Today’s Tuesday Top 10 is inspired by the recent and ongoing influx of 2016 superhero films, including Deadpool, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Suicide Squad. This post will highlight characters from a few of my favourite films that I think are the most heroic, brave, and always fight for the greater good. Also, don’t forget to click the link below if you didn’t get a chance to read last year’s post that mirrors today’s Tuesday Top 10, by covering film’s greatest villains.
1) Russell Crowe – Maximus Decimus Meridius – Gladiator (2000)
For those of you who know me best, you’ll already know that Gladiator is my FAVOURITE FILM OF ALL-TIME. Therefore, Russell Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius was easy for me to choose as the clear winner of greatest film hero. Maximus first appears as a courageous General leading his men into a battle to end the war on behalf of Marcus Aurelius. As a result, that night the Emperor informs Maximus that he wants him to protect Rome as Emperor when he’s gone instead of his power hungry son Commodus. However, when Commodus finds out he ends up killing his father in secret and then quickly sentences Maximus to death.
In an attempt to save his family, Maximus fights valiantly to escape and races home on horseback. Sadly he is too late and after collapsing from grief he is captured and sold as a slave. After accepting his fate he begins to rise as a leader amongst the other Gladiators, in order to make it to the Colosseum. He fights to win over the crowd in order to exact revenge on Commodus for the murder of his family. The two eventually face-off in a final battle and Maximus is victorious. However, before he dies from Commodus’ poison he frees his fellow gladiators and turns Rome back over to the Senate, in order to fulfill the dying wish of Marcus Aurelius. Maximus has impressive fighting skills, a brave heart, and a honourable soul, which is why he deserves the title of greatest film hero of all-time!
Favourite Line: “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
2) Liam Neeson – Oskar Schindler – Schindler’s List (1993)
Liam Neeson was exceptional in his portrayal of real-life German businessman Oskar Schindler in the haunting World War II historical drama Schindler’s List. The film begins as Schindler arrives in Krakow just as the Germans are forcing the local Polish Jews into the Krakow Ghetto. Schindler enlists the help of local Jewish official Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) in order to acquire loans for a local factory. At first Schindler’s sole goal is to make a fortune, therefore he chooses to hire Jewish workers as they cost less than German workers. However, once the villainous SS Amon Goeth arrives and liquidates the Krakow Ghetto by transferring all Jews to the Plaszow concentration camp, Schindler’s goal shifts from making money to saving as many lives as possible.
Schindler exemplifies the concept of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer as he has to buddy up to Goeth in order to ensure his workers are safe. He continuously bribes Goeth and in the end spends a small fortune in order to transfer his workers from Goeth’s camp to his new munitions factory in Brinnlitz. However, one of the trains is sent to Auschwitz by mistake. However, Schindler jumps in again and bribes the Auschwitz commander with a bag of diamonds in order to save all the Jewish women and children. During the seven months his factory operates he ensures that not a single piece of ammunition is usable, and in the end he runs out of money just as Germany surrenders and the war ends. Schindler was a true hero as he proved time and time again that life was more valuable than money and that humanity was worth fighting for.
Favourite Line: “Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I’ll be very unhappy.”
3) Jennifer Lawrence – Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games Franchise (2011-2015)
I am a big fan of Suzanne Collin’s Hunger Games novel trilogy as I get fully consumed by the story of Katniss Everdeen every time I read one of the books. Therefore, I was extremely nervous when the first book was being adapted to film, as I personally feel adaptations of books are either a hit or miss. However, I can confidently say that Jennifer Lawrence has absolutely blown me away by her performance as Katniss throughout the entire franchise.
The character of Katniss slowly becomes undone as the films progress, as she frequently struggles to deal with her PTSD. However, she begins to accept her part of the rebellion as the Mockingjay, and works to defy the Capitol by freeing the districts from the control of Snow and Coin! Lawrence exceptionally portrayed Katniss in moments of strength, vulnerability, bravery, and terror as she continuously had to deal with the aftermath of her initial victory.
