Best of 2016: Top 10 Movie Characters

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Time to talk movies.

Characters remain the heart and soul of any decent film, and there were plenty of magnetic ones on the big screen in 2016, even if we’re just talking big blockbusters (which unsurprisingly made up most of what I saw this year). A few new takes on big-name characters make it on to my list this year, but as usual it’s dominated by the surprises – major and supporting characters that add laughs, narrative depth and/or reasons to get excited about every new scene in which they appear. Also, not a single villain on the list this year. Yep, it’s true.

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VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
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 strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.

Some movie spoilers follow.
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10. Wonder Woman – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ben Affleck’s brutal take on Batman was one of the only positive aspects of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that people seem to agree on, but he’s a character we’ve seen on screen a million times, so I’m putting Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman on this list instead. Slinking around the fringes of the action for most of the movie, Gadot nails the supreme self-assurance of Diana Prince, and she remains an intriguing figure you want to see more of – even if one of her major narrative functions is to be an audience surrogate for an incredibly forced Justice League introduction sequence. When Prince returns in the final act as Wonder Woman, she lights up the final battle, bringing with her one of the most immediately memorable musical motifs of the year.

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9. Lula – Now You See Me 2

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It’s rare that an actor or actress comes into a movie sequel to fill a hole left in the cast of the first one and doesn’t feel like a lesser knock-off (usually due more to writing problems than acting ones). Lizzy Caplan is one of those rare cases, stepping into the shoes of Isla Fisher’s prominent Four Horsemen role in Now You See Me 2 as new character Lula – a creepy Horsemen fan who turns out to be extremely capable – and entertaining – in her own right. In fact Caplan arguably outshines Fisher once she joins the group, as Lula is never afraid to speak her mind and seize the spotlight in truly charismatic fashion. Now You See Me 2 is not a great movie, but that only makes Caplan’s performance stand out all the more.
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8. Nick Wilde – Zootopia

Zootopia is a great movie for a number of reasons, but the main one is the very human drama at the core of a story ostensibly about animals. Co-protagonist and anti-hero Nick Wilde is the beating heart of said story. The perfectly-cast Jason Bateman gets to weave his way around some heavy themes with a light, carefree air as Wilde, ranging from facing some cleverly-placed prejudices against him just for being a fox, to getting in touch with his long-abandoned dreams, to the very basic struggles inherent to a phlegmatic personality. He does so while throwing out sarcastic, world-weary barbs that keep him as entertaining as he is relatable.
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7. Hank the Septopus – Finding Dory

Finding Dory invents almost as many quirky, unique secondary characters as Finding Nemo did all those years ago, but Hank is by far the most complex. An octopus whose missing tentacle has come to define him and how he views his own worth, Hank’s writing plays with the audience’s expectations of similar characters in Disney films. Clearly concerned only with his own desire to escape the facility where most of the movie is set, his helping Dory appears to be entirely motivated by self-interest, which seems certain to foreshadow his betrayal of Dory in her hour of need. But – as is the theme of the film – he is given the opportunity to redeem himself and is inspired just enough by her simplistic optimism to do so – in spectacularly hilarious vehicular fashion.
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6. K-2SO – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One‘s story is actually really depressing when you think about it, so it was arguably even more important than it was in last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens to inject some humour into proceedings. The movie finds it in a generous array of places, but none of them are as consistent as reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO. The Star Wars saga is certainly no stranger to the idea of using droids as sources of laughs – and some very C-3PO-esque ones make their way into K-2SO’s script – but Alan Tudyk’s dry delivery skews more towards the kind of brutal honesty employed by beloved Knights of the Old Republic mercenary HK-47 than anything else, and it just fits.
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5. Holly March – The Nice Guys

