Saturday, April 18, 2009

Camera Obscura - Top 10 Movie Characters

I found a movie question on the Cinebeats blog which is almost impossible for me to answer -- maybe you can answer it easier than I -- Name your Top Ten Film Characters. Her choices are perfectly eclectic. My brain hurts from trying to make decisions on this one. It is mighty complex given my love of all things cinematic from so many decades of films to consider.

As with naming Top Ten Favorite movies, I can not do it. I could name Top Tens in many genres, but it's tough to do otherwise. Still, I am going to give the character list a shot. Please add your lists of favorites in the comments if you wish, or blog about them and link here - I'm tagging these bloggers to try out this rather tough assignment - Newscoma, Aunt B., R. Neal and Cathy at Domestic Psychology.

These are in no order of ranks, just Ten Characters I really enjoy. (And there will be a preponderance of Tough Guys and Girls.)

Bishop Pike - William Holden in "The Wild Bunch" plays the lead role of the deadly gang of outlaws in this amazing movie. He barks orders like a general, but still is able to make the character very human and very tired, worn away and somewhat lost. He's one of Peckinpah's doomed legions, and one of the best.

Tequila - Chow Yun Fat in "Hard Boiled" plays a police detective nicknamed Tequila. He is the first of the now ever-present sideways leaping shooting movie archetypes. What makes Tequila stand out is a sense of wit and the fact that the man will do anything to save babies during a shootout in a hospital. Think a mix of Bogart, Dirty Harry and Alan Alda in MASH.

Beatrix Kiddo - Created by actress Uma Thurman and director Quentin Tarantino in the two "Kill Bill" movies, she may well be the toughest female character ever on film. And she is a character so steeped in movie history and costumes yet still emerges unique. She's like Barbara Stanwyck in a kung-fu film.

Victoria Chateris - Gene Tierney in "The Shanghai Gesture" is probably my favorite femme fatale in all of noir cinema. This was the first movie I ever saw with her, and she is an awful person and quite vulnerable and sexy as sexy can be. No other female character really ever stood her ground opposite actor Walter Huston ever before and no one else ever could. She'd eat your favorite female soap star alive and you too for even daring to challenge her.

President Merkin Muffley - Peter Sellers in "Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb" also plays two other parts in this movie, but with just a few scenes and lines, his president is the epitome of the modern American president. Deeply unaware of reality, polite and gullible. His phone conversation with the Soviet Premier is sheer genius. Perhaps only Will Ferrell's one-man show of former President George W. Bush is the equal.

Thomas - David Hemmings in "Blow-Up" sees himself as the guru of pop culture, the coolest of the cool, an Artist with a capital A. One of director Antonioni's most fascinating creations, he goes thru the post-modern maze of identity to discover he is the manipulated and not the manipulator. It's unforgettable stuff which lingers with you for days.

James Bond - Sean Connery is the only actor who could have made the first movie work, could have made the franchise of films last for decades, and turn a pulp action story into a worldwide sensation. A snob of brutal strengths and casual living, he's famous for being the right man for the worst jobs - jobs we as the audience never get tired of seeing and never get tired of imagining. Sherlock Holmes meets Hugh Hefner.

Major Motoko Kusanagi - The fictional cyborg from the anime and manga series "Ghost In The Shell" makes the list after much puzzling over trying to decide which robotic/cyborg character to include on this list. I had considered Hal 9000, and R2D2, but had to leave them off in favor of the Major since I have never tired of watching each and every movie and TV episode repeatedly. She heads the squad from the police Section 9, is a brilliant detective in both the physical and metaphysical realms. Sort of like sci-fi Phil Marlowe of the future in female cyborg form. The stories are addictive, fascinating and all held together by the character of the Major. What? I can include animation and cyborgs on this list. Voiced by actress Atsuko Tanaka, I am constantly eager to know more about the character and hungry for her adventures.

Frankenstein's Monster - Boris Karloff in the 1931 horror tale "Frankenstein" makes the list, As a hard core horror fan, it was almost too easy to pick my favorite monster. Vastly different from the articulate creature from Mary Shelly's novel, the character made by filmmakers and Karloff comes to vivid life and expresses so much with never a word being spoken by the creature (in the first film, at least). The way Karloff uses his hands alone makes him the best monster ever - one that still has traces of the human trapped in monstrous flesh.

Ferris Bueller - Matthew Broderick in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" demands that the journey of life be enjoyed not just endured. Wise beyond his years, the trickster of suburbia cautions his friends in the movie "
-Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself." Sound advice in the 21st century. And his appeal is wide, or as the school secretary says, "Oh, he's very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, waistoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude."


  1. TEQUILA!! Oh God yes!!!
    I'm on this. :)

  2. Don't forget Barbara Stanwyck as the utterly evil Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity.

  3. look forward to it, 'Coma.

    and no, did not forget her, Redmondkr, just that Tierney did her movie first and is a much harder character to puzzle out in some ways. not to diss your suggestion one bit. like i said, this kind of survey deal is impossible. a good 40& of my choices might be different if you asked me yesterday or tomorrow!

  4. How could you leave out R. P. McMurphy? Good list though. Especially Bishop Pike. One of the three best westerns ever.

  5. Terry - i tried really hard to just pick characters from movies and not books and i do like Cuckoo's Nest very, very much. of course i failed at the "no book" thing anyway, huh?

    and the other two best westerns are???? my top three would have to be Wild Bunch, The Searchers and Good, Bad and Ugly.

  6. My lame-o list is posted.

    You guys are much better at picking characters than I am. I might be able to list the best soundtracks.

  7. hardly a lame list with the likes of Royal Tenenbaum and Alan Swann.

    hmmm, a best and/or fave soundtrack meme?? sounds good to me!

  8. Gene Tierney - YES. Well done.