Favourite Line: “I just wanted to say that I didn’t know Thresh, I only spoke to him once. He could have killed me, but instead he showed me mercy. That’s a debt I’ll never be able to repay. I did know Rue. She wasn’t just my ally, she was my friend. I see her in the flowers that grow in the meadow by my house. I hear her in the Mockingjay song. I see her in my sister Prim. She was too young, too gentle, and I couldn’t save her. I’m sorry.” (From Catching Fire)
4) Christian Bale – Batman a.k.a. Bruce Wayne – The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)
I’m going to start by saying Christian Bale has an intensity for his art that sets him apart from the typical Hollywood star. As noted in the picture below, Bale continuously pushes his body to the limit in order to match the description of the character he wants to portray. This was evident throughout all three films of The Dark Knight trilogy, as he had to bulk up after portraying extremely leaned out roles.
The Christopher Nolan trilogy is an exceptional adaptation of the classic Batman comics as it was the first time we saw a darker version of the iconic character. Bale embraced this by showing all the flaws of Bruce Wayne, but still fulfilled his overwhelming desire to save others by skirting the red tape of the law. Also, Bale was remarkable at playing off of the villains of each film such as defying Ra’s al Ghul, wrangling in the chaos of the Joker, converting Catwoman to the good side, and eventually rising to challenge Bane in order to win back the city!
Favourite Line: “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” – Batman (from The Dark Knight Rises)
5) Daniel Radcliffe – Harry Potter – The Harry Potter Franchise (2001-2011)
The book-to-film adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s seven book Harry Potter Franchise is at the top of my favourite films list, as it brought the characters of my childhood to life! As all the other HP fans of the world know, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is coming out in November. Therefore, I’m going to spend the summer rereading the series and posting individual book-to-film adaptations once I finish each book. So, keep an eye out for HP posts in the coming months!
Daniel Radcliffe was the face of the franchise as he played the lead role of Harry Potter throughout all eight films in the first decade of the 2000s. My generation was ideal for this series as I grew up alongside the characters, so I always read the books/saw the films the moment they came out. As a result, I have always enjoyed the story and the journey Harry and his friends took from beginning to end to defeat Voldemort and all his horcruxes. Personally, I have always felt that Radcliffe portrayed the perfect combination of Harry’s bravery, curiosity, and genuine desire to do what was right.
Favourite Line: [to Dolores Umbridge just before he Stuns her] “You’re lying, Dolores … and one mustn’t tell lies!” (From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1)
6) Tom Hanks – Andrew Beckett – Philadelphia (1993)
Philadelphia is an outstanding film that was one of the first Hollywood films to openly acknowledge HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, and homophobia. Tom Hanks plays the lead role of Andrew Beckett a Senior Associate at a large corporate law firm in Philadelphia. The film begins as Beckett is given an important case, and during the same day a partner of the firm notices a lesion on Beckett’s forehead. For fear of being judged and ridiculed, Beckett had to hide his sexual orientation and AIDS status from the other members of his firm. Shortly thereafter his lesion was noticed, the paperwork for his crucial case had not been received by the court.
Beckett tracks it down to the wrong location and after handing it in at the last possible minute he is fired by the firm the next day. Beckett believes that someone intentionally hid his case’s paperwork in order for the firm to have an excuse to fire him. Beckett approaches several attorneys to take his case and after a shaky start he is represented by personal injury lawyer Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). Even though Beckett is slandered throughout the trial, he remains brave, strong, and a beacon of hope for all members of society who are discriminated against for their sexual orientation and AIDS status. As a result of his excellent performance as Andrew Beckett, Tom Hanks won an Academy Award in the Best Actor Category.
Favourite Line: [In response to what he loves most about the law] “It’s the every now and again – not often, but occasionally – you get to be a part of justice being done. That really is quite a thrill when that happens.”
7) Chadwick Boseman – Jackie Robinson – 42 (2013)
I am often drawn to films that highlight the journey of an underdog while teaching the viewer the lessons of historical ignorance, and 42 is exactly that! Playing the role of such an iconic person is a tough feat for any actor, but Chadwick Boseman blew me away with his portrayal of professional baseball player Jackie Robinson. Set in a time of pigheadedness through society’s opposition of racial integration in baseball, Brooklyn Dodgers Executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) signs the first African-American athlete to his organization.
The film focuses on the first couple years of Jackie’s professional career, including his 1946 season with the Montreal Royals and 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie has to deal with being on the outs with his teammates from the beginning, confrontational opposing teams/players, and a belligerent opposing team manager. Jackie’s spirit is unwilling to break throughout the film and he takes us on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey with his unbreakable spirit.
