATING FACT: Sellers and Edwards announced that they could never work with each other again after A Shot In The Dark opening the way for Alan Arkin to play the role.
91. Inigo Montoya
APPEARANCE: The Princess Bride (1987) CREATOR: William Goldman PERFORMER: Mandy Patinkin DEFINING MOMENT: “I want my father back, you son of a bitch!” Inigo’s moment of revenge is perfection. FASCINATING FACT: Patinkin bruised a rib trying not to laugh at Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max.
APPEARANCE: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) CREATOR: Arthur C. Clarke PERFORMER: Douglas Rain (voice) DEFINING MOMENT: Conceding the battle for supremacy between humans and technology, HAL departs with a plaintive rendition of Daisy Bell. FASCINATING FACT: Originally envisioned by Clarke as a humanoid robot called Socrates.
APPEARANCE: Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) CREATOR: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers PERFORMER: Vin Diesel/ Krystian Godlewski DEFINING MOMENT: His return midcredits, getting his groove on as a sapling. FASCINATING FACT: A Flora colossus from Planet X, Groot made his debut 1960’s Tales to Astonish #13. Far from heroic, proto Groot attempted to abduct humans for scientific experimentation.
APPEARANCE: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit (2005) CREATOR: Nick Park PERFORMER: Team Aardman Animations DEFINING MOMENT: How about reviving the comatose Wallace with a wedge of Stinking Bishop? FASCINATING FACT: In 2005, NASA named a prototype Mars rover Gromit.
87. Ethan Hunt
APPEARANCE: Missions: Impossible (1996-2015) CREATOR: David Koepp, Steven Zaillian, Robert Towne PERFORMER: Tom Cruise DEFINING MOMENT: Hunt’s penchant for defying gravity, physics and fear reached its apotheosis in part four, with the daring climb up the side of the Burj Khalifa – aka the world’s tallest building – in Dubai. FASCINATING FACT: Rumour has it that Hunt was going to die in Ghost Protocol, but the character survived due to production rewrites.
APPEARANCE: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) CREATOR: Stephen King PERFORMER: Morgan Freeman DEFINING MOMENT: His final parole board. “To tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.” FASCINATING FACT: In the novella, Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption, Red is a white Irishman. He gets his name from his mop of crimson hair.
APPEARANCE: Point Blank (1967) CREATOR: Donald E. Westlake (writing as Richard Stark) PERFORMER: Lee Marvin DEFINING MOMENT: Cutting between Walker’s wife and betrayer (Sharon Acker) getting dressed and Walker striding down a long corridor. The click of his relentless heels sounds over both images — he will not be stopped. FASCINATING FACT: Richard Widmark, Robert Duvall, Mel Gibson, and Jason Statham have played versions of Walker.
84. Corporal Hicks
APPEARANCE: Aliens (1986) CREATOR: James Cameron PERFORMER: Michael Biehn DEFINING MOMENT: “I like to keep this handy... for close encounters…” The fact that Hicks carried a lo-fi shotgun (“Eat this!”) proves he’s old school, a cowboy, and a reliable hero. FASCINATING FACT: James Remar was originally cast as Hicks, but was canned after a drugs charge and replaced by Biehn weeks after they had started shooting.
APPEARANCE: Batman & Robin (1997), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) CREATOR: Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, Graham Nolan PERFORMER: Jeep Swenson (Batman & Robin), Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) DEFINING MOMENT: After a major fist fight, Bane breaks Batman’s back and symbolically throws away the broken mask in The Dark Knight Rises. FASCINATING FACT: Hardy based Bane’s strange voice on Romany Irish boxer Bartley Gorman.
APPEARANCE: Toy Stories 1-3, (1995-2010) CREATOR: John Lasseter PERFORMER: Tom Hanks (voice) DEFINING MOMENT: “YOU ARE A TOY! You aren’t the real Buzz Lightyear! You’re... you’re an action figure! You are a child’s plaything!” Woody doles out some tough love to his deluded new friend suffering delusions of grandeur. FASCINATING FACT: Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich revealed on Twitter that Woody’s last name is Pride.
APPEARANCE: Withnail & I (1987) CREATOR: Bruce Robinson PERFORMER: Richard E. Grant DEFINING MOMENT: Withnail’s preposterous tea shop demands: “We want the finest wines known to humanity. We want them here and we want them now!” FASCINATING FACT: Grant’s first reading of the line, “Fork it!” was exactly how Robinson had imagined it, thus securing the actor the part.
APPEARANCE: V For Vendetta (2005) CREATOR: Alan Moore, David Lloyd PERFORMER: Hugo Weaving (though James Purefoy began filming before the role was recast, and some of his scenes still appear with Weaving’s voice-over) DEFINING MOMENT: The massed ranks of like-masked protesters appearing at the Houses Of Parliament as V blows the place up and brings down the dystopian government. FASCINATING FACT: Weaving based V’s voice on ex- Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
79. Roy Batty
APPEARANCE: Blade Runner (1982) CREATOR: Philip K. Dick, Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples PERFORMER: Rutger Hauer DEFINING MOMENT: The incredible sense of loss that comes with the “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe” dying speech… “All those moments will be lost in time like tears in the rain. Time to die.” FASCINATING FACT: You can celebrate Roy’s birthday on January 8, 2016. He’s three years and ten months old when he dies.
