Finally getting around to the first of a slew of tags and awards I was recently nominated for. This one came from fellow fantasy writer Angela B. Chrysler. Thanks Angela, and sorry it took me so long!
Making this list was a fun exercise! It made me realize that I look for three kinds of screen characters: those I can relate to, those I admire, and those who jangle my funny bone until I can’t breathe. Also, even though I had an easier time coming up with my 11 favorite literary heroines than the same number of literary heroes, most of the characters on this list are male. (*raises an eyebrow*)
Anyway, let’s go in alphabetical order, starting with…
1. Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean films)
I bloody loved Johnny Depp’s now iconic pirate character the moment he drifted onscreen in his dinghy. He’s calculating and morally ambiguous, often putting others in harm’s way to serve his own interests. His brand of silver-tongued negotiations also means that you never know what he’ll say next, and whether he’ll stick to his word. But that’s all part of Jack’s appeal. He’s so unpredictable that you have to keep watching! Not to mention his off-kilter walk and flamboyant behavior are hysterical. I still have entire Jack Sparrow quotes from the first film memorized. Especially the “Me? I’m dishonest” bit, and of course, “WHY IS THE RUM GONE?!” 😄
2. Clone Sisters Sarah, Cosima, Alison, and Helena (Orphan Black)
I’m cheating with this entry, but it would be a sin to only pick one of these “seestras” from the ground-breaking sci-fi / horror / comedy / crime drama Orphan Black . It’s also a testament to Tatiana Maslany’s acting, as she plays all of the female clones. (She’s played about 12 different characters over three seasons.) These four gals are the core of Clone Club, and you’ll never meet a more diverse, fiercely loyal family. Sarah has evolved so much from a selfish con artist into the mother bear, determined to discover the clones’ origins and protect her sisters at all costs. Cosima uses her science background to research the clones’ genetic mysteries, while dealing with her worsening respiratory illness and heartbreak with her lesbian partners. Suburban housewife Alison is hilarious thanks to her passive-aggressive behavior and underhanded tactics to keep her family and sisterhood safe. As for Helena… let’s just say she’s a goofy, food-obsessed Ukranian who isn’t afraid to throw a punch – or completely gut her enemies. Like I said, you’ll never a family quite like this one!
3. Danielle de Barbarac (Ever After: A Cinderella Story)
This 1998 retelling of Cinderella never gets old. One of the biggest reasons why is the heroine herself, known here as Danielle de Barbarac and played by Drew Barrymore, who offers a more lively, proactive interpretation of the cinder girl. Even though Danielle is reduced to kitchenmaid status by her stepmother after her father dies, she remains kind, fair-minded, and witty. Those qualities – not the beautiful gown or her sudden appearance at a royal ball (which comes late in the film) – attract the attention of Prince Henry when Danielle dresses up and pretends to be a noblewoman to save a fellow servant. This intelligent, passionate version of Cinderella is so inspiring, and one of the best examples of a dynamic female character who doesn’t need to wield weapons or physically kick butt to be considered “strong.”
4. Felix Dawkins (Orphan Black)
I was planning to limit myself to one character per movie or franchise… but I couldn’t not list Felix from Orphan Black. It’s impossible to forget Sarah Manning’s foster brother after he first appears on the show. This struggling artist / gay male prostitute doubles as comedic relief and unexpected conscience for Sarah. He may be vain, snobby, or timid at times, but the show’s events have compelled him to become Clone Club’s “brother figure,” giving the sisters exclusive cell phones for private communication and hiding the girls in his loft when trouble brews. And did I mention how INSANELY FUNNY Felix is? His humor errs on the vulgar-raunchy side at times, but that’s just how Felix is: complex, melodramatic, and provocative. He’s definitely one to rely on for equal doses of laughs and sympathy.
5. Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)
Even though Frodo and Sam are listed in my Favorite Literary Heroes post, Gandalf tends to be the first character who comes to mind when I think of LOTR. He’s the epitomical mentor: wise, protective of his charges, and weighed down by responsibility. Not to mention he’s incisively direct when angry, can wield his staff like a much younger warrior, and has a lighthearted side some might not expect from him. But Gandalf’s sageness is what I love most about him. His insights are like poetry, and they’re quite often as darn true in real life as they are in Middle-Earth. The above clip from the first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, is a wonderful example.
