Best of 2015: Top 10 Movie Characters


I entered this year’s run of countdowns resigned to the somewhat depressing knowledge that my schedule would prevent me from watching any Boxing Day films, but at the very least that allows for one positive: I no longer have anything stopping me from spreading out my movie-themed countdowns throughout the ten day period, rather than bunching them up towards the post-December 26th half. So I’m going to cling to that positive, and show you my favourite movie characters from 2015.

This isn’t a lengthy or particularly competitive list – Out of what I watched this year I could only come up with one honorable mention – but I do think it’s a strong list nonetheless. Hollywood put some pretty magnetic characters onto the big screen in 2015, and it’s good to see that for once, it wasn’t just the villains that got all the good moments and lines. There are more “good guys” and morally ambiguous folk on my character list this year than any previous edition, so take that how you will.

Also, give that I’m talking about what makes characters memorable, mild spoilers will come up.

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 weird. Cool, but definitely weird. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.



10. M – Spectre

Ralph Fiennes is one of those actors who tends to improve the quality of most movies he’s in, which made him a fine choice to replace Dame Judi Dench in a role that she had well and truly made her own for almost two decades. Fiennes’ M is just as visibly affected by outside pressures in Spectre as Dench’s ever was, but his penchant for keeping up appearances is more prominent, making his seething rage at both his political situation and the cocky young upstart at its head tremendous fun to watch. He bares his troubles through gritted teeth and then, when he finally gets to take action, the catharsis is palpable.


9. Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road

Though Tom Hardy’s eponymous Max is the main draw of Mad Max: Fury Road, Imperator Furiosa is effectively its protagonist, and Charlize Theron makes her a real force of nature. Her dark war makeup and utilitarian cyborg arm give her a striking appearance matched by her fierce determination to move forward with her idealistic goal, to reach a paradise she isn’t entirely sure exists. Clearly fearful at times for the safety of her precious cargo, Furiosa’s singular drive pushes her beyond that fear, and this focus – along with her technical prowess both behind a wheel and a weapon – is the perfect embodiment of the kinetic whirlwind that is Fury Road.

8. Bubbles the Dolphin – The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

When I went out to see The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water with my workmates one night back in April, I was expecting an amusing and perhaps nostalgic ride. I definitely was not expecting to be clutching at my sides from painful bouts of laughter, but that’s what I got from the movie’s psychedelic drug trip of a middle third, when our hero travels to the edge of the universe and meets a majestically robed dolphin overlord voiced by Matt Berry from The IT Crowd. Bubbles possesses immense power and responsibility, but cannot get out a straight sentence without breaking out in embarrassing dolphin noises. The sheer absurdity of the whole situation, coupled with Berry’s superb delivery, turns the chance meeting into one of the single funniest cameos I’ve seen in movies in a long time.

7. Merlin – Kingsman: The Secret Service

I usually find in movies that Mark Strong’s roles live up to his name, as he plays an awful lot of confident and capable characters (usually supporting, sadly) better than most. In many ways his role as the Camelot-inspired Merlin in Kingsman: The Secret Service is about as good a fit for him as an action movie fan could imagine, especially since it’s part of a film directed by Matthew freaking Vaughn. Sure enough, Merlin’s over-qualified advisor part commands the screen from his first appearance early in the story, but then, perhaps reflecting Strong’s career, the character’s importance to the narrative grows and grows as Kingsman approaches its excellent finale. In a film boasting several larger-than-life characters, Merlin is undoubtedly my favourite.

6. Kylo Ren – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The recently-released Star Wars: The Force Awakens throws a ton of characters at the audience, both returning and fresh. Among the rather impressive, nicely developed new batch is the film’s primary villain Kylo Ren, a terrifyingly powerful force user who simultaneously has the most fleshed-out backstory of any of the main characters, and also leaves the most mysteries hanging. This makes him a very interesting character indeed, but what takes him to the next level for me is Adam Driver’s performance in the role. The imposing actor portrays rage, confidence, frustration and turmoil both with and without a mask, ensuring those around him seem to blur into the background.

5. Alejandro – Sicario

Sicario is a film about layers of information peeling away one by one, revealing uglier and uglier truths. No one character exemplifies this better than Alejandro, a mysterious, grizzled man whose laissez-faire attitude when we first meet him thoroughly belies the devotion he holds to his own very personal cause. As lead character – and audience surrogate – Kate Macy learns about the true intentions of the police veterans stringing her along on a visit to Mexico, Alejandro becomes less of a wizened old ally and more of a very scary man who doesn’t particularly care who he hurts on his way to achieving his goal. And he’s played by Benicio del Toro, so of course you believe every second.


4. Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Amidst a movie that – whether you thought it was good or not – was most certainly overhyped and definitely presented a myriad of issues for fans to nitpick, primary antagonist Ultron was a real strong point. The advanced, malicious, vengeful AI is less one-dimensional than the vast majority of villains from the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, as James Spader’s amazing voice work brings him to life as an alternately chilling, sarcastic and irrationally angry creation. Imbued with a flavour of self-awareness that allows him a sense of humour and a fatal egotistical streak, the growling Ultron can comfortably sit with Loki at the very small table of half-decent big screen Marvel Studios baddies.

3. Luis – Ant-Man

Ant-Man is a fun movie – arguably more fun than the other big Marvel film of 2015 – and that isn’t just because of its cheeky heist movie aspirations or the seemingly ageless charm of Paul Rudd. It also features arguably the most unexpected breakout movie character of the year in the form of Scott Lang’s shady small-time criminal contact Luis. Played with relentless energy by comedy veteran Michael Pena, Luis’ relative naivete in spite of his appearance, not to mention his extremely fast and hyper-complicated storytelling, make him the funniest part of an already funny comic book movie. He upstages pretty much everyone else in the film.

2. Nathan – Ex Machina

If you have a movie-length story featuring just four main characters, you’d better make those characters interesting if you want to sustain that story. Luckily, if you’re Ex Machina writer-director Alex Garland, you had Hollywood’s newest A-lister Oscar Isaac to play arguably the most interesting of those four characters in one of the best films of 2015. As the reclusive billionaire genius Nathan, Isaac takes Garland’s deliberately ambiguous lines and uses them to turn the character into a bundle of sheer charisma with a bubbling undercurrent of aggression. As the man who holds (almost) all the cards in the intimate AI tale, Nathan is somehow both likeable and terrifying – a huge credit to Isaac.

1. BB-8 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Oh come on, as if I could settle for just one Star Wars character when this little guy stole almost the entirety of The Force Awakens. Though the tiny spherical droid bears more than a passing similarity to fan-favourite astromech R2-D2, BB-8’s entirely practical, magnet-balanced ball design make him much more capable of physical expression than R2 ever was. From the way he visibly reacts to human questions with slight movements, to the way he quivers in fear at towering enemies, to that instantly classic thumbs-up, BB-8 is the single crowning example of The Force Awakens‘ best quality – its humour. I can’t wait to see how the pint-sized charmer’s story role will evolve in the final two parts of the new trilogy.


Honorable Mention

Fat Amy – Pitch Perfect 2
When I saw the two Pitch Perfect movies back-to-back early in the year, the most unexpected thing I took away was that, after years of indifference to her divisive style of comedy, I found Rebel Wilson’s performance as Fat Amy genuinely funny. And she’s somehow even better in the second movie than she was in the first.

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