Most Interesting Character I Ever Met

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100 Greatest Ever lists are by now familiar enough that we don't need to rehearse the usual complaints. I can't quibble with Premiere's selection of Don Corleone as the greatest movie character of all time (though I've kind of been hoping that the fall of Saddam Hussein family, who actually made a conscious effort to ape the Corleones, might allow us finally to put The Godfather behind us), and you can dig the whole list for outrageously excluded or included characters.

My own gripes: No Frankenstein's monster—from The Bride of Frankenstein, that is, not the original (and not the Sting version of The Bride either! Never the Sting version!). Not a single Jerry Lewis character. Atticus Finch (ZZZZ!) included but Boo Radley denied. No mention of John Goodman's Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink—for my money the greatest movie character hands down. No Norman Maine from A Star Is Born. No Father Merrin from The Exorcist (for that matter, no Devil from The Exorcist). And while I'm no fan of The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda got robbed.

More importantly, this list, like all things in Hollywood, is haunted by the specter of Claude Rains. Bogart's Rick is of course included, but at this point in history, is it not clear that Casablanca is Captain Rennault's movie? When was the last time you heard anybody, even as a joke, do the All the Gin Joints or Hill of Beans speeches? Yet it's probably been less than a week since you've heard an allusion to The Usual Suspects or a reference to somebody's being Shocked, Shocked. I can't think of a single Rains movie—The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Notorious, The Wolf Man, Lawrence of Arabia—where he doesn't steal every scene he's in. Rains even has a leading role—The Invisible Man—for which he could be legitimately included. My point is not that Claude Rains is underrated, though he probably is. It's that these lists are always about the Greatest, the Biggest, the Best, etc., when the incidental stuff is almost always the most enjoyable thing about a movie. Second bananas, supporting parts, cameos, villains, and comic reliefs, being spared the burden of carrying the picture, get more time to pull gags and chew scenery. That's why actors like to play those parts, and why audiences enjoy watching them.

Me, I'm still waiting for my own pet list: Oldest High School Students on film. Strong contestants for the Most Mature Student Body award are Ridgmont High and Welcome Back, Kotter's James Buchanan High. But the record holder is still Grease's Rydell High. At Rydell even the freshmen are at least 30.

NEXT: 1994: The Republican Revolution Betrayed

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  1. By Porky’s 3, the high schoolers had to have grandchildren.

  2. They left off Sweet Sweetback again!

  3. How about Henry from Eraserhead?
    Or the Lady in the Radiator for that matter?

  4. What about Milton from Office Space?

  5. my personal bitching on this subject: No Bill Murray? No Edward Norton?

  6. Bogart’s Rick is of course included, but at this point in history, is it not clear that Casablanca is Captain Rennault’s movie?

    That was the first thing I thought when I saw the list, too.

    The only other real quibble I had with the list (aside from the fact that it even exists, since such lists are silly) is that Annie Hall isn’t any more memorable than any of a dozen other lead female roles in Woody Allen films. But then, I’ve always sort of considered the movie “Annie Hall” to be a warm-up for “Manhattan”, which is far and away the best movie Allen ever did (in my opinion, at least).

  7. No Dr. Rumack from “Airplane!”? Surely they can’t be serious.

  8. Sandy from Grease? The Terminator?!?

    I’ll take DeNiro’s Max Cady over the original.

    The primary difference between DeNiro’s Max Cady and The Terminator is that being set on fire and repeatedly clubbed actually slowed The Terminator down a little.

    Scorcese’s Cape Fear was a textbook example of how to bungle a remake.

  9. I don’t know about high school students, but for college students, nothing can beat the original The Nutty Professor–the guys, at least, are all pushing 40.

    Stella Stevens, however, was QUITE hot.

  10. Scorcese’s Cape Fear was a textbook example of how to bungle a remake.

    Hear hear. Mitchum in the original looked like he’d never lifted a weight, done a situp, or even walked fast in his entire life, and he was still ten times scarier than DeNiro. Was DeNiro good in anything after The King of Comedy?

