Top 100 Movie Heroes
When it comes to movies, having a good hero always makes things more enjoyable. Sure, the villain is also highly important, but what’s a Die Hard without John McClane or Star Wars without Han Solo? In recognition of these heroic men and women of the silver screen, I proudly present my list of the top 100 movie heroes. Each entry also includes a link to either a blog or website which discusses that particular hero in greater detail (or at least makes mention of them).
Top Action/Adventure Movie Heroes
1. Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark – Whether he’s outrunning giant boulders, outwitting Nazis, or cringing at the thought of snakes, Dr. Henry Jones Jr. is hard to beat for pure adventure. Throw in his trademark fedora and bullwhip, and you’re got one of the most iconic heroes in the history of cinema.
2. James Bond in Any James Bond Movie – It doesn’t matter who’s playing him; James Bond is always one cool customer. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by a supporting cast which includes such outrageously-named characters as Pussy Galore, Kissy Suzuki, Odd Job, and Honey Ryder.
3. “Dirty” Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry – Harry’s got a big gun, and he’s not afraid to use it. He’s also got a manly squint, gravelly voice, and a revolving door when it comes to partners (they have a habit of winding up dead).
4. John McClane in Die Hard – A New York cop with a never-say-die attitude, John McClane is an expert on getting himself into trouble and then shooting his way out. Armed with a 9mm pistol and plenty of smartass remarks, McClane is especially adept at taking down riddle-loving Germans and their fashion-obsessed brothers.
5. Mad Max in The Road Warrior – A total burnout, Max used to be a cop before his wife and child were murdered. Now, he wanders the post-apocalyptic landscape with his muscle car and plenty of tortured memories.
6. Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon – The best of the buddy cops, Riggs and Murtaugh don’t hit it off at first, but they soon become inseparable. Riggs is the younger hotshot, and Murtaugh is the old pro. Together, they make a lethal duo who take down ex-soldiers, crooked South African diplomats, dirty cops, and the Chinese mob. And somewhere along the way, they decide to befriend Joe Pesci. Big mistake.
7. Ah Jong in The Killer – This John Woo assassin is looking to pull off one more job in order to help a singer get her vision restored. Of course, you can bet that last mission will be filled with betrayal, bullets, and more slo-mo than you can shake a stick at.
8. John Rambo in Rambo: First Blood Part II - Rambo returns to Vietnam to get a little payback for the late ‘60s. A patriotic killing machine, it’s best not to cross this vengeance-minded soldier. Of course, nobody ever seems to take that advice. Luckily, Richard Crenna is always there to dish out a helping of “I told you so.”
9. Beck in The Rundown – All Beck wants to do is pay off his debt to the mob and open a nice restaurant. But in order to do so, he’ll have to face kung-fu natives, horny monkeys, and….Christopher Walken. And you’d better run when he picks up a gun, because that’s when “bad things happen.”
10. Dalton in Road House – In the immortal words of Dalton, “Pain don’t hurt.” This badass cooler also knows how to rip out a man’s throat with his bare hands, and he’s got Sam Elliott serving as his grizzled backup. He’s like the wind.
Top Horror Movie Heroes
11. Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs – A rookie FBI agent with cheap shoes and a twisted relationship with a madman named Hannibal Lecter. Man, that Miggs is quite the marksman.
12. Shaun in Shaun of the Dead – The only thing Shaun loves more than bashing zombies in the head is a good pint of beer (and maybe a little Stone Roses, to boot).
13. Van Helsing in Any Hammer Horror Film – If Christopher Lee was the definitive Dracula, then Peter Cushing was the man who redefined the role of the vampire-hunting Van Helsing. I suggest watching every Hammer movie starring these two screen legends.
14. Ash Williams in The Evil Dead II – Even a severed hand and forced time travel can’t stop Bruce Campbell’s demon slayer. Just remember: “Shop smart. Shop S Mart.”