78. Martin Blank
APPEARANCE: Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) CREATOR: Tom Jankiewicz, D. V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack PERFORMER: John Cusack DEFINING MOMENT: Killing a would-be assassin with the promotional pen his glad-handing real-estate agent friend has given him at a school reunion. FASCINATING FACT: Though the character is renamed Brand Hauser, Blank essentially returns in the little-seen War, Inc. (2008), which Cusack co-wrote and produced; Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd also reprise their roles.
77. Samwise Gamgee
APPEARANCE: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003) *CREATOR: J. R. R. Tolkien PERFORMER: Sean Astin DEFINING MOMENT: Lugging Master Frodo onto his back and trudging up Mount Doom’s ashy slope: “I can’t carry it for you... but I can carry you!” FASCINATING FACT:* Astin uses a frying pan as a weapon in two films, The Fellowship Of The Ring and Toy Soldiers.
76. Private William Hudson
APPEARANCE: Aliens (1986) CREATOR: James Cameron PERFORMER: Bill Paxton DEFINING MOMENT: The character’s a certifiable quote-machine, especially when he goes into panicky gobshite mode. After Ripley reasonably points out how long little girl Newt survived, he brilliantly ripostes, “Why don’t you put her in charge?” FASCINATING FACT: Hudson’s most repeated line in the movie — “Game over, man, game over!” — was improvised by Paxton on set.
75. Lisbeth Salander
APPEARANCE: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy (2009), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo remake (2011) CREATOR: Stieg Larsson PERFORMER: Noomi Rapace, Rooney Mara DEFINING MOMENT: Her savage revenge on the sexually abusive probation worker, which includes tattooing, "I am a rapist pig" on his chest. FASCINATING FACT: Larsson claimed that Salander was what he imagined Swedish children's book character Pippi Longstocking would be like as an adult.
74. Frank Drebin
APPEARANCE: The Naked Gun series (1988-1994) CREATOR: David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker PERFORMER: Leslie Nielsen DEFINING MOMENT: Peeing, mid-press conference, with his mic on. Impressive stream, mind. FASCINATING FACT: Nielsen appeared on Noel's House Party as Drebin in 1994. He didn't accidentally shoot Mr. Blobby.
73. Donnie Darko
APPEARANCE: Donnie Darko (2001) CREATOR: Richard Kelly PERFORMER: Jake Gyllenhaal DEFINING MOMENT: Telling motivational speaker Jim (Patrick Swayze), "I think you're the fucking Antichrist!" FASCINATING FACT: Donnie watches The Evil Dead on a double bill with The Last Temptation Of Christ because Kelly couldn't track down the rights-holders of his first-choice film, C.H.U.D..
72. Captain Kirk
APPEARANCE: The Star Trek original series (1979-1994); Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) CREATOR: Gene Roddenberry PERFORMER: William Shatner, Chris Pine DEFINING MOMENT: Marooned alive at the centre of a dead planet, Kirk makes his feeling towards his nemesis ring through the quadrant. "KHAAAAAAAN!!!" FASCINATING FACT: J. J. Abrams originally asked Mark Wahlberg to play Kirk's dad.
APPEARANCE: Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) CREATOR: Steve Englehart, Steve Gan PERFORMER: Chris Pratt, Wyatt Oleff DEFINING MOMENT: "I have part of a plan." For this fast-improvising maverick, 12 per cent of a plan is quite sufficient. FASCINATING FACT: The prop department's single toughest challenge was finding, intact, original Sony headphones for Quill's Walkman.
70. Tony Montana
APPEARANCE: Scarface (1983) CREATOR: Oliver Stone (based on 1932's Howard Hawks/Richard Rosson movie) PERFORMER: Al Pacino DEFINING MOMENT: "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women." FASCINATING FACT: Rapper Cuban Link was set to play Tony's son in a 2001 sequel.
69. Marge Gunderson
APPEARANCE: Fargo (1996) CREATOR: Joel and Ethan Coen PERFORMER: Frances McDormand DEFINING MOMENT: Contemplating the body in the wood chipper and asking the killer, "And for what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know. Dontcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it." FASCINATING FACT: McDormand learned her Minnesota accent from actress Larissa Kokernot, who plays the small role of Hooker #1.
APPEARANCE: The Matrix trilogy (1999-2003) CREATOR: Lana and Andy Wachowski PERFORMER: Keanu Reeves DEFINING MOMENT: A hail of bullets stopped with a simple gesture, an Agent batted aside with casual ease, then annihilated from the inside out. As Morpheus so succinctly put it, "He is The One." FASCINATING FACT: Reeves nearly wasn't. Before Keanu landed the role, both Will Smith and Nic Cage passed on Neo's leather trousers.
67. Harry Potter
APPEARANCE: The Harry Potter series (2001-2011) CREATOR: J. K. Rowling PERFORMER: Daniel Radcliffe DEFINING MOMENT: "Expecto patronum!" Harry comes of age by discovering the wherewithal to conjure up his Patronus spirit avatar and repel the Dementors. FASCINATING FACT: Radcliffe was going to wear green contact lenses, to match Harry's description in the books, but they made his eyes itch.
66. Gollum / Sméagol
APPEARANCE: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) CREATOR: J. R. R. Tolkien PERFORMER: Andy Serkis DEFINING MOMENT: Sméagol debating the merits of treachery with his other half in The Two Towers - a scene cunningly orchestrated between the 'innocent' and 'conniving' sides of his inner schism. FASCINATING FACT: Gollum's underpants are made of goblin skin. Elasticated, breathable, fresh stench of rot...