Unexpectedly resourceful child characters are almost a staple of Shane Black movies at this point, right alongside irreverent humour, awkward interactions and egotistical leads. Holly March, the daughter of Ryan Gosling’s character Holland, is the latest to fit this trend, and she ends up serving as the actual foil to Holland’s spectacularly incompetence once it becomes clear just how many of his qualities Russell Crowe’s comparatively brawn-focused partner-in-crime shares. Newcomer Angourie Rice dominates the role of a frustrated teenager who puts up with, adores and ultimately upstages her troubled father – and without a single cliched damsel-in-distress moment either.
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4. Peter Parker – Captain America: Civil War

He’s the third version of the beloved character we’ve seen in the last decade, but Tom Holland’s portrayal of Peter Parker a.k.a Spider-Man is immediately likeable. Hidden from all of Captain America: Civil War‘s marketing, Holland’s single unmasked scene, opposite Robert Downey Jr and Marisa Tomei, was enough to convince general audiences around the world that he deserves to fill the coveted role. The fact that he isn’t yet old enough to drink in the USA doesn’t hurt, giving him a head-start in the authenticity department, but Holland goes a step beyond and nails the wide-eyed wonder / natural mischievousness of Parker, taking to the costumed banter part of the role extremely well to boot.
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3. Paper Hanzo – Kubo and the Two Strings

There’s hardly a character with dialogue throughout Kubo and the Two Strings who isn’t memorable, but its the one without a single line that steals the show for me. Born of our hero Kubo’s musical origami magic, the paper version of revered legendary warrior Hanzo starts as a symbolic figure only to develop a personality of his own – and a hilariously arrogant one at that. Alternatingly a help and a hindrance to the journey of the main cast, the amusingly tiny force of nature is brought to life by Studio Laika’s painstaking animation, which bestows the nuance that really sells the little guy as an indispensable part of Kubo and the Two Strings .
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2. Queenie – Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Ultimately an uneven movie due to its multiple attempts at setting up and paying off story threads, Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them triumphs most in the quality of its supporting cast. At the forefront of these are the Goldstein twins, disgraced former magic enforcer Tina (Katherine Waterson), whose earnest efforts and concern for her fellow wizard-kind are genuinely endearing; and Queenie, who gets the benefit of showing up much later in the film when much of the awkward exposition work is done, absolutely stealing every scene in which she appears as a result. Alison Sudol relishes the role of a glamorous mind-reader who is enchanted by the ordinary – in particular a decidedly ordinary (and also excellently written) non-magic-user named Jacob. If the FOUR incoming Beasts sequels want to be any good, they will need more characters like Queenie Goldstein.
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1. Ricky Baker – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt For the Wilderpeople is only one of the year’s best movies because of Julian Dennison’s dedicated turn as Ricky Baker,  the younger half of the surrogate-father-son relationship that anchors the plot. Standing in deliberately stark contrast to Sam Neill’s gruff old farmer, Dennison gives a truly chaotic performance that also manages to be tremendously heartwarming, much like the film around him. From his elaborate imagination to his thoughtless daring to the complete ignorance he exhibits when it comes to the unfortunate implications of his words, Ricky Baker carries Hunt For the Wilderpeople towards a startlingly effective conclusion, and is consequently the most memorable movie character of the year for me.

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Honorable Mentions
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Wong – Doctor Strange

The first of four characters from superhero movies in this section, Wong brings both gravitas and humour to the cast of Doctor Strange, as well as what turns out to be some much-needed transparency in terms of moral alignment.

Black Panther – Captain America: Civil War

The other big new Marvel Cinematic Universe introduction within Civil War, T’Challa differs from Peter Parker in that he needed an origin story of sorts to feel anything more than shoehorned into the story. Luckliy, he gets a really effective one, and his action scenes are fantastic.

Deadshot – Suicide Squad

A reminder of just how much of a natural action star Will Smith is, Deadshot is one of very few shining lights within the messy Suicide Squad, and certainly not because of his writing.

Deadpool – Deadpool

Ryan Reynolds was simply born to play this character. That is all.

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