  11. I’ve always consider Manhattan to be a pale, weak version of Annie Hall. And the character Annie Hall is practically the only memorable female character in a Woody Allen movie.

    All thugs want to be The Godfather, but Saddam wasn’t smart enough. He thought France could protect him from war. This is dumber than counting on Tattaglia to protect you from Barzini. Anyway, his two kids are both Sonnys.

  12. There’s a lot to disagree with. Even half the top ten shouldn’t be anywhere on the list. But Gollum? Nothing from LOTR should have made it, and Gollum only stood out by being so annoying.

  13. I thought DeNiro was pretty good in Ronin. His performances in Goodfellas and Casino weren’t bad either.

  14. George C. Scott as Patton

  15. How about Orson Welles in “The Late Great Planet Earth?” The movie, made in the 70s, explains why the Biblical apocalypse will most likely happen in 1982.

  16. Phil: We are serious. And don’t call us Shirley.

  17. If you’re talking about old actors in young roles, nothing beats Burial Ground, an Italian zombie flick in which an young boy is played by a 30-something dwarf. It was the creepiest thing in the movie.

  18. We have already covered the 100 Greatest Lists list, right?
    I forget.

  19. I got robbed, but that’s to be expected.

  20. How about?
    Burt Lancaster as Elmer Gantry in Elmer Gantry
    John Wayne as John Bernard Books in The Shootest
    Charlton Heston as El Cid in El Cid
    Robert Mitchum as Max Cady in Cape Fear
    Andy Griffith as Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd

  21. Peter Sellers’ character in The Party.
    “Birdy num nums”
    Better yet, Guy Grande from The Magic Christian. A social pirate out to smash the pretenses of the upper class by playing very expensive practical jokes on them.

    And no Jeff Lebowski?

  22. Sandy from Grease? The Terminator?!?

    I’ll take DeNiro’s Max Cady over the original.

  23. Tim Rice as Frankenfurter?

    BJ Clinton as President?

    *sigh*

  24. Most interesting (movie) character I ever met:

    the late Jason Miller, of Exorcist fame, at a Chinese restaurant in Scranton, PA.

    We talked about philosophy and art.

  25. Hmmm. Greatest? Easy. Curly. Curly Howard, followed my Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English, and then Jenna Jamieson in just about any, er, “roll”.

  26. To Jeff:

    It’s odd, when hundreds of great characters are left off the list, that you complain that they’re missing Jeff Lebowski when, in fact, he’s on the list.

  27. Dude:
    I completely missed it.
    Thinking about it, you could do a top 100 list of Coen characters alone. John Goodman would dominate the top 10.

  28. Dan,

    Re: “(in my opinion, at least)”

    You’ll never get paid to be a critic with THAT attitude!!! 🙂

  29. Charlton Heston as El Cid in El Cid

    I don’t know about El Cid, but I was struck that there was, unless I missed it, absolutely no Heston. These lists are all for fun and everything, but not to include a single Heston role is a goddamn scandal.

  30. Dr. Evil in Austin Powers????

    Whatever…

  31. Me still not care.

  32. 41. Jane Craig of Broadcast News is, a, on the list, and, b, 11 slots ahead of 52. Howard Beale of Network.

    Curse you Tim Cavanaugh for making me read this list!

  33. I wouldn’t want to say there was any bias, but ;^]

    Anyone else note that there wasn’t one Bible based character? Moses, Ben Hur, Sparticus, etc.

    And the only war movie was Apocalypse Now. (Unless you count Dr. Strangelove or Gone With The Wind.)

  34. Spartacus wasn’t from the Bible; I don’t think Ben Hur was either.

  35. RAWR! RAWR! RAWR! Nobody understands you, Best-Of Whatever List!

  36. Jennifer,

    Ben Hur was a fictional character but the story involved Christ so it was sort of Biblical.

  37. Neither the Bible nor war movies are known for their character treatments. Much more plot driven.

  38. I am Spartacus.

    Spartacus was real person. Ben Hur was a novel by a former Governor of New Mexico.

  39. Tim Curry, Ran. But I second that emotion.

    And all y’all dissing DeNiro are just plain wrong.

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