What makes a character memorable? Sometimes it is a look. Sometimes it is an accent. Sometimes it is what that character says. But once the film is over you remember that character. Sometimes in your dreams and other times in your nightmares. You might not remember who played these characters, or even their films as much as them. These are not necessarily the best performances by the best actors, but these are 25 of the most memorable characters in the history of cinema.
50. Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino) – “HOO-ah!” (I could not find a clip of him yelling it, apologies.)
49. The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz, Margaret Hamilton) – “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”
48. Dracula (Dracula, Bela Lugosi) – There have been many Draculas, but the first has defined the role and the look.
47. Brodie Bruce (Mallrats & Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Jason Lee) – This was the sarcastic nerd who captured the slacker anti-hero perfectly. “Listen, not a year goes by, not a year, that I don’t hear about some escalator accident involving some bastard kid which could have easily been avoided had some parent – I don’t care which one – but some parent conditioned him to fear and respect that escalator.”
46. Fenster (The Usual Suspects, Benicio del Toro) – “Flip you. Flip ya for real.”
45. Captain Jack Sparrow (The Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp) – “This is the day you will always remember as the day you almost caught Captain Jack Sparrow.”
44. Spock (Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy & Zackary Quinto) – Okay, so this is 99% Nimoy. Most famous line/movie is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, “You are my superior officer. You are also my friend. I have been and always shall be yours.”
43. Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore (Apocalypse Now, Robert Duvall) – “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ‘em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like victory.” Link to the clip.
42. Janine “Smurf” Cody (Animal Kingdom, Jacki Weaver) – “And you’ve done some bad things sweetie, haven’t you? I want this part to be clear this is not about you doing me a favor or, me blackmailing you or anything like that. It’s just a bad situation for everyone.” If you have never seen her before, when you do, you will not forget her. Oh and this boy she is talking about, is her grandson.
41. Lt. Frank Drebin (The Naked Gun, Leslie Nielsen) – “I’d known her for years. We used to go to all the police functions together. Ah, how I loved her, but she had her music. I think she had her music. She’d hang out with the Chicago Male Chorus and Symphony. I don’t recall her playing an instrument or being able to carry a tune. Yet she was on the road 300 days of the year. In fact, I bought her a harp for Christmas. She asked me what it was.”
40. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, Gregory Peck) – Who knows how many people decided they wanted to become lawyers because of this character.
39. Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon, Humphrey Bogart) – The classic film noir detective! “When a man’s partner is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it. And it happens we’re in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it’s-it’s bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere.”
38. Eli (Let The Right One In, Lina Leandersson) – She is an eternally youthful vampire. It is a touching and emotionally challenging character to face.
37. Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride, Mandy Patinkin) – “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” Sword fight!
36. Juno (Juno, Ellen Page) – “Oh, and she inexplicably mails me a cactus every Valentine’s Day. And I’m like, ‘Thanks a heap coyote ugly. This cactus-gram stings even worse than your abandonment.’”
35. Vito Corleone (The Godfather Parts I & II, Marlon Brando & Robert De Niro) – I do not know how some people forget how interesting young Vito was in Part II. And he has no lines as memorable as “I’m going to make him an offer he won’t refuse.”
34. Alex (A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell) – “What we were after now was the old surprise visit. That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolent.”
33. Rick Blaine (Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart) – Fact: my grandmother can quote every line of his when she watches the film. “I’m saying it because it’s true. Inside of us, we both know you belong with Victor. You’re part of his work, the thing that keeps him going. If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.”
32. John McClane (Die Hard, Bruce Willis) – “Yippie-kay-yay mother fucker.”
31. The Joker (The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger) – “See, this is how crazy Batman’s made Gotham! If you want order in Gotham, Batman must take off his mask and turn himself in. Oh, and every day he doesn’t, people will die, starting tonight. I’m a man of my word.”
30. Eve Harrington (All About Eve, Anne Baxter) – “I’ll never forget this night as long as I live, and I’ll never forget you for making it possible.” She speaks with an innocence and an honesty that make her so, so endearing. Is it possible not to trust this face?
29. James Bond (The Bond movies, Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig) – “The name’s Bond, James Bond.” ALL of them.
28. Arthur Burns (The Proposition, Danny Huston) – “Slowly now, Sergeant. Put your privates back in your pants and turn around. Come to steal my brother a horse, and we find ourselves a copper.” Here’s a different clip, turn the sound up because it is quiet.
27. Amon Goeth (Schindler’s List, Ralph Fiennes) – “This is very cruel, Oskar. You’re giving them hope. You shouldn’t do that. That’s cruel!” It is hard to find a greater villain this nazi scum.
26. Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski, John Goodman) – I do not think that anyone has done angry better than Walter. “Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t fucking ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t fucking roll!” SHOMER SHABBOS!
I will have numbers 11–25 up soon, until then, let us keep the sabbath holy and not bowl from sundown Friday until the third star appears in the sky Saturday night.