Best of 2014: Top 10 Movie Characters


Let’s get stuck into talking about some movies, then.

2014 was an unbelievably good year for movies, particularly blockbusters, and the characters they brought along with them to the big screens of the world were pretty universally fun to watch. Whether they were adapted from source material in another medium, based on real life people or entirely new creations, there were plenty to celebrate in 2014. There are some films that even made it really difficult for me to pick just one character for this list (and one instance where I just had to pick two). Without further ado, here is my 2014 list of my personal favourite movie characters.

Some mild plot spoilers will follow.

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s spooky. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.


10. TARS – Interstellar

There was a lot about Interstellar that surprised unsuspecting viewers, from its mind-screw of a plotline to its odd twisting tone to its completely un-telegraphed big name acting cameos. And yet perhaps its biggest sucker punch was the appearance and popularity of the ensemble dark horse TARS, a space-faring robot companion with a literal “humour setting”, which allows for a rare and refreshing source of comic relief throughout an otherwise very sombre film. It isn’t just the sarcastic zingers that make him so memorable, though. His visual design is unusually far from the standard Hollywood robot archetype, consisting of four magnetic rectangular prisms that work together to grant the bot a deceptive range of mobility and functionality. Very cool.

9. Joshua Joyce – Transformers: Age of Extinction


Sometimes its a really awful movie that can help a character become more memorable to audiences. Among the pantomime acting and bewildering script playing out around him, Stanley Tucci’s portrayal of the eccentric, morally ambiguous professor Joshua Joyce in Transformers: Age of Extinction is genuinely entertaining. Yes, it’s over the top, but this is a Michael Bay Transformers movie, people. You come for the transforming robots, but Tucci embraces Joyce’s emotional journey throughout the movie from a man in control to a screaming man-child with such commitment that you don’t quite mind when he’s on the screen either. Especially since it distracts you from the main human cast. Blegh.

8. Nick – What We Do in the Shadows

Kiwi mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows is easily one of the funniest films of the year, and among its small but hilarious main cast it is Chilean-born stand up comedian Cori Gonzalez-Macuer who gets some of the best moments. He certainly is the biggest surprise of the movie, coming in after the plot’s set-up is complete and outdoing every one of his castmates in the awkwardness department. As the “modern” vampire in a group of bloodsuckers hailing from different centuries, his mix of totally unwarranted cockiness, amusing tantrums and matter-of-fact speech is a winning blend. I hope to see the actor in more roles going forward.

7. Benny – The LEGO Movie

To say that The LEGO Movie is packed with charmingly off-the-wall supporting characters is a bit of an understatement, but it is Charlie Day’s Benny the Spaceman that is arguably the most memorable of them all. Compared to the colourful smorgasbord around him, Benny’s physical design is deliberately basic, drawing on the nostalgia of those who grew up with LEGO decades ago by calling to mind the toy line’s more humble beginnings. His helmet even cracks in the exact place where the old LEGO spacemen toys did. His defining character trait is being out of touch with the younger pieces around him, but he is more patient than any other main character, and the cathartic moment when he finally gets to build his old school spaceship is undeniably awesome.

6. Valka – How to Train Your Dragon 2

One of the primary reasons why How to Train Your Dragon 2 was so well received by critics and fans alike when it released this year is the character of Valka, whose immediate presence when she enters the film is so marked that she effectively hijacks the plot and becomes its protagonist. Initially a mysterious antagonistic figure with a degree in badass, the reveal of her true identity as Hiccup’s lost mother (and just as pertinently, Stoick’s lost wife) is given real weight in the context of the film by some fantastic writing, superb animation and a great vocal performance from Cate Blanchett. From then on things get rather emotionally intense, and every moment is enriched by “Val”‘s presence. Plus, nothing is cooler than a wild dragon tamer.

5. Quicksilver – X-Men: Days of Future Past

The internet, as a collective entity of popular opinion, is notorious for judging books by their covers, so to speak. And so earlier in the year when Empire Magazine ran a host of literal covers each depicting a different character from the then-upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, the internet went typically pre-judgemental, mostly laughing at the basic and kinda weird design choices of the movie’s version of famous mutant Quicksilver. Then people saw the movie, and the consensus on Quicksilver changed very quickly. Evan Peters’ playful portrayal of the silver-haired, quick-witted speedster was quietly acknowledged as pretty damn awesome , which combined with his minimal screen time and the previous internet opinion made the character one of the most memorable superhero portrayals in all of 2014.

