Around six years ago there was a writing prompt given to me with a sole purpose of inspiration: Create a “Top Ten” list of all time favorite fictional movie characters. My list of characters was created and the names were placed in no particular order. Upon a recent review of the material I do not think there will be too much of an alteration to the roster. At the present moment, I am in a state of non-commitment in make any changes to the list. However, maybe in another week or two there might be a good chance that I could start leaning in the direction of wanting to make a slight alteration, or two, to the list.
Sam Lowry (Brazil, 1985)
He is a typical daydreamer that every underachiever can relate to when sitting in a dead end job and no real desire to move up the ladder of life. However, what makes Sam Lowry atypical from the humdrum of mediocrity is the wackiness of his life’s circumstances that thrusts him upon an adventurous life that he has always dreamed about, but never desired to live with all actuality. Most of his daydreams center upon the idealistic perfect woman that he has fallen in love with, but he is surprised when he discovers that there is a woman who looks exactly like her. Although the real life counterpart to his dream woman lives a grunge life as a lower-middle class English woman who protests the treatment of her upstairs neighbor she is still perceived as the refined princess of his dreams. Sam is an underdog, of sorts, as he obtains no real outstanding talents that would normally propel him to a great stature, but he is an ambitious product of his environment that encourages achieving amazing heroic acts of love and honor. He is marked as a personal favorite for his accessibility as an “everyman” that proves just about anyone is capable of achieving greatness regardless of their circumstances.
Michael Clayton (Michael Clayton, 2007)
Oh, the glory of being the person that everyone is so heavily reliant upon because of the inability to survive without your precious gift and talent for cleaning up after him or her when there is a disastrous mess left in their wake. Michael Clayton is known as a legal cleaner by his employer, who has forced him to fly under the professional radar for several years in order to keep the company’s flaws and massive errors a secret from the public. Michael does desire to be a courtroom lawyer as he was once before at the start of his legal career, but he holds the talent for plugging in the holes for the legal firm that he has been working for since college. He is good at what he does, despite not being thrilled with the position that he holds. The ideal career benefit for Michael is that he would not be harassed by the annoying public figures such as the news media or unsatisfied clients who considered to be left with an unfair court trial. Despite a lack for any public recognition or a collection of compliments from the clients that he could have served during the course of his career, he still has earned the biggest payoff of any legal career. His moment of glory is returned tenfold by single handedly uncovering the largest corporate scandal of the century when he was originally sent out by his employer to clean up after one of the firm’s lawyers whose manic depression leads to a public breakdown that could ruin the company’s reputation. Michael Clayton is a personal favorite character of mine for his ability of getting a job done right by going beyond the call of duty; and he has one of the best moments of cinematic payoff that would make everyone envious.
Frank Pierce (Bringing Out the Dead, 1999)
Throw a group of hard working people into a room together and it can be an absolute guarantee that the majority of those individuals have worked at least one job in their life which has burned the person down to the utter core, leaving nothing but an empty shell of a human being behind. This description maybe over dramatic, but at the time of working an uninteresting job for the mere desperation of obtaining a paycheck it can be the most dreaded experience for anyone. Frank Pierce is the fictional figure of a hard working American who has been burning both ends of the candle for a couple of years as an EMT before the audience meets him in the film Bringing Out the Dead. He is a burnout paramedic who has lost all interest and sympathy for performing his duties as the everlasting hero of the streets who is saving lives by rushing their bodies to the hospitals as fast as he can. Frank is a personal favorite character of mine, because I cold personally relate to his experience of working the third (graveyard) shift for several years, which can be mind boggling for the person who experiences life on a completely different time clock against everyone else around. Relating to the character within the story can create a strong bond between the character and the person who is listening to his or her story. That is the case between Frank and me; we both had dreaded showing up for that one particular job.
Batman (Batman, 1989, et al.)
No, I am not one of those particular bandwagon fans who had hopped on to the Batman craze ever since Christopher Nolan had taken over the last installments of the film franchise. Although I cannot consider myself to be a comic book geek capable of rattling off detailed facts about the history of the character that has accumulated from the large collection of comic books about Batman, I must say that I am a fan of the character’s persona more than anything else. He is a mysterious figure to the city in which he lives, Gotham City, who has not a single clue that his identity is that of their ideal multi-billionaire executive. Bruce Wayne has a dark seated past with the loss of his parents, which makes him fallible as a human being. This makes him obtainable to the everyman who would not believe he or she could be within an arm’s reach of a rich man. Wayne’s fortune is a mere convenience to his design as a rogue crime fighter. This little piece of information serves as a logical explanation to how he could afford the time to spend all night long roaming the streets to save the city from crime and destruction while using the most amazing technology and customized gadgets that his company has created just for him. The reason why the crime fighting superhero, Batman, is one of my favorite characters would be the fact that he is a mere human being with his own share of fallacies, just like the rest of us, but he gets all the greatest gadgets and gizmos to mess around with and not have to worry about a budget.