15. Laurie Strode in Halloween – Scream queen and future superstar Jamie Lee Curtis turns in perhaps her finest performance as this babysitter-turned-hero. She’s cute as a button, despite those rumors of a penis tucked between her thighs.
16. Detective William R. Somerset in Se7en – Lost in a sea of human misery and madness, Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is able to rise above it all with a stoic demeanor and zen-like devotion to his job. The only man who has the goods to outthink the notorious serial killer John Doe.
17. Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist – He dares Satan himself to possess his body, then promptly takes a swan dive out a window and down a long flight of stairs. Now how heroic is that? Hey, at least he’s not copping a feel on the altar boys.
18. Tommy Jarvis in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – Corey Feldman has never been so frightening as when he shaved his head and started hacking up Jason with a machete. Tommy Jarvis would return in later films, but he was at his best in this installment of the Friday the 13th series.
19. Ben in Night of the Living Dead – Whether it’s Romero’s original or the Tom Savini remake, Ben is a somber hero in a world gone suddenly mad. The lone African-American in a house full of crazy white people, Ben’s really got his work cut out for him. And the zombies aren’t making things any easier.
20. Dr. Samuel J. Loomis – Armed with a tan overcoat, raspy voice, and revolver, Dr. Loomis was the perfect foil for the seemingly unstoppable Michael Myers. Donald Pleasance was the man!
Top Western Movie Heroes
21. Will Kane in High Noon – While everyone else runs for cover like cowards, the noble lawman Will Kane prepares to face down a ruthless gang of killers.
22. Shane in Shane – “Come back, Shane!” Since that’s my given name, I got tired of hearing that line many years ago. Great film, though, and Alan Ladd is quietly powerful as the mysterious gunfighter.
23. Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West – So what’s with that damned harmonica, and why is he obsessed with the hired killer known as Frank (Henry Fonda)? Watch the movie and find out. Harmonica is played by movie tough-guy Charles Bronson, by the way.
24. The Man with No Name in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – Tuco refers to him as “Blondie,” but he’ll forever be known as The Man with No Name. Clint Eastwood is absolutely iconic as the poncho-wearing, cigar-smoking, anti-hero.
25. William Munney in Unforgiven – A reformed killer tries to go straight, but a ruthless sheriff inadvertently brings his old ways bubbling back to the surface. He’s killed everything that walks or crawls at one time. Wonder if he ever shot a monkey?
26. Rooster Cogburn in True Grit – John Wayne plays a U.S. Marshall with an eye patch and a hankerin’ for liquor. When he’s not living in the back of a Chinese dry goods store, he’s helping out little girls and widows as the toughest law officer working in the Indian Territory.
27. Ethan Edwards in The Searchers – A Civil War veteran obsessed with finding his niece (who was captured by Indians) and putting a bullet in her.
28. John McCabe in McCabe and Mrs. Miller – John McCabe is a gambler who starts a low-class brothel and eventually falls into bed with his partner, an opium-addicted madam known as Mrs. Miller. But when a trio of hired killers come calling, it’s up to the anti-hero to grab his trusty derringer and fight for his life.
29. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – Paul Newman and Robert Redford. What more really needs to be said?
30. Pike Bishop in The Wild Bunch – William Holden is an aging outlaw looking to make one more big score and retire. After a botched robbery, he and his men hook up with a Mexican warlord, but things quickly spiral out of control. Pike doesn’t go quietly, though, and his work on a gatling gun is something to behold.
Top Comic Book Movie Heroes
31. Batman in The Dark Knight – While he ends up playing second fiddle to Heath Ledger’s Joker, Christian Bale’s Batman still manages to stand out among the growing number of cinematic superheroes.
32. King Leonidas in 300 – Oh, what a snarl. King Leonidas just looks like a badass, but he’s also got the Spartan training to back it up. That’s something the Persians find out the hard way.
33. Spider-Man in Spider-Man – The ultimate zero-to-hero story, Spider-Man lets us see young Peter Parker grow into wisecracking protector of New York City. His girlfriend’s pretty cute, too.
