Best of 2017: Top 10 Movie Characters

A good year for movies is a good year for movie characters. The fictional people who graced our screens both big and small throughout 2017 made the stories unfolding before our eyes more tragic, more believable, more ludicrous, more fantastical, more real. From the characters who anchor down the movies they lead, to the enemies they face, to the bundles of energy and accidental comedians with whom they cross paths, these celluloid creations are worth remembering for a moment. There are some vague plot spoilers here but I’ve avoided them where they aren’t necessary.

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VR BEST OF 2017 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. Intriguing, but strange. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. Hercule Poirot – Murder on the Orient Express

The joke is easy to make – Murder on the Orient Express director Kenneth Branagh greatly expands the role of one of fiction’s most legendary detectives and then casts himself in the lead role just so he can ham it up for the cameras in partnership with one of the great cinematic moustaches of all time. Regardless of how it came to be, however, Hollywood’s newest representation of Hercule Poirot is a relentlessly entertaining reason to check out Murder on the Orient Express. All introspective monologues, furrowed brows and mad quirks, Branagh somehow ensures that he stands head-and-shoulders above everyone else in a truly star-studded cast.

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9. Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The bar of quality for Marvel Cinematic Universe villains may be low, but 2017 saw a noticeable uptick in that department, however small. That started with Kurt Russell’s Ego, an aptly-named charmer whose presence fills the screen in more ways than one. As Peter Quill’s father, he already has a leg-up on most of the MCU’s seemingly inconsequential bad guys, and the fact that he comes as a package deal with Mantis certainly doesn’t hurt, but what elevates Ego as a movie villain is Russell’s performance, which goes from effortlessly cool to gloriously scene-chewing.
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8. Rod – Get Out

Rod is arguably one of the most mechanically essential supporting characters of 2017 in movies. As one of the few characters in Get Out allowed to tap into director Jordan Peele’s storied comedic background, he gets some of the film’s best moments. Rod’s amusing monologues as he tries his darndest to discover what’s gone wrong with his best friend are vital comic relief within a movie that regularly has the audience shuffling nervously in their seats from all the multi-layered tension. He also happens to be a source of real catharsis by story’s end,  delivering some good old-fashioned comeuppance at just the right time.

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7. Joe Bang – Logan Lucky

One surefire way to get people talking about your character is to cast an actor in the role who is well-known for playing a completely different kind of person. In the case of Logan Lucky’s Joe Bang, having James Bond himself play an intelligent but slightly mad convict with a thick southern American twang pulls this trick off to mesmerising effect. Logan Lucky already carries a cast of characters that are memorable in their own ways, but those characters mostly stick in the memory because they – and by extension the movie – play with your expectations of what stereotypical rednecks are capable of. Within such a cast, the license that Daniel Craig is given to just go nuts with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get bad boy makes for a truly scene-stealing showing again and again.
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6. X-23 – Logan

Known simply as Laura to us in the film, Logan’s version of barbaric mutant experiment X-23 is exactly the kind of character foil that the plot needs to have for our disgraced titular hero to be redeemed in his own way. But of course Laura is more than just a plot device, getting plenty of time in the frame to carve a path through both our hearts and the various other body parts of her unlucky enemies. Young actress Dafne Keen does a remarkable job in a role that for long stretches of time is without dialogue, selling the idea of a capable-yet-broken heroine in the making and helping elevate Logan to the top tier of all-time superhero movies.
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5. Diana Prince – Wonder Woman

I don’t often put protagonists on this list, and it’s rare to see them on others’ lists as well. For lack of a better word, they’re usually just a bit more boring than either the villains they oppose or the surprising side characters with whom they share the screen. But Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is surely one of the most talked-about casting success stories of 2017. As Diana Prince, Gadot nails the combination of presence, believable empathy and badass justice-dealing that Wonder Woman needs in order to work on the big screen. She is a large part of the reason why Wonder Woman is considered to be the best of the DC expanded universe thus far (Not a high bar but still, she rocks). And that’s why she’s the first character to appear twice on my year-end character lists.