65. Hans Landa
APPEARANCE: Inglourious Basterds (2009) CREATOR: Quentin Tarantino PERFORMER: Christoph Waltz DEFINING MOMENT: Landa's cold-blooded cabin monologue to a farmer he suspects of sheltering Jews is a sinister mix of slippery charm, high intellect and outright villainy. As is he. FASCINATING FACT: Landa's trademark Calabash Meerschaum pipe offers a subtle link to another famous, but somewhat less malignant, sleuth - Sherlock Holmes.
64. George Bailey
APPEARANCE: It's A Wonderful Life (1946) CREATOR: Philip Van Doren Stern PERFORMER: James Stewart,Bobby Anderson DEFINING MOMENT: His pure delight at the discovery of "Zuzu's petals!" in his pocket when he returns to the real Bedford Falls after his nightmarish vision and he realises the world has gone back to how it was. FASCINATING FACT: In the original novel, George's full name was George Pratt. It was changed to Bailey for the movie.
APPEARANCE: X-Men series (2000-2014) CREATOR: Len Wein, John Romita Sr. PERFORMER: Hugh Jackman, Troye Sivan DEFINING MOMENT: His ferocious response when the Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters is attacked in X2. The claws come out... Wolverine really doesn't like you threatening his friends. FASCINATING FACT: Jackman took daily icecold showers while playing Wolverine in order to achieve the requisite grumpiness.
APPEARANCE: E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) CREATOR: Melissa Mathison PERFORMER: Pat Welsh (voice) DEFINING MOMENT: When Elliott cuts his finger, E. T. uses his glowing digit to reveal his power to heal. It is not simply a demonstration of alien powers, but an expression of E. T.'s empathy and mgrowing bond with Elliott. FASCINATING FACT: The squashy sound of E.T.'s walk was created by foley artist John Roesch stuffing a T-shirt full of jelly and squishing it.
61. Bilbo Baggins
APPEARANCE: The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies (2001-2014) CREATOR: J. R. R. Tolkien PERFORMER: Ian Holm, Martin Freeman DEFINING MOMENT: As he's about to quit the quest in An Unexpected Journey, Freeman's Bilbo realises the dwarves want their home back as much as he needs to get home. Somehow this drives him further o on adventures FASCINATING FACT: John Le Mesurier - best known for playing Sgt. Wilson in Dad's Army — played Bilbo in the BBC's 1981 radio serial.
60. Dr. King Schultz
APPEARANCE: Django Unchained (2012) CREATOR: Quentin Tarantino PERFORMER: Christoph Waltz DEFINING MOMENT: For showcasing his joy in the part and his dexterity with Tarantino's dialogue, Waltz recounting the origins of the name of Broomhilda - Django's wife. "It's a German legend, there's always going to be a mountain in there somewhere." FASCINATING FACT: Tarantino created the part for Waltz, who stayed with him while he wrote and read the pages literally warm from the printer.
59. Ace Ventura
APPEARANCE: Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), When Nature Calls (1995) CREATOR: Jack Bernstein, Tom Shadyac, Jim Carrey PERFORMER: Jim Carrey DEFINING MOMENT: Plenty of improv and rubber-faced japery, but for pure physical comedy the slo-mo acting out of a football play in the mental institution - and then rewinding - can't be topped. FASCINATING FACT: Ace Ventura made a brief (animated) appearance in the cartoon series of The Mask, when Stanley Ipkiss loses his dog.
58. Sarah Connor
APPEARANCE: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator: Salvation (2009 — voice only), Terminator Genisys (2015) CREATOR: James Cameron PERFORMER: Linda Hamilton, Emilia Clarke DEFINING MOMENT: In T2, doing chin-ups in the hospital. Once a timid nobody, now a fearsome warrior with the fate of mankind in her hands. FASCINATING FACT: The T-1000's doppelgänger of Connor in T2 was played by her identical twin sister, Leslie.
57. Katniss Everdeen
APPEARANCE: The Hunger Games series (2012-2015) CREATOR: Suzanne Collins PERFORMER: Jennifer Lawrence DEFINING MOMENT: Volunteering for the nightmarish Hunger Games when her younger sister's name is read out, in order to save the kind-hearted Prim from the same awful fate. FASCINATING FACT: ‘Katniss' is a plant also known as an ‘arrowhead'. Symbolism!
56. Jack Burton
APPEARANCE: Big Trouble In Little China (1986) CREATOR: John Carpenter, W. D. Richter PERFORMER: Kurt Russell DEFINING MOMENT: Ol' Jack Burton bursts into a room, shoots his gun in the air... and gets knocked out by falling masonry. Thus proving that he's a perfect piss-take of the shoot first, ask questions later American hero. FASCINATING FACT: The movie initially began life as a Western, set in the 1880s. Russell's John Wayne drawl would have been even more appropriate.
55. Axel Foley
APPEARANCE: The Beverly Hills Cop trilogy (1984-1994) CREATOR: Daniel Petrie Jr. PERFORMER: Eddie Murphy DEFINING MOMENT: His incredulous but knowing squeal, "Getthefuckouttahere!" to snippy gallery flunky Serge when he's told the price of the works of art. FASCINATING FACT: The role was originally written for Sylvester Stallone, who rewrote much of the script, had it rejected, and later recycled some of the ideas for 1986's Cobra.