6. Harry Potter (Harry Potter films)
It’s one thing to read about Harry Potter’s transition from an 11-year-old boy with round glasses and no clue about his wizardly origins, to a 17-year-old young man with the courage and knowledge to outmaneuver the world’s most ruthless sorcerer. Watching that transformation onscreen, however, is something else entirely. His cute smiles as a kid, his first lifelong friendships, his continued struggle to come to terms with his parents’ deaths, his maturation as he learns more about his powers and life in general – it’s hard to know when to stop listing all the ways I connected to Harry. And believe it or not, I can pick a favorite HP movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. It’s Daniel Radcliffe’s best performance of the series, showing Harry at his bravest and most selfless.
7. Simba (The Lion King)
OK, the 10-year-old me really wanted Simba on this list, and I listened. 🙂 The Lion King was my favorite movie back then, with its gorgeous animations of African landscapes, exotic soundtrack, and vivid cast of characters. But Simba was why The Lion King stuck with me for so long. Who doesn’t love a rambunctious, foolishly brave lion cub? (Remember, he “laughs in the face of danger.” *winks*) Simba loves his father dearly, though, and is traumatized by Mufasa’s death, especially when it’s pinned on him. I remember sobbing my eyes out when I first watched that scene. When you’re still a child, you can’t fathom losing your parents. Seeing little Simba lose his father so violently made me want to jump through the cinema screen and hug him. Of course, I couldn’t physically do that… but watching Simba grow up and learn to take responsibility for his father’s kingdom (and a crime he didn’t commit) was the next best thing!
8. Thorin Oakenshield (The Hobbit Trilogy)
Brilliantly portrayed by Richard Armitage, this Dwarf king is the #1 reason why I still believe it was worth splitting The Hobbit into a trilogy. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, readers mostly see Thorin Oakenshield as… well, a proud, officious, and obstinate grump. He’s still that way in the films, but we also get to see Thorin’s positive qualities. He’s noble, tenacious, and patriotic; and as grandson of the last king of Erebor, he’s deeply affected by his people’s plight – and fearfully aware of the greed that drove his grandfather mad. I grew to admire that side of Thorin, which made watching his slow descent in The Desolation of Smaug and all-out insanity in The Battle of the Five Armies a harrowing experience. Even though I knew how things would end, I prayed that his downfall wouldn’t happen. No wonder I was curled up in a fetal position for the last half-hour of the final film! Bravo, Mr. Armitage, for giving us reasons to love Thorin after all, and for demonstrating the “tragic fall” character arc with aplomb.
9. Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)
Oh Tyrion. May I count all the times you nearly split my sides open from laughter? Perhaps not, because I’d lose track. *lol* Tyrion has always been one of my favorite characters from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga, and Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of him in the TV show has been spot-on. He may be self-indulgent and foul-mouthed, but he knows when to sober up and be diplomatic or kind. He’s also highly intelligent and eloquent, which works when he either offers genuine advice or fighting to save his skin. Ultimately, however, Tyrion is one of the few good guys in Westeros, even if his heart of gold is slightly tarnished. I hope – no, actually, I’m pretty sure – he’ll survive long enough to be there at the end.
10. WALL-E (WALL-E)
Am I allowed to SQUEEEE?? Because I’d totally do it (wait, I already am) over this lovable packrat. WALL-E is a trash-compacting, sentient robot and the only one of his kind still functioning on Earth after pollution has driven humans off our planet. He’s curious to the point of distraction, highly organized, and incredibly resourceful. One glimpse inside his shelter, where you’ll find his collection of robot parts for repairing himself and other trinkets that caught his attention, and you’ll see what I mean. But what makes WALL-E truly remarkably are his mannerisms. His gestures, expressive eyes, and emphatic noises reveal his emotions as accurately as words could – and perhaps more perfectly, too. In a movie that features little dialogue, WALL-E obliterates the barrier between machine and human, and reminds us of the importance of finding wonder in everything around us.
My Nominations for the Tag
I still have other tags and awards to follow up on, with friends to nominate on each. So, if you want to tackle this screen characters challenge – TAG! You’re it! 😉 Just link back to my post when yours goes live so I know you accepted.
Who are some of your favorite screen characters of all time? Share your picks by commenting below.