Sarah over at The Old Shelter tagged me for a fun challenge: to make a list of my ten favourite screen characters. If you want to see Sarah’s list, it’s here, she’s got some great ones in there and quite a few films that I hadn’t heard of before, so it’s well worth a look.
I sat down and wrote down my favourite characters, and then I found that I had reached twenty. Oops. It’s been real hard work cutting it down to ten, let me tell you, but here they are now, and in no particular order.
1) Leon – from Leon: The ProfessionalLeon breaks my heart every time. Although that kind of character (deadly assassin with a heart of gold) has now been done to death, for me Leon remains the ultimate embodiment of the kind. It’s the contrast of how methodical and cold he is with his work, layered with an incredible childish innocence, and a heart-breaking devotion to the things he loves: his plant and Mathilda.
2) Nikita – from La Femme Nikita.From drug addict caught holding up a pharmacy, to a death sentence, to a second life as a spy / assassin. Again another Luc Besson classic, although this one is in French. It is, by the way, a world apart from the remakes and TV shows that have been based on it (in my mind it’s a million times better), and if you haven’t seen it I really recommend it.
It was filmed in the late 80s and I think it was was well ahead of its time (and even ahead of our time now) in how it portrays a female assassin. The thing that I love about Nikita is that she’s real. She’s tough when she needs to be, she’s seductive, but she’s also vulnerable, at times genuinely afraid, and the sliver of normal life she tries to carve out for herself is touching in its mundanity.
3) Cyrano de Bergerac from the eponymous film. It’s my favourite book, my favourite play and my favourite film. I’m not a huge Depardieu fan normally, but in this he is sublime. His witty repartees are spot on, and he really does justice to what is for me one of the most complex and tragic characters.
4) The Dude – from The Big LebowskiA bit of a departure from the previous entries, this one.
The problem I had with The Big Lebowski was narrowing the choice down to one character. They’re all awesome, funny, weird… And I love me some weirdoes. But really, it had to be the Dude (real name Jeffrey Lebowski). I mean what’s not to love? A bowling enthusiast (to relax he lies on the floor and listens to recordings of bowling strikes), he wears jelly shoes, goes to the supermarket in his dressing gown, has a thing for white russians (the drink, not the ladies. Or maybe the ladies, who knows), and he comes out with such amazing lines that I could just quote them all day long. It’s a film I’ve seen more times than I can count, and that I’ll no doubt watch many many more times.
5) Melvin – from As Good As It GetsAnother great weirdo. He has Jack Nicholson’s eyebrows for starters so what’s not to like? He’s rude, racist, sexist, impatient, obsessive, has no social skills to speak of…. And he also finishes the film with one of the most romantic lines ever delivered. He’s funny and likeable despite his many, many, many flaws, and he goes through one hell of a heart-warming transformation.
6) Coco Chanel – from Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky.The film focuses on an affair between the two when, after World War I, Stravinsky is in exile in France. They’re both geniuses in their fields, both defining influences on 20th century tastes, and the meeting (and clashing) of these two forces of natures makes for a great story.
In the film Coco is portrayed as a cool, smart, extremely confident woman, in full control of herself and her career. She isn’t always portrayed in the most flattering light, she’s hard and unforgiving, even calculating and down right cruel — but she comes across as an absolutely fascinating woman. I like that there is no apology, no attempt to glaze over her flaws or try to make her “nice” or give her a sob story to try and justify her being the way she is. The film is unapologetic, and so is she. It’s another french one, and it’s really worth a watch. On top of two great performances from the lead actors, it’s visually stunning — from the art deco interior of Coco’s house to the costumes
Igor Stravinsky also has to get a mention because he’s played by Mads Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen is a Danish actor and one of my favourites (it’s his eyes — he has the eyes of a mourner). Igor as a character is no patch on Coco but the dynamic between the two is electrifying, and Mikkelsen is as ever a genius actor. He also gets serious kudos for playing a Russian composer in a French film, acting in both languages, considering he doesn’t speak either. He also plays the piano in the film, and again doesn’t play it in real life.
7) Eve – from Only Lovers Left Alive
Eve is a real refreshing change from the usual femme fatale/sexy vampires that have saturated our screens for the last few years. She doesn’t glitter, she isn’t vampy — she’s extremely well read, she’s complicated, sophisticated, smart and otherworldly. In short she’s Tilda Swinton, another actress I adore.
Adam and Eve have been married for centuries, and they love each other in a simple and completely unconditional way. Of course they’re not like your average couple (they feed on blood, she lives in Tangiers and Adam lives in Detroit. The film is beautifully shot, slow and moody, and it gives a completely different take on the very done (and over done?) vampire idea.
10) Indiana Jones and Han Solo.
I refused to chose between the two, and they’re both played by the amazing Harrison Ford, so I reckon they work as one entry. They’re the best rogues out there, and they were both my first cinematic crushes. I don’t think it would be fair to ask a girl to chose between them!
9) Wall-E – from the eponymous film. Who doesn’t love Wall-E? What gets me about Wall-E is how attached we become to him and how much we know about him, without ever hearing him speak: the first third of the animation has no dialogue. Few characters are powerful enough to remain interesting without any dialogue for so long a period of time. And it’s not like for that first third of the film he’s interacting with a whole bunch of other characters, either. Wall-E’s captivating simplicity is what, for me, makes him one of the greatest.
10) Ofelia – from Pan’s Labyrinth. A movie that superimposes the horrors of war with the magic and darkness of fairytale — Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favourite films. Ofelia is the heroine of the film, and what I love about her is the strength of her belief and her courage. She’s caught up in two dark worlds far beyond her control and her years, facing hugely difficult choices along the way, and she remains true right to the very end. For me she’s the ultimate embodiment of a hero on a quest — and she’s a ten year old girl.
The Faun also deserves a mention — he’s a fascinating character in his ambiguity. He’s both good and evil and it’s never quite clear what his agenda is.
Lastly, the eagle-eyed among you will have noted the absence of The Princess Bride, a film I have mentioned frequently on this blog. The thing is that I can’t chose just one character over the rest. They come together as a whole package to create a film that, as a whole, is genius. Take them apart, break them down, and it doesn’t work quite so well. So I’m slipping in a side entry, if you will, for the entire cast of the Princess Bride.
What bout you, who are your favourite film characters? Let me know in the comments, or if you’re up for it take part in the challenge!
I’m tagging a couple of other bloggers who I think would enjoy this challenge, but there’s absolutely no pressure to take part if you would rather not. So if you fancy it, over to you Sue, L.Marie, C.D. Gallant-King, Mel, and K.L. Schwengel !