54. Amélie Poulain
APPEARANCE: Amélie (2001) CREATOR: Jean-Pierre Jeunet PERFORMER: Flora Guiet, Audrey Tautou DEFINING MOMENT: Upon Amélie finding the photo album of lost postcards, the narrator gives the perfect summation of Amélieness: “Any normal girl would call the number, meet him, return the album and see if her dream is viable. It’s called a reality check. The last thing Amélie wants.” FASCINATING FACT: There is a species of South American frog — Cochranella amelie — named after the impish Parisian.
53. Vito Corleone
APPEARANCE: The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974) CREATOR: Mario Puzo PERFORMER: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro DEFINING MOMENT: Forging his destiny with the murder of neighbourhood padrone Don Fanucci. FASCINATING FACT: Orson Welles claimed he would have “sold his soul” to play Vito, but was never even considered - still, an interesting thought.
52. Shaun Riley
APPEARANCE: Shaun Of The Dead (2004) CREATOR: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg PERFORMER: Simon Pegg DEFINING MOMENT: Shaun finally ditches the kitchen appliances and picks up a cricket bat. The sporting way to lay waste to the undead. FASCINATING FACT: While filming the climactic pub mêlée, Pegg’s arm actually caught on fire.
51. Obi-Wan Kenobi
APPEARANCE: The Star Wars series (1977-2005) CREATOR: George Lucas PERFORMER: Alec Guinness, Ewan McGregor DEFINING MOMENT: "These aren't the droids you're looking for." Ben Kenobi shows off a neat party trick that leads to a generation trying to get past nightclub bouncers by waving their hands at them. FASCINATING FACT: Fifteen people have played Kenobi across various platforms but Guinness and McGregor remain the only two actors to have played him on screen. So far.
50. Luke Skywalker
APPEARANCES: The Star Wars series (1977-2015) CREATOR: George Lucas PERFORMER: Mark Hamill DEFINING MOMENT: “But I was going into Tosche station to pick up some power converters.” Luke Skywalker: cinema’s greatest whiner. FASCINATING FACT: In the scene where Luke introduces himself to Leia on the Death Star, Hamill referred to himself as Luke Starkiller, the character’s original name. It was nixed by execs and reshot with the more aspirational Skywalker.
49. Harry Callahan
APPEARANCES: The Dirty Harry series (1971-1988) CREATORS: Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink, Dean Riesner PERFORMER: Clint Eastwood DEFINING MOMENT: Best summed up by District Attorney Rothko to Harry: “Where the hell does it say that you’ve got a right to kick down doors, torture suspects, deny medical attention and legal counsel… that man had rights.” FASCINATING FACT: Dirty Harry was used as a training film by the Filipino police.
48. Lester Burnham
APPEARANCE: American Beauty (1999) CREATOR: Alan Ball PERFORMER: Kevin Spacey DEFINING MOMENT: Visually the rose petals peeling off Mena Suvari was the image of the film, but it is Lester’s touching voice-over that really lingers: “I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.” FASCINATING FACT: The original script was bookended with Lester’s daughter and her boyfriend being arrested for his murder.
47. Rick Deckard
APPEARANCE: Blade Runner CREATORS: Philip K. Dick, Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples PERFORMER: Harrison Ford DEFINING MOMENT: Deckard’s place as futuristic gumshoe/assassin is defined by his brutal shooting of replicant snake dancer Zhora and the bitter look that goes with it. FASCINATING FACT: When Ridley Scott first met with Ford he was shooting Raiders and arrived in Indy’s hat. Scott ditched the idea of Deckard wearing a fedora immediately and gave him the buzz cut.
46. Captain America
APPEARANCES: Marvel Cinematic Universe (2011-2015) CREATORS: Joe Simon, Jack Kirby PERFORMER: Chris Evans DEFINING MOMENT: In Age Of Ultron, Tony Stark asks Steve Rogers how he plans to beat an alien invasion. “Together,” says the super-soldier. “We’ll lose,” says Stark. “Then we’ll do that together, too.” Classic Cap. FASCINATING FACT: The last big-screen Cap came in Albert Pyun’s 1990 version, played by Matt Salinger – son of J. D..
45. Tommy DeVito
APPEARANCE: GoodFellas (1990) CREATORS: Nicholas Pileggi, Martin Scorsese PERFORMER: Joe Pesci DEFINING MOMENT: The shinebox to-do is pretty iconic but the knife-edge tension of DeVito’s improvised drinking confrontation with Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) remains unmatchable. “Funny how? What’s funny about it?” FASCINATING FACT: The above exchange was based on something that actually happened to Pesci.
44. Anton Chigurh
APPEARANCE: No Country For Old Men (2007) CREATORS: Cormac McCarthy, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen PERFORMER: Javier Bardem DEFINING MOMENT: The life-or-death coin toss. “Call it, friend-o,” insists Chigurh, impassive as a man counting old Tiger Tokens. You could say he is a fatalist. FASCINATING FACT: According to co-star Josh Brolin, Chigurh’s bowl cut had Bardem complaining that he wouldn’t “get laid for three months”.
43. Amy Dunne
APPEARANCE: Gone Girl (2014) CREATOR: Gillian Flynn PERFORMER: Rosamund Pike DEFINING MOMENT: The most telling glimpse inside Amy’s mind comes via her meticulously filled wall planner – here is her master plan, her final revenge, her psychopathology. She has even set a date to kill herself. FASCINATING FACT: To deal with how “uneasy” she felt playing Amy, Pike would regularly dissolve into giggles. She realised it was a coping mechanism.