34. Eric Draven in The Crow – After he and his true love are murdered by a gang of thugs, a rock musician comes back from the dead to exact revenge (and play some guitar on a rooftop).
35. Blade in Blade – Half human and half vampire, Blade is all badass with his martial arts moves, silver-tipped weapons and samurai sword. And could you ask for a better mentor than a grizzled Kris Kristofferson?
36. Wolverine in X-Men - When he’s not engaged in cage fights or rescuing hot teenage girls, Wolverine is popping his claws and giving a big middle finger to authority figures.
37. Rorschach in The Watchmen – His personal ad might read: “Love beans, beating scum, and exposing conspiracies.” The end is most definitely nigh.
38. V in V for Vendetta – The product of shadowy government research, V dons a Guy Fawkes mask and threatens to shake up the established order by inspiring the people, blowing stuff up, and killing lots of government lackeys.
39. Superman in Superman – Sure, he’s a complete square, but nobody can match Superman when it comes to cool powers. After all, we’re talking about a guy who can fly around the planet so fast that time moves backwards. Thank goodness nobody can see through his elaborate disguise (which consists entirely of a pair of glasses).
40. Iron Man in Iron Man – Like Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark is a rich playboy who fights crime in his other life. But while Wayne is tormented by events of the past, Stark’s life is filled with parties, hot women, and fast cars. And he’s even got Gwyneth Paltrow as his personal assistant. Sweet!
Top Sci-Fi Movie Heroes
41. Han Solo in Star Wars – Harrison Ford nails the role of the charming space rogue. It’s an accomplishment that even George Lucas couldn’t mess up.
42. Ellen Ripley in Aliens – If you’re looking for tough-as-nails heroines, then look no further than Ellen Ripley. The showdown with the Alien Queen is one of the classic moments in modern sci-fi.
43. Neo in The Matrix – An office drone turned savior of mankind, Neo is like Superman for the cyberpunk age. And he knows kung-fu.
44. Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day – This time around, Arnold is the good guy. And, perhaps just a bit surprisingly, he makes as effective a hero as he does a villain. And he looks really cool driving around on that chopper.
45. E.T. in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – With an extendable neck and love for candy, E.T. is just about the cutest little alien you’d ever hope to meet.
46. Rick Deckard in Blade Runner – When replicants (artificial humans) get out of line, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is brought in to “retire” them. This leads to a classic rooftop showdown with Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), and an ending which is more philosophical than action-packed.
47. Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars – The epitome of the old, wise teacher, Obi-Wan takes Luke Skywalker under his wing and trains him in the use of The Force. Too bad his younger self wasn’t more competent with the handling of Anakin Skywalker.
48. Colonel George Taylor in Planet of the Apes – An American astronaut who crashes on what he believes to be another planet, Taylor is captured by the ape men who rule the world and subjected to all manner of tests. Through it all, he remains defiant, and it’s a great pleasure to watch Chuck Heston snarl phrases like “Damn dirty apes.”
49. Corbin Dallas in The Fifth Element – With a list of military skills a mile long, ex-soldier Corbin Dallas gets sucked into a plan to save the Earth from a malevolent entity. Getting to hook up with the lovely alien LeeLoo (Milla Jovovich) isn’t such a bad consolation, either.
50. Godzilla in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster – This was the first time that Godzilla seemed more interested in saving Tokyo than stomping all over it, and the moment was well worth the wait. Man, you just can’t beat that trademark roar and atomic fire.
Top Dramatic Movie Heroes
51. Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird – Gregory Peck imbues the Alabama attorney with every positive trait a human being can possess. And when he’s not defending a black man on charges that he raped a white woman, Finch is teaching morality to his two kids, Jem and Scout. No wonder the American Film Institute chose Atticus Finch as their greatest movie hero ever.
52. Luke Jackson in Cool Hand Luke – Never one to back down from a challenge, Luke gets his ass handed to him in a boxing match with George Kennedy, then nearly dies from eating too many boiled eggs. Paul Newman at his best.
