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Top 100 Characters

28 May

1. Charles Foster Kane, CITIZEN KANE

2. Norma Desmond, SUNSET BLVD.

3. The Little Tramp, CITY LIGHTS

4. Michael Corleone, THE GODFATHER

5. Harry Lime, THE THIRD MAN

6. Ellen Ripley, ALIENS

7. Darth Vader, STAR WARS

8. Rick Blaine, CASABLANCA

9. Norman Bates, PSYCHO

10. Atticus Finch, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD


1. Charles Foster Kane

16 Apr

played by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane

A gargantuan figure, it would be easy to reduce Charles Foster Kane to the larger-than-life image than you see above. To be sure, the character is a huge force in the world he lives in, but he is also just a man. He loves, he laughs, he hurts. His motives are a mystery to everyone, perhaps most of all himself. Kane clearly never really feels complete and spends his whole life trying to fill whatever void is inside him. Perhaps if he buys another statue or builds a mansion or marries that girl. But nothing works. Because, due to his wealth and upbringing, Charles Foster Kane never realizes that certain holes can never be filled by taking something, but by giving. And not giving large amounts of money, but of yourself. At once Shakespearan, yet unmistakably American, Kane is the greatest character in film history, both because of what we do know about him and what we don’t.

2. Norma Desmond

16 Apr

played by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.

A possessive spider woman, Norma Desmond at first seems like an overgrown child, unable to discern between her needs and desires. We soon discover just how much of a child she is, as she reveals her dependence on the love and affection of others.

3. The Little Tramp

16 Apr

played by Charles Chaplin in City Lights

Quite possibly the most inherently iconic character in film history. Everybody knows who Charlie Chaplin is, even if they haven’t seen The Little Tramp in such films as The Gold Rush, Modern Times, or, most affectingly, City Lights. The Tramp’s extroversion comes through in his goofy hijinks, but also his vulnerability.

4. Michael Corleone

16 Apr

played by Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II

Michael Corleone is the embodiment of the American dream. He took full advantage of the privileges of wealth and education that our country has to offer and used them for his own personal gain. In the process, he defined a nation.

5. Harry Lime

16 Apr

played by Orson Welles in The Third Man

Few movie characters are as comfortable with their own sin as Harry Lime. With the charm of a talking serpent, Lime is able to justify thievery, fraud, and murder. He soon finds that, though he may have outrun his conscience, the consequences of his actions will eventually catch up to him.

6. Ellen Ripley

16 Apr

played by Sigourney Weaver in Aliens

Sigourney Weaver’s character is greater than any costume or special effect. Four movies featuring the most terrifying monster cinema has ever offered and yet she’s the most fascinating thing on the screen. Make no mistake; this franchise is not the story of the aliens but that of Ellen Ripley.

7. Darth Vader

16 Apr

played by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones in Star Wars

A perfect creation. The look, voice, and personality of Darth Vader are so perfectly in sync with each other, it’s hard to imagine a better character. This is especially true when we come to discover the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker’s life and his eventual return to good.

8. Rick Blaine

16 Apr

played by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca

Based on the events of Casablanca, it would appear that tough guy Rick Blaine is a glutton for punishment. He lives in a violent city, deals with criminals, and ultimately sacrifices the love of his life for the greater good. It would be depressing if his motives weren’t so pure.

9. Norman Bates

16 Apr

played by Anthony Perkins in Psycho

Charlie Kaufman would never have been able to lampoon the multiple personality serial killer genre in Adaptation if said genre had never had a strong basis from which to take flight. Perhaps Norman Bates should have been on this list twice, so fully and terrifyingly does he portray both the disturbed young man and his deceased yet controlling mother.