Favourite Line: “You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” – Jackie “No! I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back.” – Branch Rickey “You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, I’ll give you the guts.” – Jackie
8) Chris Evans – Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Chris Evans started in the Marvel Universe as the arrogant John Storm from the Fantastic Four films. I always felt that his ability as an actor was severely misrepresented in these films, which is why I was I was eager to see him in the 2011 role of Captain America when the origins film hit theatres. Captain America (Steve Rogers) has been the beacon of righteousness throughout the Avengers film series and I cannot wait to see how he bounces off of the egotistical Iron Man (Tony Stark) in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. I have enjoyed Chris Evans throughout the franchise, however, I truly love his underdog journey from fragile Steve Rogers to super-soldier Captain America in his debut film.
The film is set during the time of Nazi Germany’s attempt to rule Europe and begins as Steve is rejected once again from WWII military recruitment. However, Steve’s tenacity and bravery is looked on kindly by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and he is chosen to be the guinea pig for the US “super-solder experiment”. It’s a success and Steve grows strong and takes on the persona of Captain America. He then teams up with Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), genius Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper), and his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) in order to take down Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). Captain America always has an unwavering desire to do what is right for the greater good, which is why the film ends as he crashes a plane full of nuclear weapons into the arctic and ends up being encapsulated by the ice for 70 years.
Favourite Line: “He resented my genius and tried to deny me what was rightfully mine, but he gave you everything. So what made you so special?” – Johann Schmidt “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn. [unmoved by beatdown] I can do this all day.” – Captain America
9) Bruce Willis – John McClane – Die Hard (1988)
Bruce Willis in the role of John McClane throughout the Die Hard series is the ultimate man’s man hero. Personally, I love Willis as McClane in the original film as it is not only a classic, but it’s one that I watch every Christmas. The film begins as McClane heads from New York to LA in hopes of winning over his wife at her company’s Christmas party. The two are on the rocks as McClane is unwilling to give up his life as a NYPD officer, even though his family is now across the country.
However, when Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his group of heavily armed bad guys takeover the building McClane springs into action! McClane tries multiple times to alert the LAPD authorities but ends up having to take on Gruber’s squad by himself. After picking off men one at a time the cavalier finally appears and McClane begins passing along crucial information to thwart Gruber’s evil plan. In the end, McClane kills some bad guys, saves the day, gets the girl, and does it with badass style and a ton of saucy comments.
Favourite Line: “Attention, whoever you are, this channel is reserved for emergency calls only.” – 911 Supervisor “No fucking shit, lady. Does it sound like I’m ordering a pizza?” – John McClane
10) Jack Nicholson – Randle P. McMurphy – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Jack Nicholson gives an excellent performance as criminal turned mental patient Randle P. McMurphy. The film begins as McMurphy is transferred from prison to a mental institution for evaluation, as he had recently been acting out in order to avoid hard labour as he wanted to move to a more low-key environment. However, once McMurphy arrives he quickly realizes that the ward is ruled by the cruel and inflexible Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher).
Throughout the film McMurphy constantly challenges her authority as his fellow patients are more focused on not upsetting Nurse Ratched than they are on trying to get better. Any attempt at fun by McMurphy is repeatedly squashed by Nurse Ratched, and he is then punished accordingly. However, McMurphy’s positive spirit and willingness to defy the man continuously pulls through to defy Nurse Ratched’s attempts to control the ward. For his incredible performance as Randle P. McMurphy, Jack Nicholson won an Academy Award in the Best Actor category.
Favourite Line: “Jesus, I mean, you guys do nothing but complain about how you can’t stand it in this place here and you don’t have the guts just to walk out? What do you think you are, for Chrissake, crazy or something’? Well you’re not! You’re not! You’re no crazier than the average asshole out walk-in’ around on the streets and that’s it.”
I went through my collection and had a very hard time deciding on a Top 10 so I added a couple more. See below, for pictures of a couple more heroic film characters!
Emma Watson – Hermoine Granger – The Harry Potter Series (2001-2011)
Tom Hanks – Captain John H. Miller – Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Gregory Peck – Atticus Finch – To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Christoph Waltz – Dr. King Schultz – Django Unchained (2012)
Jodie Foster – Clarice Starling – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)