53. Spartacus in Spartacus – A gladiator slave who leads a revolution against the Romans. If you want defiance and military prowess, then look no further than this Kirk Douglas character.
54. Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List – Liam Neeson is outstanding as a German businessman who managed to save the lives of nearly 1,200 Jews during World War II.
55. Virgil Tibbs in In the Heat of the Night – Black cop is detained while passing through Mississippi on suspicion of murder. When they realize they’ve got the wrong guy, the local redneck cops are forced to take Tibbs on to help with the investigation. Don’t forget the classic line, “They call me Mister Tibbs!”
56. Moses in The Ten Commandments – Charlton Heston has the power to part the Red Sea? No wonder he was elected president of the N.R.A.
57. Rick Blaine in Casablanca – Despite his feelings to the contrary, Rick does the noble thing and ensures that the woman he loves will be reunited with her husband. At least he’ll always have Paris.
58. Mahatma Gandhi in Gandhi - Whether he was starving himself or organizing protests, Gandhi wielded a lot of power for a scrawny little fella. Just goes to show that looks can often be deceiving, especially when you factor in the human spirit.
59. Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind – A dashing ladies’ man with some really great outfits, it’s hard not to include Rhett Butler on such a list. And kudos to him for having enough sense to dump that flakey Scarlett.
60. T.E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia – A British officer who “goes native” and leads the Arabs in rebellion from the Ottoman Turks. If you’re looking for some interesting reading, try the real-life Lawrence’s book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
Top Sports Movie Heroes
61. Rocky Balboa in Rocky – A journeyman fighter who gets a shot at the title and exceeds everyone’s expectations – including his own.
62. “Fast Eddie” Felson in The Color of Money – An aging pool shark takes in an apprentice played by Tom Cruise. You can also catch the Fast Eddie character in The Hustler.
63. “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham – A minor league catcher tasked with bringing along a pitching prospect, Davis also finds himself falling in love with the team’s local groupie.
64. Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger in Rudy – Like the Little Engine Who Could, Rudy makes his way onto the Notre Dame football team through sheer determination and hard work. More inspiration than you can shake a stick at.
65. Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler – An over-the-hill wrestler searches for love and one last moment in the limelight.
66. Jonathan E in Rollerball – The most famous athlete on a planet obsessed with bloodsports, Jonathan E becomes a beacon for individual achievement – something which doesn’t please his corporate bosses.
67. Junior “JR” Bonner in Junior Bonner – A worn down cowboy (played by Steve McQueen) tries to ride a ferocious bull for one last paycheck. Along the way, he ends up embodying the fading ideals of a bygone age.
68. Mike Terry in Redbelt – Quiet and dignified, Mike Terry is the epitome of a martial arts master. But when he starts getting jerked around by the likes of Tim Allen, you’d better watch out.
69. Jess Bhamra in Bend It Like Beckham – A young girl pursues her love of soccer despite the wishes of her parents. She also gets bonus points for befriending a young (and still cute) Keira Knightley.
70. Roy Hobbs in The Natural – Getting shot delays his career, but Roy Hobbs and his self-carved bat later return to give baseball fans their money’s worth.
Top Fantasy Movie Heroes
71. Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China – A lovable lug, Burton fights ghosts, monsters and kung-fu masters in order to retrieve his precious semi-truck. Usually armed with only a knife or his fists, he’s one of the most unlikely, yet appealing, movie heroes.
72. Gandalf in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – Larger than life in every single way, Ian McKellen hits a homerun in this role.
73. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz – Not only did she destroy the wicked witch, but she also provided inspiration for an entire generation of gay guys.
74. George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life – Jimmy Stewart is about as straight-arrow as they come in this Christmas classic about appreciating what you have.
75. Conan in Conan the Barbarian – Heavily-armed and heavily-muscled, Conan lays the smack down on James Earl Jones and his minions.