42. Lou Bloom
APPEARANCE: Nightcrawler (2014) CREATOR: Dan Gilroy PERFORMER: Jake Gyllenhaal DEFINING MOMENT: Bloom tying his employer Rene Russo up in knots over one creepy dinner ‘date’. She’s a smart, savvy, experienced operator, and absolutely no match for him. FASCINATING FACT: Gyllenhaal needed 44 stitches after slicing a thumb during the mirror smash scene.
41. Keyser Söze
APPEARANCE: The Usual Suspects CREATOR: Christopher McQuarrie PERFORMER: Kevin Spacey DEFINING MOMENT: A criminal so terrifying the mere mention of his name makes hard nuts wither in their shell, Söze is largely a bogeyman-style spectre throughout Bryan Singer’s movie. But we see him at the start, coolly putting out a fire by pissing on it. Now that may be the greatest trick the devil ever pulled. FASCINATING FACT: The long-haired Söze we see in a flashback is played by Scott B. Morgan, who was working behind the scenes on the movie.
40. Ferris Bueller
APPEARANCE: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) CREATOR: John Hughes PERFORMER: Matthew Broderick DEFINING MOMENT: Parading through Chicago lip-syncing Danke Schoen while the crowd goes wild. Ever noticed that Ferris is a faker? FASCINATING FACT: The ill-starred TV adaptation featured Diagnosis: Murder star Charlie Schlatter taking a chainsaw to a cardboard cutout of Matthew Broderick. It was cancelled after 13 episodes.
APPEARANCE: Drive (2011) CREATORS: Hossein Amini, James Sallis PERFORMER: Ryan Gosling DEFINING MOMENT: Confined to an orange-hued lift descending to death, Driver kisses Carey Mulligan knowing what he’s about to do will destroy their love but save her life – smashing in the skull of a threatening thug. FASCINATING FACT: Nicolas Winding Refn directed Drive but he can’t actually drive.
APPEARANCES: The Star Wars series (1980-2005) CREATORS: George Lucas, Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan PERFORMER: Frank Oz DEFINING MOMENT: Lifting a sunken X-Wing out of a swamp. “I don’t believe it,” says Luke. “This is why you fail,” replies the crestfallen Jedi master, never quick to encourage. FASCINATING FACT: In early drafts the so-called Minch Yoda kept his house spotlessly clean.
37. Walter Sobchak
APPEARANCE: The Big Lebowski (1998) CREATORS: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen PERFORMER: John Goodman DEFINING MOMENT: Responding to a perceived bowling foul with thermo- nuclear intensity. “Mark it zero!” Walter is a stickler for rules. FASCINATING FACT: The airline version changed, “You see what happens, Larry, when you fuck a stranger in the ass?” to, “You see what happens, Larry, when you find a stranger in the Alps?”
36. Rocky Balboa
APPEARANCES: The Rocky series (1976-2015) CREATOR: Sylvester Stallone PERFORMER: Sylvester Stallone DEFINING MOMENT: “Down! Stay down!” Battered to the canvas by Apollo Creed, the easy thing for Rocky would be to do just that. But up the Italian Stallion climbs. Creed’s look of disbelief, mingled with respect, is glorious. FASCINATING FACT: Stallone wouldn’t sell his script unless producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff let him star.
35. Atticus Finch
APPEARANCE: To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) CREATOR: Harper Lee PERFORMER: Gregory Peck DEFINING MOMENT: “To begin with, this case should never have come to trial...” Finch’s quietly devastating closing argument destroys the prosecution case and has inspired decades’ worth of prospective lawyers. FASCINATING FACT: Brock Peters, who played defendant Tom Robinson, gave a eulogy for Peck and addressed him as “my friend Atticus Finch”.
34. Captain Mal Reynolds
APPEARANCE: Serenity (2005) CREATOR: Joss Whedon (from his 2002 Firefly television series) PERFORMER: Nathan Fillion DEFINING MOMENT: Reynold’s St Crispin’s Day speech. Impassioned oratory with a suitably Whedonesque summation. “No more runnin’. I aim to misbehave.” FASCINATING FACT: Whedon originally wrote the part for Nicholas Brendon (Buffy’s Xander). Shooting schedules made it impossible, so Fillion stepped in.
33. The Man With No Name
APPEARANCES: A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) CREATOR: Sergio Leone PERFORMER: Clint Eastwood DEFINING MOMENT: At the finale of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, Eastwood’s amoral treasure hunter chooses to let the treacherous Tuco (Eli Wallach) live. He’s not so amoral after all. FASCINATING FACT: The laconic anti-hero appeared in five novels, which continued the series past Leone’s third Dollars film.
32. Jules Winnfield
APPEARANCE: Pulp Fiction (1994) CREATOR: Quentin Tarantino PERFORMER: Samuel L. Jackson DEFINING MOMENT: A brutal choice, with Tim Roth reaching for his wallet a very close second place (“It’s the one that says Bad Motherfucker.”), but the winner has to be quoting Ezekiel 25:17 before blowing away Brett (Frank Whaley). Righteous fury. FASCINATING FACT: The quote isn’t actually, largely, from the Bible but from the 1976 Sonny Chiba action pic The Bodyguard.