Norman Bates (Psycho, 1960)
Anyone who can remember the weak momma’s boy in elementary, junior, or primary school might remember what a coward the kid was around the playground. However, who would ever imagine that same little weakling would grow up to be a serial killer who owns his own motel off the side of the archaic highway? Norman Bates is an immorally evil person for the sins that he has committed: murder, and lust. Nevertheless, at the same time we are empathetic for his social ineptitude. Why would I ever consider him an ideal favorite character? Frankly, Norman Bates is a character that scares the living crap out of me. None of his victims was able to see the onslaught of his murderous rage coming right at them. Norman’s history of a childhood maternal murder that evolves into a lustful rage seems to be intriguing to me for its extremely loose connection to real life murderer Ed Gein. This connection turns a fictional character into a figure that mirrors reality, which in my mind implies the plausibility of reality. However, the core reason why I would list Mister Bates as a personal favorite character would be his story that has garnered enough personal empathy from me that I honestly feel sorry for him. He feels entrapped in his own little world by an evil villain (his mother) that he feels obligated to murder every person that he believes his mom considers being a sinful hindrance in his life.
Jean Valjean (Les Misérables, 1934)
The epitome of every single hero who has been idealized in every epic novel for the last several centuries has been designed to suffer through the process of turning his or her life from pure mulch into that of the heroic figure that we could eternally immortalize as an iconic figure. Jean Valjean is a punished criminal who is able to readjust his criminal behavior into a figure of moral heroism by working his way up to the position of a city mayor and a responsible parent of an adoptive child. He is a the ultimate iconic figure of character redemption who suffers through nearly two decades of jail time before he thrusts himself upon lofty goals of moral redemption and personal promises. What makes Jean Valjean a unique persona from the other characters that I have mentioned so far? The answer would be with the amount of prison time he served and the emotional low that he has suffered through before he began his ascent toward higher ground and redemption. He is a proven convict who has served his sentence, but I could still relate to him mentally and emotionally as he experiences the duress of characteristic transformation into the civic and moral figure that he emanates at the end of his story. His story is about personal redemption and integrity that everyone could emulate during the course of their life.
Evey Hammond (V for Vendetta, 2006)
If Katherine Hepburn was still in her twenties at the time the film V for Vendetta was being produced, I could promise you that she would be one of the leading candidates to portray Evey Hammond. Why is that so? It is because the role of Evey is one of the strongest female lead characters in the last ten years, in my honest opinion, and Hepburn has built her reputation for portraying strong, independent women. As her story develops in the film, Evey Hammond’s character has evolved from a passive woman who is assaulted in a street alley at the start of the film into a strong figure with heroism oozing from every fiber of her being. She has become a role model of self-sufficiency and courage that everyone could emulate. The emotionally moving story is about her transformation, and it nearly brings me to tears every time I see the film. Remember, being the macho person that I am, it is nearly “impossible” to make a grown man cry. Without a need for theatrics or grandstanding, I will make it rather simplistic in my explanation for choosing Evey as a forerunner for the top spot in my list of favorite characters. She is a role model for everyone, someone who personifies personal integrity and does not allow to be taken advantage of by anyone else. She knows what personal courage is all about.
Wadsworth (Clue, 1985)
He would have to be one of the most entertaining dinner hosts that any of us could ever hope to have at a social event. Wadsworth is a self-proclaimed butler who merely “buttles” by keeping everything tidy. However, it appears that he quickly find himself to be the center point of a dinner party gone awry. During one particular dinner party that he has organized on behalf of his employer, Mr. Body, on a stormy evening in 1955 it is much to the shocking horror that the bodies of his co-workers and fellow house employees are hitting the floor one by one. Wadsworth hilariously attempts to keep his house guests under control as they are running horrifically away from being murdered by an unknown assailant. Although the thought of personally attending a social dinner party in a suit and tie is a murderous headache for myself, but when I bear witness to the death of the cook and the maid I would be utterly flabbergasted. It takes a war to make a soldier, and a killer of a comedic dinner party to produce a hilarious, albeit a jinx, of sorts, dinner host.
Léon (Léon: The Professional, 1994)
“No women, no kids.” Léon’s career is held so dearly to that code of ethics. He is a professional assassin who quietly kills people for the Italian mob in New York City. Despite the immorality of his career choice, he has held on tightly to one last shred of morality by not murdering women and children, whom he believes to be innocent of wrongdoing. The irony of his attachment to the personal moral code is the new apprentice he begins training. She is a twelve-year-old girl wanting to take revenge against a crooked drug cop who murders her entire family. Léon accepts her as an apprentice since the crooked cop killed two women and a child in Matilda’s family. It is ironic that his apprentice is still a child herself, and a woman, which would counteract the implied meaning of his stanza that women and children are innocent, and thus should not be killed by his own hands. Therefore, you may be asking why I would consider him a favorite character of mine when he is an immoral figure for being an assassin and being a negative influence on a young girl. Plainly spoken Léon kicks butt by being a father figure for Matilda, despite his hesitation to take her in after bearing witness to the murder of her family. He may be the perfect assassin in New York City, but he still has a compassionate heart for others that he is afraid to show.
Raoul Duke (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998)
“Eccentricities” would be the best word to describe Raoul Duke, a nom de plume for real life writer Hunter S. Thompson. He is a raving lunatic that wanders the streets of America observing the nature of our country through the most intricately unique point of view that no other writer has been able to write down on paper. Raoul is a psychotic figure who probably has never been certified as a recognized lunatic by a psychiatric board. If you were to meet him on the street there may be very little certainty whether you would laugh at his embellished behavior or run for your life in complete terror. It is that eccentric behavior of his that makes him an ideal character of cinematic insanity. Although I would hate to be the housekeeper who has been assigned to clean his hotel room after he checks out, he would be the staunch storyteller of every party that captivates the party crowd with a never-ending list of stories to divulge.