4. Baymax – Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 only just came out in Australian theatres this week, but you can already find all kinds of merchandise and advertising just about everywhere for the big marshmallow-like robot known as Baymax, and there’s a good reason for that. The gigantic huggable marshmallow robot is not only the emotional heart and soul of Disney’s latest animated hit, he (it?) also provides most of the laughs and some of the best action sequences in the film. Built by protagonist Hiro Hamada’s deceased older brother, Baymax’s relationship with Hiro pushes the story of bereavement recovery along in all manner of ways. The nursing robot-turned crimefighter is a rare example of a character with enough defining attributes to appeal to a wide range of audiences. You’ll be seeing a lot more of this guy around, that’s for sure.

3. Amy Dunne – Gone Girl

I hadn’t read the novel upon which David Fincher’s excellent psychological thriller Gone Girl is based, so I did not see most of the narrative twists and turns coming. But from the very first shot of protagonist Amy Dunne’s face that opens the movie, I could tell something was off about her, and that’s due to the career-defining performance by perennial supporting actor Rosamund Pike. It’s hard to imagine that anyone else could have played the role with such power, presence and chameleon-esque range. Though Ben Affleck deserves considerable credit for his lead role as well, Gone Girl is a story that belongs to Amy Dunne, and the film version well and truly belongs to Pike. I can’t bring myself to say anything more specific than that, even though it has already been a while since the film’s release.

2. Hammer Girl & Baseball Bat Man – The Raid 2

Yes, this is two characters in one slot, but anyone who has seen The Raid 2 will probably understand why I find it so hard to separate Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. In a movie franchise ostensibly built on grimy, salt-of-the-earth locations enlivened by highly exaggerated, fantastical fights and action set pieces, this double act essentially amounts to a pair of cartoon characters; two supervillain henchman straight out of a manga, with novel yet brutal methods of dispatching their foes. The strange emotionless pleas from the hooded Baseball Bat Man and the chilling silence from Hammer Girl embellish their already glorious action scenes with memorable dressing, leaving viewers unlikely to forget them for a while.

1. Drax – Guardians of the Galaxy

In my review of Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy earlier this year I highlighted the extraordinary staying power of the entire principal cast of galactic superheroes, which is an astounding achievement given that all five of them lacked the kind of build-up enjoyed by Marvel’s Avengers. So I figured it was only fair to celebrate the relatable motley crew by putting one of them on this list, and exactly who to put up was easy. Not only is Dave Bautista’s portrayal of the fiercely loyal, hilariously literalistic alien warrior Drax one of the biggest surprises of the year, especially given Bautista’s limited film acting experience, it has also created a highly impactful character that both new and old Marvel fans could potentially relish for several movies. His oddball popularity is the perfect encapsulation of what is making Marvel Studios’ current run of success so sustainable. At least for now.


Honorable Mentions

–Alexander Pierce – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
To quote the CinemaSins video for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, “Even at 193 years old Robert Redford can still act any of the rest of this movie’s stars under the table.” Yes, quite. His character is one very important reason that the film’s espionage themed plotline works at all.

–Unikitty – The LEGO Movie
The second best character in The LEGO Movie, brought to sickly sweet life with a hyperactive vocal performance from Community’s Alison Brie.

-President Alma Coin – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
Most of what makes this character so memorable in the Hunger Games novels is yet to play out on screen, but it is already clear that the addition of Julianne Moore to the main film cast as Coin is a very good decision. So much passive aggression.

Autolycus – Hercules
Rufus Sewell is Rufus Freaking Sewell, so he’s always fun to watch, but he helps to enliven an otherwise hum-drum swords and sandals epic with his sardonic, unleashed performance as Hercules’ partner Autolycus. He works very well next to Ian McShane.

Koba – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The scariest thing about the entirely computer-generated simian warrior Koba in this year’s new Apes movie is how easily his perfectly animated movements and expressions echo the deepest and darkest potential of the human race. Chilling work from Toby Kebbell and the movie’s animation team.

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