31. Peter Venkman
APPEARANCES: Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989) CREATORS: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis PERFORMER: Bill Murray DEFINING MOMENT: Giving two students an ESP test, happily electric-shocking the obnoxious sophomore guy while flirting with the girl. Poor science, but liquid Venkman. FASCINATING FACT: According to the Ghostbusters novelisation, he was born in a circus tent at King City Attractions in Sedalia, Missouri.
APPEARANCES: The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies (2001-2014) CREATOR: J. R. R. Tolkien PERFORMER: Ian McKellen DEFINING MOMENT: In a small but perfect grace note from the Council Of Elrond, as the first to hear Frodo’s offer to take the One Ring all the way to Mount Doom, a ripple of sadness crosses Gandalf’s face. It is the heartbreaking recognition of what his meddling will cost. FASCINATING FACT: McKellen openly professed that he preferred playing Gandalf The Grey to Gandalf The White.
29. Snake Plissken
APPEARANCES: Escape From New York (1981), Escape From L. A. (1996) CREATOR: John Carpenter PERFORMER: Kurt Russell DEFINING MOMENT: On being asked if he’s going to kill Lee Van Cleef’s character: “I’m too tired, maybe later.” FASCINATING FACT: Production company Avco Embassy Pictures preferred Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones for the role rather than Russell, who was better-known for his recent Disney comedies.
28. The Terminator (T-800)
APPEARANCES: The Terminator series (1984-2015) CREATOR: James Cameron PERFORMER: Arnold Schwarzenegger DEFINING MOMENT: The joy of the “I’ll. Be. Back.” sequence lies not only in its legacy, but its witty machine-like accuracy: he will indeed be back, smashing his car through the police station, the desk, and the desk clerk. FASCINATING FACT: Cameron had devised a version of the plot where there would be two Arnie T-800s, one good, one evil, but ditched it because one would have to look battered throughout, which meant putting Schwarzenegger in make-up every day – he couldn’t face the griping.
27. Forrest Gump
APPEARANCE: Forrest Gump (1994) CREATOR: Winston Groom PERFORMER: Tom Hanks DEFINING MOMENT: When he asks Jenny if their son is “normal”; it’s a moment that shows a tragic awareness of his own limitations. FASCINATING FACT: In the book, Forrest is more of a savant, and gets top marks in advanced physics at college.
26. Patrick Bateman
APPEARANCE: American Psycho (2000) CREATOR: Bret Easton Ellis PERFORMER: Christian Bale DEFINING MOMENT: Patrick Bateman’s soliloquy on the genius of Huey Lewis, followed by his iconic Hip To Be Square flat-ricide. FASCINATING FACT: In retrospect, Bret Easton Ellis felt that making Bateman a rabid Huey Lewis fan was unfair. The musician didn’t much mind, even doing his own Funny Or Die spoof.
APPEARANCES: Evil Deads 1-3 (1981-1992) CREATOR: Sam Raimi PERFORMER: Bruce Campbell DEFINING MOMENT: The tooling-up sequence in Evil Dead II marks the moment where Ash transitions from hapless and hysterical buffoon to the Dirty Harry of Deadites. Campbell’s delivery of the line, “Groovy,” launched a thousand sound bites. FASCINATING FACT: Ash’s full name is Ashley Williams, not to be confused with the Swansea and Wales defender.
24. Daniel Plainview
APPEARANCE: There Will Be Blood (2007) CREATORS: Paul Thomas Anderson, Upton Sinclair PERFORMER: Daniel Day-Lewis DEFINING MOMENT: “We offer you the bond of family that very few oilmen can understand…” claims Plainview, luring dumbfounded landowners to his cause with Molotov sincerity. A monologue doubly astounding given that Day-Lewis improvised most of it. FASCINATING FACT: Plainview’s mansion in the film is, in fact, Greystone Mansion in LA, the home of Edward Doheny Jr., son of the real oil baron upon whom Plainview was partly based.
23. The Bride
APPEARANCES: Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) CREATOR: Quentin Tarantino PERFORMER: Uma Thurman DEFINING MOMENT: Beatrix Kiddo’s drastic rationalising of the Crazy 88 during the slay-full House Of Blue Leaves showdown. FASCINATING FACT: Uma Thurman ran over a chicken during the movie’s shoot.
22. Travis Bickle
APPEARANCE: Taxi Driver (1976) CREATOR: Paul Schrader PERFORMER: Robert De Niro DEFINING MOMENT: Bickle kindly gives his date a Kris Kristofferson album she already owns; then takes her out to a porn film. FASCINATING FACT: One of Schrader’s inspirations for Bickle was Harry Chapin’s song Taxi.
21. Hannibal Lecter
APPEARANCES: The Lecter films (1986-2007) CREATOR: Thomas Harris PERFORMERS: Brian Cox, Anthony Hopkins, Aaran Thomas, Gaspard Ulliel DEFINING MOMENT: The moment that cements Lecter’s extraordinary effect comes during his conspicuous absence. Orchestrated with devilish cunning, his courthouse escape in The Silence Of The Lambs leaves you thunderstruck by temporarily having no idea where he is. FASCINATING FACT: John Lithgow, Mandy Patinkin, William Friedkin, Brian Dennehy, Sean Connery, Derek Jacobi and Daniel Day-Lewis have all been considered to play Lecter.
20. Doc Brown
APPEARANCES: Back To The Future trilogy (1985-1990), A Million Ways To Die In The West (2014) CREATORS: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale PERFORMER: Christopher Lloyd DEFINING MOMENT: His apology for the “crudeness” of his ridiculously detailed scale model of Hill Valley. FASCINATING FACT: In the Back To The Future animated TV series (1991), Doc was voiced by Dan Castellaneta, aka Homer Simpson.