76. Connor MacLeod in Highlander – There can be only one, and Connor MacLeod is the guy (at least in the first movie).
77. Westley in The Princess Bride – In order to save the beautiful Buttercup, Westley must outduel Spaniards, outwrestle giants, and outthink Sicilians. And then he’s gotta top it all by coming back from the dead.
78. Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands – The best example of Tim Burton’s “lonely outsider” characters.
79. Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Take one look at those glasses and that smile and tell me you don’t just love Harry Potter to death.
80. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters – A smartass ghost hunter played by Bill Murray. Nuff said.
Top Martial Arts Movie Heroes
81. The Bride in Kill Bill – Watch her roar and rampage and seek revenge on the gang of assassins who left her for dead. The fight against the Crazy 88’s is the high point of the film.
82. Daniel LaRusso in The Karate Kid – Who can forget his friendship with Mr. Miyagi and the legendary crane stance?
83. John Hatcher in Marked for Death – Steven Seagal plays a government agent who returns home to recharge his batteries, only to get caught up in a power struggle between the Columbians and a Jamaican posse. It’s hard to top Hatcher’s bone-breaking style of fighting.
84. Lee in Enter the Dragon – Lee travels to an island stronghold to enter a lethal martial arts tournament. Thank goodness he’s proficient at fighting while surrounded by mirrors.
85. Frank Dux in Bloodsport – Fighting blind? Check. Grimacing in slow-motion? Check. Somehow, I doubt the real-life Frank Dux was nearly as dramatic as the Jean-Claude Van Damme version.
86. Wong Fei Hung in Drunken Master II – When he’s drunk, his powers of kung-fu really kick in. I know a few guys who would love to have that ability.
87. Casey Ryback in Under Siege – He’s great in the kitchen, but this Naval cook is also a master of knives, guns, and explosives – something the bad guys find out the hard way.
88. Nameless in Hero – He’s so bad that he doesn’t even have a name, and his kung-fu abilities have to be seen to be believed. Watch him face down thousands of arrows without even flinching, and you’ll see what I mean.
89. Sing in Kung Fu Hustle – A wannabe criminal who transforms into a high-minded master of the martial arts. Watching him take his licks along the way is nothing short of hilarious.
90. Cordell Walker in Walker, Texas Ranger – He’s a television character, so he shouldn’t even be on this list. That shows you how badass Chuck Norris is.
Top Animated Movie Heroes
91. Simba in The Lion King – It’s gotta be great to be the king of all the animals. And why am I strangely attracted to those lionesses?
92. Shrek in Shrek – A large green ogre with a heart of gold, Shrek teaches us that inner beauty is far more important.
93. Kenshiro in Fist of the North Star – When this guy punches someone in the face, their head explodes. If that doesn’t deserve a spot on the list, then I don’t know what does.
94. WALL-E in WALL-E – A cute, love-struck robot who captured the hearts of millions at the box office.
95. Pinocchio in Pinocchio – He’s a wooden puppet who wants desperately to be a real boy. It’s Disney, so you can damn well bet that he gets his wish.
96. D in Vampire Hunter D – Aided by a talking hand, metallic horse, and plenty of weapons, D is the greatest vampire hunter on a planet plagued by the undead. He’s also the son of Dracula and a mortal woman, so you can also add inner conflict to the mix.
97. Shotaro Kaneda in Akira – He leads a biker gang in Neo-Tokyo and must contend with his friend’s super-powered rampage. That is one bitchin’ motorcycle, by the way.
98. Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke – Cursed after a fight with a demonic boar, Ashitaka journeys to find a cure and becomes involved in an epic struggle between humans and the creatures of the forest.
99. Belle in Beauty and the Beast – Another Disney tale about inner beauty being more important. Belle helps bring out the gentler side of the Beast.
100. Cinderella in Cinderella – Tormented by her stepmother and stepsisters, Cinderella puts them all to shame by marrying a handsome prince. You go, girl.