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4. The Vulture – Spider-Man Homecoming

Another tally in the Marvel villain win column for some people and the best example yet for others, Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Adrian Toomes / The Vulture already shows some nice depth from his introductory scene, where the recurring comic book baddie is given a working-class appeal perhaps more relatable now than ever. From there Keaton plays the role of a driven man with destructive tunnel vision but good intentions, who nonetheless doesn’t mind a bit of the old crazy-eyed grin accompanied by a side of malicious banter.
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3. Oscar – Colossal

Colossal is a movie about monsters both fantastical and very real. One of the clear reasons it works so well is Jason Sudeikas’ turn as small-town bartender Oscar. Going from pitiable to unsettling to downright scary, Oscar is always weirdly charismatic as he exerts control over the people in his life, preventing us from ever outright hating the sight of him onscreen. That’s thanks in part to the way Sudeikas makes use of audience familiarity with his career – When Oscar reveals his true colours he comes across as both sympathetic and despicable, cartoony and real. This strengthens the movie’s thematic flow and helps sell a concept that’s pretty corny on paper.
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2. Terry – The Big Sick

It’s simultaneously hard to believe that this kind of performance could have come from Ray Romano and almost impossible to imagine this character being played by anyone else. Where his eponymous character on Everybody Loves Raymond was a dry, sarcastic jerk, Terry in The Big Sick is a bumbling father trying to do the best he can to keep his family treading water during a difficult time. The results can be both hilariously awkward and deflatingly true-to-life, as Terry takes his fair share of punches while trying to stay positive in the most endearing way.
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1. Korg – Thor Ragnarok

I had a very good feeling ever since the director of Thor Ragnarok was announced that there would be a character from the movie on this page. Every one of Taika Waititi’s movies has had a breakout character or three, so imagine my delight when the most memorable player in the piece (and of the year) ended up being played by Waititi himself. In the midst of a cast that pits superstars like Jeff Goldblum against hilarious up-and-comers like Rachel House (Paula from Hunt for the Wilderpeople), rock monster Korg gives Waititi a platform to be as dryly Kiwi as he can muster, which plays well enough on its own, but seeing it contrasted against the otherwise fairly Hollywood-standard comedy stuff only stands to make Korg even funnier. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting way to mark the success of Waititi’s blockbuster debut in the director’s chair.

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Honorable Mentions
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Le Fou – Beauty & the Beast

It can hardly be called a shock that such a theatrically over-the-top role would be knocked out of the park by Josh Gad, but he still gets the nod ever-so-slightly over Luke Evans’ Gaston because of just how much fun it is to follow Le Fou’s buffoonery around the screen.

Bats – Baby Driver

Jamie Foxx has a lot of fun playing an agent of chaos who takes pride in being just that. His unhinged antics tread the line between funny and scary, and his actions are what really get things moving within Baby Driver’s plot.

Luv – Blade Runner 2049

A placid android assistant turned physics-defying killing machine, Luv proves to be the most tangible antagonist throughout Blade Runner 2049‘s considerable run time, during which she shows plenty of hints at some plot-thickening emotional needs.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Definitely agree with lots on this list! Korg (and Thor himself) were the stand-out hits of Ragnarok for me. Ezra Miller did a great job, but I think this is the first of the Thors where Thor himself outshined Loki, while Loki (and, for that matter, many of the supporting characters) got their own deeply moving moments.

    The Vulture was the star of Spiderman. An actually fantastic reimagining of that character, with a super great plot reveal in the final act.

    I’d honestly forgotten about Oscar, but can’t disagree with his place on this list. Perfect performance, and just a super creepy villain.

    Ray Romano was the stand-out powerhouse of The Big Sick. He also had a lot of baggage as an actor to overcome, and I’m glad he managed it.

    I guess my list of top characters tends to angle TOWARDS the protagonists instead of away. For that reason, I think I’d put Hugh Jackman’s Logan near the top of the list. Also, of those in Blade Runner, I think I’d be moving Joi closer to the top. It’s hard to make us feel for a digital person – ‘Her’ was the last time that worked so well.

    Also, I know it’s a bit of a cheat to put a ‘package deal’ on a list like this, but I think ‘Lego Batman and Lego Joker’ were perfect. 😛

    Reply

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