APPEARANCES: Thor (2011), Avengers Assemble (2012), Thor: The Dark World (2013) CREATORS: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber PERFORMER: Tom Hiddleston DEFINING MOMENT: As fun as the tyrannical posturing is in Avengers, the first Thor reveals the troubled core which makes the character so compelling – and sympathetic. After discovering his frost-giant lineage, Loki stutters at his foster-father Odin, “I am the monster parents tell their children about at night?” FASCINATING FACT: Among those who auditioned for the role of Loki was Charlie Cox… who four years later would enter the MCU as Daredevil.
18. Rick Blaine
APPEARANCE: Casablanca (1942) CREATORS: Murray Burnett and Joan Alison (play, Everybody Comes To Rick’s); Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch PERFORMER: Humphrey Bogart DEFINING MOMENT: His curt nod to the bandleader to strike up La Marseillaise and drown out the Nazis. A tiny but pivotal gesture – Rick has joined The Cause. FASCINATING FACT: Brazzaville, a mercifully unrealised Casablanca sequel, revealed that Rick was an undercover US agent all along.
17. M. Gustave
APPEARANCE: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) CREATORS: Wes Anderson, Hugo Guinness PERFORMER: Ralph Fiennes DEFINING MOMENT: A philandering, worldly one-man TripAdvisor, concierge M. Gustave ends up taking a fascist bullet for his young friend, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori). Beneath that suave carapace lies an inner nobility, after all. FASCINATING FACT: Fiennes used his time as a young porter at London’s Brown’s Hotel to help construct the character.
16. Ron Burgundy
APPEARANCES: Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004), Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013) CREATORS: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay PERFORMER: Will Ferrell DEFINING MOMENT: Having failed to convince Veronica (Christina Applegate) that San Diego means “whale’s vagina”, Ron says, “Agree to disagree” – displaying his particular mix of arrogance and idiocy. FASCINATING FACT: Ferrell could have been a newsman himself – he even did an internship at a local TV station.
APPEARANCES: The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (2001-2003) CREATOR: J. R. R. Tolkien PERFORMER: Viggo Mortensen DEFINING MOMENT: Going to meet the Uruk-hai atop Parth Galen to allow Frodo time to escape. It’s the first time Aragorn embraces his destiny as a leader. FASCINATING FACT: Mortensen patched up his own costume while filming and, when he lost a tooth in an orc-based squabble, he simply had it glued back in.
14. Captain Jack Sparrow
APPEARANCES: The Pirates Of The Caribbean series (2003-2011) CREATORS: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio PERFORMER: Johnny Depp DEFINING MOMENT: His panicked cry of, “But why is the rum gone?” on learning that fellow castaway Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) has created a rum-fuelled beacon to attract rescue. FASCINATING FACT: Elliott and Rossio designed Cap’n Jack in the spirit of characters in classic literature and opera like Figaro; the comic, puckish counterpoint to the film’s heroes.
13. Iron Man
APPEARANCES: The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-2015) CREATORS: Stan Lee, Don Heck, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber PERFORMER: Robert Downey Jr. DEFINING MOMENT: At a press conference to deny that he is Iron Man, Tony Stark leans into the mic and announces: “I am Iron Man.” It’s the move of a billionaire genius playboy philanthropist, and narcissist, and dispensed with all that secret identity baloney right off the bat. FASCINATING FACT: Iron Man had been years in development, with Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise linked to the role.
12. Marty McFly
APPEARANCES: Back To The Future trilogy (1985-1990) CREATORS: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale PERFORMER: Michael J. Fox DEFINING MOMENT: After belting out Johnny B. Goode: “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love it.” FASCINATING FACT: As Calvin Klein was relatively unknown in Europe at the time, Marty is mistaken for Levi Strauss and Pierre Cardin in some Euro versions.
11. Michael Corleone
APPEARANCES: The Godfather trilogy (1972-1990) CREATOR: Mario Puzo PERFORMER: Al Pacino DEFINING MOMENT: Watch him steeling himself to kill Sollozzo and Capt. McCluskey in the restaurant – a journey to the dark side begins. FASCINATING FACT: Michael Corleone is a bit-part player in Puzo’s novel The Sicilian.
10. The Dude
APPEARANCE: The Big Lebowski (1998) CREATORS: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen PERFORMER: Jeff Bridges DEFINING MOMENT: Throughout, The Dude is striving to return to his habitual state of rest but fails. Driving his beat-up Torino home in a rare moment of contentment, supping a beer, taking a toke and singing along to Creedence on the eight-track, he spots he’s being trailed. This latest assault on his embattled karma causes him in quick succession to flick his joint into his lap, squeal like a girl, pour beer on his trousers, and slam the Torino into a row of dustbins. Rattled but unhurt, his drugstore Ray-Bans — an excellent bellwether for The Dude’s equilibrium — are left comically askew. FASCINATING FACT: With the exception of his dream, you never actually see The Dude bowl.
