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Cinematic Saturday: 20 Movie Characters I’ve Liked

November 6, 2010

I’m not sure these are my absolute favorites, because I’ve loved so many movie characters, it’s difficult to narrow it down. These are 20 that stand out for me, in no particular order:

1. Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) The GiftThere’s something both mysterious and down-to-earth about Annie, a young widow in a small Southern town. She works out of her home as a psychic while raising her two boys. While Annie’s psychic gift provokes fear and derision in some, especially after she finds herself in the middle of a murder trial, she is the heart of her community as well as the heart of her family.

2. Shelby Eatenton Latcherie (Julia Roberts) in Steel Magnolias — This unapologetically sentimental, funny chick-flick may not be one of the all-time cinematic classics, but my friends and I enjoyed it tremendously. Shelby, a newlywed yearning for a baby, has a certain open-hearted charm. She also offers the movie’s most memorable quote: “I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

3. Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt) As Good As It Gets — I’ve always loved this movie.  Melvin Udall, a misogynistic, bigoted author, suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, is virtually impossible to like. In fact, he’s loathsome. But Carol the waitress sees a glimmer of something in him, and they develop a tenuous friendship and a romantic attraction. She’s the single mom of a high-needs little boy who struggles tirelessly to get her son the treatment he needs. I can’t help but love her.

4. Elinor Dashwood (Hattie Morahan) Sense and SensibilityEmma Thompson was also wonderful in this role. I loved both the Dashwood sisters, in Jane Austen’s novel and its film adaptations, but Elinor, with her quiet strength and unconditional love for her family, is my favorite.

5. Elizabeth Bennet (Kiera Knightly) Pride and Prejudice — Kiera Knightly plays this role in the most recent adaptation of this Jane Austen novel which I’ve seen. Sharp-witted, bookish Elizabeth is a perennial favorite. I love her!

6.  Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) Magnolia — O.K., this one is a double play. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie, but it’s unforgettable. Phil, a gentle nurse who comforts a dying man and tries to reunite him with his son, and Jim, a straight-laced cop who falls for a troubled cocaine addict, are — in many ways — the heart of this film. Tom Cruise, who I don’t usually particularly like, was also memorable as an over-the-top misogynistic motivational speaker. There were other great characters, as well.

7.  Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) Lord of the Rings — Sam is, hands down, my favorite LOTR character. His perseverance and loyalty make him, in many ways, the heart of the story.

8.  Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson) Michael Clayton I had to include something by this actor, because he happens to be one of my favorites. I loved his role as a whistle-blowing attorney, whose conscience has just been awakened after meeting a victim in the class action suit  from which he’s defending a large corporation. He also happens to have bipolar disorder and is going off the rails.  For me, he’s the highlight of a great movie.

9. Leslie Cuthbertson (Leo Bill) in Two Men Went to War There’s something so delightfully nerdy and quirky about British actor Leo Bill. His characters run the gamut from  insufferably uptight British aristocrats to a young man who’s stark raving mad. I think Bill is terrific, and he ought to be given more diverse roles. Two Men Went to War is the true-ish story of two members of England’s Army Dental Corps in World War II. Sgt. Peter King (Cranham), a World War I veteran looking to keep fighting, and Private Leslie Cuthbertson (Bill), a wet-behind-the-ears trainee, leave their posts and strike out on their own in an attempt to join the war effort in France.

10. Karen (Emma Thompson) Love Actually — I have such a soft spot for this movie, which explores the tangled connections among friends, spouses, and lovers. Emma Thompson is one of my favorite actresses, and she was magnificent in this role. The scene where she hides her broken heart, cheerfully taking her children to their Christmas pageant, was unforgettable.

11. Ashley Johnson (Amy Adams) JunebugI couldn’t help but love this young woman, living with her husband and quirky in-laws in rural North Carolina. Her determined enthusiasm and joy over her pregnancy, despite her husband’s indifference, broke my heart.

12. The whole dang cast of Firefly because of their sheer awesomeness. Try as I might, I just can’t pick a favorite. This popular T.V. Science Fiction series is a huge favorite in our house. It’s imaginative, funny, complex and full of crazy action. Plus Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk offer serious eye candy. Who could ask for more?

13.  Norma Rae (Sally Field) — This was Sally Field’s best role ever. She was terrific as the eponymous character in Norma Rae, a young single mom who agrees to help unionize the textile mill where she works. This movie is based on actual events in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.

14.  Glory (Frances McDormand) North Country — Speaking of unions, I loved Glory, the tough, compassionate mine worker and union organizer in North Country, a fictionalized account of the first major successful sexual harassment case in the United States. Have I mentioned that I love Frances McDormand?

15. Inigo Montoya (Mandy Pantinkin) The Princess Bride — There was no way I was going to finish this list without including this movie! “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die …”

16. Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) Zombieland ‘Cuz I love the fact that an obsessive-compulsive geek can be a bad-ass zombie killer. I really like Jesse Eisenberg, and while his role in The Social Network was a stronger one, Columbus has a special place in my heart. He and Woody Harrelson did a terrific job of playing off each other. And Zombieland is a huge favorite in this house.

17. Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) Juno — I do love this movie. And Ellen Page is amazing as a precocious, wise-cracking pregnant teen.

18. Lynn Sear (Toni Collette) The Sixth Sense — I really like Toni Collette, and I love her as Lynn Sear, a tough, nurturing single mom trying to help her troubled son. She’s both incredibly strong and vulnerable, and her love for her child shines throughout the movie.

19. Dug in UpUp is one of my favorite animated films, and I just can’t resist Dug’s gratuitous goofiness.

20. Toto in The Wizard of Oz — I remember when we had to wait ALL YEAR for this movie to come on television? Oh, the anticipation! And we went to a friend’s house to watch it, because they had color television, and that made it so much more exciting when Dorothy opens the door to Oz. Am I showing my age here? Toto may very well be the best character in the movie. He’s intrepid, smart, and irresistably cute.

Honorable Mentions:

Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis) True Blood – ‘Cuz True Blood is one of my guilty pleasures, and who doesn’t love a fabulously flamboyant “queen?

Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) The Rocky Horror Picture Show — I’m not a big fan of this movie, but Tim Curry was hilarious in this role. This was the first really “inappropriate” movie that, with some trepidation, I let my older daughter watch. I don’t remember how old she was. Her reaction was “My eyes have seen too much! I have lost my cinematic virginity!” 🙂 and (loosely paraphrasing) “What I learned from this movie is that with enough leather in your wardrobe, you can seduce people of both sexes in five seconds flat!” 😛

What are some of your favorite movie characters?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2010 2:38 am

    I love Inigo Montoya the best. And the cast of Firefly. They are basically all eye candy. Gina Torres – that woman is ridiculously gorgeous. Damn.

    • November 6, 2010 9:07 pm

      Inigo Montoya is terrific. No one ever went into the revenge business with such panache. And yes, Gina Torres is beautiful. I joked with my husband that I was a heterosexual female, and even I couldn’t help gawking at her body. 😀

  2. November 6, 2010 12:59 pm

    Great list – I’ve gotten some good ideas for my Netflix queue! You know, at first, I couldn’t stand Lafayette, but now I’ve really gotten to like him. And I think he’s a pretty good actor!

    • November 6, 2010 9:07 pm

      It took a while for Lafayette to grow on me, too. I also saw Nelsen Ellis in The Soloist, in a very different role.

  3. November 6, 2010 7:21 pm

    LOL! I love the comments about Tim Curry!
    Inigo will always be on top of my character list. I’m glad you wrote this list, because a couple of these movies I haven’t seen in ages and others I meant to see but forgot about.

    Being a New Yorker, there would have to be a Woody Allen character on my own list. 🙂

    Peace and Laughter!

    • November 6, 2010 9:09 pm

      I haven’t seen Woody Allen in years. My daughter was asking me yesterday about Hannah and Her Sisters, which I saw in college. I rememeber his character in that movie as really piling on he existential angst — one of his specialties. 😉

  4. November 6, 2010 10:06 pm

    Nice choices! Frances McDormand is one of my favorite actresses, though I haven’t seen North Country. I don’t know who my favorite movie characters would be. Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander is the first that pops into my mind.

    • November 7, 2010 12:44 am

      Frances McDormand is terrific. I almost put Marge Gunderson from Fargo on the list too. 🙂

  5. November 7, 2010 12:43 am

    Great list with some tremendous characters. I love that you had Karen from Love Actually. Love that movie!

    I’d add Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables, and Rudy from Rudy, who demonstrates perseverance and strength of character to achieve your dreams.

    • November 7, 2010 12:46 am

      Anne of Green Gables is terrific — I love Matthew and Marilla too. And I’d almost forgotten about Rudy (another shout out for Sean Astin) — he was a great character.

  6. She permalink
    November 7, 2010 1:02 am

    #12. YES.

  7. November 7, 2010 4:56 pm

    Awesomely quirky choices and now I have a list of some movies I want to check out.

  8. givingreadingachance permalink
    November 8, 2010 1:50 am

    Wow, I have not seen any except 2. Juno and Dug – i like them both. I would definitely want to see these other movies/series.

  9. November 9, 2010 11:03 am

    My 17-year-old just saw the trailer for Rocky Horror, and her comment was “What has been seen cannot be unseen!”

  10. November 12, 2010 9:12 pm

    I don’t even know where to start, your list is so fantastic! “The whole dang cast of Firefly: -I so agree! And Emma Thompson is both S&S and Love Actually, McDormand, Colette, such wonderful choices.

  11. stacybuckeye permalink
    November 15, 2010 9:42 pm

    Fun list. I’ve seen most of these. I like that you chose Samwise from LOTR.

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