9. Darth Vader
APPEARANCES: Star Wars: Episodes III-VI (1977-2005) CREATOR: George Lucas PERFORMERS: David Prowse, James Earl Jones (voice), Sebastian Shaw, Hayden Christensen DEFINING MOMENT: In the first two films (i.e. Episodes IV and V), Lord Vader is nothing more — or less — than the ultimate, über-cool villain. Remorseless, fearless, able to force-strangle his underlings via video link... But it’s in Return Of The Jedi that we realise, somehow, that we care about Vader — just as Luke does. In this sense, he’s defined by a small exchange with his offspring. Having been urged to let go of his hate, he says, almost sadly, “It is too late for me, son...” FASCINATING FACT: Vader was also technically played by famed Hollywood sword-master Bob Anderson, who donned the suit for Episode V and VI’s lightsaber duels.
8. Tyler Durden
APPEARANCE: Fight Club (1999) CREATOR: Chuck Palahniuk PERFORMER: Brad Pitt DEFINING MOMENT: Tyler delivering the rules is the most quoted moment, but the scene that captures his dark humour is when he invites a beating from bar-owner Lou, spraying blood over him with an evilly gleeful, “You don’t know where I’ve been!” FASCINATING FACT: Pitt originally wanted to play The Narrator, but David Fincher convinced him to be Tyler instead.
7. John McClane
APPEARANCES: The Die Hard films (1988-2013), National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (1993) CREATORS: Roderick Thorp, Steven E. de Souza, Jeb Stuart PERFORMER: Bruce Willis DEFINING MOMENT: Sending a dead terrorist back to his cohorts with a zinger daubed on him in blood. Tough, cocky, darkly funny. FASCINATING FACT: Fox had to offer the role to Frank Sinatra first, as technically Die Hard is a sequel to 1968’s The Detective.
6. The Joker
APPEARANCES: Batman The Movie (1966), Batman (1989), Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm (1993), The Dark Knight (2008) CREATORS: Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger, Bob Kane PERFORMERS: Cesar Romero, Mark Hamill (voice), Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger DEFINING MOMENT: Most votes specified Ledger’s Oscar-winning take, so we’ll go with his pencil-disappearing “magic trick”. Nasty and deeply unpredictable. FASCINATING FACT: Ledger’s Joker never looks at his victims while killing them.
5. Ellen Ripley
APPEARANCE: The Alien quadrilogy (1979-1997) CREATORS: Walter Hill, David Giler, Ron Cobb, Dan O’Bannon PERFORMER: Sigourney Weaver DEFINING MOMENT: With a survival instinct to match her xenomorphic nemesis, Ripley is one of nature’s rationalists. Indeed, had they followed her hard-nosed attempt to uphold quarantine rules and prevent the stricken Kane being brought back on board — “If we let it in, the ship could be infected” — the Nostromo crew, if not Kane, would remain a whole lot healthier. FASCINATING FACT: In the process of considering Meryl Streep for the role of Ripley, Ridley Scott was stopped in his tracks by the sight of Weaver in thigh-high boots, bursting into his office, half an hour late for her audition.
APPEARANCES: Batman (1966), Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) CREATORS: Bob Kane, Bill Finger PERFORMERS: Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale DEFINING MOMENT: It really should be from Christian Bale’s Dark Knight, when he is going fist to face with the Joker as Gordon (Gary Oldman) looks on fretting, “Who’s in control?” Good question. FASCINATING FACT: Fans sent 50,000 protest letters to Warner Bros. after Tim Burton announced the casting of Michael Keaton as Batman.
3. Han Solo
APPEARANCES: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return Of The Jedi (1983) CREATOR: George Lucas PERFORMER: Harrison Ford DEFINING MOMENT: Granted, Vader had the better wardrobe (black cape, motorcycle leathers), but Solo’s scruffy-looking smuggler still takes the gundark’s share of Star Wars cool. Shooting first (sorry George) and cracking wise, he’s every inch the space cowboy. The Quintessential Solo is heartfelt as well as cocksure, though, and never more so than in Ford’s famously ad-libbed response to Leia’s, “I love you,” in Episode V: “I know.” FASCINATING FACT: In Lucas’ early drafts of The Star Wars, Solo’s character was Ureallian: a noseless, green-skinned, slime-covered alien with large gills, who trapped Wookiees. Not quite so romantic now, is it?
2. James Bond
APPEARANCES: The James Bond series CREATOR: Ian Fleming PERFORMERS: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig DEFINING MOMENT: Probably varies by Bond — Moore unzipping Solitaire’s dress with a magnet would sum him up, for example, while Brosnan adjusting his tie after driving a tank through a wall nails him. But it was probably 007’s first film that laid out the marker for the next 50 years, when he shoots Professor Dent (“That’s a Smith & Wesson, and you’ve had your six”) with the insouciance of a man who’s just had a bid accepted on eBay. FASCINATING FACT: The Ian Fleming series of novels and shorts have been almost entirely mined for titles, but these remain available: Risico, The Hildebrand Rarity, The Property Of A Lady, and 007 In New York. They might remain unmined.
1. Indiana Jones
APPEARANCES: All four Indiana Jones adventures (1981-2008) CREATORS: George Lucas, Lawrence Kasdan PERFORMER: Harrison Ford DEFINING MOMENT: The flicker of recognition that crosses Indy’s face when Belloq (Paul Freeman) suggests they are alike... Tied with the pained, “Do I really have to do this?” look he gives just before he shoots the Arab swordsman. FASCINATING FACT: It is common knowledge that Indiana Jones was originally called Indiana Smith, but changed to Jones at Spielberg’s behest. Yet the reason Spielberg wanted the seemingly negligible name change was to distance Raiders from Nevada Smith, a 1966 Steve McQueen Western.